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How the Still Face Experiment Can Help Your Child Cope with the Silent Treatment: Tips for Parents

I know it can be hard to figure out how to help your child cope when the other parent is using the silent treatment or actively alienating your child from you. It’s emotionally challenging and painful, with lasting effects on both you and your child. But know that there are practical and effective ways to support your child to help them build resilience and coping skills. Here is a resource to better understand what the issue looks like. In the 1970s, psychologist Edward Tronick conducted a study known as the Still Face Experiment, which demonstrated the negative effects of emotional unresponsiveness on infants. The study showed that when a caregiver failed to respond to an infant’s emotional cues, the infant experienced almost immediate distress, becoming agitated. (It can also show up as withdrawn). See an example: https://youtu.be/YTTSXc6sARg A parent giving their child the silent treatment is unfortunately a powerful way to alienate the child from the other parent. In these cases, the child often feels confused, and helpless, even blaming themselves for the situation. Here are some tips to help your child cope with the silent treatment or parental alienation:

  1. Acknowledge your child’s experience. It’s vital to validate your child’s feelings and let them know what they’re experiencing is not their fault. Encourage them to express their emotions. Let them know, often, that it’s okay to feel upset, angry, or sad.
  2. Create positive interactions. Make sure your child has positive interactions with you and other supportive family members or friends. This helps counteract the negative effects of emotional unresponsiveness and provides your child with a better sense of security and stability.
  3. Foster resilience. Encourage your child to engage in activities that promote resilience like sports, hobbies, or creative projects. These activities can go a long way in helping build their confidence and sense of self-worth.
  4. Seek professional support. Consider working with a therapist or counselor who can provide additional emotional support. A therapist can help you develop strategies for dealing with the silent treatment and other behaviors which are the hallmark of parental alienation.

Remember, dealing with silent treatment or parental alienation is not easy, but with patience and persistence, you can help your child cope and build resilience. Always Keep in mind that your child’s emotional well-being should always come first (along with your own, (think “Put your own oxygen mask on first”), and don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you need it.

Finding The Right Parental Alienation Help

Finding The Right Parental Alienation Help: Attorneys and Therapists

For targeted parents, the search for the right parental alienation help whether it be lawyer or therapist or both who can expertly grapple with your situation no easy feat. Many professionals claim they have what it takes to take on such disputes – yet when push comes to shove, few properly rise to the challenge and deliver results that are best for your children and you.

Rather than taking anyone’s word as gospel, finding the competent parental alienation help involves mindful of your questions. This can be your ultimate key in finding competent help that’s qualified enough (and proven) to tackle this unique situation head-on!

Lawyer Questions:
1. What is your experience in dealing with parental alienation cases?
2. Have you represented clients in cases involving parental alienation before?
3. What were the outcomes?
4. Can you share a successful outcome? (Of course, keeping client confidentiality)
5. What strategy or strategies do you use to ensure that the child’s best interests remain a priority?
6. How do you collaborate with mental health professionals for this kind of situation?

Therapist Questions:
1. How long have you been helping children and families with this issue?
2. What approach/strategies do you use?
3. How have situations that demanded your expertise ended up?
4. What is your approach to dealing with parental alienation?
5. Can you share a successful outcome of a case in which where you worked with a child affected by parental alienation?
6. How do you work with attorneys, court-appointed professionals, and/or Guardian ad Litems to ensure the best outcome for the child?

Parental alienation is a stressful and complicated situation. Finding the right parental alienation help including a lawyer and/or therapist is key for success. Making the right decisions now will have lasting impacts on your child’s and your future well being – your questions really do matter.

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From the Dr. Childress Blog Web Site

All posts in this section are RSS feeds from Dr. Craig Childress's blog. For more information or to contact Dr. Childress, visit his blog directly.

5 Ways Family Courts Have Improved Addressing Parental Alienation Since 2015

Disclaimer: Please take a moment to read the post and remember the context from which I write, someone who has gone through years of post-divorce headaches, going from my child almost never seeing their father to living with him 50% of the time.It is vital we take stock of any progress over time so we can build on it.

As I continue my own battles* this is a reminder for all of us that while there is still a long way to go, here are 5 things that have gotten better in family court concerning parental alienation since 2015:

  1. More lawyers have experience dealing with parental alienation cases, so it’s easier to find someone who can help you navigate the legal system.
  2. There are more resources available both in person and online than ever before for those who cannot afford a lawyer or don’t know anyone who can help them.
  3. Among the many experts who have emerged, Dr. Craig Childress, PsyD is a leading expert on parental alienation and his work has helped many families understand their situation better and develop strategies to move forward using clear verifiable criteria.
  4. The courts are more aware of the signs of parental alienation and how to handle these cases appropriately.
  5. There is an increased focus on the best interests of the child when making decisions about custody and visitation rights, which helps ensure that children are not used as pawns in disputes between parents.

Remember, whether you have a lawyer, use one in a limited capacity, or are unrepresented, there are plenty of people out there willing to help you get started and provide support along the way! Don’t be afraid to reach out for assistance – you don’t have to go through this alone!

*My focus is on appealing a judge’s bad decisions. It is possible but hard. I have help which wouldn’t have been possible before the Internet. The alternative is unacceptable.

Sources

Lawyers Are Not Gods

“If you don’t know the law, it seems all-powerful. If you are dealing with bad attorneys, they also like to puff themselves up as small gods. Because who are you to question them? I personally hate that mentality, we’re people, good and bad just like anyone.”—Elizabeth (Family Law Attorney)

While this is not meant to be a lengthy post although this is certainly not the last you’ll hear from me on this subject to be sure.     https://youtu.be/NpmB2zxs4FI   No matter what, no matter how bad it can seem, the question to ask, often when it’s hardest is “What CAN I do?” There is always something. And the best low-hanging fruit starts with us. What are we doing to better regulate our emotions? No matter what happens on the outside, even if a magic genie could grant kids back with us, if we don’t shift how we run ourselves it won’t matter in the long run. Why? Because the same person who got here will still be here. If you look up lottery winners you’ll see that most lost everything in a relatively short period of time, for the same reason. One of the things we can do is get more information on what the situation is rather than how some attorney depicts it. It is almost certainly your ex’s and even yours if unwittingly they don’t know how to properly navigate what’s happening. The first place to start,  while regulating ourselves more effectively (start here) is to understand there are many systems in place to rein in lawyers who are misbehaving. Since most people don’t know this they assume they have to take the sh*t they get because it’s supposedly a “corrupt” system. Good luck changing that in one day. HOWEVER, you can do things to start naming what is happening. You can, if you have the right information cause a lot of “trouble”. FOR EXAMPLE: DID YOU KNOW Lawyers cannot bring claims that do not have a reasonable basis in fact. Then they may in violation of the American Bar Association Code of Ethical Conduct. https://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/publications/model_rules_of_professional_conduct/rule_3_1_meritorious_claims_contentions/ You can fight with grievances and motions for sanctions. As someone who knows two lawyers who were targeted and lost their licenses for one and two years respectively, these grievances can have real teeth. No matter what it is also a signal that you aren’t going to just go along with what they are doing.  Lawyers are not gods. They simply know re than you might and know-how to utilize their knowledge. So…anyone can use that knowledge, even us who are unrepresented as well

Lee Hammock — Father, Business Owner, Clinically Diagnosed Self-Aware Narcissist

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kL4FXQlwZs After having coffee with Lee Hammock on a couple of occasions now after finding him on YouTube, this last time he agreed to do a video where he goes into some very common questions alienated parents ask. With all I’ve been through and all I know about those with Narcissist Personality Disorder (NPD), it has been quite the experience hearing the perspective of someone who is both wired this way and aware first-hand. He says that his experience of those he talks to and works with are, like any other population, on a spectrum of sorts. Some with this condition will likely never have the ability to deal with it or choose not to—but that’s not true for everyone. That said, I haven’t heard him say anything about treating someone who has this type of wiring any differently than the competent experts recommend we do. For me though, it’s been different hearing it from a “source”.To me, his transparency is at times very validating, other times sad and alarming which seems to be a fundamental part of being in the presence of real truth.

For example—This recent message exchange: Me: OMG!! IT’S THE MONSTER IN THE BASEMENT!!! Oh wait—never mind—it’s just a business owner from the next town over 😂 Lee: LOL! *Pause* Lee: He can be both 😂

Questions I asked him for this video and his answers:

  • You’re a WHAT? Why are you doing this?
  • What’s it like being a parent with NPD?
  • How do you co-parent with a narcissist?
How do you win against a Narcissist?
  • What’s the BEST way to be a good parent in this situation?
  • What’s the best way to deal with a Narcissist in Court?
  • Where can I find out more?

FIND LEE ON: YOUTUBE | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK

Life After Reunification (Part 1)—Narcissistic Identification

As I embark on a life that has thankfully resulted in reunification with my child, I am reminded that the person who got into this situation is still here and reunification is in many ways the first step. A first MAJOR step to be sure, and yet still the beginning of a long road to shifting the metaphorical shape I hold in the world, to become able to fit with more people and even (hopefully) a mate. I am reawakened to the pull of wanting to share my life with someone, to have my child get a different experience of what a relationship can look like, and experience stability and support in an intimate relationship. The fear, of course, is getting pulled into what got me to where I was before I clawed my way out of the dark back into the sunlight. But when I met this amazing, beautiful, intelligent woman a little while ago, I started experiencing a feeling of being alive I hadn’t thought I’d ever experience again. It was wonderful—trying to figure out what was going on, not sure but enjoying the back and forth and the attention. And thinking “I have done so much work on myself, surely this is a reward, a chance at possibly having something special, something amazing.” No matter where it might go, it was a sign that I was experiencing a new side of life. And then, the mask slipped. After behaviors that felt oddly familiar, like—things said in sharp tones that were then brushed off or denied, putting out boundaries and being subtly ridiculed for them, comments and actions that made me feel like who I am isn’t worth anything—and knowing something wasn’t right. But this time saying something, asking about what those behaviors were all about and watching her eyes go black as it all became my fault, my doing, my problem. And in an instant, I lost myself again. I found myself agreeing it was all me, begging for forgiveness when what I had really done was the unforgivable act of no longer blindly admiring, adoring, and complimenting, instead pointing out behaviors that for most could be seen as simply human but for others intolerable to experience. Within hours I went from being interesting and engaging to horrible and reprehensible—the going out of her way to tell me she didn’t want to talk to me, the astonishing yet familiar distortions and mischaracterizations, the gathering of the allies, the smear campaign, and the nastiness, in an instant suddenly being viewed as a horrible, worthless piece of trash. The worst fear, meeting another narcissistic personality type. SH*T.

What Next?

Well, first and foremost I get that it took 4 weeks this time instead of 12 years. Next, I get that I have internalized enough sense of self that when the attempts at destabilizing behaviors came, something in me not accepting them and then knowing myself well enough to know when I am off and realizing it quickly. And shutting it all down immediately. The hooks were strong but I saw them for what they were. This was my worst fear, and I survived. And among the many gifts she actually gave me, one of the most important is that I know I can trust myself. It’s upsetting, heartbreaking, and uplifting. This brings to mind “An Autobiography in five Chapters”

  1. Chapter I  I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost … I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes me forever to find a way out.
  2. Chapter II I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place. But it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
  3. Chapter III I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in … it’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
  4. Chapter IV I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
  5. Chapter V I walk down another street.

The question is, What chapter are we living right now? I know as long as I’m alive there’s the chance to live another one. UP NEXT—Chapter 2: How to Protect Ourselves From Doing This… Narcissistic Innoculation

(Don’t) SHUT UP!

“A problem shared is a problem halved—A joy shared is a joy doubled.”—German Proverb

To the degree frustration and sense of hopelessness can be amplified, so can empowerment the louder we are willing to get when things go well or when they do not. So many of us are conditioned to think about our story, our circumstances, (positive or negative) as ours and ours alone. It is part of the arsenal the alienator uses to keep us feeling small and powerless. They count on the targeted parent to feel like it’s not worth it, to give up. There are also some who believe that their story is only of concern to them and the immediate people around them. But our struggles and our successes can be of enormous value to others in similar situations when we share more broadly, especially when dealing with those groups or institutions (legal and mental health) that enable the alienator to do what he or she does. To the degree frustration and sense of hopelessness can be amplified, so can empowerment the louder we are willing to get when things go well (meaning the best interests of our children are acted upon)  or when things do not (when, due to ignorance or simply a desire to go with the path of least resistance to the detriment, of the children instead). I have been working to get a directory of competent professionals who are properly trained and equipped to help those who need competent help in dealing with what is happening to their children and to them.

CONTACT US WITH INFORMATION ABOUT ATTORNEYS AND MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS WHO CAN HELP

If you have been working with an attorney or a mental health professional (or both) who has helped your children keep two parents in their life Please let us know so we can let others know. The more we can connect those who need help with those who can provide it, the more we can slow down and even stop the spread of this pathology to families and all of the future generations that come after.

REPORT: LAWYER OR THERAPIST (POSITIVE)

 

Verification

CONTACT US WITH INFORMATION ABOUT ATTORNEYS AND MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS WHO CAUSED HARM

On the flip side, if you have had the misfortune of dealing with professionals who have been incompetent or have been enabling alienators to separate children from parents who are able to love and care for them, please help alert other families who may be walking into the same potential trap. By applying pressure, the goal is to make it more difficult to do the wrong thing and easier to do the right thing. Any practice you send should contain what happened, without slamming or name-calling, but rather providing a factual account of what happened.  See the latest submitted example here.  Remember, we want to educate and change, not just punish. We also want to stay focused on the facts to avoid grounds for legal action being taken, something that is very difficult if not impossible to do when recounting things that actually happened.

REPORT: LAWYER OR THERAPIST (NEGATIVE)

  • By sending this information to Beyond Parental Alienation, you are stating that the information presented is, to the best of your knowledge, correct and that Beyond Parental Alienation is not liable for any issues that may arise out of willful or unintentional misstatements or misrepresentations of what occurred.
 

Verification

We look forward to hearing from you—halving the problem and doubling the joy for all of us who need to know about it.

Wynns Family Psychology–Ethics Violations Exposed

(This particular one of the several Wynns Family Psychology Reviews on Google is an example of the type of Psychology Practice that enables the Pathogen of Parental Alienation to thrive. Note the hallmark elements of Wynns Family Psychology’s behavior: refusal to take in any new information and no proper diagnosis as described in the DSM V. This allows for the alienating parent to influence the child unabated, thus stepping into the role of witness and enabler, two things that people with personality disorders must have in order to gain and keep control of a child.)

My comments about this are: If you are silenced by the cooperation of the legal system and the therapeutic community as was, I would urge you to speak up.

The Court stopped a lawsuit for negligence from going forward because they would have needed another therapist to verify they committed malpractice.

Now, think about that for just a moment.

How many therapists do you think would do that even if they saw it? It is an example of how the system that has been in place for years makes it almost impossible to do the right thing and very easy to fall in line and perpetuate the cycle of abuse.

If you are in the middle of litigation or for some other reason believe putting yourself out there would be harmful to your child, you may want to wait. This is checkers, not chess. Your ex and their enablers are going off of feelings and short term feeling better but we are here for the long game: making sure this stops happening to more children.

Wynns Family Psychology Online Google Review:

Horrible.

If you can avoid going toWynns Family Psychology in Cary, NC (or Raleigh, same owner), do so.

My family went through an extremely acrimonious divorce, and by the time all was said and done, the Court found my ex to have been engaging in extreme custodial interference. (Parental Alienation).

When directed here by the Court (based in continual false allegations of inappropriate touch) I attempted to tell the doctor that there was a case of extreme custodial interference going on and that the interviews with my child would be slanted since my almost non-existent custodial time and their restrictive schedule let the other parent bring the child to every session. ( When a child is being pressured into rejecting the other parent and the alienating one is right outside a door—thinking it wouldn’t affect results is naive at best)  and the course of action they took.

This whole experience drew a horrible experience for my child and me out by almost an additional year during the multi-year custody battle. The Court, upon seeing the final report, immediately sent us to another practice, where a thankfully competent therapist was able to properly identify the issue and FIX it so our child could have two parents in their life.

Even with that info, these people never acknowledged they might have made a mistake—so I took them to Court try and stop them from doing this to anyone else.

They won the motion to dismiss because their lawyer kept throwing technicalities out until one stuck. (Cooperation from the legal system. The one that “stuck” was that even though the storyline, which included the disposition and findings of the Court as well as the radical improvement clearly showing what was going on the missing element was another therapist “ratting her out” so it was dismissed.)

In my opinion, this is the worst type of situation; harming a family like this because they wouldn’t take any input (which is actually a violation of their professional code of ethics), then refusing to acknowledge any mistakes. (We all make them, but refusing to acknowledge them only perpetuates bad behavior.) Instead, they used their resources to get out of any responsibility.

If you have a choice, I would currently urge you to GO SOMEWHERE ELSE and SPEAK UP if something bad is happening.

There is an EPIDEMIC of children being cut off from having a relationship with both parents and practices like this just enable it.

P.S. I would love to one day take this down and replace it with a story of how they learned from their mistakes and educated themselves to stop the enabling of needlessly damaged children. After all, the children didn’t divorce either parent or caretaker and no one should enable bad behavior.

If nothing else, you can speak up. Your information makes a difference to others. Your silence allows it to continue. If you have to use an assumed name to protect identity, do it. If it happened to you a long time ago, tell the story now.

If you are one of the blessed and lucky ones to get your family back DO IT FOR THE NEXT ONE.

DO YOU HAVE A PRACTICE OR MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL YOU’D LIKE TO SPEAK OUT ABOUT?

Please contact me at james@parentalalienation.com.

Make sure you follow the guidelines:

  • Speak to what they did and how you tried to try and help educate.
  • No bashing or name-calling.
  • Call out poor behavior with the aim of the public eye helping them potentially reevaluate or decide to change due to public pressure.
  • Contribute with the goal to make this behavior more difficult than proper behavior.

UPDATE:

Dr. Childress’s reaction to the video I posted here. His comments are illuminating several key and necessary points to help make something like this effective.

DOWNLOAD PDF:
Facebook-Dr-Childresss-Response-Wynns-Family-Psychology-Post-August-30-2020

Not My Circus. Not My Monkeys.

It’s been an interesting journey trying to navigate through this morass of what bright me to this point in my life. While everything has been about getting my child a relationship with both of their parents, it feels like that has been the tip of the iceberg.  I know there are several more years of my ex being who she is, and everything that comes with that. It has become a matter of survival to get better acquainted with how I tick and let go of the things that don’t help me anymore. For example, these last few weeks have been, for better or worse very illuminating in terms of my understanding more deeply the personal dynamics that have run me. It involves a finding (or creating) an issue so it can be solved. Of course that means someone has to need saving and someone needs to bad or abusive.  It comes with a lot of noise (noise as I define it, a lot of drama and accusations with no proof.) Through my experiences and input from people like Dr. Craig Childress (who explains this in much more detail) and Dr. Jennifer Jill Harman, I believe helping my child have the best shot at a life free of this stuff is to know myself and do whatever I can to sort it out.

What It Is… and What It Isn’t

Some of these types of “aha” moments can be very painful, for me the essence of experiencing insecure attachment. But for some reason, this time it clicked: Not my circus. Not my monkeys. Not My Circus. Not My Monkeys.. I cannot save anyone else and the only thing that will likely come of an attempt are more drowning people. When it comes down to it, I am only responsible for two people right now—me and  my child. I am looking at this like lifting heaver “barbells” as it were to get here. My ex, other “friends” who turned out to either be similar to her (and those who got drawn into the delusions),  and now more recent revelations, I am really “getting” whose circus it is and whose it isn’t. I believe it can potentially help my child out immensely if I am not carrying what isn’t mine around inside me. And the more whole as a human being I can be, the better I can be that contrasting influence, and who knows what doors that can open.

Want to be More Effective? DO NOTHING.

I know many of us tell those around us about how we are (and think other targeted parents are as well) constantly working on ways to help get our kids back or struggle to co-parent with a dysfunctional ex. But I’m willing to bet every single person has at times (more time than they probably want to admit to themselves or anyone else) that they are spending a fair amount of time busy doing nothing. When I say “busy doing nothing” I mean “doing” nothing as in when not needing to be somewhere or do something many are sleeping a lot, trying to get all kinds of things more things done—but not succeeding—noticing all the things that might or could be a good idea to do—but are left undone—and berating ourselves for not doing all of it. The hamster-wheel logic is if we could get more done we could get our kids back, or at least improve the relationships we currently have. After all… we’re dealing with a variety of issues— Courts that don’t get it, therapists that don’t get it, perhaps even former friends/family that can’t see what’s going on when the truth is so evident to us. So what is there to do to solve this? What can we possibly do that will make a difference based on what’s been happening so far? The answer sometimes is— to actually DO nothing. One of the biggest issues that we have as targeted parents or caregivers are falling prey to the internal agitation the alienator in our lives goes to great lengths to stir up. They do everything they can so that we feel like we are worthless or worth-less, that we need to justify our value to everyone. This is because they have a very unstable concept of themselves and need to drag you into the same pit in order to have a chance at staying in control of the situation. They want you to be thinking like that, churning, scheming, thinking about how you are going to get them—thinking about how you need to better explain yourself to the legal system in the therapeutic system so that they’ll understand that you are actually worthy of having your own children in your life. But the truth is… don’t need to explain yourself. First and foremost your (and anyone’s) value is inherent. This story of worth being tied to productivity is engrained in lots of social factors like industrial era brainwashing.  You are not a factory nor are you a widget. Time doing stuff doesn’t equal value. Being as present as you can and does noticeably enhance the value of any effort you put out. That’s what matters. Making sure you were getting proper rest, meditating, remembering to do simple things like eat enough and drink enough, balancing any chemical imbalance as you may have due to the chronic stress you’ve been experiencing through medication or supplementation. That’s what matters. We’ve all been around someone who is agitation is palpable even when they’re not saying anything and others who even when they’re speaking come across as very quiet. It cannot be overstated that getting control of this way of coming across is one of the singularly most effective things anyone of us can “do.” We, of course, need to do many tangible things to properly respond to what’s going on around us but the way in which we respond makes all the difference. How do we do that? Staying focused on the very next right thing you can do rather than trying to get everything done at once for starters. Going from trying to get 100 things done to one will immediately help calm you down and move forward in the right direction. Find something to be grateful for. Every single day you can find at least one thing. Apart from it feeling good there is substantial scientific evidence that shows it completely changes your chemistry and allows you to stay focused and responsive rather than scattered and reactive.

Your presence is requested by your children.

Stay focused on what your children need. If they aren’t with you very much or at all right now you can still, even by the way you think about them or if you have contact with them… respond to them in such a way that they know they have both of you. That’s what matters. Even if what they’re doing or saying on the outside doesn’t convey that it doesn’t make it any less true for them. And doing nothing sometimes, intentionally and deliberately, can be one of the most powerful steps in changing things for the better, and will make all the effort you do put in that much more effective.

