Excerpted from Splitting America: How “Splitting” Generates Hatred

© 2012 By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. and Don Saposnek, Ph.D

In high-conflict divorce, children often grow to hate one of their parents – even a parent they were very close to and loved just a year or two earlier. It’s an intense hatred and disdain that is deeply emotional. They can think of nothing good about that parent (the “rejected” parent), and they can think of nothing bad about their favored parent. It’s an example of how high-conflict behavior creates splitting in the minds of bystanders – in this case, the children. How does this happen?

Many high-conflict divorces are driven by one or two parents with borderline or narcissistic personality disorder (Eddy & Kreger, 2011). One of the traits of this disorder is “splitting” people into those who are all-good and those who are all-bad, in their minds. Sometimes they even see themselves as all-good one day and all-bad the next. You might think that’s weird and decide to avoid such people. But you can’t – there are too many of them.

Splitting is unconscious and contagious – just like the effects of advertising. It gets past your radar and you come to believe it – unless you realize what is happening. The reason is that high-conflict emotions are highly contagious. If you’re in a high-conflict emotional environment, you will “catch” this splitting tendency and start to view people as all-good or all-bad, as well. Children are especially vulnerable to absorbing splitting, but adults do as well – especially in high-conflict divorce and, as we are now observing, in high-conflict politics. For example, in high-conflict divorce, other adult family members and friends come to despise one of the spouses and blame the divorce entirely on that person – and on his or her relatives and friends. And, as noted above, it’s even common for professionals involved in a high-conflict divorce case to develop an extreme disrespect and disdain for each other, as they choose sides and support only their clients.

Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, and mediator. He is the co-founder and Training Director of the High Conflict Institute, a training and consultation firm that trains professionals to deal with high conflict people and situations. He is the author of several books and methods for handling high conflict personalities and high conflict disputes with the most difficult people.