My dream was that when my kids came to live with me again they would see that I was not who the alienator told them I was, they would open their minds & hearts to me, the alienation would end, and we would live happily ever after. This did not happen. I did not imagine that the alienator, their dad, would end up living a 5 minute walk from my door, and that the kids would see him virtually every day. Essentially today I provide a hostel or dormitory, and they do all their living with him. Well, not all. They do spend time in their rooms, bring friends over, and hang out with each other, but they keep their interactions with me to the absolute minimum, while they have meals and hang out and socialize with their dad.
The easiest way to understand it is to imagine that they were members of a cult like the Moonies or Hare Krishnas and had to move out the cult compound, but had their loyalty to the cult reinforced and maintained by staying aloof and separate from the new environment and by making daily visits to their leader after school or work, and taking meals with him, spending quality time with him.
I realize now that given this situation – daily reinforcement of the alienation – my expectations for reconnection with my children were unrealistic. However, I also think that the very fact that they work so hard to stay away from me is evidence that they actually know the truth (that I love them and am a sane and loving parent) and must stay away to avoid having to deal with this truth. (You’ll have to take my word for it, but I am friendly and warm and respectful, and not critical or intrusive or controlling, and the home I have provided is pleasant and welcoming.)
Three things give me hope and keep me from staying discouraged, because I do slip into feeling discouraged. First, that they obviously have to work at maintaining their alienated state, that it is not easy or natural for them. Second, they do ask for my help with things like making dentist appointments. Why wouldn’t they ask their dad the alienator? At least in this arena, they trust me more than him, and I am grateful. Third, it is impossible that the alienator will be able to maintain his control of four developing individuals. Outside influences and other people will become more important in their lives and challenge them. I just have to be patient.
The key lesson from my experience, which is confirmed by most of the work on parental alienation and PAS, is that the best and probably only way for an alienated parent to overcome alienation is to keep the alienator away. Extended time with you, without the alienator’s influence, is the only solution. If you have the chance, fight as hard as you can for this (see What to Do and What Not to Do and Fighting Back Using the Legal System Part VIII).
In my next post I will write about a fascinating article written for therapists to guide them in working with children and families who have left cults. It provides a lot of helpful insight into why and how children (or anyone) can be alienated from a loving parent and how and why the brainwashing is maintained.