To Get to Shore You First Have to Stop Drowning

I am beginning to get more and more people writing me asking for help. At first I thought this would get to be too much in terms of being able to help, but experience has shown me that the best course of action is to write back a general response and then see what happens. If I hear from them again I will try and set up something so we can talk. Sometimes people just need some encouragement, other times they want to talk about engaging me to learn about what I did to maneuver through the legal system to get the result of recovering my child (and thier recovering me.) When they engage me at that level, I talk to them about general things I know work, sharing court documents and pleadings to give them ideas and the best types types of attorneys and therapists who can best help them directly. Sometimes there are answers and referrals, sometimes there are other things that must be done to held incompetence accountable. But here’s the thing. Most of the time I never get past the first e-mail. And if I do get past the first one, the next steep drop off is after the second. I started asking myself why and the best answer I can come up with is that people can be so overcome with panic and emotion they simply can’t focus long enough to do something coherent that could change the situation. Or, if I give them advice they decide that even though what they’ve been doing has not worked that what I am saying is crazy or useless. I have had a couple of people actually get very hostile. I don’t get all that bent out of shape by any of it anymore—it’s obvious it is coming from what can feel like intolerable amounts of pain. It comes across to me as though they are oftentimes drowning. I am not a trained lifeguard but the first aid training I have had has taught me to stay as calm as possible in a stable place to offer a life preserver. Otherwise, I will get pulled in and then it’s game over for everyone. And none of us can help someone who won’t grab the preserver and hold on so they can be pulled to shore. What I want to offer anyone reading this is to understand the realities of your situation. The first is that your kids need you. And just like I am with trying to get and remain stable, you have to get yourself stable. Your kids are emotionally and spiritually drowning. They are not adults so they have less capacity than we do for consciously choosing to grab hold of the life preserver. They are looking to you. If you don’t get a hold of yourself you can’t help them. So, how do you do that? I have referred many times to coping mechanisms I use and recommend. The very first thing you can focus on, if nothing else, is breathing. Start there. If you take a deep inhale and give then a long exhale you literally FORCE your body to produce a chemical change that calms you down. That causes calmer thinking. I am coming to the realization that many targeted parents are not likely going to get a good outcome at this point because they won’t do what it takes. It is by no means a totality but even the highest climb starts with the first step. This has to come before even your kids. You have to stand on the shore. From there, there is a whole world of things to look at from exercise to talk therapy, meditation, EMDR, EFT Tapping, herbal and alternative remedies to antidepressant / anxiety medication and cutting edge stuff like Ketamine therapy (or the FDA approved Esketamine) which has in many cases produced dramatic results in as little times as 2 weeks or less. If you look at the web sites I am pointing to here you’ll these sources are very reputable. It’s super easy to say something on this list is too far out there or doesn’t work. But then I have to ask—are you so invested in staying within your comfort zone or shooting something new down that you’re willing to potentially drown and allow your kids to drown over it? I am coming to the realization that many targeted parents are not likely going to get a good outcome at this point because they won’t do what it takes. But every one I and others like me can help makes a difference and hopefully down the line the numbers will improve. For me, the “hoping it will change one day” answer just wasn’t good enough. I wanted to know, and was willing to try anything because I knew I was needed now, so I will continue to answer all the e-mails I receive and work with those who make it past the initial life preserver toss and make that decision for themselves to do whatever it takes to change what is happening.

If Not You, then Who? (Part 2)

So, what other different questions did I need to ask and what different resolutions did I need to make? The second thing I HAD to confront and deal with what was making me tick. That was and is the the point where I have the most leverage. For me it was talk therapy, EMDR, hypnosis, CONNECTION, certain supplements, and even some medications for periods of time to shift my brain chemistry and change what I believed. Meditation, prayer, and learning more about what my gut feelings felt like and how to trust them. This had to become the most important aspect of my life. I had to take the pressure off my child. Our children can NOT be the most important elements of our lives. We have to put our connection with our SELVES (or God, or the Universe, etc..) first. That is something no one can away from us without justification. Lawyers can sometimes manipulate the legal system to help their clients take kids away from their other parent for short periods of time, sometimes longer. If our kids are the most important thing to us we are doomed. Like the oxygen masks in airplanes, we have to put them on first so we can breathe and then do what we must. The third thing was to gain better control over my integrity. It means I make the process as clean, and as clear, and as crisp as possible and execute it to the best of my ability. No one can make me skip that unless I decide to let them. I have has people who mean me ill and will try and convince me that the outcome is the most important thing, and without it there is nothing. Bullsh*t. The process is what matters most. That means that no matter what we will be all about our children having two parents. It is the one most important point to make over and over again. It is the one to exude to the best of our ability. We sometimes get scammed into believing that when our kids act out they don’t love us anymore. But they couldn’t do that any more than they could elect to stop breathing and expect to stay alive. They are very aware of us. If we go to the bitter end of a custody fight without the outcomes we are looking for, but that message of children needing both parents is what we send out, there is no way that doesn’t affect them. That alone can start to change things. And for those of us who are actually seeing our children having both parents again, it is amazing. When we look at it through their eyes we can realize we have, if not completely changed the course of the lives of those in our families generations we will never meet, certainly weakened the chain and made it more possible for others to do better.

Standing on Strong Shoulders

My father was the first in our family to stop drinking and stay sober most of his adult life. While I started out abusing drugs and alcohol many years ago, his sobriety “ruined” my substance abuse at a relatively young age. He married and raised my siblings and me with a mother who had come from abuse and behaved in an emotionally dysregulated way. We learned to be lonely and scared. When he got divorced my mother tried to divide us from our father; Whispers of something inappropriate possibly happening with my father’s behavior, whispers that, given the light of adulthood were never substantiated. When my ex started with the false accusations—I had to get really honest. I had, on some level, been expecting them for a long time. I was afraid of my ex well before I admitted I was. I ignored the red flags for years. With the accusations came my moment to decide what was going to happen next. Was I going to succumb to it—fall apart, potentially lose my child or go in a different direction? I believe that had I still been dealing with the lineage of alcoholism in my family gathering the resources to change the course of my child’s life would have been much harder, if not impossible. I stand on the shoulders of someone who in his own way went beyond where the generations before were leading him and provided me the opportunity to do the same. I’d like to think my child will be able to go further still, but even if they don’t they are starting from, and passing down something much better than any generation before them. So… if you’re in the type of situation that brought you to read something like this in the first place: who’s shoulders are you going to put the weight of this on if not your own? If you don’t have a direct personal reference in your life, you have never before had speed of communication of the Internet and unprecedented access to finding people that can help. Who is going to help expose the lies of feeling powerless… and alone… and unable to change things… if not you? If not you, then who?

If Not You, Then Who? (Part 1)

I’ve had more than one conversation lately regarding headwinds people face while working on getting their children back, and continually doing what they need to to keep things from blowing up once they’ve made a transition from being alienated to parenting with an ex who has a pattern and proclivity towards division, isolation, and control. First off, you’re DAMN RIGHT it’s hard. If this wasn’t hard this would never have gotten to the point it is or has been. But WHY? It has to do with momentum and time. Dr. Craig Childress talks about “alienation” being a cross generational coalition. That means it spans generations. It’s one of the more important reasons why when someone says Parental Alienation “Syndrome” is not helpful because it makes it sound like what is happening is new or recent. The fact is though, that what is happening to you has likely been going on many generations before you. For many of us, as recent scientific evidence bears out, the stressors that lead us into finding situations which cause us to experience this type of anguish is literally written into our DNA. It has been proven that experiences of an individual can literally re write portions of the very building blocks that make us what and who we are. The ways of perceiving the world, the actions we take, the beliefs we hold, the responses we have, are, in truth, by and large out of our control. We walk around thinking we are making a lot of  decisions born of free will which in reality, aren’t. We get into a situation with our children where we ask ourselves, how did we get here?  And, up until recently, we by and large came up with nonsensical rationalizations and non-answers which usually did nothing to change things. We got lost in our own desperation and misery and often gave up. We bought into the lies about what we could and could not control, what we did and didn’t have power over, and that the pain we were in would last forever so we would do anything to stop it. Some tried to do it by walking away. Others took their own lives. Others went until there was nothing left and then surrendered, taking hollow solace in statements like, “they’ll figure it out one day.” Maybe. But what most of didn’t really take into consideration happens after us and our children if we didn’t somehow find a way to break the cycle. We didn’t really think about our children’s children, and their children, and so on, and on, into the decades, and centuries, and possibly millennia of debilitating life draining anguish that our non effective action may lead them to. For me, all of this was too much to allow. I had to ask myself different questions and make different resolutions. The first one was that no matter what, failure was not going to be an option. My child would have a different experience of connection me, no matter what happened. I started looking at what I could change and many of the answers were surprising. [Continued in “If Not You, Then Who? (Part 1)”]

The Definition of Insanity

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.” As I have begun working more with alienated parents, I am finding what I believed at first to be an anomaly, although it has happened more than I would have predicted. I connect with someone, start to talk with them about their situation, listen to their horror story and then tell me they would do anything to get their kids back. So I tell them. The first thing I generally start with is the sentiment relayed in the title of this post. Then I begin to explain to them that there are a growing number of people who are who have changed their their situation. I talk about how they need to get away from doing what they have been doing and do something different. The most immediate things I say are:

  1. They need to get a handle on themselves; they need to recognize what they are doing to contribute to this and start getting themselves into a better frame of mind so their ex can’t trigger them, or if they do have effective coping mechanisms.
  2. They need to stop using the term “parental alienation” when dealing with the system wherever possible and stop trying to show how evil / bad /wrong their ex is.
  3. They need to start collecting verifiable evidence to show a court and mental health professionals. (We know this isn’t always a perfect solution, but to go into all that here would make this post very long.) Verifying changes the entire game for the targeted (chosen) parent.

For example, many people think that the quote at the beginning of this post came from Albert Einstein. However, if you do any research, you will find there is no evidence whatsoever he said this. The sentiment is valid, but rather than it standing on it’s own merits the easiest way to make it sound valid quickly is to attach it to someone who is seen as intelligent or wise. It undercuts it’s power though when the truth comes out about it’s purported author. Michael Allen posted a quote recently that says “A lie has speed but the truth has endurance.” We don’t want to be in the business of throwing out things for the sake of speedy reactions, like “(S)he lies a lot.” or “(S)he’s an alienator.” The moment you do that the whole conversation sounds like “he said she said.” Then courts and therapists start with a bias of it a fight between two difficult people which most times is not the case. Most of the time is malicious behavior by one parent against the other. When you, the targeted (chosen) parent instead carefully lay out a pattern of behavior that can be viewed and verified, it will no doubt take longer to get across to the court but once it does, the chance of enough of the truth prevailing to get a better outcome are high. It has been educational to note that several of those I started working with have not jumped as I did at any opportunity to change the direction things were heading. It seems like once they are presented with information that could help they either disappear or I get an avalanche of reasons why their situation is hopeless. It makes me all the more impressed by the courage of those who I see sticking it out and getting better outcomes. Of course, in the end, the choice is yours. While it is difficult sometimes to abandon the position you’ve been in; a position of anger, feeling like you need to ‘get’ the other person, and win in favor of focusing on your children, doing what others have done who have gotten better results is by far the most likely way to reconnect. All of us in this situation have the opportunity to stop a cycle that has lasted for dozens if not more generations and we can help affect dozens of generations to come. Someone has got to do the really difficult stuff to help your children emerge from the insanity they have fallen into, back into the chance for love, connection, and wholeness. For their sake, I hope it will be you.

Coping Skills Part 3: Center of Gravity

This particular post may generate disagreement, strong opinions, and—hopefully—input into an ever-evolving question. How do we stabilize ourselves in the midst of what is happening with our shifting family structure (i.e., the parental alienation we are experiencing)? What’s working? Even though I am divorced, (could also be divorcing, or in some other way separating in whatever form that may take)—there is forever a family unit present between me, my ex, and my child (or children.) If you have not seen the info graphic video I created The Best Interest of the Child Explained in 90 Seconds please take the 90 seconds to understand or be reminded in a nutshell what stressors are present and what you should be continually striving for in your situation. As of the writing of this post it’s reached over 20,000 people and I hope it will reach 10X, 100X, or even 1,000X that many at some point. In the last two posts I made on coping, Coping Skills Part 1 (Consider the Source) and Coping Skills Part 2 (Consider the Options) I talked about a variety of behavioral techniques. Here, I am delving more into an overall strategy. It matters that we learn how to respond more resourcefully also being aware the positions we took to get us here to begin with.  How did we interact with the world that allowed someone like our ex to to come into our lives? If we hang onto the false notion that we had nothing to do with it, we are left with the strong possibility of meeting someone like that again—and/or even worse: teaching our children to do it. Just like we filled in something that our ex felt was missing, we did the same. I don’t think it’s been about finding an answer, but rather asking a “virtual question” regarding what I need to be doing to stay as stabilized and balanced as I can be in any given situation. Asking this kind of question is like experiencing a particular center of gravity in my body when I walk. There’s no static “answer” because that position is always changing relative to where I am. I am consistently looking for what I need to do to remain balanced or re balance in a particular moment. I spent years in an off balance “posture” around my ex.  Once the family system became physically separated it got even more obvious. When I get off where I need to be, she (and now by extension she and her lawyer) can more easily apply a certain type of stress to produce a particular structure (the pathological cut-off family structure) which suits her and only her. Instead of making sure my center of gravity is where it belongs, i.e., what supports the most optimal entire family system—holding that posture makes it easy to misstep and get badly tripped up. When I’m like that, I miss valuable information going on around me. I get body aches and am exhausted much more easily because of all the effort I have to put out to compensate.  My range of motion is more limited. However, when I am naturally balanced I stand straighter and can move more easily in whatever direction I need to based on what’s happening. I tend to have more energy for longer periods of time.

Why Does All This “Center of Gravity” Stuff  Matter?

When moving with another person or people, your center of gravity absolutely influences how the other person or people move with you. And the person with the best use of their gravity will have the most ability to influence others. Whatever books you read, advice you get or techniques you try, without knowing where your center of gravity is and being able to adjust it it’s very difficult to respond appropriately over time. Your ex is operating out of raw emotion and wielding influence over allies, therapists, and court officials not by logical facts and information but by influencing how they feel. Their center may be “off” but they are utilizing their “weight” very effectively. If you don’t pay attention to this dynamic you can talk until you’re blue in the face and most of the time it won’t matter. You see the devastating results all over the place. The buck has got to stop somewhere. I urge everyone to look at this question with honesty and resolve to move in the direction of knowing who you are as whole and complete human being. It’s where you have the most control anyway, and the buck has got to stop somewhere. Don’t pass this on to your kids, and their kids, and their kids. It’s definitely not easy. If it was, someone else would have done it before you. But the upsides are tremendous. I have seen things happen over and over that are nothing short of miraculous; family relationships repairing themselves, obstacles disappearing, and resources showing up at just the right time. I don’t have definitive answers, but I believe more than ever before there are things happening as a result of our ability to communicate with each other and address personal issues like never before. We can change our own center of gravity and for the generations that come after.

How Do We Stabilize?

As far as questions go, this is a very useful one. It is my nature to brainstorm and just throw things out as a way of kick-starting new conversations. Several of these things are mired in controversy, but anything I’ve ever seen in my life worth a damn usually is. I tend to look at who is advocating or detracting and asking why that might be happening. For example, the approach I took to get my child back was (and still is but less so now) seen as outside the “conventional wisdom.” Of course the “conventional wisdom” wasn’t helping much. This list isn’t meant in any way to be anything I would suggest or necessarily advocate… In addition to the suggestions I have already made like getting into decent therapy (like someone who knows about systems), EMDR, taking antidepressants if necessary, getting into groups of people who are looking at real ways to get better outcomes, like Parental Alienation Solutions Organization (PASO) …there are new ideas and modalities showing up all the time. Some of these have research, cost, and current legality issues (mainly they are new or haven’t been given mainstream blessing yet) This list is certainly not exhaustive.

  1. Nootropic supplements for clearer thinking: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nootropic
  2. Ways to disrupt ingrained patters of thinking and re-align / reset:
    1. Substance-Free direct neuro-enhancement: https://www.experiencethefield.com/
    2. Microdosing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUOX6LD9q0k
    3. Ayahuasca: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayahuasca
    4. A potentially revolutionary way of addressing PTSD and depression: https://www.ted.com/talks/rebecca_brachman_could_a_drug_prevent_depression_and_ptsd/transcript?language=en

Please let me know about other things you know of that have produced good results to add.

One Trick Ponies and Licensing Board Complaints

For those who follow the work of Dr. Craig Childress, he is what I call a “one trick pony.” One trick ponies meaning people who do one thing, and do it very well. Dr. Childress’ trick is to keep pointing to the epidemic of children who are subjected to psychological abuse and providing the solution—use the tools already available within the existing information and accepted standards in the psychological community. Reinventing the wheel is unnecessary and actually counterproductive. There are no new syndromes to invent, no rabbit holes to go down, no vague arguments over what is or isn’t real, just observable verifiable behaviors, that when present demonstrate a pathology and when not present, do not. There are several facets to what allows the pathology of child psychological abuse to develop and flourish, and things that can effectively counter it. The facet I am pointing to today is that of ignorance. Unfortunately, ignorance runs rampant in the field of mental health and this ignorance allows the pathogen to destroy families on an all too regular basis. The ignorance, while sometimes willful, is often times due to a lack of education. In the mental health field there are standards and ethics that professionals must adhere to. If they do not, they are in violation. This applies to those who practice in the domain of high conflict* divorce. The remedy? Make mental health practitioners accountable. That means attempting to educate, and if that isn’t successful to report unethical behavior to the body that grants the licenses. This must be done by those of us who have seen the mental health practitioners in our cases get it backwards. They aren’t likely to get it backwards if they are looking for the proper symptoms. They aren’t likely to get it right if they aren’t. Simple as that. I have here links to two different types of situations. One is for a counselor or therapist who is involved with a child and becomes involved with a court case. This is the type of complaint I filed. These folks have no business trying to tell the legal system what is going on because they don’t know themselves and they don’t have the ability to make proper diagnoses. Some of these people are called “forensic” therapists. Don’t be fooled. If they lack proper training the pathogen will win out. In the sample here it is aimed at a professional working with a child age of 8 or younger although it can be edited for older. The first template contains references to APA (American Psychological Association) and ACA (American Counseling Association) codes of ethics. Update: A competent professional in this field has pointed out that these complaint templates can also be used by those aligned with the pathogen to wrongfully make them. As a courtesy and also to protect them I have removed them. If you are curious about how to write one please contact me. I would like to find out a little more about your situation and can send you one privately, give you pointers or even help you write it out for a reasonable fee. ALSO: If you are a member of a PASO (Parental Alienation Solutions Organization) chapter and your facilitator doesn’t have copies, please ask them to contact me and I will gladly send a copy to them for you and your group’s benefit.  The other are people who do have the ability to make proper diagnoses but don’t. Again, If they lack proper training the pathogen will most likely win out. For either one make sure and follow these guidelines:

  1. This is sample story line only. Edit and rewrite to match your own.
  2. Be as objective as possible.  Boards will discount or even discard outright complaints that are angry and punitive in tone. Your aim is to educate, not punish.
  3. Use these violations specifically and build your complaint around them.
  4. Be prepared to have additional evidence and documentation to support as many of the statements you are making s possible.

Don’t wait for someone else to report the professional you are dealing with if they are ignorant and will not take on the information that will properly educate them.

It’s up to you to help your child.  

*I consider the term “High Conflict” to be a misnomer in many cases because the “conflict” is often driven by one parent.

AB-PA: Best Interest of the Child Explained in 90 Seconds

https://youtu.be/M4aABH54jTY Dr. Craig Childress talks about family structures—Intact, Healthy separated, and Pathological or cut-off separated. He quickly and directly addresses what is always in the best interest of a child. This is a recap of my previous post, “This is Not about Getting Your Kids Back” but in a way that perhaps can make it even easier to explain to attorneys and mental health professionals to get their attention and to remind all of us what is important.

This is Not About Getting Your Kids Back

The more simple a concept, the easier it is to behave in relationship to it. Just for a moment, set aside labels like “parental alienation” and a goal of “how to get your kids back” and instead focus on what really matters. Note: The comments here are general and assume that one parent is on one end of the spectrum of not being self aware / trying to harm or destroy the other and the other is and well attuned the whole separated family system. In reality there can be a mix of both. This is why a competent mental health professional is important to discern where each parent is in the separated family structure. Also, this is snapshot. Things can shift over time. Remember: It is not about getting your kids back. If you think it’s about that, then you are simply trying to move the manifestation of the pathology in such a way that the roles of the parents are reversed (one has, the other does not or one wins more time, meaning the other loses.) It is about restoring a system that is out of balance and putting it back into balance whenever and in whatever ways possible. Even if that means small ways to let your children know there is a bond you acknowledge if they are doing and saying things that don’t readily communicate that. Even if they are grown, even if you have no opportunities at the moment to communicate at all. Do whatever you can to bring yourself into balance and consider any action you take, any thought you think, any feeling you have in relationship to the question: Is this somehow moving the separated family system further towards being healthy or not? It is vital to know you moving you into balance is significant in addressing that question. I can tell you I am not alone in being amazed over and over again the things that seem to “happen” that have really changed things for the better by keeping focus on that question and addressing what I can. As a reminder: Your ex is concerned about the outcome of winning and wants you to be as well. But when you are focused on tending to the whole separated family system, the process of your child feeling connected to both of you and what needs to be true of you to make the system as healthy as possible, you aren’t even in the same conversation. You are considering this in a way they cannot. You have an access to some peace of mind, even if fleeting, they are not capable of having. When  you do it for yourself, you demonstrate to your child that they can too, no matter what. Dr. Childress‘ illustration above* (I added in the goals comment and the extra arrow for emphasis) makes this as simple as I’ve seen it so far. *This illustration depicts the mother as the one causing the cutoff family structure but this is just as true when it’s the father.

The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Test’s Fundamental Error

by Michael Allen  Photo by h.koppdelaney How many of you are familiar with the ACE study (Adverse Childhood Experiences) test? The original ACE Study was conducted at Kaiser Permanente by Dr Robert Ander and Dr Vincent Felitti from 1995 to 1997 with two waves of data collection. Over 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization members from Southern California receiving physical exams completed confidential surveys regarding their childhood experiences and current health status and behaviors. This is a wonderful tool used for mental health to predict outcomes for adult mental health problems. If your score is too high it can also predict the likelihood of physical problems because as we now know mind and body are connected. If you suffered emotional stress as a child it can affect your physical health as an adult. That said, here is a fundamental error with it that we need to address. Question number 7: Was your mother or stepmother: Often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes or often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife? Yes/No Do you see the problem here? “Mother or Step Mother” should be changed to “Caregiver”. Since every situation is different this question the way it is currently worded skews the data. How many kids witnessed a woman slap/hit or yell at their male caregiver? Domestic violence transcends gender. As a society we tend to ignore it when it happens to males. It is just as damaging emotionally to men because they are programmed to “take it” and it is even more damaging to children to witness it happen to someone they love. This statement may anger some but unfortunately it is reality. Domestic Violence is absolutely wrong and no matter what gender perpetrated it. It’s still wrong and hurts everyone affected by it. Men are also less apt to say anything due to the social shame associated with it. This video is powerful in our perception of violence in society: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GccCWo_eZdw&feature=youtu.be We are moving forward as a society but we still have a long way to go. It goes back to trauma. How do we see it? How do we treat it and break the cycle so it doesn’t affect our children? It starts with us as individuals. If you’ve been a victim of trauma, address it. Get trauma counseling…..EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), CBT(Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), DBT(Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) are wonderful tools to help heal trauma. What I love about the ACE Study is that it addresses divorce or loss of a parent as a trauma for a child. Question number 6 reads: Were your parents ever separated or divorced? Yes/ No As a society if we start to understand abuse and how it relates to trauma we will move forward. Abuse is abuse. It doesn’t matter if it’s a man abusing a women, a woman abusing a man, a parent abusing a child. Abuse is abuse. During a divorce if an attachment to a parent is disrupted by another parent or caregiver it is emotional abuse. It is child psychological abuse. Psychological trauma doesn’t leave physical scars but it is just as damaging. A parents’ divorce even if amicable hurts a child deeply. That’s why question number 6 is so simple. A divorce is a trauma to a child. It’s ok if a marriage doesn’t work out. However you have a child together you have to figure out how to minimize the impact on the beautiful baby you created together. According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration) 90% of mental illness, addiction, etc are created by childhood trauma. Let’s figure out as a society & collective consciousness how to break the pattern of family trauma for our children. https://www.samhsa.gov/capt/practicing-effective-prevention/prevention-behavioral-health/adverse-childhood-experiences Michael S.R. Allen, High Conflict Divorce Coach www.michaelallencoaching.com

Plue or Burple

Photo by Arturo Hurtado A good friend / powerful mentor in my life for many years and I were speaking yesterday, touching on the subject of what makes alienators behave the way do, even when to us it seems like what many call “crazy.” I cannot directly mention a name right now as it would be too easy for my ex’s attorney to connect the dots between them and and my identity which I have needed to keep under wraps during the course of this custody litigation. I am hoping (but have learned never expecting) that this will change in a few months after the permanent hearing in my case. When we think of someone as “crazy,” it is always a misnomer for what is actually going on. It may make us feel a little better or be a quick reference to behavior that is way outside the norms we expect from others, but it is not useful when considering effective strategy. For example—if you’ve ever seen someone walking down the street talking to themselves as though they are having a full on conversation with someone else, it is relevant to know that to them, they really are. Many of us talk to ourselves, but most know that’s what we are doing. Others are so inside of their conversation they do not. I am more aware of this than ever now when I see people with a tiny Bluetooth phone earbud in their ear talking. When we can see that, we understand why they’re doing what they’re doing their behavior makes sense to us. We would do well to apply this same observation to the “crazy” behavior of our exes. I commented (as I do often with my friend) about their exceptional ability to get to the simplicity of things.  The simpler, the easier it is to organize around… and the more behavioral flexibility there is. In this case it has to do with what our identity organizes around. I am personally very much a “God” guy—I have a deeply rooted experience of a connection that is the center of my world. It is a reference point that I am either in alignment with, or not. If I am not, I feel lost and I can usually get back to it fairly quickly.  Whatever your “center of gravity” is for you will determine how you respond. (See Stop Making Your Child Important!)

