Steps to healing (Part One)

In the Judeo Christian tradition that spans thousands of years, the first step toward reconciliation with God is our acknowledgement that we are sinners and have sinned against Him. Though this lengthy discussion on divorce and PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) and PA (Parental Alienation) is probably not the time to delve deeply into the intricacies of this fundamental belief, we can glean insights on how the fractured relationships from high conflict divorces might be restored.

I am not a trained psychologist, psychotherapist, guidance counselor or similarly trained professional in the field of mental health and family issues. But I am a father who has first hand experience of the devastating reality of PAS and feel some confidence that my experiences and understanding of the issue might benefit someone else who has also suffered through this nightmare. Understanding my lack of professional credentials, do your own “due diligence”; research and check, if needed, with professionals who may hold a different opinion than what I offer here.

As a Christian, my viewpoint on weighty matters of life, spirituality, knowledge of God, and dealings with other people is heavily influenced by thousands of years of biblical teachings. A life long student of the Bible, my thinking and manner of life is lived, as much as I can, through the lens of biblical principles.

This acknowledgment of my biblical worldview is important for me so that my readers will know where I am coming from and from where I gain my understanding of this issue. If you do not share my Christian beliefs, you are certainly free to reject what I have to share. Every man, woman and child is free to walk according to the dictates of their own conscience as I am free to walk according to mine.

This said, I wish to point out a fundamental biblical truth as referenced in my first paragraph above: the first step toward reconciliation with God is our acknowledgement that we are sinners and have sinned against Him. From this point, we are able to learn a fundamental truth which is also applicable to human relations: fractured relationships begin the healing process when each party acknowledges wrongs they have committed against each other.

Not surprisingly, this, in some areas of our modern western society, is a radical concept. Why? Because we have become a society marked by a “victim mentality.” Wikipedia has some helpful insight into what this is:

Victim mentality is an acquired personality trait in which a person tends to recognize or consider themselves as a victim of the negative actions of others, and to behave as if this were the case in the face of contrary evidence of such circumstances…In some cases, those with a victim mentality have in fact been the victim of wrongdoing by others or have otherwise suffered misfortune through no fault of their own. However, such misfortune does not necessarily imply that one will respond by developing a pervasive and universal victim mentality where one frequently or constantly perceives oneself to be a victim…”

The article continues and I urge my readers to explore this concept further, but for our purposes here, understanding this concept is critical, in my opinion, to achieving genuine and lasting healing with relationships damaged by PAS/PA. But such healing cannot take place if those involved in the fractured family are held prisoners in the strait jacket of only looking at themselves as victims.

Let me emphasize something again that I touched on in this first blog entry about divorce and PAS: normal families. In a normal family, absent of physical, sexual, alcohol, and other forms of severe and serious abuse that would legitimately call for the separation of the offending family members from remaining in the household, no family member can claim they are perfect and never did anything wrong. This “normal” family is what I’m speaking about here…not a criminally abusive one. This distinction is important.

In such a family, the father, even if he is a good and decent father who goes to work every day to support them, can never claim to have done nothing wrong. Every father can look back on certain things he did or decisions he made (again, not criminal in nature but in matters of poor or unwise judgment) and find areas of regret. He can look back and say, “I was too harsh in my words to my daughter when I found out she lied to me,” or, “When my son disrespected his mother with that awful ‘rolling of his eyes’ look when she asked him to clean his room, making him stay in his room for three days and missing baseball practice was too extreme. I regret that now and wish I could take that punishment back.”

Moms can say the same thing…they regret some things they did or said when her kids went out of line and did or said something they should not have said or done. Perhaps her punishment for such things was too extreme, or perhaps not extreme enough. In essence, parents can always look back on things they did nor did not do with their children and admit they made mistakes….perhaps even serious ones.

Children can say the same things. They can look back on many of their behaviors and admit, “I should not have said what I said to my mom and dad when they caught me lying…” or, “I had a terribly disrespectful attitude toward my dad when he asked me to spray the yard for weeds” or, “I stole $20 out of my mom’s purse and never admitted to it…” You understand what I mean by these examples, and I could have easily included multiplied dozens more.

In this “normal” (non-abusive) family, if say, a family of five (where all the children were now adults) were to gather around the dinner table and look back on their times living together under the same roof, each of them could do some soul-searching and say to each other, “I was wrong when I did this” or “I was wrong when I said that…”

This is simply a general, broad snap-shot of what might be considered a typical family trying to live each day together and finding they are humans prone to mistakes and acts of selfishness, stupidity, and foolishness. I’m not trying to cover every possible scenario or mistakes that happens in a family but simply painting with a broad brush. Do families go through more serious blunders? Of course. This is simply the ways things go and life rushes forward.

But in families affected by PAS/PA, the dynamic between the alienated parent (or the “targeted parent”) is greatly different than in a normal family. In this pathological family, the children and alienating parent are working against the targeted parent. As I wrote about in a prior article, PAS/PA affected children will routinely lie about the targeted parent, even to the point of accusing him or her of sexual abuse.

For deep and meaningful healing to occur in this family, there must be an awareness of, and repenting from, lies told about and against the targeted parent by both the child or children who told the lies and—most importantly—by the alienating parent who brainwashed and unduly influenced the child/children to tell the lies against the other parent.

My belief in this is not enthusiastically shared by others who are experts in the field of reunification of families split apart by PAS/PA. In the ones I have investigated, there is an emphasis on “forgetting the past and moving forward.” At least one of these reunification programs (that charge over $20,000) prohibit any mention of the past; it’s all geared toward being “positive” and not being bogged down by the past.

I understand this. At first blush, it sounds wise. And no doubt many families benefit from such an approach. My opinion? If a family is reunited by such an approach, I’m all for it—full steam ahead.

But saying this, I fear there may be a hidden land mine buried somewhere in the future of this reunited family that will surely be stepped on at a definite point in the future. When this happens, the damage done to that family might wipe out all the progress so far gained.

I wish to explore more of this in Part Two.