Monday, August 6, 2012

The Eight PAS Symptoms: Independent Thinker Phenomenon

This is the fourth post in a series of eight centered on the eight symptoms identified by Richard Gardner, MD in 1984, which he coined as being the Parental Alienation Syndrome. The fourth symptom is referred to as the Independent Thinker Phenomenon. Again, we should be reminded that as Gardner saw case after case of divorcing families where a once loving child would suddenly profess antipathy for their once loved parent, patterns were noticed. The pattern became the eight symptoms of the Parental Alienation Syndrome, or PAS, for short. As a clinician, I can verify that after one sees hundreds and hundreds of patients, in a given context, that the effect of this sort of experience is that one begins to notice repetitive patterns of symptoms and behaviors. When one sees these repetitive patterns, clinical insight begins to develop about what the patient is experiencing. I know that this is exactly the experience that Gardner began to have in the 1970’s, ultimately leading to his first publication regarding PAS in 1984. I mention this because the symptom of this post, the Independent Thinker Phenomenon, is a symptom that can be easily missed, or perhaps given less significance than it deserves. The Independent Thinker Phenomenon refers to the consistent behavior seen in alienated children where they claim that their resistance to seeing the unfavored or targeted parent derives from their own independent thought and is not the result of the other parent’s influence. Very often, this symptoms appears as the child - very much out of the blue - announces that no one told them to say this, and that this is his or her own thought. The significance of this “out of context” expression is that it reveals an agenda, on the part of the child, to carry out their assignment of: (1) arguing that their resistance to seeing the unfavored parent is their independent thought, and (2) that this thought is not result of the influence of the other parent. While these two components are in many ways overlapping, their separate expression is consistent with the kind of urgency that only alienated children experience. The purpose of this symptom is to convince the audience - very often court appointees - that they should not have to see their once loved parent. The urgency that is the fuel for this symptom is simply unseen in other contexts of divorce. When parents divorce and parental alienation is not present, this phenomenon is inconceivable. When parental alienation is not present, and divorce is in process, children make every effort to stay out of the middle, never taking a position in the parental conflict. This symptom is the opposite of this. In so being, it is a quiet hallmark of parental alienation. In this context, the custody evaluator, that is those evaluators who have an understanding of parental alienation, often see this symptom as the spontaneous statement, “you know, no one told me to say this” or perhaps, “my (mother or father - alienating parent) did not influence me”. Again, we see the completely unnatural favoring of one parent and the commensurate rejecting of the other, in one simple statement. I would be appreciative of any feedback about the appearance of this symptom in your experience. Thank you.

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