Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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The system of lies
Monday June 19, 2006

Dear Alice,
I recently was referred to your latest book about cruel parenting.
It was the first book I had ever read in my over 30 years of searching for the real truth about what happened to me when I was young.
I am a woman who is a minister, wife, mother of twin girl teens and I have been searching far and wide for a way to heal fully from my childhood and the cruel way I was treated as a child by my father.
Basically both my brothers and I were beaten with belts and dad's favorite, a butcher knife. Dad was a minister of music for the Southern Baptist Church in the Carolina's. He too suffered a great deal of cruelty from his parents. I've tried to go there in order to find compassion for him, but it's not always been the best way for me to heal. I can find compassion for him, a little, but I don't find healing for me. All my life I basically have just tried to forgive him with many years of therapy, 10 years of eating disorders, very little sexual appetite and some anti-depressants.
My mother didn't stand up for us because she felt it was important to do what God told her to do which was to be obedient to her husband.
She too would whip us with her hand but nothing like dad did.
My little girl was scared to death of him and also carried this fear for my brothers who would often stand up to him which only resulted in their being in more trouble. I carried my fears and theirs for years.
My mom died 6 years ago and I feel as though I have healed from our relationship although I feel some unresolved anger about her not protecting us. She didn't know how to...he might have beaten her too.
He also had many extra-marital affairs during our growing up.
Other things he did--one day when I was five, I woke up from sleep to go the bathroom and woke him up with the creaking floor.
He woke up furious and beat the pee out of me. From then on I collected soup cans from the garbage and would pee and defecate in my room fearing about waking anyone up.

There are many other incidences and the fear for him mounted.
Finally he got caught in the church having an affair.
He supposedly had an epiphany and changed his ways. He got on his hands and knees and begged us to forgive him. Of course I said I would because God said I had to.
That was when I was 14. I'm now 48 and I'm still sorting through what to do.
I am now practicing mindfulness with Thich Nhat Hahn (Thay). Thay teaches us to see our father/mothers as 5 year olds innocent. But he also teaches to listen to our anger and hurt and be mindful and care for all our emotions.
But underneath it I still feel like Thay doesn't want us to really face our demons.
Your book was the first time I felt I could face them and it scares me so much.
I've been able to get in touch with my little girl who is screaming out to me, you have to be Good over and over again.
So I'm just sitting with her and crying/wailing.

So I guess my question is this: How do I connect with my Dad? Right now I don't want to. I just emailed him for father's day for some sort of connection because I knew neither of my brothers would talk to him.

I am also practicing Marshall Rosenberg's Non-violent communication on a weekly basis and am working on what my strategies are and needs/feelings. I do hope you are aware of his work.

This is exhausting just talking about all of this.
What I really want to say to you is THANK you for sharing with all of us your wisdom and experiences.

If you know/trust any certain kinds of therapies, which would provide the kind of therapy you, talk about, I would appreciate knowing.

In peace and gratitude and with hopes for a better more safer world for all our children,
Rev. J. J.

AM: It is rather surprising that a woman of your profession has the courage to leave, at least partially, the system of denial and open the eyes for the truth of her childhood after having read a book. There are millions of people in your position who never find the courage to do so and to question the lies they have been told early in their lives.
You ask me how you can connect with your father. Why should you? Everybody tells you that you must forgive. But you must not - if you want to heal. You can't fool the body; it doesn't let itself be fooled. And it remembers everything, the butchers knife, the soup cans from the garbage, the beatings and so many other cruelties suffered by a small girl from a highly perverse man. Why do you jeopardize your health by thinking of your father's childhood? If a man raped you on the street would you speculate about his childhood or would you become furious? The last would be a healthy reaction. Why is your father an exception? Because God is on his side? Who told you this? The body didn't read the bible, it insists on the truth and the small girl would have done it also if she had been allowed to see the truth. But nobody was there to tell her: you were treated cruelly and have the right to hate him. Unfortunately, you seem to continue to betray your body, yourself, by killing your authentic feelings. In fact, it is exactly the rage that can help you now to heal.
The method of Marshall Rosenberg is very nice and may be helpful to people who have not be severely mistreated in childhood. The latter ones however must find their pent up, LEGITIMATE rage and free themselves from the lies of our moral system. As long as they don't do this, their body will continue to scream for the truth with the help of symptoms.


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