Get This Next Part, Get Major Leverage.

The same goes for your ex. Your ex has a “center of gravity” as well. It must contain the elements that you are the cause of the issues you are having, that he or she is a victim, that they must protect your child from you because of this. If you try to poke holes in any of the claims they are making, it is enormously threatening. Since the position of victim and you as perpetrator is their “center of gravity,” this would be absolutely impossible to accept. If even one little thread in the proverbial sweater comes undone, the whole garment would unravel. Here’s an example of how a good high conflict lawyer could argue this, in terms of color. What color is the car photo? Most of you would say blue. However a good attorney, hired to convince the judge that the car is purple because the client needs the car to be purple, would say, “No, it’s purple.” You would say, looking at the car, “No, it’s blue.” They might say, “Come one now, isn’t this blue really a shade of purple? Look at it. You’re trying to mislead the court by denying that it has a hint of purple in it, doesn’t it. Your ex has said in private you lie and this proves it.” You might get a little upset and say, “No, It’s BLUE.” They might say, “What are you getting so defensive about? Obviously everyone knows blue and purple are closely related and purple contains blue. Stop misleading the court with more of your lies.” You might say “But I’m not lying! I haven’t lied to my ex!” They might go on with, “Judge, I am asking we get a continuance on deciding what color this car is until we get to the bottom of this lying business.” —————————————- If you haven’t been in the court system long enough, this may seem preposterous. But to those of us who have lived I will assume it is all too familiar. If you keep trying to to defend your position and point out the other side is wrong, you’re done. And that’s what they want. They must stop that first thread from getting pulled. It is life and death to them. If you win, in any way, that pulls the thread. Stay in relationship your center of gravity instead of trying to disrupt theirs. If you don’t know what that is, find out. It is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your child.

Reverse the Order

There’s a reason flight attendants tell you in the event of an emergency (trauma) to put on your oxygen mask before even your child’s. You can’t help them if you’re incapacitated. This video is wonderful for expressing the child’s viewpoint. But rather than make the mistaken notion that somehow winning against what your ex is doing will heal the pain that is inside you and thus them, you need to reverse the order. Otherwise you will never get what you most want—being OK. Even if you “win” on some level, which is highly unlikely, the issues that got you here to begin with will still be there and your child will still carry the scars of not having the bonds they are hard wired to have properly expressed. Rather than trying the impossible: HAVE a winning mindset DO what winners do BE OK Go at it from the only way that will work: BE OK DO What OK people do (Which includes fighting when necessary with love in your heart) HAVE what OK people have (Good relationships with the real friends and loved ones in your life, children who know they’re OK as well, forgiveness for your ex because it frees you ) which may be expressed on the outside as “winning” in court in the sense that winning means you can help restore a proper separated family system for the benefit of your child or children. While it might sound difficult I won’t lie, it probably will be. However in the end it is the easier, softer way. And there are resources available like never before to help. Learn about what is really going on and what is going with you to perpetuate it. Commiseration is good for knowing you’re not alone but useless for meaningful action. You can start here:

AND REMEMBER: consider it from your child’s perspective. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbTFZ8cvHo4

Understanding How Complex Trauma Relates to “Parental Alienation” and How to Solve It

by Michael Allen Photo by familymwr Many of you today have heard about trauma, etc.. In fact imost might say it’s almost overused. As a society however we have to embrace what is going on around us and address it appropriately. Personally I would say it is a global epidemic and since the scars are invisible we have to expand our perception about this phenomenon. So what is “Trauma“? Webster’s defines it as: trauma noun trau·​ma | \ˈtrȯ-mə also ˈtrau̇-\ plural traumas also traumata\ˈtrȯ-​mə-​tə also ˈtrau̇-​ \ Definition of trauma 1a : an injury (such as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent b : a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury c : an emotional upset the personal trauma of an executive who is not living up to his own expectations— Karen W. Arenson 2 : an agent, force, or mechanism that causes trauma I have been in Behavioral Health for over 18 years now in many capacities; BHT, Case Manager, Clinical Coordinator and High Conflict Divorce Coach. I served on the Trauma Informed Care Committee of my last Behavioral Health Agency and it really helped shape my perspective. When a person is trauma informed it shifts your perspective from “What is wrong with you?” to “What Happened to You?” That opens up the door to conversations on how to fix the problem and move forward. Mental Health is just now in the last 5 years only scratching the surface of what trauma is, how it affects people and how to treat it. What I learned while studying TIC (Trauma Informed Care) was that according to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration) 90% of all mental illness is directly related to childhood trauma. This number is kind of hard to ignore. Now let’s take a look at trauma. The tricky thing about trauma is that it is relative, meaning one person’s experience could be completely different from another’s. When discussing trauma my supervisor once stated “One person’s Hangnail could be another’s end stage cancer” ~ Ann Cone-Sevi LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker)  This always resonate with me. So from that perspective, who are we as friends, family, mental health professions, judges, lawyers to invalidate someone’s experience with what they consider traumatic? We can’t because we are not in their body or mind we don’t know how it affected them. Mental Health is just now beginning to understand the importance of integrated care….mental and physical health working together. Mental Health is just beginning to understand that the mind and the body are connected, we need to treat both together. Gone are the days of “Oh sorry we don’t treat that that’s a medical problem” or vice versa. Mental Health is just now starting to emerge from the dark ages and state “Hey we need to take a look at this, these could be related”. Dr Nadine Burke Harris very clearly describes the link to childhood adversity and physical health problems. 7 out of 10 fatal health problems are linked to childhood trauma.(see hyperlink) Trauma can affect us on a cellular level. That means it can affect us so deeply we carry it to our core which in turn affects our Physical Health and on a deeper level we can carry it into our DNA. Trauma then gets passed down through generations. Grandma or Grandpa was in a car accident that was horrible….son or daughter feels anxiety around cars after seeing their parents anxiety and so on down the line. Let’s discuss PTSD vs CPTSD. PTSD which we’ve all heard about it not only something that happens to Veterans after a war (formerly known as “Shell Shock”). PTSD is usually a singular traumatic incident like a car accident, rape, assault, robbery, etc. CPTSD however is different. COMPLEX Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is what I like to call a “sandpaper trauma”. It is essentially a rubbing trauma that happens over and over again and doesn’t stop. For a parent struggling with “Parental Alienation” or someone fighting to stay in their children’s lives through a high conflict divorce. Every day they wake up without their children, or have to go to another court hearing that goes nowhere, or hear their child spew venom at them is a “Sandpaper or Complex” trauma. Also for the children in this dynamic every day they have to hear the pathogenic parent spew venom at the other parent or convince the child they have to hate the other parent in order to “prove their love and loyalty” is also a complex trauma for the child.  Children naturally just want to love both parents. Each parent contributed 23 chromosomes to that child and when we study attachment theory (Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck) it is so important to have both parent’s contribute to the child development. Dad’s have a special role, they teach confidence, strength, independence and love (a different form of love than mom). Mother’s contribute gentleness, tenderness, kindness and also love (different than dad but equally important).  Now how does this tie to trauma and “Parental Alienation” or ” Pathogenic Parenting? Most people who alienate or are high conflict personalities meet the criteria for what is called a personality disorder in the cluster B category (Borderline, Narcissistic, Anti Social, etc). Many people today will throw around those terms like candy. Let’s take a look at where these Personality disorders are rooted in. I’ll give you one guess……….Trauma. So along those lines we see a problem rooted in trauma now we can shift our perspective into how do we solve it? There is word in the mental health community that the next update to the DSM will be removing Axis II (or personality disorders) and replacing it with a more trauma related diagnosis. What does this mean? Diagnoses’ like Borderline Personality Disorder or Narcissistic Personality disorder carry a huge stigma may be going away. If someone told you that you were a Narcissist or a Borderline it would carry a lot of shame or anger and you’d probably reject that and not be willing to look at it or seek treatment. Same scenario ….a person may absolutely meet all criteria for NPD, BPD or ASPD but instead of that label you were told…..I understand you suffered a lot of trauma. Let’s see how we can help you with that. Wouldn’t you be more apt to say “yes…..I have been through trauma”. Huge! Parent’s who alienate their kids from a healthy loving fit parent are reacting to trauma. When the divorce process starts the Borderline Type personality fears abandonment (through childhood trauma…usually some type of sexual abuse) and will attempt to take the children to desperately avoid the perceived abandonment. The Narcissistic parent was raised by a similar type and used as a pawn in the family dynamic growing up. The child of a Narcissist is usually considered an extension of the parent and their own thoughts, feelings, boundaries and critical thinking are eroded. When the divorce is initiated the NPD parent is furious, angry and has the narrative ” How dare you leave someone as great as me, I’m going to take that with what you most love your children” ~ Dr. Craig Childress Testimony Pennsylvania House Children and Youth Committee. How do we solve this trauma and break the family pattern’s that are passed down through generations? It starts with an understanding of the patterns, behavior and how to shift your mindset. Even today most mental health professionals will cringe when they Borderline personality disorder in a client’s chart. They know they can be “Manipulative”, “Angry” , “Splitting” and very difficult to work with. Here is my perspective shift……we are no long afraid of this diagnosis but embrace it and understand that it is rooted in trauma. I’ll give an example….at one of my agencies I lead a behavioral health team. We had a very difficult client, this member displayed all the tendencies of BPD. This member was in the psychiatric hospital more than they were out for suicidal ideations. This member was not diagnosed with BPD but I spoke to the BHMP (Behavioral Health Medical Professional) and convinced them to add the diagnosis. I worked with my team to shift the idea that this member was bad to “let’s look at why the they act this way…..they were traumatized…how do we help them?” One incident I walked in and this member was blowing up in the team room, yelling and screaming and the whole team including the doctor were trying to stabilize the client. I simply remained calm and directed the client to talk to me privately. The client shared they simply wanted a referral to a day program, I kept my energy calm and listened and agreed to the referral and asked if they were willing to start DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) counseling (the standard treatment for Borderline PD). I then helped the member learn about mindfulness exercises and how to utilize them when anxiety began to creep in. I am happy to say it worked. The member began to reengage with the team, began attending DBT and had a record month and a half without being hospitalized. This all began with the team mindset of ” I know you are going through a hard time, but no matter what we are not abandoning you”. That mindset changed the way the member responded to treatment and they began to move forward. Here is how this related to fit loving parent’s fighting to stay in their children’s lives. Once you understand that your former spouse is dealing with some type of childhood trauma you as the healthy parent have the ability to react with empathy, kindness and pure love for your child. Your ex spouse is simply reacting to unresolved childhood trauma so you have to think…..how do I move around this for my child? I can speak from experience that once I understood my ex spouse’s childhood attachment trauma (thanks to the works of Dr. Craig Childress) I could respond appropriately. It was not easy but once you understand it you can shift the dynamic. What Dr. Craig Childress has done today is he has used established constructs of attachment based on Bolwby, Minuchin and Beck. What is different is he is not focusing on the actions of the traumatized ex spouse but the trauma reenactment that is emerging in the child. He has created a rating scale (Childress, 2015) to track this and prove that what is happening is actually child psychological abuse to turn a child against another parent. He has given therapist the tool to diagnose child psychological abuse in high conflict divorce cases. The more we become aware that is not natural to reject a parent the more we can solve this problem in mental health. A child will naturally attempt to bond to a parent….even if that parent is abusive. During high conflict cases an alienating parent will claim the other spouse is abuse (true or not), but when you think about it rationally…..say you have an abusive parent. This parent is so obviously abusive, they even put their cigarettes out on the child’s skin. The police are called, see the obvious abuse and take this parent to jail. What is a child’s natural reaction? “No! Don’t take my Daddy (or Mommy) away!” even in the presence of severe abuse. A child’s natural DNA drives them to bond to both parents, even if one or both are abusive. For a child to reject a parent …that takes a third party influence, it takes psychological manipulation and control of another trusted caregiver. Mental Health is still in the dark ages. However there is hope. Everything in mental health moves at a snail’s pace but they are moving forward. The more we understand this trauma pattern the easier it will be to break it. What can you do as a fit loving parent now aware? You have a responsibility to react to everything with ultimate love for your child. You have to shift your perspective from “What the hell is wrong with you” to “What happened to you and how do we fix it”. During the process of divorce I had to make sure that I put on my own oxygen mask first. Meaning…I had to make sure I was grounded and stable to not only fight for our son but make sure I wasn’t succumbing to my own trauma. Throughout the process I saw a therapist who performed EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). EMDR is a very effective form of trauma therapy. Long story short after EMDR all my triggering events that would throw me into fight or flight mode were now a dull grey memory. I could move forward….I was no longer stuck. Dr Craig Childress has aptly named this trauma pattern a “pathogen”. A pathogen is a sickness (trauma) that needs appropriate assessment, diagnosis and treatment. The first step to creating the antibody for this pathogen is understanding the trauma pattern and breaking the cycle for your child. I am happy to say that my young son now enjoys the love of both parents. He went through a severely traumatic experience as I fought to stay in his life but this understanding of trauma saved him. My ex spouse and I can communicate today, forget the past and now understanding my ex spouse I can come at it from the perspective above and help her heal her trauma. Helping her heal, helps our son heal and now the trauma pattern is broken. Michael S.R. Allen www.michaelallencoaching.com

$28.00 and a Custody Reversal

On August 28, 2018… after 1,293 days… the Court of Appeals in my state allowed my child to get out of the grasp of her abuser and open up the possibility of having two parents. I am writing this post because yes, it is possible. As I have been writing over these last few years, the road has been arduous to say the least. And I’m certainly not at the end. The order from family court is still temporary but has been continued until next April, giving my child 8 months to detox before we see what happens next. With the custody reversal, my child now sees their mother every other weekend and is with me the rest of the time. This is starting another chapter, a chapter I think needs to be documented and shared so those who haven’t gotten this far yet have some sort of map as to what it looks like. My friend Michael Allen is further along, and has managed to get a somewhat functional relationship going with his ex wife in regards to their children. He writes about his experiences as well which is great because it’s good to see different ways reunification plays out. But leading up to this point in my case—There was an order issued on August that awarded me sole legal custody and primary physical custody which was promptly appealed; exactly what they (my ex’s team of lawyers) did last year after the order from the family court which attempted to fix the custody situation was issued. This time though, with very competent help, I (remember, I am pro se) was able to point out that my ex wife’s council misrepresented the facts of the case to the appeals court to the point of it being unethical. My ex’s law firm (the team brought in an appellate specialist) argued that since there was a stay on a portion of the attempted remedy from Nov. 2017, the trial court had no authority to act.  Yes, this is complicated. As is the case with most of us this is but the tip of the iceberg. The nugget here is that my ex’s law firm was able to manipulate the situation to get the family court’s remedy from last year slowed down considerably and getting everyone to walk on eggshells. The pathogen is not to be underestimated in its effectiveness. But this time, the appeals court, this time given more complete information, the court rendered the appeal from last year moot (irrelevant) on it’s own without a hearing. This made my ex’s lawyers argument for attempting to stop this latest order from taking effect moot as well. In addition, the appeals court ordered my ex pay court costs which I understand is a strong message of disapproval of their motion to begin with. In my case it was the filing fees I incurred submitting my reply to my ex’s motion. $28.00, the amount of my filing fees refunded. That and a custody reversal. A dollar amount and court finding that has started to turn lives around.

Court-Order_08-28-2018 REDACTED Temporary-Custody-Order_08-20-2018-REDACTED

Photo by succo (Pixabay)

Maybe Them’s NOT the Facts!

I always appreciate the feedback I get to what I share. I am actually heartened by the feedback from people who are currently disgruntled and tell me that there is nothing that can be done; sorry, but “them’s the facts.” The reason is because they’ve moved from being frozen to expressing what they believe is the truth out loud so others can hear them. It’s the first step in others seeing that and realizing they aren’t alone. It’s also a great opportunity to present some information that for some may get them to weigh and doubt that kind of belief which gives a chance for them to change it based on updated information.

Change What You Believe “Them Facts” To Be

According to Robert McDonald, a professional who has been systematically teaching people how to discard beliefs that don’t serve them anymore and update them the strucutre of how that happens is very predicable and doable. Let’s use an innocuous example: One from my childhood was when my dad said “The moon is following our car.” Now, it seems  ridiculous, but at the time, it made sense. But how did I transition from that seeming real to knowing it wasn’t? The structure looks like this:

  1. Current Belief: The belief that limits you in some way. “The moon is following our car.”
  2. Open to Doubt: “Maybe the moon doesn’t follow our car.”
  3. “Museum” of Old Beliefs: Things you used to believe were true but now you know aren’t, Like:”Santa Claus is real” or “The tooth fairy used to visit in the middle of the night when  I lost a tooth.”
  4. Preferred Belief: The belief you’d rather have. It must be something that is achievable by you. A belief like “I believe my ex will come around” is contingent on their behavior.
  5. Open to Belief: “I am OK no matter what happens.”
  6. The Sacred Place: Something you believe so strongly you would never question it… like, “Children must be protected from abuse.”

When going through this cycle you can actually weaken and change beliefs you’d rather not have and transition into ones that better serve you.* Now I imagine more than few of you reading this might think, how in the world can that help me get my kids back?? The answer is in this case, if you are of the belief that the odds are next to none it can happen, you will act in accordance with that. You will look at the information that reinforces that and you will continue to act in a way that feeds into the script of the alienator and his or her allies. One of the core things in the alienator’s script to work is for you to experience the trauma they went through because of the position you are in—feeling powerless, helpless, and full of despair.  Certainly, as in the example preferred belief I used above,  not OK.  The alienator needs you to be in that role, or it doesn’t work. When you start to doubt the belief that it’s hopeless and start looking at the people who have changed their situation, you start acting in accordance with that instead. It doesn’t mean it’s suddenly easy, but it does mean you can act with intention to consciously counteract what’s happening in the only way I know to be possible: don’t get into the role to begin with. Instead you come from the knowing that you are OK. Your stress and anxiety is palpable, and if you do see your kids or communicate with them even a little they can feel it. Your sense of being OK is the same way. It gives them little to nothing to push against which makes it harder for the alienator to use them to get to you. So, the next time you hear someone hear some say something like “them’s the facts”, consider which facts those are, exactly. Photo by geralt (Pixabay) *You can find out more on changing beliefs here: https://www.nlpco.com/belief-changes/

Letter to the Pathogenic Parent:

by Michael Allen Dear Ex Spouse, While I fully understand the trauma you went through, today you are making a choice. You went through something horrible….I get it. Today however, you are replaying that trauma through our child and abusing them just as you were abused. I am sorry if you feel rejected or abandoned at our divorce or separation. I truly am but our child does not deserve to suffer as you did. Our child has a loving parent waiting to spend time with them, love them and share time with you. What you went through was horrible, it is trauma for sure. Just please don’t repeat this pattern through our child. We are adults…we have choices. Let’s work together to break this cycle of pain for our child. I know you hate me and that’s o.k…hate me all you want. Our child deserves the love of two parents. Our child will flourish if we can work together. I know you may not see it but I am not your enemy. I am not the person that hurt you when you were young. You don’t have to like me….just please love our child more than you hate me. I will do my best to share, love and co-parent our child—just give me that chance. All the money we waste in family court we could use to buy our child gifts, take vacations and spend on college for our child. You contributed 23 chromosomes to our child as did I. Our child is half of each of us. I will always love you as the parent of our child so I am not abandoning you. We will always be a part of each other’s lives to some degree and you loved me at some point. Let’s try to work together so we can give our child a happy, healthy life. I will not hurt you like you were in the past. Even if I wasn’t the best spouse or vice versa I love our child as much as you do. Let’s stop this pain…even if our child says they don’t want to see me….it will help them if you encourage a relationship. I’m always willing to sit down and talk…let’s end this pain cycle. It’s just not worth it. Our child deserves better. Signed with love, Targeted parent

Want a Better Chance of Winning In Court? READ THIS

I’ve posted a lot the last few years about things I have learned that have been really helpful. While I  think it’s all important, this is one of THE most important weapons in fighting the insanity of the pathological alienator and their allies. It’s called the timeline. While the concept is simple, it seems to be woefully underutilized. The timeline takes the truth and puts it out in an easy to see, easy to grasp way for judges and evaluators to get. I know that there are some of these professionals who are blinded by their own bias, but I think from what I’ve read there are probably more who, if they could be properly educated, would be able to shift their perception. The timeline is a tool, and it requires a desire to stay focused on our children rather than winning. The alienator has very specific strengths, and used properly this can help combat them effectively. Not by being better at what they do, but by avoiding getting sucked into their conversation altogether. Their strengths are based on emotional arguments, flawed reasoning that can come off as sound and getting you involved in their argument. One very effective way they do this is by distorting time and inappropriately shrinking context. Let me give you an example: An expert witness was on the stand in recent custody review. They stated I was easy to work with and had no issues getting relevant information from me concerning this case. The other side on cross examination, noted I had gotten a little (and I mean little—I heard the audio and it was not much) assertive when the lawyer started saying things about me that were patently false. As I am pro se I asked the judge if I could object. I then said the lawyer was making this up and overtalked the judge for about a sentence. My ex’s lawyer actually said, “seeing what just happened before, are you concerned about the Plainitff’s mental state?” The witness, who is a very cool under fire individual, simply said “I’ve never had any issues with him.” The lawyer then said, “Are you aware that the Plaintiff was found to be emotionally reactive and demonstrated poor boundaries?” The expert answered “yes.” When it was my turn to clarify I asked the expert, “When was I found to be emotionally reactive and demonstrated poor boundaries?” The long and the short of it was that this was found to be true two and three years ago before and in the beginnings stages of attending court ordered therapy for two over two years—where the therapist currently working with me has stated I have made significant progress and would not say those things are true anymore in a capacity that would be detrimental to my child’s well being. While this is good, it’s still relatively easy for the right lawyer to keep lobbing these types of things to the point it gets muddled in a judge’s mind (or any human being’s.) Enter the timeline. The timeline is dispassionate. It simply shows the facts. It is drawn from documentation and records and paints a big picture really fast. It makes an impression, both on your ability to remember and refer to events, but also to people who have too many cases and not enough time. I am sharing at the bottom of this post a timeline I created out of very inexpensive software showing the correlation between court events, evaluations, and times accusations surfaced and/or my child was at the doctor or reported sick. If you can afford to have a service to get this stuff in order I’d say do it. If you have been devastated financially like I have, you may only have grit and determination at this point. I feel strongly that everyone deserves a chance at getting their kids back by whatever’s available, not just those with significant money.  I want to do whatever I can to help those willing to put in the work to get one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal out there. Please feel free to look this sample timeline below. Click on it to get a larger version you can right click or tap and download. The names have been redacted. If you have questions contact me, preferably in the comments if it’s general enough (privately if not) so others can benefit. Top Photo by qimono (Pixabay)

The Plan “P” Draft Bill! (Judicial Discretion in High Conflict Cases)

After more than two years in the making, I am thrilled to announce a milestone: The Judicial Discretion in High Conflict Cases or as I’ve been calling it the Plan “P” or procedural change bill is now here in draft form. For full background on it, please see the original post on this for the idea, reasoning, pros, and expected arguments against. Now comes the push to get legislators to know it’s here and that there is support for it. I have been advised to announce it, make sure groups that this would matter know about it, those in my state (NC) actually call and / write their legislators and tell them they support it. I have gotten many messages, even more recently with more heartbreaking stories and a desire to get involved. So, in this case,  if you are in NC please contact your legislator about this. I will be posting a template message to use but feel free to call and write in the meantime. Write in the comments below when you’ve done it so we can build momentum. This is a big milestone, but it’s rather like getting to the summit of a mountain hike and realizing there is another mountain to go. Your help is needed! Everyone interested, please download. Share. Get something going in your state. Get the conversation going. Take the energy you’ve got about knowing you can do more and do it! 🙂 Thanks again especially at this point to (I’m sure it won’t be the last time) to Suz Remus for the inspiration and demonstrating it could be done, Dr. Craig Childress, and Mark Redman for the writing of the original idea language.

