> No More Secrets And Lies: Who Thinks Like This Part I

Monday, September 30, 2013

Who Thinks Like This Part I

That's a good question. It's the question I asked at the end of my last post and it's the question I'm going to try to answer in this post. But maybe a better question is why some divorced parents try so hard — as if on a mission — to deny their children a life with their other parent? What's wrong with these people? Why do they act like this? And are we even talking about divorce anymore?

These aren't questions I’m interested in asking most divorced couples because most divorced couples don't act like this or think like this. And I’m not interested in asking those recently divorced couples who are still working through issues that caused their marriages to collapse in the first place.

I’m not even interested in asking the thousands of married couples who separate each year and may strike out at each other for a brief period of time due to problems encountered trying to navigate through the adversarial minefield of family court – parents, who, out of sheer frustration, may bad-mouth their ex or keep their children from seeing their other parent for a while before coming to their senses, cooling off, or before their lawyers are able to reign them in.

And despite how damaging these actions may be to families, despite how childish it is to prolong the court process and waste money our children could use, despite how damaging it is to purposely make life difficult for children who are experiencing more problems than they've ever experienced in their lives at a time when they need more love than they've ever needed in their lives, these actions aren't death blows to a family like parental alienation is. They don't snuff out your life with your child the way parental alienation does. They aren't fatal to your relationship with your child the way parental alienation is and is intended to be.

And that's the difference. These tactics, while despicable, childish, and damaging to a family, don't do anywhere near the damage to your family that parental alienation does. They're nothing like that. There is nothing like that, except maybe kidnapping, abduction, or death.

Divisive divorce tactics aren't even in the same league as parental alienation, as far as I’m concerned. They're different acts stemming from different motives and different mental states: one being the fairly common, but short-lived harm one stressed-out parent does to the other; the other being the cold, calculating, chronic, and even criminal actions of an out-of-control parent whose intentions go way-beyond those of the one-upmanship often seen in divorce-related battles.

The former is usually a temporary annoyance doing only temporary damage to the parent-child bond. The latter is something entirely different done by someone entirely different whose intentions have moved way beyond run-of-the-mill divorce maneuvers, at a time when everyone else has moved way beyond the divorce – like ten years beyond, as in my case.

These are just some of the differences, but important ones, that show the pathology involved in the alienating parent’s motives and how this illness can affect the whole family, destroying it while at the same time remaining invisible to most everyone else, or ignored.

And that's why, in my opinion, parental alienation is closer to a kidnapping, an abduction, or a death than it is to a problematic divorce -- because it's exactly like all these things to us parents who have lost our children to its poisoning. And it's exactly like the death of a parent to the child who will never have a relationship with her mother or her father again, like my two daughters will probably never have with me.

And exactly how it's not like any of these things is something I'd like explained to me and to my daughters. I'd like someone to explain how it's not as tragic for my children as if I had died; and I'd like someone to explain how my experience is any different from that of Patty Wetterling's whose twelve-year old son, Jacob, was abducted twenty-four years ago from his neighborhood right here in Minnesota  – a mother who never sees her child anymore and knows nothing about him either. I'd like to know how her experience is any different from that of us parents who have lost our children to parental alienation.

The answer, I think, is that it's no different at all.

Different From Divorce

The victims of common divorce shenanigans – those lasting a year or two at best – experience problems. That's for sure. The children may not have the kind of access to their parents they're used to and want, and their parents may not have the same. And these behaviors certainly impair the parent-child bond and leave scars, especially when they're not stopped. And sadly, when they aren't stopped families cope in wildly dysfunctional ways as though it’s all business as usual.

But these problems aren't parental alienation. That's a different thing altogether. We alienated parents seldom see our children again unless we spot them walking through mall or down the street or we bump into them in a grocery store. We don't hear from them or hear about them unless we read about them in the paper, run into their friends, or find out in some roundabout, investigative way what they're doing, where they're living, or even if they're living. In all respects we aren't their parents any more, and in every way they aren't our children.

We don't get the kind of access even the worse parents have with their children. I envy these parents who only see their kids on weekends or summers, or those parents who are subject to unfair custody and parenting schedules courts often blindly saddle even the best parents with.

I envy these parents because at least they have that. At least they still see their kids, sometimes. There are still the visits and phone calls, the letters and emails. There are still holidays together and gifts on Christmas and on birthdays. There are still cards on Father's Day and on Mother's Day. These parents still talk to their children and their children still talk to them, and love them even if they rarely see them.

And no matter how frayed their relationship becomes due to "civil" matters beyond their control, no matter how infrequently they see each other due to family court settlements or unfair custody arrangements, there's still the expectation that the parent and the child will continue to be in each other's lives when they're older.

I don't have that. In fact my two girls have told me they don't want me in their lives, now, or when they're older. They don't want me in their lives, period.

At least these parents still know everything they want to know about their children. They still know how their children are doing in school, what classes they're taking, or even if they're in school and what school they're in. They still know their college plans, their career plans, and their wedding plans. They know if their child is sick or has been hospitalized.

And no matter how much a pissed-off ex-spouse may purposely make life difficult for the other spouse and no matter how many obstacles a family court might place between the children and the parents, the children and their parents of the average divorced family still know each other and still know things about each other. They're still in each others lives. They still love each other and the children still want their parents to be part of their lives. This never becomes a question.

