A Wonderful Tool Against PA To Put In Your Tactical Toolbox
There is an axiom in strategy that says: “If you know what your opponent wants, deny it.” This article describes a simple but effective psychological trick to not only accomplish this, but turn alienation attacks into big personal wins.
What alienating parents (or any parent refusing an equal shared parenting agreement) wants is to use children as weapons of manipulation, be it for money, or power and control, or for vengeance and emotional violence against the targeted parent. Losing your children or being marginalized from their lives is brutal with parental alienation being especially viscous, both toward the targeted parent and any children caught in the middle.
But how do we fight back with a family court judge and a lawyer being enriched with your child support order standing in the way
A Personal Story:
For the better part of ten years, I didn’t not sleep through an single night. The pattern was always the same: various versions of the same re-occurring dream that ended-up with me waking in a cold sweat, sick to my stomach, and in the midst of a deep depression that had to somehow shaken-off by morning so that I could go about my day with some measure of productiveness. Adding to the problem was that once awoken, there was no returning to sleep. I would just lay there; angry, suffering, and miserable, and since you’re reading this, I’m guessing you or someone you love can relate because you’ve had similar experiences.
So, back to strategic axioms: If you know what your opponent wants, deny it!
Talk about frustration. I knew that every single night of my life, I was giving the mother of my children exactly she wanted: my suffering. During the day, I could do a pretty good job of keeping my mind occupied, but how was I supposed to defend myself while sleeping?
Things seemed a bit hopeless UNTIL I discovered a one sentence mention describing “if/when -> then” rules while reading a book on channeled attention from social psychologist Robert Cialdini (see: Pre-Suasion: Channeling Attention For Change). Since there didn’t seem to be many options, I decided to give it a try and what I learned is this simple little trick so easy to use and so powerful that it now sits as one two cornerstone concepts within our Legacy Key system.
The “If/When -> Then Rule” Explained:
If/when ->then rules work so effectively because they neatly and efficiently allow us to take charge of how we feel in an instant by asserting control over our attention; while simultaneously reprogramming associative memory networks to be in alignment with OUR goals, and not those of our opponents.
Such a simple little psychological trick, yet so incredibly powerful for changing life that once you get used to using it, you’ll never look back.
Here’s How It Works:
Step One: Acknowledge Awareness Of The Unpleasant Feeling
Denial of painful feelings is not the goal. Those feelings exist within us as a kind of information for a reason. In this step we’re simply acknowledging that we feel the way we do and naming it; we’re being self-aware and honest with ourselves.
Step Two: Issue An Immediate Directive
The brain is continuously processing information and evaluating it against the goals of the self, and that includes information that originates from the self. The trick when these thoughts would creep into my sleep was first to become aware of them, and quickly respond with the thought, “Not productive, move on to something useful.”
Step Three: Consciously Direct Attention Toward An Important Goal:
Psychologists have long known that how we feel is largely determined by what has hold of our attention; it can be another person, the self, thoughts, memories, or any object that exists within the world or our imagination. In my case, not only do I have my own personal PA issues to wrestle with, but those of this project and its members as well. Therefore, it’s not surprising that with so much of my attention directed toward these issues, my brain carried them into sleep. The easiest remedy at the time was once I became aware of the dream and awoke from it, and after working through steps one and two, I purposefully switched my attention to a specific project-related goal I was working toward.
Step Four: Focus On Resolving A Specific Problem Or Challenging Task That Needs To Be Accomplished To Achieve The Goal You Have In Mind:
This step is hugely important, and it’s also why at first you may want to practice by switching your focus to goals NOT related to your children, the family court, or parental alienation. Eventually and with practice, you’ll be able to focus on tasks within your family court goals, but until then, you may want to switch your attention to other tasks and challenges (it’s just easier to get comfortable with the process this way). For example, maybe you need to raise additional money to fund your family court goals. In that case, direct your attention to the money goal only, and then focus on challenging problem you need to resolve to accomplish the goal.
Importantly, the super-huge, big-dealio, deal here is that attention is focused on a challenging task that needs to be completed. Thinking about scheduling time to pick-up your dry cleaning is not likely gonna cut it, and there are two primary reasons for this:
First, effort consumes attention. Don’t believe me? Try this: on your next walk, start off walking slowly while thinking about some problem at work or whatever. Then gradually increase your pace to a strenuous level and try to hold that problem in your mind. Eventually, you won’t be able to do both and you’ll be focused on the walking and the goal of getting where you’re going. Effort commands attention.
