As we enter another year and are once again confronted with the somewhat culture expectation to make New Years resolutions, some of us will see this annual cycle for what it is. A way of invoking a ‘new beginning’, an attempt to implement some positive changes in our lives.
It could be argued that this is a parallel for how some of us approach life. Worrying about the unimportant things in life, being allowed to be consumed by what others think of us. This does little for our general well-being and even less for the impact we leave behind in this world.
So what the bloody hell has this got to do with coping with parental alienation? This is how I see it… I have now not seen my three beautiful children for over six months and their mother continues to work very hard to prevent me and my side of the family from seeing them. I cannot control her alienating behaviours. I cannot at this stage change the unfair and overly biased legal system that does very little in challenging her illegal and emotionally abusive behaviours towards our children. I cannot make up for the time so far that I have missed out with my children. I cannot take away the pain that my family and I feel due to the children being taken and alienated against us by their mother. Simply put, there are far too many elements that are out of the control of an alienated parent.
However in terms of coping strategies it is incredibly important to value and appreciate the elements that are, in such circumstances, in one’s control.
The Dalai Lama says ‘true happiness comes from cultivating compassion and by eliminating anger’.
Lets first look at anger, which alienated parents will invariably experience. To keep from being overwhelmed by such a negative emotion, many parents detach from the situation. It is important to remind oneself that this is an act of self-preservation, not an act of selfishness. In many cases guilt invariably follows, as the parent feels uncomfortable in engaging or re-engaging in hobbies or pastimes. It is important to remind oneself that this is simply a distraction technique, not a substitute for or preference over the children.
Now onto compassion, which is defined in the Oxford English dictionary, as ‘sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others’. The Middle English word is thought to have originated from Anglo-French and in turn from the Late Latin word compassio, meaning to sympathize, to bear, suffer. In numerous philosophies and almost all of the major religions, compassion is ranked as one of the greatest virtues. Furthermore the ability to be able to identify with another individual is a key component of what makes us human. Mirrored behaviours start in early infancy, with the mimicking of facial expressions and body movements of parents and carers. Such behaviours are highly related to the concept of compassion.
However the idea that a parent can alienate their own children against the other parent is difficult to understand and comprehend. To engage in such behaviours requires a complete lack of compassion on the part of the alienating parent. Divorce and separation is all too often painful and emotionally difficult and children invariably suffer to some degree. However as much as some parents are antagonistic towards one another, most if not all attempt to shield, to some degree, their children from the emotional and psychological fallout from the breakdown of a relationship. This is not the case for parents that alienate, narcissistic traits are what drive alienating behaviours, along with a nonsensical need for revenge and/or control.
Such circumstances allow you to find who your real friends are. These scenarios can bring the alienated members of the family closer together, and an outpouring of compassion to one another occurs. Extraordinarily, it is with compassion that the victims of parental alienation at times examine the emotional make-up of the alienator, looking for answers, trying to understand why someone would behave in such an uncompassionate manner, with such devastating effects on all those around them.
In my humble opinion, I feel that it is virtues such as compassion that drive us to continue in the most difficult of situations. It is compassion that allows us to persevere in the face of adversity.
And so I return to the subject of New Years resolutions. For the alienated parent, a new year could be used to invoke a new way of coping, a renewed vigour. Perhaps a new found appreciation and love for those that matter the most. Although the alienated parent at times will have feelings of despair, sadness and grief, compassion in its simplicity counts for a lot.
As the Dalai Lama says “if you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”