Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Truth concealed causes child's suffering
Saturday July 14, 2007

Dear Alice:
I have learned a tremendous amount from reading your books. I cannot thank you enough for providing so much information and help. When reading For Your Own Good, I became aware of the mistake I made by keeping a secret from my daughter, now age 19. For years, I have been silent about early events in her life. I fear that the unspoken rage she holds inside relating to that time period is responsible for a recent serious health problem, and also her extreme messiness, sloppiness. She refuses to go for any counseling or psychotherapy, either out of rebellion, or fear.

My daughter was a very bright child, like I had been, and I pushed academics on her at a very early age just like my father had done with me. What I realize now, but did not know then, was that her withdrawal into an autistic spectrum world at age 6 or 7 was really a reaction to the overload she was getting from me.

Desperate to cure her (and be the perfect parent with the perfect child), I tried everything from a child psychologist to a homeopathic healer to a gluten free diet, which I kept her on for four years. The symptoms gradually went away, which I attributed to my efforts with the diet.

We have never spoken about this period in her life. I never told her I suspected autism or Aspergers because I considered her "cured" and did not want her to think she was anything less than normal. I also wanted to conceal the information from her jealous, younger sister who could torment her with it. I thought I was being a good mother by not wanting her to feel different from others (when all the time I was "fixing" her, I'm sure she felt very different).

Is it too late to bring up this secret, the truth from her childhood?
Can it be beneficial for her to discuss it with me now? My wish to talk doesn't stem from my desire to absolve my own guilt, but rather my wish for her health, an easier future life.

Sincerely, L.

AM: It is up to you to recognize what your daughter needs to know from you at the moment, and not to impose YOUR needs on her, if you maybe wish to "fix" her again. Be open and honest to her questions, this can be much for her. But forcing her to ask questions that she doesn't have maybe imposing your needs on her.

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