Vincent Papaleo Clinical Psychologist 81 Denmark St Kew, 3101 Tel 98539022 [email protected] Wilhelm Reich 1949 “ …. a certain personality type amongst divorced parents who defended themselves from narcissistic injury by fighting the other parent to rob that parent the pleasure of the child Wallerstein and Kelly (1990) “ ….. An Unholy alliance between a narcissistically enraged parent and a vulnerable child who together waged war in order to hurt the other parent.” Ticknore and Fields 1989 “ the Medea Syndrome” to describe the parent who seeks revenge on their former spouse, to destroy the relationship with the other parent Richard Gardiner Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) • process that arose exclusively in the context of custody disputes • pattern of denigration by a child against a previously loved parent that has no justification. Narcissistic Injury • • • • • • Narcissistic Personality Traits Lacking a well-established self identify relying on primitive defenses Externalization Denial projection PAS Symptoms • combination of programming or brainwashing by an indoctrinating parent • contribution by the child themselves to account for the vilification of the targeted parent. PAS Behavioural presentation • • • • • • Appeared to share a common Pathogenesis Rejection Vilification borrowed scenarios a lack of ambivalence complete rejection of a once loved and cared for parent • an alarming level of dispassion and indifference • Children show Phobic like reactions Core Presumption • there is an unspoken but clear expectation by the favoured parent that the child reject the now alienated parent • the clear understanding that should they not do so, that they too will face rejection, removal of love or abandonment by the favoured parent. Kelly and Johnston (2004) • reformulated systemic model • more sophisticated multifactorial perspective • looked less at a linear causality • more at an interactional model to explain why a child rejected a parent following separation A Systemic Perspective • The behavior of the favoured parent and rejected parent • Parents’ relationship with the child before and after separation, • Level of parental competence • History of family violence and, or neglect • contribution of the legal process • influence of extended family and friends The Child’s Contribution Kelly and Johnston proposed a model that looked at the interaction of all these factors along a continuum Importantly they considered the vulnerabilities within the child themselves – – – – age stage, temperament psychological and developmental factors Greater Nuance • the systemic model conceptualized that the behavior of the favored parent was one, but not necessarily the main component in understanding the child and parent problems. Fiddler, Bala and Saini. (2013) • Johnston quoted …. I prefer to keep the term “Alienation” for what a parent does, which I think is emotionally abusive”. Normal Divorce Reactions • rejection of a parent to some degree is common in • there are normal affinities • It is normal for some children to support one parent more • not all rejected parents are passive victims • family violence, emotional, physical and sexual abuse do occur • neglectful parenting and parental abuse are all reasonable justifications for why a child may not want to see a parent • Some rejected parents do provide a genuinely compromised level of parenting • Some are active architects of their own demise. The Facts Remain ……. Alienation is: • easy to observe • easy to describe • its behavioral manifestations are familiar • there is no consistent pathogenesis. • each family brings with it a unique set of dynamics • There is hardly any predictive reliability to what cases will and will not traverse down the path of alienation • Hard to treat Short and long term Effects • • • • • heightened levels of anxiety, lower levels of self esteem, lessened social competence, higher risks of depression generally lowered psychological functioning across childhood • extends into adulthood and subsequent parenting. • There is general consensus that the long-term implications are sufficient to warrant active and determined intervention. Therapeutic Successes • Success is more limited to those cases described in the literature as mild and moderate in severity • • • • Efficacy of change of Custody Reversal of living arrangements Usefulness and role of therapy Sensibility of maintaining the status quo These cases are Hard! • Courts seem unable to deal with the problems effectively • Courts become very concerned about the combination of developmental and health issues, especially when compounded by the allegations of abuse • Distinctions between abuse and alienation can be difficult and especially when both alienation and abuse appear together Points of Distinction • alienation is different to normal reasons for why a child might reject a parent. • Alienation is different to estrangement • Alienation involves a message of restraint, regardless of the extent to which the rejected parent may have contributed to their own predicament • Alienation entails a significant level of influence Intervention • Usually a combination of: – Legal – Education – Psychological – Works best for mild to moderate problems – – – – when refusal is mainly related to affinities, age and gender issues when the rejection is related to circumstances of divorce these families benefit enormously from psychological intervention – Especially with the over riding imprimatur of the Court. Goal of treatment • • • • • • • • • • foster a positive relationship between both parents help reestablish functional parental roles help the