Friday, May 30, 2014

It is Never okay to spank, beat or Hit a Child

Interview given to Ms Noreen Taylor, The Times, London 1999

with some additions of 2004

Is it possible to have some details of your own childhood? For instance, were you smacked as a child? Could you describe your background, parents' professions, and their relationship with you? When and how did you find the freedom to criticize their parenting skills? And did you find the courage to sit across from them and discuss your childhood?

My parents were quite ordinary middle-class people. My father was an unsuccessful banker, my mother a housewife. She was very devoted to the task of child rearing and discipline, the way it was usual in the twenties of this century. I was born 18 months after their wedding, 4 years later my sister was born. Like so many parents at that time, they had not the slightest idea of a baby's needs, the needs for attachment, loving contact, touching, security, protection, respect, orientation. My mother had been emotionally extremely neglected in her infancy, so that her body had no recollection of what it means to be loved and cared for. As a result, her only one concern as a young mother was to make me obedient as soon as possible. And she perfectly succeeded in it. I became already "proper" at the age of 6 months, as she told me later. Today I know that such achievement is impossible without violence and systematic corporal punishment to the baby. Thanks to those methods used very early I got perfectly adapted to my parents' wishes and became the good girl they wanted me to be. This survival strategy demanded a huge price to pay for: the repression of my own feelings and needs. I was thus deprived of my emotional compass. Consequently, when I myself became a mother I couldn't understand my baby the way he needed to be understood.
When I became 55 years old I wrote The Drama of Being a Child where I described survival strategies similar to my own ones, and many people have written since that they found their own history in this publication. Thanks to these thousands of letters I came to recognize that I was not alone to undergo such a treatment, that it was more or less common and normal to our society and that most people seem completely unaware of its danger. I was amazed. I wanted to understand more about our educational system and, above all, about the reasons of our lack of sensitivity toward the suffering of children. Then I finished practicing in 1980 and devoted myself to the research on childhood and to writing. In For Your Own Good I described the cruelty of the so-called normal upbringing and - again - so many people wrote: how did it come that you knew my family and the way I have been treated? I didn't know their families but once your sensitivity is awakened you grasp connections that for many yet remain in darkness.
Both of my parents were already dead when I began to grasp what had happened in my past. Thus I couldn't share with them my newly gained knowledge. It was too late.


Is the increase in rape, and in sexual attacks on young women, connected with certain modes of discipline men may have suffered in their own childhood?

I think that the violent teenagers are demonstrating what happened to them emotionally when they were small. I have no doubt about that. It might not always be a harsh discipline but in most cases there is emotional neglect, lack of authentic communication, of warm, friendly contact. If this lack is also covered by what is called "spoiling" (buying a lot of expensive objects to replace love), the child is often unable to detect the neglect and stays bound to denial. Anyway, every child must deny the pain in order to survive. Only in adulthood is it possible to realize the truth. But the more the childhood history is repressed, the more its cruelty denied, the less these young people are able to feel, to confront the actual reasons of their distress, the stronger they feel urged to act destructively. They have not always conscious memories of what happened in their childhood, especially in infancy, but this knowledge is stored up in their body's cells and, amazingly enough, they threaten others exactly the same way as they were threatened on the beginning of their life. Unfortunately, the common, ever-present avoidance of the issue "childhood" doesn't make things easier. I discuss this problem in my book Paths of Life, 1999, and The Truth Will Set You Free, 2002.


Do you feel that society has become more compassionate and aware in the last ten years?

Today we know more about facts but we obviously still lack the compassion for a child that must silently tolerate being beaten, neglected and disrespected by people whom he/she loves. And most people don't see the consequences of such an event. They lack the empathy that I so much hoped to wake up in them when I gave interviews or wrote articles. In these interviews I have been often asked why I was talking so much about beatings. Are there no other ways of making a child suffer? Of course, there are. But almost everybody agrees already that we shouldn't maltreat a child while most people still claim that corporal punishment is OK, is not maltreatment when labelled as "educational disciplining". I think that only with a law forbidding corporal punishment to children, also to the own ones, can we overcome this dangerous error. The goal of this law should be not punishing parents but informing them that every beating is maltreatment, a physical and an emotional one. Even if this law will not change the parents' behaviour in one generation, it will certainly change the MENTALITY of people very soon. And this is the first step to important social changes.


When did you first link the physical discipline of children with destructive adult behaviour?
I started to understand these problems in my practice (1960 - 1980), thanks to my patients, then, 1980, when I wrote For Your Own Good. I found many confirmations for my hypothesis in the literature about upbringing. With the help of many examples from history and my practice I tried to demonstrate how our cruel upbringing causes the denial and the lack of sensitivity of the whole society.
Addition of 2004: The link between the specific maltreatments endured in childhood and the destructive adult behaviour is still denied by the media. They often report on both, but refuse to show the connection. This avoidance can be clearly observed in all reports about the torturers in Iraq. The actual causes of the perverse behaviour were never discussed.


