Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Abused abusers
Wednesday July 11, 2007

Dear Dr. Miller,
I actually just started reading your books and happend to find your homepage. I don΄t have read your works yet and thus may be asking an unusefull question. If so, I would be glad if you just shortly pointed to one of your books where I can read the answer.

By thinking about your findings about childhood and upbringing of children, does one not has to come to think that *all *people do suffer during their childhood by one way or the other?

And that we therefor *all*, more or less, have a tendency for destructiveness and mistreatment as adults?
And how could that be overcome? Even the best parents that do seriously struggle to never mistreat or abuse their children but raise them in love and integrity, cannot help but being themselves often distressed and angry a.s.f. and thereby doing wrong to their children. One cannot live in our society (and there are societies on this planet that are even worse as to child mistreatment) and not being distressed. As I see my life in the last 7 years (I am 34, had I had children the age of my mother, that was 27, I would have a 7 year old child by now) - I am sure, had I had a child, I would have inflicted serious damage on her or him, even if I had tried my best. Because I was so unhappy myself! The only way to have a happy child may be to be a happy parent - but where do we get these?

The worklife, the environmental catastrophe, the politics, the disencouraging relation between men and women and the generations, the coldness of social interactions a.s.f. - no parent living in this world can avoid transporting these bad feelings on their children, even if they don΄t want to. Really bad actions - like sexual abuse, slamming, mental mistreatment or neglect - are only the tip of the iceberg. As it seems, human society has always been so.

There are scholars, of course, that hold it has all to do with patriarchy and that there where times when children where raised differently. I used to embrace very strongly this "matriarchy-thesis". I thought this must be the solution! Notwithstanding that nobody would take me for serious speaking of "matricentric societies" or whatever and that it seemed hard to really know what they might have been like.

But in the last few years, I have to come to think that this is more the new, feminist paradise myth, an ancient longing of human kind (or at least, of women) and not a historical truth.

Dear Dr. Miller, do you - after your decades of study and research - seriously think that we - as humans - are able to avoid these "wrongdoings" on our children and that this is not a "conditio humana" that we just cannot avoid?

Even primates, it seems, do reprimand their children, also physically by pushing them back, shouting at them, kicking them or knocking them over the head. I have seen this in a documentary. Is there really hope that we can overcome this legacy?

I am not speaking of criminal actions but of the almost routine everydaylife neglect and mistreatment that come of stress, anger, time pressure, insecurity, unhappyness and so forth. Do your findings support the idea of a peaceful, integer, respectful childhood as a human possibility and not just as wishful thinking?

I have longtime pondered why it is that most people mistreat their children and spouses, the ones we should love the most. That is a paradox of human society. I wonder what your explanation is to that.

Yours very sincerely, H. D.

AM: Why are you asking me questions before you read anything of my work? My answer is: One repeats with one's children the cruelties endured in the own childhood only as long as one denies that one was treated cruelly. If you know your history and don't protect your parents (by saying that everybody MUST (???) be cruel), you will never abuse your child. Because you can have empathy for his or her emotional needs only if your feelings are not blocked in denial. To understand what I am saying here you can read my articles on this web site or - if you don't have enough time - you can just read the first page of this web site.

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