child develop less black and white thinking more realistic perceptions within the family addressing historical inaccuracies encouraging development of a full range of affect finding a middle space Increase flexible thinking. Get parents and children in to treatment Traditionally successful techniques – cognitive behavior therapy, – family therapy – family based interactional therapies. The Severe End of the Continuum • What distinguishes these cases is their impenetrability and immutability to change • may be that more severe cases reflect a different underlying pathology and pathological processes that are more than just greater severity, than less difficult cases These cases are High Risk • running away • violent and aggressive towards the rejected parent • place demands on the most resourced of parents • intervention has a window of opportunity and a use by date. Family Bridges Program • In an attempt understand and explain what he observed, Warshak (2010) looked to the existing body of Psychological and Social neuro-science in order to understand and explain what he observed and then direct how to intervene Genuine Alienation Fundamental to all cases involving rejection of a parent by a child is consideration of the amount of the influence of one parent on that child. • • • • • • Reicht (1949) Wallerstein and Kelly (1980) Tickmore and James (1989) Gardiner (1985) Johnston and Kelly (2001) The alliance between a narcissistically inclined parent and the child There is a Power Differential • The Favoured parent is in a more dominant position • The alienation involves a child who is in a less dominant and subordinant position • There is a power differential between parent and child • The distortion of family hierarchy elevates the level of dominance of the child in the family system to equal and above that of the rejected parent The Level of Influence • An increasingly nuanced and sophisticated understanding and intervention in mild and moderate cases. • this has not been the case in relation to the more severe cases • What these cases have in common is – the level and process of influence by one parent – that child’s perceptions, independent of that child’s past relationship with the other parent. Old Ideas • The ability to influence the behavior of another person because of the unspoken feelings and communication by that person is also a process well documented in psychological literature. • • • • • • • • Folie a Deux Emotional Contagion Double Bind Communication Projective Identification Social referencing Rosenthal Effect Co-Dependency Social-Neuroscience Laseque and Fulnet in 1887 • first described a case of folie a deux • entailed that transmission of delusional beliefs from a psychotic individual to a healthy family member • They describe this syndrome as characterized by the emergence of the same symptoms in family members who “ …. are emotionally very close and psychologically entwined. Soriano, R.M. (2009) • When describing a paranoid disorder (Folie a deux) between two sisters, concluded: “ …. an induced delusional disorder most often occurs between a group of people who share close relationship bonds and mostly family ties.” • .... even though epidemiology remains unclear, these people who develop this faulty thinking share a close co-existence and intimate emotional links, a distorted set of beliefs that are plausible, based on past events, and that the person in whom these faulty beliefs are induced has an easily influential personality …. …. treatment should begin with the separation of the induced from the inducer. Emotional Contagion • The transmission of faulty beliefs shows features of emotional contagion • usually involves a dominant person impinging their beliefs on a subordinate person The Common Behavioural features • a child’s reconstruction of reality • Phobic like behaviour toward a once loved parent • based upon plausible but highly exaggerated content • that has often been obtained to a larger or lesser extent from the other parent • disproportionate beliefs about the other parent and their capacity to do harm or damage to the child or to the favored parent, • there is often heavy reliance upon borrowed scenarios • that is an incorporation of fact, information that has been told to them in the third person, • common is the independent thinker phenomenon • the presentation of their reality is often grossly disturbed and distorted. • any challenge to this construction is met with angry and often frenzied denial about any influence from the other parent • in the vast majority of these cases the child previously had at least a good enough relationship with the parent who is now vilified and rejected The Need to Reconceptualize the Behaviour of the Favoured parent • The parent who simply supports the child’s right to choose • who overly includes the child in discussion about the other parent • denigrates of the other parent • The unspoken disapproval or threat of rejection, removal of love or abandonment should they have a relationship with the other parent • directly contributing to the psychological alteration of their child’s experience. A Subtle, but Pathognomonic Communication Style Watzlawick, Weakland and Fisch (1974) Change – Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution • double bind communication • Most will also have experienced directly the double bind when the words that the child hears convey the message that they should go • the posture, facial expressions, communicated ambivalence and tone clearly communicates the message don’t go. Gregory Bateson 1972 – Steps to an Ecology of Mind • The double bind creates an impossible