High Level Brainwashers

There are degradations of parental alienation. The most severe type is perpetrated by High Level Brainwashers (HLBs).

These parents are ruthless in their efforts to eliminate their ex from the child’s life. They spend decades spinning tales of woe of what the ex did, labeling the ex every derogatory name imaginable, and doing everything possible to deny an ex physical access to “their” child.

Below is a list of the dominant characteristics and behaviors of HLBs:

  • They dwell on the sins of the past. They simply cannot forgive any past grievances and ‘move on.’
  • They are revenge-minded. They will commonly say things like, “I don’t get mad, I get even,” or “You’ll pay for this.” They have anger and aggression issues
  • They are deeply unhappy people. Overall happy and positive people don’t dwell on negatives or allow past wrongs to weigh them down
  • They have one or more psychological disorders. Bipolar, Munchausen by Proxy, or anxiety disorders
  • They are frequently on medications like antidepressants to stabilize their negative moods
  • They were abused or neglected as as children. The roots of an HLB’s bulldozing ways goes back to a dysfunctional childhood
  • They are extremely selfish people. They are bad listeners, first and foremost. They are capable of completely disregarding the welfare of the child if it suits their own needs
  • They view child as a possession. Ownership of and control of the child. They will micromanage the child’s life in the extreme
  • They abuse the child on other levels. HLBs frequently physically and/or sexually abuse children as well. In short, they have no boundaries.

There is one final trait of the truly worst HLBs, and that’s the narcissistic parent. I didn’t include it in the list because only a sliver of the high level brainwashers are narcissistic. And these parents are the absolute worst abusers, and are true evil-doers at their core. They all lack a conscience. Read this article on the narcissistic parent.

HLBs are professionals at wrecking parent-child relationships. They are masters at turning their perceived victimhood into manipulative lies intent on destroying their own child’s love for the other parent. This mental child abuse that causes lasting scars, even when the child does one day realize the fraud and lies perpetrated onto them. 


About John

John Thomas Steinbeck is a parental alienation consultant. He and his son's relationship was under attack in a deplorable campaign of parental alienation. In this blog, John shares his insights, techniques, and tools in combating emotional child abuse. He did it-- today his son's love has been restored-- and you can too!
  • Sarah

    I found your site when doing a google search on brainwashing of children. I was alarmed to read this article. I am in a situation where my oldest has been spoken to since she was 9 about being able to choose who to live with at age 13. Her father, a diagnosed bipolar patient with a history of drug abuse, domestic violence, and multiple relationships has filed for a change in physical custody. At age 13 our daughter now believes she wants to live her Dad. while I do try to understand her, she does not understand why I am resisting. Recently, this year her father was convicted of yet another domestic violence and allowing a female to drive our daughter while intoxicated. Both he and the female were arrested and no one told me, not even our daughter. He has kept is address a secret from me and during Christmas I didn’t know where she was and he denied me the right to know several times. He claims all his troubles are from his ex-wife, that she is out to ruin his life. However, just two weeks ago he assaulted his new girlfriend and a neighborhood police officer found her in the front lawn. He asked her press charges and she refused. That same day our daughter called an attorney and stated she wanted to move in with her Dad permanently. I am so lost. Her father has told her that I took her away from him when she was 2, when he actually went to prison and I moved on with my husband of now 11 years. We moved out of state when we married while her father was in prison. Everything I have ever had to do as a Mom is demonized to our child and now our child believes all her fathers lies. I bent over backwards for them to have a relationship rather than taking full custody when he went to prison. I refrained from telling her why her father went away and left it up to him to tell her. Will this type of alienation be hard to prove?

