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Handout for Mental Health Professionals by Rebecca Davis Merritt, Ph.D.

Handout for Mental Health Professionals by Rebecca Davis Merritt, Ph.D.

 

One Mom’s Battle Handout for Therapists by Rebecca Davis Merritt, Ph.D.

To download this as a printable handout, click here )

Why were you Given this Handout?

If you are a therapist or psychologist and your client or client’s parent has given you this handout, it means that they believe the other parent has a Cluster B personality disorder which negatively affects the child(ren) you are treating. Of course, if that other parent is not your client, you have no way to assess or diagnose whether they are, in fact, antisocial, narcissistic, borderline, or histrionic. Erring on the side of caution, it can be useful to raise and test hypotheses about such a possibility because the way you best help a minor client is different when a parent consistently shows impaired empathy and limited impulse control with their offspring.

Who Authored this Handout?

I, Rebecca Davis Merritt, am a retired academic clinical psychologist who supervised clinical psychology pre-doctoral students in a Cluster B specialty clinic and who now serves as president of One Mom’s Battle, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that helps parents of both genders mired in high-conflict family court cases. Most drawn out, complicated, hostile, high-conflict family court cases have a common denominator; a parent with a Cluster B personality disorder. Though these parents profess to love their children immensely and thrive in their court performances, claiming they would do anything to help the children, closer examination usually illuminates a parent engaging in emotional abuse, power plays and controlling behavior. They are simultaneously robbing their children of financial security through unnecessary, continuous court hearings and failure to meet court ordered financial obligations like child support. Even worse, these parents manipulate their own children to meet their own emotional needs while ignoring the children’s emotional requirements and well-being.

Why Does it Matter if I Label a Parent Cluster B?

Therapists are often unaware that the smiling, charming, socially-at-ease parent may be a chameleon who outside the therapy context is threatening the child with what family secrets must never be revealed, encouraging the children to distrust the therapist, or punishing the child if s/he communicates honestly in sessions. This type of parent insidiously blocks true treatment gains with goal of ending any treatment which threatens to expose their true nature and manipulatively (and often successfully) casts negative impressions of healthy parent.

The child and healthy parent live in fear (domestic violence by proxy) wanting to reach out to the therapist for help but fearing the repercussions if they do. Will the therapist accuse healthy parent of gatekeeping or Parental Alienation (a term we do not advocate) and see them as the problem (badmouthing the other parent) if therapist believes the charming manipulative parent? Will the unhealthy parent be told of the child’s distress resulting in painful repercussions? Will a “family systems approach” therapist hold child and healthy parent equally responsible for Cluster B’s hurtful words and actions?

Many therapists assume parents love their children and do not wish to emotionally or physically harm them. With Cluster B personality disordered individual involved, one should not start therapy with this assumption. One needs to start therapy, testing the hypothesis about whether the child views both parents as safe and loving, recognizing that most children even in abusive parental relationships, desperately love and want to protect their parents. To do this you need to generate hypothesis testing questions at the beginning stages of therapy but also at stages further along in treatment as frightened children may not disclose initially, but if they come to trust you, may disclose latter in therapy.

Examples of such questions are:

  • Do you feel safe with your mom? Do you feel safe with your dad?
  • Have you ever been bullied?
  • Has your mom ever bullied you?
  • Has your dad ever bullied you?
  • Has anyone ever tried to make you believe something you know is not true?
  • Has anyone asked you to keep secrets you do not want to keep?
  • Has anyone asked you to lie in therapy, not talk about certain topics,or asked you to not tell the whole truth?
  • Have you ever worried you would be seriously harmed or injured bysomething your parent or someone else did?
  • What is the one behavior you wish your dad would stop doing?
  • What is the one behavior you wish your mom would stop doing?
  • What is the one thing you wish your mom would start doing?
  • What is the one thing you wish your dad would start doing?

Knowing your client will allow you to tailor more case specific questions that give you necessary information about the child’s view of each parent and their trustworthiness. Asking basic safety questions is also important (have you been kicked, hit by fists, choked, locked outside, left alone in car for long periods of time, threatened by gun or knife or, do you fear for your life?).

What to do if you suspect Cluster B Parental Pathology and/or Domestic Violence in your Child Client’s Life?

Do your best to create a positive therapeutic environment. Children in these types of environments need safe, consistent and trustworthy adults in their lives. You may never fully realize the positive impact you can have by providing a safe place for child to both vent and learn how to create and maintain healthy boundaries with an unhealthy parent. Teaching such children that they do NOT carry the responsibility of catering to an adult’s emotional needs (and that it is the adult’s responsibility to attend to the child’s emotional and physical needs) is ground-breaking and positive. Helping such children learn to recognize emotional manipulation, set healthy boundaries and refuse to succumb to the manipulations can spare them a lifetime of vulnerability to other emotional vampires. Teaching children that their role is to be a child and not to carry unhealthy parent’s messages back to healthy parent or to you is invaluable. Giving them the voice to say, “I don’t want you to say mean things about mom/dad,” is helping them to set healthy boundaries. Teaching them to know their personal truth and recognize gaslighting so they do not collaborate in questioning their own sanity, memories, and life experiences is vital. If you do not understand gaslighting, please familiarize yourself.

