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.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Bone, thank you for this blog. Good insight. I agee that the real issue and focus is the emotional damage to children. However, many place blame on targeted parents. Many targeted parents do live in a state of reactiveness. I think it is vital to decipher a state of reactiveness vs. a state of fault finding. Some targeted parents, indeed contribute and education is needed. I suspect though, there are also targeted parents that cannot take any more "educational" classes and he or she replies to the perpetual denigration best they can. Some ex-spouses simply will not stop. I wondered about the lack of external locus of control. Target Parents cannot control the courts, cannot control their ex-spouses words, nor can they control the deteriorating /lost realtionships with their own children. In many cases, coping is all that is left.

Damon Anthony Duval said...

In a book I enjoyed some fifteen years ago, "Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment" Rudolph Steiner (who also authored many books on children's education) stressed that your thoughts are as important as your actions - not to imply that there need be the thought police around everyone's minds, but if you are able to manage your "thought after thought after thought" process, I highly concur with Dr. Bone that this is maybe the only way to mentally digest the target parent position. I know, I haven't seen my children for 19 months as a result of the most exponentially ill and defiant alienator there is> the alienating parent enabled by the Family Court.

Anonymous said...

I am a targeted Mom with two sons who were 17 and 20 at the time we were suddenly torn from each other lives.

It is now 6 years, the first three I struggled to just stay alive having been shunned from my own home by my husband of 28 years and my sons who have been the focus of my life. He and the courts system bulldozed
our family every step of the way.
I cried everyday for 2 1/2 years. I thought about suicide alot and I was medicated for panic attacks and started to drink to fall asleep. I just couldn't get away from the pain, not even when I slept.

For me, a great percentage of my pain is connected to theirs. When my kids hurt, I do. I always feel I should be fixing things. I was helpless through all of this.

My sons have suffered years of emotional torture by their Dad. Both are in pain, broken, drugs, no education, or work skills relationship / trust issues.
Lost all sense of family, & severed ties with all the people who have been in their lives.

If you interview any parents who have gone thru this let me know. I'm sure people do differant things to ease their pain and make this crazy world seem sane.

I don't self medicate with alcohol, or take meds anymore. I have tried to do whatever 'normal thing' I used to do, I garden, go to movies, put flowers on my table, have pictures of our life all around my place. I smile, I know they were happy, loved children. I have to hang onto that to get thru each day myself.

Nothing is the same and it still all hurts. I just push it back and focus on one thing pleasant to aviod being overwhelmed.

I love my boys now just as I always have and always will. Can't and won't quit trying for their sake and mine.


Cindy said...

Dr. Bone, I agree about the internal and external locust of control. When people choose to be cruel to another person, they create a situation where the target needs to deal with an external locust of control situation. More people than not are unaware of how oftenthis happens and how damaging it can be emotionally and physically. Children should be taught about this concept as well, or else we have another generation being controlled by evil minded people. As far as alienated children are concerned, the alienating people use their children as the missles as you described. Those missles are ALWAYS damaged on impact. Teach us how to teach others to bridge a relationship back to all those innocent children. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

what do you do when you feel as if you cannot cope anymore? Everyone is losing the children & myself, which means "they" are accomplishing the goal.

Just a Mom said...

I am an alienated mom and I never heard of parental alienation until I became a target parent. I found that many thought is was just a teen phase that my son was going through. I knew different, but still did not know how to cope. I was lucky in the fact that I found a counselor that knew about and understood PA. I read many books on the topic as well.

I can understand how many target parents want to give up, throw their hands up and surrender so to speak. It is more than difficult dealing with the constant harassment via the legal system that the alienated parent will put you through. It is more than difficult to deal with the loss of the relationship with your child and the hateful, spiteful and hurtful words that they can spew at you.

I felt I had two choices, give up and hope that one day my son realizes what has happened or to give the fight of my life and let most of the things I was going to court for and the words of hate to roll off my back. I picked the second choice and although extremely exhausting mentally, I have to say that my persistence and tenacity has paid off.

Although the relationship with my son has forever changed and I lost the opportunity for some of his milestones, I can say that his choice to see me now is his. I do not believe this would have happened had I not remained constant in my efforts.

Anonymous said...

My husband is the targeted parent of an ex wife who has been trying for many years to alienate him from their 7 year old daughter.

I am a clinical psychologist - and very familiar with PAS, a fact she knows very well. As such, she has now targeted me. My husband and I have been together for 4 years, and for the entire time - his ex wife has spread vicious rumours and obsessed over us in such a way, that we are always looking over our shoulder. She has made slanderous accusations to the Family Court, the Police, Solicitors and recently, attempted to have me discredited professionally by lodging a "complaint" to the Health Care Complaints Commission stating that I was "delusional, paranoid, extremely jealous of her and mentally unfit to be practicing as a clinical psychologist".
Sadly, my step-daughter is now beginning to adopt her mother's delusional views. The difficulty for us is that we have NEVER said a negative word to her about her mother...and we never will. We always encourage and support her relationship with her mother, despite the obvious hatred and venom that is returned to us. We feel helpless, as we continue to focus on my step daughter, and creating a supportive and safe environment for her. This is what we CAN control. I only hope that this is enough, and we do not end up losing her....