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Interview with child advocate Andrew Vachss
Friday May 23, 2008

Dear Alice Miller,
This May 2008, Oprah Winfried's talk with Andrew Vachss from 1993 has been posted on youtube.
Have you seen this interview?
Here is the link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-CA6-RmeBY&feature=related
In this talk, Andrew Vachss confronts Oprah with her belief that anger resulting from an abusive childhood is a bad thing that one needs to overcome, and that the way to "healing" is through forgiveness. And he thoroughly questions it.
What do you think?

AM: I saw the interview. These are some of my thoughts about it: We will never be able to stop child abuse as long as we say: “I put the past behind me, I don't feel anger, have forgiven and forgotten and get on with my life." This advice, given very often, never actually helps. Why? Because the endured abuse, if it is not worked out, drives the former victims to do the same with their children as long as they deny the pain and the anger, which the abuse left in their bodies. Our feelings may stay for a long time repressed, unconscious, but they wake up when we become parents. Advice like the one given by Oprah wants to help people who suffer by saying: "Enjoy your life, you should no longer suffer because of things that happened so long ago". We must know that this advice works at the expense of the next generation, supporting our blindness. Feeling and understanding the causes of our old pain does not mean that the pain and the anger will stay with us forever. Quite the opposite is true. The felt anger and pain disappear with time and enable us to love our children. It is the UNFELT, avoided and denied pain, stored up in our bodies, that drive us to repeat what have been done to us and to say: "Spanking didn't harm me, it was good for me and will thus also not harm my children." People who talk like this go on writing books on how we should spank babies early enough so that they learn to behave and NEVER EVER realize what had been done to them so early in their lives.

Karma and abuse
Saturday August 11, 2007

Hello,

What are your thoughts on Buddhism and karma? I experienced extreme physical and mental/emotional abuse by a step father which my mother condoned through silence. Also some minor sexual abuse by a relative. For some reason I'm only just admitting this to myself within the last year, although I have awful scars covering my legs from being beaten with extension cords and belts, somehow I managed to repress these memories until recently after I suffered a breakdown of sorts. As a woman, I don't have much confidence, although I'm learning to fake it until I gain it.
It's actually quite freeing to no longer feel crazy or act out neurotically, I realize I was under going much self deception in order to survive.
Now, at 29, I find myself going down this path of Buddhism and karma as a way to make sense of the abuse. Basicaly believing that my spirit chose this hardship as a way of compensating for past(lives) errors. My mind has to find a logical reason for the pain other than just blaming the abuser. He has little concern for me and calls his abuse of me "discipline." I make an effort to not think of him or my mother. While Buddhism is comforting to a degree, its austerity is harsh as you are told that you should be thankful for any insult or abuse because abusers are teachers and we deserve whatever we get--to put it bluntly.
As far as finding spiritual validation for the abuse , would you say that it is another form of denial? T.

AM: Yes, of course I would say that. It is not only denial, it is brain washing in the most dangerous way.

 

The word discipline conceals the abuse of power
Saturday November 26, 2005

Dear Alice Miller

... It's so good to know that you hate the word 'discipline', above all concerning children. :)

As I see it, sexual abuse is ranked at the top of what people see as abuse; everyone accept the fact that this is abuse. Then comes physical abuse, and then comes neglect and then probably emotional abuse. But at the bottom comes "Erziehung". Almost no one looks at this as abusive, therefor the importance to stress this is great, as I see it.

What I meant in my previous mail was that in "For your own good" you stressed the point that you saw *all* "Erziehung" and pedagogy as poisouness in pure words. In later books I can't find it as clearly expressed. My other point was the EPOCH link. Epoch *is* in favour of disciplining, and you link to them without commenting anything on it (for instance that you support their stand against corporal punishment, but are not in favour of disciplining).

I don't know the discipline debate all around the world, but in Scandinavia for about the last 25 years or so it has been all about limitsetting (Sigsgaard & Varming 1997). "Am Anfang war Erziehung" was recognized from both sides as a strong "posting" into that debate. Your later books are not, exept for those already familiar with "Am Anfang...", but only those ones who already are against limitsetting, since they interpret the meaning expressed so clearly in "Am Anfang..." into your newer books.