As a therapist, you cannot just tell a child to ignore it or to forgive their abuser. Children have to understand why a parent is lying to them, what the intent of gaslighting is (to control them by making them doubt their perceptions and reality or distrust their healthy parent), and how to safely challenge (in one’s self statements) the gaslighting content. They cannot do this on their own and need for you to recognize gaslighting and give them the tools to fight this brainwashing. You may need to develop a safety plan with your client. Cluster B personality disordered individuals often anticipate who the child(ren) may reach out to and may also gaslight those resources. Safety plans themselves are not always straightforward. In a case that I am familiar with, children begged next door neighbor to call police and their request was refused based upon the tales the unhealthy parent had told them about these young, vulnerable children.

Educate yourself about Cluster B pathology to understand and appreciate that offspring of Cluster B parents experience complex traumatic environments causing reverberating long-term effects unless someone like you helps them better cope and, ideally, intervenes to contain or limit the Cluster B’s impact on the child. The work you are doing is invaluable and it is imperative that you educate yourself thoroughly on Cluster B personality disordered parents.

Two good resources pertaining to adverse events are:

The emotional abuse committed by Cluster B personalities is domestic violence. The consequence of such abuse exerts at least as much harm as actual physical abuse. A skilled and strategically planned intervention in the life of a child who is being negatively affected by a Cluster B personality disordered parent can help that child become resilient while limiting the current and future risk factors. Thus, it is very important that you develop the willingness to hypothesis test when dealing with a minor client caught in a high-conflict custody battle. Do not assume that all parents do their best.

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One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children. Please consider a donation to help with our efforts.

History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2011, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother (Tina Swithin) navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth with chapter all over the world. In 2014, One Mom’s Battle achieved non-profit status which will allow the group to take their mission to the next level. Tina’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist and The Narc Decoder: Understanding the Language of the Narcissist can be found on Amazon.

Divorcing a Narcissist: Trust Your Instinct

Divorcing a Narcissist: Trust Your Instinct

by Tina Swithin

If there is one thing I want to instil in my daughters, it is to trust your instincts — your inner voice, your gut feelings, your intuition. In the family court system, the judge requires black and white evidence — regardless of how strong our instincts are. We teach our children to keep speaking up when it comes to things that are important — keep talking until someone listens. My story is proof of how important this really is.

Many of you remember Seth’s brother, Robert, from my books. He was one of the biggest components in my child custody case. While I protected his identity in my writing, he has been arrested in what is said to be the largest case of child sex abuse and child pornography in the history of San Luis Obispo County. Due to his own evil, perverse actions, his identity is now splashed across the front pages of my local newspapers . The reality was, my concerns about Robert (Jason Robert Porter) started way before my custody battle ever began. My concerns about him began before I even had children and once we did have children, my (ex) husband and I remained united in our decision to keep our daughters away from him. We even remained united against Seth’s mother who begged us to come together for family functions so that she could pretend to have a happy, healthy family. Seth never stood up to his mother so I was relieved when he took a firm stance on this topic. We were united in our decision until our custody battle began.

One thing that I have learned from divorcing a narcissist (Cluster B disordered individual) is that the battle has nothing to do with what is best for the children. A custody battle with a narcissist is fueled by a desire to win at all costs. The loss of control when the marriage ends causes the narcissist to grab the nearest weapon (the children) in an effort to maintain or regain control. In my case, Seth knew that the way to really hurt me was to bring my daughters around his brother. Seth and his parents became a united team in their fight to allow my daughters to be around Jason Porter. They successfully trumped my concerns in a child custody evaluation through Family Court Services. Then, they submitted multiple declarations stating that Jason was a “changed man” — they wanted to allow him full access to my children. My plea to the court was so strong that they appointed minor’s counsel who also dismissed my concerns. I voiced my concerns about Jason making out with a 14-year old when he was in his 30’s. I voiced my concerns about his inappropriate behavior in Thailand. I voiced my concerns about him threatening to rape and murder women, his obsession with convicted killer, Rex Allen Krebs along with his history of suicidal and homicidal statements.

No one would listen to me.

Last June, Jason was arrested for photographing and molesting a young girl. He was rearrested weeks later when the investigation revealed the depth of abuse that had allegedly occurred.

After two days of testimony this week in his preliminary hearing, the judge upheld all 32 charges against him. The details of this case are so horrific that the media can’t even scratch the surface of how sick and evil this man truly is.

When you divorce a narcissist, you are forced into a battle with their entire family. The writing was all over the walls in this case for years- I continued to speak up and was failed at every turn. During my marriage to Seth, his parents put on their rose-colored glasses and refused to listen to my concerns. I made a decision to distance myself and my children from Jason Porter during my marriage and it caused major waves within the family. I listened to my gut and I held firm in my stance. In court, I was painted as irrational and bitter — these accusations were the furthest thing from the truth. I hope and pray that my story and this case are a wake-up call for the family court system.

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One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children. Please consider a donation to help with our efforts.