  • Amy

    I NEED to learn how to unbrainwash my son! I read the list, so many things are word for word, including telling my son “I need to change my last name” to my son repeating “I’m not comfortable” daily! My x is a powerful attorney who has now kept my son from me for 27 days. Monday if he isn’t off the bus back at my home I’m going to the DA’s office. They have convinced my son I am drugging him, I am a drug addict, I don’t like him and I don’t love him. He made accusations against me 27 days ago I was physically abusing him. I was found NOT GUILTY. Case worker recommended he go into counseling, not me. All our other children said my son was lying. Once I heard they were going to accuse me of being a drug addict I volunteered to take a drug test, which I passed! I have only spoken to my son once in 27 days, he says he hates me, I make him uncomfortable and he is choosing to live with his Dad. My x has also changed around his schedule so I have only seen him once and he acted like he was afraid of me!! It really, really, really hurts, but I am patient and I will get my son home. When he comes home I have a lot of work to do!! My x was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and his new wife is a volatile Bipolar. They exhaust me. Btw, I’m the custodial parent! My x ignores rules. If I take him to court it will last a lifetime…

  • John Oral

    Some people deserve not to see their child or children Mr. Apte and I agree with you 100 percent. BUT NOT ME!!!! Look at the other side making these allegations and their motivation to make these allegations your honor. Give me back my only child. I promise you that is the right decision and I promise you that you will be appalled at the other side for taking my son away from me for this long. This story will go public I assure you that your honor because the system doesn’t work, it is flawed and it takes an innocent father away from his child. Anyone can get an injunction against anyone these days. The first judge made a huge mistake by taking my son away from me, please do not do the same here. My ex’s attorney knowingly lied to the court to get what he wants and this is being exposed right now as we speak with the Florida Bar. Trust me when I tell you I am all in, I AM ALL IN. I want justice and I want the truth to come out ASAP. THe more you wait and extend this injunction the more unjust this becomes. . You can take my life for all I care your honor , just as long as my son knows the truth.

  • I just found your site and every word I have read about the narcissistic parent and brainwashing is and has been happening to me and my children for the past 5 years. I am a ncm, and lost my children to the lies and twisting of truths by my narcissistic ex. My kids are 14 and 12. You can read my blog on divorcedmoms.com, titled Bella’s Chronicles. I tried for so long to convince the parent coordinator we were court ordered to attend that my ex was brainwashing the kids. He would sit there and laugh and the PC, a very well respected family counselor in our area, refused to believe me. I can’t believe I have finally found a site supporting how I have always felt. Thank you.

  • jamie stewart

    Rite now I feel guted I red all this stuff last nite and would realy lik to no how long and how manny peopl no about this viris now I now its been around for the generzation before my ex do the qld child protection no about this after reading this several times last nite at firs I could not believe what I was seeing Started fealing a bit relief then reality mitme hard how can a person a father be ignored shunted labeld looked down uponlike a low life when this is spelt out to them not by the father but by the mother and her mother I have no voice I am norhing I dont care about that my kids wont ever want to no me I can live with that but it seems to be that the qld police child protection and the So CALLED LEAGAL SYSTEM ARE ABUS ING MY CHILDREN JUST AS MUCB AS THERE MUM AND NAN (THE INSTRUCTOR) LAST NITE I READ OUT SOMTHING IT WAS herS AND her mOTHERs LIFE AND SOON TO BE MY DAUGHTERS LIFE its not just herand her mom twisting my kids heads and alianating there father they have the full cooperation fromthe law I asked all the questions I asked for them to be seen by a psychologist and they were but not about mum and nan they were asking questions bout dad I have been a alian for 14 years have seen my kids bugger all been told stuff that I have trouble dealing with I have more or less bee in shock for20 years I dont want no one to tell me there concernd for my kids I want them to do somthing about it get them out of the governments unjust cruel system that they have created if this virus is child abuse and there all the symptoms they would have nowen this12 yrars ago why didnt the army pshycs pick it up wen she joined the army I fell in love with twin sisters but they were one person her mother is the contrller I could get into depth but it makes me sick quiet a lot of people no all about them I havent seen the kids for over 4 years its hard nowing that youre daughter wants to see you allso hard when you do get to tslk to her bit its only so you can say next month then mum changes her mind I dont feel sad for me its for them I now wat there in for inver thought a person could do the things they hav done

