The Structure of the Pathology: Advanced Material

This is for mental health professionals, and I’m going to be introducing some advanced material here about the pathology.  Consider this blog my indulgence.  I find this interesting, so I’m going to blog about it because I can.


Sometimes my brain gets captivated with information that just has to get out, and until it gets out my brain just feels full.  It’s a weird experience, almost like the information in my brain is separate from me.

The moment I get the information out, it feels like there’s less pressure in the information-thinking areas of my brain and I can get back to work.

This happened over the past few days with a couple of diagrams.  I’ll be using these diagrams to explain the pathology in my November AB-PA training for mental health professionals.

The training is going to be in two parts.

Basic Certification in AB-PA:  On Saturday and Sunday I will lead two 6-hour training seminars in the basics of AB-PA, it’s assessment, diagnosis, and treatment (including instruction on constructing and running the Contingent Visitation Schedule).

Advanced Certification:  On that Monday, I’ll be offering a third 6-hour training on Advanced issues in AB-PA.  This is where all the really interesting stuff is going to be, the incest themes in the pathology, the pathogen’s formation, its structure, and its functioning, malignant narcissism and gaslighting, the linkages of the pathogen into other brain networks and systems, implications for other complex-trauma pathologies (pathological hatred, racism, and terrorism).

The diagrams that entered my brain and needed to get out are for the third day, the Advanced Certification training.  I thought I’d post them to my website just to get the information out there in case the universe calls me home before I’m able to get this information out in formal trainings.  If I’m called home by the universe, then at least this information won’t be entirely lost.  And besides, I just think this information is fascinating and I thought I’d share it for any young mental health professionals just starting out – guideposts into a very intriguing form of attachment-related pathology created in complex trauma.

The first diagram is an overall visual depiction of the pathology across three levels, the attachment system level, the personality disorder level, and the family systems level.

Pathology Schema Diagram

I’m going to use this diagram in my November seminar by first presenting a broad overview of the “meme-structures” of the pathology as they flow through the various levels.   I’ll have this diagram in the background on my Powerpoint (and as a handout) as I move through the various levels, describing the flow of meme-structures through the levels.

Once I provide this broad orientation to the pathology, my next few Powerpoint slides will be for each individual level, and I’ll go through each of the nodal points in each level of pathology, unpacking more fully the information at each nodal point of each separate level.

Finally, I’ll return to the overarching diagram again and flow through it once more for a final overall integration of the information within the pathology’s structure.

The legend for this diagram is:

The Attachment System Level

1.)  The attachment system (and component information structures)
2.)  Disorganized attachment (the core attachment “pattern” and origin of the inability to process sadness)
A.)  Splitting
3.)  Anxious-ambivalent overtones (borderline pathology); anxious-avoidant overtones (narcissistic pathology)
4.)  Self and Other representational networks
5.)  Core schemas of self-inadequacy and rejection/abandonment by the other
6.)  The central schema pattern of the trauma and trauma reenactment (“abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent”)

Personality Pathology Level

7.)  Personality pathology containing core schemas (and inability to process sadness)
8.)  Narcissistic personality pathology and borderline core
9.)  Borderline style response (containing core schemas of self-inadequacy and other-abandonment)
10.  Projective displacement of core schemas onto the ex-spouse and hyper-anxious presentation display
11.)  Narcissistic style response (containing core schemas of self-inadequacy and other-rejection)
12.)  Projective displacement of core schemas onto the ex-spouse and hostile-angry retaliatory presentation display
A.)  Splitting

Family Systems Pathology Level

13.)  Family challenge of transition to a separated family structure (triggering loss and sadness, triggering the attachment networks to mediate loss and sadness)
14.)  Regulation of “homeostatic balance” and imposition of collapsing personality disorder pathology in response to rejection-abandonment inherent to divorce.
15.)  Triangulation of the child; cross-generational coalition; emotional cutoff in the family between the child and targeted parent
A.)  Splitting

Trans-Generational Level

16a. Incest-related trauma theme of rejecting a parent
16b. Incest-related trauma theme of rejecting a parent

Now… imagine that this diagram is a three-dimensional model, like the molecule-models that chemists build using wooden balls and sticks.  So the diagram isn’t actually flat, each of the nodal points kind of comes forward or recedes somewhat to give a three dimensional structure to the pathology in space.

So now imagine that you’re holding this three-dimensional model, kind of turning it over this way and that, looking at it from one angle and then from a different angle; turning it to look at it from the bottom, so that the attachment information structures are up close and the other structures recede into the background along lines of perspective; or turning it to look at it from the attachment-personality disorder side, looking up close at how the disorganized attachment nodes lead into the narcissistic and borderline symptoms, while the rest of the model is in the more distant background.

Now imagine that you flip the model entirely over, looking at it from it’s backside – from its underbelly if you will.  As you flip it over you’ll notice that the three levels are structurally organized into a sort of cup shape, and you’ve been looking at the outside of the cup, but when you flip the structure over you have an entirely new perspective, you’re now looking inside the cup formed by the structure of nodal points contained in the three levels.