History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2011, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother (Tina Swithin) navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth with chapter all over the world. In 2014, One Mom’s Battle achieved non-profit status which will allow the group to take their mission to the next level. Tina’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist and The Narc Decoder: Understanding the Language of the Narcissist can be found on Amazon.

 

Cluster B Custody Battles and Gaslighting

Cluster B Custody Battles and Gaslighting

by Rebecca Davis Merritt (OMB President) and Jennifer (OMB VP)

If you and your children are experiencing Domestic Violence by Proxy chances are your children are being gaslighted.  A Cluster B gaslights the children by portraying you as an uncaring, negligent, untrustworthy parent when you are none of these things. Gaslighting is a form of mental and emotional abuse and signs include:

  • Information is often twisted and spun against you or falsely reported by the Cluster B to your children
  • Your children find themselves second guessing their initial response to gaslighting parent, having difficulty distinguishing between reality versus the Cluster B’s story-telling false reality.
  • Your children feel compelled to defend the Cluster B parent by creating excuses or justifying lies, manipulations, and abuse by the Cluster B. They become secretive and may become an in-house spy for the Cluster B smuggling out documents or property trying to win affection and praise from the Cluster B. They are unable to respect appropriate boundaries due to the successful manipulation by Cluster B.
  • You experience secondary gaslighting based on your children’s behaviors wondering if you are the problem and if you should just give up, let the children move in with Cluster B or always let him or her have their way to diminish conflict (note: neither are effective coping strategies).
  • The Cluster B is slowly eroding your parental bond with the children. You do not want to badmouth their other parent to the children but you want them to feel safe and secure not just with you but with their thoughts, feelings, and memories.
  • How can you help your children resist gaslighting, be authentic, and set appropriate boundaries with Cluster B parent? The answers depend on the developmental stage of the child and it is best if the healthy parent can begin this anti-gaslighting training while the child is young. If your child is a teen, looks up to Cluster B parent and craves their interest and attention there is very little you can do beyond providing external resources like individual therapy.  Any time you try to counter the disinformation the teen received, you, in their eyes, confirm the negative messages Cluster B had given them about you being unfairly disposed to criticizing or attacking their other parent.  Even parents who have done anti-gaslighting training from early ages can find the teen years very tricky especially if you are the primary custodial parent. Teens see you as the rule setting no fun parent while the other parent may be seen as the “Disneyland” parent with no rules, much freedom, and fun. One of the best messages you can give your child regardless of their age is to promise you will never lie to them. Say it to them and keep your word. You may have to say, “I cannot talk to you about that now,” but always be truthful. This will help them very much in coping with a Cluster B because they will see a distinct difference in parents as Cluster Bs lie so often the children eventually will recognize it.

Assuming you have younger children how can you implement strong and healthy, anti-gaslighting training while not badmouthing the other parent? Here are some tips:

Teach your children how to set and protect their own personal boundaries. Children should learn about all boundaries, not just with the Cluster B. In return, respect your children’s boundaries. For example teaching young children to object to others touching their bathing suit covered parts of bodies helps them set an appropriate boundary, learning who is and is not trustworthy. and having the right to use their voices. Teaching them to immediately tell you if any adult ever asks them to not tell you a secret teaches them healthy boundaries. Cloud and Townsend have a book about boundaries to use with your children, one for teens, and one for you.

Teach your children how to be assertive and use their voice and voice their boundaries. Teach them to say no when they feel uncomfortable. Teach them that the word, “no” means “no”.

Teach your children about children being kids not adults. It is not their job to take care of adults. It is adults job to take care of them. If Cluster B tries to place child in the middle of parenting issues, do all you can to remove them from the discussion and make it clear to child it is an adult issue. When an adult conversation comes up, tell them the conversation is a grown up issue. Stress that it is not a child issue and therefore should not be discussed with you. Teach them if anyone brings up adult issues with them to state, “I am a kid. Don’t talk to me about adult things”

Talk with your children about respecting other people’s boundaries, empathy and what it means to be kind to others. OMB strongly recommends the Bucket Books by Carol McCloud. ‘Have you Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids’ is a great resource for younger children and ‘Growing UP with a Bucket Full of Happiness’ is a great book for older children (7+). You need to read these books to younger children at least once a week, develop a shared language from this book. Teach your children to be bucket fillers. Also focus on bucket dippers as this is what their cluster B parent is, a bullying, unkind, bucket dipper who breaches boundaries. You do not label their unhealthy parent, you do not say like dad or mom but you give your child the ability to recognize and label unkind behaviors as being the “fault” of the perpetrator and not the victim.  Simultaneously, model kind behaviors to the child via volunteer activities. Volunteer in your community, at churches, homeless shelters, donate items/clothes.  Keep toiletry items, bottled water, protein bars in a ziplock bag in your car to give to homeless people.

Teach your children about manipulation through commenting on it when you see it in commercials (what is this toy commercial trying to make you feel and think?) or in movies (Frozen is a great example but there are many). The older children eventually ask why do some people almost always act like bucket dippers and manipulate others? In my house we learn about Cluster B personality disorders, those people who have profound deficits in empathy, understanding how others feel and caring about their feelings with an extreme need to control others by lying, manipulating, refusing to follow rules, and holding others responsible for making them comfortable, meeting their needs, even expecting children to take care of adults. We do not label Cluster B parent as Cluster B but teach the children to recognize Cluster B patterns of behavior in books and movies. You do not have to introduce the term Cluster B but you have to give your children the knowledge of its behavioral constellation so they recognize such types of people and can engage in self-protective coping including boundary management. Hopefully this knowledge helps not just with their unhealthy parent but in their future dating, friendship, and partnership decisions.

