Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Fear
Saturday September 08, 2007

Alice –

Me … 5 years ago …
- I was 35 years old
- I was married with no kids
- I was in therapy (cognitive behavioral) for anxiety
- I was sleeping great
- I read Drama of the Gifted Child and thought it was useless

Me … 2 years ago …
- I have a 2 year old son and a newborn son
- I have terrible insomnia
- My body constantly feels extremely sense, day and night – shoulders hunched, shallow breath, gritted teeth
- I change therapists, finding a true enlightened witness
- I read Drama again and found it incredibly profound, wondering how I missed it before
- I occasionally cry hard in therapy, always related to my father who parented using large and constant doses of shame and ridicule
- I think my mother a saint
- I begin paying attention to dreams, and the horror they reveal about my childhood (usually depicted though my kids) is unmistakable
- My therapist asked me if I ever get angry and I say rarely

Me … today …
- My insomnia has never been worse
- I visit your site just about every day to read letters
- I've read Drama a couple more times, as well as The Truth Will Set You Free, For Your Own Good, Thou Shall Not Be Aware, The Body Never Lies
- I watch my mother with my kids and it can best be described as "indifferent", "detached", "unfeeling", "cold".
- I've concluded that my childhood must have been horrific given a cold, indifferent mother and an emotionally abusive father.
- I realize that I am pretty much perpetually angry. I'm angry at my wife for expecting me to help out around the house. I'm angry at my kids for taking up too much of my precious free time.
- The only time I feel like I'm being genuine, the real me, is when I am extremely angry or crying in therapy (which hurts so much but in a weird way feels incredibly good/liberating). The rest of the time … interacting with clients at work, socializing with friends, playing make-believe with my kids … I feel like an actor playing a role.
- I am terrified that I am continuing the "poisonous pedagogy" passed along from my parents. I love my boys dearly and hate myself for not being able to quash the rage and give them the attention and love they deserve. I've never struck them, but suppressed rage, my stares of fury and inattentiveness have to be causing them pain.

- I feel stuck in therapy. My understanding of the horror of my childhood is mostly cerebral and I'm having a tough time really "getting" it. I know what happened. The evidence - my few childhood memories, the dreams, my occasional sobbing in therapy and watching my parents interact with my kids - is all around me. But I know I need to have a much deeper understanding of the pain I went through in order to really love and accept the little boy inside me. Only then will I be the father I want to be. I really, truly want to raise my kids to meet THEIR NEEDS, not mine.

Below is a recent entry into my journal. My question to you and Barbara is -- Is there anything you can add or change to the advice I give myself at the end of my journal? Any words of wisdom? I would truly appreciate it. Thanks for all of your wonderful work – the books, website etc … D.

6/17/07 – Journal
For the first time in a long time, it may even be the first time ever, I stopped to listen to Nicholas, my 4-year-old son. I still wasn't 100% there with him, but I was a lot farther along than I usually am. He has been really acting out lately and I get so frustrated with his behavior. I recently started thinking that he is going to be a real behavior problem. Anyway, I listened to him today and all he wanted me to do was to quit watching my golf on tv and play with him. To really engage and play with him. Well I did. We pretended we were rockets flying around the house and he was so happy. So genuinely happy. His energy picked up, his face lit up and looking back on it it just seems like he was really fulfilled, like his needs were finally being met. Not surprisingly, he acted out very little the rest of the night. As my wife and I were going to bed she said to me "he really had a great time playing today". I played stupid and said, "what do you mean". I guess I just wanted to hear her say it and she did "he really enjoyed playing with you today". She left the room and my eyes immediately welled up with tears. I said out loud, "all he wants is for you to listen to him, let him know that he matters and to play with him". I know that's what I never got and I'm in real danger of not giving it to him. I really want to give it to him … and to give it to me. It was Father's day today and I called my Dad. I felt obligated. I said "happy father's day" and I wanted to vomit. I actually "gave him the finger" through the phone as I was talking to him. But part of me just "had" to call him. I know as long as I do this that I am not sympathizing with the child that I once was. I am forgiving my father (ditto for my mom) and they do not deserve it. As long as I continue to do this I choose them - I forgive them and respect them, more than me. I'm saying what they did to me and the way they treated me is ok and it's not. It's just not.

AM: You know everything that you need to know indeed, but you are probably still very much afraid of feeling the rage towards your PARENTS and to stay true to your feelings. Instead you suffer from insomnia and corporal pain that most likely remind you of being beaten in childhood. You write: “It was Father's day today and I called my Dad. I felt obligated. I said "happy father's day" and I wanted to vomit. I actually "gave him the finger" through the phone as I was talking to him. But part of me just "had" to call him. I know as long as I do this that I am not sympathizing with the child that I once was. I am forgiving my father (ditto for my mom) and they do not deserve it. As long as I continue to do this I choose them - I forgive them and respect them, more than me. I'm saying what they did to me and the way they treated me is ok and it's not. It's just not.”
There is nothing I have to add to your words except to tell you that the FEAR, which hinders you to do what you feel would be the right thing to do for you, is the fear of a very small boy who must have been in mortal danger if he tried to defend himself. Today, this danger is not real. Try to explain this to the scared child who has been living in your body for 40 years and who still believes that his mother is "a saint," even when you as a grown-up see her coldness and indifference. Try to talk to this child; he will have to tell you much – things that you never dreamt of before. You are on the best path to liberate yourself from your fear, which is fully understandable when you take into account the terror of your childhood.


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