Malicious Parent Syndrome (MPS) is a term used to describe a pattern of behavior exhibited by a parent, usually during or after a contentious divorce or child custody battle, who uses their child as a weapon to hurt the other parent. MPS is not a recognized psychiatric disorder, but rather a behavior pattern that can be seen in individuals who exhibit high levels of anger, vindictiveness, and a desire for revenge.
Parents with MPS may attempt to turn their child against the other parent, engage in parental alienation, or use their child to gather information about the other parent. They may also interfere with the other parent’s court-ordered visitation, deny access to the child, or make false accusations of abuse or neglect.
MPS can have a serious negative impact on the child’s well-being, as it can cause emotional distress, confusion, and feelings of guilt and loyalty conflict. It is important for parents and professionals involved in custody and visitation disputes to be aware of the potential for MPS and take steps to prevent it from occurring.
Modern permissiveness and the new culture of entitlement allows disturbed people to reach adulthood without proper socialization. In a book meant both for the general public and for professionals, bestselling author and psychologist George Simon explains in plain English:
•How most disturbed characters think.
•The habitual behaviors the disturbed use to avoid responsibility and to manipulate, deceive, and exploit others.
•Why victims in relationships with disturbed characters do not get help they need from traditional therapies.
•A straightforward guide to recognizing and understanding all relevant personality types, especially those most likely to undermine relationships.
•A new framework for making sense of the crazy world many find themselves in when there’s a disturbed character in their lives.
•Concrete principles that promote responsibility and positive change when engaging disturbed characters.
•Tactics (for both lay persons and therapists) to lessen the chances for victimization and empower those who would otherwise be victims in their relationships with many types of disturbed characters.
Master manipulators use grooming to get what they want out of someone, whether it’s sex, morally questionable behavior, money, or something else. (Does Dirty John ring a bell?)
Whether the target is an adult or child, the stages of grooming by the predator toward their target are typically the same:
Friendship-forming: The predator will work to determine a target’s candidacy by asking questions about the target’s life and gauging their vulnerability, and also getting contact information such as social media handles or phone numbers.
Relationship-forming: The predator works to gain the target’s trust, often through secret-sharing or by fulfilling a need. For instance, they may run errands for the victim or pay for bills. The predator may also share a secret that “only the target can know”, then ask for a similar secret to level the playing field.
Threat-gauging: The predator will engage in a risk assessment to determine how accessible the victim truly is. This is more common among predators who are grooming children but can also happen with adults who will check a target’s relationship strength with friends, family, and roommates.
Isolation: The predator will begin distancing the target from friends or family. This can be done in multiple ways, including surprisingly positive methods such as compliments and favors. The predator may tell the intended victim that they feel an especially strong connection to them, or that they understand each other in a special way that no one else can get. Control is the predator’s intent. By appearing calm and concerning, the predator is seeking to increase their influence over the victim to advance their agenda.
Abuse: In this phase, the predator will start to use the target to meet their needs. With children, this is generally sexual in nature, but predators will use victims for money, to accomplish morally questionable things for them, or even just to fill an emotional need.
Maintenance: Once the victim is doing what the predator wants, the predator will work to keep them under control through various means. These methods can include gas-lighting (telling the victim their feelings are crazy or unreasonable), destroying the victim’s self-esteem, or continuing the isolate the victim from their loved ones.
Grooming is a common tool for con-men, pedophiles, and those with a narcissistic personality disorder. The results to a victim can be catastrophic, in terms of loss of self-esteem and personal safety, psychological trauma, and harm to the victim’s financial resources and personal wealth.
Like other social predators, Anthony charms his way through personal and professional settings, using flattery and positive attention to win over those who will help him get ahead. These predators do not violate the law; they violate loyalty. They exploit their victims financially, reputationally, emotionally, and sometimes sexually, carefully covering their tracks to avoid any “official” wrongdoing. They seduce and discard a broad spectrum of trusting individuals.
Thanks to the #MeToo movement, the curtain has been pulled back on inappropriate and predatory behavior in all walks of life; there is greater awareness of these realities than ever before.
Now is the time to uncover those who engage in what is known in legal parlance as “uncharged bad acts” or “uncharged misconduct.” It can be hard to articulate just what infractions such people commit, given that there is no legal violation on the books. The ability to go undetected and unlabeled is perhaps the most dangerous aspect of predatory behavior.
Aggression can be overt (out in the open so everyone can see it) or covert (veiled or carefully concealed so that a potential victim is caught unaware). It can be direct (aimed at a particular person) or indirect (carried out through intermediaries). It can also be active (defined by what a person does) or passive (revealed by what a person doesn’t do). And as I mention in In Sheep’s Clothing, perhaps there is no more common misunderstanding than the difference between passive and covert-aggression. But it’s also true that many of the traditional psychology paradigms made it all but impossible for folks (lay persons and therapists alike) to appreciate the difference between reactive and predatory or instrumental aggression. In fact, it’s the tendency on the part of most folks to assume that fear and/or anger underlies all aggression that makes it really hard to tell when someone is neither afraid of you or angry with you but simply preying upon you! Predatory aggressors are a very different lot. And sometimes they victimize out of pure desire or for amusement.
Predatory people are on the lookout for empathic, resilient people – those who can bounce back from abusive incidents so they can continue the abuse cycle – as well as people with resources to exploit. Narcissists especially search for shiny targets – those who are attractive, successful and look good on their arm, because it boosts their image. If you are such a type, it is common for them to prey on you. As Dr. George Simon notes, victims of predators “tend to be conscientious and accommodating types. So, their good nature is ripe for exploitation. Moreover, manipulators play on your sensibilities, and often, your conscience.” If you have a habit of projecting your empathy onto others and using your resilience to endure a toxic relationship, it’s time to see the predator for who he or she really is and save your resilience for the healing journey ahead.
You must be logged in to post a comment.