Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Emotional neglect
Thursday September 21, 2006

Dear Madam

I am currently struggling through the pain of therapy, with help from your books and website, and I have a question. Much of this pain is completely physical i.e. i can feel it in some, or all, of my body at times, and many times the sadness or rage can feel almost unbearable.

I have come to gradually be aware of my mother's emotional neglect. And how our relationship was marked by her absence - real and emotional, her total lack of interest in my life and her lack of support. And there was never any praise or affection expressed to me (by anyone) as a child. I am also beginning to realise that most likely I was frightened of her as well as estranged.

However, I was not abused physically or punished, though I was beaten once when I was about 9 years old by her. But mostly I was left alone to get on with it, one way or another and I have very little memory of her.

Yet the pain I feel about her emotional neglect - now and then - is absolutely enormous. This pain is physical and almost unbearable. But your books and articles mainly focus on abuse as expressed by physical punishment. (the main exception being your work in The Drama of the Gifted Child). Do you believe that emotional neglect is different to deal with compared to physical punishment and sexual abuse? Is there any reason why it is less emphasised in your work?

m.t.

p.s. please feel free to publish this question on your website.

AM: I think that the neglect (emotional abuse) is as painful as the physical one, sometimes even more, but both are denied. I emphasize the physical abuse to show how even people, who do recall the slaps and severe beatings they received from their parents, as adults still believe that they have been loved. It happens even more if there were no beatings at all (which is very rare). Your body may remind you now of what you don't want (YET) to recall.

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