And low-and-behold, when you flip it over you see additional structures, additional nodal points that weren’t evident when you are only looking at the outside of the “cup” shape.  These nodal point structures only become visible when you flip the structure over.

That’s the second diagram, the Underbelly diagram.

The Underbelly of the Pathology Diagram

The Underbelly nodal points are what we see when we flip the structure of the three levels over and look inside the “cup” shape formed by the three levels of the pathology.

At the core of the Underbelly is the emotion regulation system (1), and it’s an absolute chaotic mess, as we would expect from a “disorganized” attachment system, childhood trauma exposure, and narcissistic/borderline personality pathology.  There’s an emotional abyss of deep-seated core-emptiness along with massive amounts of fragmenting anxiety (trauma-fear).

The chaotic and disorganized emotional regulatory system is linked up into the personality pathology (2), which is linked over to the attachment system damage and trauma (3).  These two nodal points are the linkages into the outside of the “cup” that we just looked at in diagram 1.  So these two nodal points in the Underbelly are the linkages into all the nodal information points on the outside of the cup (diagram 1).

But now notice something very-very interesting.  The attachment system is a “primary motivational system of the brain.”  As a primary motivational system of the brain, the attachment system therefore has links into motivational networks (4).  That’s what makes this pathology so incredibly amazing, unlike any other form of pathology I’ve ever run across.  Once it captures the brain, it has access to the person’s motivation.

Over the course of my professional career, I’ve worked with ADHD pathology and autism-spectrum disorders, with oppositional-defiant and conduct disorder spectrum pathology, I’ve even worked with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders in adults.  I’ve worked with just about every type of child and family pathology at some point or another, and I have never, ever, seen anything like this.  The pathology itself has motivation.

The pathology has motivation (albeit primitive, but motivation nevertheless) because it is embedded in the attachment system, and the attachment system is a “primary motivational system” of the brain with links into motivational networks.

It was sometime in… probably 2010 to 2012 when I first flipped the imagery-model over and saw the Underbelly.  “Holy cow.  Now, look at this…”

The motivational networks link into three “defensive structures.”  The pathogen actively seeks (has motivation) to defend itself, and to prevent efforts at disabling the pathology.  Holy cow.  I have never-ever seen anything like this.  The pathology seeks to defend itself – is motivated to actively defend itself if we try to get rid of it.

“Hey!  Yooo hooo.  Mental health people.  You gotta see this.  This is incredible.  The pathology has structures that seek to defend the pathology.”

The three defensive structures are:

Remain Hidden (5).  This is the primary defensive structure, and in the Advanced seminar in November I’ll explain where this defensive structure comes from, we’ll flip the model of the pathology over-and-back and see the formation of this defensive structure in the trauma pathology that created the damaged information structures of the attachment networks.

Seek Allies (6).  This is another extremely intriguing feature of the pathology.  It actively seeks out allies.  The pathology is motivated to seek and form allies, to both enact the pathology and also to help it remain hidden.  In November, we’ll do the same thing with this defensive structure of flipping the model back-and-forth to see specifically how this defensive structure originates from the trauma, and this particular structure will shed light on other types of narcissistic-origin pathologies, such as cult formation and terrorist group formation.  The pathogen “motivates” the formation of ally groups to enact the pathology (hence the “flying monkey” feature of the pathology).

Attack Threats with Great Viciousness (7).  This is THE most dangerous psychological pathogen on the planet.  It’s the same core-structure pathogenic agent responsible for the Nazis and for terrorism; different surrounding meme-structures (nodal points on the outside of the “cup,” but same core trauma-structure “backbone” and Underbelly.  This particular defensive meme (this particular set of information structures in the brain that contains the meme-structures of this pathogen), is responsible for the violence and cruelty of the pathogen’s expression, from the psychological violence toward the targeted parent in “parental alienation,” to the violence of terrorist bombings, to the violence of African child-soldiers, to the violence of Nazi concentration camps.  Same core structural nodal points on the outside of the “cup” (similar, not exactly the same), leading to the same Underbelly, the attachment system links into motivational networks, and the nodal point of “Attack Threats with Great Viciousness.”

The motivation to attack perceived threats (whether it’s Richard Gardner surrounding exposing the pathology of “parental alienation,” or the perceived “threat” supposedly posed by Jews that leads to antisemitism, or the “threat” perceived by racists from persons of color that motivates the horrific cruelty of racial lynchings, or the terrorist motivation to construct a bomb with nails to viciously kill and injure “non-believers” in a supposed holy jihad), all of this vicious and violent cruelty originates from this “defensive” nodal point (7) that exists within the structural context of this particular psychological trauma-pathogen.

In November, on day 3 of the seminar, I’ll unpack the origins of this meme-structure nodal point in the trauma and explain exactly where it comes from and how it was created in the trauma.

