Cultivating Empathy for the Alienating Parent

As someone who has been victimized by alienating behavior – or who believes that you’ve been victimized – you may find it very challenging to conjure empathy for the other parent.

After all, this person is (you believe) trying to destroy your relationship with your child! However, you may find empathy to be a very useful tool not only to control your emotions but also to cultivate insights into what therapeutic and legal tactics might be appropriate.

If you understand what the alienator is feeling and needing — if you can connect on some level — you might be able to diffuse the situation and/or reverse the damage done.

Empathy is powerful but hard to access. The goal is to try to “hear beneath” the negative images and accusations to identify what’s alive in the other person. For instance, let’s say your ex-wife says something like “you don’t love your children, so why do you even bother fighting for the right to see them?”

Your goal with an empathic response is not to get defensive or to offer counterevidence. Rather, you want to listen and understand what’s going on with her that’s motivating her to make that statement. Maybe she’s feeling adrift since the divorce, because she lacks a stable network of friends, like you have. So she is clinging to her relationship with your child, so that she feels connected. The drive to “feel connected” is understandable; it’s a very human drive. The strategy she’s pursuing to fulfill that drive (by alienating the child against you, so that she can have the child all to herself) is obviously inappropriate. But the fundamental need certainly makes sense.

Here are some common needs that might be underlying Parental Alienation attempts:

The need for control and anatomy

Going through a divorce can be a chaotic life transition, even for the most emotionally stable and happy people. The yearning for control can lead to destructive behaviors and habits.

The need for justice

The alienating parent may have developed a belief that you’ve been hitting or00 neglecting your children. She is in the grips of a false paradigm that you are a wrongdoer who needs to be stopped. She might be wrong, but her needs for justice and fairness can be understood.

The need for love

This may sound like a strange need to be at the core of alienating behavior. But think about it. The other parent might be worried that the child will want to side with you and abandon her. She might employ alienation as an ill-begotten strategy to preserve that love she needs.

Here’s the bottom line about empathy. Your goal is not to “fix” the other parent or even to try to forgive and forget. Rather, you want to pay attention to what’s truly driving the conflict, so that you can take a more compassionate and strategic approach to resolve the situation.

For skillful, experienced assistance handling your Parental Alienation case, call the Williams Law Group, LLC immediately at (908) 738-8366.

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