This blog is about learning to understand all of our feelings and learning to consciously face, feel and experience all of our feelings within the context of our own childhood.
Everything we become and happens to us is connected to childhood. Not every victim becomes an abuser, but every abuser was once a victim of abuse and no matter what anyone says these are facts. Violence is not genetic, it’s learned.
Please visit my website for more information
Hi G, Thank you for the nicest complement ever! Congratulations in seeing through the seductive lies of our society. Best wishes to you too from sunny Arizona Sylvie HI Sylvie
Thanks’ for writing back couple of times. Just to say-it
won't mean anything to anyone else and perhaps not anything to you but I ‘am
putting you in my 'hall of fame' list it’s a list that's fairly short and has
someone who has seen through not just 1 but 2 of the bullshit lies out there. The
first is the one that all spiritual travelers see IE other realms etc. but the 2nd
one is being able to see through all those seductive lies. Best Wishes from
Thank you for writing. I agree with everything you wrote.
Spirituality, yoga and all other tools society use to manipulate our feelings,
so they don't have to face their own histories and feel the repressed feelings
of the child they once were, is very annoying. I also find it annoying doctors
and other professionals that don't deny childhood traumas and they understand
people's adults problems are caused by childhood traumas. But then they also try to
treat and manipulate their patients repressed feelings of anger, guilt and shame
with the same old tools. All it does is repress people feelings all over again
and as long people go on repressing their feelings with the aid of medication, spirituality,
religion, yoga or whatever else people come up with to manipulate people's feelings,
the compulsion to repeat will go on endless sooner or later in one form or
another and keeps people stuck in childhood either playing the victim/child
role or the perpetrator role posing as father/mother figure over others. If you celebrate the holidays. I wish you a
happy holiday season with good health and peace and best wishes for the New
We've emailed couple times! Just another wee email to say I
enjoy your entries in your blog.
I know you mentioned your thoughts on Mr. Molanyouex and i
understand-personally I do get plenty out of 'some' of his rants. I have to
say-I ‘am also pretty familiar with Gabor Mate's work-however, I know you did
mention once the downside to 'power of now' and mentioned Eckart in your
book-as does many and also Mr. Mate on the earlier link you had up-i just
wanted to say though-I do get very pissed that Eckart Tolle seldom mentions
childhood-i know many people as will you who have done or are doing the whole
meditation yoga presence etc etc etc…mention their childhood and i become
Satan! The world I know is full of endless stories at attempting healing without
childhood and of all the 20 times I’ve bought Alice Miller books and given them
to people it’s alarming but expected that all those 20 i know eventually ended
up with the sentiments of 'oocchhh i don't like going back in time'…then
proceed to talk about spiritual abstractions. I remember once, one of my many well-known
spiritual teachers(recently disgraced over decades of bullying etc)said that
the EGO wants to claim victory for freedom-this was like many functions of
spirituality a way that i then resounded to within me as deep shame. I know
when you say you've found freedom it's a nice softer version and as you said 'balanced’.
I was thinking about it few short weeks ago and well just as of now want recommend
you for finding such a place!
Take Care from Snappy Scotland
G Hi G,
I have difficulty using my mail box at my website, so I am
using my yahoo account instead to write you back.
Thank you for writing sharing your story. Your experiences
gives evidence to things I already suspected. I am glad you found my book a
nice read! Thank you for reading it! I am so sorry your mother was a very
damaged woman and unconsciously took revenge on you for the abuse she suffered
as a child, and was not able to be the mother you needed and it has caused you
so much suffering through out your life. This loneliness you are feeling is of
the small child you once were that was all alone in the emotional prison of
your mother, but the adult you are NOW, it’s not really alone you have Alice
Miller’s books and you have me!
I am not a fan of Stefan Molyneux, so I don’t think he will
be asking me for an interview. To me he is a cult leader preaching to the
public with memorized knowledge he took from Alice Miller’s books, but he
himself have not had a genuine experience of it. He is a parrot reciting memorized
knowledge that he himself have not fully understood and experienced.
Best of luck to you and write me anytime,
As titled, I’ve just finished you're book recently. A nice
read for sure-and i'am sure first of many people over the coming years to begin
expressing their real life gratitude to Alice Miller Just to pre empt something
here..my grammar (or as old teachers would say) 'could do better'..but hey,a 15
year old high school drop out from a deeply repressedScottish all boys Catholic
school with zero grades must pay some price in the grammar stakes. My story in
very brief part took me only recently IE May2013(nothing odd for us all to
remember our initial finding of an Alice Miller type) I left school and quickly
began dealing/learning all autodidact(self taught)in one of the roughest parts
of Glasgow..i was all alone but being so young in a world populatedby many
males(and a fe women of course) i quickly became the surrogate son to 20-30 men
which was great…all paradoxically my 'competitors' and to varying degree's
enemiesregarding getting an edge in that world…it was all a product of time IE
it was my life like many of the people,but i was that little bit more intense with
it and in a sense free IE to ties We would often joke we'd all do this for free
or even pay to do it which is what gave me the broad smile…i'd had a bit of a
deep trauma at school IE i was always quite the trend setter and image type
but,as with deep seated infant neglect it's only a matter of time till the
random world and inevitable trauma happens..and that it is felt that much more
without the attachment to dearest mother …so i couldn't wait to leave
school(oh,i'd had the slightest of accidents in my ahem underwear which
occasionally happened to many of us but like i said,it was like all my early traumas
had compounded to this stage and for the first time my general 'fight' in the
fight flight response actually formed a hybrid between flight and the next one along…freeze!!literally
i began to have hyper tension and muslce spasmsAnyway,once i joined the world of Antiques it was my new religion..i'd
be out the house 100 hours per week and loved it…the stress was often
unbearable and when i got to 26-27 i came down with ME/CFS …since then i've spent
140k(sterling ££££)on deists therapy's and the old cliche 'you name it'..oh,i
even made it to Sedona AZ for the Sedona Method 3 times(and paying for my
girlfriend and friend..that was 2004-5) I began doing EFT in 2008 with a girl
over the phone once per week …after 5 years she (last March 2013) said she'd
looked into 'trauma' and that EMDR was used for making quicker 'shifts' for
people…..as first i thought the word trauma was used in extreme cases and
wondered how to spell it being so alien to my awareness. Anyway,i proceeded to
find (this time after being to many places in Europe and Usa etc)somewhere
local-ish and lo and behold a therapist on Edinburgh who also worked in Glasgow
where i stay…we then slowly started on what i'am often cringing to say 'my
journey' and when i'd start to say things like 'i'am thinking maybe my childhood
wash;t…..' she'd finish the sentence and nod…and not long before she'd show(i'd
call it professional empathy)She's on occasion be holding the tears back Just
jumping a little…i'd started doing yoga when i was 23-24 which then was still quite
rare in the anachronistic world of Glasgow….then just turning 27 i done a random
session of NLP and had what i'd called (i'd never known anything motherly in a
sense before)a spiritual awakening…i was actually in the womb and felt such
fear was the image(it's funny how our minds can sometimes give us a story
either real or not to begin tracing our truth eh)..sadly,and it's took till
last year to know that the womb was/is the place of deep trauma in my family
but also,the world of new age therapies and healing and such just didm;t really
get the reality of childhood… Not long after i'd started with my current therapist
and like i said she's often fill the missing words or go a step ahead with 'ohhh,a
trap by your mother ' etc I then felt compelled to type 'child abuse' into
google…sadly it's all sensationalized (especially in the land of the BBC with
all the Jimmy Saville stuff recently..)but thankfully i ended up at Alice