The chief argument in favour of such discipline is usually based on the premise that it's the only way to teach naughty children to behave, especially those being cruel to others. Another could be that a tired mother, with a houseful of wilful children, has little alternative but to physically punish those who choose to ignore her verbal admonishments. Since reading your books I have asked various people how they feel about being smacked as children. Half believe it left no impression, while the other half believe smacking was appropriate to antisocial behaviour. What do you say about such opinions?

As the beaten children we once were we learned very early misleading messages (for instance that cruelty is normal and beneficial) which we have a hard time to unlearn. But many succeeded in doing it. Today there are already hundreds of articles and plenty of books written by experts about the dangerous consequences and uselessness of corporal punishments to children. However, most people act and continue to think as if this knowledge didn't exist at all or were not available. Why? I think that one of the reasons can be the fact that they had to learn not to feel their physical and psychic pain when they were beaten and they think that their children don't feel it either. I can often hear mothers saying they spank their babies without violence just to give them a lesson. Once I heard it from a very nice young mother who breastfeed her little boy and complained about his anxieties. I asked her if she never thought he made be waiting for the next smack. No, she never thought this could be possible. He is only 15 months, too small to "make such reflections". I asked her if she was beaten as a child. Yes, she said, all the times, by both parents. I asked her how she would feel if a friend told her that her husband hit her and that she is scared to stay with him. Would she understand her feeling? Of course, she said, I would tell her to leave. So why was she able to have empathy for the adult friend but not for the child? Because it is too small? I suppose rather that she never got empathy when she was suffering from being beaten and she thinks that this was the right way to treat a child. This is a very common attitude that could be changed. For instance newspaper could offer their readers a forum for discussions with parents about their problems with disciplining and also offer the new information about spanking.


Do you have children? How did you discipline them?

I have two adult children. I never hit them but I was sometimes careless and neglecting to my first child out of ignorance. Fortunately not so much as my parents had been to me. It is very painful to realize that but this realization can also be liberating from a self-deception. I think that the love for the own children can bear the truth and can even thrive on it while lies and denial seed cruelty for the next generation.


Could you tell me about your interpretative paintings and how you became inspired by this medium of communication?

I have never painted before 1973. When I then started to paint spontaneously spots, without any goal or project I discovered my old anxieties and the way I had experienced my childhood. Until then I was quite sure that my childhood was a good one. But my body, my hands, knew more than my mind. They showed me in my painting that I had survived a horror and that I had to dissociate this knowledge because nobody was there to understand that what had happened to me was pure cruelty (as it was so "normal") and to help me to integrate the memories. Now it was me who eventually understood.


You write about the "helping witness": is there any example you could give in order to help illustrate your findings?

I developed the concepts of helping and conscious witness when I was asked time and again why some people who were severely beaten in childhood didn't turn to become destructive while others, like Hitler, Stalin, Ceaucescu, Mao etc. did. Interestingly, in all this positive cases there was a person (a teacher, a nanny, a grandmother) who loved these children, or at least liked them, even if she or he was unable to protect them fully from the maltreatment. But in the lives of all dictators I analysed I could not find such a person whom I call a HELPING WITNESS. If a depressed adult have to retrieve his story he would need more than that, he would need a CONSCIOUS WITNESS, a person who is well informed about the situation of a maltreated child and does not minimize it.


In public, if you see parents hitting their children, do you ever confront them?

I try to talk to the parents, to explain, but not to blame them because they act out of ignorance and I don't want to put shame on them. But every time I try to inform them as kindly as I can. The reactions to my intervention differ from case to case; sometimes they are angry, sometimes puzzled, sometimes even grateful.


Most British people would, I guess, believe that smacking their children is their own business, their own God-given right, and would have grave misgivings about government, legislation intruding into an area as sacrosanct as the home. Such state behaviour would be perceived as close to totalitarian. What is your opinion?

