The Goddess, The Witch and the Cat

“I’ve lived it for 40 years” my ex-Mother-in-Law said bitterly on the stand. My heart bled for 4509724747_fef40ce78f_bher. Yes, she has lived it for 40 years. Yes, she has every right to be bitter. Thank God I’m out of it.

My ex-Mother-in-Law looks like a shriveled raisin. Of all the pictures I have seen of her, the eyes never smile. No happiness beams from her. There is no doubt she had a tough life.

“Your mother-in-law is cold as a fish” one of my uncles said on my wedding day, “She has absolutely no emotions”. He is right, my ex-MIL is the epitome of an emotionally unavailable woman and mother.

An emotionally unavailable primary caregiver is detrimental to a child. When the primary caregiver cannot respond sensitively to a baby, it leads to attachment problems in children; a contributor to conduct disorders and Anti-Social Personality Disorder. It is the environmental factor for expression of the genetic component of psychopathy.

Attachment problems also can manifest themselves as eating disorders in early adulthood. Sadly my ex-sister-in-law has an eating disorder.  I am still, and always will be, extremely fond of her.

Both cruelty to animals (the killing of cats by Ex) and eating disorders are expressions of control and punishment for a lost and/or dysfunctional relationship with an emotional unavailable primary caregiver. Eating disorders are more prevalent and thus more scientific research is available to describe the attachment problems experienced in early childhood, but animal cruelty is no different. Gender stereotypically the female internalized, the male externalized.

The killing of cats has a very symbolic meaning. Cats throughout history and in society are    baststrongly associated with females, both in a positive and a negative way.

Ancient Egypt is probably the clearest positive example of adoration of women and cats. The main goddess Bastet was both woman and cat. She evolved from the warrior lioness to the protector against evil. What cows are in India, domesticated cats were in ancient Egypt.

Cats also have a negative association with women. The derogatory feline term the English Language has for vagina would probably have horrified the Ancient Egyptians.

Halloween is only a few weeks past, but witches and cats are prominent features. Cats in medieval times were associated with witchcraft and the devil and cat-burning along side witch burning was a common occurrence. Cats are associated with women.

The killing of cats has been specifically researched in serial killers. The FBI is careful to state that not all cat killers are serial killers, but animal cruelty is a common denominator in serial killers and violence towards humans. Cat cruelty is specifically related to the image they have about women and their relationship with their mother. They are ‘easy’ subjects for research as they are incarcerated. Serial killers who killed women had a troublesome (understatement) relationship with their mother and killed and/or tortured predominantly cats prior to escalating to humans.

The American Psychological association has a clear directive for its members on how to deal with pet abuse and family violence.

“Pet abuse is clearly a significant part of the pattern of family violence and its early identification can save lives and protect families.”

Vaughn et al did one of the largest studies in the US studying animal cruelty and antisocial behavior. Thankfully only 1.8% of their subjects committed animal cruelty. Approximately 84% of those were male, white (70%) and born in the US (91%). Interesting was that 56% of the perpetrators had at least some college education.

About 76% of the subjects are ‘Never Married’ or ‘Widowed (that is scary), separated or divorced’.

And that is important for child custody. Why?

Attachment research has found that after 20 years 72% of the subjects still had the same attachment classification. The troubled relationship with the mother gets expressed by taking out the frustration on cats and the relationship dynamics with other women, be it wife or daughters. How the early attachment was classified, was also how adult (friendship) and romantic relationships were formed later in life.

Attachment classifications can be assessed through various scientific accepted tests, appropriate for the various ages. These tests are specific, and not generic. The simple statement ‘child is attached’ is meaningless. It sends shivers down the spine of competent child psychologists. Children are always attached, but there is a big difference between secure, and the insecure attachments; anxious, avoidant, ambivalent/resistant or disorganized.