    ringing my mum my nan aunties some of who she has never met me me gets a bite then I get andOther dvo ask me anny thing I dont care what peoples thoughts are on me im her fucking punching bag have been for 20 I told her I was going to punch her in the nose I told her if any one hurts my kids and thretend to kill her mother I dont no what to do I dont no how old she was when her mum started on her and her sister kids are in trouble can some one help

    t all the sings are there unavoidable she needs help and her mother needs a bullet plese investigate this I now she can be a good mum and im well aware now that I was probly the only one that diddnt now her but I dont want my dauter to live a life like that and this is over 10 years now I live on the other side of the contry why she still doing this shes ringig and txting stop hurtin her kids does that mean I have to dowhat she dont let me talk to them and she wont let me see them is her saying I need a psychiatrc evaluation a cry for help she wannts me back I could see the kids every day then starts like that she drinks with her ainty depressents she has to kids to some one else 2 years ago she told me she wanted to run away with son and daughter she diddnt want his kids my kids have seen a lot shes had lots of different blokes junkies her mother followed us around from state to state even lived with us on numerous occasions and allways had male friends my age with her when I was on the way to work and getting home look cant go into it but she had 2 kids to her dads mate I cant say stuff iv been told but plese get my kids out of there get her help iv noticed over the last few years shes getting more wond up and thats becouse shes angry with her self mabe she cant block her concience out or just stuck in the middle why I have no voice no rights just like all the other fathers dont my kids have rites g I found out she wanted to have 3 kids with me then play yo yo becouse its worth more money plese comunicate with me I was listening to every one just wait a few more years and cheaking up on kids through friends and her cousin but when the phone calls start somthing is going on I have a nother dvo im not contesting it been there before you walk in judge tells you what you done then tells you what ur not allowed to do the situation is getting worse dosent matter what I do shes got it in her hed that I need to b evaluated there is no such order if I ignore her calls she starts ringing reatives she hasent seen for 20 years before kids were born like my 87 yo gran they dont tell me for a while when they do I ring her tell her to stop and it escalates she has even rang employers her mum has walked in and seen one of my bosses he told her to leve what I read has scared me iv tryed a lot of Avenue s but Seems like everyone thinks im the problem or its not that bad I dont understand the law I feel like a alian last time I talked to my daughter she asked me if I bashed mum and left her to die in the gutter for 3 days normaly its about stuff thatsomeone else has donethe bloke she had the kids to kicked her in the guts while she was brest feeding his babbyshe told me thisyears ago then denied it

  • Susan

    I can relate to finally find help on a forum that acknowledges & validates your observations & feelings! Congratulations! I have been trying (to no avail) to get someone’s attention for help in what (through my observations & phone calls!) is causing a decline in cognitive skills, declining self esteem & self imposed (or symbliminol demands from (Narcisstoc?) mom extremely abusivevia-degradation, voice, gestures, body language repeatedly in the year I’ve known him! Initially, he tried convincing me of how sister steals his money but now that I saw tactic & believe him, he’s in denial! The (so called!) mom pupeteers family into causing his life chaotic through confusion, stealing, forcing him to b the “Cinderella” in family keeping him financially dependent for everything to survive of them! Until I met him, it seems as though iv been his only sense of enlightenment in areas of family dynamics & that love feels good not hurtful! I’m a retired teacher, seeking my doctorate in psych & attribute my educational pursuit directly to my research to help him! Iv given him dozens of analogies & fairy tales tales whose themes are relative to children in danger & their ultimate escape! I’m at the point where upon my last encounters with ‘mom’, I had to assertively (but gently!) ask her to please STOP! I videod the last few seconds which doesn’t relay the severity nor his ultimate posture of glazed fear look in his eyes, fetal position (@times & his obeying her by not talking

