Someone thought she VI'd as an Fi-dominant type: H-ESI? or H-EII?
The Truth Will Set You Free by Alice Miller; pp. 13-18: Ever since civilization began, people have debated how evil came into the world and what they can do to combat it. The prevailing view has held that evil results when a child’s innate destructive instincts are not redirected into goodness, decency, and nobility of character by a liberal dose of corporal punishment.
Today, no one seriously believes in the old wives’ tale that the devil smuggles a changeling into the cradle, forcing us to inflict a strict upbringing on the diabolical offspring to bend it toward submission. But from some quarters we do hear the serious contention that there are such things as genes that predispose certain individuals to delinquency. The quest for these rogue genes has inspired many a research project, even though the hypotheses behind it fly in the face of the facts. No advocate of the “congenital evil” theory has ever, for example, explained why suddenly, at the turn of the twentieth century, a spate of children with “bad genes” was born who would later be utterly willing to do Hitl*r’s bidding.
Sufficient scientific evidence has been marshaled to refute the notion that some people are just born bad. This absurd myth, encountered in almost all cultures, has been effectively exploded. It is dead, but it refuses to lie down. We know today that the brain we are born with is not the finished product, as once thought. The structuring of the brain depends very much on events experienced in the first hours, days, and weeks of a person’s life. And there is mounting evidence that the brain is capable of being modified throughout life, and certainly in the early years. The capacity for empathy, for example, cannot develop in the absence of loving care. The child who grows up neglected, emotionally starved, or subjected to physical cruelty will forfeit this capacity.
Of course, we do not arrive in this world as a clean slate. Every new baby comes with a history of its own, the history of the nine months between conception and birth. In addition, children have the genetic blueprint they inherit from their parents. These factors may determine what kind of temperament a child will have, what inclinations, gifts, predispositions. But character depends crucially upon whether a person is given love, protection, tenderness, and understanding in the formative years or exposed to rejection, coldness, indifference, and cruelty. Many very young murderers, barely more than children, were born to adolescent, drug-dependent mothers—conditions that we know often go along with extreme neglect, lack of attachment, and traumatization.
In recent years, neurobiologists have further established that traumatized and neglected children display severe lesions affecting up to 30 percent of those areas of the brain that control emotions. The explanation is that severe traumas inflicted on infants lead to an increase in the release of stress hormones that destroy the newly formed neurons and their interconnections.
In the scientific literature there is still next to no discussion of the implications of these discoveries for our understanding of child development and the delayed consequences of traumas and neglect. But this research confirms what I described almost twenty years ago in For Your Own Good, based not on experiment but on analytic work with my patients and a close reading of historical educational literature. In that work I quoted extensively from the manuals of the so-called schwarze Padogogik (“poisonous pedagogy”), which insisted on the importance of drumming the principles of obedience and cleanliness into babies in the very first days and weeks of life. Studying this literature helped me understand what made it possible for individuals such as Adolf Eichmann to function like killer robots: they had accounts to settle dating back to their earliest days. They had never been given the opportunity to respond to the violence done to them in their youth. Their destructive potential was the product not of Freudian death drives but of the early suppression of their natural emotional reactions.
Books containing monstrous advice about “good” parenting to drill the baby into obedience, disseminated by educators like Daniel Gottlieb Moritz Schreber in Germany in the second half of the nineteenth century, went into as many as forty editions, so we can conclude that most parents read them and acted—in good faith—on their recommendations. They beat their children from the outset because they had been told this was the way to make them into decent members of society. The children thus treated did the same with their children.
They didn’t know any different. Among that generation of traumatized children, some would become ******’s adherents, adulators, and henchmen. In my view, it was the direct result of their early drilling. The cruelty they experienced turned them into emotional cripples, incapable of developing any empathy for the suffering of others. They had time bombs ticking away in their minds: they were unconsciously awaiting an opportunity to vent on others the pent-up rage inside them. H*tler gave them the scapegoats they needed.
The latest discoveries about the human brain might have been expected to bring about a radical change in our thinking about children and the way we treat them. But old habits die hard. It will take unequivocal legislation and large-scale informational campaigns before young parents will be able to free themselves of the burden of inherited “wisdom” and stop beating their children. Only then will it be all but impossible to give one’s child a slap “inadvertently.” Only then will the power of newly acquired knowledge get in the way of the hand raised to deal the “unthinking” blow.
These thoughts, which I have set out in much greater detail in my book Paths of Life, will perhaps suffice to suggest the immense significance I ascribe to the experiences undergone by infants in the first days, weeks, and months of their lives. To be sure, later influences can undo some of this damage, particularly for a traumatized or neglected child who encounters a helping or an enlightened witness. But such empathic individuals can be of real help only if they do not downplay the consequences of early deprivations. Unfortunately, such sensitivity is rare, even among so-called experts in the helping professions.
For a long time, the significance of the first few months of life for the later adult was a neglected subject even among psychologists. In several of my books I have tried to cast light on this area by discussing the lives of dictators such as ******, Stalin, Ceausescu, and Mao and demonstrating how they unconsciously reenacted their childhood situation on the political stage. Here, however, I want to turn my attention away from history and gaze instead at the present.
Are we so loath to tap the rich source of childhood because we know that frightening spirits lurk there? The reluctance is understandable, for as soon as we attempt to empathize with the situation a child is in, we are certain to encounter the ghosts that haunted our own childhoods. Many people would do anything to avoid confronting those spirits and having to experience themselves once again as small, helpless children. And yet an encounter of this kind can give them back the vitality and sensitivity that have been lost to them for a lifetime.
