Change the metaphor > Change the world

This is to announce a small but major change on the alienation experience blog. You didn’t notice any change, did you?! Well the page about how to make the world-wide changes that we need; that’s what’s changed.


Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 12.09.59The old page was called ‘Climbing the mountain‘. That metaphor went with a vision of change that was intimidating, long, arduous, grim and off-putting.

However true that image may be, it doesn’t encourage the urgent innovation we all need. And most of all what the children need who are being harmed by the – well, er, by the intimidating, long, arduous, grim and off-putting family court process.



Screen Shot 2019-05-27 at 19.46.41The new page is called ‘Changing the world‘. The new metaphor is … well, why not click here (or in the Header at the top) and read it yourself!

It’s a much shorter and more inspiring page now! … It even ends with sex.

Mind you, you could say that free-er sex, thanks to contraception, is where the social changes and trouble all started!



Nick Child, Edinburgh

About Nick Child

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


  1. Owen Logan

    It is worth thinking a little about Nick’s semi-serious suggestion that the only “guaranteed prevention” against the nightmare of parental alienation is to stop pairing-off and having children. So to take up Nick’s thought experiment it is important to register first of all that traditionally the family, in its various forms, is seen to provide a primary experience of solidarity which will develop into the wider social and political forms that all societies regard as necessary to some degree or at some level.

    The simplest and the most demanding definition of socio-economic solidarity, “a risk shared” (whether among business people, or among workers taking industrial action) echoes the religious marriage vows which spell out an alliance based on mutual respect and support — “for better or worse (…) until death do us part.” France’s sexually non-discriminatory secular alternative to marriage is called the Pacte civil de solidarité (Pacs) but part of its popularity is due to the way this partnership contract reduces some of the shared risks or stakes associated with traditional marriage.

    Perhaps the frequency of parental alienation could be reduced if such commitments, religious or secular, were more like worker’s solidarity in so far as mutual respect is thought to survive, or even deepen after a possible defeat, but in this case the defeat of separation and divorce. Indeed promising to respect a person’s dignity and rights, even if love dies or separates might give some people pause for thought at an important moment in their lives. Granted a bit of poetic tinkering so that vows would take account of a growing statistical failure, and encourage some kindness and mutual support in the known afterlife of divorce would on its own be a very weak reform.

    More fundamental changes are needed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Owen for your creative thinking here. You are suggesting profound changes that would prevent trouble. I agree that we should include in an active review, not just how society deals with families as they separate, but also (even further upstream) how the very culture and contract of partnering up needs an urgent modern thorough review. I agree that it matters what society expects of families, and individuals therefore expect to take into partnering and parenting way before any trouble starts.

      I’d often thought about but not come up with anything useful (for preventing PA etc) in the extension of the ‘pre-nup’ contract idea. The pre-nup still seems to me so anti-pathetic to the ’til death us do part’ love and romance that culturally and personally we are so hugely addicted to (in liberal Western culture) and which so blinds us – and blinds many when they do it more than once again!

      I didn’t mention the option of returning to the tradition of arranged marriages as an antidote to blind love that doesn’t and cannot see what your partner and relationship is going to become. I have elsewhere pointed out that the blindness of ‘falling in love’ is precisely the same, except it’s intentional, technique (with love-bombing) used by recruiters to cultic organisations of all kinds!

      So here we’re already developing some new positive, way-upstream, prevention ideas. Thank you. These may not solve all types of disturbed relationship and separation trouble. But they’re surely a good thing to build.


  2. Owen Logan

    Another thought experiment Nick! But unlike your previous one I’m not sure the notion of “returning to the tradition of arranged marriages as an antidote to blind love” is quite so usefully provocative. Without going into it all I believe notions of a return to “tradition” are futile and often dangerous for individuals and society, given all the obvious reactionary connotations. I guess you’d probably agree that the undoubtedly Eurocentric ideal of romantic love with all its inherited baggage has spread through the cultural industries globally, but not for entirely bad reasons. On balance I’d say it is still a movement going in the right direction. But more important than my opinion is that since about the 11th century this profound cultural movement has been impossible to reverse and I can’t imagine such reversal, or “antidote”, happening in any democratic society which subscribe to even the most minimal or negative conceptions of liberty. On the other hand I also see that the romantic discourse of courtship which grew up in Europe, and which reached a certain peak in the 18th century under the auspices of enlightened despotism, also dignifies some pretty unsightly notions of submission and domination that are forever at odds with principles of equality and mutual respect. An interesting feminist history on touching on some of these matters is ‘Europe in Love and Love in Europe’ by Luisa Passerini (1999). Some of the philosophical and cultural roots of the cultic “love bombing” you also mention might be found there!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re right to get that it was another provocative idea. And it did provoke you to respond further! But, sure, I wasn’t seriously proposing a return to traditional arranged-marriage cultures.

