The act of cutting off or interfering with an individual's relationships with others.
Alienation may be absolute, where all the victim’s relationships are sabotaged equally, or it may be targeted towards a particular type of relationship. For example, the victim may be cut off from social friendships; family relationships; professional relationships; contact with members of a group, club or organization; or contact with members of a particular gender, race, social status or religion.
A personality-disordered individual may frown on their victim having social relationships outside the home. They may try to break those relationships by making up shocking or accusing stories about either the non-personality-disordered (Non-PD) individual - or about the person the Non-PD is trying to befriending. The Non-PD may face consequences or punishments as a result of making or maintaining contact with a person who is not on thean “approved” list.
In the case of chosen relationships, partners are often pressured to avoid contact with their own siblings, parents or extended family. In the case of unchosen (family) relationships, the Non-PD’s romantic relationships, partnerships or marriages may be sabotaged.
Professional relationships may also be the target of alienation attacks by a personality-disordered individual.
The most widely reported form of alienation is parental alienation - where a parent tries to sabotage the relationship their child has with the other parent. This is quite common when divorcing someone who has a personality disorder.
Alienation may be overt or covert.
In overt alienation, the victim knows the abuser discourages or disapproves of a relationship. They may be confronted with threats of consequences or a system of rewards and punishments as an incentive to reduce or break off contact.
In covert alienation, the victim is not aware of the activities of the abuser. The abuser may attempt to subtly manipulate the victim's habits or routine to reduce the incidence of contact with another person using diversions. The abuser may also use distortion campaigns or manipulations to divert friends or family away from contact with the victim. The abuser may also recruit proxies or third parties to directly or unwittingly sabotage or compromise a relationship.
Related Personality Disorders:
Alienation is a common occurrence in relationships involving people who suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder,Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, Schizotypal Personality Disorder.
What it feels like:
Alienation is a form of emotional abuse. We need social contact to maintain a healthy emotional state as much as our bodies need food and water to maintain a healthy physical state. If we are socially malnourished, we may begin to exhibit symptoms of depression, such as anger, insomnia, loss of appetite, or low energy.
When somebody denies us access to loved ones, friends and family, it can be as damaging as being denied physical needs such as sleep and nutrition. If you are an adult and your actions pose no direct threat of physical or emotional harm to others, no one has the right to control who you can and can’t see or where you can and can’t go.
When we are malnourished and abused in this way, we are vulnerable to making poor personal choices. We may revert to ineffective behaviors to try to resolve the issue such as anger, retaliation, begging, bargaining or sneaking around.
If we are subject to chronic alienation, we are prone to progress through the classic five stages of grief - anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Once we reach acceptance, we are apt to become enablers of the abuse, denying ourselves the very thing we need most to become healthy. We may avoid contact with outsiders, defend our position, avoid scrutiny and avoid situations which threaten to shine a light on our plight. This process is sometimes referred to as Learned Helplessness or Stockholm Syndrome.
Coping with Alienation - What NOT to Do:
- Don’t believe someone if they say you don’t need social contact with other people.
- Don't give in to pressure to stop seeing a loved one, family member or friend.
- Don’t give in to inappropriate pressure and avoid group activities which are good for you.
- Don't retaliate or try to hit back at a person who is trying to sabotage your relationships.
- Don't kid yourself into thinking things will get better with time or that this or that will blow over - this is something you need to confront and fix quickly.
- Don’t tell yourself that you can or must handle on your own - solitary confinement can break the most resolute of spirits.
- Don’t sneak around or hide your social contact just to avoid conflict. This is something you need to insist on as a bottom-line issue.
- Don't tell yourself you have to fix the loved one in your life who suffers from a personality disorder before you can go on with the rest of your life. You can't fix anybody, and you will just frustrate yourself and the other person if you try.
Coping with Alienation - What TO Do:
- Get support - talk to a friend or therapist and describe what you are dealing with. Break the silence and get a reality check and some constructive feedback.
- Talk to the people you are being alienated from. This takes courage - but go talk to the people whom you have been told are monsters, or who have been told what a flaky, dysfunctional, abusive person you are. Make up your own mind about them, and let them do the same. Perhaps they are monsters, perhaps not - you may be surprised by what you learn.
- Stand up for your needs. Confront attempts at alienation abuse with a calm, yet firm, resolve not to allow someone else’s dysfunction cause dysfunction in you. Try saying, “I care about you deeply - and I also care about my own health - this is something I need to do.”
- Visit loved ones and healthy friends regularly. Go alone if your personality-disordered loved one chooses not to come too. Give yourself permission to break an abuser’s arbitrary rules and slay sacred cows for the sake of healthy activities or choices.
- Celebrate life for as long as you have the health and strength to do so. You do not have to join a personality-disordered person under their canopy of depression and darkness. Carpe Diem - Use it well.