At times during separating and divorcing, one parent hates his or her soon to be ex-partner more than he or she loves their children. When this occurs the level of toxicity is brutal and primitive, and things such as parental alienation happen.
Parental alienation is when a child is made to believe or feel that expressing love to one parent equals a betrayal of the other parent. This can lead to long term psychological harm on both sides. The alienating parent, noticeably or shrewdly, makes derogatory comments, put downs, demeans, negates and berates the targeted, other parent, encouraging the child to reject the other parent. This can occur imperceptibly as the alienating parent is often cleverly manipulative.
Both genders have the potential to be the targeted parent. Mothers, despite typically holding the brunt of the childcare activities even today, are not immune to being on the receiving end, yet parental alienation is most prevalent when one parent has borderline personality disorder; past research has suggested that more women suffer this than men, though this is currently contested see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3115767/
Estranged fathers can have a particularly difficult time coping with this alienation, especially in cases when the mother’s entire family projects this trauma onto the father and he is viewed as the scapegoat for all the pain and suffering in the parental breakup.
Some indicators of Parental Alienation
- The child rejects a normal range parent
- The child displays a sense of entitlement
- The child displays an absence of empathy for the alienated parent.
- The child displays a demonisation of the parent. The child picks up then projects the attitude of the alienating parent toward the other parent.
The alienating parent takes their emptiness, jealousy, paranoia, bitterness, rage, distain and contempt for the other parent and projects it with relentless force into the core of the child. It is an all-out attack on the alienated parent where the child is placed in an impossible psychological bind, forced to deny, suppress and split off a range of bewildering feelings if he or she even starts to reconcile with the other parent: this resembles the collateral damage in a war (which it is, to the alienating parent).
Are parents who go full force on a campaign of alienation mentally sick? It does often appear that the parent who alienates wants to see the child suffer and wants the alienated parent destroyed. Is this is a form of child abuse? CAFCASS seems to think so, see http://www.marilynstowe.co.uk/2017/02/13/parental-alienation-is-child-abuse-says-cafcass/
Then there are also many stories of legal addiction – when the alienating parent uses expensive (or not so expensive) lawyers who abuse the system and take advantage of the children for monetary gains.
Hope is building, though slowly, for parents and children suffering from the psychological abuse known as parental alienation.