Get your child a therapist who understands domestic violence (the pattern of coercive control of Cluster B is DV) and Cluster B personality disorders, who does not subscribe to family systems approaches (rules out many social workers and marriage and family therapists), does not provides reunification therapy implementing PA or PAS “theories”, or who refuses to provide the court their perspective. In general look for a Ph.D therapist when you can but carefully screen. If you have a good DV program in your area ask them for referral names (lawyers and therapists) and see if they have educational support groups appropriate for your children.

Never tell your children the Cluster B parent loves them. You don’t tell them the Cluster B does not love them but the love of a Cluster B parent hurts and you do not want to do anything to encourage child to accept those behaviors as normal or loving. It is likely you will need to say, “I don’t know why mommy/daddy did that. You will have to ask him/her and decide for yourself if that is how you want to parent your children if you become a parent. Never make excuses or try to normalize abusive or neglectful parenting choices of a Cluster B.

Build your own support system, a tribe who understands Cluster B and can help you cope.

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One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children. Please consider a donation to help with our efforts.

History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2011, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother (Tina Swithin) navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth with chapter all over the world. In 2014, One Mom’s Battle achieved non-profit status which will allow the group to take their mission to the next level. Tina’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist and The Narc Decoder: Understanding the Language of the Narcissist can be found on Amazon.

Domestic Violence by Proxy

Domestic Violence by Proxy

A Message from OMB’s President (Rebecca Davis Merritt) and Vice President (Jennifer) about Domestic Violence by Proxy:

You have probably seen OMB’s informational poster about why we advocate not using the term or “theory” of Parental Alienation. We post it once a month encouraging our readers to understand that the controlling behaviors of Cluster B parents in trying to place a wedge between the children and healthy parent is Domestic Violence by Proxy. The emotional abuse of a Cluster B is domestic Violence (DV).

When a Cluster B personality disordered individual enters the family court system they wage war upon the healthy parent. They may have been absent parents never attending school, medical or dental appointments but suddenly they attend everything, preening as the doting father or mother and may push for custody. Custody is seen as a prize. The goal is to hurt the healthy primary parent and save money via child support calculations. As part of that push they groom children to see their healthy parent as untrustworthy and self-centered (projection), with divorce or separation their fault while portraying the Cluster B parent as wounded and needing the children to shower him or her with love and affection. Children often respond to this gaslighting by siding with the abusive parent.

The Cluster B parent often blames the healthy parent for his or her own actions, claiming parental alienation (PA). If the children distrust Cluster B parent based upon a history of abusive behaviors, this estrangement is labeled as PA. The healthy parent, unfortunately, is at serious risk of losing custody  in family court. Men who physically batter their former partner are much more likely to gain custody than the healthy parent.  Courts have been taught that women claiming DV in family court are usually lying and using this false claim to secure custody. Even when DV claims are accepted, courts falsely believe DV only affects direct victim and that abusers can be good parents to their children. Once Cluster Bs have the children away from the healthy parent, they use manipulation and other forms of abuse to convince the children that their other parent never loved them and are untrustworthy.

Alina Patterson (2003) first defined Domestic Violence by Proxy or DV Proxy. DV Proxy is a pattern of behavior where a parent with a history of using domestic violence, or intimidation uses the child (as a substitute) when s/he does not have access to the former partner. Continuing the cycle of domestic violence, the cycle of Domestic Violence by Proxy starts when the victim leaves the abuser and the abuser learns the easiest way to continue to harm and control the former partner is through controlling access to the children.

Once the abuser has control of the children they are able to continue stalking, harassing and abusing the former partner even when the abuser has no direct access. DV can manifest in ways such as threats to the children if they display a close relationship with the former partner, destroying the children’s favorite possessions given by the former partner and emotional abuse. Children are often coached to make false allegations about the parent.

DV by proxy is very deliberate and planned. The abusers know what they are doing and chose their controlling, coercive, and illegal behaviors. The behaviors are usually surrounded by threats and fears and often include “battery, destruction of property, locking children in rooms to prevent them from calling parents, falsifying documents, along with other similar overt behaviors.” As the leadership council suggests, “Calling this behavior “parental alienation” is not strong enough to convey the criminal pattern of terroristic behaviors employed by batterers.”

Unlike Gardner’s discredited PAS theory, the behaviors associated with DV by proxy are visible. Gardner stated the behaviors by the “alienating parent” were unconscious or unseen. This is one of the scarier components in Gardner’s theory because you cannot defend yourself against unseen things. Many healthy parents have found themselves trying to defend themselves against these unseen behaviors.

