Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Message from J.D.
Monday August 15, 2005

Dear Alice Miller,

… I am currently reading 'Banished Knowledge'. It is amazing. I am extremely impressed and think AM is very brave to go up against all of the opposition that you get from people. (My mother used to express her anger & resentment at the suggestion that the {criminal} behavior of convicted criminals might have something to do with how they were raised; as if the criminals were going to be 'let off' if they weren't completely blamed & damned as being a self-contained case of living evil in action, with no cause. But, funnily enough, she was abusive to her kids, so no big surprises there, I suppose. And she herself was a battered child - go figure.)

Anyhow, it just occurred to me that some children’s' experiences (I know mine was) are very similar to the experience of being a terrorised captive, and I think it's interesting that the phenomenon of the abused child sympathising/identifying fully with the parent is much like Stockholm Syndrome. And I wondered if you had noticed or thought about this. (You probably have, but I just wondered).

Kind regards,

J.D.

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Here is some text I copied from http://www.yahoodi.com/peace/stockholm.html :

The Stockholm Syndrome is an emotional attachment, a bond of interdependence between captive and captor that develops 'when someone threatens your life, deliberates, and doesn't kill you.' (Symonds, 1980) The relief resulting from the removal of the threat of death generates intense feelings of gratitude and fear which combine to make the captive reluctant to display negative feelings toward the captor or terrorist.

...

Victims have to concentrate on survival, requiring avoidance of direct, honest reaction to destructive treatment. Become highly attuned to pleasure and displeasure reactions of victimizers. As a result, victims know much about captors, less about themselves. Victims are encouraged to develop psychological characteristics pleasing to captors: dependency, lack of initiative, inability to act, decide, think, etc. Both actively develop strategies for staying alive, including denial, attentiveness to victimizer's wants, fondness for victimizer accompanied by fear, fear of interference by authorities, and adoption of victimizer's perspective. Hostages are overwhelmingly grateful to terrorists for giving them life. They focus on captor's kindnesses, not his acts of brutality. Battered women assume that the abuser is a good man whose actions stem from problems that she can help him solve. Both feel fear, as well as love, compassion and empathy toward a captor who has shown them any kindness. Any acts of kindness by the captors will help ease the emotional distress they have created and will set the stage for emotional dependency of Counterproductive Victim Responses

Denial of terror and anger, and the perception of their victimizers as omnipotent people help to keep victims psychologically attached to victimizers. High anxiety functions to keep victims from seeing available options. Psychophysical stress responses develop.

NOTES:

Excerpts from, Domestic Violence Response Training Curriculum, November 1991, by Jeri Martinez

Answer from AM to JD:

I am glad that you mentioned the Stockholm Syndrome. It is absolutely the same mechanism that works for a child. The Stockholm Syndrome has been discovered after a bank robbery followed by taking hostages for almost a whole week. Now, imagine that being under constant terror is a permanent condition for many years. The consequences of having been a hostage are more serious and lingering because the fear of a mortal danger was inflicted in a time when the brain of the child has not yet been structured.



Beaten children are not allowed to defend themselves. In order to survive they must deny the endured brutality, suppress their rage and believe that they are bad. In order to make sense to what happens they feel guilty, they feel like deserving the beatings. As grown-up they don’t even know that they survived a terror, they will tell you: I have been spanked but this didn’t kill me. They learn so early to believe in lies that they continue to live with these lies and produce new generations of unconscious people. They say: The Bible tells us we should not spare the rod and the child must learn the difference between right and wrong. The truth is that the child learns the wrong lesson, that spanking is harmless, while spanking children is the most brutal crime because it kills in the children the capacity to think, to feel and to have empathy with themselves and others.

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