Archive for the ‘Ph.D’ Category
“The child’s misidentification of authentic sadness is being created by the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent. The child’s authentic sadness and grief are being transformed by the manipulative pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent into “anger and resentment, loaded with revengeful wishes.” Dr Childress
I am working as hard and as fast as I can to bring this nightmare of “parental alienation” to an end – for all children and for all families. My next blog post will be significant in moving our fight for your children forward. In the meantime, I was asked by a targeted parent if I could write a letter to the children explaining things to them. So I did.
For a variety of reasons, I can’t actually write a specific letter to your specific child in your specific family. But I can write a general letter to a general child in a general family. And this is what I did.
I wanted to speak directly to the child (an adolescent between the ages of 13-17), so I had to make four versions of the letter, one for a daughter who is rejecting her mom (A Letter to Mary) and one for a son who is rejecting his mom (A Letter to Jason), one for a daughter who is rejecting her dad (A Letter to Jessica), and one for a son who is rejecting his dad (A Letter to John). They’re all the same, but it simplifies the use of pronouns. I think of this as my “Letter to Mary” series, since this is the one I started with.
Until we can protect your children we cannot ask them to reveal their authenticity. They have to survive in the psychologically dangerous upside-down world of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, where night is day, and black is white, where truth and reality shift with the needs of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.
Fundamentally, though, the problem for the child is a misidentified and unprocessed grief response (the famed attachment theorist, John Bowlby, referred to it as “disordered mourning”). The child’s misidentification of authentic sadness is being created by the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent. The child’s authentic sadness and grief are being transformed by the manipulative pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent into “anger and resentment, loaded with revengeful wishes.”
From Kernberg (1975): “The [narcissist’s] need to control the idealized objects, to use them in attempts to manipulate and exploit the environment and to “destroy potential enemies,” is linked with inordinate pride in the “possession” of these perfect objects totally dedicated to the patient.” (p. 33)
From Kernberg (1975) “They [narcissists] are especially deficient in genuine feelings of sadness and mournful longing; their incapacity for experiencing depressive reactions is a basic feature of their personalities. When abandoned or disappointed by other people they may show what on the surface looks like depression, but which on further examination emerges as anger and resentment, loaded with revengeful wishes, rather than real sadness for the loss of a person whom they appreciated.” (p. 229)
In normal-range divorces, parents help their children understand and process the children’s sadness and grief surrounding the divorce. This is what parents are supposed to do. But the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent has no empathy for the child, and instead manipulates the child’s authentic sadness into anger, into blaming and resentment toward the other parent in order to exploit the child’s anger as a weapon against the other parent.
About the only thing I might be able to do for the child caught in the loyalty conflict imposed by a narcissistic/(borderline) parent is to do for the child what a normal-range parent should do, help the child understand his or her authentic hurt, and sadness, and grief beneath the anger and blaming. So that’s what I tried to do in these letters to the children. It may not be successful and it may not help. But it’s the most I can do until we are able to protect the children from the psychopathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.
The four versions of the letter are up on my website, down at the very bottom. Direct links are:
A Letter to Mary (mother/daughter):
A Letter to Jason (mother/son):
A Letter to Jessica (father/daughter):
A Letter to John (father/son):
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857
Kernberg, O.F. (1975). Borderline conditions and pathological narcissism. New York: Aronson.
Caught Between Parents Supporting children through the challenges of divorce by Amy J.L. Baker, Ph.D.
As mother’s day approaches I want to take a moment to unequivocally state that yes mothers even good mothers can lose their children to parental alienation. One common myth that seems to be “out there” in the world is that parental alienation is something that only happens to fathers and that mothers, because they tend to have residential custody and because (the theory goes) the courts are biased against fathers, rarely lose their kids this way. While no one has data about the exact gender break down, I can say that without a doubt some mothers do and have been victimized in this way. I believe that part of why this is not talked about as much as fathers’ experiences of parental alienation is that mothers who do lose their kids this way are overcome with shame and humiliation and tend to not want to go public with their story. In my conversations with targeted mothers a common theme is that they perceive other people as thinking that they must have done something wrong for their child to reject them. Many stay silent for this reason, to avoid being blamed and shamed. Another complicating factor is that many women’s rights group denounce the existence of parental alienation, claiming that it is a fabricated problem designed to hurt mothers. Thus, women seeking support and guidance from these groups may be given the message that they are mistaken and/or must stay silent. It is time for targeted mothers to go public and be open about their experience, and make it clear that it is possible to be both a feminist and a victim of parental alienation. I strongly believe that the more people talk about this problem, the more likely it is that it can be prevented and treated. Too often custody cases get bogged down in whether the problem is real rather than focusing on how to resolve the alienation and help heal parent child relationships. In my experience an alienating parent needs three things: (1) motive to undermine the child’s relationship with the other parent, (2) access to the child, and (3) skillful use of alienation strategies. These are not the sole purview of either gender.
On father’s day I will certainly acknowledge the risks and concerns that they contend with concerning parental alienation. In the meantime, I encourage all parents (mothers and fathers) to become educated about parental alienation, to help create awareness in their community, and to work towards improving prevention, intervention, and treatment of this terrible form of child abuse.