> No More Secrets And Lies: Writing our Alienation Tales: Truth as a Weapon Against an Arsenal of Lies

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Writing our Alienation Tales: Truth as a Weapon Against an Arsenal of Lies

"It's just sheer horrific pain every day. There’s nothing like it and nothing you can do about it. You can't escape from it. Can't hide from it. It follows you, haunts you, cuts you like a knife and your gut wrenches and doubles you up. It sours you on everything and you become sick and have to sit and can't think because you can't do anything when you're cloaked in that kind of emotional pain."
–  The pain of parental alienation, from my journal - September 26, 2013

Recently I offered to help a mother write her story about how parental alienation has affected her life by taking her 13-year old daughter away from her. And during the process of responding to her story, I started examining my own reasons for writing my story – an endeavor I began a little over a year ago about how my children were poisoned and alienated from me much like this woman's child was from her. It's a topic I had thought a lot about before I began writing my story but had never written about.

Until now.  Now, after watching hundreds of parents discover first-hand the tragic truth of how parental alienation can so quickly destroy a family, after watching these parents sit by helplessly while their children are taken from them, and after seeing how frantic and panic-stricken these parents are to do anything they can to get their children back – including telling their own stories – I decided it would be beneficial to write about the topic of writing our alienation tales.

There's no identifying information here about the person I'm helping, but one day soon she too may have a story ready to put out to the world in her effort to reconnect with her lost child.

Dear Alienated Mother:

You have a very interesting and tragic story here, but then I think all parental alienation stories are tragic. In fact, I can't think of anything more tragic than someone emotionally and psychologically abusing a child to the point where that child never wants to see his mother or father again – people he loved more than anyone in world but has had to abandon in order to satisfy a vindictive and disturbed adult. And when you add to this the fact that these crimes continue unabated in thousands of households across the nation, our stories become even more tragic and it's why I feel we need to write them down and show them to the world.

But doing this isn't easy. Writing about how our children were taken from us through the complex dynamic of parent alienation is one of the most difficult tasks we'll ever face. And one of the first hurdles we face when we begin this task is that of sorting through our thoughts and feelings about divulging the details of our personal lives to the world, especially the details of our children's lives. I probably grappled with this more than anything else before I decided to write my story and make it available to the public. And yet, over a year later, I still believe it was the right thing to do.

.     .     .

But not everyone does. Not everyone believes this is the best way to get our children back. And I'll be the first to admit I may have made an eventual reconciliation with my children more improbable by writing about what happened us. 

But I had to do something. I didn't really have a choice. I was quickly losing my daughters and nothing I was doing was making any difference. They were slipping out of my life and I was desperate.

And frankly, I didn't see how I could make things any worse than they already were. Like you, I knew I would probably never see my children again – there's not much that's any worse than that – and also like you, I love my children more than life itself, would do anything to get them back, but had also exhausted every option available to do this. 

We really don't have a choice.

And we're not alone. For thousands of parents like us, the topic of how to reconnect with our lost children is one that we can't help but be focused on and one that is in demand more and more all the time. And rightfully so. It's also a topic that one of my favorite parental alienation authors, Amy Baker, addresses in her book Working With Alienated Children and Families: A Clinical Guidebook.

In her compilation of essays from well-known parent alienation authors, she talks about the mistakes parents and professionals make when they attempt to work with alienated children; and she points out how many of the common-sense strategies we think will work with a "rueful and spiteful ex-spouse" can actually exacerbate the situation :

"..for example, while it may be natural to respond to a child's false accusation by vehemently providing proof of the child's mistake, this may backfire and entrench the alienation."

What she suggests, instead, is starting from a "parental alienation-informed approach" and "from a place of empathy and mutual problem-solving with the child (without apologizing for something that did not happen)."

Which I strongly agree with as far as being a much-preferred approach over that of simply blurting our stories out to the world.

And yet, while her book is full of much-needed advice on different approaches parents can take to work with their poisoned children (most involving a cadre of professionals using latest therapeutic modes), these aren't approaches that are available to most of us considering the conditions we find ourselves in when we find ourselves separated from our children by the nightmare of parental alienation. Conditions such as the following can make this kind of reconcillation next to impossible:

  • -Limited access to parent alienation resources in our communities
  • -Limited awareness of the topic of parental alienation among family members, friends, and professionals in our communities
  • -Limited access to our children in the early stages of parental alienation
  • -Limited cooperation of an unwilling ex-spouse and an unwilling child
  • -Limited cooperation of lawyers, family court systems, and social service agencies who understand parental alienation and realize the severity of this problem

In fact, for the majority of us rejected parents, scenarios of knowledgeable therapists working through the poisoning that has infected our children's minds, and visions of all of us becoming a family again are distant dreams that can only become realities when conditions in our communities change.

