Another Form of Brainwashing: Shared Psychotic Disorder (SPD)

I have written multiple posts on brainwashing throughout this blog site and in this “Divorce and PAS” section. It is an unending fascination for both my personal and family life with far reaching, negative consequences for all of us.

All of us are in danger of being brainwashed. I will go so far as to assert that each one of us is brainwashed to some extent in certain areas of our lives. Every one of us. No one is immune to the terrible power of undue influence.

“All of us are in danger of being brainwashed…every one of us. No one is immune to the terrible power of undue influence.”

In fact, I doubt we can progress in certain areas of our lives unless and until we can step outside of ourselves and see ourselves as others see us, as if we were standing outside of our own bodies and looking at ourselves through the eyes of someone else.

Building on what I wrote in the paragraph above, we are unable to reach certain levels of personal knowledge of ourselves and what might be holding us emotionally hostage to certain pathologies until we can honestly say, “I think I’ve been brainwashed in certain areas.”

We have to be open to the painful and disturbing reality that we have been brainwashed in certain areas of our lives.

And this is never so critical than in the lives of children who have been adversely affected by Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and Parental Alienation (PA).

My family has been torn apart by these two pathologies. I have not seen one of my daughters, Aimie (not her real name), in almost 20 years. Neither do I have any type of relationship with the others. As heartbreaking and unbelievable as this may seem, it is nonetheless true.

I have spent almost two decades of my life trying to understand and figure out how this happened, to find answers to this impossible situation that has devastated my life in so many ways it defies explanation or reason. This section of my blog, “Divorce and PAS,” is part of the process of seeking to unravel these horrible mysteries and bring light into a dark place of suffering and trauma.

One of the many puzzle pieces of this mystery of despair which helps bring light into this situation is this realization of the power and prevalence of brainwashing of children and families affected by PAS and PA. “Shared Psychotic Disorder (SPD)” is one of these pieces.

These two articles, here and here, will help explain what this is. The second link is particularly helpful to those parents who have been falsely accused of sexual abuse, something that frequently happens in families ripped asunder by PAS and PA tainted, high-conflict divorces.

One of the more disturbing facts I have learned through my long search in understanding these pathologies is this: the alienating parent (the one who is responsible for embarking on the campaign to separate the child or children from the other parent) has profoundly deep and serious pathological issues: they are seriously mentally ill. In many cases, these mentally ill parents have caused their children to themselves become mentally ill through that parent’s brainwashing efforts.

It is important to pause for a moment and let this sink in, especially for those children who may themselves be seeking for answers on why they have nothing to do with a parent they once loved and cherished: you must come to the point in your journey where you realize at least two vitally important facts: you have been brainwashed and you might be suffering from mental illness because of that brainwashing.

I can speak authoritatively on this because I came to the same conclusions: I was brainwashed and suffer from mental illness myself. These two revelations concerning who I am have been nothing less than soul jarring.

“…You have been brainwashed and you might be suffering from mental illness because of that brainwashing.”

Admitting such is an immensely humbling experience and is not easy to acknowledge; certainly not something you would bring up for discussion, for example, on a first date with someone you want to impress.

But as noted above, such acceptance and acknowledgement of who we are is one of the doors we must open and then walk through if we are to learn many of those lessons which will lead us on our own journey of knowledge, understand, and healing.

The second article linked above starts out with the following sentences: “Shared psychotic disorder (folie à deux) is a rare disorder characterized by sharing a specific delusion among two or more people in a close relationship. The inducer (primary) who has a psychotic disorder with delusions influences another individual or more (induced, secondary) based on a delusional belief…”

Later in the article, it states: “The inducer (primary) who has a psychotic disorder with delusions influences another nonpsychotic individual or more (induced, secondary) based on a delusional belief…”

I’ve highlighted the word “nonpsychotic” because, in the beginning of the brainwashing process by the alienating parent (the “inducer”), the children are normal and without psychological disorders. But as these innocents spend month after month, year after year, and decade after decade within the pathological bubble of the alienator, mental illness is transferred to them and they take on the characteristics of their alienators.

“Length of the relationship: Numerous studies highlight the role of long relationship duration as an essential factor for developing this condition. It is crucial to understand that the attachment with the inducer plays a key role in adopting the delusion.”

I saw the negative transformation of my own children towards me happen before my eyes. Daughters that loved and wanted to spend time with me changed within a matter of months, weeks even, wanting nothing to do with me and refused to come to my house for my parenting time.