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Into the Crazy Is Optional

The recent 4 1/2 hour deposition was a show, to be sure. A court reporter, a large video camera and a cameraman, backdrop behind the “witness”, conference room with the long wooden table, the “whole kit and kaboodle” as it were. Like something out of a big budget legal movie. My ex’s lawyer decided she needed to depose the reunification therapist. In their entire career, with mostly high conflict cases, the therapist was very clear that this type of event, under these circumstances, had never happened before. I understand there are those who think all Reunification Therapists are ineffective. And while that is mainly true from what I’ve seen, I think I’ve also found a bit of a litmus test. If the “preferred” or “alienating” parent / caregiver and their legal help are going after one, I’d put money as it were on it that they are likely doing a competent job.  The ones that acting out of the pathogen as Dr. Craig Childress puts it are not going to get push back because they are very likely part of a dark triad and your objections will likely fall on deaf ears. My ex’s lawyer sat there and asked dozens of questions. The therapist answered them calmly and truthfully. It was very impressive to say the least. My ex’s lawyer was trying to trip the therapist up, get a reaction, imply bias to discredit—and I don’t think any of it worked. The therapist was having a health issue and needed to stop every couple of hours to rest and eat. The lawyer kept asking questions until the therapist requested breaks. The lawyer said that since she thought the deposition wouldn’t last very long, she didn’t make any arrangements for lunch. I don’t want to go into what the therapist’s issue was, however, it is my belief that the longer time-frame and lack of food was not accidental—I suspect the lawyer knew (or has good instincts as she has done this kind of thing before) the issue and few breaks with no lunch would make the therapist more fatigued. As has been the case since the beginning, since there is nothing that makes me an unfit or abusive parent, the “other side” keeps digging and trying to stir up emotional slip ups to try and take the attention off of our child. After more than four hours, I was allowed to ask followup questions. (I am pro se since I was bankrupted.) I knew the therapist was tired and wanted to finish but I politely insisted that they take a break so they could get a few moments to relax. When we started up again I asked some questions. I have gained this filter over the last few years and even though I have to represent myself I know what my mantra / story is without exception: This is about my child.  What my ex is doing or has done, while harmful, is a red herring. It is where he or she along with any legal council want me to focus. How I feel and how I may or may not have wronged is irrelevant.  What matters is to stay on the one topic, the only topic that matters. My child needs two parents. It’s what the courts want to hear, it’s what our children need, and it’s where we must stay focused. This is of course not to the exclusion of pointing out false or unsubstantiated accusations, but again the reason to disprove them isn’t to show we were right—it is to show we are wanting, willing, and deserving of being in in our children’s lives so they can have two parents whenever possible. I asked very few questions, lasting only about 10 or 15 minutes, tops. But they were relevant and important because they came back into the land of observable behavior and relevant facts. I did it with all the grace of what I imagine a 10-year-old plopped behind the wheel of an SUV with no driving experience trying to get down the street would have done. But I got it done. The most relevant were:

  1. I asked the therapist to look over the list of services they are supposed to implement. It was clear from that list, they have not been yet. (Diffuses the question of if the therapist supposed to be involved.)
  2. I asked the therapist if they were aware that I would give up all the litigation right now if my ex would agree to a reasonable parenting schedule. I was told I couldn’t phrase it like that. Too late. It’s on the record. I rephrased it as if the therapist recalls my saying I’d give up the legal actions, (like suing for attorney’s fees, intentional infliction of emotional distress lawsuit, etc..) if my ex would agree to a reasonable parenting schedule. The therapist affirmed it to be true. (Diffuses the question that I was trying to “bully” my ex with law suits. This is of course what she’s been doing but it takes the “he said, she said” out of it.)
  3. I asked the therapist if they were aware that I had been talking to them more than my ex. The reaction as I would describe it was as though my ex and her attorney had eaten some bad gas station sushi. It was clear they were aware and I suspect the attorney was holding on to that nugget until court to do a big “drop the mic” slam dunk and put suspicion of bias into the court room at the next hearing. (My ex’s attorney loves the high drama stuff.) The therapist said talking to one parent more than the other was normal in cases like this as the targeted parent wants the process to move along and the other is trying to slow it down or stop it. The therapist ended by saying that were the situation reversed they would expect my ex to be taking to them more than me.
  4. I ended by asking if they had ever said no to my requests to move the process along. The therapist said a bit intensely, “Yes, many times.” This was good to impress upon the court that there isn’t bias here.  I finished up by asking “who’s the most important person in this entire process?” Without hesitation the reply was, “Your child.” (I think both of these points is going to make it tougher to try and make the idea of bias fly in court now. )

I spoke to the therapist a few days later and one thing their lawyer (who was there for the therapist and is very well regarded for dealing with high conflict family law cases) said about me was it was “good that I didn’t drop into the crazy.” The blessing for me is when I’m focused on my child I don’t get drawn there.

by Marcus Pink

What You Strive to Control Determines Your Fate

I get emails somewhat regularly from people—a  theme I see over and over. For the sake of reminding ourselves and imparting this absolutely necessary information—it really comes down to a very simple yet powerful starting point, a “north star” if you will for either going through the process of alienation you are in and continuing to live through (thus raising your chances of a good outcome in the end) or letting it devastate or destroy you.  I recognize there are those whose children have grown into young adults and right now don’t experience a quality relationship with their kids, if any at all.  But this still matters.

It comes down to this :

WHAT YOU STRIVE TO CONTROL DETERMINES YOUR FATE.

You have only two choices at any given moment. You can fruitlessly attempt to control others, your ex, your kids, grand kids, etc.. or you can control yourself. This may sound like an impossible task, but it’s not, and it’s the only thing that will make any real difference over time. Thinking that “once I get my kids back, then I can… (fill in the blank)” is going at it from the wrong direction. I’m going to guess that most of here have prayed for something to happen, in whatever that way might be. But most of us don’t see the fundamental flaw in that. God (or whatever you call him) is not Santa Claus, and he (or she or whatever you think of that relationship as) is not always testing us for a bigger plan. Sometimes, there is no room in ourselves, who we are at a certain point to accept what he may be trying to give, or notice opportunities to change things because we aren’t able to see them. I have found and have heard countless stories of things that seem to “change on their own” once we start to put in the effort on what we CAN change and doing things to change from the inside out. One of THE hardest things for me was realizing that I helped get myself here. It took years of training by a mother who I strongly believe is BPD/NPD and a dad who tried to fix and manage her. Both parts of a puzzle. For sure it affected me, my siblings, and my whole way of seeing my life and how relationships were supposed to work. And now I have many things I am doing to unwind it in very practical and effective ways. And one of THE most consistent things I have seen in this growing community of people who are getting their kids back is that they MUST MUST MUST get themselves back as well. Exes and their support systems will be able to smell the odor of fear and disconnection and it’s their strength. All the amazing tools in the world will have limited effectiveness if we aren’t able to use them properly. The way out is by going in. Read the information here. Seek out resources of people who have turned their situations around. Find out the common denominators of strategy, but don’t expect much to happen unless you make sure you recognize you can only control you.  And never before has more been available to help you do just that. Photo by kirkandmimi (Pixabay)

How to help Mental Health Move Forward

With proper assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of pathogenic parenting.  by Michael Allen How many of you have been through the court system, been assigned a mental health professional from a “court roster” to help you with “Reunification Therapy“? How many of you have been through this only to find yourself stuck in the same cycle and even worse the mental health professional assigned to help you reunify has gotten the dynamic completely backwards? The simple truth of the matter is that Pathogenic Parenting is so well hidden that even well trained professionals are missing the red flags and even at times aligning unknowingly with the psychologically abusive parent. Most people, even therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists are ill equipped to understand the dynamics of personality disorder pathology and family systems. So what are we to do? The professionals we rely on to help our children need our help. While this may sound strange and even though it is not right it is our job as parents to educate our mental health community on the unique dynamic of our situations. Mental health is moving forward but is still largely in the “dark ages.” These problems we all face are ultimately rooted in trauma. Trauma begets more trauma – you hurt me so I have to hurt you back. Many are still unfamiliar with how deceptive and hidden personality disorders can be and unless absolutely glaring professionals can very easily miss the behavior. Things like Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), Anti Social Disorder are all rooted in trauma. They are in a sense “attachment trauma”—usually where a bond to a parent is interrupted for whatever the reason in their family dynamic. Most people tend to react to their trauma in some form or another. With the alienating parent the NPD tends towards being masculine—the idea being “How dare you leave someone so great as me? I will punish you but taking away what you love most and turning them against you.” With the Borderline disorder it tends to be more feminine—rooted in abandonment fear. Usually someone who has suffered some type of early trauma like rape or sexual abuse in their early years. The narrative in the mind of a Borderline type is “I’m taking the kids, I know you love them therefore you can never leave me.” These are broad generalizations of course and every story is different. The point is they are all rooted in trauma and once we understand the trauma patterns we as the chosen (healthier) parents can chose to break them. To deal with mental health professionals who may not be properly trained or understand this complicated dynamic we as the healthier of the two parents have to show up differently. We have to change the narrative of our conversations and learn how to focus on the symptoms emerging in our children vs the actions of the other parent. When speaking with mental health professions (MHP) begin using language like “My ex is reacting to unresolved trauma and repeating those patterns to triangulate our children into the spousal conflict”. This type of language will make MHP’s sit up and listen. Most people in mental health truly want to help people and are there to make a difference. Those in mental health are our allies and it is up to us to educate them in this complicated dynamic and help them awaken. People struggling with NPD/BPD (diagnosed or not) have very specific traits that are easily identifiable. Tactics such as “splitting“(recruiting friends and family members against us) , “gas lighting“(subtle psychological manipulation that makes you question your own sanity), “projecting” (it’s not me it’s you) are used by all of them. It takes a properly trained professional to spot the behavior because it can be very subtle. Unfortunately more often than not you will get an MHP who gets the problem completely backwards and will align with the alienating parent. Sometimes, therapists are afraid to diagnosis NPD/BPD for fear of retaliation from the person they diagnose. In these cases parents are still not helpless. Every professional has a license to protect and are governed by a state licensing board. You can file a board complaint as an absolute last resort. You can state professional incompetence if they are not trained or equipped to handle family systems or personality disorder pathology with either your state licensing board or the APA (American Psychological Association). We want to avoid that if if we can because most MHP’s do want to help children and are enlarge good people. As we continue to work towards helping mental health shift, I do see a solution to this problem as more and more parents work together and are able to rise above their own trauma of being separated from their children to come together as once voice. There are tools in the DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Version Five) which is best explained as the “bible” of mental health and diagnosing disorders. There is a hand out written by California Psychologist Dr. Craig Childress called “professional to professional consultation” that you can hand a mental health provider and say “this is what my family is going through”. We do have tools to use, we just have to pick them up and use them. Many of us have to make the choice to pick up these tools and move forward for our children. Every Alienating parent and every chosen (targeted) parent can benefit from working on their responses with proven and effective treatments like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy. It is trauma treatment that is very effective and let’s face it….every person in this dynamic is going through a trauma. Especially the children who are being psychologically abused when they are being manipulated to reject a parent when they really just want to love two parents. The chosen (healthier) of two parents have to make the choice to move forward vs. getting stuck in the pain. Waiting for the other parent to “realize the error of their ways” just won’t happen. Below are diagnosis taken from the DSM V that you can research and utilize to help educate your mental health professional on how to best treat your family. Be kind to others and to yourself……it’s the only way to break the trauma cycle. Michael Allen www.michaelallencoaching.com 5/24/18 Diagnoses mental health can use: Billable codes:

Non billable however can be used to initiate treatment:

Typical Diagnosis (or un diagnosed and untreated) of Alienating parent:  

Photo by Tumisu (Pixabay)

Don’t Worry. It’s Not Your End of The Ship That’s Sinking.

April 25th, Parental Alienation Awareness day. Many people don’t know about this day and what it means—or rather many don’t have a way to describe what the effects of PA have been on them either directly or indirectly. But make no mistake. No one is an island, no one is going through their life unaffected by what is happening to those around them, and no one can get away with being a true bystander. Risky sexual behavior, criminal behavior, drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, perpetuating the pain into future generations; these attitudes and behaviors affect us all in some way. For those of us that have been experiencing what April 25 is about directly, often for multiple years, we know what it’s like to feel like to have our lives devastated by the effects of someone who has made it their whole lives focused on the destruction of someone else, no matter the cost. Many of us have felt so decimated inside that we can’t imagine a way out. On this April 25, I hope that the growing number of us that are starting to turn the ship around so to speak even in a small way will reach out to others who aren’t there yet, and do what we can to make things even better. Think of this awareness day not only as awareness for others who may not know about it, but increasing our own awareness of ourselves and what we can do. I know it’s important to tell our stories and the way we’ve been able to connect online has been helping transform the isolation and perceived powerlessness into a new energy to fight back. And, as soon as we are able, we need to take steps to shifting how we respond to what is going on around us. Hard as it may be for some, it’s important to remember that supportive people, no matter how much they may want to listen and be there, are still limited in their ability to withstand the intensity of someone else’s pain, especially if the person in pain isn’t willing to take any steps towards managing it. What can you do for yourself other than replaying the  “It’s so horrible” track? How about “how can I really start to change what’s happening” track? It is possible, and it is occurring more and more . This Parental Alienation Awareness Day, give yourself the gift of seeking out people who can offer information and guidance. Stop spending all your time in online groups and around people where all the communications are just about the horrific-ness of the issue. Instead, find the people, the groups that are really changing situations—getting their kids back, changing their family dynamics, and most importantly finding peace in the midst of the storm.

Some Suggestions

  • Visiting Michael Allen’s PASO (Parental Alienation Solutions) Facebook groups and seeing if there is one near you. If there isn’t consider starting one.
  • Join the group I run called Beyond PA success stories. It’s meant for people looking for and able to share things, no matter how small they may seem with others.
  • There are posts I have here from my own journey about the steps I began to take which have made a huge difference, like coping skills part 1 and coping skills part 2.
  • Visit Dorcy Pruter’s  Conscious Co-parenting Institute page and sign up for the free video course. it’s really valuable.
  • Educate yourself. Look under resources on this site for more places to start.

Don’t wait to be saved.

How Can You Stop “Parental Alienation”? Early Intervention Is Key!

by Michael Allen To those of you who have gone through this Phenomenon of Pathogenic Parenting (more commonly known as “Parental Alienation”) or witnessed it happen to your friends or family: You may be left scratching your head wondering, “How did this happen?” “Why won’t my kids talk to me?” If you are the “targeted parent” (I hate that term…it has a victim feel to it) and do some reflection, you will most likely see the signs that were there long ago. You just chose to ignore them…hoping they’d get better. The truth is of course, it doesn’t get better. In fact if anything it gets exponentially worse when not addressed immediately. The sooner you can assess and identify the situation and what is happening to your family, the sooner you can “vaccinate” your family against PA. For me the key was early intervention which was a major reason I was ultimately successful in winning back my rights to my son. I now share 50/50 custody with his mother. However, had I paid attention to the signs earlier in the process I could have prevented the flight from the state, etc.. Hindsight is 20/20 but if we know what to look for, the signs are always there. We just have to pay attention to the red flags when they happen. For me, it took my son hiding behind his mother, pointing at me and laughing at an attempt at normal parental discipline and setting boundaries. The signs were there. I as most of us were, just in a fog. My awakening came quickly following “the incident.”  My sister had mentioned to someone in conversation, “I think my brother is being alienated.” That word, “Alienated.” the word that brought my true awakening to be able to act effectively to save our son. That word, “Alienated”… the word that has been holding up mental health for over 30 years in proper assessment, diagnosis and treatment. That word led me to find Dr. Craig Childress and his book Foundations which was only written in 2015 (ironically the year my son was taken out of the state by his mother). This book was a lightening rod of knowledge for me,. It described the situation so well. It described what I had been living with for almost the past decade… asleep. A search pulled up more knowledge, and more and more. I had to sift through other opinions, ideas, theories to find the answer that would save our son. The Gardnerian debate of PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) has kept mental health from fully awaking to the pathology because when push comes to shove “Parental Alienation”  does not exist at least in the eyes of the APA (American Psychological Association). Dr. Childress has come up with a solution based on already established constructs based on the works of BowlbyMinuchin & Beck regarding attachment. Here is AB-PA (Attachment Based Parental Alienation), a rock solid diagnosis that focuses on the symptoms emerging in the child in conjunction with the actions of the alienating parent. Armed with this weapon, the weapon of hope for a solution in my own case I was able to reverse the effects of the psychological abuse of our child. There is an unstoppable wave coming as more and more parents, therapists, judges, and attorneys awaken to this subtle but powerful form of abuse. The more parents that are able to identify the red flags and catch this trauma early the more successful they will be in reversing the symptoms emerging in their children. A child shares DNA with both parents, 23 from mom and 23 from dad. A child is meant to attach or bond to two parents, this is part of nature and natural child development. When that bond is interrupted for any reason whether it is one parent who tries to erase the bond, addiction, abuse, death, prison, or parental absence for any reason… that child will struggle. No matter how good and how stable the parent that is there… a void is left within the child. That child stands a good chance of struggling to fill that void with something outside themselves like drugs, alcohol, promiscuity and suffer from anxiety and depression. We as a society have to realize that each parent contributes something to the child’s growth and development. If you you are being alienated, THINK you are being alienated, or know someone who is….review this list of 167 signs of Parental Alienation. If you even have some of these things happening in your life or the life of someone you love… the time to act is NOW. Be kind to each other… that is how we stop the pain cycle. Michael Allen www.michaelallencoaching.com michaelallencoaching@gmail.com

A Face that Sparked a Movement

by Michael Allen If you think that one person can’t make a difference…think again. As with any major change, it starts with a person like you. This is the face that sparked a movement. This little boy….taken from his home in Arizona to Montana and a false restraining order filed against the targeted parent. The targeted parent stood in front of the courthouse wondering how to effect change. The targeted parent started a local support group meeting to help others and learn what had worked for others and what hadn’t. This little boy’s left behind parent fought a brutal 10 month interstate battle that ultimately resulted in his being ordered back to his home state with 50/50 custody and targeted parent ordered full LDMA due to the actions of the alienating parent. The alienating parent eventually moved back to the home state and slowly began to learn how to share custody through a hard and bumpy road. The formerly targeted parent always took the high road and remained of a mindset that failure was not an option. Today PASO (Parental Alienation Success Group) has grown beyond an idea…it currently spans 12 states and is growing globally. In Arizona there are weekly support group meetings twice a week and the idea continues to spread. It all started with the love for this little boy. If you think that one person can’t make a difference…think again. It starts with you. This little boy now enjoys the love of both parents. To find out more about Michael Allen and how he may be able to help you, visit his web site. To read about and share any success stories, please join the Beyond PA Success Stories Facebook Group.

The Biggest Lie

There’s a toxic, poisonous lie out there and while many are finally waking up to it, I think it bears repeating—not only to others who are just finding their way out of the dark place they have been in, but to those of us who have been around a while. It’s vital (as in absolutely necessary) to be aware of the dynamic we are in as targeted parents and whether we want to or not, learn to play within the rules or we and our children will lose. Wanting it to be some other way won’t change anything, and if your situation is anything like mine has been only a cause for additional suffering. I recently heard someone (I don’t want to go into the source because this crosses gender lines) describe what they refer to as their own take on what she calls “Threat Narratives”. There are two types:

  1. The male or masculine threat narrative which is the one we can readily identify. That is when one person puffs up and exaggerates their strength while doing whatever they can to amplify the and exaggerate other person’s sense of weakness and vulnerability.
  2. The female or feminine threat narrative which is essentially the opposite. That is when one person puffs up and exaggerates their vulnerability while doing whatever they can to (in some cases invent) exaggerate, and amplify the perception of the other person’s aggressive or dangerous nature.

If this second one sounds especially familiar, it’s because from what I can tell the most common type of threat narrative played out in courtrooms and “expert” yet unqualified therapists offices every day. Men do it to women by claiming they the woman is mentally unstable, women do it to men by claiming the man is abusive; either physically or even sexually to them or to the children. It puts everyone back on their heels and causes people to prove they are not dangerous. It is a potent and persistent way to continually be in a position of disproving a negative. And, God forbid anyone shows any upset about it, it simply confirms the instability or aggression and deeper into the hole they go. I put out the assertion that it (feminine) is the strategy of choice in public because it has worked and still works so unbelievably well. In private, they run the opposite (masculine), with either private threats personally or through high conflict attorneys that they will take the kids and whatever else is important if you don’t settle for table scraps (if you’re lucky). This type of threat narrative can also extend to mental health professionals trying to do the right thing and even officers of the court. And if you’re in really bad shape, they don’t even need to to anything, you do it yourself. You imagine your ability to do nothing is the truth and their ability to get whatever they want is assured and your behavior shows it. Remember… and if you haven’t heard it before…

IT’S A LIE.

The truth, while not easy is actually simple. It just takes a whole lot of resolve, support and willingness to do what it takes to bring it out and expose the LIE for what it is.

March 10, 2019 Update:

I find this more educational than amusing. It is a very clear and well done demonstration of the contrast between the how threat narratives (the male one you’re expecting and the female one that occurs). Know that this setup is so ubiquitous in the family court system that without understanding, it can and does decimate people. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HMX-EkYUA0

The truth is you are not powerless.

  1. You have the power to change you. It’s all you’ve ever had, and it’s all you ever will have. If you thought your ex was hard to control when you were together, why would you believe for one second they’d be somehow easier to control now?
  2. You will never be able to control the outcome. Stop trying. The only thing you can do is stay in the process and do it with integrity. Be honest. Gather and keep track of the facts. Keep records of everything.
  3. Stay In public at first, but find ways to be that way as much as you can. There are ways you can do this; exercise, therapy (I mention this a lot but I think it bears repeating) EMDR among other things to really get at what you’ve been doing and reacting to to get here in the first place. (Refer back to the first sentence in the first point.) When you are calm you can fight when you need to but only to get somewhere specific.
  4. Ask others when you need to and help others that might be even one step behind you. And choose those others you ask carefully. If you need to keep someone around to complain to, that’s by choice. But, if that’s all the kinds of people you have it will be a long excruciating misery fest where the only thing you’ll get is feeling like you are right.

I hope it’s clear I have gone through a lot these transitions myself and I sincerely hope if this helps someone it’s worth putting out there. Last, I had to file a motion recently and I ended it with this statement: “FURTHER, The Plaintiff continues to try and find a way forward so that the Minor Child can have both parents in their life. While the Plaintiff remains open and willing to find a way to work with the Defendant in the raising of their child if possible, he asserts that at present the Defendant’s responses remain indicative of her approach and goals concerning this case; to continually attack the Plaintiff’s character, rewrite history as demonstrated by the examples in in this reply, and ultimately completely remove the Minor Child’s father from their life or at best severely marginalize him.” The thing is, it was after I filed it that I realized I believed it.  I would like some way to be at enough peace with my ex to give our child both parents. I primarily think of the possibility for the emotional well-being of my child and me. This has been slow in coming but I can honestly say I sleep better these days for the most part and I am more the person I want to be around my child than I ever have been before. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HMX-EkYUA0

The Power of Peer Support

…A Story of Moving From Despair to Hope

by Michael Allen I want to share with you something I learned very early in my journey fighting the pathogen of “Parental Alienation” and how it helped me to be successful in winning the battle to save my child. I learned very early through my job in behavioral health and through affiliations with various 12 step groups over the years how powerful the concept of “peer support” is. Peer support occurs when people provide knowledge, experience, emotional, social or practical help to each other. It commonly refers to an initiative consisting of trained supporters (although it can be provided by peers without training), and can take a number of forms such as peer mentoring, listening, or counseling.

