Steps to Healing (Part Three)

The need for wisdom.

The trauma experienced by children of divorce is well known and extensively documented in many studies. Less known and documented is the amped up damage suffered by children due to their parents “high conflict” divorce that often results in, and from, the twin pathologies of “Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)” and “Parental Alienation (PA).”

It may help to state upfront a self-evident point that is undisputed: for children to grow up as healthy and well-adjusted as possible, they need the love, input and relationship provided by both parents. This commonsense truth is stated in this excellent article:

“It is almost too simplistic to state that children fare best when there are two loving and caring parents who guide these children to live in accordance with what is best in society. When parents separate or divorce, it is still possible to provide such care and guidance despite certain difficulties. Here again the love and care for children should be of primary importance for both parents. It must be based on the acceptance that both parents have an important role to play and that both parents welcome this dual relationship vis a vis their children even though their own relationship has been severed.”

A different article from the Florida Bar Journal states this truth as follows: “Of all of the research on the effects of separation and divorce, the one conclusion that is never debated is that children fare better when they maintain a close relationship with both parents. It is generally accepted that the loss of one parent is detrimental to a child. The only exception seems to be in the case of physical, sexual, or clear emotional abuse.”

Both the mother and father provide unique, necessary and differing dynamics to the child’s development needed by them to grow up balanced and psychologically sound. Again, this is so self-evident that it does not need to be stated but unfortunately, in the cases of PAS/PA, this basic truth is not heeded by the alienating parent who has embarked on a campaign to erase the other parent out of the child’s/children’s life.

“Of all of the research on the effects of separation and divorce, the one conclusion that is never debated is that children fare better when they maintain a close relationship with both parents. It is generally accepted that the loss of one parent is detrimental to a child.

Florida Bar Journal

Here is where wisdom enters in: a child who is alienated from a “normal range” parent must realize that this separation from him or her is causing significant psychological damage to their psyche. In extreme cases of PAS/PA where the child(ren) experience and express intense irrational hatred toward that parent, this damage will be all the more severe and debilitating. A wise child will recognize this separation and/or hatred toward his or her parent for what it is: a dangerous pathology introduced into the family by the mentally disturbed alienating parent with severe psychological problems and issues of their own.

The following paragraph comes from the Florida Bar Journal article listed above: “Leaving a child in this pathological environment is most damaging and, under these circumstances, a child may many times become anxious, isolated and depressed. In time, if proper intervention is not forthcoming, the child develops a deep and profound sense of self-hatred and shame for condemning the other parent. These children tend to become despondent, withdrawn, and develop psychopathic manipulative characteristics which may be carried into adulthood.”

I used this quote below before in a previous post; it is so enlightening and hard-hitting in the truth it presents that I wish to include it again:

“Hatred is not an emotion that comes naturally to a child. It has to be taught. A parent who would teach a child to hate the other parent, represents a grave and persistent danger to the mental and emotional health of that child”.

From the Honourable Judge Gomery of Canada

A wise child (and more likely an older child closer to adulthood and older), consumed by hatred for a once loved parent, will realize that something outside of themselves has caused this irrational and often times all consuming hatred. This child must seek to separate themselves from this destructive emotion and view this in a rational, non-emotional manner, regardless of how counter intuitive at this moment in their life it must seem. In fact, I would assert that it is impossible for any child to walk in wisdom while they have such malice in their hearts against their alienated parent, which makes this “step to healing” all that more difficult to conceptualize and instigate into that child’s behavior.

Exactly why is it important to have both parents in the lives of their children? In the paragraph above which I copied and pasted from this aforementioned article, let me highlight this portion again: “…It must be based on the acceptance that both parents have an important role to play…” Perhaps most alienated children have failed to perceive exactly what is this “important role” that the absent parent has to play? I would assert innumerable amounts; so many, in fact, that it would be impossible to make a complete tally.

For example, one half of the alienated child comes from the favored (or alienating) parent and the other half from the disfavored (or alienated) parent. The child shares DNA from both of his or her parents: 23 chromosomes from the mother and 23 from the father. To reject the parent whose DNA is half of the child is for that child to reject half of themselves.

Out of my three daughters, my middle one, Michelle (not her real name) looks the most like me. One can, by looking at Michelle, see that she is my daughter because she looks like me and the family resemblance between her and I is obvious. Countless children, and I would think most children, look, in varying degrees, like one of their parents or a combination of both.

This being true, is it not reasonable to accept that not only do our children look like their parents, but they must also share many of their inward characteristics as well? For example, the way they think in areas, or the habits they share in common, or interests?

To reject the parent whose DNA is half of the child is for that child to reject half of themselves.

Sons, for example, oftentimes follow the career paths of their fathers and share their fathers hobbies. If the father likes to fish and hunt, his son will probably like to fish and hunt as well. If the father is a lawyer, it is highly possible the son will become a lawyer as well, or a banker, dentist, judge, pastor, business owner, carpenter, etc.

The same can be seen in daughters: if the mother is into fashion and make-up, the daughters often follow along. What music genre the mom likes is usually passed down to the daughters and they adopt her tastes in music—possibly for life.

