Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Guilt as a Trap not a Trip
Wednesday August 29, 2007

Dear Alice, I’m 41 this year and have been in therapy for 7 years now. I bought your book ‘The Truth Will Set you Free’ 4 years ago but never read it until last month. It gave me the courage to look at where I have been emotionally struck blind.

On the surface, I am a successful career woman and in recent years have managed to sustain a relationship that is loving & harmonious – although I am still very much learning how to relate to people. Inside, I am filled with self doubt and anxiety. Panic attacks & broken relationship have plagued my personal & professional life and it is these that have steered me down a road of self discovery & healing.

A recent incident linked with my Mother provoked a reaction of such rage in me, but the guilt I felt at feeling such rage toward my mother equaled it. The result: an adult once again reeling with confusion & feeling trapped, over whelmed and over powered. I found the courage to confront my mother. I had to do so in writing as I never get enough time to speak to her before receiving threatening insults & looks that reduce me to a quivering, terrified child filled with shame & humiliation again.

My mother recently exploited my trust, quite seriously and not for the first time. She used a good deed I did for her, for purposes other than agreed between us. Instead of apologizing to me for what she did when I found out about it, she threatened to not speak to me ever again for accusing her of such things. There was huge row out of which I have emerged as the demon and she remains correct and right in her conviction that my father must pay for what he did to her irrespective of what methods she uses, including using her children to get her way. He was a womanizer – our home was a war zone as far back as I can remember. Him with other women and my mother, in her shame, bullying him back into submission.

My father crossed sexual boundaries with me in my teens, although in abuse terms, you’d call it mild, she also used that story to get what she wanted from him financially i.e. the family home 10 years ago. My father and I have been dealing with his behaviour toward me and the effects it has on me and we are slowly trying to work things out between us. That doesn’t suit my mother. She would rather have him labeled demonic so that she can retain her purist position. She was only disgusted with his behaviour when she realized that he was never coming back to her, prior to that, I was told to shut up.

As children, four of us lived under our mother’s tyrannical rule. A home filled with rules, regulation & religious dogma. There was the constant threat of being beaten with the stick that was always positioned, within view, authoritatively in the corner to be used at her will and as the mood took her. That was often! The last time she hit me, was when I hit her back. I was 16. She didn’t speak to me for months after that – the guilt I felt was immense.

I’m 41 Alice. I denied for years that the bad stuff ever happened. I clung on to the good memories, opting to play the role of the dutiful and obedient daughter to avoid punishment. I deluded myself that my mother loved me. I was sure that was an easier path than the change in direction I am now taking. I am prepared now to wake up. In waking up it may seem that I am only focusing on the negative. The voices in my head have me doomed to the eternal burning fires of hell.

However, there is a little part of me that doesn’t believe that stuff anymore.
I’m willing to give that little part a voice.
I’m willing to confront and challenge my mother.
I’m willing to be isolated by her & her family – I am no longer willing to isolate the little one inside of me, abandoned now for so long.
I’m willing to feel the guilt and call it simply that, ‘guilt’ and know that it doesn’t belong to part of me that is waking up – it was the False Me that fostered this emotion.

I am not responsible for my mother anymore and if she carries out her lifetime threat of suicide, then so be it. If she chooses to die, then it is she that chooses to die. I cannot be held responsible for her death.
I am willing to let her go to save myself. What a thought! How selfish! How dare I?
I dare.

Is there anything you can recommend to help me cope with the guilt? My therapist has been a wonderful ‘enlightened witness’ and continues to be so, but I find the guilt repeatedly steers me off course. I feel I am dealing with my anger, I accept it and understand its origins. It is the emotions of guilt & a sense of being responsibile for how everyone else feels that has me so trapped.

Thank you so much for the truth in your writings. You have validated the little part of me that so needed to be validated, my own child.

Love, A.

AM: I can only congratulate you to your decision and hope that you will find support on this site.

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