Through the process of writing my memoir, as well as agreeing to be interviewed for a documentary on family alienation, the familiar fear surfaces in my dreams at night. In my sleep, I force the words out to my father I have seen my mother.
In my next dream, I tell my stepmother, with urgency, that the story line she was told (that my mother just “left”), is untrue. I am dreaming that I am in my childhood home, and my stepmother wants to go to my father in the next room to tell him what I’ve said. It is then that I feel the fear I felt as a child. He will be rageful. He will get violent. Someone will get hurt or die.
As I’ve learned through my research, “parent alienation” is a manifestation of a personality disorder pathology. Some cases, including mine, have a domestic violence variant. Themes of control and emotional and psychological (and sometimes physical) abuse toward the (targeted) spouse have played out in the marriage. When the targeted spouse rejects the abusive spouse, the control escalates. A symptom of the pathology is the abusive spouse’s inability to mentally handle rejection. They will stop at nothing to regain control and their status as the “one in charge, the one that must be admired, and never rejected”.
I believe that parents who alienate their children from the other parent are bullies, but some are more outwardly aggressive than others. Sadly, most people do not want to confront the bully, but especially not a rageful or violent one.
Speaking from both personal experience and research, the children have a knowing that the rage will be turned against them if they fight against the alienation. The alienating parent communicates this is many ways, both subtle and overt.
This is the feeling that I remember. This is the feeling that will never quite leave me, no matter my age, my confidence in what I am doing, or the support that I have.
But in the face of fear, especially an outdated fear, one must keep moving forward. Nightmares may occur out of real feelings, but the nightmares themselves are not real.
In the light of day, I carry on this task of shining a light on “parent alienation”, and telling my story. Not doing so would feel like self betrayal, and that is real. That would be the real nightmare.
To be able to feel the fear and do it any way, as the saying goes, I believe, is the gift I have been given. I will not squander it.
This letter of support, written by Dr. Craig Childress for one of his clients, explains the impossible position the children are put in during the alienation process. http://drcachildress.org/asp/admin/getFile.asp?RID=115&TID=6&FN=pdf