Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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To please for love
Thursday February 08, 2007

Dear Alice Miller,
A friend of mine recommended Drama of the Gifted Child to me a few years ago and I read it twice. The first time, I read it quickly, and had intense reactions to everything that you write. I concluded that my attention-seeking ways, neverending quest for validation, sexual repression, and anorexia, and the sabotage of my relationships, career, education, and social life have all come about because of a very simple, sinister message that my emotionally neglectful parents drummed into me throughout my childhood: "No one will love you like we do. We are all that you have, and when we're gone no one will love you. You're not good enough." I am having a hard time because keep on creating relationships with people who I want to become my parental replacements. Usually they are about 11-15 years older than me. They all start the same way: I feel attracted to them, I insist on being close to them in their lives, I seek attention and approval from them, I stop doing things that are important to me (or feel guilt when I do things that are important to me - for fear of their reprisal - and focus only on them.) Then, I get resentful because I feel that they are controlling me and using me. I spend lots of time, energy, and money doing things for them, and trying to win and buy their affections while starting to feel increasingly anxious about my place in their lives. I start to feel insecure after the honeymoon phase passes away, and I start to isolate myself from them when they become angry that i am not taking care of their needs, and am thinking only of my own. I do whatever I can to return to their good graces, even if it means making agreements with them about who I am - even if I disagree with them. Finally, I completely give my power over to them, and the relationship breaks up with them feeling used, and enraged, and I the same. I also end up feeling confused about who I really am, because I allowed myself to see myself through their eyes, and I feel guilt when I try to individuate from them. I experience fear when these figures are upset with me, and put their needs before mine.
I am currently in the aftermath of another cycle of relationship like this. And I see myself investing more of myself into these harmful cycles, and I don't know how to stop. I have a therapist with whom I talk about my feelings, and my family of origin, we also work with dialectic behavioural therapy. I am in a program for trauma survivors that explores the first pains and hurts, and helps me learn how to separate the triggers from my memory of the past. And I'm in support groups for eating disorders. I'm terrified of confronting the people that I force into becoming authority figures in my life. I make myself so small in relation to them, and then they end up being angry with me and being verbally and physically abusive. And I don't believe it when these people in my life say that I have harmed them through my emotional withdrawal and passive agression.
My question is: when I have withdrawn from these people because of my utter discomfort with and fear of the tension in our dynamic, how do I go about healing these relationships, and healing myself?
Thank you, W.

AM: If you want to please, and to feel what you think that others expect you to feel, you are never with yourself, and you don't know yourself. We are not born to please; we are born to BE who we are. We are entitled to have our own feelings and thoughts. If parents refused us this right in our childhood, we must learn to reclaim it later as adults, otherwise we would never know who we are. Because we are our feelings. Rereading the DRAMA might help you to understand this.

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