Miller site.. Being in antiques i'am often quickly drawn to any accompany
artwork to my interests …and remember thinking what a deep level the painting
had hit me first of!!! I think i was around 1-2 weeks before i'd become used to
the theme of Alice's work IE insisting things had been WORSE for those 'coming
out'(i now liken this phenomena to 'coming out' and both my therapist and i
have agreed and almost laughed at how coming out as gay is easy peasy in
comparison '…i know many gay people in Antiques but it's often a flight i
believe as it blocks the chance for healing as they spend their lives staying
'gay' (sorry,i'd deconstruct that and more social nuances till doomsday but
will save your eyesight haha) Last year then after 1-2 weeks i approached my
parents and said how i'd thought(as you well know and see with many people in
denial i was close to my mum and ohhh yeh,bought then a part house in 1997 and
my twisted brother a business in 2007 all for that approval) I also then found
out from my brother my mum had had 5 miscarriages before me(he is 9 years
older…i quickly joined my original awakening to that info i'd just received and
realised my mum having being so traumatised in her childhood had lifeforms in her
womb that knew she wasn't capable of nurture and attachment etc)..but hey,i
came out for the hell of it(smiley face)…only as recent as yesterday i was
telling my therapist at my general state of unsafety and remembered how i was
left in my pram every time my mother went shopping …i'am sure you'll agree with
people it's often in part 'like attracts like' but i'am now of the opinion to
that it's 'trauma attracts trauma'..my dad both together had been unable to look
my in the eye mostly for 15 years after i bought them a house and he had a nervous
breakdown…it's all a bit tragic..and it's takes my mums larger than life to keep
it all together..as part of the façade Once i broke this 'news' my brother
eventually started (even although for the first time ever i threatened him as
i'd realised like he'd not been around his daughter till she was 8 and his son
till he was 21 that he'd been the same with me as a child..so i realised there
was no bond even though i still hoped for one) He now thinks 'you started all
this you fuckerrrr' but now my mum and dad (whoi i'll maybe even see
tonight)are ageing and the truth is their own transference and repression is
now coming out.. Iam still working with my therapist of course and she's also
trained in a therapy called Brainspotting…you maybe know of it?it's where the
trauma in the brain has a location which can be elicited with finding an eye
placement then it's like the stored trauma processes itself…however,Lisa
Schwarz who's refined it also adds the 'Resourcing Model' which is when people
(like many of us )have ZERO bond and attachment due to deep neglect that it's
used first to resource the client..iam still doing that slowly but also blended
with a little 'talk' side of therapy..i know they can all be traps in a sense
overtime but my therapist is very aware of such issues….and,is always always on
the side of the child- Iam 38 and she's mid 60's however we both come from Irish
Catholic stock and like you we both have a deeper context to the Catholic repression…during
my new age era 2002-2012 i knew all this stuff and over 200+books but the deep
psychic levels I still witness(Glasgow has the highest heroin deaths per capita
in Eurpoe and lowest life expectancy at just 56 in Europe) At this moment i'am
very alone and like you said in your book 'maybe not sensible to be by myself
at times'… I met a woman when i was 27 and she was….ahem..55…we both done
Antiques..liked and loved all the same things(and the one i like IE hate the
same things IE just cheesy celebs or other daft shallow things or supposed important
things in life)…we didn't stay together but travelled all over and she was interested
in finding peace etc too..we split last year and all my revelations about my
family i'd speak about with her…but always giving context and talking as peers
etc (yes,theres was plenty mother issues perhaps but our commonalities etc was
just exquisite often)… Maybe the childhood stuff got too much but also we were
drifting too-she often tried to break up so i could start with someone my own
age..but,it's like our bond was so close and i'd never click with anyone else(i
could go on with this but i'll get a wee bit succinct) She has a daughter 3
years younger than me…who looks like Briggette Bardot in her prime…over the
years she's split from boyfriends and Cartiona(my parner and ahem..her
mother)would often say go to Holly's can you and help her etc…there had been
the oddlittle touch etc but the weird
thing was..i'd never clicked with her in all those years and just never felt
safe with a younger woman…and Holly is a little bit shallow..,.she's hyper intelligent
and successful and all the other things but it's like since she's a 10/10 in
most things her depth i felt was a 5(sorry if my grading system is a little
pedantic)just made things more obviousLast
year we were all at Carionas son;'s wedding(who's 3 years older than me haha)and
after several breweries of alcohol Holly(going through her latest final phase
with a guy)said 'i know you know gerry'…(sorry if this is getting too Mills and
Boon)and i took it as she knew i knew she wanted to be with me…Catriona and I had
become really closest friends etc and all the subtle cues were always pointing that
way…the wedding was stressful in that i knew that was going to happen on some level…i
never responded and after 1 week and told Catriona 'i might have picked this up
wrong but if Holly has any thoughts about me tell her no..iam not the one for her'..Catriona
quickly dispelled it and said i'd got it wrong(maybe to this day I have but i
know all the ciues over those years)…anyway,apologies for digressing by since
then Catriona and i have ended and i've been left with no one to really speak
this content about abuse with…. One of the things i'd like over time is to make
this stuff so mainstream that it's occasional 'non provoking' chit chat over coffee…..all
the folk i know i've mentioned this too that were all the usual Byron Katie's
and Eckhard etc etc are positively shit scared of this stuff….i now know it's
so hard to 'come out' on so many levels it's surely the reason it's still so
intractable in this world I just want to jump to my parents….i found out lkasy
year my mums older sister who i'd never known was the result of my
grandad(never new him he'd died from usual 20th century alcohol
abuse)had raped my nana for the first child and my nana stayed with him out of
fear(all told briefly and noneshelancnty by my brother) My mum was a very
pretty girl and i've now no doubt she was sexually 'manipulated' by her
father…i've heard recently woman who have been raped and or sexually manipulated
make the worst mothers for boys as they deeply psychic want to exact revenge on
the male….my mum spent a short time in my childhood saying 'DONT TOUCH ME..NEVER
TOUCH MUMMY'…lovely!!!same rhetoric the 'ICE MAN''s mother used to him shockingly!
all my family as you'd expect is severely dysfunctional but aim off the woman
side and it seems more compounded often with the mother's!?!!? I've spent the
hour before emailing you to a new age freak(sorry)woman i knew who she credited
me for introducing her to many of the so called healing therapies …she's moved
to Malta and has lots of followers on twitter(or twatter) but it's all the
usual cliche stuff….everything is 'awesome' etc etc…i told her about 6 months ago
about the ACE study and to start telling her followers and clients a bitabout it….she then said it wasn't fair to
bring up childhood to her trusted clients… Iam giving her deep insights into
the 'child' voice(but being a mother of 3 in her 50's it's often tricky too)… Anyway,i
think aim hitting the wall now Sylvie for today..iam gonna catch a hot yoga class(i'd
like to say Bikram but he's up for sexual predatory charges and can't be bothered
using his name but it's sad all his quotes are just shit and all those hot 20somethings
looking for whatever and he then thinks he's invincible)….the lad teaching
tonights class is from LA so a little exotic for Glasgow…nice enough but he managed
to survive cancer but now he's saying all the new age stuff(i feel like saying
;yes i read all those 40 books your quoting too my friend)it's bloody painful listening
to this stuff now!!!!CHRIIIIIIIIIIIST!!! unbeknown to most my body is often a
fucking mess despite my outwardly healthy lifestyle etc but moving into the
early trauma body etc and deep neglect will aim sure push through in time!! Anyway,it
was nice to chat Sylvie…even if it was a little one sided haha!! it's maybe not
you're thing but it would be nice if you gave an interview one day!>!?!!?!?!?i
do like Stefan Molyneaux generally and it would reach a lot … (dont wanna say
Q. What do you think of certain "liberals" who
protect the doctrines of Islam from exposure?
