Why do I hate one of my parents? Part One

Hate is a complicated emotion that can destroy a child’s life. When that volatile emotion is directed toward a parent (usually a father), the devastating consequences of this hatred can have ripple effects that will reverberate throughout that person’s lifetime.

In my previous post, Children Who Hate Their Parents, I briefly touched upon a psychological condition known as “Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).” In this and subsequent posts, I want to dive deeper into this form of child abuse that has become commonplace in what is referred to as “high conflict divorces.”

Tragically, there are innumerable amounts of children that hate one of their parents. Though there are many reasons for this, I want to concentrate on the causes of hating a parent that stems out of conditions where PAS takes root, grows, and becomes a mature, fruit bearing tree.

For those children reading this post who find themselves looking for answers to why they have such an intense and abiding hatred for one of their parents, one point must be emphasized as was pointed out in my prior, aforementioned post: you are not to blame for this irrational, intense and oftentimes all consuming destructive emotion.

Children from divorced families often deal with guilt over the breakup of the family unit, blaming themselves in some way for why their parents are no longer together. “Maybe if I would have been more respectful to my mom and dad” or “If only I had listened to my dad and did what he asked me my parents would still be together” is the type of thinking that runs through some children’s minds when they pass through the nightmare corridors of the divorce process.

Though a child’s continual, repetitive and negative behavior can certainly be one of the many factors in the breakup of a family, it is rare to be the sole or even main contributing factor. Two people who love and are committed to each other “…for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part…” can usually survive even the most disobedient child’s behavior.

All of us need certain tools in our tool bags in order to successfully troubleshoot, diagnose, and hopefully solve life’s often complex repair jobs. One of the key “tools” in an individual’s box of tools is knowledge; without an understanding of why we think, react and behave in the manner we often do when faced with the myriad problems of life, we are not going to be able to find needed solutions.

Knowledge that leads to healing does not come easily. For the child who is irrationally bound up in a nameless hate for one of their parents, a clear understanding of the origin of this destructive emotion is one of the first steps on an often long journey to personal healing and fulfillment.

I will be exploring some of these tools in this series on divorce. One I feel is essential is the necessity of deep introspection on the part of a child who is seeking answers to why they have such an intense, deep abiding negative opinion of one of their parents. Since I noted before that most cases of PAS are directed toward the non-custodial parent—the father—I will use him as the object of scorn for this blog series.

Let’s explore a typical case of a child firmly held in the grip of PAS. She has carried, for almost as long as she can remember, a seething hatred for her dad. In her more sanguine moments, she has to admit that all her memories of her relationship and interactions with her father were not bad. When pressed to be fair and honest of her relationship with her dad, she grudgingly admits there were many times she can look back upon with him that were great: trips to the zoo, pet stores, bike rides, walks outside, bedtime stories, books he read to her, games played together, sitting on the couch watching movies together, etc.

In fact, she would further admit, if pressed, that she loved her dad and knew that he loved her. Yes, she carries some bad memories, especially after her mom and dad divorced and which seemed to be the beginning of her downward spiral of emotions towards him, but in general, she agrees that she previously remembers a loving, caring relationship with the man she now despises with a passion.

Let me share with you some quotes from an article in the “Florida Bar Journal,” gems of information which will become one of the aforementioned pieces of knowledge that you can use to begin to bring healing back into your heart:

“Criteria III: Deterioration in Relationship Since Separation

The third of the criteria necessary for the detection of PAS is probably the least described or identified, but critically is one of the most important. It has to do with the existence of a positive relationship between the minor children and the now absent or nonresidential parent, prior to the marital separation; and a substantial deterioration of it since then. Such a recognized decline does not occur on its own. It is, therefore, one of the most important indicators of the presence of alienation as well as a full measure of its relative “success.”

By way of example, if a father had a good and involved relationship with the children prior to the separation, and a very distant one since, then one can only assume without explicit proof to the contrary that something caused it to change. If this father is clearly trying to maintain a positive relationship with the children through observance of visitation and other activities and the children do not want to see him or have him involved in their lives, then one can only speculate that an alienation process may have been in operation.

Children do not naturally lose interest in and become distant from their nonresidential parent simply by virtue of the absence of that parent. Also, healthy and established parental relationships do not erode naturally of their own accord. They must be attacked. Therefore, any dramatic change in this area is virtually always an indicator of an alienation process that has had some success in the past.” (Emphasis mine)

The above paragraphs were copied from the article above which I urge any child experiencing a hatred against their parent to read and study. It will be a beacon of light shining into a dark place that might help unlock this mystery you have been carrying for years, perhaps even decades, which has brought such anguish, confusion, and heartache into your life and soul.

In my next post, I will delve more into this “Criterial III.”