Maybe, 20 years ago such voices could have been heard without opposition. But today we know too much about the lingering effects of violence against children to silently tolerate this lack of information. We should know that the whole society will pay the price for our blindness. A government of a civilized country can no longer ignore this knowledge. You can't claim the right to play with nuclear weapons on your territories, only because they belong to you. The society's interests go before your pleasure and your habits. The government must defend these interests. To call it thus "totalitarian" makes so little sense as to insult the fire brigade in a burning house. Look around: When children are small some parents reclaim the sacrosanct "right to them" like to a property. But as soon as they become violent or drug addicted and then emotionally inaccessible these parents are eager to grant their rights to society. The children are no longer "our" children, protected in the sacrosanct family, they become "social cases" and the anonymous taxis-payers will have to pay for the prisons and hospitals these once so eagerly disciplined teenagers will need. The new law must make people aware of a very serious danger we so often oversee because we have learnt so early to oversee it. In Norway and Sweden where this law has been adopted most people already know that beating children teaches them short term obedience but in the long run only violence and anxiety. Children become so as they are treated. The theory that we are born with good or bad genes may be a modern version of the old belief that the devil put his child in our cradle and that we must make it sociable and noble with our vice or birch. We are born with different talents, inclinations and temperaments but our urge to punish others has not a genetical imprint. It is the result of being punished very early and looking for scapegoats to the repressed rage. If it were not so we would need an answer to the question why so many children were born with bad genes 30 - 40 years before Hitler's Reich to make his plans possible. This question shows the limits of a genetical explanation of the Evil. Nobody is born evil, we produce destructive people by the way we are treating them in childhood.


Addition of 2004: In the whole discussion concerning the scandalous behaviour US-Soldiers displayed in Iraq nobody ever used the word sexual abuse though it was more than clear that the torturers used the same way of humiliating the victims as they themselves once had experienced as helpless children on the mercy of their perverse
Read more here

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Psychopaths Masters at Deceiving

These words by Alice Miller could not be truer: "...because he is, like every psychopath, not at all interested in understanding himself, only in controlling, misleading and manipulating others. Obviously, he was also successful in deceiving his lawyer when they talked who now believes, as an inexperienced layperson, that Fritzl belongs into a psychiatric clinic but not into jail. It would be very naïve and calamitous to follow this idea because it would mean to deliver Fritzl a giant stage where he could masterfully deceive the stuff and fellow patients and thus harm them."

AM: Thank you so much for your important letter. The short report of the Independent explains FULLY the behavior of Joseph Fritzl. In an eerily precise way, he has staged what happened to him as a child: His mother was his SOLE RULER, because his father was not there for balance. She has beaten him daily, she owned him completely so that he did not have helping witnesses where he could have noticed how badly off he was, the more so as she obviously provided conscientiously for his food. He was forced into total obedience and had to bear daily the constant violations through his mother, had to be grateful, too, for the provision of clothes and food, could maybe fulfill small wishes in secret and was proud of his slyness and inventive zest for lying and disguise. His life happened hidden in secret, like it does now in the power of the police force. In the same manner, he has organized his daughter’s situation in order to hold up the denial of the suffering of his childhood. His lawyer talks about his “good sides,” just as Fritzl would probably talk about the “good sides” of his mother that enslaved him as completely as he now has demonstrated it to the whole world. Fritzl has shown the world what can happen later to a child who was TOTALLY deprived of his freedom by his single mother “educating” him wih fists by herself, a child who has no witness, who has to be grateful to his, who may never contradict her and who for years impounds secretly wishes of revenge until he can satisfy them years later in a series of rapes of women without ever getting enough. Because revenge does not grant satisfaction and demands again and again new restagings. Even vacations in Thailand were necessary for this purpose. If one would ask Fritzl now, what his childhood was like, he would probably praise his mother and her care and not yet have realized that he grew up in a prison where his muscles, to be sure, were obviously well nourished, but where his brain was comfused and poisoned through the contempt of his dignity. I can hardly imagine that this single, power-hungry and brutal mother did NOT use her small son for her sexual wishes and thus only increased the confusion (what is love and what is meanness?) in his brain. In this way, perversions develop, which pose riddles for us if we don’t have the courage to take seriously the childhood histories.
The deduction of the crimes from the denied childhood-situation is in no way meant to alleviate Joseph Fritzl’s guilt and to invoke pity. As an adult, he is fully responsible for all his crimes and deserves the greatest punishments for committing them. His masterful skillfulness in deceiving and manipulating the police and other authorities as well as his extreme sadism show that he proceeded methodically. So he exhibits strong psychopathic traits. There are hardly any signs for a positive prognosis through effective psychotherapy by acknowledging the truth about his childhood because he is, like every psychopath, not at all interested in understanding himself, only in controlling, misleading and manipulating others. Obviously, he was also successful in deceiving his lawyer when they talked who now believes, as an inexperienced layperson, that Fritzl belongs into a psychiatric clinic but not into jail. It would be very naïve and calamitous to follow this idea because it would mean to deliver Fritzl a giant stage where he could masterfully deceive the stuff and fellow patients and thus harm them.
http://www.alice-miller.com/readersmail_en.php?lang=en&nid=1990&grp=0508

Saturday, May 17, 2014

In Most Cases Is a Lie

Dear J,
I have wanted to write you for the longest time, but I am so busy these days that I cannot believe it has been almost three months since you wrote me last. The honesty in your last email touched me deeply.