What It Was Like (At First)

When my Ex Wife first fled the state with our son on September 30th 2015, I was running around like a crazy person trying to figure out what to do. My sister had mentioned in a conversation “I think my brother is being alienated” which lead me to a search of the word. I then found through a facebook search PAWWSG (Parental Alienation World Wide Support group) then a fledgling group of 12,000 members founded by Keith Marsolek. I researched, asked questions, and found a then local stranger Jeremy Brueckner who reached his hand out and said, “This is what is happening to you and this is what you need to do”. Finally. After all the panic, confusion, feelings of hopelessness and despair I had a name and a face of what was happening and I had a path. And not just me. More people are starting to understand they aren’t alone either. In the two years since I found PAWWSG it has now grown to 30,000 members and continues to grow daily.

What Happened

I knew that through my experience with working with Peer Support in mental health with the seriously mentally ill population and through my experience with 12 step programs (which is peer support essentially) how powerful it actually is. When I began my journey fighting to get my child back to our home state of Arizona I knew I needed support. I needed support from others who were going through this because I couldn’t be the only one. Lo and behold, I posted the idea of starting a support group online. I posted the idea of starting a free support group 12 step style for targeted parents fighting “Parental Alienation”. I soon attracted a response from Amanda DiGuardia who stated “My Husband could really use something like this”. I found a meeting place at a local church and there I met one of my now best friends Sal Diguardia and his wife Amanda. On that day in February 2015 PASO-AZ (Parental Alienation Support group of Arizona was born). Our first meeting with the three of us was a huge success and we stayed for hours and chatted about our struggles and what had happened during our perspective divorces. For the first time I felt I wasn’t alone and there was a reason this was happening. My strength was renewed and I could see hope in Sal’s eyes too who was much further in his journey than I was. We agreed to meet weekly and continue this trend of positivity and the second meeting once promoted was much larger. We had now met Jeremy and several other parents going through the same thing. We had a name, we had a face to the pathogen and more importantly we had hope. The cosmic joke in this story is that after we grew closer Sal and I realized that after attending the same meeting for some time at a church 30 miles away we learned we lived on the SAME STREET. We could have literally walked to each other’s home. This proved to me that there are no accidents and we are all connected. The group continued to grow and we then found the work of Dr. Craig Childress and his book Foundations which laid out the pathogen of Attachment Based Parental Alienation and it lit a pathway to solutions to this nightmare. This continued for a year. We became a tight group sharing ideas about what worked and what didn’t. I picked the brains of other targeted parents and learned with the help of “Foundations” what I needed to do to fight back effectively to win this battle for my child. I had one thing going for me and was that I was able to act fast and like with autism “early intervention” was the key. It was not easy but advice from my lawyer “remember…it’s a marathon not a sprint” helped me slow down when I needed to. There were many late nights I would run to Sal’s house in tears fearing I would never see my child again. He and his wife were there for me and again the “power of peer support “prevailed. I knew there were others who understood what I was going through and I could lean on them for support while most people would shy away when you share something tough or unpleasant. PASO-AZ was a great platform and eventually grew to three meetings a week. Through these interactions, I found there are some pitfalls to using this term, “Parental Alienation”. It can provide an excuse for those not willing to look at their part in what was happening, which can and did attract some pathogenic behavior. There was definitely a learning curve during this time. The spirit of the group lived on though and a new chapter was formed. It continues to this day meeting weekly offering an avenue of support for those who incorrectly believe they are struggling alone. Through the power of peer support and early intervention I knew I was not alone and it gave me the strength to walk through the tremendous and seemingly insurmountable fear ahead. Men like Sal, Jeremy, David Alger (who introduced me to the concept of Arizona legislation reform) were crucial in my early awakening to this brutal form of trauma. I was able to walk through the fear and uncertainty of the outcome of my case because I had peer support.

What It’s Like Now

As I began to step into my power and manifest my child back into my life my whole mindset and attitude began to shift. Sal and I met Dorcy Pruter, the CEO and founder of the Conscious Co Parenting institute who assisted us in growing even further. She taught us how to move toward solution and there I began my journey as a high conflict divorce coach. I learned to no longer be a victim and that I had a gift that again based on peer support I could help lead parents out of the darkness known as Pathogenic Parenting. Today I share 50/50 custody of our child with the same parent who tried to brutally erase me with false allegations and a jurisdictional nightmare. I learned from Dorcy that it only takes one person to consciously co parent and I can still help my child recover each time he is exposed to pathogenic behavior. There is a solution to this nightmare and it starts with us …but it’s OK to need help. I implore anyone struggling to reach out for help, talk about your situation and resist the urge to retreat into shame, anger and blame. That is what the pathogen wants….that is how it survives….in silence and darkness. My good friend David Alger told me “It will be better in the end. Sociopathy is a pathogen. It gets worse if not confronted” The good news about the future is that it isn’t written yet. You can win your kids back……you just have to throw the word “can’t” out of your vocabulary. If you feel that is not possible right now….simply add the word “yet” to the end of that sentence.

The Pathogen Eroding Our Society

by Michael Allen As we move more and more to a digital society our gaps continue to widen. We begin to lose authentic connections with people and as we do we start to develop more and more insecure attachments. There is a pathogen sliding around us in plain sight and we as a society are blind to it at the moment. A pathogen is a sickness, a virus and in this case not necessarily a biological virus strain but a sickness in critical thinking, reasoning and judgment. Dr. Craig Childress a clinical psychologist from Pasadena, California describes an attachment trauma developing more and more and it continues to feed and grow on pain and suffering. This pathogen which feeds on pain and thrives in darkness has no motive, no agenda other than to spread more pain. The pathogen survives by “splitting”….it creates divides…divides in groups, ideas, thoughts and people stop talking, communication breaks down and the isolation grows. Divide and conquer…pathogen wins…more pain. You see it more and more in the news and our society. What we know as today terrorism, school and mass shootings and anything you see in the media that causes pain….is the pathogen in our society. People struggle to understand why this could happen, why this person could do this or even simply how an ex partner could be so cruel amidst a divorce or break up. The pathogen has no agenda other than to cause more pain. Struggling to make an illogical situation logical is a futile battle that would drive anyone insane. Well we have to stop asking why because the answer is right in front of us and we as a society are asleep to it. Childhood trauma. At the base of it all is childhood trauma and we learn to reenact those patterns of trauma unconsciously if left unresolved and untreated. Trauma is complex because it is unique to the individual. My Supervisor once said to me “One persons hangnail could be another’s end stage cancer” meaning it affects us all differently. This trauma pattern shifts and grows and the old saying hurt people…hurt people is so very true. It causes a ripple effect that can carry on for generations if left unbroken. Empathy is the powerful emotion that is also getting eroded in our “selfie society” and is slipping away before our very eyes.

How do we stop this?

How do we stop the murders, rapes, drug addiction (opioid epidemic) and teen pregnancies plaguing our families and society as a whole? As individuals we have a choice. We can choose to ignore these trauma patterns and reenact them or recognize them and choose to break them. If we choose the latter then we have some work to do. We have to first ask ourselves if we are brave enough to face the painful truth to take a journey of growth and then slowly put one foot in front of the other until we eventually reach our goal of true inner peace and happiness. The pathogen thrives in darkness so we shed light on it…we begin to talk about it. We begin to tell our story to help other’s realize “hey that happened to me too” (or know someone) and then the healing journey can start. I began my crusade over two years ago fighting through a high conflict divorce and a journey to end pathogenic parenting. I realized later that the problem was much deeper than “parental alienation” and boiled down to trauma. Attachment trauma…childhood trauma…most of us suffer from it on some level or another and if we don’t, we know someone close to us who has. Once we have a deeper understanding of trauma and how it affects us, our children and our families….then we can start moving towards breaking the pattern. The beautiful thing is that ripple effects work both ways. We change how we react…we react with love and understanding vs. anger. Photo by BarbaraALane (Pixabay)

All About Winning

Knowing what you’re up against is vital. I have waited to post this, partially because I as hoping for some resolution, partly because I wanted to give some time for the post about the custody order to be an example of how things can go. However, for my story, the post about the temporary custody order and the hope it brought for the beginning of repairing my relationship with my child was abruptly halted in less than a week. My ex’s attorney filed an appeal and won on the basis that the judge didn’t have cause to put our child into foster care. Then somehow, after she filed another motion, the entire order got stayed. I wrote a response which was in legal speak not considered relevant. In the end the appellate court lifted the stay on most of the order, keeping a stay on the portion where my ex’s visitation was reduced from 95% to 6 hours every other Saturday. So, now my child is back with her. I filed a motion with the state supreme court stating that I believe they overstepped their bounds and that the attorney brought up things that were not appropriate for an appeals court (basically trying to smear me again since she had a new audience) but the court denied my request to review it. I wanted to write something more uplifting but right now I am more than a little disheartened that given that my ex has no defense and that the judge and the two other therapists involved all know she’s the problem, for the moment no one can do anything about it. Fortunately the judge in my case did say the order was “without prejudice” meaning I can request another hearing without there having to be a major change in the situation to do so. Even so, it means at least a couple more months for the relationship to degrade, for my child to continue to have to be what their mother and family want or else face the consequences, and more time for more tricks from my ex’s lawyer. But I’ll be filing tomorrow, nonetheless. It’s about continuing on no matter what. I think her attorney has gotten the memo that I have no qualms about getting up in her face and I imagine it’s annoying to her that some pro se nothing is causing so much trouble because after all, she’s a managing partner of her firm and this is all about winning. A friend of mine advised me to keep a journal of what’s been going on so perhaps my child will one day be able to see what I went through in this fight for their soul. I think that’s a good idea all around for anyone—to keep a log of their journey through this. This blog helps me remember what’s happened and I know it will help me remember when one day this dynamic has been changed significantly that in some small way I helped to bring that about. More updates to come… Photo by cousine4everkis

PA Republican House Caucus Meeting Ft. Dr Craig Childress

https://youtu.be/AIa1KbfsWIM Posted 11/15/2017

Entry of Order for Temporary Custody

Today, after almost three years to the day since filing, the judge in my case handed down a temporary custody order. It was different from the previous attempts, one being a hand written memorandum of judgement that severely restricted my child’s access to her father which had been negotiated after my ex took off with our child and wouldn’t return until I agreed. I liken it to putting on one of those small spare tires on a car but ending up driving 50,000 miles on it. It wasn’t meant to last this long. The other, several months later, which started to graduate to more time, was stayed as more accusations were made. This order is the culmination of a long term pattern that a competent therapist who among other things is familiar with Dr. Childress‘s work helped uncover and the judge was able to see.

It was  a surprise to everyone. I think given the lack of resources this was fairly resourceful on the judge’s part. He was balancing the clear behavior on my ex’s part, with his concern of her abducting our child, along with the damage he believed it might do to suddenly switch custody to me given all the poisonous messages our child has been getting for three years. I am posting this because I think it is an example of a step forward from ignorance of the destructive behaviors my ex has been engaged in to recognizing them but coming up with hard solutions because resources are still scarce.

Three main things occurred:

  1. Our child was remanded to foster care while reunification therapy happens.
  2. My visitations have not been curtailed and are on track to progressing to more time.
  3. My ex has gone from 95% custody to every other Saturday supervised visitation.

I am posting this along with the order for two main reasons:

  1. There are solutions beyond losing our children. I feel incredibly blessed to have what looks like a different story to share. We need to keep getting educated in learning and addressing emotionally abusive actions, rather than reacting based on what we want to be true.
  2. I look forward to the day when this sort of solution is no longer necessary because these dynamics will be identified far sooner before the damage is this severe.

I am posting the order with all personally identifiable information redacted. Like I said, it’s not pretty, but it is something better than what could have happened had I not learned about what was happening and was able to (for the most part) keep a cool head and let my ex’s pattern of behavior speak for itself. | Entry of Order 14 Nov. 2017 | | Timeline Accusations Events Example |

UPDATE: This order was appealed and stayed. (Stayed, meaning temporary suspension of the ruling.) Two weeks later, the Appeals Court reversed the stay except of the supervised visitation and remanding into foster care. See “All About Winning” for more details. That said this is a still good example of a judge who really gets what’s happening. 

Photo by Activedia (Pixabay)

Dr. Steven G. Miller: Fundamental Attribution Error

Dr. Steven G. Miller’s video, “Why Courts Fail to Recognize Parental Alienation” wasn’t something I was aware of until only a few days ago. Dr. Steven Miller’s insights on this dynamic are spot on, to say the least. For those of you who haven’t seen it, check it out at the bottom of this post. This is the 7 1/2 minute version but there is also a full 41 minute version. One part of his testimony really stood out for me. This is where he described the need for people to be specially trained in knowing what to look for when determining if alienation is occurring. Otherwise, as he describes it, it is easy to make a “fundamental attribution error”. I had a different way of describing it, but I am sure most of you will know what it is the moment you see it. I noticed that the therapists in my case who were willing to look at a larger scope of behavior on the part of myself, my ex, and our child, started to get a clearer picture of what was going on. The ones who looked at only one part of the puzzle (either my ex or our child or the two of them without much if any input from me) were the ones who saw me as the problem. For example, the CPS case worker’s supervisor told me after their investigation (see “The End Run Nuclear Option“) that they reported my ex and our child demonstrated a warm and loving bond. I knew it was BS but until I saw Dr. Miller’s video I didn’t have a phrase for it.

What is the Fundamental Attribution Error?

According to Dr. Steven Miller, the fundamental attribution error occurs when an untrained therapist makes very broad assumptions based on very limited exposure to the parents in a high conflict custody situation. Most alienators (especially the more severe kind) are very good at mimicking social cues that get people to sympathize with them. They come off as cool, calm, and collected. The targeted parent, who hasn’t had much, if any contact with their child or children for an extended period of time is experiencing stress on the level of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—like what some war veterans experience). He or she tends to come off as more anxious. The attribution error comes in when the therapist (or judge or social worker) sees this and assumes that because they are behaving like that in that instance, it must mean that’s how they parent. The short answer is, NO. It does not mean this. Unless the therapist is trained to look at other dynamics like enmeshment between the favored parent and the child they mistakenly think the targeted parent is the problem. The targeted parent should definitely be getting some help (see “Coping Strategies Part 1” and “Coping Strategies Part 2” for some tips) but this does not mean they are engaged in the destructive behaviors the alienating parent is engaged in. I think that getting the word about this single point could be very effective in and of itself to making therapists and others who deal with high conflict situations to widen their scope of consideration to get a potentially fuller and more accurate take on what is going on. I have been e-mailing the link to the shorter video below to therapists, state legislative offices, and will continue to do so. As I explore this further I’ll keep you posted. Any thoughts or things you’ve been doing to spread this idea are welcome!

Why Courts Fail to Recognize Parental Alienation Video

Video Link

Web site to find out more about Dr. Miller

How do we Move Forward When Stuck?

by Michael Allen  My friend James Ricker asked me if I would write a guest blog post. This is my first attempt so bear with me as I dip my feet into the blogging pool. The topic I wanted to cover here is when we are stuck, how do we get “unstuck”? I started a support group along with a now close friend over two years ago to help uncover the mystery known by popular culture as “Parental Alienation”. I am a recovering alcoholic and knew that AA (Alcoholics anonymous) in its raw pure form in essence was peer support with 12 guidelines for accountability and helping people get unstuck that were ready to change their pattern of behavior. The key word there is “ready”….more on that in a moment. I knew back then when I began my journey that peer support worked…..no one could understand what an alcoholic goes through like another alcoholic and I applied the same logic to start PASO-AZ (Parental Alienation Support group of Arizona). I pitched the support group idea in a budding worldwide online support group known as PAWWSG and a woman popped in and informed me that her husband really needed something like this as he had not seen his kids in years and they also had lived in Phoenix. I scouted out a local church and talked to the pastor and created and event and I met this man and his second wife at the church and we talked for what felt like hours about the things we had learned in each other’s perspective journey’s through what we now call pathogenic parenting where one child begins rejecting an otherwise healthy parent mysteriously during a divorce or separation. We continued to meet weekly and the group grew and grew and we came to find the work of a Dr. Craig Childress and a book called ” Foundations” and we all began to see some patterns in our perspective relationships with our ex’s. We met each week for about a month and I was driving 25 minutes away to a church in South Phoenix to meet and support each other and our band of growing parents. One night I had a random emotional crisis during my custody battle as my case was new and just ramping up and anxiety and fear frequently crept in. I called my new friend and I drove to my new friends house for late night support and the Universe gave me a shock….this man and his wife literally lived on the same street as me and we had been driving for miles for a month to meet, talk and support each other. I will admit while starting this meeting to help others I also had the selfish motive of picking the brains of other “left behind or targeted” parents to use in my own custody battle as to learn what worked for others and what didn’t. However I held true to my original value and intent was the key to moving forward is to painfully put one foot in front of the other….turn your pain into something positive. Force yourself if you have to… to the point of being uncomfortable but during this journey that was where I saw the successes and failures as I watched learned and absorbed as much as I could to fight for my rights as a parent. Changing mindsets is one of the most difficult and painful processes there but IT CAN BE DONE. To break free of a negative data loop takes determination, drive and learning the ability to step outside one’s self and say “I can do this”. I can honestly say that with every set back I faced …..in my mind …FAILURE WAS NOT AN OPTION. Period. I suffered greatly during the initial 10 month battle……ten months felt like 10 years for an interstate custody battle. Every day it felt like I would take two steps forward only to get knocked three feet back. I kept moving forward…..I kept trying to drag other parents forward with me. I did learn through this journey that people have to be ready to turn the next page in their story, you can’t turn it for them. Sometimes it’s more comfortable to stay in a cold dark place, blame others ….it’s safer. I learned that behind it all the biggest thing keeping people stuck was fear….fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of life. And that’s o.k….it’s o.k to be afraid…..I know I was….fear is a natural emotion that protects us and keeps us from getting “eaten by predators”. It’s what we then do with that fear that defines our success in both our custody battles, relationships and even life in general. Do we let that fear consume us? Beat us down? Turn us into hateful people that now begin to hurt others around us and perpetuating the pain cycle? NO! Then we have become the very thing that we are fighting against…..we become that “bad, crazy” parent that the pathogenic parent paints us out to be. The then kernel of truth becomes a reality. The key to pulling free from the muck and mire holding us back is to use that fear to motivate us…..push us forward until we are no longer afraid. Until we can use Ji Jitsu Parenting (Dr. Childress) to stand on our feet, broken bloody and bruised yet arguably “too dumb” to stay down for the count. I was asked often why we did a “selfie” in the PASO-Az meetings…..isn’t that Narcissistic? Some parents would opt out but it would to me always be a key indicator where they sat with their current level of fear and if they needed more support or time. The reason was simple…..

  1. Showed he opposite of what the targeted parent was being pointed out to be…smiling and with new friends vs alone afraid and scared. If their children were watching they would see their parent smiling and maybe even be more apt to reach out going “Hmmm maybe mom or dad isnt so bad after all”
  2. Would anger the alienator…..”Why isn’t mom or dad alone broken and hiding in the corner” (inside the alienators mind) “How dare they be out and be smiling”

Simple right? Standing on the shoulders of other parents fighting for the same thing…..their children’s lives and their own sanity. Using Kindness to fight hate…..lifting your hand up to pull someone out of the muck or allowing them to pull you under. Which choice are you going to make? It always comes down to choices…..and patterns. If you can step outside of yourself long enough you will see patterns in your life and patterns in the others around you. If you can do that…..you have begun the healing process because once you can see a pattern in your life you can break it. The first step is accountability…..”what’s my part?”. The program of AA has step four to teach addicts/alcoholics accountability…but how do you give that gift to others not blessed with a program to guide them? I would ask “what’s your part in your divorce or separation” in the PASO preamble? If the parent answered that they had no part ….they were the victim…I’d try in a kind way to get them to understand that they married their partner or failed to identify the alienation pattern as it was emerging. Perhaps I was too kind about it for the message to get through or the parent was not yet ready to move forward. Whatever it was….. we always have a part and until we can admit and hold ourselves accountable…..we will be doomed to repeat the same pattern. I have seen some huge successes and some huge failures but in my journey through parental alienation….I would call myself successful. I get to be a father to my son and share 50/50 custody with the same parent who tried to erase me. I have freed myself of hate and identified my own pattern of toxic relationships and trying to save others who are not ready to break their pattern or who don’t need to be saved. What I learned what was important was I saved myself and I saved my son and I get to be his parent today. I was blessed to meet a mentor by the name of Dorcy Pruter who is guiding me through a journey to do what I love for a living……teaching others to move forward if they are ready and stopping childhood trauma before it starts. I will continue to coach parents one by one to fight back with love and use my experience as a guide. I am eternally grateful for every single person that has crossed my path both positive and negative through my journey through marriage, birth, divorce and healing from trauma. I would not change one thing about my story…..because then it wouldn’t be my story. Be kind to each other….sometimes….it’s all we’ve got. Web: http://www.michaelallencoaching.comfile:///Users/miked/Downloads/www.michaelallencoaching.comFacebook: @michaelallencoaching

Stop Making Your Child Important!