Thou Shalt Not Be Aware by Alice Miller; pp. 79-83: What if a person has never had the good fortune to experience his early dependence on his parents and the accompanying separation anxiety, so that he is later unable to dissociate himself from their introjected demands? Let us assume that this person has never been in therapy or, if he has, that his therapist was not able to supply him with this missing experience, not being fortunate enough to have had it himself. What happens to such people? Usually they resort to a passive or an active reenactment of their dependency and obedience in early childhood. This is a tragic situation that we are all too ready to judge in moral terms, and we are very likely to accuse them of lacking the courage of their convictions or even of being cowards. Judgments like this do not take into account that the source of this “cowardice” can often be traced back to the very first weeks or even days of life. This can be illustrated by the figure of the seducer and his problematic nature.
Poets, composers, and painters have shown a great fascination with Don Juan, and this may be because they see aspects of their own lives in his. They feel drawn to the story and psychology of this seducer, who always needs a new woman in order to arouse hopes in her, which he must then disappoint. This man can be seen and portrayed from the moralizing perspective of his victim, the disappointed woman, or subjectively from his own perspective, providing the artist has overcome his reluctance to identify with the figure. Fellini’s film Casanova serves as an example of the first case and his City of Women of the second. An author doesn’t necessarily have to write in the first person in order to display his identification with the character of Don Juan. Although Kierkegaard’s Diary of a Seducer is obviously written in this form, the titular hero is still seen from a moralizing distance. On the other hand, the story of Frederic Moreau, presented in Flaubert’s novel Sentimental Education, is narrated in the third person, and yet the reader senses that Flaubert is to some extent describing here, as in Madame Bovary, the torments of his own soul.
The seducer is loved, admired, and sought after by many women because his attitude awakens their hopes and expectations. They hope that their need for mirroring, echoing, respect, attention, and mutual understanding, which has been stored up inside them since early childhood, will finally be fulfilled by this man. But these women not only love the seducer, they also hate him, for he turns out to be unable to fulfill their needs and soon abandons them. They feel hurt by the demeaning way he treats them because they cannot understand him. Indeed, he does not understand himself. If he could, he would not have to keep on reenacting the same drama.
I shall use Flaubert’s novel to give an indication of what I have learned from the perspective of my patients about the early history of the seducer. In every case, the threatening factor in the patient’s early childhood was the mother’s inner sense of insecurity and resultant inflexibility; i.e., the son felt certain that if he went against his mother’s wishes in any way he would be totally rejected—in other words, he would lose her. With his later female partners, he tries to nullify this childhood dependency and, by abandoning each of them in turn, to erase his early fears of being abandoned by his mother if he said no to her. The seducer bestows on women the admiration and affection he once received himself and then suddenly leaves them.
But this replacement of what has been passively suffered with a form of active behavior is not the whole picture. What is so striking in Flaubert—and he is the only writer in whom I have found this—is his probably unconscious insight that behind what pretends to be freedom lies hidden a deep and very early dependency. It is the dependency of someone who was not permitted to say no because his mother could not bear it, and who therefore refuses all his life to commit himself to his partners in the hope of making up for what was never possible with his mother—namely, to say, “I am your child but you have no right to my whole being and my whole life.” Since the seducer is able to assume this attitude toward women only as an adult but not in the early relationship with his mother, his conquests cannot undo his original defeat, and since the pain of early childhood is merely concealed, not cured, by these conquests, the old wounds cannot heal. The repetition compulsion is perpetuated.
With Frederic Moreau, Flaubert created a character who could well be described as cowardly—a man who cannot bring himself to deny women’s desires and therefore must resort to lies. Frederic’s mother appears only on the periphery of the plot, but her character is developed sufficiently to make it clear that the various women in the novel represent different sides of her. Madame Arnoux symbolizes the idealized but inaccessible mother, Rosanette the naïve and demanding one, and Madame Dambreuse the cruel, humiliating mother who is at the same time seductive and love-struck. Moreau’s cowardice is the tragic result of having been a narcissistically abused child. He cannot defend himself except when he is treated with obvious sadism. In every other case, especially if the woman is weak and dependent, he is completely at her mercy. He cannot escape her; he gives her the money she needs; he makes the promises she wants to hear even though he is not going to keep them. The woman’s interests always take precedence over his needs. This inevitably leads to his living a lie, for someone who cannot say no at the decisive moments of his life loses his authenticity.
It may be that Moreau’s situation reflects that of many men who are called seducers. The longing for love and sympathy, for giving and receiving understanding, leads the seducer, the classical Don Juan figure, to a series of women to whom he cannot openly express his disappointments because he had a mother who could not tolerate openness and he therefore had no opportunity to learn it. He is compelled to tell lies in order to spare women’s feelings as he once did his mother’s, and he flees from the arms of one conquest to the next. Since he cannot maintain any distance as long as a woman is helpless, he must provoke her to be cruel to him so that he can leave her in good conscience and thereby regain a measure of freedom. Yet this provocation cannot occur openly either; it comes about against his will and is painful even to him, appearing the very moment the woman discovers his insincerity. If she reacts in a loving way, he will be full of remorse and guilt feelings but will have to deceive her again at the next opportunity in order to create some semblance of freedom, i.e., of distance from the mother. He is given this opportunity if the woman reacts vengefully and cruelly to his dishonorable ways. Then he is able to abandon her, sometimes forever, and will turn to another woman, who at first responds to him like all the others, is so enchanted by his sensitivity, empathy, adaptability, and kindness that she is willing to overlook the beginning signs of insincerity at any price. But the price keeps going up, insofar as the beloved is an unconscious surrogate for the mother, who once demanded unconditional adaptation from her little boy. For no amount of even the most subtle understanding from his partner can undo the past, and the next partner will be driven to use every unconscious means she can to be cruel and unsympathetic, for she really can’t understand what is happening and why he keeps lying to her.
