Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Pain is the Point of Parental Alienation

Pain is the point of parental alienation. It's the whole point. It's the reason parental alienation exists. You could say its parental alienation's raison-d'etre, its reason for being, because that's exactly what it is. Intense pain aimed at parents like us who love our children more than anything in the world by turning our children against us is the aim of the alienating parent.

It has nothing to do with protecting our children from us or because we aren't good parents or caring parents or loving parents. Instead, it's because we are good, caring, and loving parents that our children are tricked into thinking we are evil, forced to reject us, and made to believe they are supposed to hate us.

Making us suffer in the worst way possible is the entire mission of the alienating parent, and yet this would never be possible if we weren't passionate about our children and didn't have wonderful relationships with them. Poor parents, even mediocre parents, are seldom targets of parental alienation because they can't be made to suffer enough to make it worth the time, trouble, or risk for an alienating parent to force such a sick twisting-of-mind onto trusting and loving children.

You can't make a child reject a parent they don't like and you can't make a parent suffer the loss of a child they don't care about.

And so, by definition, we are targeted parents because we are awesome parents and the pain we suffer from losing our children is precisely what the alienating parent wants. And that's sick.

Vanishing World

When we lose a child to parental alienation; that is, when we lose a child to the heinous manipulating, pillaging, and plundering of an innocent mind for the sole purpose of causing us pain, to say our world "changes" doesn't quite say it all. It doesn't quite get at the experience of being dropped onto a different planet as different people with very, very different children. It can't describe this experience because our world doesn't change so much as it vanishes and the world we suddenly find ourselves in is nothing like the one we used to know.

We're cut off from that world and trapped in an eerily different one similar only in that it still holds echos of the children we used to know who lived in that world with us. But they're only echoes.

Because, even though it may seem as though our children are still with us in our world, they're not. They're not the same children anymore. Something has happened to them. Something terrible. And in a manner that can only be described as nightmarish and surreal the children we cradled, read to, sat up with, walked to school, drove to games, and gave everything in our lives for so we could be part of everything in their lives, are gone from our world, and we're now alone in a deserted and desolate world that seems to grow more deserted and desolate each day.

But only to us. Not to anyone else.

No one else sees this nightmare we're living. To the people around us nothing seems different or wrong or strange.

Except us.

And nothing we do seems to make any difference.

*     *     *

The world of the targeted parent is a lonely and heartbroken world, which, while remaining lonely and heartbroken for us seems to remain unknown and invisible to almost everyone else. And this crisis we're now living of being cut off from our children while also being cut off from the people we thought would help us through our crisis, becomes even more heartbreaking when it's our own family that doesn't get what's happening in our lives – that doesn't understand the hardship we're facing of having to watch our children change before our eyes while falling away from our lives.

And yet, as painful and as heartbreaking as this rejection seems to be it's not an uncommon reaction from people who have never lost children to the heartbreak and rejection that are so much a part of parental alienation. Not at all. In fact it's pretty much the norm, even if it's family.

The macabre reality of being rejected by our children while also being rejected and abandoned by those people closest to us – the people we call family – at a time when we need our family most, is an impossibly cruel reality to have to live with and yet it's an understandable one considering how difficult parental alienation is to understand, on the surface.

Because on the surface it makes no sense that a loving child would reject a loving parent and that they would do this in such a shockingly short amount of time ... and ... that they would do this in the absence of anything that parent has done to cause this rejection. And it makes even less sense that this child could be manipulated or programmed to do this, as we claim to be the case.

And yet that's exactly what's happening, hard as that is to believe. Because that's exactly what parental alienation is, hard as that is to understand.

And so I get that this is a lot for people to accept, especially people who have never experienced the chaos and confusion that are so much a part of this family catastrophe. I get that it makes no sense that loving children would turn against loving parents almost overnight and leave their lives completely. And I get the skepticism and doubt surrounding the claim that something as severe as the loss of a child can be explained by something as simple as some overzealous character assassination or mean-spirited criticism.

I get that none of this makes any sense because it didn't make any sense to me either, at first, and for the longest time I too thought I had done something to my two youngest daughters to make them turn away from me so suddenly and leave my life so permanently. I too thought I had hurt them in some way and just couldn't remember what it was I had done – which is a very unsettling thought to have to live with. And yet it was the only one that made sense to me, at the time.

