An alienated child’s need to demonize the targeted parent
Posted in About Divorce on September 23, 2020
Someone posted on a message board I belong to (name omitted because I was not authorized to include it), that:
Today I re[a]d an interview in a Dutch newspaper with someone who had lost his father (suicide) when he was young. As of this day, he remembered only bad things about his father. After therapy he recognized that he had found it much harder to lose a father that he liked/loved, than a bad father (his words). It made me think, could this also be occurring in PA? Do children, apart from internalizing the alienating behavior of a parent, also use this strategy as a form of coping, as result of cognitive dissonance? Do any of us know if there is any research on PA and cognitive dissonance?
I have found this phenomenon to be true as well. That is alienated children have to demonize the target parent to minimize their pain. “I don’t miss that <insert demeaning epithet here> because he was never any good anyway.”
Moreover, even when the child grows up and the long-alienated parent makes overtures to the child, the kinder and more virtuous the alienated parent is, the greater the cognitive dissonance it engenders in the child. The child often needs the alienated parent to be a monster, so that their estrangement is justified. The nicer and more kindly the parent behaves to the child, the angrier the child becomes. The child’s mental image is being shattered and that’s painful.