“The presence of an attachment is distinct from its quality. Infants form attachments if there is someone to interact with, even if mistreated. Individual differences in the relationships reflect the history of care, as infants begin to predict the behavior of caregivers through repeated interactions.” Handbook of Attachment

It is the quality of attachment that affects the future adult relationships, both romantic and with their own children.The_Witches_Cat_by_howlinghorse

And thus we are perpetuating the situation by putting children with an emotionally unavailable parent, we are perpetuating insecure attachments when children get significant time with a parent that is incapable of forming secure attachments, because (s)he did not have a secure attachment to begin with. We are jeopardizing the future generation.

In another post, another day, I will go deeper into the link of child abuse, child neglect and anti-social personality disorder.

 

You’re Evil! Combatting Badmouthing in Parental Alienation

“You’re evil, you’re evil, you’re evil”, Muppet sings while hugging, kissing and frolicking with

Photo credit 'wendyb104' on Flickr

Photo credit ‘wendyb104’ on Flickr

her big sister while I’m setting the table for dinner. I smile; her words and actions are clearly contradictory, so she is not aware of the meaning. Such a sweet little toddler.

Time to have the discussion about certain words we don’t use, I think to myself.

While I’m serving dinner, I start out “There are certain words that are not nice to say to people, and I don’t want you to use them. We don’t say ‘people are evil’, we don’t use the word ‘stupid’. I want you to respect others and show respect in the words you use.”

“But Dad tells Kelly, my sister and me that you are evil. That we get the flea bites at your house and that you give Muppet the booty rash.” Sweet Bee says.

RIP. MY. HEART. OUT.

How many target parents have heard similar words? How many target parents have felt the same feelings that were going through me?

Countless, but even 1 person having to go through this is too many, even 1 child having to be subjected to this is too many.

And it is not like I had not heard it before. During trial we entered into evidence and email from Ex to me where he calls my mother ‘the Devil’, because my mother held him accountable for not taking good emotional, physical and financial care of me and the kids. The pattern is only repeating itself, but now with me who is to be eliminated.

The most prominent alienation strategy was denigration of the targeted parent, informally referred to as “bad-mouthing.” — Baker, Amy J. L.  “Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking the Ties That Bind” 

Bad-mouthing the other parent seemed to serve the same function as bad-mouthing the “outside world” has for cults: promotion of dependency. — Baker, Amy J. L. ” Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking the Ties That Bind”

Parental Alienation is depriving a child from a valid loving relationship. It is about creating dependency on the alienating parent, not based on the truth and reality, but based upon subjectivity and persuasion.

Drama replaces reason.

And that is the ‘hook’ Reunification Therapists take a hold of. They work with the child to teach them to ‘figure it out’, to learn to discern between fact/reality and subjective distortion. The Reunification Therapist works to improve mental functioning by working on reality testing and mitigate the trauma by weighing evidence.

Most parents don’t know what a therapist does, but that doesn’t mean a parent can not do ‘supportive’ work while the therapist is not available. It is hard and can be difficult, but the parent has to calmly, objectively and non-emotionally clarify the reality which the child themselves can test.

So what is the evidence in the statement of Sweet Bee? Ex has a ‘rat problem’, rats carry fleas. The kids return from access with numerous bites, documented by 3rd party. I have dogs who are religiously treated with K9 Advantix. The kids leave without flea bites. Muppet has been returned from access with a (bleeding) diaper rash multiple times, diagnosed and treated within hours by dr.’s.

“Are you itchy right now?” I ask. “No” they answer. “Do you have any bug bites right now?” I continue. “No” they answer again. “When you are itchy and have bug bites where are you then?” “We’re at Dad’s, and he has no bug bite lotion” is the answer. They emphasize the lack of bug bite lotion. While that seems trivial, it is not. It means they (unconsciously) did a reality check. They had been looking or asking for bug bite lotion while at Dad’s.

