I know the one question targeted parents ask constantly is “How can my child treat me this way?” They simply can not comprehend how a once loving child can be so hateful and mean. How come they only listen to the AP’s version of events? Why do they seem like puppets with no ability to think for themselves any more? How can they go to court and say all these horrible things that aren’t true?
I have asked myself these questions and plenty more along the same lines. I have spent hours trying to figure this out…I have read stuff on cults and while I believe the AP uses cult like practices (which may be the topic o another post) I also think just basic human nature is at fault.
“A substantial proportion of people do what they are told to do, irrespective of the content of the act and without limitations of conscience, so long as they perceive that the command comes from a legitimate authority” Stanley Milgram
Back in the early 60’s professor Stanley Milgram ran a series of mind blowing experiments at Yale University. The aim of the experiment was to discover how long the subjects would take to disobey Milgrams authority when presented with a clear moral imperative.
Basically–the experiment consisted of three people: In one room was a hired actor “the student” who was tied to a chair and hooked up to an electrode. In the other room was the “teacher” who had a machine in front of him/her that sent an electrical shock to the “student” if they got the questions wrong. And Stanley Milgram dressed in a white coat was the Dr. directing the teacher when to administer the shocks. Each time the student got a question wrong the teacher had to shock the student. Each shock was stronger than the last one, and labelled from safe to dangerous on the machine–up to 450 volts of electricity. The teacher could hear the student crying out in pain with each additional shock–begging to be let free….amazingly 60% of the teachers administered shocks up to the highest amount despite showing signs of complete distress with each shock…60% of the population would not defy authority and stop the shocks despite the fact that they felt bad.
When this experiment was conducted with Stanley Milgram dressed in street clothes, with no Dr’s coat that number dropped to 20%. This experiment was conducted on both male and female adults–adults who were functioning members of society and theoretically moral members of society. So how does this relate to PA?
We have been trained since birth to listen to authority almost without question. Parents, Teachers, Policeman, Fireman, Grandparents, babysitters, and many other adults–as a culture we have encouraged our children to obey authority–to follow the rules– no matter what they feel internally. Who are the biggest authority figures in a childs life? That would be the parents…
So lets think about this one for a moment…Imagine your well behaved child is being told by your ex that you are a bad person and to say certain things to you, to act certain ways towards you in order to be loved by that parent. Your child loves both of you. Imagine the torment your child is feeling while obeying those commands…They are simply trying to please the more powerful parent.
Once you understand this–it can help you emotionally disengage from the situation allowing you to respond in a more compassionate manner to your child–no matter what they are saying or how they are acting towards you. You, can then take a deep breath and proceed to engage with your child in a non confrontational manner. Always seek ways to show your love–responding to all attacks with loving kindness and compassion will go a long way towards mitigating the effects of Parental Alienation. As your child learns that you are indeed a safe loving parent that isn’t going to love them conditionally your relationship will improve.
Their behavior may still be hostile, particularly when under the direct control of the AP. Do not expect a miraculous turn around–your child has had to internalize the AP’s feelings in order to be the child they are expected to be. That is why initially you will see your child being conflicted…and then as time goes on that same child will be cold as they learn to disengage from their feelings and act as expected. If you continue to be loving, supporting, compassionate while stating your expectations and boundaries for behavior–you will notice changes for the better.