First of all I like to let you know that just because a therapist proclaims to have read Alice Miller’s books it does not mean this person has freed him/herself from his/her own emotional prison. In most cases is a lie. These words Alice Miller wrote to me come truer ever day: “I have learned over the years of my work on the Internet that there are readers who SEEM to understand SOME of what I have written, at least intellectually, but they are still so afraid of their very cruel parents and of their repressed FEELINGS of rage towards them that they are constantly looking for scapegoats. They thus live in continual confusion, pretending that they are healed and even offering help and empathy to others. But eventually they use other people unconsciously (even the ones who are quite friendly to them) as poisonous containers like their parents did to them, and if the offended people begin to defend themselves they can become very mean. I can only urge you to trust your feelings and to NOT offer your empathy and interest to everybody just because they say they read and understood everything I have written. In most of the cases it is a lie. To understand my books means to overcome the fear of one’s parents, to honestly feel the justified rage TOWARD THEM, and to no longer use others to get free from the accumulated rage."

I have recently had an experience with a person that is a therapist and it seems intellectually understands somewhat. She is very open about how much she suffered as a child at the hands of her own mother, but has not have freed herself from the  repressed rage of the child she once was and still suffers from depression and is consumed by guilt. She could not understand that my childhood and youth suffering was at the hands of my older sisters and teachers and that not everyone had a mean, mean mother like she did. Because she has not freed herself from her repressed rage is very uncomfortable with anger. She wrongly lives with the assumption that all parents are cruel. Just like Alice Miller try to clarify a critic of hers: “ the "Guardian" published a feature on my work, which is based on the assumption that in my opinion ALL parents are cruel. This shows an essential misunderstanding of my whole work because I never made such a misleading and wrong statement. I hope that the book will find many readers who are willing and thus able to understand what I actually have written and to appreciate its political consequences.”

I try to explain to her that my parents played the roles of grandparents and my older sisters played the roles of my parents in my life, I never lived in fear of my parents, but I was constantly very a afraid of my older sisters, she kept accusing me of saving my mother, projecting her own experiences into me and not able to see my own unique experience. Of course my parents not being able to care and protect me were the root of all, but my suffering was at the hands of my sisters and teaches and the child I once was hated them. Of course the child I once was also hated my parents for bringing me into the world when they were in no position to care and protect me, but most of my repressed hate was at my older sisters and teachers, because that’s who made me suffer the most as a child.  But she could not understand that and she just wanted to see what she wanted to see, blind by the repressed hate at her own mother and the guilt for having repeated the abusive circle with her own children, without realizing it, she unconsciously was trying to regress me to the wounded child I once was and transfer her own unresolved hate and guilt into me. She reenacted both of our childhood dramas by giving me the same treatment her mother gave her and my older sisters gave me when I was little.

Sadly this is what most therapists do, they cast themselves in the role of the parent and reenact everyone's childhood dramas. Endless keeping everyone stuck.


You wrote: “Hi Sylvie, thanks for your reply. I did not choose to leave my therapist, by the way, but she felt that continuing our sessions had become pointless, as I did not communicate on an emotional level any longer, in her view. This may be possible. I pleaded to continue the sessions, but I can understand my therapist, and I believe her when she says there is not much point to continue, given my behaviour. Possibly I (and MM) have psychopathic traits, indeed I think it is likely, judging my own behavior, lack of remorse and conscience in some instances in my life.”

By your words above looks like to me a reenactment of both of your childhood dramas. You pleading like a child would plead his mother or mother substitute not to leave her and the therapist rejecting you like her mother did to her when she was little. When your anger became too much for her to handle, she rejected you, probably just like her mother rejected her when she showed anger. Do you see how both of your childhood dramas are being reenacted here? The only thing your therapist changed in her life is that she is not any longer playing the role of the child, but is playing the role of the parent and you are still playing the role of the child.

Every day I am becoming more convinced that if we really want to free ourselves, we have to become our own enlightened witnesses, because if we keep looking and waiting for an enlightened witness, we might be looking and waiting forever and never find her and we will die in the emotional prisons we were born in. 

“I would also say it is possible MM has not left his emotional prison, maybe the reason is that he has never had the opportunity to confide in a truly enlightened witness. You mentioned that "our wounds need to be healed first in private with the assistance of a true enlightened witness." I agree, but it is very difficult sometimes.”