Secondly, it’s productive. If our goal is to feel better, to feel good, or to experience enjoyment; then dwelling on our pain and the causes of it only serves the goals of our opponents, not us. On the contrary, actively taking on challenging problems and tasks that need to be accomplished tends to produce feelings of growth, progression, confidence, enjoyment, exhilaration, and hope; and when this happens, you’ve won that battle. Over time, and as you keep winning them, confidence and self-assurance grows. There are few things better than feeling you’re in control of your life and how you feel at at any given moment, and with practice, you’ll grow to be able to do this in an instant.
The power of if/when -> then response rules is that their usefulness isn’t limited to people who can’t sleep. They have universal applications that engender productivity in all kinds of ways, because with repetition they re-script unproductive responses into productive and positive experiences by incorporating information, attention, associative memory, and goals. But most importantly of all, they help put you in charge of how you feel, and one of your primary goals should be to maximize the sum of positive experiences in your life. The regular use of If/then -> when rules can make this happen for you.
Imagine Bella’s got a meeting with her boss, Bob, and Bella really, really doesn’t like Bob. The meetings are always unpleasant, he’s unpleasant, and he smells unpleasant. Yuck!
But he’s the boss, so Bella’s got no choice. The dread wells up within her. The feelings of revulsion pulse within her temples in a dull thud of knock, knock knock. And there’s no shortage of carefully managed rage about the reasons he used to deny her last pay raise that included a demand that she stay later and work harder, despite the fact she already stays late and works hard.
Bob’s a class A jackass, and given all this, she’s tempted to just screw the meeting and quit her job, right then and there. She’s had enough.
Thing is though, she doesn’t have another job lined-up because job searching is also unpleasant and she’s been putting it off. With a sigh and a healthy dose of negative self-talk, Bella marches off to enjoy Bob.
Or perhaps, she can turn this situation to her advantage. There are at two (well actually, there are more than two) opportunities for if/when -> then response rules here.
(1) Acknowledgment: “This sucks.”
(2) Directive: “Not productive, move on to something useful.”
(3) Re-direction: “I’m not going to lose it with Bob and quit during this meeting”
(4) Focus on the task at hand: “How can I make this meeting last less than three minutes?”
Secondly, the job search:
(1) Acknowledgement: “I’m miserable.”
(2) Directive: “Not productive, move on to something useful.”
(3) Re-direction: “I’m going to get a new job, and one I’ll enjoy within six months.”
(4) Focus on the task at hand: “My resume is ready. I need a solid plan to get interviews with five potential employers next month.”
A silly example, yes, but the point is you can use this formula to transform unpleasant experiences into positive ones, and when you can do this, you win and you move forward.
Applications To Parental Alienation:
Family court marginalization, parental alienation, losing your children – this stuff is HARD and it is immeasurably painful. Give yourself a break and start putting an end to the ability of others to manipulate your quality of life and how you feel.
Steps To Taking Back Your Happiness:
Axiom: If you know what your opponent wants, deny it. Alienators abuse their targets because it brings them pleasure to do it, and this naturally means they want their targets to suffer; that’s their goal. THIS GOAL NEEDS TO BE DENIED.
First, you’ve got to decide that no one gets to manipulate how you feel but you. This is non-negotiable. You have to take personal responsibility for your goals and how you feel in any given moment, and it has to be ranked at the very top of your goals, period.
Secondly, you need to have a plan for when feelings of pain and suffering are provoked within you; either from the alienator, others, or your own memories. This is where the if/when -> then response rule comes into play, because it’s basically a tactical response PLAN:
(1) Acknowledgement: “I’m suffering right now.”
(2) Directive: “Not useful, move on to something better.”
(3) Redirection: Direct your attention to a goal, even if it has nothing to do with family court or your children.
(4) Focus: Focus on any challenging tasks needed to realize that goal (note: many alienators have narcissistic personalities. If you happen to be engaged with one in a conversation or whatever, switch your attention to someone or something other than them, and then enjoy the show! Honestly, after awhile, you’ll notice that you can mess with them anytime you want just by denying them attention. Good times 🙂 )
Of course, if/when-> then rules are just one piece of the strategic puzzle when comes to dealing with PA, but it’s an important one, and not just for dealing not only with parental alienation, but for just about any goal you have in mind.
They’re powerful, easy to practice using, and they absolutely work. Please consider thinking of specific context when you might like to try using one and see how it goes. You might be surprised!
Legacy Key Link: Attention
P.S. If you’re unclear about what if/then -> rules are or how to apply them, or if you’re struggling with applying them in practice, please post your questions in the new Community Forums -> Parental Alienation section. Thank you for reading!
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