Frederic Moreau’s cowardice is a tragedy, which is probably the case with all cowardice. Whether a person grows up to be honest seems to depend on how much truth the parents were able to bear and on what penalties they exacted from their child for being truthful. It was the story of Frederic Moreau that made me realize how useless the moral categories of cowardice and bravery are and the extent to which courage really has to do with the nature of the individual’s childhood.
When it was a question of expressing his political skepticism, even if he diverged sharply from prevailing views, Flaubert was able to show great courage. The keenness of his observations is virtually unmatched, and his analysis of the political, cultural, and social conformity of his day reflects his scorn for every form of lying. But it is possible that hidden behind his scorn lies the unconscious pain of the little child who had to disown his keen observations for the sake of the conformity required of him and for whom the ultimate honesty—openness toward the person closest to him—was always to remain his highest but unattainable ideal. For in order to realize his ideal he would have had to be able to be honest with his mother and be allowed to leave her when the time was ripe (whereas he in fact continued to live with her until her death). It would also have meant not always having to think first of her needs and her depressions and not having to pay for his freedom to write by becoming ill. In order to understand why Flaubert was unable to do all this, we have only to read Jean-Paul Sartre’s characterization of Flaubert’s mother in The Family Idiot or think of Moreau’s ambitious, materialistic, bigoted mother. The reader of Sentimental Education will not be surprised to find that the son keeps his feelings from his mother and is unable to either love or to hate her. He can recapture the intense feelings of his early childhood only by transferring them to his later partners, whom he both loves and hates. Frederic Moreau’s sad fate is shared not only by Gustave Flaubert but by a great many other men.
In the final pages of the novel, Moreau tells about picking a big bouquet of flowers from his mother’s garden as a boy. He intended to take the flowers to “other women,” women who “sold their love for money,” but at the last moment he fled from them in fear “because he thought they would make fun of him.” If we consider this boyhood memory in terms of its symbolic content, we will find the key both to the psychological interpretation of Sentimental Education and to Flaubert’s life. The flowers from his mother’s garden represent the totality of feelings binding him to her: love and hatred, his longing for affection and his rebelliousness, the intensity of his inner world and his rage at being misused, his attachment to her and his need for freedom—all this had to be suppressed, could come to life only in his fictional characters, and led as well to his great wariness with women, to painful physical symptoms, and to a lifelong if unemotional attachment to his mother.
BANISHED KNOWLEDGE by Alice Miller; pp. 25-31: I cannot imagine that any murderers or criminals do not act out of an inner compulsion. Nevertheless they are guilty when they destroy or mutilate human life. Although the law acknowledges “mitigating circumstances” when it can be proved that the criminal is not responsible for his actions, his motivation and personal plight do not alter the fact that one or more human lives had to be sacrificed for his situation. In contrast to court practice, I believe that every murder committed not directly in self-defense but on innocent surrogate objects is the expression of an inner compulsion, a compulsion to avenge the gross abuse, neglect, and confusion suffered during childhood and to leave the accompanying feelings in a state of repression.
Such compulsions lie behind even the cold calculations of a murderer. This can be illustrated by an example:
In 1984 I was asked for an interview by National Public Radio in Washington. Wendy Blair, the interviewer, read my books in advance, came well prepared, and seemed to have understood everything I had written. Her only problem was with my statement that no one will commit a murder when he can feel what was done to him in his childhood. Yet it was those very people in jail, I said, who were never allowed to experience the history of their childhood because it was so terrifying and because they found no one to help them. The telling of the life story of Jurgen Bartsch, from which I quote in For Your Own Good, was possible only because the journalist Paul Moor approached Bartsch, gained his confidence, and reawakened in him the emotions of the injured child. It is true that, in all similar cases, the murderer can recall the facts, even describe them and publish books about the abuse he suffered in his childhood, but he does so without feeling, without inner involvement, as if he were discussing the life of a stranger. Because he cannot feel, he remains under the compulsion to seek out a new victim for his suppressed, latent, and unaltered rage. Even the longest prison sentence does nothing to change this inner dynamic because the compulsion originates in childhood and can easily last sixty years or more if the murderer does not encounter someone who breathes life into his frozen emotions and thus helps at least partially to resolve the long-lasting compulsion.
I told my American interviewer that it was possible to check out my thesis by talking to prison inmates and asking them about their childhood. I was sure that they would all, without exception, report that their fathers were strict and often had to punish them, needless to say with beatings, but only because they had been bad and deserved it. I was equally sure that they would describe their mothers as loving and would cite external circumstances, such as poverty, as reasons for the cruelties they suffered.
Although my interviewer had difficulty accepting the mechanism of denial as an explanation for crime, she told me that statistics confirmed my statements. Those statistics showed that ninety percent of inmates in American prisons had been abused as children. I told her I was convinced that it was not ninety but a full one hundred percent. It was simply that the remaining ten percent were not yet able to admit it: They were not merely repressing their feelings but also denying the facts.
It is possible, of course, that the first abuses were inflicted not by the parents but by the inhuman child-delivery practices in our hospitals. This cause is hard to pinpoint in individual cases, and a baby seriously traumatized during birth or isolated from human contact in an incubator may at a very early stage become a “difficult child” who hardly can get the love he will need to overcome the trauma. But it is absolutely unthinkable that a human being who, from the start, is given love, tenderness, closeness, orientation, respect, honesty, and protection by adults should later become a murderer.
