Folie a Deux

“ Hatred is not an emotion that comes naturally to a child. It has to be taught. A parent who would teach a child to hate the other parent, represents a grave and persistent danger to the mental and emotional health of that child”.

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Ludwig.F. Lowenstein Ph.D

Southern England Psychological Services

The Vicious Alienator’s Game Plan

The Vicious Alienator’s Game Plan

Ludwig.F. Lowenstein Ph.D

Southern England Psychological Services

This article describes the motives and demeanour of the vicious and determined alienator in preventing, by whatever means, good contact and a good relationship with the absent, non custodial parent. Two illustrations are provided. One dealing with the father and the other with the mother as the alienator. A two-step approach is presented in how to deal with the implacable hostile and non-cooperative alienator. The importance of the expert witness working together with the court is required, as well as the court acting decisively to limit the “game plan” of the alienator is emphasised.

Illustration 1 – the father as an alienator

Mr Y had been given custody of a son aged 16 and a daughter aged 14 mainly due to the fact that the mother had suffered from depression. Mr Y was a highly controlling individual who did all he could to influence the children against a caring and loving mother. The divorce had been highly acrimonious. The mother Mrs N accepted that she suffered from depression but this was some time ago and was now under control due to the medication she was receiving.

After leaving hospital, she tried unsuccessfully to communicate with her children and to have contact with Mr Y, but he had totally brainwashed the children against the mother stating she was a “crazy, unpredictable and violent woman”. Father also made it clear to the children that should they wish to have contact with their mother they would no longer have a home with him, they must choose one or the other. The children therefore never responded to telephone calls, emails and letters from the mother who pleaded to have the chance to be with them. The father had inculcated a fear of insecurity, if the children wished to have contact with their mother.

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The comparison of parental alienation to the “Stockholm syndrome”

Ludwig.F. Lowenstein Ph.D

Southern England Psychological Services


What follows is in great part fact and what is not fact is based on supposition and psychological assessment of how the Stockholm Syndrome develops and how it has worked in the case of Natascha Kampusch recently reported in the press. She was abducted and kept in a prison in an underground cell without natural light and air being pumped into her enclosure. The Stockholm Syndrome was coined in 1973 by Nils Bejerot, a psychiatrist, while working for the police. It occurred that there was a bank robbery and four bank clerks were taken hostage by an armed robber who threatened to kill them. To the surprise of the police, the hostages stated that they had no wish to be rescued indicating that they felt sympathy for their captor.

It was assumed that the feeling of stress and helplessness and possibly a desire to survive led to this unlikely scenario. All the captives were eventually released without harm. The hostage taker himself must have been influenced by the behaviour of his victims as they were influenced by him. One can only wonder how this phenomenon occurred after such a short captivity. In the case of Natascha Kampusch her period of captivity of eight years probably brought about deeper psychological changes and more enduring ones.

As a specialist in the area of parental alienation and parental alienation syndrome where I have acted as a psychological expert in the courts, there appears to be a considerable similarity between parental alienation and the Stockholm Syndrome. The alienator in the case of the Stockholm Syndrome also needs to extinguish any desire in the victim’s past, seeking to demonstrate any allegiance to anyone other than the powerful captor of that individual.

Here too is demonstrated the power of the alienator and the insignificance of the power of the alienated party/parties. It is almost certain that Natascha Kampusch had opportunity in the past to escape from her captor, yet chose not to do so. This was despite her initial closeness to her family. A combination of fear, indoctrination and “learned helplessness”, promoted the total loyalty and obedience of the child to her captor. This captor was no longer viewed, as was the case initially, as evil but as necessary to the child’s well-being and her survival. A similar scenario occurs in the case of children who are alienated against an absent parent.

My forthcoming book about to be published and my website provides information as to why Natascha may have remained so slavishly with her captor for eight years of her young life. Why she decided finally to escape her enslavement will in due course be established. I will attempt to explain what might have occurred to finally induce her to escape.

A child who has had a good relationship with the now shunned parent will state: “I don’t need my father/mother; I only need my mother/father. Such a statement is based on the brainwashing received and the power of the alienator who is indoctrinating the child to sideline the previously loving parent.

In the case of the Stockholm Syndrome, we have in some ways a similar scenario. Here the two natural loving parents have been sidelined by the work of subtle or direct alienation by the perpetrator of the abduction of the young girl. At age 10, the child is helpless to resist the power of her abductor.

To the question: “How does the abductor eventually become her benefactor?”, we may note the process is not so dissimilar to the brainwashing carried by the custodial parent. This is done for the double reason of: 1) Gaining the total control over the child and consequently its dependence upon them. 2) To sideline the other parent and to do all possible to prevent and/or curtail contact between the child and the absent parent/parents.

