Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Illusions disguised as spirituality
Thursday December 21, 2006

Ms. Miller,
I am with a fellowship known as Adult Children of Alcoholics. ACA is a 12-step fellowship of men and women who endured abuse, neglect and indifference as children but who live in confusion about their past unless they get focused help. An adult child is someone who unknowingly responds to adult situations with the childhood fears of being unlovable, inferior or wrong. We self-sabotage ourselves in friendships and romantic relationships until we find help. ACA believes that addiction, compulsive sexual activity, over spending, overeating and other forms of self-harm and dissociation have their basis in childhood trauma, neglect and indifference. We just published our fellowship meeting book. I would like to send you one of these first edition books for free because I believe you would understand our search for the True Self. This book was 15 years in the making and it encourages adult children to talk about their childhood experiences and to inventory the dysfunctional family (specifically the parents). The goal is to achieve emotional sobriety by externalizing the parents and to reparent ourselves with self-love and spirituality.
O. G.

AM: You write: The goal is to achieve emotional sobriety by externalizing the parents and to reparent ourselves with self-love and spirituality. What exactly do you mean by "spirituality"?

The spirituality we seek in Adult Children of Alcoholics is reliance upon a Higher Power who is loving and non-abandoning. However, this is a journey more than a destination. The adult child must first realize that he or she has projected the traits and attributes of abusive/neglectful parents onto God. So the God we arrive at in adulthood is usually a projection of our judging and abandoning parents or caregiver. This distortion of a Higher Power is validated by organized religion, which tends to be shaming and controlling. Once the recovering adult child realizes that the God he or she was raised with is really a distortion (this can take years), then the work of accepting a loving Higher Power can begin. Then the concept of self-loves becomes believable.
O.


AM: Thank you for your reply; it is much telling to me because in my opinion the word "spirituality" is in most cases covering something that is not clear. In your concept I don't see the path to growing but rather the repetition and continuation of the child's dependency on illusions. My experience gave me a very different view into illness and healing. If you have enough time, you can read the letters published here and see that growing and healing begin when former victims of mistreatment start to confront themselves with the cruelty of their upbringing, without illusions about the "love" of a higher power and without blaming themselves for projections. They allow themselves to feel their authentic emotions without moral restrictions and in this way become eventually true to themselves.
If you succeed to read the 12 steps with an open mind, freely, as if it were for the first time, you will easily discover how they continue to keep the ACA in the former dependency of the child: fear, self-blame and permanent overstrain.
A person who has eventually painfully realized that she was never loved, can, based on this truth, learn to love herself and her children. But a person who lives with the illusion that she was indeed loved by the Higher Power, though she has missed to feel this love, will probably blame herself in the old manner for her lack of gratitude and will tend to demand the love from her children. By so doing, she will pass on the blame to her children if they don't behave in the way she wishes them to do; she will pass on the blame, together with the lie that she learned in her so-called recovery.


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