Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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never your fault
Thursday April 17, 2008

Dear Alice,
I have just finished reading your "Drama of Being a Child" and was completely taken aback by how much I recognised myself in it. As long as I can remember I have alternated between being typically "grandiose" as you describe, and, at times when the effort becomes too much, or cracks start to appear, very depressed, feeling empty and worthless. I am at the moment just coming out of one of the lowest, darkest periods I have ever experienced, and I wonder if you could give me your opinion on a couple of thoughts I have had about this.
The period started just before Christmas when I had some problems at work; two seperate problems with two seperate people. One was with a co-worker who constantly criticised me and my work, which made me feel stupid and worthless. Even now, realising finally that he was just putting me down to make himself bigger, and even though I now keep away from him, I still feel depressed about how I let him do it, and how I would have no idea how to stop someone else doing the same in the future. The other was with another co-worker, with whom, on the face of it, I had always got on well. However, he would frequently exclude me from things, always discussing work plans and problems with another co-worker instead of me, sometimes walking past me to tell somebody else something he could have told me. I suppose all this sounds petty but again it made me feel left-out and useless. Here too, I reacted by cutting myself off; excluding myself before someone else could exclude me, and just getting through the days by doing what I'm told. It wasn't long before I felt so low that suicide seemed the only way.
After recognising a lot of this in your book, I realised that, although my childhood wasn't abusive or anything, I have, as far back as I can remember, always felt that "nobody loves me" and that in some way there must be something wrong with me to make this so. And so the thoughts I had were this; I come from a family of six children (common here in Ireland). Would it be likely in such a large family that the mother, although she may have no "issues" herself which prevent her from properly loving her baby, just didn't have the time to "respect" each child for who she is? I am the fifth of the six and I imagine that my mother wouldn't have had a lot of time to gaze into my face! Would it be likely that I learned to be quiet even when hungry, to toilet train quickly etc. because that was what my mother needed? I'd be grateful to know what you think. The other thought I had was that I think I was quite left-out as a child; I don't really remember ever feeling this way at the time but I don't remember being in any of the "pairs" or "gangs" formed by my brothers or sisters. I do remember at the age of four or five being devestated that my younger sister, then a baby, chose another sister instead of me for some game. I also remember my mother commenting when I was four or five that I was a very "solitary" child. Do you think that this would be likely to leave such strong feelings as an adult that if I think someone is excluding me or doesn't like me I just don't know how to cope, except by walking away?
I don't want to just fabricate things, but like a lot of the letters I have read on your page, I can't afford therapy, and I really feel that if I don't find out about the root causes of these feelings and address them I will never feel that life is worth living.
Thanks for reading this, T.

AM: Thank you for your honest letter. You DON'T fabricate things. No, you must only take your feelings seriously, then you will understand why you sometimes feel miserable and that it was NEVER your fault.

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