But there’s more…

This pathogen, the damaged and broken information structures in the attachment system on the outside of the “cup” (foundational nodal box 1 of the Levels of Pathology diagram), also links into other areas of the brain, inhibiting the full operation of these other brain areas.

In particular, it attacks and inhibits three main brain areas,

1)  Executive Function – Logical Reasoning (8):  The reason the pathogen inhibits logical reasoning is because the brain needs to “regulate” intensely painful emotions and can’t, unless it alters truth and reality.  In order to regulate the chaotic and intensely painful emotions, the person, the brain, needs to be able to alter truth and reality (“Truth and reality are whatever I assert them to be”).  This is what leads to the delusional component of the pathology.

As an aside, we can see this feature of inhibited logical-reasoning on prominent display in a certain political figure who has narcissistic pathology; “Truth and reality are whatever I assert them to be.”

As a second aside, we can also see this feature of inhibited logical-reasoning being prominently displayed by the Gardnerian PAS “experts.”  This has important implications for understanding their reluctance to switch to an AB-PA model of the pathology.

2)  Self-Identity Networks (9):  This particular inhibition pathway has an interesting origin in the original trauma.  It essentially involves the meme-structures in the pathology that require the other person’s psychological submission to the domination and control of the narcissistic personality.  In order to facilitate the person’s submissive response to the dominating narcissistic personality (to “mein Fuhrer” – the dominating-controlling narcissist), the pathogen shuts off (inhibits) areas of the person’s self-identity that would otherwise prevent the person’s psychological submission.  Self-identity then becomes a fused “social identity” (called “enmeshment” in the psychological pathology of “parental alienation”).

3.)  Memory Networks (10):  Why does the pathogen attack and inhibit the memory system?  Memory is linked to self-identity.  In order to shut down self-identity, the pathogen has to “erase” from awareness the memories that serve as the substrate for the person’s self-identity.

The first two days of the AB-PA Certification training in November will cover the basic foundation of the pathology, the three diagnostic indicators and 12 Associated Clinical Signs, the Treatment-Focused Assessment Protocol, and models of therapy (including the Contingent Visitation Schedule).  Mental health professionals who take the two-day AB-PA Certification course will be fully expert in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of the pathology.

Targeted parents and the Court will be able to fully rely on these mental health professionals, that they possess the highest level of professional skill and expertise in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce.

The optional third day… the Advanced seminar… is when I’ll unpack the really-really interesting stuff.

I’m looking forward to November.  It’s only July and my brain is already popping out the information of its own accord.   But there’s still things to do before November.

On October 20th in Houston I will be giving a 4-hour seminar on AB-PA and the Key Solution pilot program proposal for the family court system.  If you are a family law legal professional or a court-involved mental health professional and have any ability to be at this talk, I highly recommend it.

Targeted parents, if you have any interest in becoming an advocate for changing the family court system response to “parental alienation” and you’re able to attend the October 20th seminar, I’d highly recommend attending this talk on October 20th in Houston.

The October 20th seminar on AB-PA is being organized and hosted by Children 4 Tomorrow in Houston.  I’ll have more information about this as we get closer to the seminar date.

The change began in Dallas, it traveled to Boston, and it’s returning to Texas, October 20th – Houston.

Craig Childress Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

6 thoughts on “The Structure of the Pathology: Advanced Material”

  1. Brilliant. This is exactly the information I’ve been looking to understand. The brain is fascinating. I am an alienated parent of 4 children. I could not understand how a man I knew for 27 years could change so drastically. I knew there were delusions and his lies were truth to him. Despite the horrific pain my children and I are enduring I feel compassion for the small child he once was and how his pain resulted in our pain years later. Thank you for this Dr. Childress. You really are the light in this darkness.
    I have been able to see my children a few times at my parents home and I am amazed at the behaviour. I compare it to something from the twilight zone. These kids who will not answer a text in 4 years suddenly are talkative and freely sharing information about themselves with me. And the second we part from there they disappear again. No texts. Nothing.
    You have helped me to make sense of this. Thank you so much!!!
    I’m getting my children back soon I know it!!!
    I have asked there father to consider going to counseling with me. I want to help him and help our family. He has ignored my suggestion. Is this a sensible approach or should I just continue to wait patiently? I’m hesitate because I don’t know what more harm he is capable of. I wish I knew someone like you here in Toronto that could help my family. Thank you again for having that special brain that just has to let this all out!! I can certainly relate 😊

  2. This is brilliant. This blog and your book, Foundations, have allowed me to better understand the disordered person. I hope some day to also understand how they are so effective in recruiting the allies they have. How an otherwise reasonable person can take be taken in by their propaganda when there are so many hints that this source is not reliable? That is, even if their lies are convincing, how does a reasonable person look past the fact that this source is disorganized, chaotic and inconsistent in their work, their home, their life in general? How does a reasonable person discount the habits and track record of the targeted person who has previously had no sign of the sinister traits that the alienator now attributes to them?

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