Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The family Pandora's Box


Some victims of parental alienation syndrome don't realize until adulthood that one parent turned them against the other


March 24, 2009

After Joe Rabiega's parents divorced, when he was an adolescent, his father repeatedly told him his mother had abandoned him. The boy had to return any gifts that came from his mother's side of the family and, twice daily, he had to pledge his allegiance to his father.

"I was never allowed to have anything to do with her," he says from his home in Raleigh, N.C. "The consequences were dire if I did. He said I would have nobody."

Even though Mr. Rabiega, now 33, had witnessed ugly behaviour by his father toward his mother and knew his dad to be an erratic alcoholic, it wasn't until he sought counselling for personal problems in his early 20s that his past snapped into focus: He had been the victim of parental alienation syndrome - his father had systematically turned him against his mother.

The phenomenon, coined by psychiatrist Richard A. Gardner in 1985, has gained traction recently due to a number of recent high-profile divorce cases in Canada - not to mention the very public case of movie star Alec Baldwin, who accused his former wife, Kim Basinger, of parental alienation.

Although the condition remains controversial, the debate has centred on how to treat children who have been turned against one parent by the other. One model, originally recommended by Dr. Gardner, involves rapid "deprogramming" and the removal of the child from the alienating parent. Another, less aggressive technique, which encourages children to think critically and strives to keep both parents involved, is the focus of a group of Toronto-based mental health experts and lawyers who hope to open a "family reunification clinic" within the year.

But in many cases, experts say, PAS is not identified when the victim is a child. Some never unravel their pasts. Others, like Mr. Rabiega, pry open their family's Pandora's box as adults. It can be confusing and painful; long-held narratives of childhoods crumble, and many adults recoil at their own complicity.

"These people say, 'I was such a fool. I was such a horrible person. How could I have betrayed one of my parents?' " says Amy Baker, a psychology researcher and the author of Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking the Ties that Bind.

A common scenario involves an adult realizing that one parent told them the other parent wanted nothing to do with them, all the while denying the former spouse access through the courts, says retired Toronto psychologist Marty McKay who has treated adults dealing with past parental alienation. "That can create a lot of bitterness when it comes to light."

Dr. Baker, who is leading a seminar on this topic at the Canadian Symposium for Parental Alienation Syndrome in Toronto on Friday, uses the analogy of a cult to describe how PAS takes hold.

"No adult wakes up in the morning and says, "You know what? Today's the day I want to shave my head, give away all my money and cut off my friends and family so I can sell flowers at the airport for a nickel so some stranger can drive a Mercedes. Nobody says that. And yet it happens, doesn't it? If it can happen to an adult who gives an allegiance to a total stranger, it can happen to a kid giving allegiance to a parent."

For her part, Dr. Baker, who has a PhD in developmental psychology but is not a practising clinician, says she started her research to answer alienated parents' "burning questions" about whether kids ever figure out what has happened. After she put out a call for participants, 40 people, including Mr. Rabiega, responded.

A number of catalysts can trigger a realization, including getting married, having a first child or the death of a parent. But outcomes vary wildly. "For some people, the same event - the death of the alienating parent [for example] - can function to entrench the alienation, and for another person, it frees the person up," Dr. Baker says.

Rhonda Pisanello had never heard of parental alienation until she was doing online research for a loved one and typed "turning a child against a parent" into a search engine. She believes the term describes her father's efforts to sever her ties with her mother after their divorce.

"I had never had a name for what had happened to me before and had for the most part blamed myself for being such a difficult child!" says the 45-year-old, whose life has been characterized by running away as a teen, depression and attempted suicide, in an e-mail interview.

While Ms. Pisanello, who lives in Rimbey, Alta., is not undergoing therapy, she says she has found solace online with the Oakville, Ont.-based Parental Alienation Awareness Organization and other online resources. She is now estranged from her father but reconciled with her mother before her death in 2007.

For those who seek professional help, a number of therapies are available. Cognitive behavioural therapy is considered helpful by many.

Some adult children come to maintain relationships with both parents. Dr. McKay has overseen many meetings between children and parents. She says it's crucial to focus on what's possible. "What isn't possible is getting into a time machine and going back and making things change in the past," she says. "Even if you didn't have the kind of parent-child relationship you would have wanted as a child or adolescent, you can still have a relationship as adults."

Now that both of Mr. Rabiega's parents are deceased, he says he's still processing some guilt over never fully discussing the past with his mother, although the two had reconciled. His father's behaviour escalated in later years, and Mr. Rabiega eventually took out a restraining order against him.

As the happily married father of a 13-month-old daughter, he says he feels increasingly calm about what he can and can't "fix" about his childhood.

"As a child, it messes with your development and your sense of being," he says. "I don't think you ever truly understand because it's a rewiring of your brain away from what you were supposed to be."

globeandmail.com: The family Pandora's Box

Thank you Dr. Amy Baker for sharing this article with the PAPA (parents against parent alienation) group!

My Two Cents or in today's case my two dollars worth!

I started a My Space Page to connect with other "target" parents.

I am friends with many target parents and we share information on the courts and non custodial parents via bulletins and blogs.