“Petty tyrants take themselves with deadly seriousness while warriors do not. What usually exhausts us is the wear and tear on our self-importance.” – Carlos Castaneda This quote is from a post a few months back that talks about a way of looking at what’s happening that can help us see it in a different light. I’ve been talking about other coping skills recently, and one of the things that has helped quite a bit is EMDR. This is a non verbal therapy that has been used with thousands of war vets to help them deal with their PTSD.  In that post, and in more than one mention by Dr. Childress, it is useful to recognize that as targeted parents we are consistently in a position where we are re-experiencing trauma. It is part of the structure the alienating parent creates when they create the victim (child), protector (alienator), and supposed abuser (targeted parent). And as much as we may not want to be, we are pulled in, or we give up—which doesn’t alleviate the pain of the loss in the long run. It was only recently that after an EMDR session it occurred to me that one of the ways I help feed my ex’s attempts at alienation and also stress out my child is to make my child important. This makes the whole situation deadly serious, something that must be fought against. The problem is that fighting against it makes it stronger. I like the distinction Mr. Castaneda makes, i.e., warriors come from a different place—a place of calm and unrelenting resolve to focus on having integrity in every moment—and letting go of the outcome.  To the degree we can do that is the degree we can get out of the ring with the alienator who is at the mercy of their need to be in control and do whatever he or she can do to manipulate the outcome. There is a story of two ancient Japanese warriors who were having a sword fight to the death. They approached each other on the field of battle, with only two other men there to witness the event. One of the warriors eventually got the best of the other and knocked him to the ground.  As the standing warrior lifted his sword to deliver the death blow, the other one spat in his face. The standing warrior lowered his sword and walked away. When one of the witnesses asked why he didn’t kill his opponent, the warrior replied, “When he spat on me, I became angry.” We can’t fight this fight with emotions running our actions. This is what the alienator wants, and needs from us.  I am realizing over time is that the more I make this or any other situation “important”, the more it saps my strength, my clarity, and my energy. The difference is when I come from a knowing-ness that my child is meaningful, I know that the bond is unbreakable. This matters, because if one parent is incapable of having an appropriate stable connection with your child (or children) and the other is so off balance they are consistently upset, the child essentially has neither of them. This does not mean being nice. I can, have, and will do whatever I have to do to protect my child in whatever ways I can. I just feel more of an ability to loosen up—quiet down inside, and remember that whatever we want to call it—the Universe, God, or anything else—is there for me and my child, even if they can’t consciously recognize it. When we can really be with them (in whatever capacity that is) with love and appreciation, it calms us down, makes us feel more connected and centered, and there is far less for the alienator to push against. Hard to do? Many times, yes. But I think it is worth aiming for and improving on every chance we get. Photo by skeeze (Pixabay)

Coping Skills Part 2: Consider the Options

Unfortunately, being a targeted parent or caregiver has thrust most of us outside the limits of what we thought possible from another person—weaponizing a child or children to gain control and harm. I think it safe to say that if we could travel back in time and warn our past selves this was coming most of us would have thought our present selves were nuts. It would be inconceivable that those in our lives we loved would actually go to the lengths they have gone to in order to harm us and keep control over those most innocent and vulnerable. Or, perhaps even more terrifying, that some have gone off the rails to the point where they actually truly believe we are dangerous and need to stop us from having any kind of relationship at any cost. So what do we do? As I said previously it is crucial for us to not feed the story they are spinning. We have to be as close to perfectly calm as we can be because the slightest misstep or expression of upset can be twisted around and make things far worse. After over two and a half years, I am still hearing the remnants of how volatile I am because when I first realized I was being set up for false allegations I got visibly upset in front of my child. What I am about to say here is not meant to be medical advice or a recommendation of any kind. I know it seems to be helping me and I am learning more about the myths vs. the realities of going this route. In addition to the EMDR therapy I mentioned last time, my therapist thought it would be a good idea for me to go on an anti-anxiety medication. I told her I was worried that it might be used as ammunition by my ex wife’s lawyer if I did. I was given the same answer by my therapist, the court ordered reunification therapist, and my friend who has been a family law attorney for over 20 years: No. It is not something to be worried about. In fact, the reunification therapist added in that oftentimes judges even look at not doing something like this to deal with the stress as a negative. I have been on Lexapro for the last two months for anxiety and added in Wellbutrin about three weeks ago for depression. Ironically, after about four weeks taking the Lexapro things began to quiet down enough that I became aware of how depressed I was. So far, I have been lucky to have minimal side effects. The way I describe the experience is that the mental “pitches” have slowed down from 120 mph across the plate to 80. They are not happy pills. They do not remove me from my feelings, but they have helped turning a tidal wave that felt like it would drown me to large waves I can ride a little bit better. I really noticed it in court last week when I had to go in and defend myself against something they were trying to do. I was able to be calm enough to articulate what I needed to, and actually came up with a solution to make the issue go away. I commented to my therapist last week that I thought the medication would make me less present but it’s been just the opposite. The stress was making me less present and I need to be present more than ever. I think my closing thought on this is that if this is something you, a therapist, and doctor agree might be worthwhile do it in conjunction with other therapies and calming techniques. I also think it’s important to get active in trying to help others in whatever way you can—it will help you to help others know they aren’t alone. Photo by annca (Pixabay)

Coping Skills Part 1: Consider the Source

https://youtu.be/iXoaaLm9HCA My high school history teacher told me on multiple occasions when considering what anyone says to “consider the source”. Wise words. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized many aspects them as I enter into year three of  this divorce/alienation nightmare. I have been looking at all the things I can do, working with the legislature in my state, talking to local politicians, increasing awareness among friends—but of late looking at what I have the most control over… myself. I have to live with my experience of what is going on every moment of every day and some days are tougher, much tougher than others. I have realized that there are more things than I considered previously to help my experience—some may be helpful to you. I don’t offer this information in any other capacity than as someone who has been trying things out— you should look to professionals for professional advice as appropriate. And speaking of which, when considering the large amount of options for help I have come to two big conclusions so far:

  1. Where you have a choice, vet the professionals you deal with on an EXPERIENTIAL level. Do NOT get drawn in by their title. Consider the source. Ask them what their experience has been. For example:
    • I would never again deal a lawyer who doesn’t know what high conflict divorce means—and I mean has been though similar situations him or herself. Otherwise I believe they are going to get sideswiped over and over again and you will lose big time. When my original lawyer who did have a clue became unavailable and I went with someone else it ended up being a very expensive lesson, both emotionally and financially. He was technically good, but just didn’t “get” what was happening. And, at the end of the day it’s your life and not theirs.
    • I would never again go to a therapist if I need or have been directed to find one who hasn’t had experience in this realm either. I was lucky enough to get fired by my former therapist last year when she decided my situation was too much for her to deal with. My current therapist has been through the wringer and started her career working with patients in the penal system so there’s just nothing I can throw out that phases her.
  2. Understand you are being traumatized repeatedly and DEAL with it. Childress has written a great article about coping with trauma—it was frankly the catalyst that got me started down this road. Dr. Childress gets this. He is a source you want to pay attention to. I myself have been doing something called EMDR which bypasses talking about traumatic responses and directly rewires them in the cerebellum and amygdala. These are the areas that generate fight-or-flight and fear responses. I think the hardest/most useful thing to get is that I have been wired for this most of my life. My ex was someone who has simply ratcheted up the intensity of it to an 11. I can tell you that after just a few sessions of EMDR in the last couple of months things that had been making me non functional are now much more manageable. I don’t simply mean that I can deal with them,  I mean they aren’t nearly as intense and in some cases aren’t even issues for me anymore.

We need to get this response under control

The fight or flight response what the ex is counting on and the more it fires off the worse it is. It also leaves two really lousy choices for our children—either be the abuser or be the one reacting to the abuse. (Don’t think just because you may not talk about it or act out in front of them they can’t sense it). I hope you’ll check EMDR out. It’s not the only thing I am working with, but I’ll leave that for other posts in this series. I certainly would love to hear about other things people may be having success with. Photo by qimono (Pixabay)

Plan “P”

I said to my friend Suz Remus that if what we are all working on is getting too much resistance to go to a plan “B”. She said, and I realize rightly so, “THERE IS NO PLAN B.” And so… I’d like to introduce you to plan “P”. Before I go into what I am doing here I want to address the concerns and objections of what I am going talk about beforehand. And I am hoping by doing so I can convey the intent being that this is a marathon not a sprint. Regardless of how fast we are going it still needs to be in a direction that is going to get us where we want. Things that I think will not get us there include:

  • Calling judges and lawyers stupid or corrupt.
  • Calling “the legal system” stupid or corrupt.
  • Calling mental health stupid or corrupt

Things I think will get us there include:

  • Not assuming ill intent from mental health and the legal system. (Assuming a desire to help).
  • Knowing that systems have rules and we should know the rules. For example, trying to play football using the rules of baseball wouldn’t work very well.
  • There can be multiple ways of approaching change, often done in simultaneity.

I am not discounting or glossing over the fact that some people are corrupt. I just don’t think it helps to assume that is the norm. So, I will start with the objections, then the story leading up to, then the approach I am currently taking. I think it important to do it this way to have the context and the reasoning why first. Possible Objections to This Approach

  1. It doesn’t go far enough. A: It’s a start.
  2. It doesn’t directly approach alienation. A: It is solely meant to help determine what is happening.
  3. It doesn’t provide a clear remedy. A: It lets the judge use his or her discretion based on available resources in their county or area.
  4. It’s already being done to some degree. A: This makes it easier to think of without limiting other ideas.
  5. It still allows for ignorance in the legal system. A: Further education needs to continue.
  6. It still allows for ignorance in the mental health system. A: Further education needs to continue.

The Reasoning for This Approach

  1. There is financial incentive for mental health to support this as it means more referrals. There is professional incentive for mental health as it means being able to get to potentially problematic situations faster and help reduce harm to the child.
  2. It provides a way for a closer look to take place in a high conflict situation initiated by the court rather than either a plaintiff or defendant.
  3. It has clear standards that can be identified without interpretation—the “bright line” approach:
    1. Pleadings
    2. Two or three judicially determined violations of custody related court orders

The Story Leading Up to This Approach For about the last year, I have been talking to legislators, their assistants and other people connected with changing and amending laws in my state presenting the idea of pathogenic parenting as a form of child abuse, based on the three diagnostic indicators from the DSM V that Dr. Childress describes in his book, “Foundations“. In mid March, there was a meeting with Dr. Childress from CA, three members of the state psychology board, a state representative phoning in on a conference call, the representative who arranged the meeting, and myself. I was not having a good feeling as there were only supposed to be two people from the board on the call. I was not under the impression that a third person meant they were embracing Dr. Childress’s approach. Unfortunately, this is one of those times I really wish I was wrong, but I wasn’t. Very quickly, it was apparent that the board members were there to shoot down the idea and the discussion was not terribly productive. And so… here is where the story might have ended, but it continues. I was able to help bring the tone of the conversation down and the representative on the call suggested this be turned into a study bill. What I learned in my state is that a bill can either be moved to the next phase of drafting and discussion, become a study bill to collect more information or it goes nowhere. Presently there is a research assistant figuring out the best category for this so it can go to the next phase. I spoke to the representative who arranged the meeting about other possible ways of looking and approaching this at the same time we were gathering information for this bill. He said that doing things in parallel (several things at once) was often the way things got done. And, that it was sometimes a marathon, not a sprint. Dr. Childress contacted me shortly after I got out of the meeting. I admired his attitude. He realized the psychologists didn’t have information about what he was referring to and made it clear he would remain in contact so he could keep the dialogue open and further educate them. He is presently in an ongoing conversation with one of them now. Meanwhile, I was left with thinking “what could we do right now?” What could someone else in another state do if the idea wasn’t greeted like it has been so far in Florida? https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/01342 (Senate version) https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/01279 (Companion House version) I spoke with a long time friend of mine who is an attorney and she pointed out that it is much easier to tighten up a procedure than introduce a new idea, that’s when the idea began to form. I am presenting this so far after many conversations with family law attorneys, some of who hold prominent positions in dealing with abuse and child welfare in my state. They sometimes gently, sometimes with the force of artillery shells, punched holes in the idea where it didn’t work—but the idea remains. I had a very productive conversation with a district court judge last week who helped me further refine this. And Mark Redman, esq. has generously offered to help craft this into legal language. Once that is done I will be making it available to anyone and everyone one who wants it—especially those who have contacted me regarding the information packets I’ve been giving to legislators.

[UPDATE: The legal language has been crafted for this, as it could be integrated into my state’s statute. It is available for anyone who would like a copy. You would need to integrate it into your state’s statute, but it will give you something substantial to go on.]

Plan P: A Procedural Approach to Identifying Abuse and Alienation The Approach Having a discretionary mechanism in place to more quickly get those who are qualified in determining the underlying dynamics involved a high conflict custody situation. The Purpose

  • This is in keeping with the best interest of the child standard.
  • The expedient reduction in the amount of exposure a child has to custody conflict whenever possible to reduce the harm that child suffers as a result.
  • A way to initiate the gathering of more information. NOTHING IS ASSUMED.

Behavioral Criteria 1. Parent one wants split custody or custody where both parents remain actively involved in a child’s life and parent two wants primary / sole / exclusive custody. 2. Parent one follows custody related court orders while parent two does not. A standard to consider here is “pattern in practice’— a multiple number (such as two or three) judicially determined violations. If these criteria are met, it serves as a guide for the judge to get someone qualified in determining the underlying dynamics involved to find out what is going on. There is already wide latitude a judge has in what that means. Based on locale and income, it could be anything from a full custody evaluation to a trained GAL. For example: Rule 17 of the rules of civil procedure, which includes the appointing of a Guardian Ad Litum to help determine the best interests of child. An overview can be found here: http://www.nccourts.org/Citizens/CPrograms/Improvement/Documents/Galrule17-0909.pdf It might also mean nothing can be offered if the parties are indigent and there is no funding to provide something. But that is the case right now anyway. A longer-term goal of this being in place would be to initiate and promote discussion on how to provide better alternatives throughout the states. Notes:

  1. Phrased as “including but not limited to” to make sure it’s not narrowing options a judge might want to use.
  2. By being spelled out, it is easier to think of for those too busy to make the inference themselves from the current guidelines.
  3. It can bring those who are biased against the idea that PA even exists right along side those that know it does. Since this simply looks for a closer examination it can give the opportunity to uncover what is going on.

I look forward to feedback and support. If we could get many voices calling for this it would at least get the ball moving down the field further… 07/30/2018 UPDATE: We have a draft bill!! Read more here and download the PDF. We need your help.   Photo by geralt (Pixabay)

Trust the Alienator

Last year, as I was embarking on what was to be the hardest year of my life in many respects, I was at a hearing that was to determine a temporary custody arrangement. It was already more than a year of delays and an absurd arrangement that, thanks to a notoriously overloaded court system, went on for much longer than my lawyer and I could have ever imagined. The time my child would see their father was even less than the custody evaluator recommended, partly because it was clear that an unfounded lie made by my ex and her sister stuck with the judge. I could have likely easily refuted it and proven it was not true but there wasn’t enough time. But even that order was stayed because more high drama had occurred. My child, who had at that point been with their mother over 95% of the time with no overnights had said I touched them inappropriately. Even though their therapist knew within 72 hours it was based on an old accusation which was labled uninvestigated by CPS—that triggered the judge to order a potential reunification/psychosexual evaluation. My lawyer at the time said something I think bears repeating to targeted parents: Trust the alienator to be who they are. “Trust the pattern.” This is a crucial truth. The alienators cannot help themselves. The doctor who performed the evaluation decided that a psychosexual evaluation was the way to go, even though three other psychologists stated that they did not believe anything had occurred. The evaluation turned out to be so useless that when she submitted it, no one—not my attorney, not my ex’s attorney, nor the judge thought it presented anything of value. During this time (the evaluator took a while) there was another accusation (see “Unfounded” parts one and two), an attempt at an ex parte motion for custody that was denied, and a CPS investigation that was launched 18 days later. I spoke with Dorcy Pruter a little bit about this mess and how long it had gone on. She pointed out that oftentimes when she works with clients for hearings, she puts together detailed timelines. While I didn’t have the cool sounding software or the resources to put together what she can, I was able to put together something comprehensive that shows the pattern of my ex’s behaviors. I believe it is VITALLY important to put together timelines to provide wider perspective. The alienator relies on emotional arguments and the distortion of time and reality to fool and sway people. They do not want people to look at the long term in any sort of objective way. I presented my timeline to the police and the CPS investigator along with corroborating court documents and other evidence to support what I was asserting.  It showed a very clear pattern of behavior had been occurring for over a year and a half. In my case, I believe it helped in a significant way. That, along with the other psychologists’ statements lead to CPS finding my ex was attempting to alienate our child from their father as well as coach them and the police dropping the case. I will leave commenting on the absurdity of why our child remained (and still remains) with their mother for another time. I wish this was a silver bullet and I admit there are many factors. But being able to show people a pattern of behaviors is a far better, far more effective tool than trying to out-emotionally persuade.  You are just no match for the alienator. So instead, Trust the alienator to be who they are. Trust the pattern. Use that to your advantage. Photo by PIRO4D (Pixabay)

Petty Tyrants

We owe it to ourselves and our children to show them that no matter what life throws at us, we can choose to use it to our advantage whenever possible. I do not think everyone who reads this will like it. But I also think it’s crucial to examine what got us here and how we can move forward in a meaningful way. The following comes from a talk on how to approach the situations we or those we care about are in from the perspective of how we can become stronger, more capable, and kinder people as a result.

Petty Tyrants

(Reposted with permission) “A petty tyrant is a tormentor. Someone who either holds the power of life and death over warriors or simply annoys them to distraction.” —Carlos Casteneda The inspiration for this, and the quotes I refer to throughout– come from the book “The Fire From Within”– the 8th in a series of books by Carlos Castaneda, a man who goes through transformative experiences that shape his life and his destiny in ways unimaginable to him at the beginning of the series. And certainly, for me, that has been my experience of transformative experience. Starting from a certain point, having an earth-shattering experience, being left standing in the same place, yet knowing everything has shifted. I know that I would prefer the earth shattering experiences not happen, but also recognize that without them I wouldn’t be able to continually be in the process of evolving back into being what Joseph Campbell describes as being “fully human.” This means living a life that is truly yours- the one you were meant to live, the one that’s been imprinted in you from the moment you were born, rather than anything else. I don’t subscribe to the belief that just because we are breathing and go through life that we are automatically fully human. Most don’t ever wake up from their slumber. Most sleepwalk and if they do get one a wake-up call – they slap that snooze button as soon as they can, roll over, and continue snoring away. Now I am not saying this is good or bad. I’m saying it depends on what we want. For those who wish to be warriors- this means giving up wishing it were some way other than it is. It means – they aren’t seduced by the notion that when that “thing” happens- like finding love they feel is missing, getting financially secure enough, (whatever THAT means), getting enough control over the things in their life- whatever… THEN they will be happy, warriors have decided to give up most everything they’ve found comfortable and familiar. Certainly, no small resolution. Certainly, no small task. And – it will be riddled with plenty of pitfalls, mistakes, and messy situations. I don’t think deciding to be a warrior is something one casually comes up with one day pleasantly chatting over a cup of coffee with a friend at the local Starbucks. I do think though, that when cross-roads in life appear – that with some idea of a roadmap – a point from which to start and refer to along the way in the midst of upheaval and change – that it IS possible to use what can seem like the worst situations to decidedly move forward in the journey to having the lives we’ve always wanted for ourselves. So- what is the biggest obstacle to becoming fully human and how can we overcome it? Carlos Castaneda says, “Self-importance is our greatest enemy. Think about it–what weakens us is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of our fellow men. Our self-importance requires that we spend most of our lives offended by someone.” When we are reactionary, we are easy targets of upset and manipulation by those who wish to gain power over us. We fall prey to manipulative flattery as well as deliberate words and actions designed to agitate. The truth is, little of what anyone says or does to us is about us at all. It is about their playing out their own perceptions of the world onto others. Carlos Castaneda goes on to say, “Every effort should be made to eradicate self-importance from the lives of warriors. Without self-importance we are invulnerable.” This makes me think of a serious misconception can arise when thinking about what he is saying. Many people mistake taking offense or being upset as taking a stand; a way of demonstrating strength. It ISN’T. Any of the martial arts traditions point out that in battle, the person who is most upset will lose. It is the person who remains calm, quiet, and focused who will win. This is because he or she turns their focus on what is happening outside and what needs to be done or not done in that moment and with how much intensity, in order to deal with the situation. It does NOT mean doing nothing, or allowing unacceptable behavior to happen without a response. Think about it. What could we do if we couldn’t be offended or upset? No matter what someone did or said in front of us- we could quickly perceive it was about them and their perceptions and not us at all? And so, for warriors, there is a process of moving from being offended and easily upset, to invulnerability. Some encounter someone or some situation in their lives that can become the fire for burning away self-importance. Carlos refers to these as petty tyrants. He continues, “ Warriors take strategic inventories. They list everything they do.  In the strategic inventories of warriors, self-importance figures as the activity that consumes the greatest amount of energy, hence, their effort to eradicate it. One of the first concerns of warriors is to free that energy in order to face the unknown with it. The action of rechanneling that energy is impeccability. The most effective strategy for rechanneling that energy consists of six elements that interplay with one another. Five of them are called the attributes of warriorship: control, discipline, forbearance, timing, and will. They pertain to the world of the warrior who is fighting to lose self-importance. The sixth element, which is perhaps the most important of all, pertains to the outside world and is called the petty tyrant. A petty tyrant is a tormentor. Someone who either holds the power of life and death over warriors or simply annoys them to distraction. Petty tyrants teach us detachment. The strategy not only gets rid of self-importance; it also prepares warriors for the final realization that impeccability is the only thing that counts in the path of knowledge.” Carlos then goes on to say, “Four attributes are all that is needed to deal with the worst of petty tyrants, provided, of course, that a petty tyrant has been found. The petty tyrant is the outside element, the one we cannot control and the element that is perhaps the most important of them all. The warrior who stumbles on a petty tyrant is a lucky one. You’re fortunate if you come upon one in your path, because if you don’t you have to go out and look for one. The mistake average people make in confronting petty tyrants is not to have a strategy to fall back on; the fatal flaw is that average people take themselves too seriously; their actions and feelings, as well as those of the petty tyrant’s, are all-important. Warriors, on the other hand, not only have a well-thought-out strategy but are free from self-importance. What restrains their self-importance is that they have understood that reality is an interpretation we make. Petty tyrants take themselves with deadly seriousness while warriors do not. What usually exhausts us is the wear and tear on our self-importance. To tune the spirit when someone is trampling on you is called control. Instead of feeling sorry for himself or herself, a warrior immediately goes to work mapping the petty tyrant’s strong points, their weaknesses, their quirks of behavior. To gather all this information while they are beating you up is called discipline. A warrior knows that he or she is waiting and what he or she is waiting for. Right there is the great joy of warriorship. Timing is the quality that governs the release of all that is held back. Control, discipline, and forbearance are like a dam behind which everything is pooled. Timing is the gate in the dam. Forbearance means holding back with the spirit something that the warrior knows is rightfully due. It doesn’t mean that a warrior goes around plotting to do anybody mischief, or planning to settle past scores. Forbearance is something independent. As long as the warrior has control, discipline, and timing, forbearance assures giving whatever is due to whoever deserves it. To be defeated by a small-fry petty tyrant is not deadly, but devastating. Anyone who joins the petty tyrant is defeated. To act in anger, without control and discipline, to have no forbearance, is to be defeated. After warriors are defeated they either regroup themselves or they abandon the quest for knowledge and join the ranks of the petty tyrants for life. ” _____________________ We cannot have wholeness and completeness without embracing all aspects of ourselves and practicing control, discipline, and timing in all areas of our lives. A dedication to continually developing these skills lead to a diminishing sense of self-importance, and in so doing we become less and less of a target for which people can wear us down. WE decide to be kind and generous people, not because anyone has necessarily been kind or generous to us, but because WE decide that’s who WE want to be. And when we do it from the standpoint of being a warrior, we also possess the ability to become as fierce as we need to be should the situation call for it, because we have an internal reference point which is stable and unwavering, no matter what is occurring on the outside. We are truly un-offendable. We are empowered and empowering. Here are what I would like to offer as take-aways from those who choose to be warriors:

  1. We are going to make mistakes and it is going to be messy. And there will sometimes be big consequences. Keep going anyway.
  2. Kindness and generosity are a choice we make, not something a reaction what someone says or does. Kindness and generosity are the true honoring of another person, not the avoidance of saying a potentially offensive thing.
  3. We are going to make mistakes and it is going to be messy. And there will sometimes be big consequences. Keep going anyway.
  4. To have those situations or petty tyrants in our lives that are unfair or cruel can either be viewed with misery and resentment or as an opportunity to become the fully developed human beings we have always wanted to be. The key is to do everything we can to rid ourselves of self-importance. To the degree we can do that is the degree to which we become invincible.
  5. We are going to make mistakes and it is going to be messy. And there will sometimes be big consequences. Keep going anyway.
  6. Getting knocked down or drawn in by people who are trying to drag us into their own misery is only as temporary or permanent a situation as we let it be. We can get up. And the way we get up is by getting up. We are aware of our own inherent inner strength and stability, and where we want to go, not waiting for a situation to change in a way we think it should change or to feel better before we act.

Male Warrior Photo by Nick_H (Pixabay) Female Warrior Photo by Mysticsartdesign (Pixabay)

Campaign Letter For Targeted Parents

Hi! Okay – you’ve asked, “How can I help”? Well, here is how!

This letter is from Suz Remus, a targeted parent and friend who I mentioned in my previous post who stopped believing the lie that she was powerless and has been instrumental in getting a bill sponsored, written, and posted in both the FLA House and senate to effectively combat the child psychological abuse that is PA. Please look at this letter—YOUR HELP IS WANTED, NEEDED, AND WILL HELP MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Download Campaign Letter to Targeted Parents

This is Huge

Today, a bill was published on the FLA legislative website addressing Child Psychological Abuse in FLA.Congratulations, Suz Remus and Dr. Childress! To see a description, go here: https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/01342/?Tab=BillText To see the actual bill, go here: https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/1342/BillText/Filed/PDF AND remember this– Suz is not a lobbyist. She is a targeted parent who stopped believing the lie that she was alone and powerless. I have made the representatives I’ve been speaking with aware of this in my state. I am hoping this will make it more real to them and also help them in the work they are already doing on crafting something similar here since it’s been done there already. And… I am not a lobbyist. I am a targeted parent who stopped believing the lie that I was alone and powerless. The new day is coming….

Which Wolf are you Feeding?

