Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dealing with Worry and Danger

Have you ever wondered why it is that after you tell yourself not to worry about something, or not to think of something that is painful, that you still find yourself worrying, and still find yourself thinking about the negative thing that you have no control over? Ninety-nine percent of the population will identify with this question and this experience. It is normal. Now insert the reality of an alienated child and a former spouse who places this child in the middle, and it is easy to see how this very human proclivity to worry and perhaps even dwell at times on the negatives of life, hits warp speed with the realities of loosing a child to parental alienation. It is like the realities of parental alienation takes this otherwise normal human foible, and blows it up into becoming the theme of one's life.

There are very sound reasons to explain why we are vulnerable to worry and may tend to even focus more on the negative than the positive. The reasons have to do with how we are hard wired, that is, how our brains are wired and how they have evolved over the centuries. We do have certain hard wired biases that have helped us to survive but also have created this vulnerability to be on the lookout for the negative. Add to that the unprecedented explosion of information technology within only the last generation, and it becomes easy to see how this informational excess, layered on top of this neurologically grounded vigilance, further drives us to warp speed, just trying to keep up. Again, then insert the alienated child into this maelstrom, with the themes of being falsely accused of things you never did, nor would ever do, and being treated as a criminal by relative strangers who perhaps used to be friends, and it is all the easier to see how being a targeted parent is such a challenge.

One good thing about we humans is, however that we are very adaptable. Human beings are about the only creatures (other than perhaps cockroaches I am told) who have successfully adapted to virtually all climates and environments known to this planet. Not only have we adapted, but even in the harshest environments, we call these extreme places home. We are very adaptable indeed. Likewise, I believe that parents who identify with the label of "targeted parent" of the parental alienation variety, can also learn to respond to the cruelties of parental alienation in ways that bring light back into their own lives, and that increase the chances of reconnection.

More to come.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Resiliency and the Targeted Parent

In my recent presentation at the PAS (SAP in spanish) in Spain, I began sketching out the foundation of what I believe will be a very helpful set of coping strategies designed specifically for for targeted parents. Targeted parents, after all, live in perpetual states of reactiveness. The Targeted Parent is chronically left to respond to attacks, accusations, provocations and various slanders of all descriptions by various accusers. This enormously difficult psychological environment is a recipe for the development of either acting out behaviors and/or depression. In the psychological literature we refer to this as an "external locus of control" whereby the individual is left to simply react to whatever may be the next incoming volly of accusations. I remarked in an earlier blog that it is much easier to throw missles than to catch them, and the Targeted Parent is in the perpetual position to be always having to catch them. At least this is what it feels like, and this is what an "external locus of control" feels like. In past studies focused on this perspective, what was found to have happened to these individuals who were depressed and whose sense of control was external to them, was that when their depressive symptoms had abated, what had actually happened was that their perceived locus of control had become internalized. Their "locus of control" had moved from being external to being internal. In other words, they had found ways to refocus their sense of control and attention to things that were within their control. In cases of prisioners of war, we find that the most resilient prisioners were also able to accomplish this. The classic movie The Great Escape provides repetitive examples of this. The character played by Steve McQueen survives unbelievable periods of isolation in the Cooler by throwing a baseball in a repetitive manner, obviously taking him to a different experiential place. When Ruben Carter, the former prizefighter was falsely imprisoned for murder, he chose to be awake at night and sleep during the day, symbolizing not only his protest but also his refusal to be in that place. What these resilient examples reveal is the importance of finding avenues of control, often in very creative ways, that then protects one from giving in to the depths of depression or to the depravity of violence. This is no small feat. Like many things in life, it is simple, but not easy.

The compilation of strategies which I am compiling are not exotic or particularly secret, but when placed within an understanding of their power, they can be just that, quite powerful. Therefore, rather than just providing a list of these Intentional Behaviors, I think it is vital to set the stage, so to speak, so as to make it clear and indelible why they are so important. Therefore, the first part of this newly developed course is devoted to just that. I will address why, as humans, we have become so vulnerable to the things that Targeted Parents live on a daily basis. This vulnerability can be traced down to the brain and its structure and development. It is literally in our DNA. That said, we still have the power to overcome this bias with the right tools.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

PAS Congress in Spain

I have just finished my involvement with the Second International Congress on Parental Alienation Syndrome (SAP in Spanish) in Alcala de Henares, just outside of Madrid. I spoke at the conference as did Jayne Major, as did the imminent German Psychiatrist Wilfred Von Boch-Galhau. Also present as a presenter was well known Spanish Psychiatrist, Jose Miguel Gaona. There were also many prominent Spanish psychologists such as Jose Manuel Aguilar Cuenca and Asuncion Tejedor Huerta, and just about every other Spanish authority on the alienation of children. Also in attendance were two very supportive Judges, the national President of the Spanish Family lawyers, as well as investigators, attorneys, psychologists, and parents. The meeting was organized by Juan Carlos Presa Periera, who is the President of the Association for the Rights of Children. While I have attended many such meetings, I do not believe that I have attended any where the level of enthusiasm and commitment to improve the situation of children caught in the middle, leading often to their alienation, was so great.

As I became more familiar with the issues in Spain, I was astounded to learn that a situation exists in Spain where fathers are in great jeopardy not only of loosing their children, should they divorce, but are also in jeopardy of loosing their freedom. Currently in Spain, under the authority of the Ministry of Equality, any woman or child who accuses the husband/father of abusing them, I any way, ranging from name calling to physical abuse to sexual assault, will result in the automatic and immediate arrest of the accused man, with absolutely no proof being necessary. Consequently, it is common in contested divorce situations for a father to arrive at the home of the mother to pick up the child for visitation, to be met by a law enforcement officer, due to the mother having called in some false accusation of abuse. Under the current law, the officer has no choice but to arrest the accused father. I was told that it was common for fathers to go to pick up their children, with a packed bag so as to accommodate the weekend stay in jail. This is no joke! This is really happening. I know that this sounds suspect. I wondered about this too. However, the more I looked into it the more I found it to be true. During the weekend of this meeting a man who had been held in jail for 14 months was finally released after it was determined that there was absolutely no evidence for the crime that he was jailed for. His former wife had made a claim of his having assaulted her, and he was arrested. Period. In the 14 months he was false incarcerated he lost his job and his home.

Perhaps it should not be a surprise that there has been an increase in suicide amongst this population of men, which there has. Imagine being accused of doing something which you did not do, being arrested for it, being forced to leave your house, which you must still pay for, and then loosing your access to your child. As if this is not enough, if you stay in jail long enough, you probably will lose your job. It is not difficult to imagine that this set of circumstances could not cause one to loose all hope.

I plan to look more into this situation. From what I see now, I believe that this deserves international attention.