Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Shock Therapy is Soul Murder by Butchers
Wednesday July 16, 2008

Dr. Miller:

I am so deeply indebted to you for your courage and for your honesty, openness, and willingness to share your experiences with us. You set a strong example that is a great challenge to live up to even a little bit.

I am writing because I am planning to visit a friend who has been in an inpatient facility for the past week, having recently been transferred there from another, bigger, scarier facility (The web site language of the bigger facility is very telling. It makes them sound like Fort Knox, very medical in its orientation, very "secure" and very, very power-oriented in every way. They call the patient a "loved one" and keep talking about "what the family wants" for the "loved one"--very, very creepy. Meanwhile, friends can't even find out if the patient is actually there, unless they get permission through the family...sounds like the Mafia, a prison, or a concentration camp, complete with barbed wire.)

My friend, whose history I have little details about and am only beginning to understand, is in his forties. He has two sisters, and his mother passed away recently, resulting in the sale of the home he shared with her--he has issues with alcohol, money, and depression, among others. When I've spoken to him in the past, it seemed that most of the time he was overmedicated, and suffering from depression. He has been in and out of hospitals for depression and for so-called profound depression several times in the past few months, and perhaps earlier. Strangely, he feels guilty and says that he didn't do enough to care for his mother when she was alive and ill, but he also seems like he was never launched by his mother or the rest of his family. Something seems very wrong here and I haven't pieced the puzzle together yet. He also seems to have a history of getting attention using negative behaviors and self-destructive behavior to attract other people to him. I am told he had had some sort of nervous breakdown about 20 years ago, and that his mother took care of him for the past 20 years, when she finally died. He has assigned power of attorney to one of his sisters. Some of his friends call one sister the "good" one and the other one the "evil" one--I spoke to the latter and sounded like she had her own problems, even without her brother's.

Having read several of your books and having read so many of your wise answers on your website, I was ready when he asked me months ago about whether he should have shock treatments. I told him three good reasons not to: 1. no one really knows how they work; 2. sometimes they don't work and in fact make the person worse; 3. people can often suffer irreversible brain damage. I urged him to find another way.

So, I was saddened this evening to learn that when he went into the first treatment facility about a month ago, he went in expressly FOR the shock treatments. Later, I realized that perhaps he had become so negatively attention-seeking and self-destructive (and angry) that he had found a way to get the medical establishment to do his self-destroying FOR HIM. Now he can be a victim of the medical establishment, too. I don't mean to sound insensitive, because I realize that I do not know how he was treated or raised growing up, and it may be that he was abused in his family and is acting it out now, over and over again. The medication only further distanced him from his feelings and his memories, and now the shock treatments have done further, perhaps irreversible, damage.

I plan on bringing your first book to him when I visit him, and I hope he will read it.

It is very disturbing to me that in recent years, SHOCK THERAPY is being used increasingly as a treatment for depression, especially when medication doesn't work. What makes people think that either of these approaches actually works in the first place? Are they EVER, EVER useful? When will people get that depression is practically always a response to a sick family system and the child abuse that masquerades as child-rearing in families? I find it so outrageous that MEMORY LOSS is viewed by shock therapy proponents as a somewhat unpleasant side effect that is considered MINOR compared to the so-called positive results of shock therapy. Well, yes, if one couldn't remember what happened to one, that's not just inconvenient; it is a SOUL MURDER as you have said, and in fact it's the GOAL not the SIDE EFFECT of the shock therapy. So "not knowing how it works" is the medical untruth--we know how it works--it destroys the memory. These are not medical professionals--they are BUTCHERS who are in denial about the source of depression, which I suspect is almost always a trauma suffered as a helpless child. It is clearly politically convenient that this "side effect" renders the victim unable to identify his attackers, and unable to trace the source of the depression--perpetuating the abusive cycle in society over generations. The medical establishment should be ashamed of themselves--they get money for destroying people's lives, colluding with the family members who are so often perpetrators of abuse on top of it, and then have the nerve to call it "treatment" or "help" for the "loved one". What they are really doing is damaging the victim's body and brain, further denying them their FEELINGS, and preventing them from connecting those feelings to their actual experiences in their own body. It is a violation in the truest sense of the word.

I would appreciate any suggestions you have for me for when I see my friend in the hospital.

Dr. Miller, thank you for your hard-won wisdom. You are an inspiration to me on my own journey out of depression and abuse, and I continue to read, re-read, and reflect all of your books. J.

AM: I agree with everything you wrote in your letter and frankly don't know what you could do. Maybe you can ask your friend about his childhood and see if he shows any interest. If yes you can let him tell you what he never told before to anybody and show him your empathy and support. If he denies his suffering in his family at all I am afraid that there is hardly anything you can do. But you will see maybe more when you are with him, without any "program."

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