I’m a little reluctant to share this with you, because I’m tipping my hand to the pathogen. But I think that as we move forward it will be important to recognize allies of the pathology. So I’m going to fill you in on a little secret that I know but the pathogen doesn’t.
The pathogen is a set of damaged information structures in the attachment networks of the brain that create both the personality pathology of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent, and also the attachment-related pathology of pathological mourning (Bowlby) that’s called “parental alienation” in the general culture (attachment-based parental alienation; AB-PA).
These damaged information structures in the attachment system of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent were created many years ago in the childhood attachment trauma of this parent, and these damaged information structures are distorting this parent’s processing of sadness, grief, and loss surrounding the divorce.
In turn, these same damaged information structures are leading the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to distort the child’s processing of sadness grief and loss surrounding divorce through the manipulative and psychologically controlling parenting practices of this parent.
“The deactivation of attachment behavior is a key feature of certain common variants of pathological mourning.” (Bowlby, 1980, p. 70)
“Disturbances of personality, which include a bias to respond to loss with disordered mourning, are seen as the outcome of one or more deviations in development that can originate or grow worse during any of the years of infancy, childhood and adolescence.” (Bowlby, 1980, p. 217)
This pathogenic agent – this pathogen, consists of the damaged information structures in the attachment system of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent that are creating both the personality disorder pathology of the parent AND the attachment system suppression of the child toward the normal-range and affectionally available targeted parent.
Think of it like a computer virus. The brain is an information processing system, like a computer. The attachment system is the “software program” of the brain that governs all aspects of love and bonding throughout the lifespan, including grief and loss.
The childhood attachment trauma experienced by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent created a coherent set of damaged information structures in the attachment system (the pathogenic agent; the “computer virus” in the “software program” of the attachment system) that led to this parent’s development of narcissistic and/or borderline personality pathology.
This “computer virus” (the pathogenic agent in the attachment networks) is then being “downloaded” (transferred to the child’s attachment networks) through the aberrant and distorted parenting of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent – parenting practices surrounding the pathological processing of sadness, grief, and loss that are being created by the “computer virus” (the damaged information structures) in the narcissistic/(borderline) parent’s attachment networks.
Within this “computer virus” analogy, the damaged information structures essentially represent the “source code” for the “computer virus” – for the pathogenic agent that is creating the personality disorder pathology in the parent and the aberrant attachment suppression in the child toward the normal-range and affectionally available targeted-rejected parent.
I have spent the last decade uncovering the “source code” of this pathogenic agent – i.e., the exact nature of the damaged information structures in the attachment system that are being transmitted across generations.
As a result, I’ve read the “source code” of this “computer virus” in the “software program” for love and bonding (the attachment system) that is being trans-generationally transmitted from the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to the child, causing the child’s attachment bonding networks to “crash” relative to a normal-range and affectionally available targeted parent.
I call the “source code” the “meme-structure” of the pathogen, drawing on the work of Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene.
Because I’ve read the “source code” for this pathogenic agent, I understand its characteristic modes of presentation and manifestation. I know how this pathogenic structure is going to respond in any given circumstance. Once I had worked out and “read the source code” of the pathogenic agent, I then set about constructing the sterile (non-Gardnerian) anti-pathogenic agent by which this specific set of damaged information structures in the attachment system can be reliably located and identified (Foundations and the three definitive diagnostic indicators of AB-PA).
The three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA will – 100% of the time – identify this particular set of damaged information structures in the attachment networks of the child, that are being transmitted by the pathogenic parenting of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent through the same set of damaged information structures of this parent’s attachment networks (the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma; mediated by pathological mourning and the personality pathology of the allied parent).
No other pathology in all of mental health will create this specific pattern of these three diagnostic indicators – all three at the same time – other than the pathogenic agent I describe in Foundations. I defy any mental health professional to describe any route that produces these three symptom features in the child’s symptom display other than the AB-PA model I describe in Foundations.
I know this pathogen inside-out and five ways to Sunday. I know what it does. I know how it does it. And I know what it is going to do. I’ve read the “source code” of the damaged information structures that create this attachment-related pathogenic agent – this “computer virus” in the attachment networks of the brain.
