Excerpted from Splitting America: How “Splitting” Generates Hatred

By Bill Eddy and Don Saposnek

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.

About Bill Eddy William A. (“Bill”) Eddy, L.C.S.W., J.D. is a family law attorney, therapist and mediator, with over thirty years’ experience working with children and families.  He is the Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, California.  He is also the President of the High Conflict Institute, which provides speakers, trainers and consultants on the subject of managing high-conflict people in legal disputes, workplace disputes, healthcare and education.  He has taught Negotiation and Mediation at the University of San Diego School of Law and he teaches Psychology of Conflict at the Strauss Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law.  He is the author of several books, including:Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality DisorderBIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media MeltdownsIt’s All Your Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for EverythingFor more information about Bill Eddy, please visit: www.HighConflictInstitute.com

About Don Saposnek Donald T. Saposnek, Ph.D. is a clinical-child psychologist, child custody mediator and family therapist in private practice for over 40 years, and is a national and international trainer of mediation and child development.  For the past 35 years, he has been teaching on the psychology faculty at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and is Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University School of Law’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution.  He is the author of the classic book, Mediating Child Custody Disputes and has published extensively in the professional literature on child custody and child psychology.  He serves on the editorial boards of the Family Court Review and Conflict Resolution Quarterly journals and is the editor of the international Academy of Professional Family Mediators’ The Professional Family Mediator.  As director of Family Mediation Service of Santa Cruz, he managed the family court services for 17 years and has mediated nearly 5,000 child custody disputes in both the public and private sectors since 1977. For more information about Don Saposnek, please visit: www.mediate.com/dsaposnek