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Peace Not Pas

A Parent's Story of Battling Parental Alienation

Tag: Empathy

The Denial of Depression

Anyone that has ever experienced depression may well be guilty of it. Family and friends may have witnessed their loved ones guilty of it. As the title suggests I am exploring the denial of depression.

In the beginning of 2017 I experienced a severe period of depression, lasting approximately three months. My marriage broke down the previous year. And since then I have been denied any contact with my three young children by their mother. This form of contact denial is known as parental alienation. The discussion and definition of this form of abuse is beyond the scope of this article. See blog page entitled What is PAS? for more details.

“I myself succumbed to the denial of depression.”

My depression was triggered by the contact denial regarding my children. I had never experienced any form of depression before. I am still battling the contact denial while at the same time managing my depression, but the depression is no longer severe. I am a psychiatric nurse, therefore I am all too aware of the signs and symptoms of depression. However, despite this I succumbed to the belief that I was not depressed. I myself succumbed to the denial of depression.

At that time a work colleague respectfully challenged my denial of being depressed. I attempted to reassure her with a certain amount of misplaced conviction, that I was not depressed, I was simply sad. Despite both our clinical understanding of the difference between sadness and depression, I remained relentless in my denial of depression. At the time of my denial I was pushing myself to my absolute physical and mental limits. I was working long days and sometimes six or seven days a week.

This period of relentless exertion, denial and lack of insight lasted a couple of months until the depression hit me fully like a sledgehammer. As mentioned above I witness depression in others every single day. But to experience it for myself was like nothing I had ever experienced before.

It is incredily difficult to describe the nature of depression to those that have not come across it or experienced it themselves. Sadness can be defined as a sense of unhappiness and discontentment. Depression however is akin to a feeling of nothingness. A complete and utter lack of purpose. It is almost as if depression works as an evil force in pushing you away from loved ones, friends and family. It forces you to close in on yourself. It is all consuming and mentally and physically taxing.

DenialofDepression

As soon as the depression hit me, the denial was no more. I could no longer justify the denial to myself or others. The onset of severe depression for me was obvious. I had simply denied any correlation between my life’s stressors at the time and my impending and inevitable fall into depression. I now recognise my own reasons for such denial; I needed to work as much as possible to earn money for legal fees to pursue contact with my children. If I had allowed myself to recognise that, or even admitted it to my employers, they would have prevented me from working longer hours in the interests of my own well-being.

On reflection I have come to realise that there is another reason I was in denial. I thought I was stronger than I was. I thought I could carry on unaffected by the stressors that were having such a negative impact on my mental health. I thought I could shut them out, even dismiss them for a later time. I attempted to use work as a distraction and a money machine, instead of seeking the appropriate help and support. I believe I remained in denial for good intentions. But at the same time I felt that I did not want to let anyone down, especially my children, who I am still pursuing contact with through the courts.

“There is no shame or harm in admitting that one is unable to cope with certain life stressors.”

However from this I have learnt several valuable lessons. We all have our battles in life to fight. But we are unable to fight them unless we take care of ourselves first and foremost. We are unable to fight life’s battles unless we allow others to help and support us through tough times. There is no shame or harm in admitting that one is unable to cope with certain life stressors. Stress, anxiety and depression by their very nature are such subjective concepts. We all react to them differently.

To conclude, individuals reacting to them differently is not necessarily the issue. However refusing to recognise them to the detriment of our own mental health is the problem.

Stephen Fry the English comedian, actor and writer once said the folllowing of depression. “Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”

btg dad


Please Note: We pledge to never make a profit or any other form of financial gain from any individuals affected by the current injustice of the family justice system.

We will gladly signpost individuals to professionals within our wider network who operate in line with our core principles; contact us for more details. 

We pledge to never request payment from such individuals, nor request a finder’s fee from such professionals for any referrals made.

We offer a completely free Support Line. To find out more prior to booking click here. To book a call from one of our dedicated Support Line Volunteers click here

The CCA Support Team

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Parental Alienation and Empathy

In the following paragraphs I would like to explore parental alienation and empathy.

The definition of parental alienation is simple. One parent, (in most cases the resident parent) deliberately damages, and in some cases destroys, the previously healthy loving relationship between the child and the child’s other parent (the non-resident parent). A key tell-tale sign of parental alienation is when the alienating parent prevents their children from having any relationship with the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on the alienated parents’ side of the family. For a more detailed definition of parental alienation see here.

The English word empathy is derived from the Ancient Greek word empatheia, which means “physical affection or passion”. This, in turn, was derived from enpathos, when broken down is seen as en, meaning “in, at” and pathos meaning “passion” or “suffering”.  The term was adapted by linguistics to create the German word Einfühlung (“feeling into”), which was translated by Edward B. Titchener in 1909 into the English term empathy.

PAandEmpathy_PeaceNotPas

Empathy describes ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’. Not to be confused with sympathy which is defined as ‘feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune’. Simply put,  it is how we as individuals understand what others are experiencing as if we were feeling it ourselves. It is a key characteristic of emotional intelligence, which itself is the ability and capacity to be aware of, to have control of and to appropriately express one’s own emotions. This in turn allows us to navigate our way through interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Ultimately,  as is the same for numerous other personality traits, some of us are more empathic than others.

“Parental alienation as a form of abuse should be viewed within the context of mental health to ensure an effective and robust assessment process.”

A lack of empathy is all too prominent in the presenting behaviours of alienating parents. Some alienating parents will suffer from psychopathy and it is these parents that are a particular threat to children and need to be identified as soon as possible (Lowenstein, 2010). In my opinion as both an alienated parent and a psychiatric nurse, this point lends itself to the argument that parental alienation as a form of abuse should be viewed within the context of mental health to ensure an effective and robust assessment process. There are only three disorders that have an underlying absence of empathy; autism, narcissistic personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. I would argue that without an assessment of the alienating parent’s presenting behaviours by a practitioner with a clinical understanding of mental health, any personality traits and/or related psychopathy will be missed.

A lack of empathy is also present in some alienated children. Of all the presenting symptoms expressed by an alienated child, the absence of empathy is the most disturbing (Childress, 2016). Any absence of empathy in an alienated child should be cause for extreme concern. However as stated above, due to the lack of understanding of mental health by the relevant services, such presentation in affected children is missed or underestimated.

Empathy, albeit a lack of, also plays a key part in the behaviours of those that enable parental alienation. Most enablers all too often act out of weakness rather than spite. However, this does not by any means justify their behaviours. The alienating parent will rely on these enablers to not provide any support at all for the targeted parent. Unfortunately, enablers will often go a step further and shun the targeted parent. The alienating parent will capitalise on the lack of empathy enablers have for the targeted parent.

To conclude, among the players within parental alienation there is inextricably a link between them and a lack of empathy.

In Harper Lee’s 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, her character Atticus states “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

btg dad


Please Note: We pledge to never make a profit or any other form of financial gain from any individuals affected by the current injustice of the family justice system.

We will gladly signpost individuals to professionals within our wider network who operate in line with our core principles; contact us for more details. 

We pledge to never request payment from such individuals, nor request a finder’s fee from such professionals for any referrals made.

We offer a completely free Support Line. To find out more prior to booking click here. To book a call from one of our dedicated Support Line Volunteers click here

The CCA Support Team

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