A. I think they still scared little children afraid of the
next smack if they dare to speak the whole truth about Islam or any other
religion. They are stuck in childhood and like when they were little children,
they tiptoed around their parents to avoid being smacked, now they do the same
with religion the substitute mother/father figure standing in symbolizing their
parents. They live in fear! Just like when they were little children, they
would protect their parents, because they could not afford to see the truth
about their parents, because they were dependent on their parents for survival,
now they do the same with the substitute mother/father figures, because like
children still afraid they can’t survive alone.
I agree with everything you wrote. Until we ask ourselves why women are hated so much everywhere around the world, we will never stop violence against women, children and animals. And the rest like you say: is intellectual masturbation.
The hatred for women comes from the latent hate of the child at his mother that now is misplaced and directed at all other women. And this is why some women hate women too, they hate their mothers, but now they take revenge on all other women just like some men do to protect their own mothers.
In my personal life is usually a woman behind the scenes trying to bring me down and manipulate men to do their dirty work.
It’s happening to me right now, some people were supportive of my book, because they thought my book was just another story like many out there writing what the public likes to hear to distract them from their own painful truth with the same old recycled pretty seductive lies and half-truths, but my book is not just another storytelling the same bullshit like many authors out there.
My book is a strong mirror and they don’t like their own reflections, so they want to try to bring me down. How dear of me, an ex-topless dancer and now a gate attendant put such a strong mirror in front of them. And like my family they are using the same tactics by saying that is to protect me, but what they want to do is to put me in my place and show me who is in charge to manage their own fears and keep their own image, repression and little illusions intact.
Just as Alice Miller says: “Conditioning and manipulation of others are always weapons and instruments in the hands of those in power even if these weapons are disguised with the terms education and therapeutic treatment.” For Your Own Good, P. 278
And of course, just like my teachers and older sisters, they want to destroy my spirit so I will be like them. They are allergic to my aliveness.
Just like Donald wrote in the discussion about my book: “The passage below from the Alice Miller interview How To Combat Denial came to my mind right away when I read of your sisters blaming your mother for your being so difficult and rebellious:
Borut Petrovic Jesenovec: I notice that a lot of people become allergic when they see a truly childlike child unburdened by guilt and abuse. They just can’t stand it. They repeat that every child must be socialized as soon as possible, in other words, taken away from parents and put into kindergarten so that he/she becomes "available" to anyone. They preach the benefits of socialization as if it was a most sacred, noble cause. I find this social pressure enormous. But in this context socialization equals adaptation to cruelty. Why is a child who is alive, genuine and pure, in their eyes unbearable, even sinful, and must, by all means, be mutilated so he/she would become similar to them?
Alice Miller: Because the child’s creativity and liveliness triggers in the parents the repressed pain of being suffocated. They are afraid of feeling the pain, so they do whatever they can to avoid the triggers. By insisting on obedience they kill the lively child, they victimize him or her as they themselves were victimized before. For that reason, they absolutely need information. This is why we talk and work on this interview. Most parents don’t want to hurt their children; they do it automatically, just by repeating what they themselves learned as children. We can help them to stop this destructive behaviour by explaining to them why it is actually destructive. So that they can wake up and make a choice. Read more
Below is a comment I made on someone's Facebook post about religion. People have a need for truth. And they try to satisfy this need with the illusion of religion and “spirituality”. You could say they look for the truth in the wrong places, because their truth is registered in their own bodies. Like I write in my book A Dance to Freedom: “According to Alice Miller, a person’s repression will keep escalating until it’s finally heard. “The truth about childhood is stored up in our body, and although we can repress it, we can never alter it,” she writes in Thou Shalt Not Be Aware. “Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, our perceptions confused, and our body tricked with medication. But someday the body will present its bill.” Page 159. Also in Page 107, I write: “Even those who realize that real change is more difficult still take the easy way out and focus their energy on getting rid of symptoms, instead of searching out the root cause. “There are plenty of means to combat symptoms of distress: medications, sermons, numerous ‘treatments,’ ‘miracles,’ threats, cults, pedagogical indoctrination and even blackmail,” Alice Miller says. “They can all work for a while, but only because they reinforce the repression and reinforce the fear of resolving it. … A lot of money and fame comes from this business of repression because it satisfies the longing of so many grown-up children: to be loved as a good child. … In the long term, we have to pay a high price for this repression.” The typical methods people use to search for answers — which are really ways to run away from the truth — are futile because our real, repressed story continues to attempt to make itself heard no matter what we do. Alice Miller believed that our true plight, the root cause of all our repeated problems, will keep trying to gain our attention in more extreme ways until we finally take notice.”
Yes, the pope is wrong. I agree with the author of the article: Pope Francis is wrong. Religion deserves ridicule. Pope’s words in the quote below give me a window to his psychic and how he still a scared little boy, pretending to be grown up, casting himself as a father figure over others to manage the repressed fears of the child he once was. So mothers and religion, standing in as substitute mother/father figure telling people what to do, just like their mothers once did, when they were little children, can’t be criticized?!The idealization of his mother and of religion, the substitute mother figure keeps him and his followers stuck in childhood, where they either play the role of the child or acting as if personality playing the role of father/mother figures. If his mother had truly loved him, he would not have joined a cult and wear the cloth of love, his own mother gave him when he was a little boy, fooling the followers of the catholic cult, the same way his mother once did when he was defenseless little boy, as a little boy he could not afford to see through his mother illusion of love, but as an adult he can gather the courage to let go of this illusion and become real and stop fooling himself and his followers.
“If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,” Francis said, throwing a pretend to punch his way. “It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.” Pope Francis Facebook comments from the sharing of this post:
John WilwerdingYes, the Christian Creator tolerates much in the religious theological belief that man is given free will, including ridicule and rejection of the Master himself. Many faith leaders forget this truth, understood as a paradox. Chris Wilson · The Xtian fairy tale does not give man free will though - There's an eternity in hell waiting for anyone who doesn't do what skydad wants. Meanwhile, the holy book of fairytales credits skydad with acts of mass slaughter that would have Lawrence Bittaker priapic for weeks.
David EinavIf a person is 100% sure in their beliefs and truth, they shouldn't be afraid of criticism. The reason for fear of ridicule shows the low level of confidence that religious people have in their faith!!! Monica ChelagatIn theory I agree but the ISIS threat is real. The pope is 'talking to them' too. Religion aside, the artistic and historical value of the Vatican is priceless! Once you realize the limits of a fanatic synonym of madness I think to mock is stupid not freedom of expression. Dealing with religious fanatics requires intelligence, not provocations. Sylvie Imelda SheneYes, the ISIS threat is real and so are the psychopaths from the west. The psychopaths from the west contributed for dangerous groups like ISIS to flourish and grow, so they have a reason to go into war and kill to satisfy their thirst for blood. The bomb in people’s brain can be triggered by anything at any time to kill or attack others no matter what one does. Then we could say that the publishing of my book provoked the sociopaths at my last job, maybe I should have not written a book telling the truth about the human mind and I’m sure I would still have my job today and they would not have tried to murder my soul to discredit me, so they could go on with their lies and illusions as usual. Also, read my blogsPope Francis Blames the Victims for Provoking the Abusers
I take the liberty of approaching you because I am working on a book about corporal punishment of children. A host of recent research results show that physical correction, even in the apparently harmless form of smacks and slaps, can have severe consequences for the children. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has taken account of this fact and for ten years now has been regularly questioning the governments that have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. At five-year intervals, these countries are required to submit a report on the status of children’s rights in their territories, with special reference to the use of physical force in families, schools, and the penal system. The reports and protocols of the Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva and the comments addressed to the respective states by that committee are accessible on the website http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf. In a frequently alarming way, these texts all reveal that-albeit to various degrees- children all over the world are victims of what the report calls a veritable form of “xenophobia.”