And while I have no doubt that the majority of us parents have tried everything we can think of to bring about these conditions, they simply don't exist for most of us, and most of our efforts have been met with doom, and defeat.

Desperate Measures

I also have no doubt that the majority of us parents have tried even more than this. I know I have, and I know other exasperated parents who have reached down into their bag of tricks to come up with any idea they can think of that might help them reconnect with their children.

Like most parents I was frantic to get in touch with my daughters and I brainstormed everyday about what I could do to get them back in my life and who I could get to help me. I approached every type of professional I could think of from teachers to guidance counselors, from therapist to therapist calling clinics to see if anyone on their staff knew anything about parental alienation. 

Most of my conversations went something like the following:

"Hi, I'm a parent looking for a someone who can work with parental alienation."

"Work with what?"

"Parental alienation."

"What's that?"

I quickly tired of having to explain to the professionals in my community what parental alienation was – something I thought they should have known; but they didn't know. No one knew unless they had experienced it themselves. And in those cases they were in the same boat I was.

Family clinics didn't know what this was. Clinics that specialize in family problems didn't know. Psychologists, psychiatrists, family lawyers, social workers – all people with impressive credentials extensive training – had no idea what I was talking about. Nobody knew what parental alienation was.

I wrote to parental alienation authors and even contacted a few. Richard Warshak was kind enough to give me the names of a couple of experts in my state. However, after contacting them, I discovered that one had moved to Alaska and the other had published an article on PA in the past but didn't work with families.

I talked with family lawyer after family lawyer, pleading my case (sometimes in tears) until I was able to convince one lawyer to take my case (with the help of a $3000 retainer). But even then he made sure I knew that the judges in my county didn't like it when men complained about their ex-wives (no matter what these ex-wives had done), told me he wouldn't take on Social Services (the agency in my county that basically runs family court), used the word "lawlessness" whenever he referred to a father's chances of keeping his children, and told me that my only chance of getting my girls back (despite having a thoroughly-written parenting plan) was to hire a therapist from Minneapolis who would require a $5,000 retainer and a court order from a judge in my county. Another dead end.

I considered organizing an AA-type intervention at my ex-wife's home with trusted adults who could confront this woman who had poisoned my children. And like an AA intervention, I thought that through peer pressure, shaming and embarrassment, we could convince (or coerce) her into returning my children to me and returning their minds to them.

I called clergy, even met with one which ended up being a near-laughable disaster and little more than fodder for a humorous post I would later write.

I met with a counselor at a local domestic violence shelter who, it seemed, ended up laughing at me for suggesting something as preposterous as a mother poisoning children against a father. What was I hiding? she seemed to wonder. What had I done and why I was using a crazy excuse like parental alienation to cover it up? Soon I would learn that this is a common misperception caused by misinformation, lack of education, and societal attitudes that work against many of us parents.

I did everything but go door-to-door asking strangers if they had seen my children and would help me get them back because there were no professionals (or anyone) in my community who knew about, cared about, or would listen to my all-too-real plight to connect to my girls. The best I could do was to garner a modicum of empathy from a few caring souls: people who cared but were too afraid to get involved.

And so I had to make a choice. I had to decide whether I was going to walk away and forget my girls or do the one thing I could do: tell my story. And I chose to tell my story – the story of how I lost my family and the story of the people who were responsible for this, because it was all I had. 

But at least I had that. I had the truth. And amongst a sea of lies truth is a wonderful thing to have. And even though I knew there would be people upset with me for exposing what they did to my girls and to me, I knew I had to do something.  And I knew that as long as I told the truth I would be fine.

But I also knew I had to do more than this. I knew that, in addition to telling my truth, I had to be mindful of how I told it if I wanted my story to be fight back against the tsunami of lies my children and I were drowning in.

And along these lines Ms Baker's book again proved useful to me. And even though she doesn't advocate broadcasting our stories out to the world, she does talk about attitudes we need to be mindful of when they reach out to our alienated children:
"By remaining calm, loving, and empathically attuned to the child, the parent can show him- or herself to be a safe, loving, and available parent, which can be an effective antidote to the lies and misinformation of the alienating parent."
And by following this advice is, in a nutshell, how I believe our stories become the powerful and effective tools they can be and why I feel it's important to tell the world what's happening to our children, no matter how painful this is.