The primary reason for such behaviour is the intractable hostility of the custodial parents towards one another. This reason does not exist in the case of the abductor of a child such as occurred in the case of Natascha Kambusch. Nevertheless the captor wished to totally alienate or eliminate the child’s loyalty or any feeling towards her natural parents. Due to the long period away from her parents and a total dependence for survival on her captor, Natascha’s closeness to her family gradually faded. She may even have felt that her own parents were making little or no effort to find her and rescue her. This view may also have been inculcated by her captor.

Her captor’s total mastery and control over her, eventually gave her a feeling of security. She could depend on the man to look after her with food, shelter, warmth, protection and hence led to her survival. Such behaviour on the part of the captor led over time not only to “learned helplessness” and dependence, but in a sense to gratefulness. As he was the only human being in her life this was likely to happen. She therefore became a ready victim of what is commonly termed the “Stockholm Syndrome” or the victim of “Parental Alienation.”

This led even to her beginning to love her captor. This view has been substantiated by the fact that Natascha found it difficult to live and feel any real closeness to her natural parents once she was rescued or once she ran away from her captor. She even pined for the loss of the captor who had since committed suicide. Even her speech had been altered from the native Austrian or Viennese dialect to the North German speech due to the fact that she only had access to the outside world via radio and television. This again, however, was carefully monitored by her captor. He controlled what she could see on television and listen to on the radio from outside her underground cell. There was little in Natascha’s present life to remind her of her past except for the dress that she wore when she was captured.

While she developed physically from 10-18 years, her weight changed but little. Why did she decide eventually to leave her captor? This is a question that requires an answer. It is the view of the current author that the answer lies in the fact that she may have had a quarrel with her captor, possibly over a very minor issue. The result was her leaving her captor and then regretting doing so, especially after she heard of his death. By the time her captor, undoubtedly fearing the retribution by the law, had ended his life, she had pined for him.

After eight years or living in close proximity to his victim, some form of intimacy undoubtedly occurred including a sexual one. This led to a mutual need and even dependence. It is likely that the “learned helplessness” of the victim succumbed eventually a caring, perhaps even loving relationship developing. It is also likely that the psychological explanation is that attribution, helplessness and depression in the victim for the loss of her parents quickly gave way to seeking to make the best of her situation while under the total domination of her captor.

Again the same scenario occurs in the case of parental alienation where the power of the dominant custodial parent programmes the child/children to eschew or marginalise the absent parent. That absent parent no longer appears to be important and is even likely to be viewed as damaging to the child’s survival. Continue reading “The comparison of parental alienation to the “Stockholm syndrome””

Vital Steps in Treating the Implacable Hostility of the Alienator

Ludwig.F. Lowenstein Ph.D

Southern England Psychological Services



The article delineates what is frequently lacking in the literature. This being, the treatment of alienators making them more amenable to the absent parent having contact with a formerly loved and cared for child. In some cases the implacable hostility is not as implacable as in other cases and hence some parents may consider that it is in the best interest of their children for the now absent parent to have contact with the child/children. Such parents consider what is best for children rather than considering first and foremost their hostility towards the now absent parent.

Vital Steps in Treating the Implacable Hostility of the Alienator

As stated by numerous investigators there are three kinds or degrees of alienation carried out by mothers or fathers to prevent good parents from having good regular contact with a child. There is mild, moderate and severe (pathological alienation). The vital steps about to be described vary in the rate of success achieved with each degree of alienation.

Marriages or non marital relationships do not always end with rancor. One or both parties are likely to be aggrieved, feeling that they have been let down by a partner. This feeling is likely to affect how the custodial partner of the child will deal with future contact with the child and the now absent parent. If there is little or no hostility as the relationship between the partners ends there is a likelihood that alienation will not take place against a former partner. Here all parties are blessed with a good sense and everyone benefits, most especially the child and the potentially alienated parent.

Alienation of one parent, based on the implacable hostility of such a parent (usually the custodial parent and most often the mother, of the child or children) leads to such long term problems. Psychologists faced with the problem of an alienator preventing good and regular contact between the absent parent and a child needs to assess the resistance of the alienator. The procedure is as follows:


Step 1. The mild alienator (usually the mother who has custody) can learn to see reason and what is in the best interest of the child. This is to share in the parenting process with the parents who have been given custody. Here experts such as psychologists or social workers rarely need to play a part in improving a situation of a parent having contact with a child

Step 2.  Where there is resistance by the alienator and the alienated parent seeks help through the courts, a psychologist may need to be appointed by the court. It is the job of the psychologist to use his expertise to convince the alienating parent of the importance of encouraging a child to seek and have good shared contact with a child. In moderate cases of alienation success can be achieved where the now absent parent continues to have effective contact. When this fails and this is reported as such to the court the next step (step three) is needed to be taken.


Before turning to the most drastic solution it might be sensible to illustrate point 2 by an actual case in court having been experienced by the current psychologist. Over the years the current psychologist has gained some kind of reputation as a person of principle in seeking justice for those denied it in the case of parental alienation. Mr X, a wealthy business man, requested me to act for him in court in the case of contact with his children whom he loved dearly. He had great difficulty in obtaining any contact with them. There was always some reason why his ex-wife, through her tactics, prevented him from having contact. The psychologist’s website on parental alienation came to his attention and as a result he contacted the psychologist for advice (

Some members of the Judiciary considered the views of the psychologist in seeking justice for alienating parents to be extreme. The psychologist had never regarded himself as such but rather as one who deeply believed that both caring parents had an important role to play in their children’s lives, providing they were indeed good parents. The psychologist regarded the alienator very much as a “bully” who took advantage of a position of dominance or power due to the fact that they had custody of the child. In the extreme, they suffered from a severe pathological condition not so different from a mental illness.

The woman in this case was a “bully” according to the description provided by the alienated father, rather than suffering from a severe mental illness. I therefore accepted the request of the father to appear in court on his behalf, having firstly assessed him psychologically as a good and caring parent.

I suggested to the father that he aim for custody of the children rather than mere regular good contact as I felt that his former wife could well renege on any agreement such as contact arrangements as she had done in the past. He indicated that he did not wish for full custody, but passed the information that I had given him to his Solicitor and Barrister. The latter in turn passed this information on to the mother’s legal team.

The result was that the mother, fearing that she might lose custody of the children reluctantly, agreed without further ado to her husband having regular contact with his children. The psychologist’s reputation of being unwavering in his conviction that failing to provide good contact opportunities was equivalent to emotional abuse. His views had preceded him and he therefore was not required to appear in court as the wife had capitulated that she would acceed to allow her former husband to have regular good contact with their children. She had therefore learned that the “bullying” tactics had been ineffective and the psychologist had been regarded as being a “big gun” to frighten her against continuing with her alienation. The case was therefore won without a shot having to be fired. Justice for the alienated father had been achieved by pressure or threats alone.


Step 3.  This step involves the court agreeing to respond firmly to the advice provided by the psychologist. This advice is to the effect that if the alienator, having been given the chance to voluntarily insist the child have good contact with the father, and refusing this, they should then lose custody of the child/children involved. The children should be removed from the mother’s care and placed in a neutral environment i.e. s children’s home. Here they could be treated for the emotional abuse they have endured, the father could then have access to his children and be given the opportunity of re-establishing a good relationship he had in the past with his children. In the meantime, the alienating mother should receive treatment for her emotionally abusing behaviour. When and if, such treatment is successful, then mother could be considered to resume her contact with the child/children with father retaining custody. In order for true, meaningful, and hopefully permanent justice to be achieved, there needs to be the full agreement between the judiciary and the expert advice provided by the psychologist. Only in this way can true justice, and what is in the best interest of the child/children be achieved.


It is hoped that family courts will recognize what needs to be done in court in order for the reputation of that court to be regarded as both just and fair. There are custodial parents whose hostility is so great that they will do anything to prevent their children having contact with a formerly loved and caring parent. Where such implacable hostility is almost pathological such parents should lose custody of their children and be treated for their problems. During that time the now absent parent should be given the custody of the child after a period of treatment of the child in an independent centre. Continue reading “Vital Steps in Treating the Implacable Hostility of the Alienator”

Dealing with the long term effects of parental alienation in the older child/adult

Fathers and mothers who are alienated eventually give up the struggle to make contact with the unresponsive, but still loved child. Telephone calls, letters, emails, and even presents given are not responded to. The child or adolescent does not even remember how the absent parent looks. Frequently the child.s name has been changed to that of the new partner, often without the permission of the denigrated, natural father. When the alienating father remarries, or has a new partner, that partner now becomes the mother figure while the natural mother, if referred to at all, is called by her first name. This is similar to the absent natural father whose paternity has been obliterated.Despite this pessimism and the unlikely favourable outcome, I still urge parents to try once again to seek contact by my dictating a letter on their behalf to their now older children or those who are now adults. In that letter I try to stress the sorrow of the alienated parent and how they as father or mother have never stopped loving their children and will continue to do so , even when there is no response from them.Such parents must however, realise to help to melt the heart and mind of an alienated adult is difficult to achieve. Despite this, a letter explaining in non critical ways, how the individual has been alienated and why this has taken place can do no harm. It can in time make the child and the now adult, consider their rejecting behaviour and eventually seek contact, even after many years of having rejected that parent.The now adult may, in time, reflect on what the letter contains and to seek some kind of relationship with the long term absent parent. This is more likely to happen when the individual has become an independent adult and is no longer residing with the alienator and hence no longer being alienated. It is important to make the more independent older child or adult, aware of the alienating scenario which has so turned him/her against the absent loving parent. In providing such information, it is vital not to attack or attribute the blame towards the alienator, even when it is deserved. Such an attack can be detrimental towards achieving one.s objective of finally having some contact and perhaps even a relationship, following a reunion with a still loved son/daughter despite the passage of time.

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