I didn’t lash out and said Ex was a liar to the children. I calmly did a reality check. While dealing with the bug bites was ‘easy’, internally I was trying to figure out how to bring up the diaper rash. The dr.’s diagnosed it as being the result of prolonged exposure to urine and it extends down her leg(s). It is not normal for a 3-year-old to have this when she is fully potty trained. The last episode likely had to do with the fact that Ex left the children unattended in a car for periods of time without supervision, access to food/water or bathroom. ‘Inadequate guardianship’ is what CPS supervisor called it.

“Where does your booty hurt the most?” I ask Muppet. “In the front” she replies. Ok, good point, a good factual statement for a 3 ½ year old. “But when you are with Mom or with Dad?” I try to probe a little further. “Both” she innocently replies. And she is right, it is not like it is instantly over, and how am I going to explain to a toddler that it takes time to heal? How do I explain the cause and effect; prolonged exposure to urine = diaper rash?

And this is why parental alienation takes ground with younger children so much easier than older kids, teenagers or adults. Younger kids don’t have the same conception of reality, developmentally they are not ready yet. They still believe in Santa. They’ll believe anything a parent tells them.

Distorting reality for a child this young and depriving them from the other parents’ love, making them question the validity of this love is devastating and has long-lasting effects. It is cruel to the child.

But parents with this attitude do not solve problems by being rational. They have no internal conflict, it doesn’t bother them they are hurting the child. If a problem arises, it is always someone else’s fault. 

There is no protocol to fix the alienating parent—not legally, not therapeutically, and not by reasoning with them. It is also unlikely that they will ever stop trying to perpetuate the alienation, because it has become a gut-wrenching survival issue to them! — Douglas Darnell, 2000

Courts are supposed to uphold the statue of Best Interest of the Child. It should protect the child from the harmful effects of Parental Alienation, which is considered psychological child abuse in the DSM 5. Fighting parental alienation is not about a mother’s right, it is not about a father’s right, it is about the children’s right. They are not 2nd class citizens.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776  

God bless our Veterans today. Thank you!

5 Things I Want to Say to My Ex-Husband

Girls night out. Yes, one of the benefits of visitation, you actually get to do things for yourself. I get to go places, study, write and do things, no need to find a babysitter, they are with the other parent.

Photo credit Jason Short @Flickr

Photo credit Jason Short @Flickr

Over a lovely dinner my girlfriend asks me: “So, Ostara, if there are 5 things you could tell Ex, what would they be?”

“Uhm…….. Hello and Goodbye?” Laughter.

Driving home I thought about this a little more. This wasn’t fair. I really don’t have much, if anything, left to say to Ex, but it is not that all in the marriage was bad. And you don’t just erase 14 years of your life as if it was meaningless. That would say more about me, then about the marriage or Ex. So here it goes, my 4 things, as I really can’t come up with a meaningful 5th.

Thank you for the kids

Yes, it takes 2 to tango. The beautiful, gorgeous, wonderful, intelligent, well-mannered, funny, delightful (I’m the mother, of course I’m going to gush and be biased!) kids are a product of you and me. And I would not want to have missed out on them for anything in the world. Let’s always celebrate their uniqueness and cherish them. We may be divorced, but we are still parents.

Thank you for the good times

Psychopaths are frauds, and perhaps the good times were just illusions. Whether they were or were not doesn’t matter any longer and I’d like to keep the good memories. Questioning whether it was all make-believe or not, would not only take away from the past, but also from the present. It is not worth my emotional energy. The marriage was a life lesson from which I hopefully have learned, both good and bad.

Thank you for filing for divorce

Yes, I may have had the courage to throw you out of the house, I could never have mustered up the guts to actually file for divorce. Early on in the divorce proceedings I re-read my diaries. I had started when I was 12 and my last entry was 31 December 2004

“Ex doesn’t want me to write to you any longer, it makes him uncomfortable, he thinks I only write bad things about him. “My husband is bad”. I’m sorry to let you go, you have been a source of release and reflection, but in a marriage you don’t do what hurts your spouse. So goodbye.”