I know it’s very difficult to face and feel the repressed emotions of the child we once were in the context of our own childhood. These words by Alice Miller just came to mind: “AM: Thank you for your letter. It might seem very easy to give this advice (feel your repressed rage) but you know now how hard it is to eventually feel what you tried not to feel over 50 years. I am glad that you succeeded and feel liberated. The weight of denied feelings can be gigantic and very destructive..”


“I cannot really judge whether Alice Miller fully acknowledged her mistakes to MM. He says she did not, but maybe this is not true. I can only say that in my case, I was not able to forgive my mother for her terribly abusive behaviour in the past, as she refused to acknowledge that. I still stands between us even now. In fact I am able to feel the anger and the hatred more than ever before, but I agree it is like a prison, because these feelings do not seem to diminish with time. I literally feel like killing my mother much of the time now, because she destroyed much of my personality. Then again, I often feel guilty because I did not admit the truth to myself for so long. Nevertheless, life goes on, and one has to try to make the best of it.”

No we cannot judge, only the people involved know the real truth. But these words by Alice Miller in the book The Body Never Lies, page, 138, she express her sadness and pain of not having the right information when she was a young mother to avoid of passing her wounds into her oldest child: “As a child I had to learn to suppress my entirely natural responses to the injuries inflicted on me, responses like rage, anger, pain, and fear. Otherwise I would have been punished. Later, at school, I was proud of the skill I had developed in controlling and restraining these feelings. I considered this ability a virtue, and I also expected my first child to achieve the same kind of discipline. Only after I succeeded in freeing myself of this attitude was I able to understand the suffering of children who have been forbidden to respond to injuries in an appropriate way and to engage with their emotions in a benevolent environment, so that in later life they can take their bearing from the feelings they actually have, rather than fearing them.” 

Also in the preface Paths of Life, she continues to say: “As I've aged, I've grown more tolerant and patient; I find it easier to wait and let people take the time they need to follow my trains of thought. What helped me to become accommodating was the fact that in contrast to twenty years ago, I no longer feel alone in what I know. Since then both experts and lay people have been able to confirm my conclusions by their own experiences. I no longer have to prove anything. And yet I still feel a need to share with others things that came to me only late in life. The result does not claim to be literature, we are not dealing here with “art for art.” For my stories are actually based on a simple, conscious intentions to inform people and encourage them to think. For me, as for many women, it was very painful to realize that as a young mother I had missed so much, not only for my child but also for myself, simply because I did not know enough. It hurts to see how with more information many things could have turned out better and that much cannot be made good again. My stories arose from the wish to spare other people what I have suffered myself.

Also in the her interview given to Ms. Noreen Taylor. Alice Miller says: "I have two adult children. I never hit them but I was sometimes careless and neglecting to my first child out of ignorance. Fortunately not so much as my parents had been to me. It is very painful to realize that but this realization can also be liberating from a self-deception. I think that the love for the own children can bear the truth and can even thrive on it while lies and denial seed cruelty for the next generation."


I published this interview here on my blog under the tittle:
It is Never okay to spank, beat or Hit a Child

Your anger at your mother and MM’s anger at his mother is very understandable and healthy, thank goodness you can feel it. Your anger should diminish in time if you are no longer dependent on her or people symbolizing her (it seems the last therapist was symbolizing your mother). Once we become autonomous from our parents or parents substitutes or people in the present moment symbolizing them anger will dissolve in time just be patient.


“In general I have been impressed by those who articulated their childhood suffering at the hands of their (famous) parent(s), for instance Peter Fonda, Julian Lennon, the daugher of Marlene Dietrich, Mackenzie Phillips, daughter of John Phillips of the Mama's and the Papa's etc, because I recognized their stories of the 'other side' of otherwise very accomplished people, that the world did not know about before, and the largely hostile reactions that these children received when tey went public with their stories.”

Yes it is very sad when the public traumatizes all over again former victims, that’s why is so important to face and feel our own repression before going public, so we can see ourselves and others clear and understand where everyone comes from.  The reason the public becomes mean is because it reminds them of painful truths in their own lives that is too much for them to face and bear at the moment.

“But it may be true that Alice Miller had in fact acknowledged all her mistakes to her son, but that he failed to register this, so that his complaints against his mother are now destructive to her legacy, and to others who become very confused. Martin Miller, like me, has not fully left his childhood suffering behind him, it seems, and I regret it. Somehow it is very hard as an adult to reconnect to what happened, feel the pain and to put it into words. I still believe, however, that it is the only way to leave the sad and painful episodes behind one.
Best wishes, J “

I completely agree with everything you wrote above. Hopefully more people like me will find the courage to speak up and share their own experiences how Alice Miller’s books help them liberated themselves and her legacy will go on forever and help more people like it helped me.