As it shouldn't.

But this isn't the case with parental alienation families. Parental alienation is a malicious, vile, and purposeful death between the parent and the child orchestrated by one of the parents – the targeting parent – similar to a kidnapping or an actual death.

Kidnapping, abduction, death, and even cults, were the only things I could relate to, the only analogies I could use to tell my story when I tried to describe what was happening to me. And still people didn't get it and many thought I was overreacting and tried to tell me that maybe it was like their divorce and here's what I should try because it worked for them. And my eyes would glaze over and I had to turn away because I knew it wasn't worth arguing the point. We were talking about different worlds because we had experienced different worlds, and it seemed only those parents who had experienced parental alienation knew what I was talking about and those who hadn't still believed they knew what I was talking about because they thought I was talking about divorce.

And that's the problem. It's not about divorce. They're two completely different things.

Parent alienation syndrome may have grown out of and have been caused by the animosity begun in a contentious divorce.

It usually does.

And PAS parents may experience the the same problems associated with unfair custody arrangements and other fallout from of a contentious divorce.

They usually do.

But the two are so different it doesn't seem right to group them in the same category or class. In fact, I think it does PAS a disservice to associate it with divorce and custody and family law, and that whole range of issues most families navigate through at the beginning of a divorce but move away from when they move on with their lives -- like after a year or two. Like most divorced parents do.

And that's the difference between the PAS family and the average divorced family. Most "normal" divorced parents want to get on with the business of parenting and family, even if that means having two families. They want to leave the other stuff behind.

Which they should.

It's what the majority of divorced parents do. It's what normal people do. The majority of divorced parents and their children are more than happy to put the animosity behind them and leave it there in its own world.

Which it is.

As is PAS.

It's in a different world too. As different as night from day. As different as the lawyered-up early contentious days of divorce is from the harrowing fright of losing your child to a cult, and only connected to that other world because it too passed through it.

The PAS world is different, not only in degree, but in kind, from that world of divorce, and much closer to a kidnapping or an abduction than it is to a bad custody arrangement or a summer apart from your child. And the victims' experiences are closer to those of a death than they are to any pain associated with even the worst, most fragmented, contact a parent and child might be stuck with. 

And the effects on the alienated child are closer to that of a brainwashed member of a cult than they are to those of a child experiencing any problems associated with the strain of a failed marriage.

There's no closure to this kind of death either. No one says goodbye, and no one grieves, except in silence and alone.


RaeAnn Yinger said...

This is the first thing I've read that I've totally connected with, going, "Yes! That is exactly what's it's like. He is describing my experience to a T! As sad and horrible as it is, I'm glad to have someone out there to relate to, to know I'm not alone.

John Brosnan said...

Thank you for the comment. I've wanted to write a post like this for a long time -- ever since I lost my girls -- but I always thought it was a parental alienation point of view that few others shared. But now, three years later, I realize that, not only do I still feel the same way about this, but so do others. And so I've decided to write about it.

It's sad that so few people realize how horrific parental alienation is, but that will change some day. And it seems that it's almost a survival reaction for us PAS parents to deny what's happening to us and to our children because it truly is so painful.

I hope things work out for you.

- John

Agnes Donnelly said...

Hi John, thanks for a simple tweet to inspire me to write my own blog on PAS. Its a death that doesn't stop because the kids are still alive and being brainwashed daily.

John Brosnan said...

You're welcome. And as you can see from my blog here, you don't even have to be a good writer to do this. Haha. I wish you the best of luck. - John

Stephen Meehan said...

Living with it for seven years with three daughters, multi state relocations, squestrations, lies...poisoning, and most unbelievably ignorant do-gooders assisting.

John Brosnan said...

Thanks for the comment Stephen. "Ignorant do-gooders." I like that and I get it.

Mike Whitney said...

Everbody has an individual story but the longer I've dealt with severe parental alienation/family courts (over a decade) the more I see & hear the amazing similarities in all of the stories.
If not for the courts and everyone else enabling and/or ignoring alienation then it wouldn't be the massive global epidemic it is today. A multi billion dollar industry is what it is and history will show what a detriment to society it is.

Jaqui Sephton said...

I've just come across this post and completely identify with all that you say. In the past 9 years I have read many books and articles about NPD and PA. I have to say that the outlook is not good for victims of PA, victims being "the children" AND the "targeted parent". Whilst I try to stay optimistic as my husband and I do have a "sort of" contact with his children, it is far from "meaningful". Conversations are guarded and contact is infrequent. The children have been raised with a sense of entitlement and a belief that it is totally OK to NEVER send cards, presents or "special messages" to their father, yet expect such things for themselves on birthdays, special occasions etc. I would love to ask them when they last "forgot" Mother's Day or their Mother's birthday etc but I know it's a question I'll never ask, even if such an opportunity arose. Such a sad state of affairs but unfortunately a "damaged woman" has now raised "damaged children". I fear for their own future adult relationships and families :(

John Brosnan said...

Thank you for the comment, Jaqui. The effects of this crime on parents is bad enough, but the effect is has on children who are used in this proxy-war of hatred is nothing short of severe abuse. And the person who does these things to the children and their parent is nothing short of a criminal.

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