In his book Divorce Casualties, Douglas Darnall, Ph.D. describes the three types of alienators; naive, active and obsessed. I think every parent, whether divorced or not, should read this book. In families without conflict, this book can serve as a tool for better parenting tips. In families where there is conflict, this can help to point out some behaviors that can be damaging to the children.
Naive alienators: I believe that everyone from time to time is a naive alienator. You do not even have to have children to fall into this category. It is human nature to say things we regret later when we are hurt, angry, frustrated or tired. Everyone has said something they later regret and we apologize for those hurtful words. Parents in custody cases will say things against the other parent that they later realize they should not have said. These words were not said with a malicious undertone, but usually out of frustration. As parents, we do not want our children to hear these words and will explain to our children that those words were not meant to degrade the other parent. Naive alienators feel secure in their relationship with their children and encourage the relationship with the other parent. They will abide by the court orders as well. Naive alienators will feel guilt if they think they have hurt the child's relationship with the other parent. Naive alienators do not have any problems with allowing the other parent access to school functions, records, pictures. They will encourage that the other parent take an active role. This type of alienator is able to place the needs of their child above their own desires.
Active alienators want their children to have a positive interaction with the other parent, but have a difficult time controlling their anger and hurt over the loss of the marriage. These types of alienators will make negative comments about the other parent in front of the child. They know this behavior is wrong, but have self control issues. These types of alienators are able to place the interests of their child above theirs, but they need help in their parenting skills. They are not bad parents and do not mean to disintegrate the relationship between the child and the other parent. Some form of parenting classes or therapy will most likely help this type of parent work through their own personal obstacles that are allowing them to lash out at the other parent in front of the children. I do not believe that active alienators can turn into obsessed alienators if their actions go unchecked. Active alienators have some self control issues where their anger is concerned, but want their child to have a relationship with the other parent. Active alienators may need to find other interests and or hobbies to occupy their moments of feeling betrayed by the other spouse. I believe that therapy is very helpful for this type of alienator and I believe that it can be successful.
Obsessed alienators are a different type of person. I think that if anyone has experienced parental alienation at the hands of the obsessed alienator and has sought support of others that fall into that category, you will see that certain characteristics emerge. No one wants to admit that abuse took place in their marriage and I feel this to be true especially amongst men that have experienced abuse by their wives. This would say that they were weak. No man wants to admit that he was weak. The abuse could have been physical or emotional. One of the things that I read and hear is that control was something their ex spouse had. This is different than having a discussion and wanting your spouse to take your stand on an issue and giving your reasons why and perhaps persuading them to accept. Control is “my way or the highway attitude.” You agree or you don’t. If you agree you know things will go well for you and you can continue to go on. If you do not agree, you know there will be hell to pay. I also think that obsessed alienators fall into the narcissistic, sociopath or psychopathic or a combination of the aforementioned disorders. When one marries a person that could be or is narcissistic, a sociopath or psychopathic, you become their possession. Anything acquired during that marriage is their possession, be it property, material belongings or children. They will control everything. If you decide to divorce this type of person, they will again use their ways of persuasion to gain control. Most parents want contact and access to their children and are willing to give up material possessions to secure that. How many times have you seen a mother or father give up the home so their children are not disrupted in their daily lives? They want is best for their children, so they do what they thought was best. Little do they know that the obsessed alienator lies in the cover of the brush as a tiger waits on its prey? Waiting to pounce and attack with a vengeance.
I compare the obsessed alienator to a tiger because tigers are mostly considered a villain. They live largely secretive lives and attack preys using stealth, cunning and agility. A tiger’s unwillingness to fight without necessity has often been seen as lack of courage and aggression. This is what obsessed alienators are; aggressive and they lack the courage to face the issues that drive them to commit these acts.
Obsessed alienators will not follow court orders. Court orders do not intimidate them for the possible consequences they may face. Obsessed alienators have one goal in mind and that is to destroy the relationship with the healthy parent. Obsessed alienators will gather anyone they can to support their cause. You may find yourself in court with people you have never seen before ready to testify to some atrocious act that you have done. Obsessed alienators thrive on the concept that the more the merrier. The more that support their accusations against you, the merrier the obsessed alienator becomes. They will project their downfalls upon the other parent and be very convincing. If the courts take their side, they have succeeded in one quest, but there are more to come. The obsessed alienator is right no matter how delusional the allegations appear. Obsessed alienators will go to counseling, but only for a short time. They do not need help and they are only there to show the counselor that they can comply. They will say what is needed to suspend those sessions.
Counseling will not help change the obsessed alienator. The only one getting any help from sessions will be the target parent.
Parental alienation is abuse. Stop the abuse.