Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My Little Reviews of the Books of Alice Miller

Bea Strauss-Zelnick Sylvie Imelda Shene, The only Alice Miller I know of and can find on-line is a Psychoanalyst. Are you referring to her, if so, which books would you recommend?

Bea, all of her of books were a big help in my liberation that is hard for me to recommend which one to read first. Below are my little reviews of all of her books that I share at the end of my book A Dance to Freedom: Your Guide to Liberation from Lies and Illusions:

I’ve read every book written by Alice Miller multiple times. You should see my copies of them — pages are dogeared and many passages are highlighted! Every Alice Miller book has something to offer people on their paths to freedom and I encourage you to read them all.  The first Alice Miller book I ever read was Thou Shalt Not Be Aware, and the ones that really clicked for me when I started my journey of discovery were The Truth Will Set You Free, Breaking Down the Walls of Silence and Banished Knowledge. Below is a list of every book written by Alice Miller, along with some of my thoughts about each one that I hope you’ll find useful. The editions listed below are the ones I used to source the quotes that are footnoted in my book.

Prisoners of Childhood (Basic Books, 1981)

This is the first book Alice Miller wrote and it’s the last book of hers that I read. The new edition of this book, retitled The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self, made her famous in the United States and is actually a lot easier to understand. Prisoners is much more academic and was written at a time when Alice Miller still believed that psychoanalysis could help people resolve their repression. By the time The Drama was published, Alice Miller had given up on the illusion of psychoanalysis. She found that its theory and practice actually hindered true liberation because it was just another form of what she called poisonous pedagogy. She was so convinced that psychoanalysis was dangerous that she resigned from the psychoanalytical associations she belonged to.

For Your Own Good (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002)

This is the second Alice Miller book I read. I was attracted to this book by the title because the people who hurt me the most when I was growing up would always say, “It’s for your own good.” This book answers the question of why some people can be so mean in our world. Alice Miller uses the lives of Hitler, a drug addict and a child murderer to demonstrate how abused, neglected and misunderstood children can grow up to be very dangerous adults.

Thou Shalt Not Be Aware (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998)

I almost wish I hadn’t started my relationship with Alice Miller with this book, because it was very difficult for me to get through. But I could still tell that someone was finally speaking the truth based on facts, so I kept reading. It was refreshing to know that there was someone out there who had the courage to tell it like it is! This book helped me understand the consequences of the sexual exploitation of children. I came to see clearly how people who’ve been sexually abused as children will unconsciously and compulsively enter into exploitative sexual relationships. Most women who get into prostitution, for example, were extremely abused as children and are unconsciously and compulsively telling the true story of what happened to them when they were defenseless. In this book, Alice Miller dissects the lives of famous writers like Virginia Woolf and demonstrates how the abuse they suffered as children comes through in their creative endeavors.

Pictures of a Childhood, (Virago Press Limited, 1995)

In this book, Alice Miller shows how she gained access to her own childhood memories through paintings that show fear, despair and loneliness. Her creative outlet showed her a childhood she never believed she even had! This book really helped me see and feel the fear, despair and loneliness that I, too, had suffered throughout my childhood and youth.
The Untouched Key (First Anchor Books Edition, 1991)

With this book, Alice Miller remains focused on facts and continues removing the many veils that people have used since the beginning of human history to hide the truth. She analyzes the work of famous philosophers like Nietzsche and artists like Picasso, and shows how they symbolically tell the true stories of their childhoods without ever realizing it. Alice Miller believes that the symbolism in their work helped these great thinkers survive, but that it didn’t liberate them because they never made the fundamental connection between their ideas as adults and their truths as children.

Banished Knowledge (An Anchor Book, Published by Doubleday, 1990)

I wish I had read this book earlier because it really helped me understand the chains of repetition compulsion and how I kept reenacting my childhood drama in present relationships. Through this book I finally learned that the adult within me had to take responsibility and protect me from further abuse by paying attention to the wounded child who was also within me.
The Drama of the Gifted Child, (Basic Books, 1994)

As I mentioned earlier, this book is the revised edition of Alice Miller’s first book, Prisoners of Childhood. I like this version much better. Alice Miller shows how gifted, sensitive children end up losing themselves by repressing their strong feelings in order to accommodate the adults around them. The consequences of this can include depression on one end of the spectrum and narcissistic feelings of grandeur on the other.

Breaking Down the Wall of Silence (Basic Books, 1997)

This is another one of my favorite Alice Miller books. It really spoke to me directly and I wish I had read it earlier. The language in this book is much clearer than some of her other books. In a simple way it helped me understand my own history and the real reasons for my adult suffering. More than any other, this book paved the way for my true healing and total freedom. Alice Miller analyzes the lives of many infamous dictators and makes the link between the horrors they suffered as children and the ones they inflicted on their subjects.
Paths of Life — Seven Scenarios (First Vintage Books Edition, 1999)

In the first edition of Paths of Life, Alice Miller offers seven case studies. But in the paperback edition, based on new information, she removed the story of a woman called Sandra and the book was called Paths of Life — Six Scenarios. When I read Sandra’s story in the first edition I felt that something just didn’t make sense about her father — and it turns out I was right! In any event, the other case studies do a great job of explaining how our first experiences of pain and love affect all the relationships throughout our lives. This book helped me see how childhood suffering and loneliness prevent people from forming close ties with emotionally honest people. It’s only when our repressed fears are faced and resolved — and when our defensive mechanisms have been removed — that we become free to enter into healthy relationships.
The Truth Will Set You Free (Basic Books, 2001)

This is another one of my favorite Alice Miller books. It really helped me stay on my healing path and feel my repressed emotions without being distracted by false philosophies — no matter how seductive they sounded. In this book, Alice Miller explores brain development research and shows how humiliations, spankings and beatings, slaps in the face, betrayals, sexual exploitation, ridicule, neglect and other forms of childhood trauma can cause permanent brain damage. She shows how barriers in the mind — caused by childhood traumas that occurred when our brains were still being developed — make us emotionally blind to the damage done to us.
The Body Never Lies (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2005)

Some people have complained to me that Alice Miller’s books are repetitive. It’s interesting to me that these same people haven’t been able to free themselves and remain stuck in their repressed childhoods without realizing it. Maybe if they kept reading all of Alice Miller’s books they’d be able to break through their repression and really liberate themselves! In each book, Alice Miller reinforces her main message in a different light, with new insights designed to help people see themselves and others more clearly and feel things on a deeper level. In this book, Alice Miller shows how religious leaders exploit our fears, use shame and guilt to control and manipulate us just like our parents did, and keep us in the dependent state of the child. She also explains how our repressed emotions can cause health problems in our adult lives.
Free From Lies (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2009)

In this book, Alice Miller shows how we can really free ourselves — and save our lives — by finding the true history of our childhood and recognizing the lies and hypocrisy so prevalent in our society. I loved that she included some of the articles published on her website because it’s much easier to read them in the book and digest the insights. This book really helped me permanently remove the invisible reins of guilt, fear and shame put upon me by my childhood abusers, so that no one else could grab them to keep me hostage and chained in their emotional traps.
From Rage to Courage (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2009)

Alice Miller shares the answers to many of her readers’ letters in this book. Her honest and compassionate answers helped me clearly see how we can use our strong emotions to reveal the personal truth that makes healing and liberation possible.

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