Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Symptoms of PAS: Absence of Guilt over Cruelty to and/or Exploitation of the Alienated Parent

This is the sixth in a series of posts about the eight symptoms of Parental Alienation Syndrome, first described by the late Richard Gardner, MD. The sixth symptom, and the subject of this post is Absence of Guilt over Cruelty to and/or Exploitation of the Alienated Parent. This symptom is typically found in the more severe end of the spectrum of parental alienation. It is manifested through the alienated child’s angry and critical tirades against the targeted parent. Under these circumstances, the severely alienated child will hurl hateful and demeaning comments directly to the targeted parent and will express or experience no guilt or remorse for doing so. One vivid example I recall from many years ago was a young man who, through the manipulation of the Family Court system, was allowed to testify as to why he did not wish to see his father, who was sitting some 10 feel away from him with his lawyer. The young man stated that he hated his father, that he never loved him, that his father disgusted him and that if his father died suddenly, that he would not attend his funeral and would be happy about his demise. The father, who had spent untold money, time and energy in the attempt to maintain a relationship with his son, was understandably crushed at hearing these cruel messages, all delivered in a cold and hateful tone. The judge commented on how this young man’s delivery and overall demeanor during this exchange was actually chilling. Interestingly, some months later, I learned that this young man had reached the age of majority, had moved out of his mother’s home and was now living with and working for his father. Obviously, in spite of the cruel and chilling speech in the courtroom, once the environment changed, this young man was able to essentially become himself again. I frequently tell parents who have received such cruel treatment, that underneath all of this is most likely an entirely different child. Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of this symptom is that appears so very convincing. In many respects, severely alienated children operate in a kind of trance state where they too may believe the things they are saying, when they are saying them. However, as with trance states in general, once the trance has passed the person returns to their normal state of being. Obviously, in the case of parental alienation, this return to themselves becomes less likely the longer the alienated environment which produces this trance state is maintained. This is one reason why reunification therapy should not be gradually and slowly engaged. This gradual and slow engagement actually helps to maintain the alienating environment and the trance like state that it produces. Some years ago, there was professional discussion about the importance of the alienated child recanting the horrible things that may have been said via this symptom. The general consensus now is that such recantation is not to be sought, as this will most likely re-engage the alienation. Perhaps one way of thinking of this is that the horrible things said via this symptom should be treated more as a bad dream. It should simply be released. As before, I would appreciate any feedback and comments about this most disturbing symptom of the PAS.

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