“Can the explanation really be so simple?” asked my interviewer. It is very simple, yet most people seem to have a problem with it because access to this simple truth remains blocked by the pain experienced in their own childhood. They prefer to believe in theories that sound very complicated but have the advantage of sparing them pain. As a result, millions of prison inmates are deprived of help. They serve their time senselessly: Nothing in them is changed, and a machinery is kept in motion that ensures, among other things, that the guilt of the prisoners’ parents remains undiscovered.
“But what happens,” my interviewer wanted to know, “when a person in therapy finds out what his parents have done to him? Isn’t it possible that he might want to kill his parents? I mean, that the reawakened feeling is no protection against murder?” No, I told her, it is possible that this person might wish to do it, but he won’t, for two reasons. First, through reawakened feelings, he will sense the awakening of life within him and won’t want to jeopardize that life. Second, feelings that can be associated with childhood experiences can change over time and make way for new feelings. The anger directed at parents remains unchanged as long as we cannot feel it, because we fear this anger, feel guilty about it, and are afraid of the parents’ revenge. Once this fear has been experienced with all its attendant circumstances, and its ramifications have been understood, we are no longer compelled to feel guilty about something done by others. This liberation reduces the anger.
I wasn’t quite sure when we parted whether my interviewer had found in my explanations the answers she was looking for, but the completed cassette she sent me showed that she had understood me correctly. Into our conversation she had woven interviews with victims of abuse and one interview, which had been stored for years in the archives of her radio station, with a man who had killed three hundred and sixty women. The journalist who interviewed the murderer had initially been struck by the fact that the man talked about his murders quite unemotionally, but the significance of this absence of emotion became clear to the journalist only through the strength of my arguments. In reply to questions, the murderer states that his mother had been a prostitute and had hit him “whenever [he] didn’t stay out of her way.” On a few occasions she had almost killed him. When he was born she had wanted a girl, not a boy, and until he was seven years old he was forced to wear girl’s clothes and to keep his hair long. When a teacher cut his hair, his mother was so furious she almost beat the teacher to death. What had he felt while committing the murders? Nothing, said the prisoner. He set out from his house each morning with the purpose of killing a woman, as if he were going out to do a day’s work. Could it be that his harsh childhood had something to do with these murders? the journalist wanted to know. “Oh no,” replied the prisoner with total conviction, and for the first time with a trace of emotion. “I cannot blame my mother for what happened to me.”
This man had repressed his past so thoroughly that he had never in his life had a dream. He was fourteen when he first murdered a girl, one his own age. Presumably he wished to destroy the girl whom his mother had wanted instead of him. He murdered out of the simple and understandable despair resulting from his realization that he could never win his mother’s love because he was a boy and not a girl. Had his mother expected something else of him—something attainable—he might have managed to live up to her wishes, but this was a chance that life had not given him. A child will do anything to win his mother’s love because he cannot live without that love. So this child, who received only hatred from a mother who might, he believed, have so much love to offer, sought a way to obtain her love. Perhaps the boy felt compelled to kill the girl merely to gain attention. We know nothing of that. Only he could have told us, provided he had had the possibility of feeling, of weeping, of dreaming. But he hadn’t. His soul was immured. Murder was its only language.
Who, then, is guilty of the death of those three hundred and sixty women? The adult murderer, of course. But not only he. Once we are prepared to look at the surrounding circumstances we can no longer say that his mother is without guilt. The murderer says that his mother cannot be blamed for what happened to him, and society agrees with him. In my opinion this mother made her son a murderer, even if the son doesn’t know it, even if society and the mother herself don’t know it or don’t want to know it. It is this very lack of awareness that is so dangerous. To prevent future crimes, the danger of this ignorance must be clearly recognized.
Free from Lies by Alice Miller; pp. 16-19: When parents display empathy for their children’s feelings and own up to their mistakes without saying “your behavior drove us to it,” then a great deal will change. The children then have something they can model themselves on. There is no attempt to evade realities, no attempt to “repair” them in line with the parents’ ideas. They have been shown that truth can be put into words and, once expressed, has the power to heal. Above all, when parents admit their failings, their children no longer need to feel guilty for the mistakes their parents have made. Such feelings of guilt are the breeding ground for countless attacks of depression in later life.
Children who have sensed in such exchanges that their injuries and their feelings are taken seriously by their parents and that their dignity is respected are also more immune to the detrimental effects of television than those who harbor unconscious, suppressed desires for revenge on their parents and for that reason identify with scenes of violence on the screen. Politicians may envisage the prohibition of violence on television as a remedy, but this is unlikely to have much effect.
By contrast, children who have been informed about the early injuries inflicted on them will be much more critical of brutal movies or quickly lose interest in them altogether. They may even find it easier to see through the dissociated sadism of the moviemakers than do the many adults who are unwilling to face up to the sufferings of the maltreated children they once were. Such adults may be fascinated by scenes of violence without suspecting that they are being forced to consume the emotional trash peddled as “art” by filmmakers who are unaware that they are in fact parading their own histories.
This was forcibly brought home to me by an interview with a respected American film director fond of including repulsive monsters and sadistic sex scenes in his movies. He said that modern film technology had made it possible for him to demonstrate that love has many faces and that sadistic sex is one of them. He appeared completely oblivious of where, when, and from whom he was forced to adopt this confusing philosophy as a small child, and this ignorance is quite likely to accompany him to the end of his days. His self-styled “art” enables him both to tell his own story and to erase it from his memory at the same time. Naturally, such blindness has severe social consequences.
