This is the seventh in a series of eight posts on the eight symptoms of the Parental Alienation, as first described by Richard Gardner, MD. This seventh symptom is "The Presence of Borrowed Scenarios" which refers to the false and distorted stories and things “absorbed” by alienated children about the targeted parent.
One of the most common examples of "The Presence of Borrowed Scenarios" is when an alienated child announces that the targeted parent did not want for them to be born, and that they wanted the mother to have an abortion. This obviously could have only come from the alienating parent or her minions.
This symptom may also be identified by the age inappropriate use of language by children. For example, I had a 4 year old child tell me that she had nightmares when she was at her father’s house (the targeted parent in this particular case). When I asked her about her nightmares, she said that she did not know, and that I should ask her mother because this is who told her that she was having nightmares at her dad’s.
Borrowed scenarios may also be thought of as being the result of coaching. The notion of coaching, that is the alienating parent, either directly or indirectly saying things to the child for the purpose of negatively influencing their perception of the targeted parent, is a hallmark of the alienation process.
In terms of the research performed by Amy Baker, PhD regarding the strategies for creating Parental Alienation, the concept of coaching may be found in some of the more common and frequent ones, such as badmouthing, which is statistically the most common strategy employed. Since such badmouthing often involves negative and distorted (or manufactured) stories about the targeted parent, the result would be what Gardner referred to as the Presence of Borrowed Scenarios.
It has been my experience that this symptom is easiest to clearly convey to the court when the children in question are very young since the content of the allegations are often clearly age inappropriate, which may be strongly conveyed. However, when children become, say teenagers, this symptom can be more easily hidden. That said, the evidence of this symptom can often be found in the now ubiquitous digital communications of texting, email and social media, which are so strongly engaged in by teenagers. These messages, if obtainable, can be powerful pieces of evidence that can tell the story of alienation in very compelling ways to the court. I have seen this be the case in many such instances.
Psychologically however, the presence of the distorted reality found in this symptom, can become a serious obstacle to the reunification process. If, for example, a young girl comes to believe that she was somehow assaulted by her father, when she in fact was not, this persistent false perception can become a serious issue for this young girl. Not only can it make her reunification with her father more problematic, but it can also effect her view of relationships with the opposite sex as well as with authority figures, as well as with her ability to trust in a more global way.
So while the symptom of borrowed scenarios may begin as a tactic to gain advantage in a custody dispute, it can also burrow itself deeply into a child’s psyche, where it can inflict more long term harm to the child.
Believing one was the victim of abuse tends to have the same psychological impact as if the abuse had actually occurred. I believe that if judges understood this, that they would react more swiftly to intercede into the alienation.
Parental Alienation Education for Attorneys
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