Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Two Years Later
Monday January 21, 2008

BACKGROUND:

I am 34 years old now. My childhood was hell. I suffered physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse. Two years ago, I wrote to Alice Miller ("the crime of not giving protection", Dec 04, 2005) because I couldn't feel the anger toward my parents. Inspired by Alice's reply, I wrote a letter to my mother, accusing her of abuse and neglect and expressing my anger for the first time in my life.

During the two years that passed, my mother has confused me terribly. Trying to buy my loyalty with empty words and gestures, she deceived me into believing she has changed and into discussing my childhood with her. This repetition of the drama made me sick with confusion ("confused", Aug 6, 2007). In the meantime, my father has died. In the year that passed since his death, memories of how he physically and mentally abused me have surfaced. All the while I tried to stay in some kind of contact with my now-widowed mother. Gradually I could feel more and more anger ("anger, my friend", Dec 09, 2007). Recently, I confronted my mother with the issue of my father's violence (he hit me especially when I was a small baby). Again she tried to deceive me with an insincere "empathic" letter. I wrote to her again, this time inspired by Barbara Rogers' writings ("Liberation from Guilt", in "Screams of Childhood"), and determined to cut all contact with her. I am sending my new letter to my mother (translated from Hebrew), because I think maybe it can help others. Please feel free to publish it.

N. P.

======================
LETTER TO "MOTHER":

I want you to know that in the future, I am not going to read your letters or your mails. Even your most "understanding" letters, like the last one I got from you, hurt me too much. And I will not allow it, I will not allow myself to be hurt again. Not even once.

You write that you "didn't know what father did" to me and that it "didn't even cross your mind". That hurts. You are lying to me again. I don't believe that you didn't know about father's violence, that you didn't experience this violence yourself. I simply don't believe it. You knew, you just couldn't face it, couldn't face questions like "Is this violent man dangerous to my children?" and "Should I do something about it?". For your own reasons, you FAILED. For this failure your children have almost paid with their lives.

Let me explain what I mean when I speak of emotional and psychological abuse. Social worker Kieran O'Hagan defines EMOTIONAL ABUSE as any continuous, repeated, and inappropriate emotional response to the child's emotional expression and expressive behaviour (Emotional and Psychological Abuse of Children, 1993). Examples: Repeatedly responding with DISREGARD and DERISION to my expressions of FEAR and DISTRESS in the face of my elder brother's violence; repeated responses of WEEPING, ACCUSING, and SELF-PITY to my expressions of ANGER and DESPAIR - these are just two examples of your emotional abuse of me and my sister. Your INTENT or AWARENESS at the time are IRRELEVANT - most abusers are blind to the severity of their deeds, just like you were. The effect of this kind of abuse on children is devastating. It crushes the child's personality and it robs him of the capacity to feel positive emotions and to ENJOY LIFE. As a child, I hardly experienced anything but FEAR, ANGER, and HELPLESSNESS.

PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE is any repeated, inappropriate behaviour that damages, or significantly decreases, the creative and developmental potential of the child's mental abilities and processes; including intelligence, memory, awareness, perception, attention, language, and moral instinct (O'Hagan). For example: Repeatedly ACCUSING me and my sister OF LYING OR EXAGGERATION when we told you THE TRUTH about what happened to us - is psychological abuse. This behaviour of yours made me distrust my memory, and I began to think I was lying when I was telling the truth. At a certain age I didn't understand what truth is and what a lie is anymore. I started lying and believing my own lies, and I thought that my story of abuse was also something I only imagined or made up. I FORGOT many things that happened to me, and BLAMED MYSELF for the rest. I misunderstood my life: I thought it was all MY fault, when in fact it was YOURS. I couldn't understand what was being done to me. In summary: my SELF-CONFIDENCE was broken, my PERCEPTION and UNDERSTANDING were distorted, my MEMORY was dysfunctional, and my MORAL INSTINCT was damaged. And all because of what YOU did.

