Friday, July 31, 2009

Questions and Doubts Surrounding Parental Alienation Syndrome

Having come from a situation where BOTH of my parents used my brother and me as pawns in the divorce and pitted us against each other trying to turn us again the other parent, I deeply understand each element contained in Garder's and Baker's research and conclusions regarding PAS. I lived it. I experienced it. I had to overcome its devastating and damaging effects. To read that the scientific and legal legitimacy is questioned disturbs me.

First of all, regardless what LABEL is slapped on what happened to my brother and me in regard to brainwashing and manipulations by our parent to alienate the other, we underwent tremendous emotional abuse that was far stretching into four decades of our life. No matter what LABEL is attached to what happened, our parents blatantly tried to use my brother and me to hurt the other parent, and in the process, tried to turn us against the parent by telling us lies, embellishments, and scare tactics. TO THIS DAY:
  • I don't know if my mother broke all the windows in the house as my Dad lead us to believe-- or did my Dad actually do it and pin it on my mother to scare us kids?
  • I don't know if my now step-father (at the time he was just my mother's boyfriend / Dad's ex-friend) actually pulled a gun on my Dad or did my Dad make this up to scare us kids?
  • If my mother was actually violent as my Dad portrayed with testimonial tapes made by friends, private detective followings, and medical records.
So, if the scientific legitimacy is questioned, therefore the courts don't accept PAS as actual abuse to the child, then how else is the child protected and removed from the abuse? I understand that for the courts to recognize PAS as 'scientific':
  1. PAS must be based on methodology that can be or has been tested-- the courts have determined that PAS does not meet the threshold requirement to qualify as scientific. I take issue with the court's determination-- not merely on their 4 part 'test' but also for the sake of the children who are caught up in the court system's legal jargon and loop-holes. From the research I have performed, in the last 20 years the methodology of testing has been thorough and with depth & breadth.
  2. PAS must have been the subject of peer review and publication-- PAS has been the subject of peer review and publication-- simply look at Amy J. L. Baker's body of work. She is the author or co-author of 3 books and over 45 peer reviewed articles.
  3. The known or potential rate of error (reliability and validity) of PAS-- the reliability and validity of PAS is evidenced in the reality of its victims & their stories which fit perfectly into the constructs of PAS. Some of the court's comments about PAS's reliability and validity stem from the emergence of PAS into general public. The court is discrediting the findings saying that PAS is in its initial stage of discovery and, therefore, can't be determined reliable and valid. At this point, after 20 + years of more evidence, cases, and studies, PAS is as recognized as BPD (which was labeled around the same time).
  4. Does PAS enjoy general acceptance within the scientific community-- since PAS is not a 'mental disorder' and doesn't meet the criteria for a 'mental illness', the psychiatric community has shunned PAS. I don't think PAS is mental disorder or illness. I believe it's a SYMPTOM of an overlying disease, such as BPD, NPD, alcoholism, or drug addiction. In and of itself, I don't think that PAS is a stand-alone disease. I think that during times of duress, PAS manifests itself. In other words, my Dad wouldn't have a reason to turn my brother and me against my mother during happy times of their marriage. Not until my mother cheated on my Dad with his friend and he shuddered at the thought of her also getting us kids did he decide to turn us against her. Reciprocally, when my mother lost custody of us kids to my Dad, but then got us