Pathological mourning: “The deactivation of attachment behavior is a key feature of certain common variants of pathological mourning.” (Bowlby, 1980, p. 70)
Allies and Counter-Transference
So I want to share with you now a little bit of that “source code” – a little bit of the pathogen’s meme-structure by which a brain that contains the “source code” of the pathogen – the damaged information structures in the attachment networks of the brain – can be recognized. This is important because it is the shared “source code” between attachment networks that accounts for the particularly characteristic feature of this pathology of developing “allies” in enacting the pathology – called “flying monkeys” in popular culture – and called “counter-transference” when describing a mental health ally of the pathology.
The characteristic set of damaged information structures in the attachment networks of these allies (the “source code” of the pathogenic “computer virus” in their attachment networks) is being triggered by the false trauma reenactment narrative presentation of the “abusive parent”/victimized child”/”protective parent.” The activated attachment-trauma “source code” in the attachment networks of the ally then join in supporting the false trauma reenactment narrative in order to vicariously work through this person’s own childhood attachment trauma by becoming the “protective other” in the reenactment narrative, in exactly the same way that the narcissistic/(borderline) parent is working through his or her own attachment trauma by adopting the coveted role as the “protective parent” in the trauma reenactment narrative.
I challenge any mental health professional to offer an explanation for the phenomena of the “flying monkey” associated with narcissistic abuse. I can 100% explain this phenomenon because I have read the “source code” of this particular pathogenic agent. I know what it is. I know how it functions. I know what it is going to do in response to any given situation.
To all mental health professionals: This is an attachment trauma reenactment pathology (transference). Be very-very careful of your own counter-transference issues that can become activated with this specific form of attachment-related pathology. The issue of counter-transference becomes an incredibly important reason for requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of this specific form of attachment-related pathology.
The risks of unconscious activation of counter-transference issues with the mental health professional, that then result in the mental health professional becoming an unwitting ally of the pathology and unconsciously colluding with the enactment of the false trauma reenactment narrative, are extremely high with this particular type of attachment-related pathology.
Inhibited Reasoning Networks
I have read the meme-structures of this pathogenic agent.
Over the course of my professional career I have worked with all the various forms of child and family pathology, ADHD, autism-spectrum disorders, angry-aggressive families, child abuse and trauma. The pathology of “parental alienation” is one of the cruelest and most vicious pathologies I have ever encountered. It is incredibly dangerous. It’s also stupid as sin.
The damaged information structures in the attachment system that create this pathology turn off (inhibit) the areas of the brain responsible for rational reasoning and logic. A brain that’s infected with the damaged information structures in the attachment system that creates this form of pathology can’t reason. The reasoning systems of the brain that contains these damaged information structures in the attachment system are being turned off.
So while the pathogen is incredibly dangerous – it’s also stupid as sin. It cannot reason. A brain containing this pathogenic agent – this set of damaged information structures in the attachment system – cannot reason. Seriously. Frontal lobe reasoning systems are turned off by this set of damaged information structures in the attachment system.
It has to do with the need of these damaged attachment structures to create a subjectively defined reality of its own false-but-emotionally-needed creation. For the narcissistic and borderline personality, “Truth and reality are whatever I assert them to be.” If the narcissistic/(borderline) personality needs truth and reality to be different than they actually are, they simply assert an alternate truth, an alternate reality – “alternate facts,” if you will.
Narcissistic/(Borderline) Parent: “Truth and reality are what I assert them to be.”
But in order to do that, in order to create a subjectively defined artificial reality, these damaged information structures in the attachment system must turn off – they must inhibit – the logical reasoning systems of the brain that would otherwise hold the person accountable to actual truth and actual reality. The brain that contains this set of damaged information structures in the attachment system cannot reason. This pathogen is incredibly dangerous, but it’s stupid as sin.
That’s why this pathology thrives in ignorance. It seeks allies in ignorant people, and it survives because of the continued profound professional ignorance and incompetence in mental health. Our enemy is ignorance. And our weapon is knowledge.
This pathology is currently thriving in the profound professional ignorance throughout metal health that is allowing the pathogen to remain hidden and unseen. And let me tell you, the level of professional ignorance and incompetence out there is appalling.
The profound level of professional ignorance and incompetence in diagnosis is little more than “voodoo assessment” – rattle some beads, recite some incantations, and read the entrails of a goat, and the methodology of child custody evaluations is no more reliable that a monkey throwing darts at a dartboard (no inter-rater reliability; no operational definitions; no established validity – construct, criterion, predictive, content, nothing – to the conclusions and recommendations reached by child custody evaluations). The current level of professional ignorance and incompetence out there is positively medieval – “Bring me the leeches, we need to bleed the patient.” Medieval… positively medieval.
