I see battling parental alienation very similar to playing a game of chess. They both require strategic moves. Both have an adversarial nature to them and there is no compromise. You either win or you lose.
Imagine if you will the Queen representing the targeting parent and the King representing the alienated parent. The Queen is the most powerful piece in the game of chess. The Queen can simply move any number of squares, diagonally, vertically or horizontally. In the power dynamics of parental alienation the resident parent is the most powerful parent. In cases of severe parental alienation the resident parent will be dictating and controlling the plans and strategies of services involved, without them even realising.
“The aim of such tactics is to destroy the previously loving relationship between the children and the non-resident parent.”
By comparison, the King in chess is viewed as not just the most important piece, but also paradoxically one of the weakest. Generally, in the opening and middle phase of chess games the King will rarely play an active role. The parallel here in parental alienation is that the resident parent will simply deny the non-resident parent contact with their own children. The resident parent will also make false allegations against the non-resident parent. The resident parent will also consistently denigrate the targeted parent’s character in front of the children. As such in the opening stages of any case of parental alienation, the targeted parent is in most cases powerless to prevent any emotional abuse being inflicted upon the affected children. The aim of such tactics, employed by the targeting parent is to destroy the previously loving relationship between the children and the non-resident parent.
In chess the Queen is at it’s strongest and the King at it’s weakest when the chess board is open; ultimately when the King is poorly defended. In parental alienation the resident parent is at their strongest when the so called support services are on the side of the targeting parent. This occurs when the targeting parent’s false narrative of events is unconditionally believed by the services involved. As a result of this the non-resident parent is at their weakest when they are seen as the aggressor, when their version of events are dismissed by the services involved. Rather incredibly this is quite often the case, despite evidence being available to back up the non-resident parent’s version of events.
“How mentally and physically crushed must a loving parent be to ‘give up’ on pursuing a loving relationship with their own children?”
In chess you win by a checkmate move. This occurs when the losing side’s King is placed in an inescapable threat of capture. In parental alienation a win may come about when the targeted parent has exhausted all available options. This is so often the case in the current biased and ill-informed ‘system’ that does little to acknowledge, recognise or effectively manage parental alienation. A win can also occur by voluntary resignation. This occurs when too many pieces have been lost or a checkmate move appears inevitable. In parental alienation, targeted parents often give up. Not due to the fact they do not love their children. Simply because they are broken, distraught and worn down by their opponent’s tactics. How mentally and physically crushed must a loving parent be to ‘give up’ on pursuing a loving relationship with their own children? In the most extreme of cases, non-resident parents tragically take their own lives.
So where are the children in this parallel between chess and parental alienation? I see children as the pawn pieces in chess. The pawns are seen as the most numerous, but ultimately, like the King, they are seen as one of the weakest pieces in the game. Pawns can only move forwards, they cannot move backwards. I will use my own circumstances as an analogy here. It is reported that all my children no longer have any happy or positive past memories of me. It is reported that they are happier that I am no longer around. It is reported that they do not want to go back to a time where I, their loving father, was an integral part of their lives.
A pawn that advances all the way to the opposite side of the board gets promoted to another, more powerful piece. In parental alienation a child that moves forward with the new family dynamics, will get rewarded. For example, such a tactic is parentification. This occurs when the resident parent will emotionally transfer their negative perception of the non-resident parent on to the children. In turn the resident parent relies on the children for emotional support. Leading experts in the field of parental alienation see this tactic as an attempt by the resident parent to attempt to solidify the children’s loyalty to the resident parent. The resident parent then rewards the children’s loyalty to them by way of gifts, inappropriate praise, etc.
So in essence, both parental alienation and chess is an adversarial and tactical game. You either win or you lose. There are powerful figures and there are weak figures. But ultimately the pieces at the front and in the midst of the battle, the pawns, the children, they are simply dispensable to the more powerful side, the resident parent.
I would like to conclude this post by explaining how I came to write the above. Several years ago, prior to me being alienated from my children, I took them to the cinema. We watched a film called Legend of the Guardians. One of the songs that featured on the the film’s soundtrack was Kings and Queens by the band 30 Seconds to Mars. This was when I first heard this song. Musically it literally blew me away with it’s epic, progressive rock composition.
This song went on to become one of my son T’s favourite songs. He would often insist on it being played during car journeys. On one occasion we watched a live performance of it on YouTube. As a parent, seeing T’s reaction to such a powerful and emotive performance, was an absolute joy to behold. Seeing the world through the eyes of our children is one of the many special gifts we so often take for granted as a parent.
I love music. I love the feelings that certain songs evoke in me. Music gives me strength to carry on. There are so many songs that mean so much to me. I sincerely hope T will have a similar relationship to music as I do. I will always think of my son T whenever I hear this song.
“These lessons that we’ve learned here, have only just begun.” Jared Leto, 30 Seconds to Mars, 2009.
I am an alienated parent of three. Part-time psychiatric nurse, part-time writer. I am also an online activist against parental alienation. I use my knowledge of mental health and lived experience of parental alienation to promote awareness of parental alienation.