back, she waged an all out war against him to this day with a tool kit of alienating arsenal. In other words, if my parents didn't have the mental and personality disorders, they may have had a copesectic divorce. But due to the disorders, the divorce dragged on, and each parent went into a pseudo-psychotic state-- not taking any consideration of how their behavior ultimately effected the kids as they lived in a world of revenge and vengence. My mother to this day can't talk about my Dad without copping a nutty-- and my Dad continues to say that if my mother died tomorrow that he wouldn't shed a tear. So does acceptance in the scientific community REALLY matter when a child is being abused? Does this really matter when a parent is being alienated from his / her beloved children? I understand this is a prong of the court's test as evidence of legitimacy, but if the prevalence of this type of abuse is so profound as it has been discovered, don't the children need protection? So rather than ditching PAS for whatever reason, shouldn't the abuse be recognized and handled regardless?
According to the courts, alternative factors to PAS for an expert to consider are (and some of these cracked me up because they are part & parcel of PAS... they are symptoms of PAS):
  1. developmentally normal separation problems
  2. deficits in the non-custodial parent’s skills (part of PAS: most alienating parents meet the diagnostic criteria for a personality disorder, a pervasive and distorted relational style, including narcissism and borderline personality. A related finding is that many of the alienating parents appeared to have features of narcissistic and/or have a borderline personality disorders, alcoholism, drug addiction. These parents usually have deficits in parenting skills due to how the disorder is manifested)
  3. oppositional behavior (part of PAS: children become the prize to be won or lost in what often becomes an escalating conflict, being used as pawns & turned against a parent in the process.)
  4. high-conflict divorce proceedings (part of PAS: during heated child custody situation, the prevalence of PAS is heightened)
  5. other serious emotional or medical problems of one family member (part of PAS: already mentioned above, parents with personality disorders, alcoholism, and drug addition are more likely to try to alienate the child from the other parent)
  6. child abuse (part of PAS: well, actually PAS is EMOTIONAL ABUSE. Period. So, looking to see if the situation is 'child abuse' rather than 'PAS' is simply splitting hairs.)
  7. inappropriate, unpredictable, or violent behavior by one parent (part of PAS: the brainwashing, manipulations, and scare tactics are just that-- inappropriate and unpredictable)
  8. incidental causes, such as the child’s dislike of a parent’s new roommate or lover
  9. alienation by third parties
  10. the child’s unassisted manipulation of one or both parents
  11. fears for the absent parent’s welfare
"The value of an expert’s contribution to the courts’ deliberations regarding children’s welfare should be based on clinically sound reasoning formulated from empirically derived data that will serve the best interest of the child and not on unsubstantiated hyperbole"-- Parental Alienation Syndrome: Frye v Gardner. Hyperbole?? Finding all of the information and research about PAS was a HUGE revelation for me. PAS explained for what I have been searching for decade. PAS is EXACTLY what happened to me. Short term losses included a normal childhood, healthy relationships with parents, shattered attachment with parents, and more. Long term effects included but not limited to anxiety, feelings of intense guilt, fear, and confusion. For the court to take what could be so VALIDATING, so HEALING, so much of a REVELATION for a child that is in the midst of the damaging of effects of PAS is a complete shame. Where the emotional abuse could be stopped in its tracks, the court would rather not hear about PAS.