Monty Python: The Witch
In this environment of profound professional ignorance and incompetence, the reasoning-impaired pathogenic agent has full latitude to enact its pathology.
When threatened with exposure, the pathogen attacks the threat with great viciousness in order to take the focus of attention off of the pathogen – off of the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) personality – and place the person who is threatening to expose the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) personality on the defensive. The meme-structures of the pathogenic agent – the “source code” of this “computer virus” in the attachment system – seeks to keep the focus of attention on the other person by making a barrage of allegations, the wilder the better.
One of the preeminent authorities on personality pathology, Theodore Millon, author of the “gold standard” in personality disorder assessment: the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory, Forth Edition (MCMI-IV), explicitly describes this feature:
From Millon: “Rarely physically abusive, anger among narcissists usually takes the form of oral vituperation and argumentativeness. This may be seen in a flow of irrational and caustic comments in which others are upbraided and denounced as stupid and beneath contempt. These onslaughts usually have little objective justification, are often colored by delusions, and may be directed in a wild, hit-or-miss fashion in which the narcissist lashes out at those who have failed to acknowledge the exalted status in which he or she demands to be seen.” (Millon, 2011, pp. 408).
In these attacks, the reasoning systems of the brain are being inhibited. This accounts for the “irrational” and “wild, hit-or-miss” nature of these attacks. The brain containing this particular set of damaged information structures cannot form a reasoned line of argument so it just throws out every possible attack – rational or not – and sees which one takes hold, which one gains some traction. And whichever attack or allegation gains traction, that’s the one if follows up with.
This pathogen is incredibly dangerous, but it’s stupid as sin. It cannot reason.
So as we move forward in the solution the pathogen is going to activate its allies, at the general level of “flying monkeys” and at the level of mental health professionals who are captivated by their own countertransference issues. When these attacks from the allies of the pathology occur, notice that they will be absent the capacity for reasoned argument. Their critiques and lines of argument will be absent rational thought.
At first, these allies will simply try to apply the same arguments used against Gardnerian PAS to disable the threat to exposure posed by AB-PA. These allies will be unable to recognize that AB-PA is an entirely different model of the pathology and that the arguments used against Gardnerian PAS don’t apply to AB-PA. The brain containing the damaged information structures cannot apply reasoning. It will simply replicate prior critiques that had gained traction in prior situations.
The most obvious will be the “peer reviewed research” critique applied to AB-PA. The “peer reviewed research” critique was relevant to Gardnerian PAS because Gardner was proposing a new form of pathology – a “new syndrome.” The issue of research support is relevant for a proposal of an entirely “new form of pathology” that’s unique in all of mental health.
However, the “peer reviewed research” critique does not apply to AB-PA because AB-PA is not proposing a new form of pathology and the constructs of AB-PA (the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, family systems therapy) have already received substantial support in the peer-reviewed research literature. AB-PA is not a new “theory” – it’s diagnosis. Diagnosis is the application of standard and established constructs and principles (that have already received substantial peer reviewed research support) to a set of symptoms. Diagnosis.
Diagnosis is never “peer reviewed.” That’s just… irrational. It is an irrational critique.
(April 2016: Flying Monkey Newsletter)
The other initial line of attack that will be employed by the allies of the pathology will be that AB-PA is simply equivalent to Gardnerian PAS “using different words,” and they will then try to apply the same tired arguments about Gardnerian PAS to AB-PA.
This line of attack will fail to recognize the absolutely huge and substantial differences between Gardnerian PAS and AB-PA. “Different words” have different meaning. The argument that the statement, “the sun shines” is identical to the statement, “I like oatmeal” just using “different words” is… irrational. The brain containing these damaged information structures in the attachment system shuts down the logic and reasoning systems of the brain.
Why will these allies simply ignore the substantial differences between Gardnerian PAS and AB-PA? Because the brain containing this set of damaged information structures in the attachment system can’t reason, and because it can’t reason – because its rational reasoning systems are shut down – it cannot comprehend what AB-PA is saying. The brain containing these damaged information structures in the attachment networks understands two words, “parental alienation.” Beyond that, nope.
Calling the Shot
I feel like a batter in baseball who’s pointing to the left field wall and calling my shot.
