Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Why can't religions help to increase awareness?
Tuesday June 23, 2009



DEAR MS. MILLER -- Thank you for responding to my last message and for sharing your passion and your insights. I completely agree with you -- feeling the legitimate rage toward the abusive parent/s prevents people from displacing it toward "the enemy" in wars and other violent pursuits (most importantly domestic violence and the abuse of children!). This knowledge , when adequately assimilated, will serve to "inoculate" the masses against the bloodthirsty appeals of their leaders.
And I also concur with your discovery that by understanding the emotional needs of every child we would come to understand ourselves too -- both in our individual lives and regarding what it means to be human. Beneath all the damage, beneath all the pain, each and all of us carries the desire to love and be loved we brought to the world as children.
Responding to your points about healing bitterness and the suppressive role of religions, perhaps you would consider these ideas: 1. Give people a religion -- rather, a spiritual path (since it won't be deity-based but based on saving children and the future, and on self-love and self-discovery) -- that contains more truth, love and vitality than current religions and they will begin to turn to it. You have to trust core human nature, even though it's damaged -- people will gravitate toward that which meets their real needs. Especially if it's consistently presented in an inspiring and uplifting way.
2. The bitterness people develop in response to their abuse is healed by a. owning one's righteous rage and giving it full expression b. surrendering to one's broken heart and completely expressing and releasing that pain. The heart is naturally sweet -- as is life! -- and when free of the suppressed rage and grief that turns it bitter the heart loves sweetly again.
3. However, it isn't sufficient to only release the pain. Since the real self was invalidated and unloved from the beginning, the person needs to learn to love and validate themselves in a profound way. This is the ultimate step and leads to an inner peace and daily happiness that is lasting. I teach spiritual growth classes on self-love and self-validation here in NYC.
4. Any mass movement to eradicate child abuse forever must not only help parents heal the pain of their own abuse and mistreatment, but must also teach them how to warmly love themselves. You have to inspire people with the joy and peace they will gain from the hard work of confronting and releasing their pain. That promise of inner peace and joy, harnessed to parents' instinctual desire to protect their children, is capable of attracting millions of people with its positive message.
5. What will gradually draw people to this new awareness and vision of life is the combination of a. it's profound truth -- that of the reality of child abuse and how it perpetuates the cycle of broken lives and mass violence b. it's promise of inner peace, emotional security,and joy through the process of self-love and self-discovery.
6. I believe that Western societies have changed to the point where the old religions will be open to the truth about child abuse -- if presented in such a way that the primary focus isn't about their past suppressiveness but rather on how ending child abuse will serve their core values of love (Christianity) and justice-brotherhood (Judaism). Of course the past suppressiveness must be pointed out. It's a matter of what strategy will open their eyes and make them want to help. A similar argument can be made for practitioners of Buddhism in the West. People in Europe and the Americas have been exposed to the idea that childhood experience shapes the adult for 100 years now. That truth has reached the "common sense" level of cultural awareness. So a "doorway" now exists where the next level of truth -- about how widespread and destructive child abuse and mistreatment really is -- can enter the public arena.

I appreciate your taking the time to share ideas and would very much enjoy your thoughts on the considerations I've offered.
MANY THANKS AND BEST WISHES -- BRYAN EDEN


AM: Thank you for your further thoughts. I agree with almost everything you write besides your trust in the help of religions. Have you been growing up in a religious home, have you been a devoted child? This could explain your strong belief that representatives of religions can become interested in the tragedy of child abuse. I made many experiences in this direction and came to the conclusion that all religions are based on the denial of true feelings. Buddhism clearly preaches only "positive feelings" and coming away from the negative ones (that are actually authentic, tru)e. You want to lead people towards the truth, how then do you expect help from religions? I don't see neither how you want to pass on your knowledge to the masses who never never heared anything about unconsciousness, about repressed emotions etc though they are constantly driven by them. As therapist you know how much time it takes to become free from lies that were inflicted on us in the first years of our lives. How do you want the masses to liberate themselves from this burden without long therapies? I don't want to question your optimism, it is precious to me, I would love to be able to share it with you but I can't ignore the fact that the power of religions is stronger than the inborn capacity to love if it is so early destroyed. If we expected help from religions that are based on denial we would "reckon without the host". The capacity for love we brought to the world at our birth has been systematicly destroyed by religious hypocrisy.
You say rightly that for 100 years now we have been exposed to the idea (to the FACT, I would say) that childhood experience shapes the adult. What happened to this discovery? In the seventies some authors took it seriously. RD Laing, Siraala, Kemper (The Battered Child), Florence Rush, Ashley Montague and others moved in the direction towards awareness and were listened to. But today all this seems forgotten and covered by religions and all kind of esoteric "wisdom" disguised under the word "spirituality". In the late eighties even the most powerful communist system could be abandoned because it was not linked to religion and the liberation from lies did not implied feelings of guilt as religious systems do. There, the liberation seems almost impossible because the fears of the small child don't allow people this liberation. Where are you then looking for help? From institutions who forbid this liberation and benefit from our cruel and ignorant upbringing?

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