Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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a dilemma
Monday September 01, 2008

Dear Alice Miller

Thankyou for your reply. As soon as I read it I cried. The reason that I love a man who treats me in this way is that I was emotionally abused by my own mother but the point of my letter is that I do not know how to escape from this past which has such a vicious and relentless grip on me. I need somebody to tell me that his behaviour is abusive not normal because I have grown so confused over the ten years we have been together, my indignation has been weakened by his constant denial that his behaviour is wrong. The reason that I have put up with it I do understand. I have examined my past relentlessly. What I cannot get to grips with is how to let go. I really do have nobody to turn to who is on my side, apart from my children whose perception I trust, but who I have to stay strong for. I would feel guilty to turn to them for support through this. But then it is him, always him, that I crave to be with.
When I was seventeen and living away from home I began to starve myself. When I went back to live at home I continued to do this. I am quite tall, five foot and ten inches and my weight was very low, below five stone. I looked like a skeleton. My mother or my father or my brothers did not once mention this loss of weight. One night, it was raining, a freind of mine came running to my house in her raincoat, soaked through, her mother had sent her because she was afraid that I would die and could no longer keep it to herself. I denied everything I felt so ashamed of myself. Eventually I got better myself. When I mentioned this to my mother about a year ago, her response was to say, 'Oh, I was such a bad fucking mother wasn't I.' Instantly I felt ashamed for raising this with her.
In your latest book you say that the denial of food is an expression of the need for real nourishment, real sustenence, in the form of genuine recognition and confirmation. I think this is right but I think that self starvation is also a way of distracting from such painful feelings. When you are hungry all you can feel is hunger and this you can, at least, control, by allowing yourself a morsel. The other I cannot control.
I want to tell you something else about my childhood I have never understood but have always thought about. When I was very young, before five, I wanted so much to be eaten. I used to fantasise all the time that a witch would come and eat me. I loved stories about witches for this reason. It used to frustrate me, this longing. Once I made my brother pretend to make a fire and pretend to cook me but I couldn't satisfy this desire. In a book by Beatrix Potter, a little kitten is made into a roly poly pudding by two fat rats. I loved this page most of all and would read it again and again.
I don't really remember too much. It is just like a large, dark house, occasionally a light goes on in a room, but then it is dark again. All I know is that the pain I feel now, when I am faced with leaving him, which I feel I must, is so very severe, so very intense. I feel as though I cannot breathe and my mind turns to him. The pain grows so intense, I start to tell myself I was wrong, it is because I am focusing on the negative all the time so no wonder things go wrong. It is my fault and therefore I can make it better by being more positive. Then I have found my justification, I contact him again. He is always happy to hear from me. I am like the addict talking herself around when the cravings grow too severe.
Even he tells me I am wrong to stay with him. In his darker moments he acknowledges the pain I am in because of him and advises me to find someone who will do me more good. But that only serves to increase my love for him. If this love was a tangible part of me I would cut it out and throw it away no matter what the cost. I am so sick of it.

Thankyou again for writing to me.

K.


AM: You seem to realize very well that if you allow a man to behave "like a ghost" to your children and to frighten them with sudden outbursts of anger, you will be betraying your children and yourself as well. You also seem to understand intellectually that you cannot change this man, who does not want to look into himself at all. But WHY do you feel so dependent on a man who cannot understand you, who cannot see the truth of what you are saying, and who cannot empathize with a child? YDo you repeating here the tragedy of your childhood? You had only one mother who was also like that but the world is full of men who are not like your mother. However you wait for this man to change, exactly as you did as a child of your very disturbed mother.

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