THE 800 DAYS WOULD LIKE TO WELCOME OUR GUEST WRITER AND CONTRIBUTOR:
SYLVIE IMELDA SHENE
Must read books -- the only books I know without poisonous pedagogy, morality and manipulations.
For Your Own Good - Hidden Cruelty in Child-rearing and the Roots of Violence In this book, Alice Miller opens our eyes to the devastating effects of education and care purporting to have "the child's best interests" in mind. She does this first by analyzing what she calls the "pedagogic approach", and secondly by describing the childhood of a drug addict, a political leader (Adolf Hitler), and a child-murderer. Her book succeeded in conveying not just factual (and hence uninvolving) but also emotional awareness of the way in which psychoses, drug addiction and crime represent a deferred and indirect expression of experiences undergone in early infancy. For a child to develop naturally, it needs respect from its caregivers, tolerance for its feelings, awareness of its needs and sensibilities, and authenticity on the part of its parents. This authenticity manifests itself in an upbringing style in which it is the personal freedom of the parents - and not educational dogma - that imposes natural limits to the child. Farrar Straus Giroux 1983, new edition with a new preface 2002
Thou Shalt Not Be Aware - Society’s betrayal of the child. Child abuse is beginning to be recognized as something more significant than an isolated family affair. The title of Alice Miller's book, first published in Germany in 1981, spells out the unspoken commandment that such abused children - indeed, all of us - have been obeying since early childhood. We have all been made to feel from our earliest days that we are to blame for anything shameful that happens to us, so that our awareness of these inflicted abuses dims. Alice Miller demonstrates that this centuries-old tradition also finds expression in Freud's notions of "the Oedipus complex" and "infantile sexuality" - his drive theory - which put the blame on the child. Freud maintained that his patients who claimed to have been sexually molested as children were only "fantasizing" as a defense against their own sexual desires for their innocent parents. This theory helped to conceal the fact that sexual abuse of children occurs frequently and results in later emotional disturbances in the victims of such abuse - because they are not allowed awareness of it. In fairy tales, works of literature, and dreams, Alice Miller maintains, the truth about childhood can emerge, precisely because it is not recognized as such. Detailed examples from Kafka, Flaubert, Beckett, and Virginia Woolf offer proof of her thesis and illustrate her understanding of human creativity. Farrar Straus Giroux 1984, revised edition 1998
The Truth Will Set you Free - Overcoming Emotional Blindness and finding Your True Adult Self. Published September 2001
Drawing on the latest research on brain development, Miller speaks out against the increasing popularity of childhood corporal punishment and demonstrates how spanking and other disciplinary traumas are encoded in the brain, stunting our ability to overcome them. Our bodies retain memories of humiliation, causing panoply of physical ills and dangerous levels of denial. This denial, necessary for the child's survival, leads to emotional blindness and finally to mental barriers that cut off awareness and the ability to learn new ways of acting. If this cycle repeats itself, the grown child will perpetrate the same abuse on later generations, warns Miller.In this stunning new contribution to her life's work, Miller not only invites us to confront our own pasts, but reveals how each of us can liberate our present as adults and as parents. Basic Books, 2001
Breaking Down the Wall of Silence - The Liberating Experience of Facing Painful Truth Psychohistorical analyses of such brutal tyrants as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Nicolae Ceausescu show the obvious links between the horrors of their childhoods and the horror they inflicted on the world. Dr. Miller pleads for a course of remembrance and recognition on the part of the victim, and for awareness and condemnation of child abuse on the part of the society. She advocates getting access to and articulating long-denied emotions so that healing may take place. In her extensive new Preface for this edition, Alice Miller discusses the increasing attention being paid to childhood abuse since the book's original publication. She also reveals personal details about her own life that explain her special interest in childhood and emotional growth, the kind of growth that can encourage survivors to face the truth, to heal, thereby preventing future abuse from taking place. Virago 1997 (revised edition)
The Drama of the Gifted Child - Prisoners of Childhood - The Search for the True Self The first publication of "The Drama of the Gifted Child" (1979) and of this book are separated by fifteen years of experience - the author's experience with her own self-therapy and with other recent therapy methods, and finally her knowledge of the life histories of the several thousand readers who have written to her. The research into childhood she has undertaken in this period has led to a further fine-tuning of her earlier findings, as is documented and illustrated here with an abundance of examples.The author examines the consequences of repression at the personal and social level, the causes of the physical and psychological harm done to children and how this can be prevented, and finally the new methods at our disposal for dealing with the consequences of infant traumas.
