Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Parents did not do their best
Tuesday March 28, 2006

Dear Dr. Miller--
I still remember the evening in 1982 when I picked up Drama of the Gifted Child. As I am sure you have heard countless other times, it is the story of my life. Your book has informed my life since then. I became an art therapist (the only one in Montana for many years) and have had a private practice for nearly twenty years.

Last year I finished my PhD (at age 53) in depth psychology and mythological studies, at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, Ca. My dissertation is entitled, Taking Bad Girl Lessons: On the Role of Disobedience and Archtypal Encounter in Re-Imagining Childhood. I gratefully quote your work throughout the text, which explores the debilitating aspects of what I call the "Good Girl Agenda." Beyond a theorectical look at the importance of re-examining the events of childhood at midlife, the work also includes four short stories which each begin with a punishing incident from my own childhood. The stories then move to a dream sequence lived out by the Archetypal Child who encounters Artemis, Lilith, Hephaestos, and Hermes, receiving guidance from each archetypal "energy," and then returning to my personal little girl life with a different capacity for coping. If only the gods could have intervened for each of us as children!

Only a week ago, a friend told me about The Body Never Lies. I read it in two days, and am delighted to know how to contact you. I consider myself an "enlightened witness," in the sense you describe. I am SO grateful every day to come into my therapy space and work with people who have experienced what you and I also have. I have never had ANY qualms about replying to clients who say of their parents, "they did the best they could." It is easy to say, "You know, it really doesn't sound like it to me." The tears are usually immediate, and the process you describe in your book begins to unfold.
I consider myself the luckiest woman I know. Each day I do work I love and see astonishing transformations. I really must say that I owe you so much--my life and the lives of my many clients would have been far different without your courage and your work. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. C. J. E., PhD.

AM: Thank you so much for your letter. I am happy that you could give to others what you received. Your reply to your patients is exactly what they need, but most of them never received it, even during years of their therapies!

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