Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Irrational side of our lives
Friday July 13, 2007

Alice,

A friend of mine recommended your books to me a month ago and I have spent the past month devouring all of them. The only one I haven't gotten yet is "The Truth Will Set You Free". One difficulty I am having is not talking about it all in every conversation that I have with everyone. I started on this path because of problems in my romantic relationships (I'm a 30-year old Canadian professor of South Asian Indian origin). I was in a 3-year long, long-distance relationship, got engaged last year and broke off the engagement three months later for reasons I didn't really understand (the chapter on Kafka in "Thou Shalt Not Be Aware" was helpful on this). I think what I like most about your work, what was so powerful for me, was the idea that even the irrational side of our lives can be understood and explained. This is so much more empowering than other things I've read about addiction, for example, even from insightful people like Patrick Carnes. I've been in therapy a few months now, with someone who knows your work and uses it as the framework for his practice. There's a long way to go and much to be explored, but I feel so much better equipped going into therapy having read your books. Thank you so much.

You might not be able to answer my questions, but I'll try to phrase them at a general level. What I'd love to know is how much is known, or how much you know, about how specific kinds of abuse or humiliation of children lead to specific problems in adulthood. In particular, what do you think about "sex addiction" in males - for example compulsive masturbation, use of pornography, strip clubs, massage parlors, prostitution? Carnes discusses this in light of shame, but at a very general level, whereas your books are much more specific and insightful on a lot of related matters. It seems to me that the childhood traumas leading to these compulsions would be significant... but I didn't notice any discussion of them in your books.

Yours, J.

AM: You write: I think what I like most about your work, what was so powerful for me, was the idea that even the irrational side of our lives can be understood and explained.
I think that what seems to us irrational is the disguised version of our story that we deny because it was so painful. Once people find the courage to face their stories and to feel how terribly they suffered in their childhood, their behavior, their fears, their addictions no longer seem irrational; they reveal themselves as LOGICAL consequences of the abuse that people had to endure. Each life is unique and nothing is irrational if we dare to see the reality of a single childhood. Unfortunately this is seldom done in all the programs of recovery that offer behavioral, religious or "spiritual" means to "overcome" the abuse, without being forced to see and recognize the cruelty of one's own parents, without facing and feeling the own REALITY.

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