The ultimate mind-control.

20 years of writing and my sole support network with my family being overseas had to be taken away because it was a thread to you.

But that is not me any more, divorce has set me free.

Free to pursue my dreams again. Free to love. Free to be loved. Free to cherish and be cherished. Free to (re-)connect with my friends, and I have some awesome friends out there. Free to enjoy life.

Without the divorce, my life would not have been where it is now. Had you not filed, this all would not have happened, and I’m grateful for that.

I wish you happiness

A happy father makes for happy kids. As a mother, want the best for the kids, so I really hope that you are happy. It is really that simple.

Yes, it is a short list.

To Alienate or Be Alienated; Different Dynamics in Parental Alienation

“Ostara, Sweet Bee didn’t say she hated her father, drphilbut it was pretty much what she meant when she was in the judge’s chambers”, my attorney tells me.

I didn’t sleep that night, I paced the house walking circles. This was absolutely awful; for a child to (almost?) hate her father. Hating a parent, is hating a part of themselves. No child is going to grow up emotionally healthy when they hate a parent. This was not good.

Where had I gone wrong? What could I do to change this? My mind raced. The kids are free to love Dad, to talk about him, to have him as a part of their lives while with me. There are pictures of Dad in their rooms. When they were younger, I would dial the phone for them, I make sure the phone is easily accessible for them when Dad calls. We bought Dad presents for his birthday/valentine/Christmas/Father’s Day.

Young kids need to idolize their parents, teenagers however, will think differently. In a teenager’s eyes the parents can do no good. That is building their own identity.

But not young kids.

The words of the expert during trial ran through my head; “If this behavior continues, the children will hate their father”. I didn’t and don’t want the kids to hate their father, but how could I ‘fix’ this?

For Dad’s birthday Sweet Bee decided she wanted to give him a hunting shirt. We went to great lengths, and various shops, to find *just the right one*. She was beyond excited, she was beaming and glowing. When they returned from Dad’s Sweet Bee started crying. Dad had given the gift she so carefully had chosen, to the teenage son of his then girl friend. Sweet Bee was devastated.

Subsequent gifts didn’t fare much different. Sweet Bee pulled the Christmas gift out of the trash and brought it to Mom’s. The motivation and excitement for future gifts diminished rapidly. The ‘why’ he did it doesn’t matter, whether it was to ‘eliminate all that came from me’, or that he is just insensitive and doesn’t care, it is how it made Sweet Bee feel.

Sweet Bee runs to Dad, he immediately towers over her and his voice is loud and angry. I can’t hear the words, but I see her shrink and Muppet halts in her tracks. I gently put my hand on Muppet’s back and kiss her cheek. With a slight push I tell her “Off you go sweetheart” and she cautiously walks on. As I drive away I ponder how I’ve never seen Ex hug or kiss the kids at a custody exchange. Never.

During the custody evaluation both Ex and I had to take the MMPI. At trial testimony was given by the expert that Ex scored 80 on Parental Alienation which was about the average for Alienating Parents, I on the other hand scored 52, which was the average for a normal/target parent.

“They never ask to call their Mom” Ex testified at trial. A textbook answer from an alienating parent. Any article or book about Parental Alienation will tell you an alienating parent will prevent contact and then justify it by blaming the child. “He doesn’t want to call Mom/Dad, I can’t make him”, “It is his own choice”.

Truth is Ex makes them leave the cellphone I bought for the kids in the garage, he admitted in his testimony that they have to leave all their stuff in the garage and are not allowed to go into the garage. The one time they went and got the phone, he took it away and put it on top of the refrigerator. They know better than to ask to call Mom. Sweet Bee has gone to the school counselor to ask if she could call Mom, because ‘Dad won’t let her’. A sad reality.

