Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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My "friends'" children
Thursday July 17, 2008

Dear Alice Miller,
I feel so fortunate to have stumbled across your books. I first found "Trapped in Childhood" a few months ago and after reading 2 pages I was so excited to have found someone who finally knows what they are talking about, I bought all of the rest of your books (sight unseen) used on Amazon. You have confirmed what I have always believed: that unlocking and experiencing our true feelings from childhood is the KEY to true and lasting healing. I finally feel that with the help of your books and a therapist, I have a clearer focus of what therapy is for and how to proceed. I was never physically beaten, but the fear from the hidden threat of it is just as real. Neither of my parents was able to bond emotionally. My mother became extremely insecure by my “negative” emotions and my father bullied, berated, nagged and teased me - often, and finally pretty much abandoned me when I was 9 years old. They divorced when I was 3 years old and there was always a lot of unspoken animosity between them. All of this caused me to be a very lonely and vulnerable child and as a result, I was sexually molested by a pedophile when I was 6 years old. But now I hope that I am finally on a good path to healing the destructive repression that has crippled me for 38 years, and I want to thank you from the depths of my soul for your wisdom. It is difficult work, and I pray to my buried soul that I will break free. At the very least, the path is laid clear before me.

I have a friend who has a 6 year old girl and a 9 year old boy with her husband. I have decided that I can no longer be around them, however, because the father constantly bullies, berates, nags and teases (just like my father did) the 2 children, sucking the joy out of every moment. I have never seen either my friend or her husband hit their children (but ALMOST), but I have witnessed so many moments where the children have had to repress their feelings to "protect" him, and at times, her. I have seen her step in at times when her husband is going overboard, but I don't feel she is doing enough to protect her children (she has them on medication for behavior everyone calls ADD that may very well be acting out repressed emotions). I am so extremely angry at her for choosing her marriage and career over her children, but I have been afraid to say anything. I would even say that I am VIOLENTLY angry at both of them for rationalizing and even justifying the things they are doing. I recently had a long conversation with her and told her how uncomfortable her husband makes me. I told her that I don’t want to be around him anymore, but I soft-petaled the truth, I know. She said that her husband feels that since I don’t have children, I have no right to say anything (which is just a convenient way of shutting me down). She still has not taken me seriously, however, because she keeps calling me and inviting me over. I have felt from the beginning that she has a very co-dependant style and it was not a friendship I really wanted to pursue, but I continued with it out of my lonely void, my great difficulty in saying no, and the fact that I have no real friends (I have ended several in the last few years and want so much to have good ones). I have been spending a great deal of time alone in the last few months gathering my own thoughts, going to therapy, reading your books, writing in my journal, and reflecting on all the things that have made me the way I am. I have told this “friend” that I don’t want to be disturbed and why. The last time she called me and left me a message, I called back and got her voice mail (I wanted to say what I had to say to her, but maybe I was braver saying it to her voicemail). I basically told her that she was smothering me, that I have serious issues with her husband that she is not taking seriously. That I feel her children are not being protected and, frankly, being around her and her family is NOT my idea of a good time. I told her that I think her family needs therapy (she told me in our last big conversation that she doesn’t have time for therapy right now even though she knows she needs it…..she’s working full time and in school to further her career). And I said that I am NOT going to be the person hanging around and judging what they do, it’s their mess and there’s nothing I can do. I feel so relieved after saying what was REALLY on my mind. Maybe I handled it poorly and a bit passive aggressively and maybe not. The important thing is that I see how vital it is for me to be true to my true feelings. I know that my falling into this “friendship” is due to my own blindness and to my idealizing. I have to say, though, that these last months of solitude have felt soooo good! I feel like I am getting in touch with my own voice again. I have had feelings of freedom that I haven’t felt for years. I know that I am so so angry with this couple because I still haven’t fully experienced my anger and devastation from my own childhood towards my parents, but I am working really hard at connecting the dots. I try to use the images I have seen of the little girl’s face in those horrible moments to help me remember how it felt to be so bullied.

I was going to write this letter and ask how I should handle this situation, but after several drafts (the first taking place before the final phone call), I have worked out that I shouldn’t have to stuff my real feelings in any way. I see that I can’t have a friendship with these parents because of my need to identify with the children. If I were to continue this friendship, it would be just like taking care of my mother’s feelings the way I was trained to do and abandoning my own. I wanted to give this woman one of your books, but I know from my experience with a narcissistic mother that there is no getting through when someone prefers denial.

I saw a great bumper sticker the other day that was a quote from Krishna . It said “It is no measure of good health to be well adjusted to a sick society”. I see it everywhere around me, the way people have been trained to “fit in”. The sick ideas most people have about “raising” their children (their “property”), and how no one has a right to intervene on behalf of the aching child. I can’t bear to see the very repression that happened to me taking place in real time right before me. So I’ve decided if these people aren’t willing to change, I’m getting out, because, the way I see it, pretending to be their friend is condoning child abuse.

It would be a lie to say that I don’t have slight feelings of guilt for calling my “friends” child abusers. On the whole, however, I feel a great feeling of expansion and freedom for calling a spade a spade. Let’s hope that I can experience the same where my parents and the pedophile are concerned, because I know in my bones that this is where my true freedom lies. I am a song writer, and I am going to be writing more songs about and to my parents now that I know what is hidden in me. I hope this will aid in the catharsis I need.

Thank you for your help, J.

AM: Fortunately, you found out that you had wanted to change your mother, or maybe both of your parents by lecturing to your "friend". This is to no avail. If you write songs you can say what you need, also what the child in yourself needs, and other people may understand you actually better than this friend who “prefers denial.” As you say yourself, there is no “getting through,” even for my book. Give up your effort THERE and enjoy your talent to write!

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