Robert Gougaloff ‘s Parent Alienation Blog

A blog about Parent Alienation

Why do PAS/HAP parents act like they do?

Just to put my disclaimer upfront, the following post is just an opinion, based on multiple books and publications I read and seminars I attended.

I firmly believe that PAS/HAP parents have never left the “Egocentric Stage” , which is the very first stage in child development, where survival skills are learned.  This stage usually lasts about three to five years in children, after which they move on to the “People Pleasing Stage” and the “Fairness Stage”.  Many adults however never move out of these primitive stages of child development.  To the parents still stuck in the first stage, having complete control over their child or children is a life and death matter.  Since they don’t know how to please people, every attempt to do so comes with strings attached.  They usually feel very uncomfortable giving, but will readily take.  They usually don’t obey the rules and may not obey any court order.

My observations have lead me to the conclusion that such parents are usually unable to “individuate” (see children as separate humans from themselves) and usually become overly enmeshed with their children.

Many psychologists diagnose such people as narcissists, a condition of self-centerdness, where they believe that they are entitled to whatever they want.  These people are also often called “sociopaths”, which is a person who has no moral conscience.  These people are unable to have empathy or compassion for others and are usually unable to see a situation from another person’s point of view.

The severe PAS/HAP parent usually has a very poor prognosis.  It is unlikely that they are ever able to “get it”, and it is even more unlikely that they will ever be able to stop the alienation process, because after all it is a survival issue to them.

The victimized children however, are being heavily abused by such behavior.  They end up in a double bind.  Their instincts and genetics tell them to love the target parent, but they also figure out “which side the bread is buttered on” and their survival needs push them into an unnatural and uncomfortable, not to mention confusing direction.  That is why Parent Alienation is considered a severe form of child abuse by many psychologists.

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October 13, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Rationality and Emotion – Can both co-exist in the same Brain?

Most psychologists will say “NO” to this question, because these originate from two different areas of our brain. Rationality originates predominantly from the pre-frontal cortex, whereas emotions, such as anger, fear and resentments originate from the more primitive limbic system, the latter one usually winning out over the former one when it comes to a response.

How does this tie in with parent alienation?  Well, my greatest struggle is understanding how one and the same person (the HAP parent) can be a scientifically trained person, accepting nothing less than empirical evidence when it comes to making professional decisions or decisions for the general health of his or her children, yet at the same time can act in a manner which has been proven through empirical evidence to cause a great deal of psychological harm to children.

Is it because the emotions of anger and resentment (which are really just fear-based sub-emotions) are so strong that they literally shut down the rational thinking process, or is it perhaps that the satisfaction of the ego is at that moment more important than the possible negative effects that behavior might have on children? What about when the conflict started over 6 years ago (as it is in my case)?  Does the brain not engage into a natural protective mode, where it down-regulates such emotion over time, because it is unhealthy to the human body to live with such resentments over long periods of time?  Or is this perhaps a pathology in itself?

What exactly is the mechanism that allows an otherwise rational person to become suddenly emotion-driven and act in the most irrational way to the point where children are being abused (I do consider parent alienation to be a form of child abuse)?

These are a lot of questions, which I try to find answers to.  Perhaps answers to these questions will allow me to pave a better substrate for a psychological ecology that is healthy for my children.  I will continue to scour the psychological literature until I find a satisfactory answer to these questions, and when I do, rest assured, I will be the first one to share them with the rest of you!

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October 7, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Parenting Plan

As I have already alluded to in the last post, the Parenting Plan is probably one of the most important elements in a custody evaluation or custody court case in general.  The more thorough the parenting plan, the better your custody evaluation will be and the more respect the judge will have for you as a parent. Most importantly though, the children will have the benefit of having two parents act according to a well organized plan and schedule.

The problem is that most parenting plans are very poor in their design and content and leave many questions open, prompting more court visits in the future.  Please contact Jayne Major at Breakthrough Parenting Services to obtain a great book on how to design a great parenting plan !!

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September 24, 2008 Posted by | General Information, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Some tools for target parents…

As target parents we find ourselves often in difficult emotional states.  It can, at times, be very hard to overcome these “dark nights of the soul” without resorting to unhealthy means and methods.  There are a set of tools which I use, that helped me tremendously to remain rational and focused on the facts and circumstances at hand. 

The first is a complete makeover in attitude.  Research has shown that a positive attitude will entice the brain to produce more endorphins, which are anabolic (constructive) to cells.  A negative attitude on the other hand will entice the brain to produce more corticosteroids, which are catabolic (destructive) to cells.  I have realized that the quality of my life strongly depends on the kind of values I attach to events that happen around me.  I (and only I) have the power to decide which perspective I take on certain events.  At first I had to train myself to keep asking: “Ok, so what’s good about it?”, or “what can I learn from that?”, whenever a negative event happened.  I was usually able to find something positive and then I just started focusing on that instead.  Eventually, this became an automatic function.  Another aspect of this attitude makeover was to start focusing on where I wanted to BE and not what I was AFRAID OF.  This essentially meant that I started to focus my energy on the results I wanted to see, rather than the potential “problems” I foreshadowed.

Secondly, I started living a life of compassion and forgiveness.  Resentments and anger cost a lot of energy to maintain and produce more corticosteroids in the brain, which in turn means that they compromise overall health.  Forgiveness was the key for me to loose all of my resentments and anger(now, mind you that in my world forgiveness does not mean I simply let people “off the hook” for whatever distress they might have caused me – it simply means that I detach myself completely from the event, so that it does not bother me anymore).  Now, compassion is a skill that often needs to be learned.  As Jayne A. Major, Ph.D., founder and owner of the Breakthrough Parenting Organization, always said, “Compassion is the highest form of intelligence”.  What helped me to become more compassionate is the following rationale:  “Any kind of response you get out of a human being is either a loving response or a cry for help”.  That’s it! If it is not a loving response you get from a person, he or she is silently crying out for help.  More often than not, whenever I offered my help to someone who was negative towards me, I saw a complete reversal in attitude.  It really works! 

Thirdly, I adopted a transformational vocabulary if you will.  For instance, there are no such things as failures in my life – only “results”.  There are also no problems in my life – just “challenges” or better yet “opportunities” and so on.  This might seem like a benign point, but it does help maintaining a positive attitude.

The last and most important tool I would like to share is the accumulation of knowledge in this arena.  Unfortunately, there is very little education about PA/PAS/HAP out there.  It is of vital importance never to blame the children for their behavior.  The aggression and sometimes violent behavior they display against you as the target parent is really just a protective veil they are wearing.  This behavior is not their doing and is certainly not their fault; it is a natural response to the programming that is being done by the other parent (assuming that you are not physically abusing the children, of course). 

It sometimes helps to look upon this as a disease (well, it is in fact a syndrome), which needs compassion and understanding from your end.  Most importantly though – never ever give up believing in the purity of your children’s spirit and never to give up the effort to abolish or at least minimize the impact of the HAP tactics of the other parent, because this kind of parenting will eventually cause severe damage to the children.  It helps to remember that children are not genetically programmed to hate another parent, they are programmed to love BOTH parents.  What overwhelms me often is that the very same parent that uses every credible information source out there to substantiate the decisions made for their children’s health, completely fails to do the same when it comes to researching the harmful effects their Hostile Aggressive Parenting can have on the child’s future psychological health.  So the more we educate ourselves and others, the more we can protect our children’s future psychological health.

As always, comments are welcome!

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September 3, 2008 Posted by | General Information, Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment