Convergent Personality or Emotional Disorders

Parents capable of inflicting the pain and the cruelty of alienating their own children from their other parent almost always display symptoms of one or more personality disorders.  Narcissistic Personality Disorder appears to be both the most prevalent affliction and the most dangerous. But, alienators frequently have also been diagnosed with Borderline Personality DisorderAnti-Social Personality Disorder, Psychopathy, and Sociopathy.

But, is the existence of a emotional disorder in and of itself sufficient to cause a parent to inflict such damage on the very people they presumably love.  Not every divorced parent with a disorder declares war on the ex-spouse and undertakes a no-prisoners strategy to destroy their ex.  The children who become alienated during the process are just “casualties of war.”  This total lack of empathy is consistent with these disorders but the rage experienced by a narcissist or sociopath is just as likely to express itself through violence as through a carefully designed psychological campaign of destruction. And, not all children are susceptible to alienation.  So, under what circumstances can one parent successfully foster the hate that their children develop for the targeted parent.

When I was fighting to keep my youngest daughter I turned for help to a number of professionals– psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, child advocates, college professors, and lawyers.  It did not take long for me to realize that these  professionals were not very knowledgeable about the problem, the courts didn’t care, and several either were totally ignorant  or tried to convince me that my daughter was just going through the typical emotional stages experienced by all teen-age girls as they passed through puberty.

I turned to a close psychologist friend.  She actually was familiar with everything we discussed but when asked “how does he do it” her response was “I just don’t know.”  Unfortunately, this seems to be the mantra of the professionals.  They understand the emotional disorders and, to some extent,  they understand Parental Alienation.  But, they do not understand the actual dynamic involved.

I have come to the conclusion that their failure is due to the way they view and analyze the situation.  They tend to look at the problem simply as a manifestation of the individual’s disorder.  But, this is not enough.  I am not a psychologist or a social worker but I am convinced that the alienation process can succeed only if there is a convergence of emotional disorders, traits, and the relational circumstances inherent between the parent and children.  These are my thoughts and conclusions about how the alienation process actually works.

Parental Alienation first and foremost requires a parent with a personality or emotional disorder identified above and elsewhere on the site.  There must be a pathological fear of abandonment as well as the lack of empathy and the need and ability to manipulate and dominate others.The alienator may have a “splitting” personality which is a disorder that tends to deny them the ability to hold opposing thoughts, feelings, or beliefs about others. Splitting is very common in people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), and it leads people with BPD to view themselves and others as either all good or all bad.  They have difficulty synthesizing their feelings into one cohesive whole.  In Parental Alienation the alienator convinces the child victims that they are “all good” while the target is “all bad.”

The child must have a close, loving, and trusting relationship with the alienator parent.  The child must also be malleable.  If there has been or continues to be conflict between the child and the targeted parent the alienator parent will find it much easier to win the child’s loyalty while convincing him/her that the target is bad and does not love the child.  The alienator eventually is mistakenly portrayed as the loving, caring, and even fun parent. In this sense the child is successfully “brainwashed” as defined and explained elsewhere.
The children should have psychological profiles that would indicate vulnerability to something similar to “Stockholm Syndrome.”  This, in itself might be an emotional disorder.
At some point alienated children’s emotional development is stunted, they become an appendage of the alienator and become complicit in the process.  They adopt and parrot the alienator and display disdain and hatred for the targeted parent.  Like hostages suffering from Stockholm Syndrome they identify and align themselves with the very person who has abused them.  They are the product of the alienator’s aggression, manipulation, intimidation, message repetition, lying, brainwashing, and who knows what else.
In 1985 the psychiatrist, Richard Gardner, developed the concept of Parental Alienation Syndrome to describe alienation when the child-victim becomes an active participant in the denigration of the targeted parent.  The DSM-5 has not accepted Gardner’s definition but they do accept that alienation does exist. And, it is generally recognized that the alienator parent has one or more emotional disorders.

So, this background information is all fine and good but it still doesn’t answer the question: “What is the trait, factor, element, or circumstance that actually enables one parent to so utterly destroy the other?   Hate and opportunity are relevant but not the answer.  In fact, I have been unable to find an answer in the literature or from human experts.  So, I have developed my own theory.  It is “Charismatic Authority.”


If you are a targeted parent your relationship with your ex-spouse has probably devolved to the point of mutual hatred.  You likely see him/her as a dirt bag and are totally unable to accept that your ex has any redeeming value and most certainly not any charisma.  But, remember that you married that person and you made children together.  What you probably did not know that your spouse was even then burdened with an emotional disorder. So, at some point in the past you felt your significant other possessed some semblance of charisma as we use the term today.  I use the word “today” because it has a somewhat different meaning than in the past. So, keep reading.

The great German sociologist, Max Weber, coined the term “Charismatic Authority.” He did not particularly consider the term “charisma” in the positive light that we do today.   Until his use of the term it had religious overtones and even when he applied more secular connotations there was still the implication that the charismatic leader somehow derived the quality from a spiritual source.

Weber viewed charisma as a certain quality of an individual’s personality, by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least exceptional powers or qualities. These qualities are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin. Charismatic individuals are considered exemplary and on the basis of these exemplary characteristics the individual is treated as a leader.

Power is legitimized on the basis of a leader’s exceptional personal qualities or the demonstration of extraordinary insight and accomplishment, which inspire loyalty and obedience from followers.

All power rests entirely with the leader.

Charismatic Authority Today

Charisma is an undefined, intangible, and irrational personal quality that defines the relationship between a leader and followers.  It is one of those things that may be difficult or impossible to define but most of us recognize it when we see it. It is very personal in the sense that what seems charismatic to one person may have no such effect on another.  So, charismatic leadership really is defined by the followers. Still, most charismatic leaders attract followers to whom they appear very eloquent and with whom they are able to communicate on a deep, emotional level.  They are able to stimulate strong emotions in their followers.  These traits are not uncommon in narcissists, sociopaths, borderlines, and others with emotional disorders.  Some of history’s most famous and infamous leaders were highly charismatic, were afflicted with a personality disorder,  and were able to evoke deep emotional responses in huge numbers of followers.

Shrink It Down To Family Size

Now, take a deep breadth and for a minute try to step away from the toxic relationship with your former spouse. Consider “charismatic authority” on a smaller scale against a backdrop of your bitter divorce.  It makes sense that charisma is the elusive quality that enables one parent to alienate children against the target.

It is important to accept and understand that charisma is totally in the mind and perceptions of the followers. Children of any divorce are fragile and especially so in a toxic split where they are receiving very different messages from each parent.  They are very vulnerable to a parent with an emotional disorder that can reach them at a visceral level and enable them to make sense of their dysfunctional world. And, bringing order to their chaotic lives may require in their minds the rejection of the “other” parent.  If the parent has a personality disorder the risk of alienation increases exponentially.

Parents naturally command a level of “charismatic authority” in relationship with their children.  The children depend on their leadership and direction, hold them in the highest esteem, and elevate them to exalted positions whether or not the parents earns such reverence. Most importantly, children depend on and trust their parents as they struggle to find their own path through life.  In a normal, stable household both parents enjoy “charismatic authority” but when the relationship disintegrates a parent with an emotional disorder may use their natural prestige to betray the children and use them as tools against the ex-spouse.


It is well understood that many symptoms displayed by people with various personality disorders correlate to dysfunctional parents who will sacrifice their children as they employ a strategy of parental alienation.  Less understood is the mechanism used to accomplish the goal.  The concept of “charismatic authority”  is like a bonding agent that binds elements and enables one parent to alienate the other from their children.  The charismatic element is a natural and powerful manifestation of the parent-child relationship but is likely to be undetectable to outsiders.  Most parents would not mis-use their charismatic relationship with their children but the alienator most likely has a personality disorder that enables them to use the children to successfully avenge their perceived mistreatment by the targeted parent.

First published in 2015 on this site, apologies for any links that do not work as I cannot trace the original article but still a good worthwhile read.

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

How dangerous can a pathological liar be? Experts tell us all about it

Have you ever been in that awkward situation, fully immersed in conversation with someone who is flat-out lying to you?

Most of us can recall a time when interesting stories slowly emerge into colourful fabrications. Your enthusiasm starts to wane and then a light goes off and you realize you’re not quite getting a true picture. Ugh… it’s such a cringe-worthy moment.

A comprehensive beginner’s guide to becoming a sociopath

Sociopathy. The word makes “good” people cringe. It is a very real syndrome that affects young and old. In general there are ten real symptoms:

  1. Not learning from experience.
  2. No sense of responsibility.
  3. Inability to form meaningful relationships.
  4. Inability to control impulses.
  5. Lack of moral sense.
  6. Chronically antisocial behavior.
  7. No change in behavior after punishment.
  8. Emotional immaturity.
  9. Lack of guilt.
  10. Self-centeredness.

If you are a sociopath you probably don’t know it, but if you want to be a sociopath and have fun unlike all the other blockheads in the world, then this is the recipe for you.

Continue reading “A comprehensive beginner’s guide to becoming a sociopath”

Parental alienation in targeted parents: Investigating the diagnostic indices

The purpose of this study was to determine if psychological indices are present in parents who have been targeted for alienation by their former spouses. The reform of U.S. divorce laws and changes in the standard for determining custody of minor children are contributing factors to Parental Alienation (PA). Gardner (1998, 1999, 2001, 2002) first identified and reported Parental Alienation after seeing the same patterns of behavior among children refusing to visit their non-custodial fathers. Baker (2006) continued the research by interviewing adult children who were alienated when they were young. Childress (2011a, 2011b, 2011c, 2012, 2014, 2015), is currently working on a new paradigm using attachment theory. Studies looking at the effects of PA on targeted parents (TPs) are non-existent. This research sought to answer the research question: What are the diagnostic indices that make up PA in targeted parents? Using Gardner’s constructs as the conceptual framework for the interview questions, 10 self-identified alienated parents were interviewed about feelings associated with the behaviors of their ex-spouses and children. The data for this future psychometric were evaluated using both Qualitative Content Analysis (QCA) and quantitative data analysis. Using QCA as the mode for data analysis, the raw data were coded using Gardner’s criteria. The list of feelings was put into a Scale of Feelings, where each item was rated on a 5-point Likert Scale (at the height of alienation) by a second group of alienated parents acting as content judges. Evaluations continued with the second group of alienated parents until they felt an inclusive list of feelings was generated. Reliability was tested using 14-items that group 2 rated using Spearman Rho. The resulting 30-item scale went back to the original group of 7 parents to rate. The research produced possible indices that potentially are useful as a diagnostic tool. A future study is planned to evaluate the indices with a larger more representative sample of participants. Creating an assessment is critical for parents, legal and psychological professionals working to eradicate this parental alienation problem.

Alienation – The act of cutting off or interfering with an individual’s relationships with others.

Alienation may be absolute, where all the victim’s relationships are sabotaged equally, or it may be targeted towards a particular type of relationship. For example, the victim may be cut off from social friendships; family relationships; professional relationships; contact with members of a group, club or organization; or contact with members of a particular gender, race, social status or religion.

A personality-disordered individual may frown on their victim having social relationships outside the home. They may try to break those relationships by making up shocking or accusing stories about either the non-personality-disordered (Non-PD) individual – or about the person the Non-PD is trying to befriending. The Non-PD may face consequences or punishments as a result of making or maintaining contact with a person who is not on thean “approved” list.

In the case of chosen relationships, partners are often pressured to avoid contact with their own siblings, parents or extended family. In the case of unchosen (family) relationships, the Non-PD’s romantic relationships, partnerships or marriages may be sabotaged.

Professional relationships may also be the target of alienation attacks by a personality-disordered individual.

The most widely reported form of alienation is parental alienation – where a parent tries to sabotage the relationship their child has with the other parent. This is quite common when divorcing someone who has a personality disorder.

Alienation may be overt or covert.

In overt alienation, the victim knows the abuser discourages or disapproves of a relationship. They may be confronted with threats of consequences or a system of rewards and punishments as an incentive to reduce or break off contact.

In covert alienation, the victim is not aware of the activities of the abuser. The abuser may attempt to subtly manipulate the victim’s habits or routine to reduce the incidence of contact with another person using diversions. The abuser may also use distortion campaigns or manipulations to divert friends or family away from contact with the victim. The abuser may also recruit proxies or third parties to directly or unwittingly sabotage or compromise a relationship.

Related Personality Disorders:

Alienation is a common occurrence in relationships involving people who suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder,Histrionic Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder,Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, Schizotypal Personality Disorder.

What it feels like:

Alienation is a form of emotional abuse. We need social contact to maintain a healthy emotional state as much as our bodies need food and water to maintain a healthy physical state. If we are socially malnourished, we may begin to exhibit symptoms of depression, such as anger, insomnia, loss of appetite, or low energy.

When somebody denies us access to loved ones, friends and family, it can be as damaging as being denied physical needs such as sleep and nutrition. If you are an adult and your actions pose no direct threat of physical or emotional harm to others, no one has the right to control who you can and can’t see or where you can and can’t go.

When we are malnourished and abused in this way, we are vulnerable to making poor personal choices. We may revert to ineffective behaviors to try to resolve the issue such as anger, retaliation, begging, bargaining or sneaking around.

If we are subject to chronic alienation, we are prone to progress through the classic five stages of grief – anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Once we reach acceptance, we are apt to become enablersof the abuse, denying ourselves the very thing we need most to become healthy. We may avoid contact with outsiders, defend our position, avoid scrutiny and avoid situations which threaten to shine a light on our plight. This process is sometimes referred to as Learned Helplessness or Stockholm Syndrome.

Coercive Control

It was only after doing research on emotional abuse that she discovered a name for what she experienced: Coercive control, a pattern of behavior that some people — usually but not always men — employ to dominate their partners. Coercive control describes an ongoing and multipronged strategy, with tactics that include manipulation, humiliation, isolation, financial abuse, stalking, gaslighting and sometimes physical or sexual abuse.

“The number of abusive behaviors don’t matter so much as the degree,” said Dr. Fontes, the author of “Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship.” “One woman told me her husband didn’t want her to sleep on her back. She had to pack the shopping cart a certain way, wear her clothes a certain way, wash herself in the shower in a certain order.”

PA Cases and court orders

1. In re Marriage of B.L. and J.L. (2020): In this case, the court found that the mother had engaged in parental alienation against the father, and ordered her to attend counseling and parenting classes.

2. In re Marriage of M.L. and J.L. (2020): In this case, the court found that the mother had engaged in parental alienation against the father, and ordered her to attend counseling and parenting classes.

A court order to attend counseling and parenting classes typically requires the person to attend a certain number of sessions with a qualified counselor or parenting instructor. The court order may also require the person to complete any assignments or tests given by the counselor or instructor. The court order may also require the person to pay for the counseling or parenting classes. The court order may also require the person to provide proof of attendance or completion of the classes.

Examples of counseling and parenting classes


1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

2. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

3. Solution-Focused Therapy

4. Family Therapy

5. Group Therapy

6. Trauma-Focused Therapy

Mindfulness-Based Therapy Parenting Classes:

1. Positive Parenting 2

. Parenting with Love and Logic

3. Conscious Parenting

4. Attachment Parenting

Beware of the Malevolent Dark Triad

Think of the Dark Triad of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism as the Bermuda Triangle – it’s perilous to get near it! The traits of all three often overlap and create personality profiles that are damaging and toxic, especially when it comes to intimate relationships, where we let our guard down.

One woman was the subject of identity fraud. Her bank accounts and credit cards were compromised. At the time, she was in love with her boyfriend who lived with her in her apartment. She was speaking regularly with the FBI and suffered extreme anxiety and emotional stress. The authorities were unsuccessful in finding the culprit.

Her fiancé was very supportive in doing research to try to find him. He comforted her, occasionally bought her gifts, and paid her monthly rent out of money she gave him. When eventually the landlord confronted her about months of delinquency, she realized that the criminal was in fact her own boyfriend, who had been pocketing her rent money, except to buy her gifts. Her denial made it difficult to accept the truth about his ruthless gaslighting. Continue reading “Beware of the Malevolent Dark Triad”

Common Dark Triad Traits

Recent comparative research on the Dark Triad has attempted to analyze differences among these three malevolent personalities. To varying degrees, all act aggressively out of self-interest and lack empathy and remorse. They’re skilled at manipulation and exploit and deceive others, though their motivations and tactics vary. They violate social norms and moral values and lie, deceive, cheat, steal, and bully. It’s thought that genetic factors underlie their personality to some degree.

Machiavellianism and psychopathy are more closely correlated due to their malicious behavior; whereas narcissists are defensive and more fragile. This is because their grandiosity and arrogance is a façade for deeper feelings of inadequacy. (See “Relationships with Narcissists.”) Men outnumber women, primarily when psychopathic traits were measured (i.e., not just deceit, manipulation, etc.). This difference is linked to the overt antisocial behavior associated with psychopathy, suggesting that it may be due to biological factors, such as testosterone, as well as social norms Continue reading “Common Dark Triad Traits”

“ego dysregulation”

Despite many controversies, there seems to be one unifying psychoanalytic principle across all psychoanalytic approaches: that we have an unconscious mind (containing contents and processes) that has a very powerful impact on normal and pathological human behavior. Hence, from a psychoanalytic frame of reference, problems are often caused by thoughts, feelings, and memories that are out of awareness (i.e., pre-conscious or unconscious) and helping people become aware of them is an integral part of treatment (Cabaniss, 2011;Mitchell & Black, 1995). …… We stress that affects (feelings and emotions) are primary-they provide life with vitality, color to human experience, and they are signals that help us determine what is good or bad for us; they also promote adaptation (Cabaniss, 2011). The therapist therefore carefully listens to a client’s surface and underlying emotional states and the emotional quality of his or her relationships. …

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