  • Susan

    I wanted to add that I also am an adult survivor of a verbally abusive mom but not to an extreme degree in that she did encourage me in healthy relationships outside the home- thru communicating with me about self esteem & character traits ie- honesty, virtues of keeping your word & self respect…! But, I came to understand that she used mostly of alienation tactics (against my dad!) thru brainwashing me negatively regarding my estranged dad throughout my life! Every picture of him was carefully ‘cut’ out of our family!? I really (not until now?!) thought of it as abuse. I am coming to many revaluations in self introspection happily! That’s why I’m pleading for some response as to suggestions for my friend to find help & escape his torturous ultimate slow spiritual & death!

  • Antonia Calderon

    How did you get the people in authority to recognize your concerns about how the children were being treated? Two of my children divorced after ten years or more into their marriage. Both had two children of their relationship and of different genders. Again the ex’s talked bad about their other parent to their children although it was all lies. One a woman was an escort services and prostitute. The other did a scheme and stoled a considerable amount of money. Married his secretary who was his mistress after several affairs with other women. In both cases they told the children that the other parent was bad, which are my kids.
    The woman is now into drugs and my granddaughters 16 and 18 still have a relationship with her. My son has them in his home because the mother is homeless.

    The other children are ten and six , they come home after a weekend with the father and stepmother angry. Accusing my daughter of loosing their two million dollar home. Because the father told them it was my daughter fault. The truth is that after stealing and bankrupting his company, he is on the hide out from the bankruptcy court and creditors. For the money he stole. Aside from over ten LLC properties all over the U.S. including New Hampshire and an account off shores. He wants to stop child support for the children to my daughter. He pays private school to his other child with his new wife, but refuses to let the kids go to private school even when my daughter has accepted to pay for it.

    After seven years of costly litigation to my daughter not him he stole hundreds of millions. The judges still believe his is an innocent party. We even know but cannot prove that he has paid off judges and attorneys.

    So how can you fight against this ?

  • Guest

    Do we wait another 15 years for this to right itself.

  • julia

    You jst descrbed my exdaughter-in-law to a tee. Is there anything legally myson can do? His son is six years old. The poor kid needs counseling already. She is a master munipulator?

  • mykidsmom

    Janice said it best in her post .

    I used that same statement in my 2012 FCS hearing when Dad was trying to take the kids from me or 87% custody . HE LOST.

    Below is My story in a nutshell and some tidbits of wisdom from some wonderful and trusting counselors I have worked with these past 3 years.

    I have lost our 14 year old son to his “Disney land- Narcissistic ( Attorney)” father. yep… I hit the mother load with this one .:)

    The lists that both John and Dr Phil wrote are spot on. The challenge is – – – you need money.. lots of it – to fight this battle of PAS. Then, you need to put your kids thru custodial evaluations, that I have read, can be even more detrimental to our child’s sweet spirit.

    Our kids counselor stated the same things that John has mentioned in earlier posts… That more than ever, our children are the victims here. We as the “other, healthy” parent must stay strong, set loving boundaries, firm & consistent rules, and as one of my besties’ says’ Keep your side of the street clean”.

    I pray for our son ( our kids & their father every day). Our daughter, who is younger- but is entering the teen years as well, seems to ” get it” which gives all of us hope.



    Thanks for posting and for opening our eyes to this horrific form of abuse.

    Friends, community, family see the truth- it’s the courts that do not. They are over booked – so we are over looked.

    I hope to reach out to you John, as I am wanting to go back to FCS and would cherish your input.

    In closing,,, I want to say that I have learned so much thru this divorce 101 process. I am so much stronger now- my friends and family have told me ” welcome back- we missed YOU”.. and I AM a better mother now.