Going forward, we will see three types of mental health response:
1.) Authentic: This will be a reasoned and rational reaction to AB-PA. These mental health professionals will 100% understand the pathology, they will apply the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA, and they will diagnose the pathology as V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.
If there is a rational and reasoned critique regarding the content of AB-PA, I am more than happy to engage in a professional-level discussion of this critique. But there is not going to be one. Why? Because AB-PA is a 100% accurate description of the pathology and is fully supported by a substantial amount of scientific research. AB-PA is true.
2.) Ignorant: These mental health professionals will not read, they will not learn, and they will remain stubbornly entrenched in their ignorance and incompetence (“if she weighs the same as a duck, she’s a witch”). The structure of their response will be, “I know what I’m doing. Don’t tell me what to do.” There’s no changing ignorance because ignorance doesn’t want to change. Ignorance enjoys its sloth.
3.) Ally: These mental health professionals will level irrational criticisms against AB-PA based in Gardnerian PAS, they will be completely unable to engage in reasoned discussion, and yet they will maintain an obsessive fixation on continuing to simply assert their false statements over-and-over without modification based on contrary information (“truth and reality are what I assert them to be”). By the way, the obsessive fixation quality is another of the meme-structures of this pathogenic agent. It’s an anxiety management feature that originates from the reactivated childhood trauma-anxiety of this pathology.
This pathogen is incredibly dangerous, but it’s also stupid as sin. I’m a little trepidatious about exposing this about the pathogen, because it continues to be incredibly dangerous until we have it fully exposed, and because I don’t want to tip too much of my hand just yet. But because the pathogen shuts off the rational reasoning systems of the brain, even if I tell it that it’s stupid as sin I don’t think it can use that information. It can’t become un-stupid. It’s a neurologically imposed impossibility.
It might become more dangerous as it feels itself being cornered with exposure. But this pathogen is already the most dangerous pathology on the planet (at its core structure, it’s an incest/sex abuse pathogen), so I can’t image how it could become more dangerous than it already is.
So I figured I’d alert everyone about what’s coming because we’re beginning to more fully enter a phase in the solution of bringing knowledge to the mental health system. This pathology thrives in ignorance. Knowledge is our weapon. Through knowledge we shine the light of truth onto the lies and hidden manipulation and psychological control of the child by the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.
Ignorance is our enemy. Knowledge is our weapon.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857
9 thoughts on “Ignorance is Our Enemy; Knowledge is Our Weapon”
“It might become more dangerous as it feels itself being cornered with exposure. ”
I don’t doubt this for a second. My experience is that the evil of PA thrives in the dark, hence the frequent attempts to separate, isolate, and then ultimately alienate. The pathology can not stand exposure, and will do everything to remain in the dark, including destroying the light source. I have experienced the actions that support the theory, but too often could not see the forest due to the obfuscation of the trees.
Another excellent article, Doc. I look forward to this Spring and further exposure of your findings. God Bless.
I get it! Thank you. A true maverick.
Excellent, excellent article!
Having lived this experience, to read it so precisely from someone else is euphoric. There is pure genius in the clarity.
I have these thoughts: Pathogenic parenting is in fact parenting. It is what the NPD/(bpd) does regardless of divorce. The pathogen rears its head higher during divorce, but the damage is disseminated during marriage. The “Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting” is great for my older kids, but an infant won’t have the indicators of pathogenic parenting although it is present. Innocent children become abuse victims of ignorance. Which leads me to my next thought. The pathogen thrives in ignorance AND innocence. As an adult it was my innocence to the existence of such a threat that held me subjected to it.
Speaking out for the innocent, battling ignorance with knowledge is certainly something I can stand with. I appreciate your efforts Dr. Childress.
A beautiful post. The evil of it is as you state: it preys on innocence. If we, as adults, can be victim, the children don’t have a chance.
I prefer to say naivete.
Dr Childress…..I simply can’t thank you enough. Giving me the weapon saved my son’s life…..I can’t wait to hopefully meet you at the symposium and shake your hand.
Love the monty python reference!
I’m just entering this awful situation, and it is a great blessing to follow your work Dr. Childress. Keep fighting the good fight!
Reblogged this on Parental Alienation.
This makes so much sense. I often wondered why my ex couldn’t think logically. I don’t mean this as a slam against him, it is just a fact. The man absolutely cannot think in a logical manner and I could not understand why. Trying to have a logical conversation with him about our relationship or the children or the controlling religous group we were part of was/is impossible. Now I get it. Thanks.