Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Why I remain silent
Friday December 01, 2006

Dear Alice Miller,
I wrote to you telling you how I often don't speak up for myself when someone hurts me. You asked why, making the excellent point that I will accumulate a great deal of rage this way. I've been thinking about why I remain silent.
My mother-in-law is usually friendly, but periodically makes a critical remark in a laughing way, disguised as kidding. I feel surprise, shame and anger when she does this, and no words come out of my mouth. Of course it's my problem that I feel shame. This was how I felt when I was a child and my parents criticized me, (which was constantly)-- ashamed. If I said something to defend myself, they would have one or a combination of these reactions; screaming more criticisms at me, contemptuous comments, physical violence or the threat of it. Afterwards I would be shunned, hardly spoken to and looked at with disgusted eyes. I eventually stopped trying to speak up for myself.
I feel ashamed when my mother-in-law criticizes me. When I imagine telling her that I am unhappy with her critical comment, I anticipate that she will shame and reject me for speaking up for myself. I certainly am not coming from a place of strength when it comes to dealing with other's hurtful comments! And so I build up rage.

Thank you for listening again,
C. T.
I would love for you to respond and publish this, thank you.

AM: So you found the reason why you don't react to being treated badly; you are AFRAID of then being assaulted even more. But why do you feel ashamed? You are not guilty, it is them; THEY should be ashamed of treating you so badly. However you write: I feel surprise, shame and anger when she does this, and no words come out of my mouth. Of course it's my problem that I feel shame. This was how I felt when I was a child and my parents criticized me, (which was constantly) ashamed. If I said something to defend myself, they would have one or a combination of these reactions: screaming more criticisms at me, contemptuous comments, physical violence or the threat of it. Afterwards I would be shunned, hardly spoken to and looked at with disgusted eyes. I eventually stopped trying to speak up for myself. This was what you did as a child in danger. But now you are not a child and not in danger. You can use words to express your feeling of anger. If somebody becomes angry at you because you were honest it is THEIR anger not yours, it is up to them to deal with their feelings. If you go on to suppress your feelings, so you can spare others your truth, your true reactions, you will accumulate your anger, as I wrote before, and you risk to eventually become ill. I wish you the courage you need to take your feelings seriously and stay honest.

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