    The process is difficult but the prize at the end… emotionally healthy & viable children is worth the effort. Keep them at the forefront of all of your thoughts and decisions. Stay consistent and fair. LAUGH. Tell them you love them. Hug. let them be part of the decision making process, but it is important that they know – you, as the adult, have the final decision. ( this is tough as the kids father – just as mentioned above- makes him feel “like he ( our son) is in control “, giving him power to make big decisions yet he is still a kid.). It is a fight EVERY DAY. )

    but to continue….

    Laugh. have fun. hug. tell them you love them. Stick to your boundaries. Be accountable. Hold them accountable. Laugh some more. keep supporting your kids. Love/ hug. ask them open ended questions- getting them to open up and talk. Show them they can trust you. TRUST is sooooo important. more hugs. more love. more laughter.


    Be the Mom/Dad that they know and love- without prejudice and without having to work at it.

    They are getting interrogated by the other parent. They are being mentally abused. Help teach them life lessons to deal with conflict and learn how to effectively communicate.

    I hope to one day say… our son pushed thru and made it to the other side as unscathed as possible. but these too are life lessons that can help our kids. We just want to channel it in a healthy way. WE know in the end it will be tough for him.. but he did it and he is worth it.

    Thanks for hearing me out. Time to get on with being a Mom. Happy Sunday!



  • Dave from nj

    My wife has my children turned into emotionless girls they were openly terrified of her, now they refuse to see me or talk to me I have tried to get family court to investigate but they refuse to. I am terrified of what she can do. I left my home over 2 years ago after realizing she was poisoning me it took me to lose 40 lbs. and my health to realize she has antisocial disorder and was also emotionally abusing our girls someone please help me to help them. I am afraid they will never be the same loving children they were when I was in there lives

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  • Great advice! With your noble behavior, I have no doubt your son will make it through to the other side. He won’t be unscathed (sadly mental abuse has long-term effects), but his love for you will be there. Completely.

  • How old is your son?

  • Eelia

    Thanks for the post I was starting to feel really alone in all of this brainwashing…..I have been battling this for years and now my it’s even worse. When she visits me she is distant she never engages in conversion and I try! She seems to not care whether she comes over and it feels like she doesn’t want to. Sometimes I think oh its all in your head and I am just feeling inadequate because I lost my job due to disability and I am unable to do things with her like we used to…like getting our nails done…..this summer her father only allowed her here for two weeks and I asked for them to be consecutive but he pulled the its my birthday and picked her up for the weekend in-between my visit. Well he didn’t even spend time with her..the step-mom took to get her nails done etc so when she came back it was all show and tell. It felt like she was rubbing it in my face but I just so as I always do smile through and not show my pain. I just asked her what is the best way I can contact you via email or something she said no I never check it and so leaving messages on the house phone is my only option and I believe the messages are deleted because I never get any call backs. Her father has primary custody he actually tried to get sole custody and I have been fighting ever since to have a relationship with my daughter. I usually do not promise my kids anything because that means I have to follow through….well I moved to the state they live in to be a more active part of her live but it almost feels worst now. I am supposed to have access and be included in all her medical stuff counseling etc but I have been cut out totally my only options is to go to court again. I just am tired of having to relive a past mistake over and over again because I know what he will do he is everything you described here. I never say or do anything negative towards him or her step mom because I know how damaging that can be. I want to make these next couple of years better but I was diagnosed with Narcolepsy with Cataplexy I am no longer able to drive legally, and have lost my career and I feel like I have no options. What can I do?

  • While I like the term, the idea of exposing the problem as it is (without actually naming it here) a term used in Texas for parental alienators is “Persuasive blamers”

    Once you can identify the alienating parent as a persuasive blamer, the outlook you take on of that individual begins to truly expose the patterns of behavior as they are outlined above, as well as the patterns of behavior that typically fall in-line with everything else that is seen in PAS literature.

    A few additional models to use for dealing with an otherwise “hostile-aggressive” parent, can be found on http://hostile-aggressive-parenting.com/

    You all are great parents, undoubtedly.
    Keep your chins up, and know that this too shall pass.