I would like to ask you what the Catholic Church is undertaking in this respect. The injunctions of the Gospels about the respect and protection to which children have a right could hardly be more unequivocal. How is this to be reconciled with an educational attitude where the humiliation of children is the rule rather than the exception? By their own admission, 80 percent of parents in France have recourse to physical violence as part of the child-rearing process. But my impression is that the church has done nothing to speak out against such practices. Of course, it has pilloried especially severe cases of child abuse, but the cases society elects to classify as such are exceptional instances where the perpetrators are conspicuous for their unusual cruelty and face legal prosecution for that reason. But the fact of the matter is that the distinctions between “child abuse,” “parenting,” and “disciplining,” are entirely artificial. If the truth be told, children all over the world are exposed to physical blows administered in the name of the parents’ right to bring up their children as they see fit.
In my attempt to collect reliable information on this point I have approached the editors of the journal Missions africaines because physical abuse is especially cruel and widespread on the African continent and the Catholic Church is very strongly represented there. The reply from Father Claude Remond was as follows: “Unfortunately I have no reliable sources on the degree to which the Church in Africa has been active in heightening parents’ awareness of the problem of physical violence in chi8ld rearing.” He kindly gave me the address of a nun in Togo who looks after street urchins. In her reply, she confirmed the fact that child-rearing in that area “cannot do without beating,” adding that she did not have the impression that the Church was doing anything to counteract this attitude because sometimes she saw adults in church keeping order among the youth groups with sticks in their hands. So where does the Catholic Church actually stand? Have there been any declarations by the Church on this problem? The pope has his bishops frequently referring to violence in general. But to my knowledge they never make any mention of the fact that children have their first encounter with violence-slaps in the face, blows to the head, back, or buttocks- at the hands of those they love the most, their parents. And this despite the fact that we now know that children learn not from what they are told but from the way they are treated. When adults are cruel it is because they, too, were once subjected to violence by those to whom they looked up. From the earliest infancy, they have had it drilled into them that conflicts can only be settled by brute force. So what is the use in pillorying violence without making any reference to the sources it stems from?
I would be grateful if you could tell me whether there have been any official statements on this problem by the Church, the Pope, or the bishops. If you are unable to give me an answer, perhaps you would be so inclined to indicate to whom else I might address my inquiry.
Olivier Muarel Read more here
Under certain circumstances, children who have been told repeatedly that the humiliations and beatings they have been subjected to are for their own good may end up believing it all their lives. Consequently, they will raise their own children in the same way, laboring under the delusion that they are doing the right thing. But what happens to all the rage, the pain, the anger those children were forced to suppress when they were not only treated cruelly by their own parents but expected to be grateful for it?
Tackling this question has helped me get nearer to answering the first of the questions I asked about childhood: How does evil come into the world? Gradually, the conviction took shape in my mind that evil is reproduced with each new generation. Newborn infants are innocent. Whatever predispositions they may have, they feel no urge or need to destroy life. They want to be looked after and protected, to love and be loved. If those needs are not satisfied, if children are abused instead of cherished, then that will determine the entire course of their lives. Human beings feel the urge to be destructive only if they were subjected to cruelty at the beginning of their own lives. A child who has been loved and respected will have no motivation to wage war on others. Evil is not an inevitable or integral part of human nature.
Although these insights seemed logical and consistent to me, I still had my doubts because hardly anyone seemed to agree with me. To prove to myself that my convictions were true, I turned my attention to the life of Adolf Hitler. I thought that if I could show that this monstrous mass murderer was made into what he was by his parents, it would be the end of the traditional idea that some people are just "born bad." I described Hitler's childhood in my book For Your Own Good, and many of my readers were aghast. One woman wrote: "If Hitler had had five sons he could have vented his revenge on for the tortures he was subjected to in his childhood, then he would probably never have victimized the Jewish people. You can take everything you've suffered out on your own children and never get punished because murdering the soul of your own child can always be passed off as parenting, child-raising, upbringing." In Paths of Life (pp. 158-161), I elaborated on the childhood roots of Hitler's hatreds:
We know that as a boy Hitler was tormented, humiliated, and mocked by his father, without his mother being able to protect him. We also know that he denied his true feelings toward his father. . . . This hatred remained repressed because hating one's father was strictly prohibited, and because it was in the interests of the child's self-preservation to maintain the illusion of having a good father. Only in the form of a deflection onto others was hatred permitted, and then it could flow freely.
Hitler's specific problems with the Jews can in fact be traced back to the period before his birth. In her youth, his paternal grandmother had been employed in a Jewish merchant's household in Graz. After her return home to the Austrian village of Braunau, she gave birth to a son, Alois, later to become Hitler's father, and received child-support payments from the family in Graz for fourteen years. This story, which is recounted in many biographies of Hitler, represented a dilemma for the Hitler family. They had an interest in denying that the young woman had been left with child either by the Jewish merchant or his son. On the other hand, it was impossible to assert that a Jew would pay alimony for so long without good reason. Such generosity on the part of a Jew would have been inconceivable for the inhabitants of an Austrian village...
For Alois Hitler, the suspicion that he might be of Jewish descent was insufferable in the context of the anti-Jewish environment he grew up in. . . . The only thing he could do with impunity was to take out this rage on his son Adolf. According to the reports of his daughter Angela, he beat his son mercilessly every day. In an attempt to exorcise his childhood fears, his son nurtured the maniac delusion that it was up to him to free not only himself of Jewish blood but also all Germany and later the whole world. Right up to his death in the bunker, Hitler remained a victim of this delusion because all his life his fear of his half-Jewish father had remained locked in his unconscious mind.
Jews were not the only target of Hitler's rage and fear. He was also frightened by the chaotic behavior of his schizophrenic aunt, Johanna, who lived with the family:
As an adult, Hitler ordered every handicapped and psychotic person to be killed, to free the German society from this burden. Germany seemed for him to symbolize the innocent child who had to be saved.
Besides his fears in connection with his father and aunt, there was his early relationship with his very intimidated mother, who lived in constant fear of her husband's violent outbursts and beatings.
These irrational fears -- which an outsider watching his speeches on video can easily recognize -- remained unrecognized and unconscious to Hitler until the end of his life. Stored up in his body, they drove him constantly to new destructive actions in his endless attempt to find resolution.
Those who claim that Hitler and his helpers were born with sadistic genes -- and there are still many who think and even write this nonsense -- should be able to answer the question why so many millions of Germans were born with these defective genes exactly 30 years before the Third Reich, making them willing executors for a mad dictator, and why Germans of today show no such genetic heritage. To me, the only reason for the Holocaust at that time was the brutal upbringing to which German children were subjected during the first years of the 20th Century. It was an upbringing calculated to produce blind obedience. (I documented this thesis in the essay on the "Roots of Hatred" in my book, Paths of Life, Pantheon).