The common bond unifying the three studies in this volume is a concern with the factors operative in loss of the self and the routes leading towards the achievement of true identity. "The Drama of the Gifted Child" (and "gifted" here means "sensitive", "aware") has its roots in an intuitive apprehension of the parents' needs by the child at a very early stage. The child adapts to those needs by learning not to feel its most intense feelings, once it has realized that those feelings are considered undesirable. Although these "prohibited" feelings cannot always be avoided at a later stage, they remain split off; this means that the most vital part of the true self is not integrated into the personality. The result is emotional insecurity and impoverishment (loss of self), either expressed in the form of depression or fended off via grandiosity. The examples cited sensitize us to the mute, inarticulate suffering of the child and help us to penetrate the idealizations serving to conceal that suffering. It also opens our eyes to the tragedy of the parents; their unavailability and inaccessibility prove to be the fruit of their availability as children.Basic Books 1981, in UK "The Drama of Being a Child"
Basic Books, new edition, revised and updated 1997
The Untouched Key - Tracing Childhood Trauma in Creativity and Destructiveness As in her former books, Alice Miller again focusses on facts. She is as determined as ever to cut through the veil that, for thousands of years now, has been so meticulously woven to shroud the truth. And when she lifts that veil and brushes it aside, the results are astonishing, as is amply demonstrated by her analyses of the works of Nietzsche, Picasso, Kollwitz, Keaton and others. With the key shunned by so many for so long- childhood - she opens rusty looks and offers her readers a wealth of unexpected perspectives. What did Picasso express in "Guernica"? Why did Buster Keaton never smile? Why did Nietzsche heap so much opprobrium on women and religion, and lose his mind for eleven years? Why did Hitler and Stalin become tyrannical mass murderers? Alice Miller investigates these and other questions thoroughly in this book. She draws from her discoveries the conclusion that human beings are not "innately" destructive, that they are made that way by ignorance, abuse, and neglect, particularly if no sympathetic witness comes to their aid. She also shows why some mistreated children do not become criminals but instead bear witness as artists to the truth about their childhoods, even though in purely intuitive and unconscious ways.It is Dr. Miller's goal to encourage these sympathetic witnesses, to lend them support, and to inform them about the worldwide and ignored plight of children, for she thinks that only by confronting the truth that has been avoided from time immemorial can human beings be saved from blind destruction and self-destruction. This discovery is eloquently illustrated in the last section of "The Untouched Key", wherein the story of Abraham and Isaac and the story of "The Emperor's New Clothes" are retold to reveal their profound meaning. Virago,1990
Paths of Life - Seven Scenarios How do our first experiences of pain and love affect our future adult lives and our relationships with others? This is the key question which runs through the seven 'life stories' collected here. Each scenario is a fictional account of a damaged past and the repercussions it has in later life. The narratives explore the suffering and loneliness felt in the individual's formative years. For some, the pain and inner isolation has dominated their adulthood and prevented them from enjoying fulfilling relationships despite the desire and need for contact and communication. For others, old fears and defensive patterns have been conquered, enabling them to enter into healthy relationships and find contentment.By creating these 'case histories', Alice Miller's intention is to encourage us towards an awareness of the need to learn from experience, adapt to change and regain trust in order to break free of the negative effects of childhood trauma. Virago 1999
Pictures of a Childhood In "Pictures of a Childhood", Alice Miller explores the connection between childhood and that creative activity which "somehow permits us to give form to the chaos within and thereby master our anxiety." Having realized in the early seventies a lifelong desire to paint, Dr. Miller found an unfamiliar world emerging from her paintings: not the "nice" world of her childhood, to which she had always testified, but one of fear, despair and loneliness. Meditating on her spontaneously executed watercolors - sixty-six of which are reproduced here in full color - and their implications, Dr. Miller offers an analysis of the roots of creativity in the authentic self's struggle for survival. Farrar Straus Giroux 1986New York, Penguin USA, new edition 1996
The Body Never Lies
Self-Hatred and Unfulfilled Love (Arthur Rimbaud)
Arthur Rimbaud was born in 1854 and died of cancer in 1891, a few months after his right leg had been amputated. In other words, he only lived to be 37 years old. Yves Bonnefoy tells us that his mother was harsh and brutal, a fact on which all the available sources are unanimous.
