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.



  1. WOW! I just ame aross your blog for the first time today and need to really get into it. On the surface I want to say KUDOS!! For speaking out!!


  2. Thank you for sharing this. Amazing isn't it that groups exist that advocate for children that reject the existence of PAS? Justice for Children is one of them and one that took my precious daughter many years ago and for the past eighteen years she has not even been able to pick up a telephone and speak with me.

    I applaud your survival!
    Robert Gartner

  3. The classic guide to understanding, preventing, and overcoming parental alienation is "Divorce Poison: Protecting the Parent-Child Bond From a Vindictive Ex," written by Dr. Richard Warshak and published by HarperCollins. Loads of tips for managing this type of abuse.

  4. Thank you Louise : ) Would love to hear your input, thoughts, and experiences when you get the chance.

    Robert-- I can't believe that groups exist that reject the existence of PAS! When I discovered this myself, I was amazed, as I know first hand what PAS is and the damage it can do. This topic is another blog post for sure :) I pray for you and your daughter... I hope your relationship is able to blossom again.

    And thank you "anonymous" for the Warshak guide. I will look into it. Cheers!

  5. it's a reality. it's emotional and mental abuse of the worst kind to children. i see my children now who have been completely indoctrinated to hate and invalidate my existence in their lives. The obsessed alienating parent is just very cruel and we pray for all of them everyday and every night. it seems like evil at work.

    Kids don't hate. they have to be taught to hate. principles of love and forgiveness come naturally to a child. especially with their Mom and Dad.
    Justice and healing and Precedential Favor is all over our case.
    Be brave and courageous and let your love for your children keep you running this race for them. Pray without ceasing.

  6. EXCELLENT points: "Kids don't hate. They have to be taught to hate. Principles of love and forgiveness come naturally to a child, especially with their Mom and Dad."

    And I know first hand how diligently my parents tried to teach me to hate the other parent-- all the way up until adulthood. It's very sad, damaging, and confusing to say the least as your parents should be ones the child can trust, not second guess, and be rely on to be a role model. When a parent feeds the child with all sorts of lies, manipulations, brain-washing, and hate, the parent has truly created a situation that can take decades to sort out and with which to come to terms.

    I wish you peace and love-- and I pray your children find their way back to you. My love goes out to you.

  7. PAS absolutely *is* abuse. I was told repeatedly by my CB "mother," "You're either WITH ME or AGAINST me!" I realize she engaged in PAS from my earliest memories. I was older than you were at the time of my parent's divorce, but I had to fight to see my father every Sun. for a few hrs. and then come back to her place and endure a grueling interrogation and unbridled rage. She was so petty she wouldn't even "allow" him to come to the house to pick me up or drop me off regardless of the weather.
    Her insistence on forcing me to "CHOOSE!" ultimately was her undoing. Terminating the relationship with her later was due in no small part to her PAS and inability to see beyond her own selfish agenda. Of course my decision to NC as an adult was "explained" by spitting out to others, "She's JUST LIKE her FAAATTHER!" Um, no. I'm just She never was able to conceive of or treat me as an autonomous human being in my own right.
    I can not find the words to express how strongly I feel about "parents" who engage in PAS and the pain they inflict willfully on their kids-whom they profess to "love."


  9. Hi,
    This is great. I can't believe I hadn't found this earlier. My father was diagnosed NPD and my mother... has anger issues. Both of my parents alienated me against each other.

    My mother lied to me and told me my dad molested me and my sisters and I just didn't remember it. She had me take this information public etc. I ruined his life.

    Growing up, my dad would sneak into my room at night and whisper (when he thought I was asleep) terrible things about my mother to me. He said she didn't love me and was a very sick woman who could not be saved.

    They divorced when I was 9, but they pitted me against one another for twenty years. I just now realized all of this stuff. My dad won't acknowledge his role, but my mother apologized. I do not know where to go from here.

    I no longer have contact with either, but it is sad. I have trouble trusting myself to say nothing of trusting others.

    I bought the Ties That Bind book, but didn't really see it as that helpful. Having both parents pit you against the other in such public and legal and destructive ways is not something I usually come across.

    I'm seeing a therapist and my life is much better now. I'm no longer depressed for the first time and the pereptual feeling of guilt and doom is slowly receding, but is there anything else I can do? It's so hard.
    Please email me if you can.