Family court professionals often fail to understand the presence and implications of both domestic violence and Cluster B psychopathology. Thus family court usually encourages unfettered access of the children to abusers. Family court judges and lawyers often work to punish healthy parents reporting bona fide abuse. Yet, they often seem to believe the victim stories told by abusers. Court officials often seem slow to recognize how family court itself can be abusive, particularly protracted, repeated, unnecessary court hearings used by the abuser to drain the financial and emotional resources of the healthy parent. Children may be placed with the abuser while the healthy parent is discredited through accusations of mental illness or PA. Other professionals involved including GALs, evaluators, therapists, etc. often take on responsibilities that are beyond their skill level. Antisocial and or Narcissistic personality disordered parents with good impression management skills are adept at “conning people, or gaining sympathy, and can win the trust and support of a family court professional while turning that same person against their ex-partner.”

The main goal of the abuser is s/he will end up with complete control over the children and will use this power over his former partner, “who tried to escape the power and control of the once abusive marriage.” They do not care if the children are harmed as long as their former partner is hurt and they feel they have won. It is imperative that the healthy parent and attorney understands how to use DV by proxy to counter and claims of parental alienation.

The following links may also be helpful:

http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/Hoult-PASarticlechildrenslawjournal.pdf

https://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/pas/dv.html

http://www.dvleap.org/Programs/CustodyAbuseProject/PASCaseOverview.as

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One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children. Please consider a donation to help with our efforts.

History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2011, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother (Tina Swithin) navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth with chapter all over the world. In 2014, One Mom’s Battle achieved non-profit status which will allow the group to take their mission to the next level. Tina’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist and The Narc Decoder: Understanding the Language of the Narcissist can be found on Amazon.

President of One Mom’s Battle: Rebecca Davis Merritt

President of One Mom’s Battle: Rebecca Davis Merritt

 

rebeccaby Rebecca Davis Merritt

I am a retired clinical psychologist academician, mother and grandmother to many. I was fortunate and did not marry a Cluster B; my husband and I will celebrate our 48th anniversary early next year. Yet my life included many Cluster B people – my family doctor convicted for murdering at least one of his sons, a couple of ex-son and daughter-in-laws. I taught at Purdue University where I ran a practicum titled, “The Pervasive Problem Solving Clinic.” Pervasive Problem Solving was my euphemism for Cluster B people’s needs. I taught graduate students in our Clinical Psychology doctoral graduate program how to diagnose and treat people with Cluster B personality disorders as well as how to help their partners, children, and family manage their roles with Cluster Bs in the healthiest, least damaged, manner possible. I earned the reputation as the Cluster B whisperer.

Long before I knew about Tina’s work or OMB, I helped my daughter who did unfortunately marry a Cluster B person. You know the story – mom sees red flags, daughter thinks mom is overly protective, wrong, and Cluster B is “misunderstood”. I remember trying to decide if I should treat her as I would any other person I came across in my professional life and warn her, knowing she would relay my concerns to him and make it even more likely her dad and I would be cut out of her and our grandson’s life or remain silent. I chose warning and as expected, we were removed from our loved ones’ lives for quite some time. It just did not feel ethical to have the knowledge (both her dad and I knew at the first meeting of the fiancé) and not indicate concern. We gave her a safety plan and emergency money so when the honeymoon period was over she had a means of escape. Of course when that time came she felt blindsided by the cruelty, lies, gaslighting, and manipulations of the Cluster B and shell shocked by the family court system where it was not simple to protect her children and self.

She and I were both naïve about family court as are most before they have their own journeys. Once we figured out that truth, justice, and best meeting the children’s needs was not necessarily our family court’s top priorities, we did much better at managing the family court system. Isn’t that sad? It is the same message I try to share with newbies trapped in this high conflict family court system with Cluster B ex partners. It seems jaded, perhaps it is, but it is the best way to navigate family court. One must have a long term strategy and not take personally the most personally affecting adverse decisions that can be made in family court to survive and hopefully prevail in these battles. Our mantra is every text, every email, every communication is strategy based assuming that the judge will be reading every communication. In our case, this eventually worked out to protect the children because over time most Cluster Bs will reveal their true natures and the court will eventually get a fuller picture to use in rendering decisions. We just have to hope and do all we can to ensure that the children’s souls are not crushed irretrievably during the decision making process over the many year’s duration.

My daughter was near the end of the worst of her legal fight to protect her babies when I discovered Tina’s blog. We had reestablished our relationships in the family and I had tried to teach her about Cluster Bs, how to not indulge in negative emotions toward him, how to strategize, and how to heal. She was brave, goodhearted, and resilient. I started at the beginning of Tina’s blog and read backwards. After about 4-5 entries, I emailed my daughter the web address for a specific blog. She read it and like me felt like we had discovered a fellow warrior who understood what we had gone through and who was brave enough to let the world know what family court with a Cluster B entailed. I read the entire blog, then purchased Tina’s book. Meanwhile my daughter and her new (non-Cluster B) spouse started reading too and donating to OMB.

I then discovered the Facebook page and consumed it, eventually beginning to post comments to people struggling with understanding how to place boundaries and strategize with Cluster Bs.  At some point Tina asked me to become an administrator on the OMB Facebook page. I accepted and the rest is history. We work well together. I wrote a foreword to her second book which we suggest members use as a handout to give to attorneys, DV agency staff, CPS staff, and to parent evaluators, GALS, PCs, etc.  Tina worked to make OMB a nonprofit 501C; we created a board of directors for our nonprofit.  She was president and I was vice president for the past year.  Now at this point in her life, Tina is ready to step back from administrative work on the board and for the next two years I will serve as president.