situation. • The Child connects to and “hears” the unspoken communication • Postulated - The double bind theory of of mental illness • may be particularly relevant when conceptualizing of this kind of disturbance. • Two messages heard simultaneously • When confronted with such emotional conflict and anxiety, the child becomes emotionally immobilized and survival in that sense may require a splitting off of one reality in favor of another. • Split the world in to Good and Bad – You are with me or you are against me – There is no room for ambivalence! Projective Identification • The psychological depositing of unspoken feelings into the child who then acts upon these feelings as thought they belong to them. • These children act upon these feelings as though they are real and emanate from within themselves. • The emotional experience that is deposited into them even though at one level is alien to them, becomes infectious to the point that it cannot be contained. Social referencing • the tendency for people to look to significant others in ambiguous situations in order to obtain clarifying information about the situation. • Young children look to the facial expressions, tone of voice, physical posturing and by reading their parent’s faces in order to get a sense of what is occurring and what that parent is feeling in order to make a decision about what is and is not safe. • Every person involved in the assessment of these difficult cases will have observed a child look to a parent to obtain non-verbal instruction about how to behave and whether to go to the other parent. The Rosenthal effect • expectations placed on a person be they positive or negative, influence that person and their behavior • the ability to influence the behavior of others based on the unspoken communication or feelings about the other. • a person’s strongly held views, attitudes and beliefs can influence the behavior of people around them in ways that that the person is not even aware. Co-Dependence • A more pathological process • one person is controlled and manipulated by another who is themselves effected with a pathological condition such as narcissism. • Narcissistic Insult – Reicht, Wallerstein, Kelly etc. The Continuum • As a social process, the Rosenthal effect and social referencing, and double bind communication given tangible examples of how non-verbal, unspoken expectation can clearly communicate, direct and in some ways control the behavior of others without the spoken word. • Co-dependent relationships and Folie a Deux are much more pathological • Shared madness The Common features? • Common to all these processes – close and intimate relationships, – close physical proximity, – dominant and subordinate relationships – may reflect the dynamic most evident in cases of severe alienation Emotional Contagion • The Importance of Social Neuroscience • a process in which a person or a group influences the emotions or the behavior of another person or group through the conscious or the unconscious induction of emotional states and behavior. • It describes a process that entails a transfer of moods and is connected to empathy and individuation • Emotional contagion is particularly evident in the behavior of children who are observed to become distressed when another becomes distressed or happy when another is happy • It reflects an emotional capacity to influence the behavior of others and reflects the use of emotion-like language in every day communication • How we feel affects what we do • The question is “How do we get that feeling in the first place?” • In cases of extreme alienation. • It is often difficult for children who are the subject of alienation to describe the changing nature of their relationship with a previously loved parent. • They proclaim independence and typically attribute blame to the rejected parent for often trivial and frivolous reasons. social neuro-science • emotional contagion involves the mirroring of how others feel • We use mirror neurons in the front part of our brain to mediate our social functioning • Mirror neurons allow us to pick up subtle social signals about how other people feel that function outside of consciousness • The mirror neurons mirror in our heads what we are noticing in the social context and explain emotional states of catching, even more than thoughts and language. • It is a common experience that people’s feelings in a room or a social context become caught by others and especially when those people have a high status • The more high status a person, the more contagious their emotions because those who are subordinate look to them for cues • The overlap with this social psychology finding and the observation of a child in the company of a favored parent communicating disapproval for the rejected parent should be obvious • The overlap with this social psychology finding and the observation of a child in the company of a favored parent communicating disapproval for the rejected parent should be obvious. • The more high status the person, the more that person’s mood affects what happens around them. • Subordinate children may read the signals and act accordingly. • If the dominant person is not able to acknowledge their emotional state, • then the more subordinate person will incorporate this state and act upon it as though it is their own although the origin of those feelings will remain foreign to them. • Emotions that are the most contagious are fear and anger. Emotional Contagion • • • • emotional contagion is less conscious more automatic relies on non-verbal communication mimics the emotional expressions of the sender • picked up by the receiver.