I know that I have made this all too simplistic than reality; however, that is just the point. Simply put, the abuse can be more readily identified through the tool of PAS, and therefore, simply STOPPED. By the court allowing what they think is not 'scientific', they could allow as a 'tool' to enable children to see beyond the dysfunction and toxicity of the world they're enveloped. I know that when I was going through PAS at the hands of my parents, I didn't see the full picture of what was going on. I didn't have an enlightened witness to help me to see what my parents were doing. When a child is caught up in the crazy turmoil of not only their parents' divorce but also the emotional abuse of PAS, the child most likely is unable to see the clear picture and, therefore, not able to steer clear from brainwashing. I would have been eternally grateful if the courts defined PAS for me and put a stop to the crazy circus that my parents created.

As strong willed and level headed as I was, I still had a very difficult time deciphering what was going on with my parents-- who was telling the truth, if I should be weary of one parent or the other, the realization that one of my parents was not being honest but which one was telling the truth, that no matter what I was going to upset a parent so I was always walking on eggshells, wanting to please my parents so much and having to play sick games, knowing that I can't have a relationship with both parents at the same time (it's one or the other), being legitimately SCARED of my parent, and that my parents wielded guilt as a very effective weapon (definitely a huge tool with alienation).

PAS has been cited as part of the child custody determination process in the United States. Based on the evaluation of PAS, courts in the US have awarded sole custody to some fathers. Of sixty-four precedent-bearing cases, only two decisions, both in New York State and both in criminal courts actually set precedents. Both held PAS inadmissible and one case found that PAS failed the Frye test as the appropriate professional community did not generally accept; this decision was upheld in an appellate court. One case stated that PAS passed the Frye test, but the appeal did not discuss the Frye test and actually "[threw] out the words "'parental alienation syndrome'" and focused on the "willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the parents and the child." In the second case the appellate court did not discuss PAS; the third case specifically chose not to discuss the admissibility of PAS and the fourth made no decision on PAS-- Parental Alienation Syndrome Wikipedia

Funny how the PAS is PAS whether you call it PAS or write it out in its definition form. Sad that so much time, money, and headache has to be put in with these cases, taking them all the way to the appellate courts. How much precious time is lost with the child's childhood-- the time they should be laughing, carefree, loved, and feeling safe. So much time is spent on the legal gymnastics and parental battles that the true meaning behind all of parenting is lost-- to nuture and rear your child in a loving, safe, and supportive environment.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome

As I have communicated in this blog, my mother has BPD and my father has NPD. They went through a horrible divorce which lasted over a decade, cost over tens of thousands of dollars EACH, and tragically used my brother and me as pawns. I am always researching and reading about topics that will help to further my understanding, increase my clarification, and continue to validate my lifelong experiences with my parents. With the researching and reading, I stumbled upon another “A-HA” topic that knocked my socks off. Before getting into the specifics, I want to review my background as related to this topic.

I was born to my mother and my biological father. When I was a few months old, my mother divorced him in order to marry her high school sweetheart. Her high school sweetheart (Dad) adopted me, and my baby album and baby book were both altered to completely erase my biological father. My biological paternal grandparents were told to come over one day and to say goodbye to me forever. Absolutely no evidence of my birth father remained. No words were spoken about this birth father-- that is until my mother needed the information to use.

My mother had an affair with my Dad’s friend, and subsequently, my mother and Dad divorced in the late 70's. Upon visiting with my mother one weekend when I was living with my Dad, she announces that she can get a hold of my birth father-- OUT OF THE BLUE. I was taken back by the question but curious. I remember entertaining the notion, and we did speak to him for a short phone call. After that, I had no interest whatsoever talking to him again. LITTLE DID I KNOW, my mother used this information -- that I was in touch with my birth father-- to hurt my Dad. She leaked the information, making sure he found out. Throughout the years, she has tried to use my biological father and his family as a weapon when she sees fit.

On the flip side, my Dad, during the divorce, would go through my mother’s things and tell my brother and me all sorts of crazy things about my mother, which truly scared us to bits. He showed us the book, “The Sensuous Woman” and told us that our mother was a sex addict. He showed us her incense burner and told us that she was a drug user. He had a private detective following my mother and us kids, who would snap pictures using flashes in the middle of the night scaring us. He called the police one night after peeking in through the living room window and seeing my brother and me play with my mother and her boyfriend (my Dad’s ex-friend). He reported to the police that my brother and I were getting beat.

My Dad asked me to report activity going on at the house—such as who came to the house, when cars came and went at night, and what my mother was doing at various times. He would pick me up on my way walking to school and cry about how he couldn’t live without my brother and me—and about how he wants my brother and me to move in with him. Hearing his words and seeing my Dad cry were more than I could handle and deeply disturbed me.

My brother and I ended-up moving into my Dad’s apartment. During this time, he had us so freaked-out about our mother that we refused to visit her to decorate the Christmas tree. He had us backed into a corner of his apartment, making us feel guilty and scared to leave to go with her. Ultimately, he called and canceled the visit with her.

