Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Long Journey Indeed
Sunday October 14, 2007

Dear Alice Miller,

Your work means very much to me; I’ve been reading and re-reading your books during the last ten years or so and more recently I’ve become a regular visitor of the website, in which the reader’s mail proves to be a source of recognition, comfort and solidarity.
One of your articles is called “The Longest Journey”, and rightly so. I feel I’ve been on this journey for a long time now and there seems to be no ‘end’ in sight, yet.
When people ask what kind of family I come from, I often answer that I don’t come from a family but out of a mine-field instead. It would take many pages to describe the absurdities, cruelty, lack of respect, warmth, empathy and the truly sick mechanisms that have strangely held these five people together for so many years. I’m the oldest son of three, 49 years old now, the one who, a few years ago, has stepped out of this sick and sickening system for good, after having seen the madness of it for what it is, drawing the line, concluding ‘enough is enough’.
I feel deeply scarred, scarred for life. The deepest wounds must have been afflicted in my early childhood, when the system was being established. My father has once admitted that he BEAT my brother when he was a BABY, for crying too much. To BEAT a BABY, I still can’t take that in! Little doubt though, that I may have received the same treatment. The beating just went on, until I was in my late teens; I’ve always found the psychic abuse even more devastating, though.
These messages still rule my life to a large extend, resulting in periods of deep depression accompanied by horrific ‘blind’ fears which seem to tear me apart, seem to obliterate my whole being (usually experienced at night). I have been on and off anti-depressive ‘medication’ for many years now. They have not proven to be a solution, not in any way. Oh, sure, they keep this panic-anxiety at bay, but that’s about it.

I think depression is a defense-mechanism, unconsciously used by our whole organism, to protect it against the most intense feelings of pain, sadness, anxiety etc. One can’t consciously ‘undo’ depression, not by ‘positive thinking’ (whatever thαt may be), not by merely knowing the facts of one’s (early) life, I know them, believe me, nor by analyzing and trying to understand the acts and behaviour of our parents. My god, how much time and effort I have invested in this understanding, explaining, excusing, and for what...?! This seemingly endless loyalty, endurance and patience in children, it is like some cruel joke of nature!

I know there are deep, deep feelings of loneliness, sadness, raging anger alive in me, somewhere. Depression is the mechanism which cuts off the possibility to experience those feelings.
To create the circumstances, to make room for those feelings to rise to the surface, to express themsιlves, to make themselves knσwn, that is what it seems to be all about. I have always been writing, but words can be tricky, slick instruments, especially for a person like me who has fled into rationalisation and intellectualisation quite early in life. Even writing poetry seems to be too indirect a way.
In talking to a (female) therapist whom I have recently met, I am able, sometimes, to connect to ‘my belly’, as I call it, and feel this volcano of feelings that is ‘living’ there. That’s frightening and liberating at the same time…
I am absolutely determined to free myself of this crippling heritage but at times it feels like a desperately impossible task. Then the old messages rear their ugly heads: o, come on, grow up, get a life, stop playing the victim, you are just unable, unfit, stop hiding behind this unhappy-childhood-sobstory, so many people have had it much harder, you have always been this impossible person, take your medicine and stop pitying yourself, etc. etc. This is terrible.

I want to thank you for your courage, clarity and commitment, with the deepest respect and kindest regards, D. P. (The Netherlands)

AM: After having taken antidepressants for a long time, it is quite normal that you can't free yourself as quickly as you want to. But you are on the path to do so because you understand now how healing works. The biggest obstacles that you might have to combat are the voices you quote: “o, come on, grow up, get a life, stop playing the victim, you are just unable, unfit, stop hiding behind this unhappy-childhood-sobstory, so many people have had it much harder, you have always been this impossible person, take your medicine and stop pitying yourself, etc.”
You need perhaps to look in the eyes of the persons who talked to you this way (or are still doing so?) and to realize how destructive their behavior is indeed. Do you need to listen to them NOW? Have you read my article on Depression on this website?

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