Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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The rage inside
Sunday July 08, 2007

Dear Alice Miller,

Your work has touched my soul a number of times in my life. As a child, I was verbally abused, ridiculed, spanked and blamed repeatedly for whatever displeased my parents. By age 7, I was hospitalized with severe colon problems. Although doctors at the time suggested psychological counseling and did question their parenting style, they found this proof of the “ignorance of the medical profession” and found another doctor some distance away willing to treat me with high doses of medications. My medical problems improved when I left home, but my social isolation got worse.

As an adult, my main method of dealing with the anxiety and depression was focusing on work and making it my entire life. This gave me professional success, but left me feeling so empty and alone. I couldn’t manage to connect with people on other than a superficial level. Something I read in a magazine led me to read The Drama of the Gifted Child and for the first time, I recognized myself in your words. I did try psychotherapy, but picked a therapist who basically told me I needed to “learn to make better choices”. I spent years with that therapist because he was considered quite prestigious, although I repeatedly noticed he would change the subject whenever I discussed either my childhood or sexuality in general!

Not surprisingly, my intimate relationships have been mainly with self-absorbed men who I let devalue, mistreat and blame me for their own unhappiness. Once again, reading The Truth will Set You Free opened my eyes post-divorce, and I vowed to be a better, more compassionate mother to my own children. One of my proudest moments was when they asked me: “Why does Grandma always criticize and say bad things to us? Isn’t she happy?” Unlike me, they seemed to understand as children that her behavior says nothing about them and everything about her. It has taken me half a lifetime to learn that!!

I believe I am coming to terms with my past. I understand that I need to listen to the voice inside that guides me, and to be who I truly am no matter what I am dealing with. But I have never been able to handle the rage. It comes out unexpectedly, especially if I think someone is trying to take advantage of me, or when my children act disrespectful towards me. I have read numerous things on controlling anger in self-help books and even turned to religion and spirituality. Everything seems to speak of feeling your anger, forgiving the perpetrators and then moving on. But I just couldn’t manage to do that, and I actually began to feel “defective” again for not being able to simply forgive people who have “wronged” me.

Then, today, I found this website and I understand on a gut level that I DON’T HAVE TO FORGIVE. You have given me permission to do what seems to come naturally. I do have a right to be angry. I know I have misdirected that anger towards men who could not love me, and to children whose job was never to make me feel loved. I should be angry at my parents for their inability to love (or even recognize) who I was as a child. I do know that they had miserable childhoods too, but I don’t know if I can ever forgive what happened to me as a child because of them, and now I know that that is okay too.

Thank you so much for all you have written. You have changed my life and that of so many others. (I will order The Body Never Lies right now.)

AM: I hope that the rage will find support by reading my last book. It will dare to come out of its prison, so start to express itself and reclaim the rights of the humiliated child. You can write us then how it happened.

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