“Thank you for being such good helpers! I’m one lucky Mommy with such good helper kids!” Silence. Muppet mumbles “Dad doesn’t want you to be my Mom”. I hug her and tell her that I will always be her Mom and Dad will always be her Dad, that is how it will always be. “Can I call you Mama (Mom in my native language), because Dad won’t let me call you Mom”. A 3-year-old is navigating the perils of her parents divorce, by pleasing Dad by changing the language of the word Mom, without losing the meaning of Mom.

I contacted a PAS expert to help me with the situation. I’m not above criticism and if I could help the kids with their relationship with their father, I am all for it. First thing he did is correct me, and say that Parental Alienation is when one parent actively prevents the children to have a relationship with the other parent. When a child resents a parent for no apparent good reason.

There can be really good reasons a child resents a parent; physical/sexual or psychological abuse. Parental Alienation is psychological abuse and almost always backfires. If an alienating parent actively campaigns against a target parent and the children realize that, they will turn against that alienating parent. In the end the Alienator will alienate themselves. Each parent has to forge their own relationship with the child.

I realized this was true, but at the same time I wanted to ‘fix it’. I can’t control Ex or his behavior, but how could I improve the situation?

And then I saw last weeks ‘dr Phil Show‘. I felt incredibly sorry for the mother who had not seen or spoken to her children for 5 years. As the show went on, it became clearer and clearer that the mother had alienated herself from her children, she wasn’t alienated, it was her own behavior that turned the children away from the mother.

The heartbreaking moment the daughter told on national television that she had been cutting herself, she was sending out cries for help and wanted the mother to acknowledge her pain. And the mother denied it, the mother was more concerned with protecting her own ego. The father got up and hugged his child. The mother could show no empathy. It was clear that the mother was at her own fault for not having a relationship with her children, but she could not acknowledge it, instead she blamed everybody, and I mean everybody. The list dr Phil showed was enormous, slide after slide.

I realized I can’t make the children love their father, nor am I responsible for his behavior towards them. He needs to forge the bonds between him and his children himself. He is responsible for that. It is that externalization of internal problems within the cluster B personality disordered. Put the blame of his strained relationship with the children on others without looking at his own behavior and contribution to the problem.

I can, and will, continue to create a safe environment for the kids where they are free to love Dad. I can validate the importance of Dad in their lives. I want the kids to be happy. Happy kids make a happy mommy. That also includes having good times with and loving Dad.

Their relationship with their father is not a thread to me. How can I possible object to anything that completes the kids?

Deny, Attack, Reversing Victim and Offender (DARVO) in the Personality Disordered

“I need to fax you the affidavit Ex filed, it is 66 pages long, and you need to respond ASAP” the para-legal told me over the phone.

Photo by Özge Gürer

Photo by Özge Gürer

I went to a neighbor’s house and read the fax as it was coming in.

Line after line were false allegations. Accusations that had nothing to do with the truth, but everything with what Ex was doing himself. I was shocked. Surely he didn’t believe himself what he was accusing me of?

It was so bizarre, this couldn’t really be happening. The first 4 weeks after I was served with the divorce papers Ex filed numerous affidavits, over 130 pages in total; all unsubstantiated allegations, without supporting documents.

I was bewildered, how could somebody whom I thought loved me at least at one point, whom I had shared a life with, whom I had children with, could come out with such a vengeance. Why all the hate? And what was even more puzzling was that what he accused me off, was what he was doing himself. I couldn’t wrap my brain around it.

Yet this type of behavior is common enough that psychology has a term for it.

“DARVO refers to a reaction that perpetrators of wrong doing, may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior. The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim into an alleged offender.”  Dr Jennifer Freyd, PhD

This sounded all too familiar. Realizing I was not the only one dealing with this brought peace of mind and gave me the strength to see things how they are.

About a year into the divorce proceedings, Ex had information that could ONLY come from my computer. Through a forensic computer expert I found out Ex was forwarding my emails to his corporate email account, and that my computer had been remotely accessed several times. I took this information to the Sheriff’s who told me that it would be a Felony charge and Ex would go to prison for several years.

