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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 6/17/18

The Psychology of Splitting and Traumatizing Families

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Message Diane Perlman

Mental health professionals are gravely concerned about the known effects of the cruel and inhumane policy of tearing children away from their parents who have made extraordinary sacrifices to protect them. We are horrified as we helplessly witness our government inflicting psychological damage upon vulnerable people. Forced separations are a form of child abuse, psychological torture, reckless endangerment, reckless indifference, cruel and unusual punishment, and a crime against humanity. This catastrophic policy, doing great harm and no good, qualifies as "political malpractice."

There is a consensus among therapists, researchers, academics, practitioners, and expert witnesses who study and treat individuals of all ages, families, groups and organizations, across ethnicities and cultures about the savagery of these mindless, punitive policies. We have worked with and studied adults who have suffered throughout life from harm done by early childhood separations and trauma. These unwise policies are creating a crisis in public health and social justice.

We are shocked by Chief of Staff John Kelly's callous response to NPR's John Burnett who asked whether it is "cruel and heartless to take a mother away from her children." Kelly said, "The children will be taken care of -- put into foster care or whatever. But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long." And we are appalled by Attorney General Jeff Sessions suggestion that God ordains them to follow these diabolical policies of splitting families.

These comments show a profound lack of empathy, psychological ignorance, an impaired feeling function, and denial of the basic humanity of others. This is akin to antisocial behavior and lacking in remorse. These pathogenic policies of using people as political pawns to deter others are directed by mean-spirited officials who lack "Emotional Intelligence" (Daniel Goleman)/. These policies are even counterproductive.

Psychological impacts include the following:

* Erosion of Basic Trust. According to psychologist Erik Erikson, a sense of basic trust, the sense that the world is predictable and trustworthy, is the most important foundational element in a person's development. These separations undermine parents' ability to fulfill their most important function, essential for healthy development.

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Visiting Scholar Institute of Conflict Analysis and Resolution George Mason University

Diane Perlman is a clinical and political psychologist, devoted to applying knowledge from psychology, conflict studies and social sciences to designing strategies and policies to reverse nuclear proliferation, to drastically reduce (more...)

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