Because at the time I also believed that only something severe a parent had done to a child could make a child turn away from a parent in this way. And I had a difficult time imagining how anything less than this could account for a child hating a parent so viciously and rejecting that parent so callously. And yet, try as I may, I couldn't think of a single thing I had done to either of my daughters, ever, to even remotely cause them to act this way toward me. Instead, and as is the case with most alienated parents, just the opposite is true: I've always been a very good parent to my children, I've always been very involved in their lives, we've always had very open communication between us, and we've always been very, very close.

And so this was all very, very puzzling and I was very, very confused and none of it was making any sense to me, at all.

*     *     *

That is, until I read about parental alienation. And then it made sense. Exact sense. Feature-by-feature sense. Symptom-by-symptom exact sense as if the authors I was reading were writing about the lives my daughters and I were leading. Because at that point our lives had become mirror images of the lives described by the parental alienation authors in the parental alienation books. In fact we fit the model exactly once you began looking under the surface

Because under the surface ... underneath what we normally understand as the dynamics of the parent-child bond was not the behavior of a child who had been hurt by a parent but was instead the behavior of a child who was made to believe their parent is worthy of hate. Which is something different. Something much worse. And something much less obvious.

And the only way to get to these less-obvious explanations for an alienated child's behavior is to get beyond settling for answers based on hunches and guesses and personal opinions and instead make a genuine effort to look beyond the surface for facts which accurately describe that behavior.

Which is something we do anyway with things that are important to us, such as, say, an untreatable child illness that isn't given a hopeful outcome. And in cases like this we don't think twice about getting second opinions, doing more research, and looking further and deeper until we find the answers.

And we don't stop until we find them, especially when so much is at stake.

And so it only makes sense that we would do the same thing with something as purposely deceiving as parental alienation, where a child's well-being is also at stake, and where the parents who are losing their children are pleading with us to take a closer look at what's happening to their family. Because what's happening to their family is not what it looks like on the surface. And if there's one thing we know about parental alienation it's that it's not what it looks like on the surface.

In fact, much of the history of science is essentially a history of the pitfalls of embracing misconceptions and myths about the world and the successes of embracing facts and truth gathered from going beyond superficial observations and speculations in order to determine actual causes responsible for effects we're witnessing.

And once I began doing this – once I began looking at the facts and truth about parental alienation and was able to match the behaviors described in the literature to the behaviors I was witnessing in my children, I was finally able to understand what was causing their strange and irrational behavior toward me.

And then things finally started to make sense.

Which was very comforting and quite a relief, at first, to know I wasn't losing my mind and that I didn't have to keep grasping in the dark for answers. But it was frightening as well because the answers I found only predicted a dark outcome, especially for a family like ours which fit the parental alienation model perfectly.

The cold hard facts about parental alienation are that a parent's chances of ever reconciling with a child who has been brainwashed and manipulated as profoundly as severely alienated children have are very, very slim. In fact they're worse than if the parent had actually done something to the child.

Which is not a very comforting thing to hear if you're a parent still trying to figure out why your child left you in the first place.

And so, knowing this I almost wished I hadn't found the answers, at least these answers, and that I was still in the dark like I had been and like my friends and family still were. Or I hoped the experts might be wrong or that my family might be an exception, or that maybe, just maybe, I could reconnect with my children despite the slim chances the experts gave of ever doing this.

But these were simply not the case, and it was looking more and more like our family was instead a textbook case of the type of family were severe alienation could happen, most likely would happen, and by all measures was happening. We even fit the manner in how it was happening right down to the uncanny and frightening details: All eight manifestations of parental alienation were spot-on as were the warning signs that could lead to alienation such as a long and contentious custody battle and a history of one parent bad-mouthing the other parent in front of the children.

All of which are definite dangerous warning signs as well as being definitely us. But what was even more us, and an even more dangerous warning sign, was that of a parent sharing custody with an ex-spouse who has undying passion to take your children away from you.

And that we had in spades.

Because – and like with most alienated parents – ever since our divorce, my ex has had nothing less than an insatiable quest to exclude me from my children's lives no matter what it took, no matter who got in her way, and no matter whether she had grounds to do this or not. And even though she never had the grounds to do this and was therefore never successful, it still never stopped her from trying.

