The Missing Years

Source: The Missing Years

The Missing Years

Alienation is a cruel experience because it removes from a child or young person the opportunity to engage with all of the aspects of people who love them in ways that enable them to accept that people can do good and bad things.  It causes children and young people to adopt coping mechanisms of cutting out or running off, of avoidance of conflict and of heightened self righteousness in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the brain of the child, the critical firing of neurons and synapses fails to take place and the opportunity to build conflict resolution skills, perspective and a strong sense of self is lost. The false self  which emerges through the missing years when a child is alienated is a ghost like persona, fragile and uncertain, masking fears and anxieties and a sense of self which is both over inflated and crumbling all at the same time.  What happens to children and young people who are pushed into an alienation reaction is that so much more is lost than the relationship with a once loved parent. That is why prevention of this harm done to children is so essential, those missing years steal more than love from a parent, they steal the very chance a child has to build a normal and secure sense of self.

I work with children who are being alienated, who are alienated and who are struggling to recover from alienation. I meet them almost daily in my work and I understand that what they are experiencing is a complex trauma which is deeply hidden from the outside world. So well hidden in fact that most of the children I work with do not know it is there and most of them would tell me and anyone else who asks them that they do not need help thank you very much, apart from help in removing the target of their hatred from their lives.  Work in such circumstances is counter intuitive, it is against the grain of what we are taught in our society and what we believe about children.  A child’s decision to eradicate a  parent is often accepted on the basis that the parent must have done something bad or that the child needs to be protected from conflict. If we only knew what we were condemning children to when we allow this to happen, many more of us would work harder, strive longer and find more creative ways of keeping children engaged with the parent they have ‘chosen’ to be rid of in their lives.

There is increasing evidence which  demonstrates that the underlying problems which arise as a result of rejecting a parent, leaves the  child carrying a burden which grows heavier as they get older.  Children who are allowed to reject a parent and pretend that the parent no longer exists, fail to learn many  soft skills that are essential in life if one is to navigate the relational world successfully. Children who have been alienated grow up believing that only their perspective on the world is the true reality and that avoiding people who do not share their world view is a normal way to behave. As young people grow, those missing years of relationship with a parent means that they do not have the opportunity to learn that parents are people who provide boundaries and they miss the chance to respond normally to the differences which are eventually expressed between parents and  their children on the road through to adulthood.  This is why alienated children will eventually struggle. The vital relationships with provide them with the opportunity for healthy brain development which in turn gives them sound relational skills and capacity have been cut out of their lives.  If only those working with families in these circumstances knew the extent of the damage being inflicted when a child’s ‘decision’ to reject a parent after separation is being upheld.

Recovery from being alienated is about being able to learn that people can behave in ways which are good and bad and that those behaviours do not need to trigger a defence mechanism of believing that bad behaviour means a person is wholly bad. This is an extraordinary task to achieve if the capacity of the brain is limited because a person has been using the coping mechanism of psychological splitting.  There is evidence that people with personality disorders for example, do not have a well developed corpus callosum. This is a bridge which divides the two hemispheres of the brain and which is made up of a bundle of fibres which enable communication between the two sides of the brain. A well developed bridge assists with a balanced use of the brain, in studies however, people withborderline personality disorder are seen as having a less developed corpus callosum, as are those with high conflict personalities who lack the relational skills to see other people’s perspectives.

All of this evidence is convincing us at the Family Separation Clinic that what we see in children and young people who are attempting to reject or resist contact with a parent after separation are behaviours which will, if they are upheld, lead to longer term problems for the children concerned. Problems which will not be readily resolved because the missing years of that parental relationship and the lack of resolution of the child’s efforts to utilise a coping mechanism which is harmful,  leads to a  lasting gap in the child’s capacity to achieve positive and healthy brain function.  Fortunately we also know that about the plasticity of the brain and its capacity to continue to grow and change. Which means that whilst those missing years can never be regained, there is a possibility for repair and recovery should the young person be enabled to resolve the splitting which prevents reconnection to the lost loved one.

Missing years, missing knowledge, missing opportunities to prevent harm being done to children in the critical years of their lives.  Isn’t it time that someone noticed that the gap which opens up between parents after separation causes children to have to deal with something more than conflict?

This is another Huffington Post Blog for W/C February 15 2016

I AM THE ALIENATOR

I AM THE ALIENATOR
by
Karen Woodall

I am an alienator. You know me well. You lived with me once and you witnessed my behavior patterns but you did not spend time studying and internalizing them. I know your behavior patterns better than you know them yourself. I know how to measure you, test you and control you. I know what your hooks are and I know that the depth of the love for your children is a weakness I can exploit. I am an emotional terrorist. I will terrify you into submission. You will do as I tell you to do, if you do not, I will take your children away.

I am an alienator, you didn’t notice that when we lived together but I began my work long before we went our separate ways. I created fissures and fractures within our family and I managed and manipulated reality, though for a long time you did not notice that.

I am an alienator, at times in the past you felt a chill wind blow through you when my moods changed as I raged and then sweet talked you to smooth the ripples in your growing awareness. My mind is distorted but the projection of shadows causes you to believe it is yours which has failed you. Eventually you came to believe that it was you and not I who was crazy. You shivered as I turned down the gas light.

When you appeal to the outside world for assistance I will turn my most charming face to the sun and open my arms wide and beseech them to believe that I only want the best for my children. I will widen my eyes and up turn my palms and say ‘what can I do when they don’t want to see you’ and suck into my airspace all those who attempt to bring change to the lives of the weapons I know I can use.

My children are assets, collateral, extensions of plans that I make to wreak my revenge upon people who challenge my views or attempt to remove the control that I have in my life.

My children are satellites orbiting sunshine coming only from me – you could never compete with the warmth that I wind around each of their hearts so that only my love is enough; making yours surplus, not needed, discarded like clothes that you bought and I won’t let them wear.

I am all that they need.

You are not.

When our love ended my rage recruited our children to a campaign of
revenge that joins us together against you.

In my mind your betrayal awakened the traumas of people long dead and ignited the fuse that lead to the bomb that blew up our lives. Now, the souls of our children are hostage to wrongs which come howling from hell and you are helpless to hold back the tide which will sweep you and they to the death that is living with losing your children whilst they are still breathing. Your loss not mine which you and not I will have to survive.
Sometimes you mirror me, two perfect projections that weave webs of destruction that sever our children in two, one side light, one side dark, you there in the shadows.

But mostly it is because I cannot see my behaviours, I am blind to the sight of myself in the mirror. The only reflection I need is the love of my children to feed me and give me a sense of my self which I lost even before I was born.

I am the alienator, annihilator, terminator. My aim is to end, by fair means or foul, your place in the hearts and the lives of your children.
I am easily spotted by those who know me but invisible to those who do not. You will spend your time, your energy and money telling them I am behind this whilst I smile and continue to shred the trust our children once held in you. I am an alienator even when I do not know it and the failure to see the shadows I cast in the projections I throw onto you, is the fault of a system so blinded by bias it is frozen like the minds of our children, the children being harmed right under the noses of those who should know how to help them but sadly, do not.

In the plain sight of you and of them, the lives of the children you love are stolen, erased and extinguished.

And your anguish and pain are the gifts that I treasure.

And your suffering compensates for the things I perceive you to have done.

And whilst chaos reigns and the system colludes with my delusions, the power I seek remains mine.

Along with the children.

Whose eyes are wide open but able to see nothing at all.