Hence.. I have a lot of information on My "My Space" page about PA/PAS.

I also play the My Space games such as Vampires and Mafia Wars.. so I also get many friend requests for the game apps. These gamers as I call them.. come from all walks of life.. including being adult children of alienation.

With this in mind.. I send out info that would attract an adult that might not know they were the target of a personality disordered adult when they were young.. and perhaps they were alienated and didn't figure it out yet.

Well .. apparently it worked! I've had two - possible three I don't remember.. anywho.. I've had people contact me thanking me for my bulletins and blogs. They claimed after reading through all the material I have available on my pages .. they figured out that they were adults that suffered through their childhoods being separated from a loved one and didn't understand any of it until they read what I had sent out!

One of them wasn't quite sure.. so she kept reading and reading.. and low and behold.. when I Incorporated the personality disorder aspect of alienators.. she put it all together!

Her mother and her grandmother were evil as she worded it - they were evil women!

She went on to say that her grandfather and her had an amazing relationship when she was young.. yet one day "as if he fell off the planet" her grandfather just disappeared!

Many many years later as an adult she began to search for him.. she desperately wanted to know what happened - why he left her like that!

What she found still hurts her to this day..

She did make contact with her granddad.. she found out through him.. that he and her grandmother got a divorce.. and the grandmother put a clause in the divorce that he was to never contact the granddaughter (her) again.

The adult granddaughter then went to the county court house to pull the records of her grandparents divorce to see for herself if this was true.. low and behold right there in front of her own eyes was the clause her granddad told her about...

She returned to the grandfather and told him that she did in fact find her own proof that what he was saying was true.. and they sat and had coffee trying to recapture the closeness they once shared..

Sadly that didn't happen... she said the grandfather seems to have moved on.. he seemed uncomfortable that she had contacted him.. and she thought he wanted to be left alone with his new life..

I told her my opinion from the standpoint of a target parent (grandparent) which is ..

Guilt for allowing ourselves to be manipulated.. hurt or anger for all the years we missed out on.. and fear that we will be wrongly judged by our loved one whom we were separated from.

I told her that because we are also dysfunctional (often times targets are people pleasers -
laid back - nice guys/nice women so to speak - people that want to keep the peace and be liked- those of us that want to just play nice - yes those are often dysfunctional qualities) proven by us having allowed ourselves to be in the situation to begin with .. at the mercy of a personality disordered partner.. that target parents thought process is more likely than not to be an unhealthy thought process.. more likely than not a thought process that is negative.. self defeating.. self sabotaging.. and unproductive.. and without therapy or tons of self help.. that thought process is more than likely to stay with us for a lifetime. So when the smoke clears and years have gone by.. years of suffering the consequences of our passivity or of our aggression (anything but assertiveness) we live in fear of being rejected (negative thought process). We can twist situations to be heard with dysfunctional ears (ie turning an Innocent comment into something negative about ourselves without ever using critical thinking.. or alternative meanings to things.. somehow those people that are victims of personality disordered individuals will always think along those terms of negativity..

So what are we left with? Well, if grandpa was a people pleaser nice guy..keep the peace kind of personality.. I can almost bet his upbringing left him with a negative thought process.. and the granddaughter who freely admits she was raised by her evil mother and her evil grandmother.. well .. her thought process is by design a negative one...

Now lets throw into the mix years of separation.. years of our/their/your own negative thoughts on the subject.. years of hearing often false negative things about the target from the personality disordered custodial parent (or grandparent/aunt/uncle/foster parent/whomever it was) telling the victim child stuff such as... the target didn't want you that's why they left you.. or the target has their own life now and they don't want any part of you .. or the target is a bad person..

The scenarios can go on forever. However the bottom line is the same .. feeling of inadequacy.. feeling of not being good enough.. feelings of being unloved or bad.. after all if this adult (target parent or target grandparent-the one left behind or left out) that I loved doesn't love me.. or is such a bad person.. how can I be loving.. worthy.. or good... It is right there that you can see the disaster that can happen when there is a reunion... both still afraid.. still feeling and thinking negative thoughts.. hearing bad where there isn't any.. feeling bad.. where bad wasn't part of the equation... not connecting like they should.. because of earlier programing by the personality disordered adult.. a program that is nothing more than toxic and in desperate need of being deleted from the mind.. and replaced with a healthier program.. one that will allow all to love themselves and feel worthy!

So what is the answer? Therapy .. long term therapy to change the toxic original program we operate on..

Some of you may be thinking.. ok this chick is insane.. I don't hate myself.. I don't have negative thinking.. what is negative thinking anyway? She's no professional.. she's just an *&^%$#

To those of you.. that may be thinking these or similar thoughts right now..

I challenge you to go to therapy and find out for yourself.. just how negative your thought process may be. It is my opinion that you do not escape being raised by a personality disordered/ aka evil or manipulative/ or intimidating/ smothering/ abusive or just ole dominating and destructive adult without having paid the ultimate price of dysfunctional often negative thinking.. which leads to self sabotage in the end!

