Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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the body never lies
Monday October 03, 2005

Dear Ms Miller:

I am 58 years old. My mother, I., was born in Vienna, Austria in 1906, immigrated to the US with her mother and father and only brother (no sister) in 1920 when she was 14 years old. She never returned to her home country.

I was born the last child of three in 1947. My sister was sixteen when I was born, and my brother was six. My father I believe was mentally ill especially as he grew older (bipolar, schizophrenic). We were told we were in a very loving, close-knit family, however, as a little girl I was very afraid of my mother and father. My mother was rageful and angry about the way her life turned out with my father. My father, would have "episodes" of rage where my mother would protect us. My mother slapped me across my face and as a little girl I was told to go to the cherry tree and get a whip which she would then use to whip my bare legs. Once, when I was very young (I was told) my mother spanked me so severely I broke out all over my body in hives and apparently she decided to take me to the doctor. He told her to never spank me again. It was a big joke in our family, and I was teased about this and told always how "overly sensitive" I was.

I have two girls, 31 and 27 years old. I did spank them once or twice as they tell it and I recall. But I had done much reading and was trying to learn a different way to raise my girls. (I married/divorced an alcoholic).

I have read every one of your books. For Your Own Good and others I have wept as I read them. Finally, a truthsayer about childhood abuses!! Both my parents are dead, and my sister is dead. My brother is 64 years old and has been morbidly obese for the past 15-20 years on disability (400-500lbs). He now has cancer of the liver. He is an example of "the body never lies". He states our childhood was the best--his body says that's a lie!.

Fortunately I was not the favored child. I was the Lost Child. I have been divorced 20 years, participated for 20 years in Alanon, and had a wonderful witness in my therapist when I was about 40 years old.

My brother cannot bring himself to see mom other than "Florence Nightingale". I can say I love my mother, but I needed to grieve "the mom" I thought she was, and that I thought I deserved. She never had the self-esteem to love me as I should have been loved. My mother was over 40 years old and told me she went to an abortion doctor to abort me, but was sent home because she screamed too loud (it was illegal then). When I began to differentiate from her through therapy and recovery, she became verbally abusive--it was unbelievable. She was so threatened with my being myself--finding myself. My sister died 2 years prior to mom. My sister was her favorite and she made this very clear in many, many ways. When my sister died, my mother looked at me and said, "I now have no reason to live".

I am following a life-long dream of mine today. I completed my BS degree in Community Health and received my Chemical Dependency Certification in 2001. In 1999, I returned for my Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology, specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy, and I am about to graduate.

I don't forgive my mother. I don't believe in forgiving as I feel you must judge someone first in order to forgive. I don't want to judge people in these circumstances. But, I want to honestly see people, my mother and father, for who they actually are/were--and that is by how they behaved. My mother does not have my forgiveness, she has my understanding. Months before she died she tearfully said to me, (at 87 years old), "I am sorry, L., for not being a better mother to you." I said, I know mom and thanks for saying this to me. It meant a great deal to me. But, it was too late. I suffered many years under her power. However, even if she had not said those words I would feel the same about my mother. It is very difficult to let go of the "image" we are given about our parents. I feel like an orphan, not a daughter of a loving mother.

My mom was the only grandparent my children knew. They have an adoring image of mom. Mom was good to them. This is very classic. However, my children know the facts about grandmother, but still feel good about her and that is healthy. Their relationship was different from mine. Grandma was very attentive, non-punitive, loving, and caring to my girls. She was a very talented artist. She painted and drew beautifully--but of course never thought well of her art (she destroyed most of it). She was a knitter of knitters, a voracious reader, a gardener with a penchant for begonias, and loved to talk politics and vote. Mother graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1932 which is remarkable for a woman and a "foreigner" in this country. She suffered the loss of her culture, her language, her school friends, and her birthplace. She had been subjected to malnutrition in her Austria as a very young girl and sent off to "rich people" in the Netherlands for years at a time because her parents could not feed her or her brother.

I don't believe our abusive parents need forgiveness. I agree with you that it causes and continues the harm done to us over and over. Our abusive parents can be understood. The truth will set you free. My mother was abusive and wrong to do the things she did. She was abusive not to love me the way I needed to be loved and accepted. I do not and will never forgive her for such mis-treatment of a little defenseless girl, me.

My understanding of how and why, and the context/culture, in which this behavior was taught and allowed to happen are important for me and all future generations. Because of our understanding, my girls do not believe in any spanking of any kind, ever. One is a family therapist, and one is a holistic massage therapist. They have both been in their own therapy, and have found their own witnesses.

It is only with truthsayers like you, Alice Miller, that have the courage to say and write about what is actually happening to our children in the past and in the present, do all of us stand a chance of changing this world to a non-violent world with loving parents and loved children. Thank you so very much.

Sincerely,

L. L.

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