Bonnefoy describes her as ambitious, proud, stubbornly self-opinionated, arid, and full of covert hatred. He calls her the classic case of someone fired by the pure energy derived from bigoted religiosity. The astonishing letters she wrote around 1900 reveal that she was enamored of death and destruction. She was fascinated by graveyards, and at the age of 75 she had gravediggers lower her into the grave she was later to share with her dead children Vitali and Arthur, so that she could have a foretaste of the eternal night that was to come. (Bonnefoy 2004, p. 18)
What must it have been like for an intelligent and sensitive child to grow up in the care of a woman like this? We find the answer in Rimbaud's poetry. Bonnefoy tells us that his mother did everything in her power to curb and thwart his development as a poet, albeit to no avail. Failing that, she nipped in the bud every desire for independence on his part, every premonition of liberty. The boy took to regarding himself as an orphan, and his relationship to his mother split up into hatred, on the one hand, and obsequious dependency on the other. From the fact that he received no token of affection Rimbaud concluded that he must be in some way guilty: "With all the strength of his innocence, he rebelled fiercely against the judgment passed on him by his mother." (ibid.)
Rimbaud's mother maintained total control over her children and called this control motherly love. Her acutely perceptive son saw through this lie. He realized that her constant concern for outward appearances had nothing to do with love. But he was unable to admit to this observation without reserve, because as a child he needed love, or at least the illusion of it. He could not hate his mother, particularly as she was so obviously concerned for him. So he hated himself instead, unconsciously convinced that in some obscure way he must have deserved such mendacity and coldness. Plagued by an ill-defined sense of disgust, he projected it onto the provincial town where he lived, onto the hypocrisy of the system of morality he grew up in (much like Nietzsche in this respect), and onto himself. All his life he strove to escape these feelings, resorting in the process to alcohol, hashish, absinth, opium, and extensive travels to faraway places. In his youth he made two attempts to run away from home but was caught and restored to his mother's "care" on both occasions.
His poetry reflects not only his self-hatred but also his quest for the love so completely denied him in the early stages of his life. Later, at school, he was fortunate enough to encounter a kindly teacher who gave him the companionship and support he so desperately needed in the decisive years of puberty. His teacher's affection and confidence enabled him to write and to develop his philosophical ideas. But his childhood retained its stifling grip on him. He attempted to combat his despair at the absence of love in his life by transforming it into philosophical observations on the nature of true love. But these ideas were no more than abstractions because despite his intellectual rejection of conventional morality, his emotional allegiance to the code of conduct it prescribed was unswerving. Self-disgust was legitimate, but detestation for his mother was unthinkable. He could not pay heed to the painful messages of his childhood memories without destroying the hopes that had helped him to survive as a child. Time and again, Rimbaud tells us that he had no one to rely on except himself. This was surely the fruit of his experience with a mother who had nothing to offer him but her own derangement and hypocrisy, rather than true love. His entire life was a magnificent but vain attempt to save himself from destruction at the hands of his mother, with all the means at his disposal.
Young people who have gone through much the same kind of childhood as Rimbaud are probably fascinated by his poetry because they can vaguely sense the presence of a kindred spirit in it. Rimbaud's friendship with Paul Verlaine is a well-known fact of literary history. His longing for love and genuine communication initially appeared to find gratification in this friendship. But the mistrust rooted in his childhood gradually poisoned their intimacy, and this, coupled with Verlaine's own difficult past, prevented the love between them from achieving any permanence. Ultimately, their recourse to drugs made it impossible for them to live the life of total honesty that they were in search of. Their relationship was crippled by the psychological injuries they inflicted on one another. In the last resort, Verlaine acted in just as destructive a way as Rimbaud's mother, and the final crisis came when Rimbaud was shot twice by the drunken Verlaine, who was sentenced to two years in prison for his crime.