“A grandparent is talking with their grandchild and says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other. One of them represents things like peace, bravery, and love. The other represents things like upset, despair, and fear. The grandchild stops and thinks about it for a second. The grandchild asks, ‘Which one wins?’ The grandparent quietly replies, ‘The one you feed.'” – Parable of Two Wolves I was recently looking through some Facebook posts in the groups I belong to that address parental alienation and I was struck by one person’s post in particular. It was a targeted parent who had taken a photo of themselves while expressing great distress over the loss of the child in their life. This really struck me because my experience of being targeted has certainly resulted in times where I have experienced great anguish as well. While it is helpful to know we are not alone I think this is not a useful thing to post or encourage others to do. This anguish and this pain is exactly what the alienators want to cause. It not only gives them satisfaction, it gives them a sense of power and it causes more discord between us and our children. It perpetuates a soul-killing cycle. Over the last couple of years of my own situation and listening to others, I think it is important to be aware as to how we may perpetuate the dynamic. I suspect it may be that part of the reason we ended up with alienators is because of an internal dynamic going on with us that although horrific—is also familiar. I suspect some of us realize this and are taking steps to make our own internal experience more stable, while others may think it is happening “to” them and they by and large feel like victims. I am not saying that the alienators are not perpetrating emotional and psychological abuse, but my experience is that if I perceive something as only happening “to” me then I have no ability to stop or change it.  I can’t have that experience and be there for my child with the very limited time I have with them. Instead, I am very focused on how I can be more of the person I am when I feel whole and connected—and stay focused on being that way when my child is around me. I do this through finding anything I can to be grateful for (like health, the fact that my child is in my life), staying connected with others who want the same things and taking care of myself on a daily basis as best I can. I  believe it has made a world of difference in my child’s experience and why they have not rejected me even though their mother has been going to extraordinary lengths to try and erase me from their life. 
I know some of us don’t have any contact but I think that we can always get to a better place and leave doors open. I don’t know what the future will bring – I am cautiously optimistic things will get better as the court system is finally seeing a pattern in my ex’s behavior and steps are being taken to try and repair my relationship with my child. But I don’t know what that will look like or how long it will take. This system remains very broken and I am doing the best I can within it. Here are some things I do know:

  1. I want to enjoy the time I have with my child and have them enjoy the time they spend with me.
  2. I want to stay educated on what’s happening so I know the best ways to respond. For me, I know learning about Childress‘s work and the attachment based parental alienation (AB-PA) approach to this has made all the difference.
  3. I want to fight for change for the children who won’t have to go through what ours are going through.

Photo by InspiredImages (Pixabay)

You Can’t Fix PAS (Why AB-PA fits in ALL Alienation Cases)

Recently, I saw a post on a Facebook about yet another attempt at making the PAS (syndrome) model of parental alienation go more mainstream. I saw someone get annoyed but I think—barring those who are allies of the disordered thinking and behaving that creates PA in the first place—that education is valuable. First off, I think the intentions of those coming at this from the Parental Alienation SYNDROME approach are good.

You Can’t Fix or Untangle PAS

But… I think the story of the Gordian Knot and Alexander the Great is very fitting here. The Gordian Knot was a knot that was tangled and fused together over decades, with ever increasing complexity. It had become such a mess that people said it was beyond untangling. When Alexander the Great came and saw it, people wondered how he would (or if he could) untangle it. Many had tried and failed. He looked at it—then took his sword out and in one bold stroke, sliced it in two.

More of the Gordian Knot

There are also those who break this PA dynamic into different types. They say that a “type 1” alienator who doesn’t know they are alienating or “type 2” alienator both who, after some education and possible therapy stop somehow doesn’t fit into the Childress / attachment-based parental alienation (AB-PA) model and needs some sort of different solution. The dynamic of child psychological abuse is the dynamic of child psychological abuse. If someone hits their child because they’re drunk or because of let’s say an anger issue can correct it with some education and therapy they have still abused their child. The child still bears the pain and harm of that action. It’s great if it stops, but you don’t say it’s something other than abuse. Trying to say that someone who doesn’t see it as abuse and won’t stop without direct and sustained intervention is the only time its abuse is ludicrous.

The Precision of the AB-PA Approach

While of course, Dr. Childress doesn’t wield a literal sword, his approach without a doubt clearly and precisely cuts through the intractable problem of the of the PAS paradigm. It uses clearly established and accepted constructs and is based on a specific cluster of observable behaviors exhibited by the child. I think one of the biggest hurdles is letting go of the old unworkable approach and recognizing how simple and obvious the AB-PA model is.

Parental Alienation “Syndrome” is a Bad Model for this Pathology

While I get the unified pain and the passion for addressing a parent poisoning their child or children against the other, I encourage anyone learning more about this to check out this post from Dr. Childress. It is very important to get the differences in this approach. We’ve had over 30 years of this “syndrome” approach and it has done little more than create a false “controversy” and trying to say something that is already identifiable and observable is something new.

See the blog post here:

PAS is a Bad Model for a Pathology

I Got Fired by my Therapist

So, I had an experience yesterday that I’d never had before. I walked into my therapist’s office and there was this look on her face I had never seen before. I had been seeing her for a little over a year, something the custody evaluator said I should do. I’m certainly not saying I have no flaws, but even as the therapist herself confirmed, there wasn’t an overly pressing reason for me to be there other than to help respond to the stress I have been experiencing as a response to my ex’s behaviors. Being false allegations of sexual abuse, even when you know it’s made up and it’s confirmed to be false by both CPS and the police is stressful. These last 26 months since I got the strength to leave my ex-wife have been stressful beyond anything I could have imagined. Mostly because of her utter disregard for our child’s well-being and the lengths she has gone to keep our child away from their father. And I get this stuff isn’t for the faint of heart. So, back to what turned out to be my final visit to this therapist yesterday. She had said from the beginning that she did not want to be involved with the court system and she felt like it was becoming more and more of a possibility that she might have to deal with it. In addition, she got a report from the evaluator who did a psychosexual evaluation and was told she could not share its contents with me. I scratch my head to understand that logic—if anyone in the psychological field could explain it to me in the comments section I’d surely appreciate it. But one thing was becoming apparent, this was too much for her. She asked me if I knew what my child had been saying and I said yes. She said I hadn’t told her. I became even more puzzled and reminded her I showed her the motion my ex’s lawyer had filed (see he denied their motion) back in June. She said she may have glossed over it. I started realizing this person was deleting and forgetting things, perhaps unconsciously but no matter why she wasn’t up for dealing with this. She made a comment that this had been going on for way too long and she was out of her depth. So, she recommended a forensic psychologist, wished me well and I was out the door. I looked up the professional code of ethics. While it looks like she did this according to the guidelines I was a bit disappointed she just ejected me like that. BUT… If the last almost 2 years have taught me anything it is to roll with the punches or get run over by them.  I went home, started making phone calls and the first person I reached sounded just as freaked out and said she wouldn’t consider working with me. I was sitting there feeling like these tactics by my ex and her lawyer were working—the strategy being just scare and spook anyone they can—to destroy relationships inside of my support structure.  I finally remembered I have a friend who is a clincal psychologist and I got a hold of her.  Good reminder—when in doubt finding someone with more experience and familiarity with an issue is a good idea. She helped me sort out the situation and gave me great advice on who to look for. Here is what she helped me figure out:

  1. I do NOT need a forensic psychologist. There have been two of those involved with this process already in addition to two other therapists working with my child. CPS has made a definitive determination that I have not done anything and that my ex-wife has been coaching and trying to alienate our child from me.
  2. My ex’s lawyer is making a lot of noise. She’s good at that. But the noise does nothing to change the findings, SO…
  3. I need to find a therapist who has experience in trauma (she said 10 years plus) and won’t be phased by this sort of stuff.

Well, as unbelievable as it may sound, 90 minutes later I was calling the phone number of someone listed on the http://www.psychologytoday.com website,  and this totally chill voice answers. Trauma among her specialties, 12 years experience. I told her the story of my situation and she says, “Well, sometimes court appearances happen. Not much phases me.” She has a sliding scale which makes it affordable since I have no insurance. I have an appointment next Wednesday. Right now I am feeling very grateful for the support, both seen and unseen I seem to be having so much of during this journey. Photo by ratneshsaxena

Children raised in difficult circumstances show enhanced mental flexibility in adulthood

While none of us want this to be happening to our children, one of the most effective tools I have cultivated is to make the most of any contact I do have.  And one of those ways is to give my child all the reinforcement I can that they are OK, so the adversity can be harnessed to their benefit whenever possible. Check out this article: The adaptive mind: Children raised in difficult circumstances show enhanced mental flexibility in adulthood

Photo by peasap

Child Custody Case Continued Again… 21 Months and Counting

This last Thursday was going to be the day I finally got to get into court for the custody review hearing. This time, it got continued until December 20th, along with the order to show cause hearing because CPS didn’t send the right documentations to the court house and we (my ex’s lawyer and myself) could see what CPS along with other professionals have reported on the evaluations my child has been put through for the last 21 months now. This time, it was a valid reason, but it still stems from the “mysterious” and “coincidental” false sexual abuse allegation from July 1, 18 days after the June 13 emergency custody motion was denied. By the time this gets heard now, it will be 21 months since my ex-spouse manipulated my visitation with my child down to almost nothing, 13 months from the temporary custody hearing from which the unconscionable arrangement was extended for what was supposed to be 4 weeks while we switched out child’s therapists. And now, having been cleared of any wrongdoing, it will be 5 more months, not because anyone thinks this arrangement makes any sense (well, anyone but my ex) but because we can’t get in front of the judge. In the meantime, my child is getting a little older (she’s 8 now) and is getting more familiar with the territory, and she doesn’t like it.  There was a bit of a small frustrated outburst today about her lack of overnights with me. It’s a tough call to be in the position of doing what I can to be sure she is not drawn into the middle of this but also acknowledging her frustration.  I told her I’m working on it, and that I’ve never stopped working on it. I mean, she knows who’s doing this. It’s still my job to not blame.  But on  days like this, I’ll admit it’s difficult. I know she isn’t wanting to choose sides, she wants both of us. As I’ve said many times, she didn’t divorce either mom or dad. It’s helpful for me to remember that at least the judge has some idea that mom is not behaving appropriately. And I hope it will actually get heard on this date. I remain cautiously optimistic but also know the ex’s gameplan is to do everything  she can to keep her child away from dad at all costs so I don’t think anything’s a guarantee. So, as I have been doing, I’ll continue to make the moments I do have count. Photo by johnrosman

Unfounded (Part 2)

This post is about strategies for getting what we need from a very broken system. I don’t think anyone who has encountered the family court and Child Protective Services system would say that it functions well. But what i am looking for are ways that it can be navigated—ways that we can approach these institutions and get as much as we can from them that actually help our situation. I am sure there are corrupt people, but I am going to go with the assumption that not everything is set in stone from the beginning and we do have things we can do. In my post Putting out the Fire with Gasoline, I touched on the importance of not feeding the alienator with getting emotional. I am seeing this as a theme all through this process. Getting upset does nothing but entrench what doesn’t work well already into getting worse.  Not to say there isn’t a time and place for displaying emotion, but the court or CPS system is NOT it. We (my ex and I)  had a parenting plan meeting. I was fortunate enough to have a support person there who helped me keep calm throughout the process. He is familiar with CPS in particular and said afterwards that my affect was probably one of the biggest deciding factors in the outcome. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Know what you want before you go in.  I had to listen to them say things about me I knew weren’t true. It is counterproductive to try and convince them why they are wrong. I am not saying don’t address things you think are inaccurate, just don’t mistake convincing them they are wrong with the goals you are after.
  2. Go slow and stay calm. If you’re like me you may get riled up, especially when you know what’s been going on and the crap the other parent has been pulling. I practiced for a week speaking at 1/2 the speed I normally talk at to make sure I was coming across calm and measured. I probably slowed down 1/3 in the meeting but even that was dramatic.
  3. Be cooperative. Right or wrong,  if you try to correct the system’s flaws you will do little more than put the system in defensive mode. Find out what they need you to do that you can show, then do it. Give them what they want and keep your child in your life OR try and show you’re right and risk losing them.
  4. Go above and beyond. I am doing 2 activities above what they are requiring to show I am committed to making the changes they want to see. Show you’re willing to go all in.
  5. Remember that these are people, not a “system”. These people there have to cover their asses, and will err on the side of caution. They also can’t tell if a fighting couple is just really angry with each other or if it represents a true danger to the child. If you don’t get upset when your ex gets upset, it can’t escalate. Staying calm de-escalates everything. And, it is likely some workers, if not most, are there because of personal experiences and are likely already wired to overreact to stress and tension.  Refer to point #2.

<< “Unfounded” Part 1 Photo by ambermb (Pixabay)

Why Family Courts Fail

This articleaddresses the heart of this issue. It is the mechanism by which what are calling parental alienation occurs. It is the focal point of where legislative change should be aimed. It empowers mental health to act because they would be required to, give the legal system much better direction and short-circuit a lot of the behaviors that are clogging up an already overloaded court system.     Photo by ohioduidefense (Pixabay)

Unfounded (Part 1)

Some encouraging and some frustrating developments. In this episode, the outcome of the criminal/Child Protective Services investigation. To recap:  On July 1, after a failed attempt by my ex and her lawyer to get an ex parte motion granted by the judge based on coached statements by my child that I had inappropriately touched them, a complaint “mysteriously” surfaced with Child Protective Services with the same allegations. While I’m not sure if it’s the same in all states, in my state they launched a criminal and a CPS investigation. On August 25, I called the police detective who interviewed me four weeks prior and he said that they had closed the case, that they determined the allegations to be unfounded. Three weeks later, CPS determined the abuse allegations to be unsubstantiated. However, they did substantiate emotional neglect against my ex whom they determined—in part because of other mental health professionals who have been involved—has been coaching our child and engaging in alienating behaviors that are causing emotional distress. Big sigh of relief on that one. But of course, as has been since the beginning of the story, it’s not as clean as it might initially sound. CPS told my ex that if she does not stop it, she risks losing the child to foster care.  After the wave of relief washed over me that they had to at least some degree gotten it right, it registered that they said, “losing the child to foster care”.  I asked them why foster care instead of me? The reason, they stated, was that they also substantiated emotional neglect against me. Why? Here is their rationale:

  1. I am being what they called “emotionally reactive”, a term my therapist says isn’t any kind of diagnosis. They were not able to give me a clear definition as to what that meant.
  2. A comment my child made about something I supposedly said (which I didn’t and which I can’t figure out why they would take seriously given that 1. It’s hearsay and 2. It’s coming from a child who they’ve determined has been coached),
  3. My child finding out that I had given some materials on parental alienation to my child’s therapist.

What I think is that CPS went through a custody evaluation which was done last year rather than do another evaluation on our child. They said that the child was to undergo no more evaluations. That was good, but they seemed to be unable or unwilling to take in any new information. For example, they did not know that I ad been seeing a therapist and did not change their report even when the therapist wrote a letter stating my diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety (F4322), my substantial progress, and that my reactions have not been outside of normal range responses to the high amounts of stress my ex’s behaviors have caused. I have made it clear to them though that although I do not agree with their finding or their reasoning, I want to do whatever they need me to do so they will close the case and make me the parent our child would go to if my ex can’t help herself. I am less interested in trying to have them see my point then making sure our child doesn’t go to strangers. “Unfounded” Part 2 >> Photo by Pezibear (Pixabay)

What to do if CPS (or DSS or DYFS) Contacts You

What should you do if Child Protective Services contacts you with allegations you know to be false? In some states this is referred to as CPS, in others, it is DSS or DYFS but it’s still the same type of organization. In the midst of my divorce, my ex has made numerous false allegations to CPS. I think this is going to be coming back around to bite her as the judge is now aware of the pattern, but it doesn’t lessen the stress of the situation while it’s happening. The main reason I am writing about this is because there is a LOT of material on the web that seems to follow a potentially dangerous and disastrous theme.  The line of thinking for some reason is that CPS is always out to get you and you should do everything possible to stop them from entering your home or talking to you. If you are being falsely accused, this attitude will only make your situation worse. I am very lucky to have good information on how this process actually tends to work. I have also been told to stop looking on the Internet because so many of the examples are extreme cases and cases that do not fit my circumstances. I’d like to address some the most popular myths and misconceptions. As a disclaimer, I am speaking only of my own experiences and opinions here in the hopes it may be helpful.

And again, I am assuming you have been falsely accused.

Myth #1: Child Protective Services is there to incriminate you and will twist anything you say to do so. Reality: CPS in most states is under-budgeted and resources are stretched very thin. While they initially have to assume the reports are true, the worker or workers who show up are looking for reasons to move on from you and on to the real cases of abuse that they have to deal with. They have to address any and all reports with very specific time frames and are trying to gather information to make one of 2 eventual determinations- substantiated or unsubstantiated. Myth #2: Saying nothing, confronting, and making the CPS worker get a warrant is your best course of action. Reality: Cooperating, telling the truth, and staying as calm as possible will make their jobs easier and make it easier for them to move on from you. (While I’d like to say I have been 100% calm—the sheer shock of the latest allegation did put me on my heels for a little bit but I did regain composure as quick as possible which helped.) The workers are trained to understand the stress of the situations they are causing and most of them will be at least a little understanding.  While it is likely very difficult to stay calm it is important to do so or regain composure as quickly as possible. Remember also that they have to consider their own physical safety when they are at your home so being calm goes a long way. The majority of situations that escalate like police involvement while the worker or workers are there are because emotions run high. Myth #3: The sources and stories you find on the Internet about Child Protective Services are neutral. Reality: In high school, I got a piece of advice from a teacher that has stuck with me for many years now. He said when listening to anyone, consider the source. If you can’t help yourself and  you do look online for more information on the subject, look at the site itself. The legal profession makes its money by billing you for hours. Many times, if you are scared and angry you’re more likely to hire them. So, is it a law firm site? Does it refer to a law firm? If so, make sure you understand their potential motivations. I’m not saying that hiring a lawyer is never a good idea—and that there aren’t firms that really want to help resolve things, I’m suggesting that you just step back and consider the context in which you’re making that decision. If the site is not a law firm site, what were the circumstances surrounding the dramatic behavior they are describing? Remember that every situation is unique. Comparing yours to someone else’s especially without knowing everything that leads up to it will likely give you an inaccurate answer. If they do decide to take your children from the home, or if, like me, they stop allowing visitation until the investigation is complete, gather all supporting evidence you can and present it to the investigator as soon as possible. Keep the long view. You must be bigger than the feelings you are having at any given moment. Otherwise, you play right into your ex’s hands. (See my post Putting out the Fire With Gasoline) If your ex is trying to manipulate the court for a custody arrangement—in the long run this type of unfounded accusation will likely come back to haunt them as long as you don’t give them fodder (upset) to work with.

Wikipedia Entry on AB PA

Attachment-Based Parental Alienation (AB-PA)

Term coined by Dr. Craig Childress to describe a way of identifying parental alienation. It differs significantly from Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) in that it draws on already accepted diagnostic indicators listed in the DSM-5 to properly diagnose child psychological abuse. When all 3 are present, and only when all 3 are present, can this diagnosis be made.

Once made, however, it is a reliable way to demonstrate abuse is occurring and, unlike the present more widely viewed paradigm of PAS, can enable mental health and the legal system to act on behalf of a child quickly and effectively.

Diagnostic Indicators and Diagnosis:

309.4  Adjustment Disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct V61.20 Parent-Child Relational Problem V61.29 Child Affected by Parental Relationship Distress V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed

Top 15 Things to Know About Attachment-Based Parental Alienation (AB-PA)

  1. Hofer & C.A. Childress, 2016 1. The only thing Attachment-Based Parental Alienation (AB-PA) has in common with “Parental Alienation Syndrome” (PAS) are the words “Parental Alienation”. 2. AB-PA answers the question “what is the scientifically based psychology behind parental alienation?” 3. AB-PA is not a theory; it is composed entirely of established and accepted peer-reviewed psychological literature.  The application of standard and fully accepted psychological constructs and principles to a set of symptoms is called “diagnosis.” 4. AB-PA does not describe a mental illness; it describes a specific set of symptoms in a child which will lead a psychologist to a clinical DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed. 5. AB-PA describes a form of pathogenic parenting, which is a clinical term for parenting behavior that is so aberrant and distorted that it creates psychopathology in a child. 6. AB-PA cannot be rejected by the mental health system because it is entirely drawn from their work. 7. AB-PA provides psychologists with a set of three clinical diagnostic indicators (symptoms) which must all be present in the child. 8. AB-PA is based entirely on the symptoms being displayed by the child; no other person needs to be clinically assessed for symptoms. 9. AB-PA shows how the three symptoms are each evidence of a different psycho-pathology being created in the child. 10. AB-PA describes how the combination of these three psychopathologies can only be created in a child through pathogenic parenting. 11. AB-PA can reliably and consistently make the distinction between ‘oppositional defiant’ children and ‘alienated children.’ 12. AB-PA can reliably and consistently make the distinction between authentic child abuse and false allegations of abuse made by a child who is being influenced by pathogenic parenting. 13. AB-PA cannot be misused by an abusive parent to trick the court system into giving them custody. 14. AB-PA can be used by your child’s psychologist today. A confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse will activate the psychologist’s ‘duty to protect’ and require them to report the abuse to child protective services. 15. AB-PA gives targeted parents the power to hold psychologists accountable for standards of professional competence in assessments, diagnosis, and treatment.

Applying Pressure to Mental Health

Lance Neilson No compromising I think we all need to be aware that mental health by-and-large misses this very real form of child abuse and that we must take action to educate and hold these professionals accountable for their actions. With the Attachment-Based Parental Alienation (AB-PA) approach, (not Parental Alienation Syndrome or PAS) we can help provide clear guidelines for assessing and then giving mental health the ability to act to protect the children they are treating. The final stage of my wake-up call came a little while back when I was talking with Dorcy Pruter about my child and the therapist who is seeing her. I commented that I was glad my child had someone who wasn’t buying my ex’s stories and a place they could go every week to de-stress. Dorcy asked what the therapist was doing to assess my child according to the 3 diagnostic indicators described by Dr. Childress to come up with a diagnosis of child psychological abuse if all indicators were present. I told Dorcy that I didn’t want to antagonize the therapist, that the therapist was helping my child from getting too over stressed over this “situation”—the “situation” being that my ex has been doing everything she can to disrupt and destroy my child’s relationship with me. (See “He Denied Thier Motion” and “The End-Run Nuclear Option” for more details.) Dorcy pointed out from the perspective of one parent to another, that if my child were going to this therapist and was displaying signs of physical abuse, would I be OK with letting my child feel OK for an hour and then sending them back to their abuser? In that very realistic light, the answer was obviously “no.” I know this has brought up some unpleasant realities for me—like feeling as if I rock the boat it could be worse so I should accept the half-assed crappy situation I am in. Reminds me a lot of how I felt in my marriage much of the time, especially towards the end. But I found the strength to get out of the marriage. I can’t stop here. In addition to giving the therapist a copy of The Professional Consultation by Dr. Childress, I wrote a letter to the therapist insisting that she assess my child for Child Psychological Abuse. If she does not do it, nice as she is, I will file a licensing board complaint. I must. I will post on this when I do it, but you can find directions on how to do it on Dr. Chilress’s blog as well. Here is what I said. If any of it helpful, let me know. If you have had better luck with something please share it. Thanks.

DATE Dear [Therapist], I believe that my child is being subjected to Child Psychological Abuse as defined in the DSM-V. FYI- In Florida, there are already 2 legislators co-sponsoring a bill to write into the existing child abuse reporting law to make these included described diagnostic indicators and resulting diagnosis a clear and definitive way to identify and act on this if it occurring. Please think of how my child behaves when she has been with [alienating parent] when assessing vs. when they have been with me. I have never seen a child, mine nor anyone else’s, spend a majority of their time anxious about situations they are not in or a person they are not with [or displaying a haughty / arrogant attitude], think of one parent as all good while the other full of faults, or express a desire to not see another parent when the parent has done nothing to warrant such a reaction. I do not believe this situation with my child is a question of child custody, or that therapy need be limited to a space where they de-stress off the incredible amount of pressure being applied to them by the [alienating parent]’s behavior and the situations [alienating parent] has instigated. I believe this is about child protection—and if that is the case appropriate action must be taken to protect them. Best regards, My name There are three indicators that lead to this diagnosis. The indicators must all be present. Diagnostic Indicators and Diagnosis: 309.4  Adjustment Disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct V61.20 Parent-Child Relational Problem V61.29 Child Affected by Parental Relationship Distress V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed For full post with more detail from Dr. Childress, please go here.