Tina will not disappear and we will continue to collaborate in our plans for OMB (aided by Michele and Jennifer as well as many invaluable OMB chapter leaders and other volunteers).  In another blog post I will elaborate on our vision for 2017 but in this one I just wanted to introduce myself.  I know it can be unsettling to feel like we are losing Tina – but we are not losing Tina.  I promise.  While most of you do not know me, I have been working behind the scenes helping many and I plan to continue doing my best to help individuals, helpers, court personnel, and state/national organizations that can best assist our members.

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One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children. Please consider a donation to help with our efforts.

History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2011, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother (Tina Swithin) navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth with over 100-chapters in five different countries. In 2014, One Mom’s Battle achieved non-profit status which will allow the group to take their mission to the next level.

One Mom’s Battle: Giving Tuesday

One Mom’s Battle: Giving Tuesday

giving-tuesdayHi OMB’ers!

It’s #GivingTuesday and we need your help!

What is Giving Tuesday? Giving Tuesday is celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

One Mom’s Battle has new leadership and grand plans for 2017 — we need your help. Please consider a donation to help our efforts to educate the Family Court professionals on high-conflict divorces and Cluster B personality disorders. Our mission began with one mom (Tina Swithin) and has since become a world-wide support network for mothers and fathers who are fighting to protect their children from Cluster B disordered individuals (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.)

Please consider an end of the year donation on this #GivingTuesday. One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and our tax ID # is: 47-1118171

To donate, click here

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One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children. Please consider a donation to help with our efforts.

History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2011, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother (Tina Swithin) navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth with chapters all over the world. In 2014, One Mom’s Battle achieved non-profit status which will allow the group to take their mission to the next level.

Divorcing a Narcissist: Tina Swithin’s books are available online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

One Mom’s Battle: The Little Seed that Could

One Mom’s Battle: The Little Seed that Could

sproutby Tina Swithin

I just facilitated my last board meeting as President of One Mom’s Battle (OMB). I don’t think that’s quite sunk in yet! My oldest daughter cried when I made the announcement in September that I was stepping down. One Mom’s Battle has been such a huge part of her life for over five years —half her life. “You ARE One Mom’s Battle!” she cried, “You can’t quit!”

While I understand her feelings, OMB is so much bigger than me. OMB is your story, your sister’s story, your daughter’s story, your nephew’s story and your neighbor’s story. Narcissistic Personality Disorder affects all of us – as a community and as a society. It is so prevalent that I feel sad and frustrated when the term is overused and muddied….like when I come across a person who believes that a narcissist’s worst trait is their fondness of “selfies.” There is obviously still a lot of work to be done.

Despite the reality that I am no longer driving the bus, my mission hasn’t changed. I will always be a part of OMB regardless of my title. The reality is, I don’t like being a “leader” – but I will continue to devote my life to increasing awareness of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and its impact on child custody battles. I still remember when I wrote my first blog post and received my first Facebook “like” – never imagining where that little blog would take me. Now, the OMB Facebook page has almost 30,000 likes and we will never know how many we truly reach who can’t publicly participate on the page for privacy reasons. This grassroots story started from a tiny little seed that I planted but YOU helped to turn OMB into the movement that it is today. I thank you for that. Now, that little sprout will continue to grow under the care and dedication of a new team.

The amazing Rebecca Davis-Merritt will take the steering wheel and will be serving as our President. Jennifer will come on board as our new Vice President and Michele, our dedicated and heart-driven, Executive Director will continue in her role. I know in my heart that these three ladies are equipped to take this movement to the next level and I look forward to sitting in the backseat (I promise not to be an annoying backseat driver!) In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

What’s next for me? I am going to continue my coaching practice and keep writing…I can’t even remember when I last submitted a piece to the Huffington Post! I am re-writing my first book, Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle to share additional details that I couldn’t discuss during my battle and to inspire people with my happy ending. I plan to focus on my local One Mom’s Battle group (San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties) and continue to educate the family court system in my area. I hope to add more retreats to my calendar because I am humbled watching healing and transformations take place right before my eyes. It’s one of the most powerful things I’ve ever been a part of. So, my goal remains the same — to touch people through my writing but to become more hands on in the trenches.

Please join me in welcoming our new leaders —  with love, Tina

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One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children. Please consider a donation to help with our efforts.

History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2011, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother (Tina Swithin) navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth with chapters all over the world. In 2014, One Mom’s Battle achieved non-profit status which will allow the group to take their mission to the next level.

Divorcing a Narcissist: Tina Swithin’s books are available online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Impacted by a Narcissist: A Man’s Perspective

Impacted by a Narcissist: A Man’s Perspective

cubztlrusaa_hceby an Anonymous Guest Blogger

I am a man whose life was impacted by a person with Cluster B personality disorder. In this blog post I will refer to that person as a narcissist because that was the first term that let me understand his manipulativeness, deceit, and lack of empathy.