Breaking Down the Wall of Silence by Alice Miller; pp. 7-8: To recognize and integrate something monstrous from our collective past as a society requires considerable time, just as it does on the individual level, in therapy. To rush the process may mean that the mechanisms of denial are further strengthened. We still need our illusions, our “crutches,” as we confront a new and painful aspect of the truth on our journey toward a complete perception of the child’s situation.
As a result, the women’s movement clung to a number of illusions as it broached the subject of the sexual abuse of girls. Above all, its members needed to believe that mothers could not be party to this crime. Because I refused to lay responsibility for female child abuse solely at the doorstep of the men and insisted that both parents owed a debt of love and protection to the abused child—and that a caring mother would have prevented such abuses from occurring—it became clear to me that feminists found my books problematic...
But in the years since, the women’s movement has also arrived at the point where it can begin to live without the illusion that only men commit acts of violence against children. One feminist sociologist sent me the results of her study of youths serving prison terms for attacking and raping women on the street. As it transpired, the rape and debasement of anonymous women had nothing to do with sexuality, although these men are referred to as “sex offenders.” Rather, they were motivated by revenge for the helplessness and defencelessness that they themselves had once suffered—a reality they had subsequently completely repressed, and continued to repress, to the detriment of others. What became clear was that all these men had been sexually abused by their mothers in early childhood, by way of either direct sexual practices, the misuse of enemas, or both. Various perverse practices were used to keep the child in check without its having the slightest chance of defending itself.
Thirty years ago the use of enemas was still regarded as accepted medical practice. In truth, it was never anything but an act of violence against the child, intended to keep its bowel functions under adult control. To see this clearly and to be able to expose this form of destructive behavior required considerable openmindedness on the part of the sociologist concerned. That she did not have to protect the mothers in this case meant that she did not have to mask the truth in any way.
The last thing I wish to do, of course, is relativize these rapists’ crimes by drawing attention to this aspect of their past. The criminal acting-out of repressed injuries can never be thought of as a compulsive necessity. Had these men been prepared to give up their repression, such acts would never have occurred. Sadly, they are not prepared to do so; and as soon as they themselves become fathers they are in a position to take revenge on their mothers with impunity—under their own roofs, on their wives and children, beyond the reach of the law.
Their deeds must be shown in their true light, just as those of their parents and grandparents and the millions of other child abusers in previous generations, who have produced the rapists of today. Their perverted mothers were also the products of this disastrous chain of events.
pp. 130-131: There are many programs going by the name of "therapy," whose basis consists of first learning to express one's feelings in order to see what happened in childhood. Then, however, comes "the work of forgiveness," which is apparently necessary if one is to heal. Many young people who have AIDS or are drug-addicted die in the wake of their effort to forgive so much. What they do not realize is that they are dying in order to keep the repression of their childhood intact.
The majority of therapists fear this truth. They work under the influence of destructive interpretations culled from both Western and Oriental religions, which preach forgiveness to the once-mistreated child. Thereby, they create a new vicious circle for people who from their earliest years have been caught in the vicious circle of pedagogy. This, they refer to as "therapy." In so doing, they lead them into a trap from which there is no escape, the same trap that once rendered their natural protests impossible, thus causing the illness in the first place. Because such therapists, caught as they are in the pedagogic system, cannot help patients to resolve the consequences of the traumatization they have suffered, they offer them traditional morality instead.
pp. 142-143: Today, we know that AIDS and cancer involve a drastic collapse of the body's immune system, and that this physical "resignation" precedes the sick person's loss of hope. Incredibly, hardly anyone has taken the step that these discoveries suggest: that we can regain our hope, if our distress signals are finally heard. If our repressed, hidden story is at last perceived with full consciousness, even our immune system can regenerate itself. But who is there to help, when all the "helpers" fear their own personal history? And so we play the game of blindman's buff with each other--patients, doctors, medical authorities--because until now only a few people have experienced the fact that emotional access to the truth is the indispensable precondition of healing. In the long run, we can only function with consciousness of the truth. This also holds for our physical well-being. Bogus traditional morality, destructive religious interpretations, and confusion in our methods of childrearing all make this experience harder and hinder our initiative. Without a doubt, the pharmaceutical industry also profits from our blindness and despondency. However, each of us has been given only one life and only one body. It refuses to be fooled, insisting with all means at its disposal that we do not deceive it.
BANISHED KNOWLEDGE by Alice Miller; pp. 51-53: Reactions to new insights reflect not only training but also the tragedy of unequal chances: A loved child receives the gift of love and with it that of knowledge and innocence. It is a gift that will provide him with orientation for his whole life. An injured child lacks everything because he lacks love. He doesn’t know what love is, constantly confuses crime with good deeds and mendacity with truth, and hence will continue to be subject to new confusions.
This confusion also became apparent to me in a discussion of an actual case among experts: A woman who had not been subject to achievement pressure in her childhood and had been much loved took into her home a nine-year-old autistic boy, whom she later adopted. She was able to give him plenty of warmth and physical contact, react to him positively, confirm his feelings, sense his needs, pick up his signals, and eventually understand them too. In her arms the boy learned to show emotions, to experience the anger at what had been done to him in the past, and to discover love. He developed into a healthy, intelligent, very lively, and candid youth.
I recounted this history to a group of experts in the field of autism. The doctors among them said that autism was an incurable neurophysiological disease and that the history in this case showed that the boy had not been suffering from autism; in other words, there had been a wrong diagnosis. The psychologists, family therapists, and analysts said that this history was probably a crude simplification, for they knew many cases in which years of psychotherapy had brought about no change in autistic patients (which, incidentally, I am perfectly willing to believe). They went on to say that such a history could be of no help to parents of autistic children; on the contrary, it would give them guilt feelings because not all parents were in a position to devote that much love and time to their child. The parents usually had several children, had to earn a living, and, after all, they were only human. I said it seemed to me irrelevant whether a parent acquired guilt feelings when it was a matter of uncovering such an important truth.