Best wishes to you too,

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Getting in Touch with your Feelings

Hi L,

Thank you for writing. Congratulations on your work of translating Alice Miller’s books into Russian. And I am glad to hear you have made good friends that share your experiences. I have not been able to meet many people here in Arizona that are able to face and feel their own childhood injuries and I am in a pretty lonely place. You ask if I ever found the right therapist for myself, the answer sadly is no and I have stopped looking. I became my own enlightened witness with the help of Alice Miller’s books and website. You say that you have problems getting in touch with your feelings. Fortunately all of my life my feelings were easily triggered by present circumstances and before I read Alice Miller’s books I use to isolate myself from other people, because intuitively I knew other people were more repressed and did not understand, and they would make me feel worse by unconsciously transferring their own disowned repressed feelings into me and making me feel even more guilt for feeling that way and I would isolate myself from others to protect myself until I felt better and stronger to be around other people, but of course sometimes would affect my work, but since reading Alice’s books I no longer feel alone and isolated and I am able to understand my fears, anxieties and painful feelings when triggered by present circumstances and resolve them pretty quick and able take the proper action to take care of myself in the present moment without letting old fears and pain of the child I once was fogging my judgment and interfering with my work. I am sorry you have difficulty in getting in touch with the feelings of the child you once were. I have a niece-in-law in Portugal that too can understand it all intellectually, but is so terrified to feel the painful feelings of the child she once was that in the moment the fears of the child she once  was are triggered to the surface she runs by distracting herself with shopping, chasing men or whatever and when those things no longer work, like the defenseless little girl she once was, she goes to her parents the people that created her emotional prison and kept her captive, they take her to the crazy doctors of Portugal that instead of helping her face, feel and understand her fears and painful feelings give her medications causing her repression to go deeper and fortifying the walls of her emotional prison even more  and making true liberation completely impossible, it’s very sad because she has a beautiful 9 year old boy that, NOW, I hope he will be able to escape the parents’ emotional prison, because I am starting to lose hope for his mother. I am wondering if you had sexual abuse as a small girl from an adult member of your family that was supposed to be your protector, but instead exploited you to satisfy his own sexual needs, because I have notice women that have been sexually abused by a person that was supposed to be their protector have a harder time in getting in touch with the feelings of the child they once were. I know how intense the feelings of the child I once was were and I did not have sexual abuse from my protectors as a small girl, my abuse was mostly neglect and emotional, so I have no idea how much more intense and agonizing the repressed feelings of a person that has been sexual abused as small child might be like and how much harder might be to feel them alone without an enlightened witness being present to help them. I wish I could be present for my niece-in-law, but she is in Portugal and I am an ocean and a continent apart, but even if I was there would be no guarantee that she would be able to gather the courage to feel those intense agonizing feelings of the child she once was of being sexually abused by her own father the man that was supposed to be her protector.
Feel free to write me anytime, it might take me a little bit to answer, because now days I am busier than I ever been in my life, but you can be assure that eventually I will answer you.