Unannounced, my mother moved out of the house while my brother and I took up residence at my Dad’s apartment. My Dad made a huge spectacle of the situation, having the neighbors on ‘patrol’. They were appointed posts and look-outs, and my brother and I were totally stressed over the whole situation. Dad even came to us at one point in a frantic state saying that my mother’s boyfriend flashed a gun at him. He also said that my mother smashed all the windows in the house—and he later paraded us around the house to show us the damage she did. He went so far as to open all of the cabinets in the house, pointing out things like, “AND LOOK, she even took the TOILET PAPER”. To this day, I don’t know who actually did the window smashing—my Dad was wrong in simply showing us the damage and creating a big deal about it.

Once we moved into the house, my mother wanted to have us come to her apartment for visitation. On two occasions in particular we didn’t go as an altercation between my mother and Dad broke out, and I had to call the police. After all was said and done, my brother and I wanted only to go to our rooms; therefore, we declined seeing our mother again. By the time I finally went to see my mother at her apartment, my Dad had us so scared that we were to call him at specific times to report if we are ‘okay’. I remember having to sneak away to find a phone every so often (actually quite often) to report what was going on.

I also remember being COMPLETELY FREAKED over the syringe that I saw in my mother’s bathroom. The syringe was simply an antique, glass display item that her doctor boyfriend gave her; however, with all of the hoopla created by my Dad surrounding her supposed drug use (which wasn’t true), I was shaking!

My Dad has us going to a psychiatrist that was supposed to speak for us in court during the custody hearings. This situation was very disturbing as we went at night (in the dark), after hours, and as the only people there with the DR. I didn’t feel comfortable at all, and the entire scenario even made the situation surrounding my parents’ divorce even more heightened. The DR would ask very leading questions, strongly suggesting we answer a certain way. You could tell he was looking for certain information and would clearly lead questioning and discussion in that direction. When the custody hearings came up, my Dad plead with my brother and me to attend and testify against my mother. We agreed; however, when the actual day came up, my brother declined and I went with my Dad.

Now, later in my teenage years (early-80's), after my Dad remarried, I ended up moving in with my mother. After the custody hearing, we were driving away from the courthouse, and my mother turned around in her seat and announced she & my step-father plan to move to another state. I was stunned, as nothing was ever discussed about moving prior to the custody hearing. I was dumbfounded and immediately thought that my mother's plan was to take me as far away from my Dad as possible.

Once I moved in with my mother, I had minimal contact with my Dad. My mother completely vilified him and would go ballistic and irrational whenever his name was brought up. She forced me to record phone conversations between him and me. She hooked the receiver to this wire that went to a recorder, and she gave me a list of questions and topics to talk to him about, trying to nail him for this or that. I felt absolutely HORRIBLE about it, and I ended up not wanting to talk to him because I didn’t want my mother putting me back into that situation again. And if I did talk to him and she didn’t know it until later, she would drill me about what was said and then drill me with why didn’t I say this or that. She kept up with the hatred all the way through until recent time (when we became estranged due to my wedding plans that included my Dad, and again, she conveniently used my biological father as a weapon of sorts).

So, now you know some of the background that leads to my new topic: Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Dr. Richard Gardner first coined the term “parental alienation syndrome” in the 1980s to describe the systematic vilification by one parent of the other parent and brainwashing of the child, with the intent of alienating the child from the other parent. Parental alienation syndrome occurs when one parent is engaged in an attempt not merely to destroy the other parent, but also to make the child join in the process. The child becomes "a weapon, a spokesperson, and a co-combatant". The syndrome, as Gardner defined it, reveals the following factors:
  1. Alienating parents obsessively have their children become preoccupied with unjustified deprecation and criticism of the targeted parent; this deprecation and criticism occurs in the absence of a rational and legitimate cause. This is not a situation in which the targeted parent has shown abuse or neglect.
  2. Alienating parents are obsessed with intentionally destroying the relationship between the child and the targeted parent. To this end, the alienating parent will lie to the child about the targeted parent’s true feelings or induce the child to believe that the targeted parent is harmful. There will be an attempt to erase the targeted parent from the child’s life.
Now as I sit here and write this, and review back on a few of my blog entries, I realize that my mother clearly and distinctively subjected me to PAS from my childhood onward into adulthood (to our most recent estrangement). Check out this entry when you have a chance: Meddling With Our Lives My mother completely erased my biological father. All record and evidence of him was wiped clean, and my adopted father (Dad) was brought into the picture. Later when she divorced my Dad, she attempted to destroy my relationship with my Dad by entering my biological father back into the picture, drilling me about my relationship with my Dad, and having me perform ‘dirty’ tasks for her such as record conversations using leading questions / topics.

