In “Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS),” the parent seeking to create a division between the children and the other parent is often referred to as the “alienating parent” or the “alienator.”
Divorce is an unfortunate (but sometimes necessary), brutal reality in American society today, a process that always tears families apart. When two people who at one time loved each other, married, and then decided to end the marriage go their separate ways, this is difficult enough. But when children are involved, the trauma resulting from the breakup of this family is often catastrophic, with life long, detrimental and perhaps irreversible, negative effects to the children.
Divorcing couples with children should instinctively understand that their children need special care, nurturing, and attention during this chaotic time. While the mom and dad can, and eventually will, continue on with their lives and perhaps marry again in hopes of finding happiness in someone else, children cannot “divorce” their parents: they will always be an integral part of their parents and, for the most part, do not wish to see their families ripped apart.
Normal parents understand this and take special care with their children’s feelings. Whether it is the mother or father that initiates divorce proceedings, they both know that for the children to have any hope of coming through this maelstrom of devastating emotions and events, their children need both of them in their lives. Regardless of how the parents feel about each other, they will, for the sake of the children, do all they can to insure their children maintain a close and loving relationship with the other parent.
(Note: I’m not referring to divorces undertaken by a parent because of sexual abuse or domestic violence in the home. A parent guilty of a sex crime or violence against their children forfeits their parental privileges to be with them. I’m referring to the vast majority of divorces that occur due to the catchall “irreconcilable differences” category in family law.)
This understanding is so self-evident enough that it seems almost ludicrous to point it out; normal parents instinctively know that their own children need both parents in their lives in order to grow up into successful, productive, happy and well-adjusted adults.
Unfortunately, and this may seem unfathomable, some parents do not understand this. Or if they do, their hatred and bitterness toward their ex-spouse is so great that they will do anything—even use their own children as weapons of revenge—in order to ruin the life of their once loved partner.
This hatred towards the other parent is the breeding ground for PAS and other psychological pathologies, a malice so strong and undiluted that a blindness sets in and causes the alienating parent to lose sight of perhaps the main goal of a divorcing family: the paramount need to insure the “best interests of the children.” And one of the primary strategies both parents must keep first and foremost to create a path of healing for their grieving children is the importance if maintaining regular and ongoing contact with both of them.
I encourage my readers to watch the video below. I’ve posted it elsewhere in this “Divorce and PAS” section, but it is packed with such helpful and insightful information that even if you have watched it once, please watch it again: you will pick up material you may not have caught the first time:
At 3:22, psychotherapist and author Linda Gottlieb states, “And we have a lot of research about how profoundly dysfunctional and unstable an alienating parent is. Let’s face it: a normal parent will not try to undermine the relationship between the child and the other parent. A normal parent appreciates that the child has a need for the other parent and when the alienating parent can’t (?) appreciate that, they lack empathy for one thing…”
At 8:02, psychologist Steven G. Miller says, “…the alienating parent tends to be a master manipulator, often an accomplished liar, brilliant at managing impressions, and so on…”
A frightening picture emerges from these professionals of the kind of individual the alienating parent is. One of the most profound insights into these kind of abusers is the fact that often, on the surface, they appear to be self-controlled, rational, matter of fact, and “together,” when the fact is, they are living behind a facade of normality and sanity that belies the evil nature of who they actually are.
If adults who are intimate friends of an alienator can be duped by their deceptive tactics, what chance does an immature child have to successfully navigate through the deceptive tactics their own parent might employ in her campaign to separate them from their father? Little to none, I’m afraid, which makes the crime of PAS so devastating and deadly.
And perhaps there is no greater crime committed by an alienating parent than to falsely accuse the alienated, or targeted parent, of sexually abusing one or more of their own children.
At 1:53, Gottlieb states, “Parents are being accused falsely of sex abuse. Terrible…terrible! If a child believes the false story that they have been sexually abused…by a parent, they are at the same risk potential for PTSD as if it had actually had happened. This is criminal behavior. Absolutely criminal behavior. The alienator is assaulting the child’s memory, feelings, thinking, relationship with the parent. Assault is a crime.”
It is difficult to absorb this information; the ramifications that must naturally follow from understanding that the behavior of an alienating parent is criminal is far reaching and seemingly impossible to fully grasp or comprehend.
For the children manipulated and brainwashed into believing that their father has sexually molested them is a grief and crime beyond reasoning and explanation. What kind of psychological damage occurs in the mind of a child who has been deceived in this manner and led to believe that their father has committed a heinous crime against them? What are the consequences from something like this, the lifelong trauma and suffering these children face?
And what about the innocent father? What will he face? Arrest? Prison? The degrading shame of facing society and his peers while being labeled a child molester? Loss of his job, reputation, and good standing in the community while possibly being charged with a crime that is perhaps the worst a man can be accused of? Having to face his own children in a courtroom and having them falsely accuse him with the possibility that their manipulated memories will result in him facing years—perhaps decades—in prison? What man can win in this situation when your own children accuse you of sexually molesting them? Who will society believe?
Some children do wake up from this brainwashing that they underwent at the hands of the alienating parent. They begin to slowly piece together that the one parent, the alienating one, succeeded in turning them against the other parent they once loved and cherished and now hate with unfathomable, irrational fervor. Like the first dawning of the day that slowly, imperceptibly begins to break upon a long, dark night, understanding begins to creep in and these children begin to think, “Is is possible that my mom (or dad) has wrongly influenced me against my dad (or mom)? Has my mind been poisoned and I was brainwashed?”
When I was a teenager, I loved reading about Sherlock Holmes, the great British detective, devouring the many stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about his incredible exploits. Sherlock Holmes became one of my heroes in life.
One day, I learned that he never existed: he was a figment of the fertile imagination of the author, Doyle, of all these great stories. Sherlock Holmes was not a real person.
I was stunned, as if punched in the stomach. At first, I could not believe that Sherlock Holmes was a fictional detective and never actually existed; my mind, for so long believing with all my heart and soul that he was an actual person, could not at first accept that he was simply a make-believe character in books. I know this might sound silly to many people, but it’s true. I had become so emotionally intertwined and connected with this character that it was incomprehensible at first for me to rationally accept that I had been believing in a falsehood.
If I could be emotionally devastated as an obvious impressionable teenager to realize that I had allowed myself to believe in something that was not true, what must it be like for a child who “wakes up” and realizes that one of their parents, who they have loved and respected for as long as they can remember, has deceived them to such an extent that they literally hate their other parent? It can only have devastating and profoundly damaging psychological consequences for that child.
These questions are merely the proverbial “tip of the iceberg” of what can, does and will happen to alienated children and their targeted father. It is why the behavior of the alienating mother is nothing less than criminal in nature and why there must be criminal consequences for any parent that engages in such unconscionable actions.