My cousin, “Monster” sexually molested me. I figured that I would just rip off that particular band-aid rather than hem and haw over it because it is not an easy thing for me to admit. This bit of personal information has been reserved only for those who are close to me. That list is a small one as I am very guarded when it comes to my emotions and feelings. At a certain age most boys are taught to be strong. They are taught that expressing emotions and feelings is something girls do. Those are not lessons you want to learn when you are naturally sensitive. The amount of pressure I felt growing up as somebody who naturally shares their emotions or feelings to all-of-a-sudden being taught to suppress them because it was the “right” thing to do was indescribable. This internal conflict led me to become very guarded with my emotions and who I let see them. It is something that has made life more difficult than it should be but it is also something that has helped me out sometimes too.

Monster is eight years older than I am. Adulation would be an accurate way of describing how I felt about him growing up. My brother and I used to get so excited when we would go see him and his sister. Of the four of us Monster was the oldest and I was the youngest. The rest of us all looked up to Monster. He was the funniest. He was the coolest. He would make us feel special just by hanging out with us. We wanted his attention and time. We would do anything he wanted. At my young age, I had no way of knowing he was a Cluster B. None of us did. Hell, most adults wouldn’t know either. I used to wonder if his parents knew or not but it turns out his father is one too. The term Narcissist is well-known but the reality of what it really means remains elusive for most. Monster is a narcissist, and I got to see narcissism up close and personal for more than 35 years of my life.

During those 35 years I always experienced abuse from Monster whether past sexual abuse or contemporary emotional abuse. I also witnessed lying, cheating, stealing, and the manipulation of others. I also unfortunately watched history repeat itself with Monster’s nephews. But eventually the scars that formed from all that I experienced and all that I witnessed hardened and turned into something else; knowledge. It is that knowledge that I hope to impart onto others. We can only heal when we can label our history – our abuse. Monsters need to have labels and names.

As I stated earlier, most adults do not know what narcissism is. They know the term but not the beast, and mark my words it is a beast. Most adults hear the word narcissist and they think it is merely a person who is full of themselves, a parody to laugh about but no one to fear. My God, if only that were true! Chances are if you are reading this you were in a close relationship with a narcissist and are just now trying to pick up the pieces. I have good news for you, you might not be there yet but at some point, after much reflection, you will be able to pick out Cluster B’s in your everyday life. Once you obtain that superpower, life becomes much easier because will not let their toxicity into your life and you will keep them at arm’s length where they belong. Unfortunately, with the good news I also have some bad news. As I said earlier, most people think a narcissist is just somebody who is full of themselves and because of that they will never truly understand what you went through or continue to go through if you have divorced a Cluster B who you had a child or children with. You can tell family or friends all of the awful stories but they will never truly understand unless they have been in some form of close relationship with one and made it out the other side. Think about your stories. They’re pretty unbelievable, aren’t they? How could somebody be like that? Before you met this beast you would have thought the same thing if somebody told you a story like the ones that you tell now. Thus, people often think you are a major part of the problem. Believe me I was not part of the problem, unless you consider a child molested by a Monster the problem.

You’ll tell your stories to others and they will try to give you advice on how to deal with the situation. But the problem with their advice is that their advice is rooted with the belief that the person you are dealing with is logical and that their logical solution will work on somebody who is anything but logical. Another belief of theirs will be that you can change them, that they can change, or you can just ignore (Grey Rock is great but some things like children being harmed cannot be ignored). Listening to such erroneous advice from people who love you can make your recovery from this very difficult.  Something like the loss of a loved one or being physically abused is something people can wrap their head around. Narcissism and the mental and emotional abuse that happens in its destructive wake are difficult for the uninformed to wrap their minds around.

You need to find support from people that do understand Cluster B’s whether it is from a page like this or a support group. Here is why it is paramount that you do have that support system in your life; if you rely solely on those who cannot wrap their head around what you went through you will start doubting the validity of your feelings. You will start to think that if they can’t see it then maybe you are overreacting. Those feelings of doubt are what the narcissist used to control, gaslight, and emotionally abuse you (and the children). It is hard to reach this point of awareness about Cluster Bs but until you do, Monsters will continue to control and emotionally abuse you. If you want to put the pieces back together and stand strongly on your own again you will need to find a support system that understands what you went through and will continue to endure as long as a Cluster B is in your life. You need a support system who will share stories that are all too familiar but validate your feelings rather than cast shadows of doubt on them.

Please do this for yourself and put yourself and your children on the path to recovery.

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One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children. Please consider a donation to help with our efforts.

History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2011, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother (Tina Swithin) navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth with over 100-chapters in five different countries. In 2014, One Mom’s Battle achieved non-profit status which will allow the group to take their mission to the next level.

