Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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No child deserves humiliation
Sunday March 29, 2009




Dear Dr. Miller:

I came across your writings, quite by accident, as I was surfing the Internet; and I am delighted that I did so. I have lead a reasonable life, but I have suffered a sense of detachment throughout my adult years. I had decided, without benefit of medical help, that I was a low-level depressive and I would just have to get on with things. I remembered that I had been ebullient as a child, but as the years mounted I became less and less so, until I found myself in a state of what I would call being "powered-down." I seemed to lack vitality, and even things that had once been great passions held little interest. I was, at it were, stuck in rut of lassitude, but, it was of some consolation that I had my wonderful children. Now, having taken in the gist of what you say on childhood repression, I am both euphoric to think there is reason for my lack of vitality, and shocked at how terribly I mistreated my children. I never beat them or belittled them, but, on occasion, I did spank them, thinking I was doing the appropriate thing. I even once declared to some friends that a well-placed spanking can be a beautiful thing...I am ashamed and embarrassed to recall it now. I can credit myself, I suppose, with the fact that I spent a lot of time with them and tried to build them up, whenever possible. However, I was not as good at buffering them from their intelligent and high-powered mother when she would take opportunity to belittle them. That they have both grown up into young adults with just normal problems is a testament to themselves.

As you have so skillfully and wisely pointed out, it is, indeed, difficult to disparage ones parents after a life-time of believing that they were loving and had my best intentions at heart. I idolized my dad, who for the most part was a gentle, if not detached soul, and had issues with my mother, who herself must have been subject to some kind of shocking abuse. It is peculiar, but upon reading your book "The Body Never Lies," I began to remember little things that my mother did, things that had fallen into complete insignificance in my life; like when she forced me to wear a diaper at age four after I had had an accident. She paraded me in front of my other siblings and a neighbour, telling me that babies had to wear diapers. This is but one instance, and I can tell you, before reading your book I would have happily stated that this event was of little consequence. Indeed, I remember thinking at the time, as a four year old, that I deserved the humiliation as I had no business soiling myself at such an age.

I am sure you are an astoundingly busy woman, and as such I would just like to close by saying "thank you." I feel as though I have a new lease on life and a new purpose. It is my goal now to become the authentic person that I have always wondered about. I have been the ultimate conformist and a people pleaser, but from now on I hope to please myself first, and conform only to that inner-self, which has, for all these years, striven to be let out.

Thank you, again.

Sincerely,
SB

PS: If my letter is of any use for you to publish then please feel free to do so.


AM: I like your final sentence: " I have been the ultimate conformist and a people pleaser, but from now on I hope to please myself first, and conform only to that inner-self, which has, for all these years, striven to be let out." There is much experience and wisdom in it.

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