The history of the nine-year-old boy confirmed something I had long suspected: A child’s autism is a response to his environment, sometimes the last possible response open to a child. Whether autism is curable depends on the extent to which the people in a new environment can become aware of the truth of the child’s past. The reaction of those experts showed how difficult it is to find such people. Their resistance prevented them from realizing how greatly this boy’s history could help us in our dealings with children.
Later, after many years, I heard of similar though still rare cases of autistic children being cured. A technique was developed, the “holding” technique, aimed at the need of the lost, lonely, alienated child to be held. Unfortunately this technique was once again coupled with pedagogy, and that is where I see its great danger. If the mother has gained the child’s trust by holding him and proceeds to place pedagogic demands on him, the child will do anything in his power not to lose his mother’s affection again. It has actually been shown that children treated with this technique do brilliantly in school. But since I wrote my first book, in 1979, I have known that this is not necessarily a genuine cure. The mother’s complete physical and psychic devotion to the autistic child can no doubt work miracles, provided she refrains from making pedagogic demands; otherwise she will create the drama of the gifted child—the very thing the child was warding off with his autism.
THOU SHALT NOT BE AWARE by Alice Miller; pp. 154-156: Until recently, there was scarcely a pedagogue to be found who did not believe it was his or her task to teach children morality. Among the few exceptions was Janusz Korczak, a pioneering nonconformist who in 1928 wrote these words, which even today still strike us as unorthodox:
Children are forbidden to criticize, they are not permitted to notice our mistakes, passions, or absurdities. We appear before them in the garb of perfection. Under threat of our wrath, we protect the secrets of the ruling clan, the caste of initiates called to higher tasks. Only a child can be stripped naked and pilloried without a second thought.
The game we play with children is a game with a marked deck of cards; we win against the low cards of childhood with the aces of adulthood. Cheaters that we are, we shuffle the cards in such a way that we deal ourselves everything good and valuable in order to take advantage of their weaknesses. What about our ne’er-do-wells and happy-go-lucky types, the pleasure-seeking gourmets, the dumbbells, lazy-bones, scoundrels, adventurers, those with no conscience, the swindlers, drunkards, and thieves; what about our acts of violence and our crimes, those that are public knowledge and those that go undetected; how many quarrels, underhanded deeds, and scenes of jealousy are we responsible for, how much slander and black mail, how many wounding words and dishonorable actions; how many family tragedies, whose victims are the children, are enacted in secret? And we dare to make accusations?
Are we so biased that we mistake the displays of affection we force on children for genuine love? Don’t we understand that it is we who are seeking children’s affection when we draw them to us, we who run to them when we are at a loss, that in moments of impotent pain and boundless loneliness we seek protection and shelter with them and burden them with our suffering and our yearning? [Das Recht des Kindes auf Achtung (The Child’s Right to Be Respected), pp. 21-23]
Thou Shalt Not Be Aware by Alice Miller; p. 198: The family therapist observes the interaction between adults or between adolescents and their parents. In these relationships the manifest power structure may be different or even entirely opposite from what it was in the original setting of early childhood. It often looks as though parents are being victimized by their adolescent offspring and not the other way around. Yet the key to understanding the present situation lies in the past, which does not always become visible in a group. Only in the intrapsychic world of the individual does the past go on running its unwavering course and keep on being enacted anew in his or her present surroundings. The psychoanalytic method makes use of free association, transference, and countertransference in its attempt to decode the meaning of these intrapsychic, often tortured reenactments and can thereby free the patient from his tormenting repetition compulsions.
pp. 109-110:There is a striking divergence in the ways the public reacts to news and information. In a single evening readers can find all manner of shocking events reported in the newspaper without being shaken out of their accustomed tranquility. There may be an account of a father who stabbed his wife and three children to death and then took his own life. This man was considered a conscientious employee, and there had been nothing unusual about his previous behavior. Depending on their level of education and orientation, our newspaper readers may think, “The man was simply a born psychopath, even though he was able to cover it up until now.” Or, “The housing shortage and the stress of his job drove the man to murder his wife and children.” The same newspaper may carry a report about the trial of a terrorist, during which the young man, accused of multiple homicide, delivered an hour-long ideological speech. There is also an interview with his mother, who claims convincingly that her son had never caused any trouble all through his childhood and adolescence, until he went to college. Then readers come to the “obvious” conclusion that the “bad influence” of the other students, who were raised too permissively, made this man become a terrorist. Continuing to leaf through the paper, they may now find another item about the rising suicide rate in a “luxury” prison, where each prisoner is isolated in his own cell. This might cause them to exclaim: “That goes to show you how spoiled people are nowadays! Their high standard of living makes them even more dissatisfied, and it may be that a permissive upbringing is responsible for all the acts of violence being committed by today’s young people.” Explanations such as these comfort readers and reinforce their value system. The events in question have no personal significance for them. They would basically rather not know how it is possible for a loving father suddenly to murder his three children, how an obedient son can so easily turn into a terrorist, why a prisoner in isolation commits suicide. For who can guarantee that their form of adjustment, successful thus far, does not have its dangerous shadow side, too, and that they will always manage to keep it at a distance? Understanding for someone else’s unconscious presupposes a familiarity with our own. How can we understand drug addiction, delinquency, or the outbreak of mental illness if the unconscious portion of our own and the other person’s psyche is ignored?