We have all heard the familiar sayings, “Like father, like son,” or “Like mother, like daughter,” and there is much truth in these. For example, I have recently, in my old age, wondered where I obtained my lifelong habit of always being on time. It’s something I never thought about because it has always been this way: I’m always on time. In fact, I’m usually early, by about fifteen minutes or so. Being early or on time is so ingrained in my personality that I get stressed out virtually each and every time I have to be somewhere because I have to be on time—and I have been this way for as long as I can remember.

Where did this come from? I could have turned out to be the opposite: always late, for example, like my ex-wife was. She was rarely, if ever, on time and certainly was never early. In other words, being on time is not something one is necessarily born with—or is it? Though I may not be 100% correct on this, I would suggest that we get habits like this from the type of person our parents were. If our parents were sticklers for time, so will we. If our parents were slackers when it came to being on time, so will we.

Where did I get my habit of being on time? I’m not sure because I was never close to my parents, but one thing I do know is that my dad was a military man: he was in the Air Force training to be a pilot. And even though as a small child growing up with my dad, I never thought much about being on time because I was a kid.

But when we lived in Crystal Lake, Illinois, we had to take the yellow school bus to attend St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic school. And I’m certain we never missed the bus due to being late; in other words, we were on time.

I’m fairly convinced that my sense of timeliness came from the influence of my dad: being a military man and training to be a pilot, you can be certain he was a man who was not only on time, but probably always early.

I give this example because it has application for an infinite number of other things in our lives as children of our parents. One more example is hinted at above: my brother and sisters, while living in Illinois, all attended a private Catholic school: St. Thomas the Apostle. It was here where I received my first taste of religious training, something that has carried with me my entire life.

I went to church because my dad put us in a Catholic school and the seed of spirituality was planted in me partly because of him. Though my dad was a wicked and violent man who could not have possibly been a true believer in God, he still influenced me religiously because he enrolled my brother and sisters and I in that Catholic school.

I don’t remember having one serious, heartfelt conversation with my own father while growing up. I did not see him after my sister Mary and I were removed from his home in Crystal Lake when I was about 10 years old, never seeing or talking to him again until I was in my middle 20’s.

How much I would have liked to know who he was, how he thought, what his background was, why he joined the military, why he put us in Catholic school and not simply in public school, etc; these and a hundred or more other similar questions I never thought of asking him because he was such a violent and wicked individual, completely unapproachable.

And the same for my mom: I never knew my mom in the same way I never knew my dad: both were closed books I never felt close to. Like my dad, I cannot recall a single, close or loving conversation I had with my mom all the years I lived with her. And those dismal and depressing years were thankfully cut short when I ran away at 15 years old, never to return to sleep in my bedroom again.

Did my parents have admirable qualities? Undoubtedly, but their positive attributes were overshadowed by their negative ones; because I never had a close relationship with either of them, I was closed to learning what those positive attributes were.

For example, with my dad again: he was, from what I can recall, an artist with some talent (interestingly, my older brother David also was somewhat of a naturally gifted artist.) He might have also been somewhat of a musician because he owned a guitar (though I never saw or heard him play it) that I remember picking up to play one time. Curiously, it was a left-handed instrument, meaning, the strings would not be in their usual position unless the guitar was held by someone whose left hand was their dominant one. This suggests my dad was left-handed, another interesting tidbit of information concerning him.

And why this is such an interesting tidbit of information is because my youngest daughter, Aimie (not her real name), is now a trained artist in her own right with incredible talent.

I don’t know where my dad picked up his artistic talent, his interest in playing an instrument, or why he developed an interest in these two—and many other—subjects. Now, at 62 years of age and thinking back on this, what a tragic waste not knowing this information concerning my own father. What pieces of the troubling puzzle of my life might have been filled in had I known more about my own parents?

Another example for the need to have information about the alienated parent can be seen when the adult child of PAS/PA requires medical care. Often, whenever we walk into a doctor’s office as a new patient, we have to fill out forms that seek information on our health history. This can require information about one’s parents potential health issues. For example, a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, other known diseases, etc. If the child has been erased from that parents life, critical care information may also be lost.

This is what has happened with me: when I go to a new doctor and am given forms to fill out with requests for family histories of illnesses, diseases or other known medical problems, I have little to write down: I simply do not know much about the health issues of my mom or dad. The drawbacks for not having this information is obvious.

An alienated child must gain needed wisdom so they may understand their need to have a relationship with their targeted parent. It is true, of course, that alienated children can go through most of their lives having nothing to do with the other parent and survive. They may grow up to be highly successful in their business careers or hold down high paying jobs earning more than six figures.

But with this fact acknowledged, it does not paint the full picture. As many studies have shown and proven, children who never reunite with their other parent suffer in innumerable ways and will not achieve what they were meant to if they had a close and loving relationship with them.

And what about the children born to an alienated child, the grandchildren? Does not those children deserve a right to know and love their grandfather or grandmother, and vice-versa? What tremendous loss will be experienced by those children and grandparents who never have a chance to know each other? I believe it is not off the mark to say that it would be child abuse to keep a grandchild from having a relationship with their alienated grandparent.

One necessary part of wisdom is having the ability to look into the future and weigh the consequences of what our present actions will produce. And if looking into the future reveals that our present actions must undergo change and revision so that our lives and the lives of our children can be lived to the fullest, a wise man or woman will do all that is necessary to see those changes made, regardless of the cost and emotional energy required to implement them.