The chapter “Medea and Parental Alienation” is particularly interesting. In it, Dr. Gordon outlines how the Greek myth of Princess Medea killing her own children to exact vengeance on her former husband is essentially about psychological problems involved in parental alienation:
The alienating mother’s rage is rooted in part in a wish to destroy the child, whom she at some level resents being stuck and may turn her rage into over protectiveness as a reaction formation. She is unable to let her children separate from her. She tells them the harm that will befall them when they are out of her control. The mother projects her aggression on to the environment and then makes her children need her protection.
When the mother wishes to punish the father by turning their children against him, she is also aggressing against the children. In her unconscious, both the husband and the children represent the same thing (betrayal and potential betrayal), and destructiveness is wished on them both.
In short, a mother who turns her children against their father probably has at least paranoid features within a borderline or psychotic personality structure (Gordon, 1987). She cannot deal with the loss, and remains tied to her (ex) husband in an intimate hate, and keeps her children tied to her out of fear.