The End-Run Nuclear Option

Photo by Andy In my post from a month ago, He Denied Their Motion, I made the comment that my ex failed to have my child’s father completely removed from their life. I was a bit premature. The story goes on from there, unfortunately. My ex succeeded in doing an end-run around the judge and detonating the nuclear option of custody fights. On July 1, 18 days after the ruling, my ex got my child to say I touched them in front of a not too perceptive CPS worker who bought the story hook line and sinker. The CPS worker actually sat there when I asked about the interview and said that their mother wasn’t where she could hear my child make their statements, as if that somehow meant the statements couldn’t have been influenced. I asked the worker, “Did it occur to you that the abuser was right there out of earshot? That my child would have to go right back with them after they made their statement?” The worker kept saying my child has been saying it to people. And I kept pointing out that 3 therapists who have worked with her have expressed no concerns about this—that one testified in open court that they had no concerns. I kept pointing out the claimed event happened almost a year and a half ago. I asked her if she considered the fact that my child has been with their mother 95% of the time all that time. The investigator said it didn’t matter. So now my child is out of my life except for 10 second goodnight phone calls that must be done in front of their mother about every other day (it took a lot of convincing to get even that) while an investigation goes forward for at least 30 days. The police are now involved. It is clear my ex is willing to destroy my child’s relationship with me, my child’s emotional and psychological well-being, my reputation, my livelihood and even my freedom in order to “win.” I am cautiously optimistic that with the therapists, the long list of character references, including 2 of my best friends who actually were abused willing to come forward and tell the investigator and the police detective that I am one of the safest people they know of to be around, a judge that I presume will not be too happy to hear my ex wife basically gave him the finger—this may have the possibility to start heading in a different direction. But it reminds me that we HAVE to come together and send a clear message to mental health and the legal system about how to identify the types of things my ex has been pulling far sooner in this process. One very important aspect is to clarify our approach so it can be quite clear we are not looking at addressing PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) which is full of controversy, but instead AB-PA (Attachment Based Parental Alienation) which is clear, simple and based on fully accepted psychological constructs and principles.

Top 15 Things Targeted Parents Need to Know About Attachment-Based Parental Alienation (AB-PA)

  1. Hofer & C.A. Childress, 2016

Download PDF: Top 15 Things About AB PA

  1. The only thing Attachment-Based Parental Alienation (AB-PA) has in common with “Parental Alienation Syndrome” (PAS) are the words “Parental Alienation”. 2. AB-PA answers the question “what is the scientifically based psychology behind parental alienation?” 3. AB-PA is not a theory; it is composed entirely of established and accepted peer-reviewed psychological literature.  The application of standard and fully accepted psychological constructs and principles to a set of symptoms is called “diagnosis.” 4. AB-PA does not describe a mental illness; it describes a specific set of symptoms in a child which will lead a psychologist to a clinical DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed. 5. AB-PA describes a form of pathogenic parenting, which is a clinical term for parenting behavior that is so aberrant and distorted that it creates psychopathology in a child. 6. AB-PA cannot be rejected by the mental health system because it is entirely drawn from their work. 7. AB-PA provides psychologists with a set of three clinical diagnostic indicators (symptoms) which must all be present in the child. 8. AB-PA is based entirely on the symptoms being displayed by the child; no other person needs to be clinically assessed for symptoms. 9. AB-PA shows how the three symptoms are each evidence of a different psycho-pathology being created in the child. 10. AB-PA describes how the combination of these three psychopathologies can only be created in a child through pathogenic parenting. 11. AB-PA can reliably and consistently make the distinction between ‘oppositional defiant’ children and ‘alienated children.’ 12. AB-PA can reliably and consistently make the distinction between authentic child abuse and false allegations of abuse made by a child who is being influenced by pathogenic parenting. 13. AB-PA cannot be misused by an abusive parent to trick the court system into giving them custody. 14. AB-PA can be used by your child’s psychologist today. A confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse will activate the psychologist’s ‘duty to protect’ and require them to report the abuse to child protective services. 15. AB-PA gives targeted parents the power to hold psychologists accountable for standards of professional competence in assessments, diagnosis, and treatment.

Putting Out The Fire With Gasoline

https://youtu.be/nBYutYuLdkY Photo by Amanda Govaert “Feel my blood enraged It’s just the fear of losing you Don’t you know my name Well, you been so longAnd I’ve been putting out the fire with gasoline”—David Bowie There is no doubt that losing or being threatened with the loss of a child or children is one of the most painful things parents can ever face. When it happens due to a caretaker’s conscious efforts to make it happen it makes it even worse.  There is good reason to be upset and express that upset. It’s perfectly reasonable. However for those of us being targeted we MUST be unreasonable. If we are dealing with a parent who is looking for any reason to remove our children from our lives, we have to remember that any emotional response is like pouring gasoline on an already burning fire. The other, perhaps even more accurate analogy I use on a regular basis is that it’s like supplying crack to a crack addict.  If we respond with upset, and that means to anyone who is coming from the point of view of what Dr. Childress refers to as the “pathology”, we feed the fire, the addiction. I see this happening consistently with distraught parents who continue to make emotional appeals when the truth is the emotional appeals are not your strength. You’re simply never going to win against someone who uses them to distort reality to manipulate people to get what they want. While I know there is a great deal more to say about this, one thing for sure is that our strength comes from keeping tabs on reality like recordings, documentation, photos, and videos. In addition, it’s easy to look at it in terms of black and white, but that’s never the reality. It may really be 95% – 5% with the other person contributing 95% but we still should be aware of anything we are doing to contribute. Our advantage is that we have the capability of seeing things in shades of grey and as uncomfortable as it might be sometimes, knowing our own issues can help us to correct what we can and stay clear eyed and clear headed. That helps us to remain calm and composed, especially when we are being taunted and provoked by our exes or their allies. For those times we feel like losing it, we do it behind closed doors with friends and loved ones who support us – but never where it can come back to haunt us. Oftentimes, it helps me to remember that this is about my child and I simply cannot indulge my upset because the cost to them is too great.

He Denied Their Motion

Photo by Ronaldo SM I slumped over in my chair in the Family Law office waiting area of the courthouse. I started sobbing uncontrollably—not with sadness, I’ve had several bouts of that the last almost 2 years now in private, but this time in public with relief. My ex wife’s attorney informed me with less than 2 hours to respond that she was going to file a motion for emergency temporary custody. The motion was filled with the types of accusations that would make any parent physically sick—in graphic detail about how my child reported my inappropriately touching them, how they were scared to visit with me, and that they sobbed and begged their mother not to make them go with me. I drafted my very first (as I doubt it will NOT be last—I have run out of money for legal representation & must go on pro se) response motion and ran down to the courthouse, no time to let the horror of the accusations sink in. I had to get the paperwork filed and get it to the clerk so that the judge could read it after reading their accusations. I sat there, waiting. Neither party was allowed to go into the courtroom, they had to wait outside and get the news.  My ex and her lawyer weren’t in the same room, thank goodness. I kept looking over my copy of their motion. This was the type of motion that, if granted, would mean my child would not see me at all until an undetermined time in the future when the 4th (yes the 4th) psychologist involved submitted a report to disprove a negative yet again and a hearing got scheduled in the backed up overloaded court system. More time for my ex to have 100% of the time to continue to give negative reinforcement for any sign of affection or longing from our our child towards their father and positive reinforcement for wild accusations.  It read like it were a case study for Dr. Childress‘s books. More time to make it worse so they could show the judge how much my child didn’t want to see me at all anymore.  The strategy was so clear, and it had been building for a long time. Then the clerk came in and said those 4 magic words, “He denied their motion”. I recognize this is big in that it means the judge may be getting an idea that something isn’t right. That my child has only been saying these things when with my ex and not with any of the professionals my child has been forced to see during the last almost 2 years. I realize how lucky I am to have the type of support I’ve had. Friends with some legal knowledge, friends with good common sense who have told me over and over to stay focused on the objective in any given interaction with my ex or her I suspect personality disordered attorney to NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, get caught up in the rabbit holes they try and get me to go down. They are always trying to get me to emote, do something stupid or talk too much so I can help muddy the waters and make it easier for them to point at irrelevant stuff while they remain singularly focused on winning. No regard for the destruction of my child. Just winning. Today I stayed focused. Today I have not lost my child completely but remain with the 5% of the time I currently have until we get to a temporary custody hearing where it could change, provided this latest report comes back OK. Today the order to show cause / contempt for the withheld visitations over the weekend will still remain in the stack of motions needing the overworked judge’s attention. I will hope he will grant it so at least I can enforce the tiny amount of time my child gets with their father. And yet I am concerned as to how much manipulation my ex was able to exercise over the therapist doing this latest evaluation and how much coaching she did with my child that the therapist will believe is real.  She (the therapist) is unfortunately a Psy.D. who seems to know what she knows and does not seem to want any other information because she already knows it all.  Dr. Childress refers to this as operating outside the bounds of professional competence. I am seeing more and more how many people in mental health are like this. More to come. It is clear this paradigm must shift and I am becoming very actively involved in that process but for today, a small victory.

More Dr. Jean Mercer…

The following is a reply to someone asking about clarification as to Dr. Childress’ methods of helping a child who is suffering from the effects of pathogenic parenting.  The discussion is in comments section of his blog post: Mercer Redux I am addressing the comment Susan made here. Hi Susan, I am addressing the points I saw you make. Let me clarify. When I say two sides, I mean two sides that are automatically assumed to have equal weight or value, and that the answer is some where in the middle. http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Balance_fallacy While I appreciate your encouragement, I was not posting my situation for a personal compliment. I was posting it because it has been my experience over time that making things specific can illustrate a larger situation in a more “concrete” way, rather than putting it into hypothetical terms. Like for example when the news says that the US flew a sortie over XX country and took out a target—we can all sleep better than if was reported and shown as as people bombed out of their homes and you see the blood soaked faces of people where the guts of their former friends and neighbors are sprayed on the streets. Too violent an image? Imagine if that’s how all bombings were shown. i am guessing the outcry against such behavior would begin to grow substantially.  It’s so easy to get lost in a discussion on the theory and lose sight of the fact that children are being harmed—right now. Right now my child is being pressured to hate thier father. Right now my child is scheduled to do a psychosexual assessment—innocence is being messed with because mom wants to try and prove me to be something I’m not, even after three mental health professionals have confirmed there is nothing going on. Dr. Mercer keeps trying to poke holes in Dr. Childress’s position without any other ideas of her own to put into practice right now. She keeps trying to posit that the solution is too complex – which makes people, who deal in concrete ideas less interested and give up or move on. This is another fallacy of thought. It is a tactic of disinformation known as “Enigmas have no solution”. http://www.exitsupportnetwork.com/artcls/mindctrl/disinfo.htm#Enigmas Item #12. At least to me she is someone whose behavior (what I can see “out here in the world”) is consistent with someone aligned with those who do not want anything to change. To answer your other questions, I continue to learn myself, as does Dr. Childress. I think your point is very valid—you don’t want to take the child from one parent and then just put them with the other indefinitely- the same imbalance occurs—the same longing for the child to have both parents still needs to be addressed. Dr. Childress has his own detailed protocols for how to do this, and  works closely with Dorcy Pruter (http://www.consciouscoparentinginstitute.com/) who has a method for addressing the damage done by this dynamic along with how to create functional separated family systems. You can read more about his thoughts in her work here: https://drcraigchildressblog.com/2014/12/02/high-road-to-family-reunification/ I think it’s good to probe for solutions. I agree. I would never have found this work to begin with if I hadn’t been.  And I don’t know if there is a better way. But I am also very much a “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”kind of person. To look for the perfect solution means inaction while we wait. And we cannot wait. So far, this work and this model have far and away been the most effective I have seen in this area in helping children NOW.

Dr. Jennifer Harman

This is interesting. Dr. Harman talks about the gender stereotypes that play into fueling parental alienation and also was that it can be minimized. While I agree wholeheartedly that clearer laws and addressing the stereotypes (I am optimistic) will produce better outcomes in the future, I heard several things she said that can help now. Including: getting a qualified custody evaluator involved. Read up on what Dr. Childress offers as very definable skills a competent mental health professional should possess so you don’t waste time with someone who doesn’t understand the dynamic. No lie, they are expensive. But as my current train-wreck of a financial situation can attest,  I had to decide what was most important. If I simply really could not afford one, getting around other people in a community that counteract the negative information one parent gives can help as well. My church has been beyond helpful in this regard. (I recommend this regardless if there is mental health professional involved or not). https://youtu.be/v3YdldNXZnQ

The Sacred Bond

Happy Mother’s day to all of the mom’s in the world!

If you are separated from your beloved children REMEMBER this important message as this is the truth.

Bonding is the process of development of a close, interpersonal relationship. It most commonly takes place between family members or friends, but can also develop among groups, such as sporting teams and whenever people spend time together. Even animals bond with each other and humans.

Bonding is a mutual, interactive process, and is different from simply liking some one.

Bonding typically refers to the process of ATTACHMENT that develops between romantic partners, close friends, or parents and children, even humans and animals.

This bond is characterized by emotions such as affection and trust.. A BOND ONCE FORMED IS NEVER BROKEN! This has been proven time and time again. Your beloved children love you and are BONDED to you. The bond is tucked deep in their hearts for safe keeping. It is not forgotten and the loving bond is not broken. It is in tucked deep and secure in both your heart and your child’s heart.

The deep pain of the separation is felt by both the beloved parent and beloved child. As the parent, you must find your way back to your beloved children. This is the responsibility of the parent, not the child.

Stay present, Stay Positively Focused, and Take Proactive Action. Your Beloved Children are Counting on YOU.

This video shows the bond between a loving human mother and her two chimps. At minute 4:27 she reunites with the chimps after 18 years of separation and no contact.

PAY ATTENTION to the immediate recognition of their beloved human mother and the joy and connection and unconditionally loving bond after 18 years.

 

This my friends is what we do in the High Road. This my friends is what we experience in the High Road. The High Road is based in love. The High Road brings the loving bond back to the surface for beloved children and their parents. We do this work for the children. We do this work for the child in the parents who needs to be nurtured and loved.

Every High Road we have ever done, has the moment of truth when the authentic child awakens and the loving bond shifts from being hidden in the depths of their heart and into the light. It is magical every time and it never gets old. When you see the love in the faces of the chimps and the warmth and connection when this human mother is being hugged by these chimps, this is what we see in the children who participate High Road EVERY time.

Watch at the 4.27 mark and allow yourself to FEEL the emotion of the bond never broken. Allow yourself to feel it, sit with it and then allow the feeling to empower you to awaken out of the victim mindset of being  targeted parents and into the mindset of the bond never broken, the empowered beloved parent, who will stop at NOTHING to love and authentically protect their child. Many Blessings to you all. You have the POWER, it lies in the unbreakable golden bond of love between you and your beloved children.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

The post The Sacred Bond appeared first on Conscious Co-Parenting Institute.

It’s Not About Me

Photo by Keith Williamson I was thinking the other day as my daughter was talking to me about a song in a musical that she and her elementary school classmates performed last month about what happened when I attended the event. When I went to the crowded auditorium I knew her mother was there, along with her allies – friends of the family who my daughter thinks of as grandparents. When she saw I was there in the audience she gave me a very intense look, a look exactly like the one that her “grandmother” gives me every time she sees me at a pick up or drop off. The look was so intense that it registered in an instant that this is not a look my daughter was giving me. The look she was giving was a signal to them. She was showing the expression she knew they wanted to see. I have been blessed enough through what I’ve been learning about this dynamic that I was able to get that look and know in an instant it had nothing to do with me. It was about keeping her own comfort level intact. I believe she knows she can give me that kind of look and I won’t get upset or punish her for it. She does know if she looks at me with a friendly expression 3 of the people right now she spends the vast majority of her time with would get upset and there would be consequences. It’s not about me. As those more expertly trained than me in this field (and in my opinion common sense as well) would say, I am the adult and I am the one responsible for doing everything I can to let her know we’re OK, not the other way around. I didn’t need reassurances from her. When she was with just me, and the subject of the school musical came up she was relaxed and reminded me about that song from the show. There was not a hint of upset that I was there. It’s not about me. In general, when I drop my daughter off at mom’s, I notice that she does not display any affection with me in front of her mother and in fact usually puts some distance between me and her as we approach the front door. Conversely, when I pick her up she displays what I would describe as almost theatrical displays of affection- along with many air kisses and “I love you mom”s as we go to the car. It’s my best guess that she’s doing everything she can to soothe mom because again, there will be consequences later if she doesn’t. It’s not about me. My experience so far has been that if I can just allow her to relax when she’s around and not put pressure on her to behave a certain way to make me feel better it softens the dynamic that mom is attempting to create. I know she’s young, and I am doing what I can can get the court to allow her more time with her father. It’s tough because the court system moves slowly and as long as mom keeps delaying things and making new accusations, it keeps delaying a decision from the court. I don’t know if what I’m doing will stop things from getting worse if I can’t get enough help from mental health and the law, but I’m not giving up. I’m doing my best to take it one visit at a time. Here’s what I am doing at this point:

  • Putting this information out there.
  • Doing my best with every opportunity I can find to educate people about Childress and Dorcy Pruter’s work.
  • Continuing to look and connect with other people who have had some or a lot of success minimizing the effects of Parental Alienation.
  • Writing my legislature.
  • Writing the APA.

It’s not about me. It’s about all of us and all of our kids.

A Happy Way to Deal With Parental Alienation

https://youtu.be/pUIB6bi04us      I was watching the webinar series where Dorcy Pruter is interviewing Dr. Childress about his approach to dealing with parental alienation. The series is free to watch—you can get to it by going to Dorcy’s web site. While I got a lot out of the entire series, one section towards the end of the 3rd video entitled “Understand the Psychological Seduction of the Pathogenic Parent for the Child” provided me with a distinction that I think could be particularly helpful to those of us who have to deal with a continual stream of misinformation being fed to our kids when they are with the alienating parent. This comes from the presumption that you are wanting to figure out effective ways of dealing with the situation rather than remaining passive. IMHO, just not retaliating is not enough. In my case, it only leaves my child with one type of information coming at her without anything to counterbalance it. What Dr. Childress describes is a way of counterbalancing (as I put it) in a way that does not cause additional stress-but, in fact, helps relax and, as he puts it, “A way to orient a child back to what’s real and that everything’s OK” He described 4 basic emotional “tones”, which are:

  1. Angry
  2. Afraid
  3. Happy
  4. Sad

Angry and afraid (anxious) are power and dominance emotions. Angry tries to make the world be a different way. (Afraid) Anxious makes everything important. Here are the notes I took from what he said: ‘Happy is actually a dominant emotion as well. Happy, though is the relaxed one. Happy and the facial expressions, the laughter all relaxes the “emotional spasms”. When everyone’s all tense, the signal is Just relax—not a problem. Just a relaxed tone. Everything’s OK. No worries. Sitting around with my monkey friends-I know there’s no predator around. How do know? Because everyone else is calm and relaxed. Happy indicates no threat. If you come to me and you’re angry and I laugh at you I indicate you’re no threat. A way to orient a child back to what’s real and that everything’s OK.’ When I think about the best times I have with my child, they revolve around a lack of tension; a lack of angry and anxious, which they get loads of from mom on a regular basis. In the beginning, before I started to get some knowledge about this, I would get anxious about all the ways I thought I had to combat what mom was saying. I am noticing though when I can be relaxed and happy to be around my child (which I am naturally) I love to spend the time, whatever time it is, and want to have that “vibe” when around me. With me, they can relax.

Response to Dr. Jean Mercer

As with any stand, there will be detractors. Some are good, as they help make sure the stance is sound, others simply detract because they are   terrified of change, or even think they are helping. In this case, Dr. Childress refers to many of the latter as “Flying Monkeys”. According to the Urban Dictionary, a “flying monkey” is an ally of pathogenic behavior who seeks to inflict additional suffering on the victim of that behavior. Of these are often unwitting and ignorant individuals some may actually believe they are “helping” but in fact doing more harm.  I am unsure of where Dr. Mercer is in regards to this definition, but for now I will assume she is someone of a differing opinion who as of this writing, doesn’t appear to be willing to accept new information on this topic. Dr. Mercer asked Dr. Childress some questions to which he gave a very detailed answer. After the answer it appeared to me as though she took none of it in and tried to ask another question to which there would be no answer that would have been properly answerable. During the course of the back and forth, I saw some people get angry. I don’t think though, as difficult as it is, it helps to get angry here. We need to change the paradigm so all the children that are being subjected to child psychological abuse right now by narcissistic/borderline parents can be helped. Here is my response to what I can only describe as Jean’s non-response to Dr. Childress: What I observe is that Dr. Mercer seems to be caught in a belief system that will not accept new information. I don’t think she’s being a Troll, I think more like a radio that’s fixed on one station and can’t pick up what’s coming in from another one. I read the entirety of Dr. Childress’ response and observed this: She wants a simplistic answer to what is not a simple question. He answered it in great detail the question about ascertaining if the rejected parent might actually be exhibiting behaviors yet she did not seem to acknowledge it in her response other than with the question “which percentage”? I am unsure what an answer to that question would accomplish. What’s an acceptable answer to Dr. Mercer? I think she is trying to determine… To see the rest of my response (Under James Ricker) as well as the entire discussion, please go here to the Blog of Dr. Craig Childress.

Nicole Nenninger

This is a great message. I am truly heartened to see more people in the field of mental health waking up to what is going on and taking a different approach. I recognize this isn’t just about doing what I can to save my own child and do whatever is possible to give her both parents again, but that this will be the kind of shift that help many thousands more over time. http://nicolenenninger.com/an-update-current-work-on-parental-alienation/

The APA REMOVES It’s Parental Alienation Statement

Wow. The American Psychological Association (APA) has removed it’s “unfortunate” statement defining Parental Alienation from it’s web site. This is really good news as what was there was nothing helpful or useful. This is good news-a step in the right direction to be sure. You can read more about it here. And while you’re there, learn more about getting involved and taking action. As I have said before and will definitely say again – part of the foundation of nthe sense of helplessness and hopelessness we have all experienced has been because we have felt alone and isolated. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. AND… there is more you can do than you may realize.

Round 4!

Well, here we are at accusation number 4 which is again holding up the latest court date to get even a very temporary custody order in place. This now going on approaching a year and half since my ex got almost complete time/control over our daughter on an accusation which was shown to have no merit in court along with the help of a 2 ignorant mental health professionals. While I am fortunate enough to have a court ordered therapist working with my daughter who was able to figure out the accusation had no merit whatsoever, my ex has definitely figured out the magic words “Child Protective Services” will cause the judge to get worried and order another mental health professional to get involved.  It’s also another $1,000 in fees from the therapist. It is a minor inconvenience to my ex but an extremely difficult amount for me to come up with. But the choice is do it or risk losing all custody of my daughter. As I have said before and will probably say many more times- document, document document.  When I went for an initial interview with this latest professional I brought a binder documenting my ex’s pattern of behavior, including the “coincidental” timing of accusations or incidents that have happened right as an evaluation of court date was approaching.  These patterns of behavior are predicable. I another post I will go into one of the most used and devastating ones  I’ve had to deal with since this started but without a doubt, knowledge is extremely useful in dealing with this sort of stuff. It has empowered me to remain calm in situations where I might have likely gotten very upset in the past. What I did this time in addition was give her a copy of Dr. Childress‘s Professional Consultation.  I was a little scared, as I don’t know what her reaction will (or won’t ) be. But, as some I respect said many years ago said- when faced with depression or anxiety you’re almost always better off going with anxiety. I can see where not doing something different is very likely going to end up.