Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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A writing specifically on depression
Monday May 15, 2006

Dear Alice,

I was wondering whether it might be helpful to people if you were to write a piece beginning with the symptom of depression and connecting it to childhood mistreat by parents. The reason why I think this would be helpful is that diagnosis of depression is widespread - many people are aware that they are depressive, many people can recognize it in other people, doctors are encouraged by pharmaceutical companies to diagnose depression and presribe their drugs - but awareness of its causes is not. A writing from you that starts with depression, connects it to childhood mistreatment by parents, and addresses the need to resist the numbing effects of medication and the disinformation marketed by pharmaceutical companies (eg, depression has no known cause) might
be a way to help these people heal by introducing them to your writings. It would also be something that people could give to their depressed acquaintances to help them in a better way than just sending them to a doctor who will put them on meds.

I have read as many of your writings as I can find and as my soul can bear, but when I was going through my long depression I found comparatively few statements by you on depression in your writings. Perhaps I missed it, in which case, disregard this email. I was sustained by many of the things you said, but on depression specifically, I felt that I was more on my own. The kind of thing that I'm thinking about is

1) what is depression? what causes it? and what should you do about? Answers: Depression is a difficult and intense feeling, but, after all, it is only a feeling like every other feeling. It is caused by a psychological trauma that harms your feelings, often misguided "raising" techniques that parents use on their child and other parental mistreatment of children that masquerades as upbringing. And all you have to do is feel it for a long time, possibly months and years, until you don't feel it anymore, and think and feel all the thoughts and feelings that feeling the depression will then allow you to experience. Depression is your soul's attempt to heal itself, to "de-repress" your hurt feelings.

2) what doctors and pharmaceutical companies do to treat depression and, yes, you can disregard your doctor's pharmacological advice and just feel your feelings, including feeling depressed

3) that the shame of feeling depressed is misguided

I also think that looking back over my life (and the lives and people that I knwo), I was probably depressed without realizing it for several long periods. I'm guessing that these long semi-depressed periods are what helped me to eventually be able to remember my abuse at the hands of my parents and loosened the grip that my father's commands to not question his authority had on my soul. Then, after reading you writings, I was able to figure out what depression was, become slightly less afraid and ashamed of it, acknowledge to myself that I was feeling it, and throw myself into it for as long as I needed, which then allowed me to feel and remember everything I can now feel and remember.

These are my thoughts on depression. Do you think I'm right about depression being healing? Did I do the best thing I could have by just feeling depressed for many months or was there something better that I could have done? Now, when I see someone who is depressed, should I encourage them to treat it as any other difficult feeling and just feel it for a long time, accompanied by reading your writings.

And, if you have not written something on depession already (and I've missed it), would you consider doing so? I would like very much to read any thoughts that you have on it that you haven't already published.

You may publish my letter if you wish.

Thank you,
R

AM: Thank you for your letter. I did already write about depression (look on the page Articles and into my first book The Drama of the Gifted Child). I agree with many things you have written except that we need years to come out off the depression and your assumption that depression is a feeling. It is not; it is a protection against feeling the most authentic emotions like rage, sadness, fear. But once you can feel them you are no longer depressive, you gain access to your history, to the suffering of your childhood that is generally painful. So the depression is the attempt of the body to remind us that we need to do an important work in our interest. You are right that the pharmacy and many doctors who offer the anti-depressants suggest the opposite path: to forget and to deny the own history. The US-soldiers in Iraq receive anti-depressants in high quantities and 22 already killed themselves though. Please write whether you found my article Depression-The Art of Self-Deception.

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