What do you want me to do with your apologies and what use can I make of them now? What's the use of your "caring" for me, as you write, of your "appreciation" for my "courage, morality, honesty, beauty, and intelligence"? I have nothing to do with them now, for until the day I die, the memory of the pain I felt for NOT EVER getting this appreciation from you, when I was so desperate to get it from you and father - this memory of pain is burnt onto my skin. For your own reasons, you could not directly EXPRESS this "appreciation" of yours, you kept it locked inside or hidden, and I just DIDN'T GET IT. This is again YOUR FAILURE as a mother, a failure that caused great damage to my pride and self-esteem.

Do you know how it felt, to be your child? I felt you never believed me. I felt I had to buy the right to your attention with total self-denial. I paid for your attention by wearing a friendly, "good boy" mask, in the face of your never-ending brutality. To do that, I had to suffocate my thoughts, my feelings, my truth, my opinions, everything that was ME. I had to kill myself, to crush my personality. This was the only meaning of being your child: to be DEAD, to put up with living in hell, full of fear, helplessness, pain, and humiliation, with no complaints. I had to forcefully silence every emotion that aroused in me. My whole existence became lifeless, hopeless, and I was haunted by a strong wish to die, from an early age.

And then there were moments - perhaps a few minutes or hours, or even a day - when everything looked better. This made me hope I finally got to you. I was so desperate, so eager to believe that I was wrong, that you DID love me - and so I believed it. I was in heaven... And then, in a flip of a second, you would CHANGE, leave everything in the middle, and go do something else. You would then totally ignore my existence, and become impatient, nervous, and hard-hearted. Every time my whole world collapsed, in the face of this unexpected hatred, which I didn't understand why I "deserved". Another and another disappointment for your heart-broken child.

This is how I lived, in this hell of ups and downs, in this cruel roller coaster of yours. I suffered unimaginably from it. I was exhausted, confused, and driven to despair. I felt I had no way out of this hell. No way out. The years passed and the boy I was lived his life of fear and humiliation, of insults and pain, without crying, without complaints, not asking questions and with no hope. This is how I lived, frightened to death, always expecting the next blow, the body stiff and aching, afraid of everyone I met, afraid of all the kids, locked up behind a wall of silence, no friends, no help, no hope. This was my life as a child.

It is NOT MY FAULT that I cannot forgive you, that I cannot even speak to you again. It is not my fault. I have no part in it. No part. These are YOUR failures as mother, your failures alone. It's not my fault that you need this relationship with me, that you need me, that you feel pain for everything that happened to me, as you say. Your pain is not my fault. I bear no responsibility for it and I have no part in it. NONE. I am without guilt.

I don't want you to write to me again, because you hurt me every time. And I will not waste even one minute of my time in trying to "fix" it. This is the last time I'm doing this to myself. All my life, this is exactly what I tried to do - to "fix" this distorted relationship. This is the same emotional trap I was caught in all my childhood. Everything is always too familiar with you. I can't believe you anymore, because you betrayed my trust too many times. Too many times I believed you loved me, and your behaviour proved that the opposite is true. You disappointed me too many times, and I have no more trust in you. And this, too, is not my fault. It is NOT ME who brought about this state of affairs.

I have MY OWN life now, did you know? More than a third of my entire life has passed when I was living in a hell of fear, self-denial, and suicidality. The inner death you caused tormented me for thirty four years. Now, for the first time in my life, I am beginning to feel ALIVE, and I will let NOTHING that can threaten this feeling come near me. I won't let you destroy this amazing change I did within myself, this miracle of re-birth, after years of hell. Now that I start to feel real happiness and peace for the first time in my life, I will NOT RISK IT, not for anything in the world. Least of all for you, after everything you did to me. I can't let you get close to me and ruin me with your lies. My good life will be my revenge. I will live good and I will live without you. For years you were near me, and I was devastated, dead, erased, devoid of feeling and personality. Never again. Only when I'm far away from you, I can LIVE. And I'm going to live GOOD. Goodbye "mother".

AM: Congratulations! Your letter is strong, true and will encourage others to take their feelings seriously and not to force themselves to believe in lies so that the illusions can be saved. Hence it is exactly because of our illusions that we become sick. You saved your life, your future.

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