    It was really another way of pushing the same boat out that you did – in the French PACS ideas. That is that – if choosing a partner to have children is rather important especially when it comes to children and to possible family separation, and if choosing a partner is done under the blindfold of falling in love then – we in the wider world and society around the forming of couples and families, we who go to these damned weddings and affirm the joyful hopes (that get so often dashed), we have a responsibility to think about how the couple is better prepared for this life-long life-affecting decision of pairing up.

    And my own interest lies in studying how other recruiters of relationship victims do that – a topic that has been very thoroughly studied; Scientology has some 2000 hypnotic and other techniques in their tool-kit, only one of which is love-bombing.

    Since couples are ill-educated on these things, and are liable to be blinded by love when they need to have their eyes wide open, then society has a responsibility (at least for their children when they head for the boxing ring of family courts) to step up to do more, even if that’s not to return to a formal traditional approach to arranging the match.


    • Owen Logan

      Yes I take your point, because it is a marriage between two families the arranged marriage is more of an explicitly social affair, it has downsides but possibly upsides in terms of a collective sense of responsibility.

      With that in mind the interesting thing about parental alienation is how nobody wants to take responsibility.

      It goes without saying that a parent who tells malicious lies and manipulates children to turn them against the other parent is not the kind of person who easily takes responsibility. But then there are the understandable errors of the targeted parent who faces this sort of attack, and the errors of friends, families, lawyers, judges, mental health and social work professionals, teachers and so on, who might all be content to lightly pass over a rather grotesque double standard which you pointed out a while back Nick. It is the treatment of a child’s refusal to go to school compared to the treatment of a child’s refusal to see a parent. Generally speaking society takes the first to be a matter of serious and urgent concern, something must be done to investigate the causes and to find a solution. On the other hand unless there are criminal charges involved State and society trivialises the unreasonable rejection of a parent, and allows the refusal to drag on into adult life until everyone can wash their hands of the issue, except of course the victims. In my opinion that amounts to pretty vicious double standard, it also goes to the heart of the issue of collective responsibility. It seems to call for a thoughtful critique of the kind of (often manipulative) educational policies and pedagogical models which dominate most school systems today, and more particularly the response to parental alienation on the part of schools.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “Nobody wants to take responsibility” links to this fine diatribe from a youngster about all those who stood by while it happened (originally in German) : “We accuse you adults!” Shortlink: And the next thing to read about understanding by-standers is States of Denial by Stanley Cohen. My TEDx talk is one short exploration of how, despite being a free-thinking Maverick, one can still be persuaded by those around you to not see what’s happening. Another exploration here is the long list of counter-intuitives there are that feed ignorance about PA: One counter-intuitive or cognitive bias can bamboozle, eighty of them invites some sympathy for the ignorant.

    Otherwise many nightmare experiences in life remain unbelievable and unbelieved by those to whom they have not directly befallen – the psychology being an amalgam of disbelief (I’m sure that can’t be true), blame (I bet they did something to deserve it), someone else’s job (luckily family law is involved – they’re the best people for this), or just too busy. Even when I did get dedicatedly interested in PA, I’d say I didn’t really get what was happening until a near-PA thing involved me more personally.

    Yes, the extraordinary double standard over school refusal and parent refusal is really the undoing of any serious campaigning about PA.

    A further blindness is in the accepted assumption about actual abuse by a parent – that a child will be better off if that parent is metaphorically executed at dawn rather than the alternative of working to understand and repair the harm and fears as far as is possible with the (continuing) attachment the child will have to that parent. Here ‘everyone’ thinks they know what’s best with witch-hunts and virtual burning at the stake; the children seldom benefit from this primitive violence done in the name of justice and good and children’s welfare.

    To add to this theme of collective responsibility, some have said that when it took a village to raise a child, PA wouldn’t happen because there would be too many sensible adults around to counter it. Maybe, maybe not. But it’s still interesting to frame the interventions – including even those brought about through courts – as the re-instatement of the sensible granny, the forthright uncle, the steady friend, who would take steps to stop or counter-act a disturbed parent taking out their disturbance on their children’s attachments to them.


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