pp. 248-249: The unconscious is endless; it resembles an ocean from which we, in analysis, can remove perhaps one glassful of water, that portion which has made the person ill. A great artist will be able to draw all the more freely from the ocean the less he has to protect himself from the suspected poison in the glass. He will be free to try out different approaches and to keep discovering himself anew, as can be observed in the life of Pablo Picasso, for one. In contrast to Picasso, we might mention Salvador Dali, who, although undoubtedly a great painter, has, like Samuel Beckett, been preoccupied all his life with the poison in the glass. What I am saying here is not intended as a value judgment but merely as a comment on the personal tragedy of artists. A glassful is tiny in comparison with the ocean, but if we imagine a person to be the size of an ant, then even a glassful can seem like a great ocean.
pp. 242-243: Psychoanalysis, like pedagogy, can very easily be destructive of the soul if it is used to indoctrinate the patient. But if it is not manipulative, instead allowing the patient full freedom to discover his past, then it cannot help but encourage his creative potential. Furthermore, if we understand art as a creative expression of what a person has experienced and stored in the unconscious and not as “the sublimation of instinctual drives,” every kind of therapy that has the goal of paving the way to self-expression will promote, not impede, creativity. The fear that the infinite riches of the unconscious might be exhausted by bringing a small but tormenting portion of it to consciousness will not be shared by anyone who has been moved by the paintings of Picasso, Miro, Paul Klee, or Chagall. Their brushes were guided by the unconscious, not by neurosis.
When we hear that a writer had an unhappy childhood, we frequently attribute his or her artistic achievement to early traumatization. This view seems particularly applicable to Kafka, in whose works an exploitative society takes over the role of the parents, with the philosophy common to both being summed up in the words: “The beating was good for you [us].” Unquestionably, it is scarcely conceivable that someone who is not capable of suffering can produce a great creative work, but the capacity for suffering is not a result of traumatization; rather, both are the result of a very high degree of sensitivity.*
The same event may have a devastating effect on a sensitive child and elicit scarcely any visible response (at least for the moment) in another, who has perhaps already become apathetic. For this reason, the view cited above could just as well be turned around to read: There was much suffering in the childhood of all great writers because they experienced the wounds, humiliations, fears, and feelings of abandonment that are an inevitable part of that period of life much more strongly and intensely than others. By storing up the pain they suffered, by making it an essential part of themselves and of their later imaginative life and then expressing it in transfigured form, they guarantee the survival of their painful feelings. But the dissociation of these feelings from the first attachment figures, toward whom they were directed, and their association with new, unreal fictitious figures guarantees the “survival” of the neurosis.
* I use this term for lack of a better one, for I cannot say what causes one child to react more sensitively at a very early age than another, an undeniable phenomenon we can observe every day. There certainly must be good reasons for this, but I have not pursued the question in enough depth to discover them; possibly the key lies in a study of the prenatal period. It strikes me as quite likely that fear on the pregnant mother’s part, for example, could lead to great alertness (sensitivity) in the fetus.
Free from Lies by Alice Miller; pp. 52-56: We tend to associate the word “hatred” with the notion of a dangerous curse we need to free ourselves of as quickly as we can. An opinion also frequently voiced is that hatred poisons our very being and makes it all but impossible to heal the injuries stemming from our childhood. I too believe that hatred can poison the organism, but only as long as it is unconscious and directed vicariously at substitute figures or scapegoats. [...] latent, displaced hatred is indeed dangerous and difficult to resolve because it is not directed at the person who has caused it but at substitute figures...
Conscious, reactive hatred is different. Like any other feeling, this can recede and fade away once we have lived it through. If our parents have treated us badly, possibly even sadistically, and we are able to face up to the fact, then of course we will experience feelings of hatred. As I have said, such feelings may weaken or fade away altogether in the course of time, though this never happens from one day to the next. The full extent of the mistreatment inflicted upon a child cannot be dealt with all at once. Coming to terms with it is an extended process in which aspects of the mistreatment are allowed into our consciousness one after the other, thus rekindling the feeling of hatred. But in such cases hatred is not dangerous. It is a logical consequence of what happened to us, a consequence only fully perceived by the adult, whereas the child was forced to tolerate it in silence for years.
Alongside reactive hatred of the parents and latent hatred deflected onto scapegoats, there is also the justified hatred for a person tormenting us in the present, either physically or mentally, a person we are at the mercy of and either cannot free ourselves of, or at least believe that we cannot. As long as we are in such a state of dependency, or think we are, then hatred is the inevitable outcome. It is hardly conceivable that a person being tortured will not feel hatred for the torturer. If we deny ourselves this feeling we will suffer from physical symptoms. The biographies of Christian martyrs are full of descriptions of the dreadful ailments they suffered from, and a significant portion of them are skin diseases. This is how the body defends itself against self-betrayal. These “saints” were enjoined to forgive their tormentors, to “turn the other cheek,” but their inflamed skin was a clear indication of the extreme anger and resentment they were suppressing.
Once such victims have managed to free themselves from the power of their tormentors, they will not have to live with this hatred day in, day out. Of course, the memories of their impotence and the horrors they went through may well up again on occasion. But it is probable that the intensity of their hatred will be tempered as time goes on.
Hatred is a very strong and assertive feeling, a sign of our vitality. So if we try to suppress it, there will be a price to pay. Hatred tries to tell us something about the injuries we have been subjected to, and also about ourselves, our values, our specific sensitivity. We must learn to pay heed to it and understand the message it conveys. If we can do that, we no longer need to fear hatred. If we hate hypocrisy, insincerity, and mendacity, then we grant ourselves the right to fight them wherever we can, or to withdraw from people who only trust in lies. But if we pretend that we are impervious to these things, then we are betraying ourselves.
