Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Open exchange with children in Norway
Tuesday January 17, 2006

Subject: Alice Miller- re your comments- enlightened witnesses, slow increase.

MY POINT IN THIS EMAIL- Making 'assaulting children' illegal, allows children to be the enlightened witnesses, for their parents. ERG
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Hal Pepinsky- Criminology and Peacemaking: Chapter 4. Empathy Works-Obedience Doesn't.

Alice Miller (1990 [1983]) calls commanding obedience "poisonous pedagogy." It is poisonous pedagogy, as her book title suggests, to make a child feel or do something for his or her own good. "Stop whining, you know this is good for you!" You learn that to please the parents you spontaneously love and want to please, to say nothing of to avoid pain and rejection, you smile when you are supposed to, you say the right thing, no matter how tempted you are to protest or show fear or pain. You learn, in other words, to lie. The poison in this pedagogy is that we teach ourselves as children to lie, to dissociate from our own feelings and inclinations, to bury them, to reject our own true selves.
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MAKING MY POINT this email, In this excerpt from the same chapter, Pepinsky tells about his visits to Norway, (assaulting children, having become against the law in 1987 in Norway) and the therapeutic value of parents talking to their children, whom they never spanked or hit, about how they were abused as children. So Alice, these parents own children become the enlightened witnesses for their parents in dinner table conversation. So Alice your efforts to get it made illegal to hit children in all countries is bringing about the most rapid change. (increase in enlightened ones) It is somewhat therapeutic to me to read about this happening in other countries and looking forward to assaulting children becoming illegal in my own country, Canada, soon, so the topic of empathic parenting is not one that I always have to bring up, if it is to be discussed at all. Below is the excerpt:
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"Norway is a second home to me. There at the dinner table in party company, children are almost ritually brought into conversations, to describe their worlds in their own terms, as adults pay attention. As adults share among themselves what they hear as they pay attention to children, adults legitimize in safe company reliving traumas of their own childhoods. I have seen this happen time and again, as mothers trying to protect their children recognize ways in which, as children themselves, they too were sexually assaulted by someone they loved and trusted. Without magically fixing their children's problems, I have seen them and their children gain strength--as in the case of those with eating disorders literally gaining weight. These mothers have the greatest respect for the honesty, courage, and wisdom of their children.
That is their primary solace. This, to me, is truly a break in an intergenerational cycle of violence and victimization. I sense that as growing numbers of children and adult survivors share stories, validate one another, and speak out, we will overcome our ignorance of what our children, including the children buried in our adult selves, have to teach us. That will be the profoundest peacemaking of all."
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My comments: re quote from the above, Norway by Pepinsky: "These mothers have the greatest respect for the honesty, courage,....[[[You don't have to lie or have courage if you know what you have to say is going
to be respected. What is sometimes mistakenly called courage, is a cry for help. here is an example: 'Would you need a pat on the back for crying [help!!!] if you were in deep water and didn't know how to swim and in a panic and about to drown.?]]]......and the wisdom of their children."

Alice, when I discovered (about 7 years ago) Hal Pepinky's draft copy of his Criminology and Peacemaking, I printed it out and carried a copy with me. Shortly after, I happened to be seated in a restaurant here, next to a former police officer, Kingsville being his home town also. I handed him a copy and asked him if he would take a look at it and give me his opinion, thinking that he would take it home and then get back to me. He looked at it for less than 10 seconds and handed it back, saying, "I don't agree with that." That is typical of the ignorance in the world due to poisonous pedagogy that exists even in our so called civilized countries.

I know that if you had not heard of Hal Pepinsky and his work that you would be pleased to know of same. (He quoted you in another part of this work also)

I too am crying [help] that is [to be understood] in anything I write or say here at home to people, and am grateful for your work and the changes it has brought about in much of the world so far, and for the opportunity of writing direct to you, and reading other's letters to you-and in that way, being part of your group for enlightenment.

Wishing you and Barbara well,

Evan Grant
Kingsville, Ontario, Canada.
42nd P.of L.,N

AM: Dear Evan, thank you so much for your posting and your information about Norway. It makes much sense that children who were not beaten and are respected can become the enlightened witness to their parents and can better understand their inpatience once they know their history, they don't feel responsible or guilty for their parents distress. I like your idea that we are going to create a °group for enlightenment°. We would doubtlessly need some more groups like that.

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