Not all my readers were able to accept this view of Hitler and concede that his terrifying example demonstrates how evil comes about, how tiny, innocent children can turn into ravening beasts threatening not only their own families but the whole world. I was reminded that many children get beaten and otherwise abused in childhood, but they do not all turn into mass murderers. I took these arguments seriously and investigated the question of how children can survive brutal treatment without becoming criminals later in life. From a close study of many biographies, I established that in those cases where the victim did not turn into a victimizer, there was invariably some figure that had shown the child affection, the person I call the helping witness. Children with helping witnesses to turn to were able to gain awareness of the evil that had been done to them while at the same time identifying with the person who had shown them kindness. The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky is one well-known example. Though he probably suffered at the hands of his brutal father, he was given solace by his loving mother.
Children with no helping witness are in the greatest danger of regarding the dreadful things they have been subjected to as for their own good and then dealing out to others the same kind of treatment without the slightest pangs of conscience. In short, they will ideologize this hypocrisy. Hitler the child learned at home that blows and humiliations were right and proper. Hitler the adult insisted -- and believed -- that it was his calling to save Germany by exterminating the Jews. Other dictators have ideologized their acts of vengeance in similar ways. Stalin had to purge Russia of the subversive "cosmopolitans"; Napoleon had to establish the Grande Nation, cost what it might; Milosevic had to make Serbia into a great nation.
Society's blindness to these mechanisms is what still makes wars possible, because the actual reasons behind them remain in the dark. Although probably all historians, at least in Germany, know very well that Frederick the Great was humiliated and tormented by his father, I have yet to come across a historical work that makes the connection between the cruelty meted out to this sensitive child and the monarch's later compulsive urge to overthrow as many countries as he could. Obviously this subject is still taboo.
For as long as we have recorded memory, the same woeful picture has been repeating itself. Men go off to war, women cheer them as they leave, and very few question what really sparked it off. Wars patently designed to invade and conquer foreign territory are passed off as acts of self-defense, or as the fulfillment of some holy mission. Most people are blind to the genuine reasons behind these "missions." Only when we have understood where evil comes from and how we keep it alive in our children will we cease to be helplessly exposed to its effects. We have a long way to go.
In nearly half of the fifty states in the United States, teachers are still allowed to spank children in school. This punishment is given for minor offenses, usually in the form of paddling on the buttocks performed by a person specially designated to do so. There is a graded scale of different forms of corporal punishment aimed at meting out "discipline." Pupils are made to stand in a corridor awaiting their turn to be chastised. These children appear to consider this institutionalized humiliation as something normal. Only later will their pent-up feelings of rage be vented in acts of criminal aggression. Most parents tolerate this system; some actively endorse it. Isolated mothers and fathers who oppose it are more or less doomed to ineffectuality. In Texas alone, according to the Project NoSpank Web site (http://www.nospank.net), some 118,000 children are punished this way each year.
Many teachers cannot imagine a school system entirely free of such punishment. They themselves grew up in an atmosphere of violence, so they learned very early to believe in the effectiveness of punitive measures. Neither in their own childhood nor during their teacher training were they given the chance to develop a sensitivity to the sufferings of children. Thus, they have little awareness that in the long run, using physical force against children merely teaches them to behave aggressively later in life.
Children with a background of violence have learned to devote all their attention to averting danger. So they will hardly be able to concentrate on what they are being taught at school. They may well expend most of their energies on observing the teacher so as to be prepared for the physical "correction" that they feel to be inevitable. If it does come, it will reinforce their view. On the other hand, a teacher who understands these children's fears might move mountains -- provided, again, that the abused child's reality is never played down.
We come across the same phenomenon in politics. As long as we are unaware of the degree to which the right to human dignity was denied us in childhood, it will not be easy to concede that right to our own children, however sincerely we may want to do so. Frequently we believe we are acting in the interests of the children and fail to realize we may be doing the very opposite, simply because we have learned to be callous in this respect at such an early stage. The effects of that learning are stronger than all the things we may learn later.
We can see an illustration of this in present-day legislation. As of September 2000, the German parliament has expressly denied natural parents the right to physical correction. As recently as 1997, they were still entitled to that questionable privilege; it was denied only to non-blood relatives and other caregivers. The overwhelming majority (80 percent) of German parliamentarians were convinced at the time that in certain cases corporal punishment at the hands of the natural parents could have a salutary effect. This opinion is still shared by most legislators, as recent decisions in Britain show. The persistent argument was that physical force should not be prohibited because it prepares children for life's dangers and thus helps them learn to protect themselves.
But beaten children are not learning how to defend themselves against criminals. They are learning to fear their parents, to play down their own pain, and to feel guilty. Being subjected to physical attacks that they are unable to fend off merely instills in children a gut feeling that they do not deserve protection or respect. This perniciously false message is stored in their bodies and will influence their view of the world and their attitude toward their own children. They will be unable to defend their claim to human dignity, unable to recognize physical pain as a danger signal and act accordingly. Their immune systems may even be affected. In the absence of other persons on whom to model their behavior, these children will see the language of violence and hypocrisy as the only effective means of communication. Naturally, they will avail themselves of that language when they grow up because adults normally suppress feelings of powerlessness and helplessness. This is the real reason why so many defend the old system of parenting and schooling. Until now only 17 of 192 members of the United Nations Organization had made spanking children illegal. This shows how little this problem is recognized world-wide.
In Cameroon, an organization named EMIDA (Elimination de la maltraitance infantile domestique africaine) reports that it has statistical evidence suggesting that 218 million children in Africa are regularly subjected to physical "correction." When I inquired about the reasons for such a high incidence of maltreatment, I was told it is a common myth that the brain functions better when children are beaten until they bleed. It is understandable that when they reach adulthood, children brought up in such a tradition will adhere to this system so as to avoid confronting their repressed early suffering. But the consequences of such repression are all too apparent in the bloody clashes between the peoples of Africa. All kinds of reasons are advanced to explain these conflicts, but the most plausible one is the pent-up rage of the beaten child thirsting for release and vengeance.
I have frequently asked myself so terrible as the massacres in Rwanda could come about. Rwandan children a customarily carried on their mothers’ backs and breast fed until quite a late age, a fact that we are inclined to interpret as indicating the idyllic conditions of loving care rather than a breeding ground for maltreatment. Only recently did I receive information that brought home to me how high a price these children had to pay for the love of their mothers. They are conditioned to obey at a very early age. They are smacked for fouling their mothers’ backs with excrement. Fear of these spankings causes them to cry as soon as they feel the urge to excrete, thus warning their mother in time to take the child off her back and impress on it the need for cleanliness.
As a result of this conditioning the babies are “clean” at a very early age, and much the same methods are used to ensure that they stay quiet. I feel that the massacres in Rwanda may well be traceable to this abuse of babies. Though children in all African schools are cruelly beaten (in a survey conducted by EMIDA in 2000, only twenty out of more than two thousand children responding said that they were never beaten at home or at school), the methods used on infants are the ones that are of decisive importance. The earlier the use of violence starts, the more profoundly the lesson is internalized and the less accessible it is to later control by the conscious mind. Thus, the first opportunity, in the form of some kind of political ideology, will suffice to spark off bestial cruelty in quiet, servile people who were living with explosive suppressed aggression.
For those acts of vengeance, society provides a whole range of ideological guises. Racism, anti-Semitism, fundamentalist fanaticism, and "ethnic cleansing" are only some of them. Many young people engaged in such activities strongly believe that they are serving idealistic aims.