In fact, her need to to control our children and control me (a need which seemed to control her) by trying to control which parent our children should live with and which parent they should have in their lives and which parent they should be able to love, had only grown during that long period since our separation. And unfortunately for the girls and me we seemed to have gotten used to this. Which was a mistake – a big mistake. Because this warning sign was not only considered the one most likely to lead to alienation and not only did it seem to be lifted right out of our family, but it was also the one I had ignored all those years thinking nothing could ever come of it, because nothing could ever come between me and my children.


It was unthinkable.

I was sure of this.

But then I was in denial. Even when the poisoning was so bad that my daughters began hating me and wanting me out of their lives, and I began reading about parental alienation and studying the reasons for their hatred as well as seeing the overwhelming symptoms and undeniable similarities between our family and the casebook families, I still denied that parental alienation could be happening to us.

Maybe to other families, but not us, was my thinking at the time. Because we were different, we were close. I was a good parent and my kids were good kids and this was absolutely impossible and completely unthinkable and could never ever happen to us.



So very wrong. I was so wrong about this and I don't today know how I could have been or how I could have ignored all these warning signs for so long, except for the fact that never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine something like this happening to my family.


It was an impossible thing to imagine.

Which probably explains why parental alienation is so difficult to understand and why it happens so often and goes undetected almost always. Because, on the surface, it's seldom obvious that something this sinister is happening to a family, and it's almost impossible to imagine that it could be happening especially to parents who are so loving and caring and involved in their children's lives.

But then, that's the point.

It's because we are good, caring, and loving parents that we become targets of someone who is trying to hurt us in this way. Which is the great irony and therefore the great stumbling block for so many who are trying to understand this strange family dynamic.

Parental alienation doesn't happen to bad parents or even mediocre parents. It happens to the best parents. And you don't have to do anything to cause it except be a good parent. Because good parents are the kind of parents who will suffer the most when their children are gone from their lives. Because turning our children against us by turning us into despicable monsters in their eyes and erasing us from their lives is guaranteed to cause us unthinkable amounts of pain.

Which is the point, and which took me a while to grasp, and is still unthinkable to comprehend and impossible for my friends and family to make any sense of. But mostly, it's just plain horrible to have live with every day. Because it's not living.

There's no other way to say it: pain is the point of parental alienation. You could say it's parental alienation's raison-d'etre, its reason for being. Because that's exactly what it is.


  1. One of the best articles I've read on the subject. Very well-written and insightful.

  2. Wow. Right on. The only difference is my daughter, manipulated by a controlling, insecure man, had cut everyone off. She is not allowed to work and the children are homeschooled.

  3. Beautifully said John.

    This describes me and my girls to a "T"

    Many prayers for You and Your girls brother.

  4. Thank you Don. Your feedback is my lifesource when I've lost so much, as all you parents know as well. This post itself has gotten over 700 pageviews in just a few days. Since I posted links to it.

  5. I admire you for putting energy into helping others, who can try to piece together their sanity by realizing they are not alone, and they are victims of a true pattern. From RF's Fire and Ice "I think I know enough of hate, to say that for destruction, ice is also great and would suffice."

  6. Hi John--this was linked by the PAS support group on Facebook and I started reading. It was gut wrenching to read your story, which is so similar to mine. Thank you for chronicling all of this in such detail and with such honesty. Nothing can help us in this, but there is some comfort in knowing that I'm not alone. You describe the various stages so well--the confusion at first when you're flailing around trying to figure out why the kid is acting like this is a terrible part of this. Then trying to tel people about it, and unless they're close family or friends, they look at you as if you're surely guilty of SOMETHING. Then, the acceptance of reality (and the <5% rate of reunification in adulthood) and the hole in the soul that will never fill. As the months go by, you realize that the child is no longer someone you "know" in the present tense, that all you have is memories of someone who is now, for all intents and purposes, dead, even though they might be living 5 miles away from you. I watched a documentary about a religious cult and by the end of it, I realized that the dynamics were very similar to PAS--removal of anyone and anything that could remind the child of his/her former life, only cult members allowed, only people who bought into the false narrative being spun by the alienator. So sad. Thank you again for your courage and honesty. This is not easy to read, nor easy to write I am sure, but it is a chronicle of the child abuse that the court system, for the most part, appears to ignore. Sincerely, KJ

  7. Thank you for the nice words, KJ. Like you, I wish the rest of the world would see this for the abuse that it is. There are too many victims even in one PAS incident for this to go unrecognized. I'm glad you liked it.

