Parental and cult alienation: Les Linet MD and the new Star Wars

2016 has opened up some fresh roads for future blogging here. Before we head down a particularly exciting wide avenue, here’s a short lively pointer to where we’re going.

Meet … Harrison Ford and … the prolific Les Linet MD and his online work, and particularly his recent take on the new Star Wars film.

In this his video blog: The Force Awakens (7.40 mins), Les shows how bigger cultic ‘dark forces’ can also turn children against their parent or family.

… Spoiler alert: If you’ve not seen it yet, don’t watch this video blog or it will spoil the movie for you!

Bridging – as many others have – what happens in cults and in Parental Alienation, Les adds:

If a complete stranger [in cults] such as Jim Jones, Waco or Moonie can turn a total stranger against family and friends, how much easier is it for a family member?  A stranger can say, “I (we) love you. Come with me (us).” But it’s so much easier for a parent to say, “I love you. Your other parent doesn’t care about you and never really did; I just covered that up all along so as not to hurt you.”

Les Linet is an adult, child and adolescent psychiatrist. He has created and collected a huge set of internet videos and blogs on Parental Alienation amongst many other mental health topics. Here’s his general blog. Another treasure trove to browse.

Where this blog will boldly go …

To compare Les’s fictional Star Wars version with one genuine family Alienation story – one parent turned a child against the other parent, for a long time but not forever – here’s the equally prolific grown-up Ryan Thomas talking to his father about his younger years when his mother’s family physically and psychologically made sure he and his father were Alienated.

Take note – for blogposts to come here – of the main points made in this post:

  • This pattern of harmful psychological coercive persuasion is pretty much the same wherever it happens
  •  across a wide variety of family and non-family situations, from cults and extremist terrorism, to abuse and Parental Alienation.

The best summary of this pattern is in Steve (Freedom of Mind) Hassan’s talk to NYC’s Ethical Culture Society (> from 7 mins in) where he:

  • distinguishes healthy or ‘ethical influence’ from harmful or ‘undue influence’.
  • includes all kinds of cults and ‘controlling people’ as in his recent book.
  • and lists the key features as:
    • controlling people or groups who
    • dominate other human beings,
    • isolate them from their family and friends, 
    • make them feel bad about themselves, and 
    • undermine their ability to think critically.

Once this pattern can be clearly defined, we reckon we should teach kids and everyone how they can spot it and walk away rather than be taken in.

Simple enough idea, isn’t it?! Let’s all make it happen.

Nick Child, Edinburgh

About Nick Child

Retired child and family shrink and family therapist living, working and playing in Edinburgh.

One comment

  1. Steve Hassan’s video there is worth watching (40 mins) as a clear summarising wide-ranging view of coercive or undue or unethical persuasion.

    At about 35 mins he is asked about controlling people in 1:1 relationships – i.e. couple and families. Steve says that allows even more control because it can be more personalised. He refers to personality disorder and Attachment-based approaches including ways that extremely controlling personalities can actually be helped to change.

    It seems to me that controlling personalities may do what they do wittingly and / or unwittingly so that cults and their leaders must employ a lot of ‘witting’ strategy, while couples and families might function with more ‘unwitting’ kinds of strategies.

    So I might add to that definition list – after “controlling people who dominate other human beings …” – with something like: “by zoning in on normal human openness, trust and vulnerabilities”.


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