The almost universal, but in fact highly destructive, injunction to forgive our “trespassers” encourages such self-betrayal. [...] it is easy to demonstrate that neither prayer nor autosuggestive exercises in “positive thinking” are able to counteract the body’s justified and vital responses to humiliations and other injuries to our integrity inflicted on us in early childhood. The martyrs’ crippling ailments are a clear indication of the price they had to pay for the denial of their feelings. So would it not be simpler to ask whom this hatred is directed at, and to recognize why it is in fact justified? Then we have a chance of living responsibly with our feelings, without denying them and paying for this “virtue” with illnesses.
I would be suspicious if a therapist promised me that after treatment (and possibly thanks to forgiveness) I would be free of undesirable feelings like rage, anger, or hatred. What kind of person would I be if I could not react, temporarily at least, to injustice, presumption, evil, or arrogant idiocy with feelings of anger or rage? Would that not be an amputation of my emotional life? If therapy really has helped me, then I should have access to all my feelings for the rest of my life, as well as conscious access to my own history as an explanation for the intensity of my responses. This would quickly temper that intensity without having serious physical consequences of the kind caused by the suppression of emotions that have remained unconscious.
In therapy I can learn to understand my feelings rather than condemn them, to regard them as friends and protectors instead of fearing them as something alien that needs to be fought against...
It is not our feelings that make us a danger to ourselves and our environment; it is the dissociation of those feelings caused by our fear of them. It is here that we must seek the reasons for amok killers, for suicide bombers, and for the countless court judges who close their eyes to the real causes of crime, so as to spare the parents of the delinquents and to keep their own histories in the dark.
The Untouched Key by Alice Miller; pp. 167-170 [APPENDIX (The Newly Recognized, Shattering Effects of Child Abuse)]: For some years now there has been proof that the devastating effects of the traumatization of children take their inevitable toll on society. This knowledge concerns every single one of us, and—if disseminated widely enough—should lead to fundamental changes in society, above all to a halt in the blind escalation of violence. The following points are intended to amplify my meaning:
1. All children are born to grow, to develop, to live, to love, and to articulate their needs and feelings for their self-protection.
2. For their development children need the respect and protection of adults who take them seriously, love them, and honestly help them to become oriented in the world.
3. When these vital needs are frustrated and children are instead abused for the sake of adults’ needs by being exploited, beaten, punished, taken advantage of, manipulated, neglected, or deceived without the intervention of any witness, then their integrity will be lastingly impaired.
4. The normal reactions to such injury should be anger and pain; since children in this hurtful kind of environment, however, are forbidden to express their anger and since it would be unbearable to experience their pain all alone, they are compelled to suppress their feelings, repress all memory of the trauma, and idealize those guilty of the abuse. Later they will have no memory of what was done to them.
5. Disassociated from the original cause, their feelings of anger, helplessness, despair, longing, anxiety, and pain will find expression in destructive acts against others (criminal behavior, mass murder) or against themselves (drug addiction, alcoholism, prostitution, psychic disorders, suicide).
6. If these people become parents, they will then often direct acts of revenge for their mistreatment in childhood against their own children, whom they use as scapegoats. Child abuse is still sanctioned—indeed, held in high regard—in our society as long as it is defined as childrearing. It is a tragic fact that parents beat their children in order to escape the emotions stemming from how they were treated by their own parents.
7. If mistreated children are not to become criminals or mentally ill, it is essential that at least once in their life they come in contact with a person who knows without any doubt that the environment, not the helpless, battered child, is at fault. In this regard, knowledge or ignorance on the part of society can be instrumental in either saving or destroying a life. Here lies the great opportunity for relatives, social workers, therapists, teachers, doctors, psychiatrists, officials, and nurses to support the child and to believe her or him.
8. Till now, society has protected the adult and blamed the victim. It has been abetted in its blindness by theories, still in keeping with the pedagogical principles of our great-grandparents, according to which children are viewed as crafty creatures, dominated by wicked drives, who invent stories and attack their innocent parents or desire them sexually. In reality, children tend to blame themselves for their parents’ cruelty and to absolve the parents, whom they invariably love, of all responsibility.
9. For some years now, it has been possible to prove, thanks to the use of new therapeutic methods, that repressed traumatic experiences in childhood are stored up in the body and, although remaining unconscious, exert their influence even in adulthood. In addition, electronic testing of the fetus has revealed a fact previously unknown to most adults: a child responds to and learns both tenderness and cruelty from the very beginning.
10. In the light of this new knowledge, even the most absurd behavior reveals its formerly hidden logic once the traumatic experiences of childhood no longer must remain shrouded in darkness.
11. Our sensitization to the cruelty with which children are treated, until now commonly denied, and to the consequences of such treatment will as a matter of course bring to an end the perpetuation of violence from generation to generation.
12. People whose integrity has not been damaged in childhood, who were protected, respected, and treated with honesty by their parents, will be—both in their youth and adulthood—intelligent, responsive, empathic, and highly sensitive. They will take pleasure in life and will not feel any need to kill or even hurt others or themselves. They will use their power to defend themselves but not to attack others. They will not be able to do otherwise than to respect and protect those weaker than themselves, including their children, because this is what they have learned from their own experience and because it is this knowledge (and not the experience of cruelty) that has been stored up inside them from the beginning. Such people will be incapable of understanding why earlier generations had to build up a gigantic war industry in order to feel at ease and safe in this world. Since it will not have to be their unconscious life-task to ward off intimidation experienced at a very early age, they will be able to deal with attempts at intimidation in their adult life more rationally and more creatively.