Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Facts and Pessimism
Saturday September 22, 2007

Dear Ms. Miller,

In the article "Gurus and Cult Leaders" ("Paths of Life", Reflections), you write:

"It is by no means unlikely that the attempts to use primal therapy to delve into the earliest stages of life are bound to fail in those cases where very early traumatic experiences have caused severe irreversible damage to the brain."

I do not know if primal therapy, alone or combined with other therapy methods, is more effective than other therapies. Putting this question aside, I would like to comment, as a physician, on the issue of brain damage in people who suffer from mental "conditions", even if this is not what you originally meant to imply. This is because some people may use statements like this to justify a "medical" view of the typical victim. It is important to understand that the vast majority of victims do NOT suffer from irreversible damage to the brain, but are perfectly normal people with perfectly normal brains that were driven out of their minds by the torture they underwent in childhood.

The idea that "mental patients" (i.e. victims of abuse) suffer from this or other brain pathology is the central dogma of medical psychiatry, although it has generally not been substantiated by the facts. This idea is repeatedly drummed into our heads by many so-called "experts". Every now and then another "research" is cited in the psychiatric literature that "proves" that something is the matter with the victims' brains, being the cause genetic, developmental, or environmental. The fact that for every such research ten other can be cited to contradict it, is obscured by the psychiatric establishment and its prestigious journals. Critical psychiatrists ( e.g. Laing, Szasz) have seen through this intricate system of psychiatric brainwash and wrote about it. In his book "Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry: Drugs, Electroshock, and the Role of the FDA" (1997), psychiatrist Peter Breggin writes:

"Despite more than two hundred years of intensive research, no commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder has been proven to be genetic or biological in origin, including schizophrenia, major depression, manic-depressive disorder, the various anxiety disorders, and childhood disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity."

All of these "mental patients", without exception, are victims of severe child abuse. Like criminal prisoners, they are often imprisoned and punished instead of being given real help. In the last decades, drugs and other "physical therapies" have proven useful to control them. The "brain damage" theory was invented to ensure our belief that they "deserve" this medical "correction". Of course there are instances when a blow to an infant's head can result in internal hemorrhage, fractures, and structural damage that will manifest as neurological disturbances in later life - disturbances that every neurologist can objectively test. But this is the exception. Most victims end up emotionally damaged, but physically intact. The body heals, the soul still suffers. The body can fix itself much more effectively that the soul because it cannot be fed with lies, deception and pedagogy. Nothing will convince it to change its natural healing behavior and confuse it.

The lie that victims have "defective brains", for whatever reason, neatly serves the financial and emotional interests of everyone involved, especially of the pharmaceutical and medical imaging industries. In addition, it encourages victim and therapist alike to give up hopes of recovery - I could see the heart-breaking effect of "biological" explanations given to "psychiatric patients" and it made me very angry. This outrageous "medicalization" of victims takes place day in and day out in "clinics" and "hospitals" while these "patients" have not a single objective neurological sign of brain damage or dysfunction.

It is much more likely that we still cannot completely cure some victims because the systematic study of effective psychological therapy for victims is still in its youth, and is not supported by the vast sums of money invested in looking for physical explanations that simply do not exist. Within relatively little time, much more has been learned from the study of the emotional impact of abuse, than has been learned from decades of trying to find the fault with the victim's brains. The problem is that the authority of sponsored "medical research" is used to support this lie which is a sophisticated way of blaming the victim.

The facts are that in almost all cases, there is no reason for pessimism when it comes to the future of psychotherapy. We should strive to develop the best psychological treatments possible for our fellow victims, knowing it may take years or even decades to make it perfect - mainly because therapists themselves are not perfect. Perhaps if an ideal therapist was found that was NEVER abused in any way in his own childhood, he would be able to lead us to depths of empathy that we cannot even dream of at present, something like Jesus Christ, for example. Maybe we will never reach these depths because there is hardly a single person on this planet that is NOT emotionally damaged to some degree. But there is no reason at present to rely on the myth of "brain damage" to rationalize this problem. Our fellow victims should be told the truth: it is not THEM there is something wrong with. What is wrong is that they have been brainwashed like this, never having the chance to question any authority, including that of the medical establishment.

This criticism is NOT meant to downplay the catastrophic effects of child abuse, or the fact that every day, in all parts of the world, babies are physically injured, maimed and killed. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, and it is the exception to the rule, that underscores the rule, the truth. The truth that most "good" parents are so afraid to grasp: that the humiliating effect caused by slaps in the face or derision can ruin lives without leaving any physical sign of injury. This is the most common and most under-appreciated problem that, is my firm belief as a physician, should receive our greatest attention.

N. , Israel

AM: Bruce Perry, Martin Teicher and other neurobiologists found lesions in the brains of strongly mistreated children (from Rumania for instance). Unfortunately, brains of people whom you call "normal" were not tested concerning their childhood. This should absolutely be done to respond to your assumptions. Do you really believe that people who write that a child must be beaten in order to become a decent person have a normal, healthy brain? I don't agree with you about this point. I agree that the emotional damage was caused by child abuse, but the brain and its functioning must have been damaged in every case, probably in the first year of life, because the reluctance to understand the effects of child abuse is symptomatic for the whole planet from time immemorial. Where are the people with normally functioning brains? It is simply the fear of the very small child that blocked the full brain potential very early on and that must have left behind its effect on the brain.

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