  8. This is why I advocate for HHSS
    Happy Healthy, Successful and Spiritually Positive. Happy is what makes you laugh and feel good inside. Healthy is about taking care you both your mind and body. Success is NOT money but what and where you do or go in your life that makes you feel good about being you.  Spirituality is NOT about religion but about believing in yourself. This not something you necessarily have 24/7 but something to strive for.

    The more HHSS we are, the more likely we are to be around for our kids when they get it. Also, this is exactly what the ex's do not want us to be, i.e. HHSS. It makes them bonkers and crazy because they no longer have control of us. They actually go out of control to get the control back. In addition, people tend to gravitate to those that are HHSS. Think about it, it is very draining to always be around someone who is filled with hatred, angry, and rage as well as so aggressive. The children get drained and hopefully, will eventually come looking for the parent who is HHSS. But most importantly, we deserve to be HHSS.

  9. John,reading this explanation is gut wrenching and at the same time feels enlightening and familiar. First let me express my sincere condolences for your tragedy. Your description of the emotional confusion that surrounds this syndrome is so accurate that it sends chills throughout me. Throughout the time my daughter cut me off over 5 years ago, I've never known anyone else who has experienced this. My humiliation has kept me silent and I don't tell many about my tragedy. I don't want to be judged and I don't want pity. I've researched but found very little until I read your blog tonight quite by accident. I've healed little by little each day but not a day goes by that I don't think about her and send her love. The emptiness is profound when I see old photos or see other mothers and daughters together. When I hear other women talk about their mom's as best friends who share everything. And I wonder what she might be thinking on Mother's Days, on Christmas and on days when she has something special to share. I've often wondered if time might ever soften the hatred, or lighten the need to inflict pain. Could a new day ever bring a new perspective? There is so much to say but no words exist, the feelings are so huge, so profound, so all-encompassing that I feel mute. BUT, just knowing you write about this from your own personal pain somehow makes me feel just a bit more OK, a bit more human, a bit more normal. Thank you very much.

  10. Sorry I didn't get back to you earlier. Thanks for the compliments.

    What you've written here is amazing. You also capture the true pain of this tragedy.

    I'm sad to hear about your own alienation and that you haven't known anyone who has experienced this.I guess I haven't really either except through the Facebook groups, which are growing rapidly. (Search for Parental Alienation in FB )

    The things you mention are also things I experience. I've been in weekly therapy for over a year because of this trauma . And it is trauma. And I don't mind admitting it. Losing your children to parental alienation is worse than losing them to death. And the triggers are everywhere in the world around us like you mention and few people get this.