One Mom’s Battle: Five Year Anniversary

One Mom’s Battle: Five Year Anniversary

Book Cover Photoby Tina Swithin

This past week, I received a Facebook notification reminding me that One Mom’s Battle (OMB) was five years old. I had to really let that one sink in. On one hand, it seems like just yesterday that I leaned over to Glenn and said, “Pssst….I think I’m going to start a blog…” On the other hand, it feels like it has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

  • Five years ago, I was placing my daughters in a car for a visitation with their biological father and praying that they returned safely to me at the end of the weekend. They are now safe and we have peace.
  • Five years ago, I was convinced that my daughters would end up “broken” by the battle they were thrust into. Today, they are thriving and “broken” is not even in my vocabulary while describing my daughters. They are filled with empathy and they are mini leaders and warriors. I am so proud of the human beings they have become.
  • Five years ago, I went from feeling so alone to (now) feeling supported beyond my wildest dreams.
  • Five years ago, I clung to my best friends, ‘hope’ and ‘faith,’ and often prayed that they would never abandon me. Through the ups and the downs, they never left my side and our friendship is stronger than ever.
  • Five years ago, the light bulbs in my head were switched to ‘bright’ and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt the reality of who I was up against in court. I stopped believing that he would change and I accepted reality. I educated myself and I became empowered.

Two years ago, I turned OMB into a non-profit organization and last year, we became a 501(c)3 non-profit with hopes and dreams of educating Family Court professionals on Cluster B personality disorders. We kicked off our first fundraiser: mailing educational packets to Family Court professionals who are tasked with deciding what is best for our children –  attorneys, judges, GAL’s, psychologists, mediators and evaluators. This program is still alive and well but there is so much more that needs to be done.

I have spent the past few months doing a lot of soul searching – sometimes, having the rug pulled out from under you forces you to take inventory of your life and allows you to re-focus. Part of that contemplation involves my role at OMB. I intended to start a blog but I never intended for it to become a worldwide movement and a lifeline for so many. I intended to share my story but I never intended to become a part of your story. I love the quote, “We plan, God laughs.” I planned to write a blog and He had bigger plans…for that, I am grateful.

With that said, I have made the decision to step down from my role as President of One Mom’s Battle at the end of this year. Over the next few months, I will be passing the torch to an individual who is much more qualified to take OMB to the next level. The reality is, I never intended for my life to go in this direction but I believe that I have created a stable foundation with the help of an amazing team. I will always be a volunteer at OMB – always. It was my mission and I am so proud of everything we’ve accomplished over the past five years – I believe that a good leader knows when to step down and for me, that time is here. Arriving at this decision was painstaking but now, I feel at peace and I know it is the right decision for my family and for OMB. Stay tuned in the coming months as we vote in the new board for the 2017/2018 terms.

What’s next for me? I am going to continue to focus on my family and my coaching business. I may even have a few more books up my sleeve. My daughters are approaching 10 and 12-years old and I know my window of time with them is going to fly by – I want to cherish every moment I have before they are completely consumed with sports, academics, friends and all that goes along with the teenage years!

Happy Anniversary to One Mom’s Battle — I look forward to seeing what the next five years will hold!

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Divorcing a Narcissist: Tina Swithin’s books are available online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children. Please consider a donation to help with our efforts.

History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2011, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother (Tina Swithin) navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth with over 100-chapters in five different countries. In 2014, One Mom’s Battle achieved non-profit status which will allow the group to take their mission to the next level.

Tina Swithin offers annual retreats, coaching services and more at www.tinaswithin.com 

Divorcing a Narcissist: Light versus Darkness

Divorcing a Narcissist: Light versus Darkness

 

miss-swithinby Tina Swithin

So much has happened in recent weeks — if you have been following along, you are aware that I received a 4-page cease and desist letter from my ex-in-laws. They are demanding that I #StopTellingTheTruth and retract statements that I’ve made. The truth is my defense and I will not be cowering in this situation. Thanks to the overwhelming support that I received from many of you as well as those in my community, I was able to retain The Bloom Firm which was founded by the amazing Lisa Bloom, daughter of Gloria Allred. After self-representing for five years, working with one of the best law firms in the country has been surreal and a dream come true. They understand the importance of my mission and they have already sent a firm message to opposing counsel.

I have no idea what the next stages will hold but there are fundraisers in progress to assist me if I need to take this to the next level and if not, I will be donating every penny raised to One Mom’s Battle — nothing would make me happier than to be able to turn this around and give it all back!

Last but not least: Yesterday was a big day for my family and I am happy to share our news. When the news about my ex-brother-in-law first broke, I filed for a name change hearing for my daughters. Being that we live in a very small community, I do not want them connected to this family. Our hearing was held yesterday and…it was approved! My daughters have been using my name (Swithin) in school unofficially for the past few years but now it is legal and official. I am pleased to introduce you to Miss Swithin and Miss Swithin — we went out to dinner to celebrate last night and we are all thrilled to begin this new chapter.

While this battle feels never ending, I have come to realize how important it is to absorb each and every positive moment and turn of events — as dark as the past few months have felt, I am once again reminded of the light. Darkness cannot exist where light is present.

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Divorcing a Narcissist: Tina Swithin’s books are available online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children. Please consider a donation to help with our efforts.

History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2011, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother (Tina Swithin) navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth with over 100-chapters in five different countries. In 2014, One Mom’s Battle achieved non-profit status which will allow the group to take their mission to the next level.

Tina Swithin offers annual retreats, coaching services and more at www.tinaswithin.com