You will see I'm right .. if you do go to therapy and figure out that your adult relationships have suffered.. your career has suffered.. and your quality of life in general is not the best it can be..

It's not possible to have a positive thought process (despite your own beliefs that you do and can have a positive outlook) when we are raised by distorted thinking dysfunctional adults.

The problem lies in coming to terms with many ugly facts (stated above) then resisting going for help in changing it!

I also suffered from negative thinking most of my life.. I was my own worst enemy! Perhaps you are too! Additionally.. because this reality came to me after having children and being separated from them.. my children have suffered the ultimate price!

In closing.. I pray that my children Chris, S., Dawn, Louie and Nicky Uccio come to terms with the above realities.. and hear my pleas for them to get therapy not as my saying "your bad- there's something wrong with you" or any of the other negative thinking they may come up with.. but to hear my pleas as just that.. a PLEA to fix what I had a hand in breaking by my own dysfunction back when I was raising them.. by allowing myself to stay in an abusive relationship with what I feel is a psychopath estranged husband! Witnessing my passiveness.. and inability to be strong and assertive.. which led to us becoming estranged.. has effected their lives horrendously .. and I need to make it right! The only way to make it right is to tell them and you (whomever you are) to please get yourself a good therapist.. and change the broken program which you are operating on now. Learn that Narcissists/Psychopaths will destroy anything in their path INCLUDING their partners and their own children!

Sadly those kinds of personality disordered people will rope in those of us with low-self -esteem from our own childhood dysfunction and create history over and over again until someone stands up and says NO MORE! It will be the decision to get therapy or become determined to stop it using self help books and or therapy where you will be saying NO MORE! Then we will see a difference in the quality of our lives.... and sadly not a moment before!

For those nay sayers that don't want to believe me..

I again challenge you - take an honest look at your friends - write down their qualities.. good and bad.. then know that "THE BEST MIRROR- IS A GOOD FRIEND"! If your friends are passive and always end up in "bad relationships" or if you can't figure out why your always hurt in your own relationships.. perhaps it's time to be honest with yourself.

If you find that your friends are either drama queens/kings.. or if there is some other clear dysfunction such as they are alcoholics or sex addicts (loose- or willing to sleep with anybody) or they have a problem with gambling or some other addiction that effects their lives in a bad way.. or even your drama queen/kings or your hypochondriacs.. perhaps its
time to take an honest look at yourself!

Additionally, for those of you that don't want to or aren't ready to accept that your parent is/was the problem.. take a look at who their best friend is.. does his/her best friend stick around because they are just like your parent? Or is your parents best friend sticking around because of the magnetic draw between the psychopath and his good guy/woman victim.

Ever watch "House on TV.com - Free Full Episodes & Clips, & Show Info"?

If the answer is yes.. then you are aware of the dysfunctional psychopath/co-dependent relationship between House and Dr. Wilson. You are also aware of the self awareness of his boss.. Dr. Cuddy! In one episode where Dr. Cuddy and Dr. Wilson were talking about Dr. Cuddy and House being in a relationship.. Dr Cuddy said something along the lines.. of "why would I want a relationship with House.. first it will be bliss, wonderful and alive, then because all that fun is really a disguise for self hatred it will turn into frustration, then anger and fighting.. and it will all be downhill from there.. with alternating days/hours switching somewhere between self hate and false promises to change, why would I put myself through that" She also makes mention of her feeling vulnerable the night before as an explanation of why she allowed herself to kiss House. The psychology behind that segment of the show ..
is phenomenal and should be understood by every person on the planet - so they too can protect them self from the "

"Dr. Greggory Houses" out there.. and see themselves as the Dr Wilsons co-dependent enablers out there! Perhaps in that episode one watching it could understand what when we feel vulnerable we are easy prey for the abusers/narcissists/psychopaths in our lives.. because of that instant pick me up/make you feel better or good about yourself they use to lure you in.. but buyer beware.. it's an act and it's a dangerous act operating on self hate.. and a need to have a victim to abuse - someone to make THEM feel better about them selves or someone to prove to them that their negative thought process telling them they are unworthy is accurate... they alternate between needing to make you feel bad in order to make them feel good.. and punishing you and forcing you to act out and punish them as sort of a validation of their own unworthiness.. ehh I could go on and on.. but I think your beginning to get the picture here. There is so much more involved.. that I couldn't even begin to explain it all in one blog.

Pick up a few self help books.. or do some of your own research..or therapy to get a better understanding or it all... then change your destiny- change your childrens destiny.. don't
let history repeate itself .. not on your watch!

It isn't about accepting "I'm broke theres something wrong with me" it's about I've been a victim of dysfunction. Due to that dysfunction my life isn't as happy as it can be and I have the power to end it right here and now!

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Stoogiemu said...

I praise you for your insight and want you to know that you are dead-on. You have the precious gift of teaching others through your own struggles. I am constantly learning more about my own situation through your writings and others like you. Thank you for reaching out and sharing your story.

Louise Uccio said...

Thank you for taking the time to comment - I have put it all out there in hopes of helping others.. before they end up where I ended up!

I only wish I had half the knowlege I have today - this would have never happened to me or my babies!