5 The silence of the church
Religious schools of various denominations justify all forms of sadism by declaring them to be sanctioned by God or the prophets. Feminists have established that there is not one sura of the Koran that could qualify as support for the brutal custom of mutilating the genitals of young girls, though religious motives are trotted out in justification. Genital mutilation owes its existence solely to a male desire to exert total power over woman and to the insistence of circumcised mothers and grandmothers on inflicting the same suffering on their daughters and granddaughters as they themselves have experienced, while denying that there is any suffering involved. The result is that today there are over 100 million woman whose clitorises were removed at the age of ten, and most of them actively endorse this practice. The government of the Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros has announced its intention to introduce a ban on corporal punishment in order to defend- as its letter to the UN Commission of the rights of the Child puts it- the right of children to a childhood free of torture. In contrast to the soft-pedaling encountered in most other bulletins on such questions, the letter makes surprisingly frank reference to the practices of Koranic schools, indicating in no uncertain terms the extent to which religion serves as a cover-up for the sadism of the teachers. For the pettiest offenses children are brutally flogged and otherwise humiliated beyond our worst imaginings. After the flogging they are tossed into a bathtub full of nettles or dragged half naked into the baking sunlight, where liquid sugar is poured over their bodies to attract insects that will torment them. Finally they are taken through the streets and forced to cry out their misdemeanors and to do public penance for them.
Unlike some adult survivors of torture, children subjected to organized humiliation do not recount what has been done to them. They are too ashamed. Their conscious memories may in fact contrive to forget the torments or at least repress them. But their bodies have preserved every single detail, as their later behavior only too amply demonstrates. These cruel punitive practices have been successfully represented to the children as righteous and proper, and this is what will enable them to avenge themselves without any qualms when they are old enough to do so. Twenty years hence, some of these victims will themselves become teachers at Koranic schools and inflict on their charges and their own children the same treatment they endured in childhood. And society will revere them for it and commend them as God-fearing men going about their sacred duties. Thus sadism is free to originate and flourish under the cover of piety and religion. Those teachers were not born sadistic; they learned to take pleasure in sadistic practices at school and perhaps even earlier, at home. And always with the injunction: this is for your own good!
As long as private Christian schools consider corporal punishment for the children entrusted to their care to be one of their religious duties, Christians condoning such treatment have effectively fortified any moral right to rail against the practices at these Islamic schools. In the summer of 2000 the South African government, in the face of vehement protest and resistance, introduced a ban on physical correction. On August 17, 2000, the government posted a letter on the Internet from nearly two hundred Christian groups demanding an exemption from this ban for their fourteen thousand young people in their care so that their instructors could “exercise their religious duties.” Equally blatant was their claim that teachers and parents have the right to punish children. The pseudo-religious arguments not withstanding their sole concern- consciously or unconsciously- is to get even for the humiliations to which they themselves have were once exposed by inflicting them on their own students. We can only hope the time will come when children will be taught that being beaten is a destructive act. If they can be taught why this is so, eventually they will acquire an immunity to false information.
I receive letters from people all over the world telling me how much they suffered from the physical (and other) punishments dealt out to them at Catholic boarding schools they attended. Conversely, some correspondents suggest that the situation has improved and that the Catholic Church has long since abandoned its support of physical correction. Encouraged by this news I addressed a letter to Pope John Paul II asking him to issue an appeal to parents-to-be that would open their eyes to the tragic consequences of beating their children. My conviction was that with this knowledge it would be easier for them to love their children and learn from them, rather than being misled by their own ignorance into turning their children into potential patients for physicians and psychotherapists who fail to understand the true meaning of the symptoms they display. I felt that an unequivocal plea from the pope, whose pronouncements are heeded by millions of Catholics worldwide, to refrain from beating children could have an immense impact.
As the latest psychological and neurological discoveries concerning child abuse are not yet widely known, and trusting that Pope John Paul would be moved by them, I did the best I could to outline those insights as briefly and cogently as possible. I had the letters translated into a number of languages and made various attempts to ensure that it would be forwarded to the Holy Father personally. The reply I received makes me doubt this was the case.
The Vatican correspondent did not explicitly say that the pope had read the letter. He did reiterate that the church acknowledged the importance of the child rearing and education and believed that children and young people must be treated “with patience and sensitivity if they are to achieve physical, mental, moral and spiritual maturity.” My respondent also pointed out that the church had recently canonized an “outstanding and stalwart champion of young people,” Father Marcellin Champagnat, the founder of the Marist brothers, for his “great to the cause of the young.” The letter ended by extending a papal blessing to me and those “dear to me.” Nowhere did this response from the Vatican refer to the important information and insights I had written about in my letter. Obviously the person I had asked to forward my letter and whose job it is to screen the mail was unable to relate to its contents. It is also conceivable that the information it contained aroused in them memories of their own upbringing, prompting them to dismiss my request out of hand. Not only the Vatican itself but all the intermediary offices I sent the letters to- in France, Switzerland, Poland, and the United States- reacted in the same way. The only response I receive was the letter mentioned above, a formulaic reply without any bearing on the concerns I expressed. A later attempt to interest Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, the Archbishop of Paris, in the matter also failed. My inquiry as to how I might best disseminate the latest knowledge about the dangerous consequences of corporal punishment received an evasive reply from the cardinal’s secretary. I was given to understand that the supreme church authorities could not be expected to issue a statement on “every problem” and that it was up to us laypersons to communicate our standpoint to others. One of the questions I asked in my rejoinder to this was, “Is one to conclude from your response that the principle of human charity both preached and practiced by the church does not extend to the sufferings of helpless children exposed to physical violence?” (see my Web site, http://www.alice-miller.com, for details of this correspondence in French and German.)
I was of course not so naïve as to suppose that a statement by the pope would suffice to change parents’ behavior from one day to the next. But an acknowledgement of the implications of this new information by an institution that had long tolerated and sometimes even advocated physical correction for generations might in the long term have had a major impact on the mentality of many believers. It usually takes a long time for scientific discoveries to filter down to the level of ordinary human reality and even longer to reach those who have had little schooling and who merely react to the cruel treatment they received at the hands of their own parents. This attitude, tolerated as normal the world over, might have been radically altered by one single utterance from the pope. But it was not to be. For the present, at least, the church prefers to keep its silence at this point.
I do not know if my arguments will ever be able to reach the holy father. His biography tells us that his mother lavished loving care on him and that after her early death his father spent a great deal of time with him. But it is improbable that in his childhood he should have been completely spared the conventional view that it takes a strict upbringing to make boys into real men. Inextricably and tragically bound up with the love children feel for their parents, this conviction frequently asserts itself throughout a man’s life. Challenging it may revive childhood anxieties. I can only hope that the pope will prove equal to this challenge once he appreciates that a few words from him would be sufficient to guard millions of children from the kind of abuse regularly administered to them.
Canonizing a nineteenth century figure like Marcellin Champagnat for his alleged commitment to young people is not an adequate response to the enormous challenge of preventing violence and cruelty in this day and age. But this indication was all the Vatican saw fit to give me in reply to my appeal for intervention for the sake of children entrusted to its care.
