Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Forgiveness was a farce
Thursday October 12, 2006

Dear Alice,

I am a 40 yo mother of 2 pre-school children, a wife, an abused daughter, and a practicing physician. I am currently participating in psychotherapy in order to understand, overcome and end the cycle of abuse that plagued my childhood. 15 years ago I tried forgiveness with the help of a therapist, and now find that it was a farce. I have experienced many "epiphanies" about my life and parents in the past 3 months, and have been amazed at the depth of my denial and (self) deception - and now that I see, I am baffled by the fact that I didn't see these truths before. My mother is the perpetrator - who hid her most grievous behaviors from my father, who must have suspected, yet chose to enable her by remaining passive and living by the principle that "you lie down in the bed you've made". She continues to mold the family behaviour by her violent temper tantrums and vicious verbal / emotional attacks - and I am the only one who sees this. Her rules are draconian and pervasive and I'm discovering that they have invaded everything in my life right down to simple things like the way I behave when I brush my teeth, or how I comb my hair. Although she did use a lot of corporal punishment (which never counted in her estimation), my mother's greatest weapons are her words - the vicious verbal attacks and emotional blows that crippled my self-esteem and continue to interfere with my ability to truly function and engage as an adult. She LIVES in my psyche and hovers there second by second - in spite of the fact that she's refused contact with me for 4 months....It's humbling and awe-inspiring to realise the power of one's parents. All had been nicely buried (or so I thought), until an outburst and deafening silence followed by a shocking and abusive letter in which she actually accuses me of her own sins, failings and reverses the abuse she heaped on me, as if I heaped it on her - attempting to make me responsible for all her misfortunes, and her pain, as well as my own. Everything was always my fault, everything - she couldn't trip without somehow blaming me. I've always given her a lot of leeway for her "exaggerations, outbursts, and attacks" because of her childhood. Since I became a mother, I have realised that I would NEVER want my children to be treated the way I was / am and that my attempts to placate and accept my parents (mother) are flawed and perpetuate what I refer to a "the curse". I've seen how easily even a slightly offhand comment can demoralize my own children / family and am grateful for this awareness. It is scary to realise and admit how flawed I am. I am fortunate to be making discoveries on my own, in addition to benefiting from the aid provided by an enlightened witness. I've read your book "The body never lies" (referred to me by my therapist) and agree in principle with every word - based on my own physical experience and that I've had with patients. In my work, I have seen numerous patients whose emotional issues have induced or exacerbated disease. I applaud you for having the courage to repeatedly say what needs to be said - it is freeing, validating, necessary and revolutionary, and at the same time, disquieting. I have a long way to go in my own journey, and many more truths to discover. I feel absolutely fortunate that I am doing this work now, as painful as it is - I have the will and awareness to make efforts to STOP repeating the mistakes of my parents (it really never is just one is it). I have always realised that my mother confused obedience, discipline and control, and never had any respect for me. She believed that she could command my love and honor. I've always resisted this. I've always felt guilty for believing /living these things, now I don't. I've always known that respect, understanding, love and consideration for others, ESPECIALLY children is key. I've always tried to see who they are, especially when they are acting out, or when I'm at my worst. I'm thankful for that, and now I have found an "ally" in you.

Thank you.

Please publish my letter if it will be of help to your audience.

TM

AM: Thank you so much for your thoughtful letter. Isn't it amazing to discover one's own denial? And the freedom this discovery brings us? With this experience your path is open, it takes time to walk on it, but you can't be fooled again.

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