To salvage the genuine love he was deprived of in childhood, Rimbaud turned to the idea of love embodied in Christian charity, in understanding and compassion for others. He set out to give others what he himself had never received. He tried to understand his friend and to help him understand himself, but the repressed emotions from his childhood repeatedly interfered with this attempt. He sought redemption in Christian charity, but his implacably perspicacious intelligence would allow him no self-deception. Thus he spent his whole life searching for his own truth, but it remained hidden to him because he had learned at a very early age to hate himself for what his mother had done to him. He experienced himself as a monster, his homosexuality as a vice, his despair as a sin. But not once did he allow himself to direct his endless, justified rage at the true culprit, the woman who had kept him locked up in her prison for as long as she could. All his life he attempted to free himself of that prison, with the help of drugs, travel, illusions, and above all poetry. But in all these desperate efforts to open the doors that would have led to liberation, one of them remained obstinately shut, the most important one: the door to the emotional reality of his childhood, to the feelings of the little child that was forced to grow up with a severely disturbed, malevolent woman, with no father to protect him from her.
Rimbaud's biography is a telling instance of how the body cannot but seek desperately for the early nourishment it has been denied. Rimbaud was driven to assuage a deficiency, a hunger that could never be stilled. His drug addiction, his compulsive travels, his friendship with Verlaine can be interpreted not merely as an attempt to flee from his mother, but also as a quest for the nourishment she had withheld from him. As his internal reality inevitably remained unconscious, Rimbaud's life was marked by compulsive repetition. After every abortive escape attempt, he returned to his mother, both after the separation from Verlaine and at the end of his life, when he had finally sacrificed his creative gifts by giving up his writing to become a business man, thus indirectly fulfilling his mother's expectations of him. Though Rimbaud spent the last days of his life in a hospital in Marseille, he had gone back to Roche immediately before, to be looked after by his mother and sister. The quest for his mother's love ended in the prison of childhood.
Free From Lies Discovering your true needs
Reading this book is a therapeutic encounter with one's own life's story. Dr. Alice Miller, author of such world-renowned books as the Drama of the Gifted Child and The Truth Will Set You Free, has devoted her life to empowering people who have severe symptoms from denying that they suffered physical and emotional abuse as children. Here, in Free from Lies, she tackles uncharted territory as she shows how former victims can finally heal the scars of their youth by finding the true history of their childhood instead of denying it.
Abandoning traditional concepts of psychoanalysis that often - like society on the whole - protect the parents and accuse the child, Dr. Miller explains why a therapist should become a partial, empathic witness to the survivor of obvious cruelty rather than a neutral analyst. She further provides a guide to help patients find the right therapist who will always and unconditionally stay on the side of the wounded child. Dr. Miller explains as well how to identify the causes of the unconscious pain that manifests itself later as depression, self-mutilation, primal inadequacy, and loneliness.
The journey "from victims to destroyer" explores the dynamic that turns once-abused children into abusive parents. Dr. Miller's revolutionary analysis of this cycle of destruction helps us understand what occurs when the abusive behavior reaches beyond the family unit to threaten the whole society. Abusers are able to deny the most obvious and absolutely undeniable facts without the slightest hesitation. They imitate their parents, who were teaching them to lie by telling their children that they were beaten "out of love." As Free from Lies makes clear, this cycle of suppression and repression of truth originates in a cultural mindset that accepts, and even condones, child abuse by calling it "the right upbringing." Excerpts from Dr. Miller's answers to the startling readers' letters sent to her Web site show that a wide variety of abuse is inflicted daily on children throughout the world.
The media's attention is only captured by extreme cases, but the plight of children who are regularly subjected to ordinary abuse in their "upbringing," like spanking, kicking, and others forms of humiliation, remains silenced or even highly encouraged by many.
Held hostage by anger, guilt, and denial, survivors of child abuse will find in Free from Lies the tools necessary to break the cycle, because Dr. Miller's compassion, experience, and guidance provide a much-needed liberation from the crippling lies transferred to us for millennia.