Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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My brother denies the truth
Tuesday July 24, 2007

Dear Ms. Miller,

Thank you for your reply regarding public exposure. I asked it because I started to write a blog (in Hebrew) and I feel very good with writing. But only now I realize that I was afraid to discuss a disturbing experience I have with my older brother. My brother, living abroad for 15 years now, was sadistic when he was a child and teenager, and I suffered a lot from his violence. I wrote to you about it on Dec 4, 2005: "The crime of not giving protection". Your reply was that my brother did to me what he learned from my parents, who I was still afraid to blame at the time. Now I think that my brother is not to blame, and I see him as a victim of our parents' abuse just like me. We never had an honest conversation, but since my father died, a few months ago, we started to write to each other. A few weeks ago I sent him a link to my blog, where I wrote about my father. I received supporting and understanding comments from most readers, but my brother's reaction was different. He was obviously angry at me, very critical of my attitude, and completely misunderstanding. I felt shocked and humiliated. I replied to him very assertively, and he wrote to me again, in much greater respect, but still siding with our parents and greatly minimizing any neglect or abuse. He repeatedly writes that although our parents sometimes hurt him, he doesn't blame them for it. Nevertheless, it seems that he is willing to discuss it and he asked me to write to him what exactly my parents did that I consider unforgivable. Now I am ambivalent about this correspondence. I want to help my brother gain more insight and I also want to prove to him that he is wrong because I want to stand up for myself. Because he is also my parents' victim I want us to be on the same side. On the other hand, although he now writes to me in a seemingly loving and respectful way, his questions make me feel paralysed, and suddenly I find it hard to explain what was so terrible about my childhood. It makes me feel blocked and confused. What do you think I should do?

"Norman"

AM: It is a problem that many people have, and I can empathize with you. You have trouble to believe that your parents were so cruel, you hope and hope that your memory is wrong, that your emotions are fooling you, but you want to be honest with yourself and eventually you see: There is no escape from the truth, your body doesn’t let you lie. Then, as a last hope, you suppose that the person who also suffered from the same parents, who knows your reality, will confirm your truth, will say: Yes, I know that you are RIGHT. But he doesn't do it; he does not have your courage and your honesty. If he had them, he would not have punished you in the same way as he had been punished. You can't change him, can't force him to make the hard work if he doesn't want to. You must let him be how he is. It may be very painful for you; his denial may trigger your rage about what he did to you when you were a small child without protection. I think, instead of having pity for him, express your long withheld rage and write him how you felt and still feel about being tortured by him sadistically. If you try to help HIM now and to protect him from your rage, which he had deserved, you will betray yourself and abandon yourself like you may have done in your childhood. You know that your body would have to pay the bill for this self-betrayal.

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