They claimed they were afraid to be around me and felt “unsafe.” My middle daughter said she would get stomach aches before coming to my house. What was happening at their mother’s house to make them feel this way? What was their mother telling them about me? Or what conversations did they overhear when their mother was on the phone talking with her friends, extended family members, boyfriends, or attorneys?

My ex-wife was grooming them to hate and mistrust me, to question my motives, to view me as an enemy and outsider, someone to be feared, second guessed, and mistrusted, rather than the loving and protective father I tried to be.

She took out approximately six restraining orders against me over the years—six! She became an expert at using the court system and their obvious bias against fathers as means of separating them from me. What damaging messages did these false restraining orders have on their impressionable minds?

“My ex-wife was grooming them to hate and mistrust me, to question my motives, to view me as an enemy and an outsider, someone to be feared…”

And it worked. Layer upon layer of lies stacked on top of one another year after year paid huge dividends for her. Her goal was to hurt me in every way she could and she used her own flesh and blood—our daughters—as weapons and pawns in her divorce war against me.

A deeply psychologically disturbed woman created psychologically disturbed daughters (or laid the foundation for such) that to this moment want nothing to do with me.

They share and have become partakers of her delusions. And perhaps the saddest part of this perverse scenario is I believe we will never reconcile on this planet. It’s possible too much time and damage has been done; too much water has passed under the bridge. Crooked branches cannot be made straight.

Another excellent and “must read” article that does not specifically spell out Shared Psychotic Disorder (SPD) but nonetheless provides uncannily similar characteristics to the pathology is found here, titled, “Parental Alienation and Its Repair,” by Molly S. Castelloe Ph.D.

Here are several insightful paragraphs from the article:

“The emotional estrangement of a child occurs in varying degrees whether by subtle or unconscious manipulations of one parent that portray the other in a bad light, magnify the target parent’s mistakes, and emphasize their shortcomings. One parent perpetuates negative stereotypes of the other.

Sometimes the alienating parent more deliberately turns a child against the other through coercive techniques, pressuring the child to withhold affection, to choose to live with one over the other, even with false allegations of neglect or abuse. In severe cases, there is thorough brainwashing that can lead to the severing of the parent-child relationship and the total rejection of one caregiver.

“PAS occurs in much the same way that a leader of religious cult manipulates their followers, by undermining their sense of basic trust. The child’s belief in the benevolence of this parent is corroded. With repetition, a new image of the target parent is constructed for the child and gradually internalized…”

I find the reference in the paragraph above that “PAS occurs in much the same way that a leader of religious cult manipulates their followers…” to be of particular interest due to my lifelong interest and studies of various religious cults (of which I myself was in one for almost all of my life). In the case of PAS/PA, the cult leader is none other than the alienating parent, which, in the majority of these type of cases, is the mother. I wrote about PSA/PA and cults here.

“A deeply psychologically disturbed woman created psychologically disturbed daughters (or laid the foundation for such) that to this moment want nothing to do with me.”

The unhealthy family dynamics that are typical of high conflict divorce cases are fertile breeding grounds for the psychologically disturbed mother to plant twisted, distorted and skewed memories into the innocent minds of children against their fathers.

Recently, I came across another helpful and eye- opening scholarly article which will be of great benefit for those interested and/or affected by this psychological disorder. It is titled, “Dark Personalities and Induced Delusional Disorder: The Research Gap Underlying a Crisis in the Family and Domestic Violence Courts.” 

The abstract to this article states this:

“Children are negatively impacted by high interparental conflict following divorce. The most acrimonious cases involve pathological parental behaviors which constitute psychological child abuse. Parents with narcissistic, borderline, or dark personalities are known to decompensate into psychotic states featuring non-bizarre encapsulated shared persecutory delusions when experiencing severe stress and interpersonal instability. Research indicates children are at significant risk for developing an induced delusional disorder imposed by psychotic parents, and dark personalities are prone to manipulating children and government agencies to inflict damage on ex-partners through family and domestic violence courts…”

Further on in the article, it states:

“…This is a form of child psychological abuse and intimate partner violence that most often occurs in the context of high conflict family and domestic violence court cases…”

For all of the above reasons—and countless others—is why I agree with those professionals who view PAS/PA as criminal acts perpetrated against innocent and impressionable children—as well as the targeted parent—who suffer immeasurably at the hands of psychologically disturbed parents who intentionally, with all malice, consciously seek to separate children from their fathers. Something must be done to stop this insidious form of child abuse and intimate partner violence.