I didn’t want the father of the children to go to prison, so I asked for some time to decide if I wanted to pursue this.

I felt deeply violated and was extremely stressed out about it. Was nothing safe? At the next custody exchange, I babbled my mouth and told Ex he was being investigated by the Sheriff’s. Not very smart, I know. Within the hour, Ex went to the State Troopers with the emails he forwarded to himself and filed false criminal harassment charges. The charges were eventually dismissed by the DA after he saw the evidence.

So not only did Ex deny he hacked my computer, he turned it around and attacked by filing false criminal charge where he plays the victim when he is the perpetrator.

DARVO is characterized by denial and gaslighting, followed by projection, blame shifting and lying. The pillars of a cluster B personality disorder. A personality disordered person needs to externalize blame by persuading others that their internal problems are external, caused by something else or someone else. By blaming others for everything that’s wrong in their lives they keep the focus off the real problem; themselves.

 “Once others are persuaded to get the problem backward, the dispute escalates into a long-term, high-conflict situation. One that few people other than persuasive blamers can tolerate” — Bill Eddy ‘High Conflict People in Legal Disputes’ 

An alternate reality is created by lies. Parents who engage in this behavior often can’t substantiate their claims or, if they just make up more lies to try to substantiate it, just like Ex’s unsubstantiated statements in his numerous affidavits.

A psychopath engages in this behavior ruthlessly and intentionally. They don’t care, they use it as means to whatever their goal may be.

“People with antisocial personalities are the most persuasive blamers of all, because they have been lying all their lives and lack remorse. They don’t care if they destroy their former partners, and they often don’t care if they are found out. They just spin another tale, and often they get away with it.” — Bill Eddy and Randi Kreger. “Splitting.

Filing false criminal charges with the emails Ex forwarded to himself is a pretty good example to which extend of deception, or spinning of another tale, a psychopath is willing to go. So what is his motivation?

Money.

Ex’s testimony during trial gave good insight into his true reason for fighting for custody. He angrily said he wasn’t going to pay me alimony and the least amount of child support. Getting away with filing false sexual abuse charges with CPS would have helped him greatly to gain full custody and not have to pay child support at all.

Psychologically healthy parents deny false accusations during the divorce proceedings, however, they do it fastly different. Denial is not evidence of guilt. How do you know if an individual’s denial is the truth or an instance of DARVO?

One of the main factors is that an innocent person does not go on the attack, they defend themselves by their own evidence and behavior. For instance, Ex enjoys shooting and torturing cats. When he no longer could deny that he shoots cats, he accused me of making him shoot cats for population control (blame shifting, justification/rationalization and playing victim all in one). As if that all of a sudden made it ok to kill pets.

“ The attack will also likely focus on ad hominem (arising from or appealing to the emotions and not reason or logic) instead of intellectual/evidential issues. ” — Freyd (1997, pp. 23-24)

I defended myself by stating that I am a vegetarian, and if I oppose large animal slaughter, I surely would oppose slaughter of pets. I also provided the custody evaluator with evidence of my involvement with the SPCA and receipts of bringing cats to them. My defense was not based on emotion, but on logic and evidence.

Psychopaths have an uncanny ability to insinuate that what they present as the truth can logically be proven, without actually substantiating their statements. They take advantage of the confusion they create by redefining reality.

Individuals who have been exposed to DARVO consciously or unconsciously know when they hold the offender accountable there will be retaliation. Often we hear when they finally get the courage to bring issues to the attention of courts, law enforcement etc, they ‘wuss out’. They don’t follow through. The battered spouse who gets a restraining order, but then returns to the abuser and dismisses the RO.

I’m guilty of that. I didn’t follow through. I thought I had just present clear-cut 3rd party (logical) evidence to the judge and all would be good.

I did finally grow a spine and followed up with the Sheriff’s with regards to the hacking. The evidence was passed on to the FBI who are now preparing the case.