Much the same response was accorded to Olivier Maurel when he attempted to expound the problem of corporal punishment for children to the bishops of France. I reproduce here his letter to the bishops conference:
I take the liberty of approaching you because I am working on a book about corporal punishment of children. A host of recent research results show that physical correction, even in the apparently harmless form of smacks and slaps, can have severe consequences for the children. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has taken account of this fact and for ten years now has been regularly questioning the governments that have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. At five-year intervals, these countries are required to submit a report on the status of children’s rights in their territories, with special reference to the use of physical force in families, schools, and the penal system. The reports and protocols of the Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva and the comments addressed to the respective states by that committee are accessible on the web site http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf. In a frequently alarming way these text all reveal that-albeit to various degrees- children all over the world are victims of what the report calls a veritable form of “xenophobia.”
I would like to ask you what the Catholic Church is undertaking in this respect. The injunctions of the Gospels about the respect and protection to which children have a right could hardly be more unequivocal. How is this to be reconciled with an educational attitude where the humiliation of children is the rule rather that the exception? By their own admission, 80 percent of parents in France have recourse to physical violence as part of the child-rearing process. But my impression is that the church has done nothing to speak out against such practices. Of course it has pilloried especially severe cases of child abuse, but the cases society elects to classify as such are exceptional instances where the perpetrators are conspicuous for their unusual cruelty and face legal prosecution for that reason. But the fact of the matter is that the distinctions between “child abuse,” “parenting,” and “disciplining,” are entirely artificial. If the truth be told, children all over the world are exposed to physical blows administered in the name of the parents’ right to bring up their children as they see fit.
In my attempt to collect reliable information on this point I have approached the editors of the journal Missions africaines because physical abuse is especially cruel and widespread on the African continent and the Catholic Church is very strongly represented there. The reply from Father Claude Remond was as follows: “Unfortunately I have no reliable sources on the degree to which the Church in Africa has been active in heightening parents’ awareness of the problem of physical violence in chi8ld rearing.” He kindly gave me the address of a nun in Togo who looks after street urchins. In her reply she confirmed the fact that child rearing in that area “cannot do without beating,” adding that she did not have the impression that the Church was doing anything to counteract this attitude because sometimes she saw adults in church keeping order among the youth groups with sticks in their hands. So where does the Catholic Church actually stand? Have there been any declarations by the Church on this problem? The pope has his bishops frequently referring to violence in general. But to my knowledge they never make any mention of the fact that children have their first encounter with violence-slaps in the face, blows to the head, back, or buttocks- at the hands of those they love the most, their parents. And this despite the fact that we now know that children learn not from what they are told but from the way they are treated. When adults are cruel it is because they, too, were once subjected to violence by those to whom they looked up. From the earliest infancy they have had it drilled into them that conflicts can only be settled by brute force. So what is the use in pillorying violence without making any reference to the sources it stems from?
I would be grateful if you could tell me whether there have been any official statements on this problem by the Church, the Pope, or the bishops. If you are unable to give me an answer, perhaps you would be so inclined to indicate to whom else I might address my inquiry.
Maurel appended to the copy of this letter he sent me the following note: In reply, the secretariat of the French bishops’ conference merely sent me a list of seven religious organizations allegedly concerned with these issues. I wrote to them all, but after two months the only reply I received informed me that the organization in question restricted ins activities to torture perpetrated by governmental agencies.”
Such persistent silence is alarming in the extreme. If this were not the first time the recipients had been informed of these findings, they would no doubt have indicated as much in their replies. But if it was the first time, then it is very hard to understand why they displayed such a lack of concern. Are we to believe that the welfare of future generations is a matter of supreme indifference to them? They themselves make frequent reference to the problem of violence and how it might be resolved. Surely we may assume that they are opposed to hatred and violence. Why, then, do they have no wish to know where that hatred comes from and how it evolves? Why do they choose to ignore the sources that have been pointed out to them?
What chance do we have of combating one of the most pernicious evils in society if we avert our gaze from it? The infantile fear of dealing with a painful topic makes us incapable of seeing the resources that we as adults can draw upon. We do have ways of preventing the constant reenactment of these evils. But in order to make use of them, we have to open our eyes.
If the Catholic Church were to open its eyes, train its gaze on the cruelty being done to children, and speak out against it, would that have a detrimental effect on the power of the church? Probably, for at present time that power rests squarely on the subjection of the faithful to its authoritarian decrees. If self-possessed believers were to begin questioning the power structures of the church, those structures would come tumbling down. Willful ignorance of the laws of psychology will, however, hardly suffice to preserve those structures.
But why does the church need this power in the first place? Is it not built around a principle of love and charity that should rule out concern for worldly power? And if so, why does it have so little faith in the power of love that it elects instead to cling to worldly power and demand unconditional obedience? Millions of people never ask themselves this question because they look to religion for protection and solace and believe that this is incompatible with any kind of independent thinking. After the upbringing they have been through, they cannot imagine that God could love people who had minds of their own and spoke up for themselves. Like Adam and Eve, the price they have to pay for the love given them by their parents is unconditional obedience, blind faith, the voluntary renunciation of knowledge and personal convictions- in short, the abandonment of their own true selves. They accept the authoritarian attitude of the church because it is something they are only too familiar with from their own childhood: “We know what you need better than you do. If you want to be loved you must obey. You must never question our decisions. We are in no way accountable to the likes of you.”
The spirit informing the story of creation is obviously the attitude by which such believers are guided. They worship in church, they meekly submit to the decrees issued from above, and they never ask questions. Any inclinations in that direction were radically drummed out of them as children. But there is always the real danger that many of them will be only too ready to place their obedience and their followers’ mentality at the services of other, much more destructive taskmasters.
The diaries of Rudolf Hoss, the commandant of Auschwitz, point to the dangers of this kind of upbringing. As a boy, Hoss was remarkably well behaved and biddable, browbeaten into following the wishes and injunctions of adults until the principles behind them became second nature to him. Today, people brought up like Hoss display an astounding willingness to espouse the most abstruse ideologies of religious sects, neo-Nazi groups, or fundamentalist communities, and at command of others (commands from others are indispensible!) will think nothing of destroying human lives and trampling on human dignity. They do not know that they are imitating the violation of their own dignity, which they were subjected to in childhood. The reason for their ignorance is that they were never allowed to become aware of that early humiliation for what it was. The principle of obedience was hammered home to them as a virtue, and they learned the lesson well. People who go through their entire childhood and youth with their fists clenched in their pockets will almost automatically use those fists as soon as someone tells them it is all right to do so.
How often does this spectacle have to repeat itself before churches and governments realize the drawbacks involved in unconditional obedience, before they are able to welcome a form of upbringing where children are encouraged to be critical and independent minded, an upbringing where free-thinking children can feel loved and protected at home? Such children will feel no urge later in life to plant bombs, set fire to houses, and throw stones, and so will not have to go to prison for their deeds. Like Olivier Maurel, I have addressed countless letters to high-ranking politicians, heads of state, prime ministers, and presidents, especially those of them who make frequent mention in their speeches of the alarming increase in juvenile violence. My aim has been to tell them precisely where that violence stems from, and that it is entirely within our power to do something to combat this escalation in the use of brute force once we have understood the sources it feeds on. But the response (or lack of it) was similar to the reaction that I got from the Vatican and that Maurel got from the bishops. The single answer I received came from the Ministry for the Family Affairs of a major state thanking me for my interest in “childrearing” and completely ignoring the fact that I had written to them about violence in child rearing.
The vast majority of power holders in church and state are afraid of taking up the topic of violence in upbringing, either because they fear antagonizing voters and congregations or because they still feel the dread of retribution from their parents for unequivocally espousing the cause of the young child they once were. But if they believe that this would deprive them of their strength, then they are mistaken. On the contrary; their own history would support them if they could only resolve to face up to it and act in a consciously constructive way.