Because It's All About Lies.

Probably more than any other crime, parental alienation is all about lies. It's only about lies. Lies are the weapons alienators use to harm our children by lying to them about who we are to the point where they no longer know who they are. It's why parental alienation is considered abuse.

And when we stand by silently while this abuse is taking place, we're not only allowing it to happen, we're endorsing it as well. Our silence surrounding the poisoning of our children does nothing but provide a cocoon shielding the actions of these predators from the public and providing a seedbed for this abuse to flourish. And any privacy we feel obligated to uphold to protect our loved ones isn't protecting anyone except this perpetrator – usually an ex-spouse.

Whatever merit there might be in protecting our alienated children's privacy is too high a price to pay for what's happening to them in private:
·        For the fact that, throughout the remainder of lives, they will be      increasingly vulnerable to depression, alcoholism, academic problems, PTSD, poor relations with peers, and many other psychological and social problems
·        For the fact that they will most likely be separated from their parents for the remainder of their lives for no reason other than that we allow very disturbed parents to use their children to hurt loving mothers and fathers
·        For the fact that the turmoil and abuse our children are suffering will not only last throughout their lifetimes but the lifetimes of their children as well  – our grandchildren – as this cycle of violence perpetuates itself onto other generations


And so while we wait for the conditions in our communities to catch up to the realities in our communities; while we wait for doctors, lawyers, teachers, therapists, social workers and judges to become knowledgeable about parental alienation and take their mandated reporting responsibilities seriously, all we can do is tell our stories.

Because sitting on the sidelines is no longer acceptable.

And even though revealing our tales to a cold and impersonal world might seem like putting our message in a bottle and hoping our children will someday find it, we can take some solace in the fact that there will be other children who see themselves in our stories and…

...discover that they're not alone,

...discover that there are other children like them, and,

...discover that there's a name for this thing and it's called parental alienation and people are working hard to fix it so children like them don't have to separated from their parents for the rest of their lives.

Because we owe it to our children to let them know these things. We owe it to them to let them know that it's not their fault that they don't see us anymore, and that we love them and will wait for them forever.

But most importantly, we owe to them to tell them the truth about who we are and about who they are, because it's their story too.

Thank you for sharing your story with me.

I wish you the best.


John Brosnan


Donna said...

Thank you. I hardly sleep nights worrying about my daughter. She has been involved in seriously risky behavior under the "care" of her dad & his FIFTH wife. Someone listen & help, please (see wordpress blog "Moms' Hearts Unsilenced"). Someone educate our kids about Parental Alienation as we cannot count on the system or even get past the hate of the alienating parent.

John Brosnan said...

You're right about the hate of the alienating parent. And thank you for your blog: http://momsheartsunsilenced.com/

Anonymous said...

I just found your site, I have 4 children and 3 of them live with their Dad full-time. My oldest daughter lives with me. By the time I wanted a divorce my husband had 2 of the 4 kids to believe I was a horrible Mom. I have been through hell and back at least twice in the past 6 months. Everyone that has ever stepped foot in my families life sees my husband as a control freak except for the child custody evaluator. My oldest son calls me so many bad names and it has escalated to him getting physical with me. I have an attorney but I feel I am slowly losing the battle and I need to seek additional help. John, please email me christiansen6@hotmail.com so I can further share my story and maybe you can help me in how to deal with Satan as I call my soon to be ex.

John Brosnan said...

It's certainly not a gender-specific thing. Dads can be alienators as well as moms. Some experts say it's caused from unmet emotional needs, possibly resulting during their childhoods. I see that. Thanks for sharing and good luck. I'll contact you.

Paan Alberta said...

John - Great post. Thank-you. I have been raising awareness about PA since 2008 - but wound down over the last year.
(In fact I just posted a "Ceasing to Update" post today - and then saw yours on FB!)

You have made some good points - but I find people don't really want to know about PA until it hits them.
Until then they try to just avoid the topic in case the "catch it".
That is why I still just copy the PAAO brochure and leave out as a free resource.

The bigger problem IMHO is lack of uptake by our Courts and Support Services.
This needs to be addressed by effective engagement and lobbying of various Court/Social Service Agencies.
Due to our efforts - Dr. Richard Warshak was invited to teach about PA through our College of Psychologists (Feb 2012).

These are the kind of things we can do.

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