My Dad also utilized PAS, emotionally abusing my brother and me for years. My Dad took extensive measures to destroy my relationship with my mother by using contempt and disapproval without sane or justifiable cause (ie: telling us that she’s a sex addict, drug user, and dangerous). He brainwashed us using a mix of emotions, fact, and twisted lies. He also made us feel very vulnerable and scared-- he made us really need him in an insecure and unstable way. And in the end, when he got custody of us and he remarried a lady with two other children (much to my brother and my disapproval), he turned away from my brother and me and hasn’t returned since.

Many Alienating Parents Seemed to Have Personality Disorders

Most alienating parents meet the diagnostic criteria for a personality disorder, a pervasive and distorted relational style, including narcissism and borderline personality. A related finding is that many of the alienating parents appeared to have features of narcissistic and/or have a borderline personality disorder.

When I read this, I dropped my teeth again! Wow! When I found the topic about PAS, I was floored. I knew that my parents using my brother and me as pawns was damaging, abusive, and downright wrong. Now to read that the parents who engage in this toxicity (PAS) are predominately personality disordered, which fits BOTH of my parents (mother- BPD and Dad- NPD), I was doubly floored. My childhood path was not a coincidence. All of this fits together-- from the bizarre behavior of my mother, the self absorbed actions of my Dad, the horrible divorce battle, only being able to have one parent in your life at a time, to having parents pit one against the other. The way all of this links together is amazing:

My mother has BPD --> BPD women typically marry narcissist --> my Dad has NPD --> when BPD women divorce NPD men, the divorce is typically drawn out and nasty: Narcissistic and Borderline Couples --> My mother and Dad indeed had a tumultuous, long, and destructive divorce that lasted over a decade and cost each over $30,000 --> 20 years ago (after my parents divorced) PAS was termed and completely describes what my brother and I went through at the hands of our parents. My parents used us kids as pawns in their divorce. Further, they used brainwashing, emotional abuse, manipulation, control tactics, and turning the kids against the other parent. TO THIS DAY, my brother and I cannot have a relationship with both parents—it’s one or the other. This is the way it’s been since the divorce was initiated.

PAS is a Form of Emotional Abuse

Parental alienation can be considered a form of emotional abuse for at least two reasons. First, the strategies that the alienating parents used to effectuate the alienation are emotionally abusive in and of themselves. That is, the alienating parents verbally assaulted, isolated, corrupted, rejected, terrorized, ignored, and over-pressured the children in order to alienate them from the targeted parent. These behaviors are part and parcel of what constitutes emotional abuse of children. In addition, it is proposed that separation of a child from a parent also constitutes emotional abuse-- Amy J.L. Baker

Strangely, each of my parents will accuse the other of emotional and mental abuse of my brother and me, BUT neither parent will acknowledge their own abusive doings. My mother says that one’s childhood should be left in the past, as that’s what it is, and that one’s childhood has no bearing on who you are as an adult or what you make of yourself. My Dad won’t talk about the past, and he says he chooses not to remember. With both parents, they abused my brother and me, but neither to this day will recognize the immense abuse consisting of verbal assaults, isolation, corruption, rejection, terrorizing, being ignored, and over-pressuring in order to hurt the other parent.