    -- John

  11. John, as I read this I too saw that it described my situation to a Tee. In my case it’s been over 9 years since my daughter threw me and my whole side of the family away. I completely understand your description of family not supporting you, when, and as deeply as you need them to. It’s so frustrating when time after time you have to explain to them why this has happened and yet they won’t even go so far as to read a couple of very informative books about the vast studies and case histories on Parental Alienation that would answer ALL of their misunderstandings and doubts. It has to be added that the Family Courts, attorneys, court appointed counselors and all the people who could’ve helped you put a stop the alienation just couldn’t be bothered to do what’s right for you and your child’s best interests. I almost envy those who’ve lost someone to death ( and I’ve lost many, so I know how it feels) and are able to arrive at some closure, and get on with their lives. There is no closure when each day the loss is ongoing for we rejected parents. You perfectly describe that it is precisely because we made our world revolve around loving our child that we are able to be so successfully targeted for such evil by the alienator parent. The parent who couldn’t care less isn’t hurt at all if their child goes away. In that case the psychotic will just find another way. How terribly ironic it is that a child who actually is abused by a parent will bend over backwards all their life trying to win that parent’s affection, but a good, loving and caring parent targeted for demonization will be treated by that child like they don’t exist anymore. All memories of the tender care and good times are completely lost by that child and only the falsehoods they are brainwashed to believe remain. In my case I feel that I’m not just treated like I don’t exist, it’s a treatment as if I never existed at all. I wish to God I’d have seen the alienation unwinding sooner because by the time I recognized it, it was all but too late to stop it or cure it. All the other family have got on with their lives, they still have their children, their husbands/wives. I swear my sister will openly cry about her long lost dog but still not fully grasp the death inside I feel everyday from losing a deeply loved child, the light of my life. I know you know what I mean. I also understand how you feel about the change in the world. It is like all-around you there are people living their lives, loving and sharing, yet you have become so detached from the world and somehow your despair has kept you from being able to pursue any happiness of your own. Though you don't want to, you become a hermit both figuratively and literally. You end up only doing and going out to do what is necessary to do, to earn a living and pay bills. It’s like an invisible prison release program. Going on each day is simply rote. It’s been described as a living death. I can only say that grief comes in cycles and even after progressing to the next cycle, that doesn’t mean you won’t fall back to the first level again. I keep reaching out to my daughter, sending cards, even though the ways to do that are quickly disappearing. I never get a response. I’ve tried emails, they go unanswered and I don’t even know if they are received. I tried calling, the number was changed. I hope I will reach her and get a reply someday. If I do, and there is something to open a crack in that door, that is all I can hope for. If that response never comes, I want to someday write that last letter (note, card) and tell her again how much I lover her, but that to have any happiness left to me for the days I have left, that I must say goodbye… ;( and tell her I will always be open to her, anytime, and yet it’s in her court now. Even after that I will never know if she’s received my letter or email, if she never acknowledges it. We have to try to find some happiness again even if that means having to give in and accept she’s gone forever. It’s not fair.. but it may be all I have left.

  12. I am an alienated mother of a son and daughter, I never saw it coming, reading this helped me find one thing to tell myself through the paid, you commented that it only works on good parents because bad parents don’t get bothered by it.
    My heart has been ripped out, I can’t even email my children everything is blocked or shut down, I was a good mum I dedicated 14 years to my children, he did nothing and swooped in and poisoned them, as a mother no one believes that children turn on you if your loving, they all assume your nuts and did something.
    They only crime it seems I committed was playing fair and leaving a violent man.
    Parents guilty of this are mentally ill, they need to be in prison.
    I only hope my children wake up and see what they have lost for a father capable of such cruelty.
    I send you all my love and hope that one day we all have peace and the truth comes to light and guides our children into a better place.

  13. Thank you for the great article. My son has been alienated from me for almost one year. The hardest part is realizing that the chances of him coming back are slim to none. My mind just can’t handle this. I don’t know how to move on. He was with me for 15 only child. I don’t like leaving the house because there are memories of him everywhere. I can’t move on no matter how hard I try. I’ve read that the pain never stops. If that’s the case, then I feel I have no future.

  14. HM, I understands this to well. as well as the questions from others who asked, Your kids are so great treat everyone awesome but why do they great you that way? I hate that question which places me in position of not having an answer that would cast a negativ image of them adult children and the other parent...... I read this while in Grad school for mental health counseling they could not understand it . It was just recently that I have to accept the fact that two of my 3 children are lost to me. My only regret is not knowing what to do when I saww it happening wanting to keep my children out of any disputes me and him. Now I can only pray they ever experience the pain or project the kind of pain on another........ Then there is this my youngest one who refused to be a parent of it knew I would not say anything bad about the other even when he beg me to is alienated also for not taking the side of his father . Ge only wants peace not understanding it is over tire of the trying to gain something that I will never have sometimes reality sets in and I know I lost them long time ago. who knows maybe I will go back to the illusion again , I am thinking not this time it was enough the last time like accepted maybe it changed maybe they are seeing me or at least accepting me as their mother only to be Let down again in a public way as my older adult children love to do it at public events so others can watch not realizing the image they set are not negative towards me but is an image that is negative for their own character. I think I'm done with trying to go to any family events anymore as my hear becomes torn from the way they treat me to how others read their actions. I much rather leave the image of who they are as Good people o stay intact then to pursue any relationship anymore that is healthy and loving.

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