Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Nightmares
Friday July 13, 2007

Dear Mrs. Miller,

A few times a week I read the newest information on your website. Also I have read your books "the gifted child" and "the body never lies" which have helped me a lot. Your website has been a lifeline to me since I am living in a country that is drowning in the black pedagogy (the Netherlands).

I was raised by a narcisstic father and a narcissistic/histrionic mother. The abuse I suffered was partly physical but mostly psychological. Being myself resulted in pinching, hitting and sometimes belting. The psychological abuse consisted of manipulation, lying and isolation from the outside world. My mother created this isolation by telling people that I was a difficult daughter, she even got people to believe that I was braindamaged and that that was the reason for my behaviour. To put the record straigtht: I do not have braindamage, I work as a teacher and I live the life of an average Dutch person.

Because my parents looked so perfect to the outside world (beautiful house, lots of money, influential family etc.) nobody believed my story. This is still the case; my parents broke off contact with me about 12 years ago (I made the "capital" mistake of setting my boundaries), since then I have not heard from my large family aside from abusive phonecalls from my sister and attempts from other relatives to reunite me with my parents.

From a very young age I suffered from very strong, intense and fearful nightmares. These nightmares happened a few times a night and were very terrifying. During the nightmares I would scream, walk and hit walls. At one time I woke up hanging out of a window. Often people would tell me the day after about what had happened, sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the terror of the nightmare. The nightmares always had the same theme: someone was about to kill me or I was caught in a small space between four walls without an escape. Waking up in the middle of the nightmare was extremely fearful and terrifying. My husband told me at one of these occassions that I was screaming "mummy, mummy don't put me in the closet".

During the years that I had these nightmares I did consult a psychologist and a neurologist, but they didn't know what was the matter, they had never heard of these type of nightmares. At some point they thought I might have some kind of epilepsy but no proof was ever given. From the moment that my parents broke off their relationship with me the nightmares stopped. I am still suffering from claustrofobia though.

I now think that the nightmares had to do with the trauma of my childhood, however I would very much like to hear your view on these nightmares and what might have been the matter.

Thanking you, E.

AM: You write: “The nightmares always had the same theme: someone was about to kill me or I was caught in a small space between four walls without an escape. Waking up in the middle of the nightmare was extremely fearful and terrifying. My husband told me at one of these occasions that I was screaming "mummy, mummy don't put me in the closet".”
Your dreams and the information of your husband clearly show that your body KNOWS what happened to you at a very early time of your life: you were put into the closet (!!!!). To feel what this meant for a small child is more than one can imagine, to deny seems sometimes the only option to survive. You thus need much time to come in touch with theses terrible feelings of fear, rejection, hurt, despair. But you seem to have the courage and be willing to come to know your history and no longer deny it. So you will succeed in doing it, step by step, because now you are no longer in danger, unless you protect your perpetrators by your denial. The nightmares want to help you to eventually BELIEVE and take seriously what your body tells you.

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