Sylvie

Saturday, May 3, 2014

You Can't Fool Your Body

Hi K,
Sorry it took me so long to answer your last letter. You probably thought I forgot you, but every day while doing my daily chores I think about you and tell myself: I need to answer K’s letter.
I am sorry your mother is not able to make the connection to her own childhood and see that you have nothing to do with her painful feelings and troubles, that your birth was just the trigger of all that was repressed in her. Your longing to have a connection with your mother is very understandable and reading your mother’s letter, it had to be very painful, because it shutter this hope or illusion, but now even painful you have your truth and you are free of this false hope or illusion and now you can move on and the pain will start diminishing in time.  My family and my ex they were very good too at getting my hopes up of understanding, but today I have come to see clear and accept that they are not capable of understanding and seeing and unconsciously they tell you lies that they themselves are not aware of, but now I see clear their lies, even they themselves are not conscious of their lies and what we see clear and know for sure can’t hurt us anymore. They want to tell the truth and love you, but they can’t, because for that they would have to see and feel they own tragedy of what happened to them as little children, but it’s too painful for them and only they can give you is temporally the illusion of love and understanding. Today I live with the truth that the chances for them to gather the courage to face and feel their own tragedy is very slim and I don’t any longer fall victim of their illusions.
You say: “And only in some days I started to feel the terrible, mortal fear - it was like I realized, how dangerous was to be with her. When I have my panic attacks, I can feel this mortal danger of being denied and feel that I am totally wrong - every part of me is wrong, so everybody can hurt me and I cannot defend myself, cause they are right - I’m really very bad.
I think this is something about death. In my dreams I often see dead people, or zombie, the cemetery, and only zombies around me. They want to kill me, cause I am still alive.”
The dreams are showing you the dangerous you lived with as a small child and your mother almost succeeded in murdering your soul, but by your letters it obvious you survived and manage to keep your soul alive and now the adult in you can take care and protect yourself from your mother and anyone that want to use you as their scapegoat or poison container.  The panic attacks are the intense repressed fears of the child you once were triggered by present invents, most people are stuck forever in their eternal fear of their parents and remain scared children their whole lives, but, if you can consciously feel these fears in the right context they will start to subside and eventually you will be free of them, the child you once were really lived in mortal danger, but this mortal danger does not any longer exist, because now you are an adult capable of taking care and protecting yourself. Have you read the answers Alice gave about panic attacks?   “AM: Panic attacks are always connected to traumatic childhood experiences. If we have access to our history we can sometimes easily find the memory and the triggers in the presence that explain the fear so that the fear disappears. In your example the woman feels panic after a happy experience. It CAN be that one of her parents or both envied her for her gifts and her success in school, in sport etc and critisised or ridiculed her after each achievement. Then, instead of being happy she felt bad, ashamed, guilty, and in her brain pleasure became connected with pain. The adult can later suffer from panic attacks after having been successful. The introjected parent repeats then what the real parent did to the child by destroying her pleasure out of pure envy. Is this understandable to you?”
You say that you suffer from depression.  Depression is a symptom of the repressed authentic feelings of the child we once were, the loss of vitality, and of still believing in lies or illusions, so ask yourself: what feelings am I repressing and  whose lies I am still believing in; are those of my parents or of people in the present moment symbolizing my parents. Alice says it best in one of her letters to her readers: “AM: Thank you for your honest and thoughtful letter. You might be right, in some cases: when the parents are still alive and can show themselves (sometimes?) as kind, friendly, charming, it seems "that hope indeed springs eternal and this can be very painful at times". However, I don't agree with you that depression is unavoidable, even when the parents are alive.
I wonder if you have read my recent book: The Body Never Lies. A better title would probably have been: You Can't Fool Your Body. The problem is that in the eternal search of being loved by our parents, most of us can't give up the illusion that once, just now, at this moment perhaps, they will finally become loving. With this illusion we come in danger of betraying our bodies and the memory of the child. Because the body knows the history of the child we once were, it perfectly knows of the cruelty the child had to endure without being able to feel it. For it was too dangerous. Now, as adult, you could be able to feel the pain of the small, teased child of two successful parents if you had access to his suffering. But maybe that your still idealized image of your parents hinders you in getting this access. Ask the child inside you how they treated you when you were small, helpless, so totally dependent on their love. Where you never spanked or slapped? Do you know how it feels like? It is not necessary to fall again and again into the state of depression but protecting our parents from our rage of the once beaten, humiliated child blocks our feelings and thus MUST almost produce depression.
Try to imagine what you had felt if somebody had told you in your childhood that beating children is a crime (what it actually is). And if your parents are able to tease you now, try to imagine how they did the same to the defenceless child you once were. If you can feel the rage, the fear and the sorrow and if you dare to see the cruelty you had to endure silently without helping witnesses, your depression WILL disappear. Because by discovering and understanding the pain of the former neglected child you start to love and cherish him, perhaps the first time in your life.
Usually parents are less violent at 70 than at 30. If a client succeeds in his or her therapy to see their parents of THEN (not of today) and to feel the fear their body remembers they will no longer suffer today from panic attacks or addictions. They will understand their causes not only intellectually. But as long as we are compelled to protect our parents we pay our loyalty with our depressions. My last articles can be helpful if you want to understand this text more profoundly.”
You also write: “I think something like this happened to my mother - her soul was dead, killed by her own parents, and she wanted to revenge, to kill my soul. I think her purpose was to kill in me the slightest hope that the love, the trustore the closeness can exist. She wanted to see how this feelings and needs of love and trust die in me.”  This longing for love, trust and closeness were from the child you once were, NOW, the person you need to love, trust and get close to is your true yourself, once we truly trust ourselves, love ourselves and are intimate with our true self we gain our autonomy, these words from her book “Breaking Down the Wall of Silence: the Liberating Experience of Facing Painful Truth” Alice Miller Says: “To live with one’s own truth is to be at home with oneself. That is the opposite of isolation. We only need confirmation when we are alienated from ourselves and in flight from the truth. All the friends and devoted admires in the world cannot make up for the loss.” Me too like Alice, since feeling the almost unfathomable isolation of my childhood, I myself no longer feel isolated.
You continue to saying: “She wrote me in this letter: "It was violence in my family as well, but I forgave everybody and I forgot it, because I love my family". I paid for this "forgiveness". I don’t know what happened in her family, but that’s not my fucking business. I paid for all of it.”
Your mother unconsciously and compulsively took revenge in you for what her parents did to her when she was a defenseless little girl, try to kill your soul just like her parents had killed her soul, parents have been taken revenge on their children for what their parents did to them for a millions of years.  You are right you paid for her “forgiveness” just like Alice said: “…The never acknowledged, never felt pain of their childhood calls for being avenged. They go to church, they pray, they honor their parents, forgive them everything – and they mistreat their children at home, often in a very cruel way, AS IF THIS WERE THE MOST NATURAL THING, because they learned this so early. Their children learn this perverted behavior, also very early, and will later do the same; and so this perverse behavior continues for millennia. Unless people are willing to SEE the perversion of their parents and are ready to consciously refuse to imitate it.”
You are so right what happened to your mother as a child is not your fucking business, because you trying to understand and feel what happened to her will not liberate her and will keep you stuck in the vicious circle with her and unconsciously and compulsively reenacting your childhood drama with substitute figures symbolizing your parents. I spent most of my life trying to understand my whole family and I specially felt my father’s depression for years until I realized that it was his repressed emotions from the child he once was that he never had the courage to face and feel and silently overtime were passed down to me when I was just a little girl, thankful my father was never violently to me and never hit me, he was the classic case of a passive aggressive, when I made this connection that my depression was my fathers and most of the painful feelings I was feelings belonged to my family, but of course not before I reenacted my childhood drama with my ex, a young man that was just like my father that wanted to be kind and good, but not capable to stand for himself and me and finally I felt the anger and pain of the child I once was of not having a father able to stand for me that I was able to liberate myself of the compulsion to reenact my childhood drama with substitute figures symbolizing my parents.  
Thank you for your sympathy for my niece-in-law, at the moment she is not able to get in touch and feel her repressed emotions of the child she once was and the big block I believe is because she remains very afraid of being alone and stays dependent on her parents or substitute figures symbolizing her parents, it’s very sad, but the more abused a person was the more dependent remains for the rest of her/his life to his/her parents or to people symbolizing their parents. We must gain our autonomy first and find an enlightened witness to safely feel the excruciating feelings of the child we once were.  You are right her son is being affected by her mother’s compulsions and unconscious behavior, but he knows is not his fault and not one bit guilty and I have to give credit to his mother for reaching out to me to help her and in the process she saved her child’s soul, because I have been able to be his helping witness and in spite of all he is doing very well and is a pretty happy nine years old boy.
You ask me how I broke up with my parents; at the physical level I never broke up with them, but by leaving home and put an ocean and continent between me and my family it helped me maintain strong boundaries to protect myself from the family’s repression and take care of myself, but it took me almost 20 years to fully cut the emotional ties with the family and in spite of the distance I would never have been able to free myself from the emotional prison without the books of Alice Miller as my enlightened witness. You ask me if I was afraid of loneliness, sure I had moments of intense fear and now looking back I think they were panic attacks and when this happened I would hide in my house from everyone. I was lucky to have had a job that allowed me the freedom to come and go as I pleased. My fear was not of being alone, because I always enjoyed being alone, my fear was of becoming dependent again on the family or other people and sometimes if I had a bad night at work would trigger a panic attack and when I sold my house it triggered the worse panic attack I ever felt. You asked me who helped me; the only person that truly helped me was Alice Miller.
As long you feel emotional vulnerable keep strong boundaries with your mother and avoid seeing or contact with her to protect yourself from her repression.  
I wish mush courage and strength on your journey to true liberation.
Sylvie 

