Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Like so many
Sunday February 04, 2007

Hi Alice

I too suffered a great deal as a child, not so much from physical violence, though there was one incredibly harsh belting that I recall. As children the threat of physical chastisement hung over us like a veritable sword of Damocles.
The beating I remember receiving was given to me by my mother. She was furious with my brother and had thrashed him for back chatting her. Questioning the authority of an adult was never permitted. Our mother then proceeded to beat me for having been the person who found the hairbrush she used. This one singular event had a disastrous and profound effect upon me. It left me with a deep seated terror of my own mother and her rage attacks.

The worst of my anguish came from the regular use of fear and humiliation to control 'the child', not only at home, but at school and in many other areas where we socialised.

Mixed inextricably amongst all this was of course childhood sexual assault and it is only recently that I have been fully able to come to terms with just how horrific my childhood really was. The sexual assault of a child does not just happen in isolation and is wholly reliant on all of the other insidious control factors which keep the child terrified, compliant and silent. If I had told what was happening to me I risked a very real beating and much more for supposedly 'lying'. Even admitting that my childhood was horrible has been extremely difficult for me to do, as I was very practised at denial and very much attached to the idea, 'That it really hadn't been all that bad or that there were many who had suffered much worse than I'. I realise as a former nurse that indeed there were many more who suffered much worse than I. I have looked after those people in my role as a nurse. I had to eventually own up to my stuff though. There would be no maturity until I did so.

I am also able to see that there positioned amongst all of the terror were some great moments, such as my vivid childhood memories of the land awakening after the rains came and willy wag tails (very impudent little Australian birds). It has been those great memories and my deep deep love of Mother Nature in which I found great comfort when times were really tough.

I am completely estranged from my family of origin as they continue to protect the offenders, both within the family and close to the family. Their disgust and fury at me is because I opened up about our past. I was the one who told. I am having a huge problem getting my head around Forgiveness. I have been able to forgive myself, but I am unable to forgive those who hurt me and who still defend the indefensible. I have tried to, because amongst all of this I understand that the parenting practises etc they inflicted upon us were often a legacy of their own pasts. I read on your website that you specifically addressed the issue of forgiveness in one of your books. Can you please let me know which book that was?

Regards K

AM: Thank you for your letter. I wrote about the damaging function of forgiveness in my articles on this website and my books, but above all in the books BANISHED KNOWLEDGE and THE BODY NEVER LIES. On my website you will also find the enlightening article written by Barbara Rogers on forgiveness.

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