Evasive silence, abstention, willful ignorance, disregard for available information- all these attitudes may appear innocently passive. But they are tacit decisions that are bound to favor the destructive actions of young people because they immure them in the tradition of blind obedience, with all the dangerous consequences that tradition involves.
My personal experience with church authorities does not mean that there are not individual priests who appreciate the latest psychological findings. There are, and although they are certainly the exception at the moment, their activities may help lead to change for the better. One shining example is Donald Capps, professor of pastoral theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, who has never been afraid to draw on the sources of new insights about childhood and come up with his own exciting discoveries.
Capp’s reflections on St. Augustine’s destructive attitude toward his son show that one can remain a person of the church and still overcome emotional blindness. Millions of people regard Augustine as a man of love because he wrote about the love of God. But Capps reveals him both as a severely beaten small child, who later glorified the practice of child beating (and wrote about children’s innate badness), and as a father who rejected his only child (“born out of sin”). He regarded Augustine as a man who suppressed his own feelings and the strong authentic feelings of his son, and who probably caused his son’s early death.
There is a good deal else that would not exist without "poisonous pedagogy." It would be inconceivable, for example, for politicians mouthing empty clches to attain the highest positions of power by democratic means. But since voters, who as children would normally have been capable of seeing through these clichés with the aid of their feelings, were specifically forbidden to do so in their early years, they lose this ability as adults. The capacity to experience the strong feelings of childhood and puberty (which are so often stifled by child-rearing methods, beatings, or even drugs) could provide the individual with an important means of orientation with which he or she could easily determine whether politicians are speaking from genuine experience or are merely parroting time-worn platitudes for the sake of manipulating voters. Our whole system of raising and educating children provides the power-hungry with a ready-made railway network they can use to reach the destination of their choice. They need only push the buttons that parents and educators have already installed. Alice Miller “Thou Shat Not Be Aware” p.20 also cited in “Concerning Forgiveness: The Liberating Experience of Painful Truth”
First of all, again thank you for reading my book and for writing me to let me know your thoughts on it. It meant a lot to me.
Yes, you told me about your parents a little bit before, but not as detailed as this time. I am so sorry you had a mother so obsessive with cleanness, every obsession is a flight to escape from having to face and feel the fears of the repressed child we once were. I am glad you were able to find understanding for yourself and your parents and connect with them as an autonomous adult, and you able let them know how you felt as a child before they passed.
“My new understanding and the positive regard I now have for them makes me think that Alice Miller might give a real "talking to" if I told her my story. What do you think? I trust you utterly to be a close relationship with Alice and her life's journey...”
I am a little confused by the words above. Who do you mean you like to tell your story to? Alice Miller? Are you aware that Alice Miller passed away on April 14, 2010?
No, I don’t know any clinicians or experts who are carrying on Alice Miller’s work.
I think you are referring to Dr. Gabor Maté.I quote him in my book on page 36 -- he understands well the reasons of mental illness, addictions and chronic illnesses that are linked to childhood loss and trauma. I quote him once in my book to prove that are other professionals saying what Alice says. He does a good analyses of the causes, but recommends the same old tools, like yoga and meditation. These tools only it does, is manipulate people feelings, giving the illusion that it helps, but is just a temporary and superficial fix, because at the end strengthens people repression and making it harder to resolve, and as long people go on repressing their authentic feelings, they will be driven by them into repetition compulsion sooner or later in one form or another. Here is were most professionals get stuck and keep their patients stuck. Feeling the full range of the repressed feelings of the child they once were is too scary for most people. I hope my book will be a valuable kick starter for others that are looking to really understand themselves and others. The fact that the IQ scores are increasing doesn’t give me much hope, because from my experience the smarter people are, the more they use their sharp intellect to come up with rationalizations and seductive theories to evade and run by creating a smoke screen to cover up and hide the facts and evidence from themselves and others. It takes courage to face and feel our repression, intelligence alone is not enough, but it rather helps create pretty seductive lies and illusions.
I agree with you that the world is a big beehive and any disturbance in the periphery and with the aid of technology can affect the entire hive nearly instantaneously. If society doesn’t wake up from the effects of childhood repression soon, we will destroy ourselves with the aid of technology. Like Alice Miller said in her letter to you with title We all are the crew“I agree with you. But to become aware of the fact that our obedience learned in childhood doesn't allow us to think freely needs probably more than many hundred years. I am not sure if thetortured planet leaves us the necessary time to understand this fact, to protest against it, and to become a conscious, responsible member of the crew.”
Take good care my friend and feel free to write me with any more questions you might have.
Much love, Sylvie Comments on Facebook from the sharing of this post Monica ChelagatAwake deep in the night here with my smartphone in bed (bad habit! 😕). Just saw this comment. After the recent attacks in France the concept of destruction feel so real. This is of course excerbated by my geographical location here in Italy and the daily arrival of several hundreds of refugees from the middle east and Africa. I am afraid to say that if Alice Miller were alive today she would probably be catastrophic. It is too late it is only a question of time. The middle east and Africans of Islamic religion are so brain washed by religion and see no hope in the two cultures integrating. Forced integration now is further repression delaying individual evolution. What is happening in many Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia is shocking like stoning women circumcisions lashing in public.... The bees are already out of control. Sylvie Imelda SheneYes, Monica. The bees are out of control and religions are nothing, but a big distraction and tools to keep people’s repression intact, making things worse, because religion is debated instead of the real issue -- childhood repression -- and as long the real issue is avoided, it will just keep getting worse until it destroys everything in its path. It’s like there is a huge elephant is in the room and everyone is avoiding it, pretending it’s not there, because it’s just too painful for most people to face and feel the painful truth that they are children of parents that could not love. And they just go on masquerading with this illusion of love deceiving themselves and others, just like their parents deceived them when they were defenseless little children. “We cannot really love if we are forbidden to know our truth, the truth about our parents and caregivers as well as about ourselves. We can only try to behave as if we were loving, but this hypocritical behavior is the opposite of love. It is confusing and deceptive, and it produces much helpless rage in the deceived person. This rage must be repressed in the presence of the pretended “love,” especially if one is dependent, as a child is, on the person who is masquerading in this illusion of love.” Alice Miller (The Drama of the Gifted Child: The search for the True Self) Page 23 “MY MAIN CONCERN in this present book is with the effects the denial of our true and strong emotions have on our bodies. Such denial is demanded of us not least by morality and religion. On the basis of what I know about psychotherapy, both from personal experience and from accounts I have been given by very many people, I have come to the conclusion that individuals abused in childhood can attempt to obey the Forth Commandment* only by recourse to a massive repression and detachment of their true emotions. They cannot love and honor their parents because unconsciously they still fear them. However much they want to, they cannot build up a relaxed and trusting relationship. Instead, what usually materializes is a pathological attachment, a mixture of fear and dutiful obedience that hardly deserves the name of love in the genuine sense of the word. I call this a sham, a façade. In addition, people abused in childhood frequently hope all their lives that someday they will experience the love they have been denied. These expectations reinforce their attachment to their parents, an attachment that religion creeds refer to as love and praise as a virtue. Unfortunately, the same thing happens in most therapies, as most people are still dominated by traditional morality. There is a price to be paid for this morality, a price paid by the body. Individuals who believe that they feel what they ought to feel and constantly do their best not to feel what they forbid themselves to feel will ultimately fall ill---unless, that is, they leave it to their children to pick up the check by projections onto them the emotions they cannot admit to themselves." From the Preface the Body Nerve Lies, page 14, 15 Read more here