Hi K,
I like to add a little bit to the letter I sent you yesterday. Your mother asking you for forgiveness, she is unconsciously trying to tie you permanently to her through the feelings of guilt. I was shackled to my family for many years through guilt, because I would try to forgive them, but when my repressed anger/hate would surface, I would feel guilt and repress my anger all over again and try to forgive some more keeping me a prisoner in their emotional prison. I only free myself when I faced my painful truth that I was never really loved and all they ever gave me was the illusion of love and I allowed myself to feel all my true repressed feelings of the child I once was towards the family without guilt. As Alice Says: "Pain is the way to the truth. By denying that you were unloved as a child, you spare yourself some pain, but you are not with your own truth. And throughout your whole life you'll try to earn love. In therapy, avoiding pain causes blockage. Yet nobody can confront being neglected or hated without feeling guilty. "It is my fault that my mother is cruel," he thinks. "I made my mother furious; what can I do to make her loving?" So he will continue trying to make her love him. The guilt is really protection against the terrible realization that you are fated to have a mother who cannot love. This is much more painful than to think, "Oh, she is a good mother, it's only me who's bad." Because then you can try to do something to get love. But it's not true; you cannot earn love. And feeling guilty for what has been done to you only supports your blindness and your neurosis."
Wishing you much courage and strength,
Sylvie