Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Suppressed rage
Saturday March 06, 2010





Dr. Miller,



I want to thank you for your brave work. I first read “Drama of the Gifted Child” over twenty years ago and have read every book of yours since. I visit your website to read new letters and your responses.



I want to thank you for emphasizing the necessity to FEEL rage and anger. You consistently write about this. I now see why this is so.



Over the past year, I have learned to welcome my anger and rage more than I ever could before. I have begun to fully feel the stored rage from my childhood, which brings vital lessons for me. My memories, sometimes with clarity, return with the force of truth. This is happening thanks to your direction. The feeling of my past rage is essential to reclaiming my life. Lately my rage has uncovered a new source: my mother’s involvement in childhood mistreatment.



In my childhood, physical punishment came from my father. When he came home from work, and had gotten a complaint from our mother, he would usually take off his leather belt and use it on our behinds (I am one of six children). This usually occurred after we were warned by our mother. She would be upset or impatient with our behavior. She would tell us, “just wait until your father comes home,” and when he did, at some point he would punish one, or several of us, for actions we had forgotten – but which our mother claimed we deserved punishment from our father.



We often had no idea why we deserved this punishment! We were just kids. But he listened to our mother and we knew what would happen. When he was told whatever violation we commited – who knows, maybe not listening to her or acting out with nothing more than the boundless enthusiasm of six children playing in one small house – the father would punish us with his belt. It was terrifying. But he was a coward for doing so. He was out of touch with his life and his stored rage, and during the belt whipping he passed his rage and hurt from his life unto us. That he punished us was itself wicked, it was never justified, but it happened. What was especially scary was his rage, the redness of his face, and the emotional strength behind his use of the belt. I have a series of images I clearly remember that were parts of a ritualized routine.



I really want to emphasize the aspect of the mother’s involvement, which I never fully realized in my past recollections or ineffective work with the occasional therapist. I had completely forgotten how my mother could guarantee the punishment from my father. Such power she had and wielded!



This insight of my mother’s involvement is a revolutionary breakthrough for me. It was obvious that the physical act of punishment came from the father, but my mother’s involvement was critical in the scheme of punishment. With great irony and hypocrisy, our mother, who initiated the punishment, became the one we then went to for comfort after we got belted. What a closed circle! And the siblings, as adults, close ranks and perpetuate various myths and denial to protect either one, or both, of the parents. No wonder children get trapped – everything reinforces itself. And in our family the mother is immune from criticism or accountability, and so is the father with most of the siblings and cousins.



Only because I have learned from you to RESPECT and FEEL both MY RAGE and MY ANGER that I have allowed this insight to reveal itself. I am 50 years old. I have worked since my adolescence to build my insight, to build my sense of what Socrates instructed, “to know thyself,” and to continue to grow and learn. But I must say that the wisdom you impart in all of your work is the most valuable material being written today.



Your guidance to FEEL one’s rage and anger is an antidote vitally necessary for anyone who wants to grow and reclaim a childhood of neglect, or mistreatment, or abuse. And for me that rage now includes the anger against the mother. It feels transgressive because protection and blind honor to the idea of mother and father is so strong. But mine is real rage, true and legitimate. No matter that it is focused properly at my mother; it is extremely liberating to feel it. It takes courage and patience and persistence to heal and allow true feelings to emerge from hiding. If not for you, Dr. Miller, I would not have gotten this far.



Thank you. PJ.”






AM: Thank you for your letter. It might seem very easy to give this advice (feel your repressed rage) but you know now how hard it is to eventually feel what you tried not to feel over 50 years. I am glad that you succeeded and feel liberated. The weight of denied feelings can be gigantic and very destructive.

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