top of page
  • Writer's picturePAPA

Finding the mechanisms to cope with alienation.

Parental Alienation is one of the most traumatic experiences a person can go through so it's important to find healthy ways to cope.

When dealing with severe trauma such as the effects of parental alienation, it's typical to look for ways to ease the burden emotionally, mentally and physically. These are commonly referred to as coping mechanisms, or coping strategies.

Coping is defined as the thoughts and behaviours mobilised to manage internal and external stressful situations. It is a term used distinctively for conscious or voluntary mobilisation of acts, as opposed to 'defence mechanisms' that are subconscious our unconscious adaptive responses, both of which however aim to reduce or tolerate stress or trauma.

When dealing with trauma or stress it can be hard to find the healthiest ways to cope, which is especially important when dealing with parental alienation. As a parent it's important to maintain your mental health as much as possible in order to be the best version of yourself for your child(ren) when the opportunity comes.

It is of course easier said than done and I am well aware of the intense pain that comes with being separated from your child(ren). It is as close to unbearable as I can possibly describe and the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. The days seemed to merge together and felt like they took forever, I wanted every day to be over as quickly as possible because I couldn't stand to be awake without seeing my son. The uncertainty of not knowing exactly when that would be or for how long was often too much.

So I had to find mechanisms in order to cope with the what I was going through and how to move forward to a better life for me and my son (a life I now have and have had for many years now).

Not all the mechanisms I relied on were constructive, in fact to begin with I relied on destructive methods which only served to make me feel worse in the long run.

Once I picked up more constructing mechanisms I found myself feeling healthier both mentally and physically and it helped me to overcome the hurdles I needed to. So it's very important to identify what are constructive coping mechanisms and what are destructive coping mechanisms so that you can adapt your lifestyle and choices in order to overcome the trauma you're currently experiencing.

Destructive coping mechanisms

Another term for destructive coping mechanisms is 'maladaptive' and this essentially means to not adjust appropriately or adequately to an event or environment. Below is a list of some destructive coping mechanisms that are best to be avoided:

  • Escape: To cope with anxiety or stress, some people may withdraw from friends and family and become socially isolated. They may absorb themselves in a solitary activity such as watching television, reading or spending time online. This can be dangerous as it can allow stress to build and compound without an outlet to release.

  • Unhealthy self-soothing: Some self-soothing behaviours are healthy in moderation but may turn into an unhealthy addiction if it becomes a habit to use them to self soothe. Some examples of unhealthy self-soothing could include overeating, binge drinking or excessive use of internet or video games. It's important to recognise any negative changes in your lifestyle or diet so that you can address them before they become harder to manage.

  • Numbing: As referenced before, some self-soothing behaviours may become numbing behaviours as they become harder to manage. When a person engages in numbing behaviour, they are often aware of what they are doing and may seek out an activity that will help them drown out or override their distress. People may seek to numb their stress by eating junk food, excessive alcohol use, or using drugs. It's very important to recognise this as early as possible and even seek help if you feel it is necessary.

  • Compulsions and risk-taking: Trauma and stress can cause some people to seek an adrenaline rush through compulsive or risk-taking behaviours such as gambling, unsafe sex, experimenting with drugs, theft, or reckless driving. This can have serious consequences, particularly when trying to regain meaningful contact with your child(ren). You must be able to demonstrate you are a safe and responsible parent so risk taking and compulsion absolutely must be kept under control. If you are feeling any compulsions, you must address this before it gets worse.

  • Self-harm: People may engage in self-harming behaviours to cope with extreme stress or trauma. It goes without saying that this can and does have some disastrous consequences. If you are feeling any urge to engage in these behaviours it's important to reach out, there will always be someone willing to listen and help you through your trauma.

The above list of destructive mechanisms is not exhaustive but a list of what is seen most often. If you find any that you are currently reliant upon; then it's best to try to replace them with more constructive mechanisms.

Constructive coping mechanisms

Another term for constructive coping mechanisms is 'adaptive' and this essentially means to adjust well or appropriately to an environment or situation. Below is a list of some constructive coping mechanisms:

  • Support: Talking about a stressful event with a supportive person can be an effective way to manage stress. Seeking external support instead of self-isolating and internalizing the effects of stress can greatly reduce the negative effects of a difficult situation. This can be a close friend or family member or perhaps a community like PAPA of people currently going through a similar situation. There is always someone willing to listen and help.

  • Relaxation: Any number of relaxing activities can help people cope with stress. Relaxing activities may include practicing meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation or other calming techniques, sitting in nature, or listening to soft music. As the old adage goes; a healthy body is a healthy mind.

  • Problem-solving: This coping mechanism involves identifying a problem that is causing stress and then developing and putting into action some potential solutions for effectively managing it.

  • Humour: Making light of a stressful situation may help people maintain perspective and prevent the situation from becoming overwhelming.

  • Physical activity: Exercise can serve as a natural and healthy form of stress relief. Running, tennis, swimming, walking, dance, team sports, and many other types of physical activity can help people cope with stress and the after effects of traumatic events. Exercise releases endorphins, which is scientifically proven to boost your mood and overall mental wellbeing.

Again, this is just a small list of constructive coping mechanisms but a good basis to go off when trying to adopt some more positive ways to cope and/or replace some destructive behaviours.

What's right for me?

I personally found great value in 'Support' by starting PAPA and creating this amazing community we have today. For those of you who remember my darkest days and are still here, thank you. I couldn't have made it this far without you.

I also became reliant on both 'Relaxation' and 'Physical Activity'.

I recognised my destructive behaviours and decided that attending therapy sessions over several months was a good way to get back on the right track. This was before I started PAPA but it gave me the tools to get going and to also push forward in regaining meaningful contact.

In therapy I was able to gain support but also learned a lot of good relaxation techniques. I do recommend guided meditation as a way to fall asleep at night, it really helped me to recalibrate for the next day ahead.

Of course therapy is not available to everyone or a viable option so that's why I'm creating these articles and the upcoming resources, to supplement the support community and allow every member access to free information and support.

Ultimately, after reading the above coping mechanisms it's up to you to decide what is the best fit for you and only you will know that. Maybe you already have some in mind that are not listed. Whatever you find helpful and that improves your wellbeing is a good place to start.

All of the listed constructive coping mechanisms are proven to work in improving your mental health so if you're having a bad day then it would be a good idea to try to do at least one or two from the list.

Try some and I'm sure you will notice an improvement in your mood.

However you must be sure to manage your expectations. The fight against parental alienation can be long and arduous so any changes in mood (good or bad) can be temporary and or slow in changing.

It's best to aim for incremental improvements with the knowledge that there will be bad days as well as some better days. Mental preparation is key.

Things will get better over time but it's not always a linear process so be prepared for bumps in the road but safe in the knowledge that there are better days ahead.

What else can I do?

If you haven't already, then the first thing you should do is sign up here and become a member of PAPA for free. This will give you full access to our community support forum as well as our upcoming legal resources.

You can also join our Facebook support group here. We have dedicated chat rooms as part of our support offering on Facebook, which means community support is available 24/7 to all members worldwide.

Thank you so much for reading and supporting PAPA. I hope this article is helpful.

903 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page