I love all your books, but for me it was "Am Anfang..." that really grabbed my hand and made me stand up for 15 years until I was able to find emphatic witnesses :)

To sum up:
My piont was the combination of seeing links to "discipline" web sites on your site and at the same time only being able to find solid arguments against *all kinds* of "Erziehung" and pedagogy in "Am anfang..."; this combination made me wonder of your stand today.

Warmly,
V. J.

AM: Dear V.,
I absolutely agree with you, the word discipline conceals the abuse of power that adults think to need towards children. As to the link to Epoch USA I know that Nadine Block fights against the cruel upbringing and I appreciate her efforts but I can’t expect from everybody to read my books and share my opinions when we decide to put a link on my website nor do I feel responsible for their vocabulary. Otherwise there would hardly be links at all. I can only hope that readers are free enough to make their own observations as you did. Thank you for having shared them with us and may be you could also write to Nadine Block on this matter.

 

Causes of depression
Sunday April 15, 2007

Dear Alice Miller,

I am a 30 year old male and have been battling depression for several years now. When I am depressed I usually think of taking my own life (even though I would never have the courage to do so), or of escaping this crazy world to some distant island, a place free of the pressures of "modern" life. I have never taken antidepressants to treat my depression, nor will I ever do so.

I first started experience depression around five years ago, and like so many people, I saw the causes of my misery only in my present life circumstances. It took around 3 years of therapy, and reading some of your work (in particular "The drama of the gifted child" and "The body never lies"), as well as your article on depression on your web site, that I began to understand the true source of my feeling depressed. I had suffered a great deal of emotional abuse from both of my parents. Just to give you some examples: I was "trained" by my parents to always put their needs ahead of mine. I was never listened to by my parents because they were constantly caught up with their marital arguments. I was told by my parents that I am the reason that they can't get divorced, and, like any child would, I took all the blame on me. I constantly had to comfort and console my mother because I saw how much she suffered in her marriage. My father threatened me to kill himself if I was going to tell my mother that I had caught him in one of his many extra-marital affairs. And the list goes on. The warning lights were on pretty early in my life, but they went unnoticed. I suffered from panic attacks whenever I had to read out loud in school. For a long period of time I lived in denial of these events, and the impact they had on my development, and I am sure that this is and was one of the main reasons for my depression.

In my early 20s I seized the opportunity to leave my home country, and today an ocean lies between me and my family. I am glad it does, and I haven't spoken to my parents for 2 years. Ever since I stopped communicating with my parents my well being has improved. However, during those 2 years, I have experienced an emotional roller coaster ride. There are periods when I feel like I can conquer the world and achieve anything I set my mind to, and then, with no apparent reason, I feel like shit, unfit for this world, no self-confidence, insecure, wanting to kill myself -- “ in other words --“ depressed. For instance my most recent depression (the one that I am experiencing as I write this) was triggered by not being invited to job interviews. I put a lot of time and effort into preparing my application materials, but, it didn't pay off for the jobs I had applied for. Some employers didn't respond at all. I am in graduate school working on my thesis, and whenever I feel this way, I am paralyzed. I can't work, I sit in front of the TV or computer all day long, and that usually starts a vicious circle.

So what is my point and/or question? I know that life is not a constant state of happiness and joyfulness, but is it unrealistic for me to expect some degree of a "balanced" emotional life without these extreme ups and downs? These periods of depression often last for weeks, and they scare the hell out of me. Once I get out of them, I can hardly believe the things I had thought and felt during these episodes. The even more important question is: Do you think that there is part of my childhood and adolescent story that I still live in denial of? I truly believe that my body is trying to tell me something when I fall back into depression? If not, do you think that these episodes of depression are caused by other things, such as the loneliness I often feel as a result of not being in touch with my parents (and other family members who side with my parents)?

Any comments you can share are greatly appreciated!

Sincerely yours, M.

AM: You seem to know the causes of your depressions very well, but maybe you can't still find access to the FEELINGS of the little boy who had to care for his parents and was never cared for by them. I would suggest that you read my answer of yesterday, April 14th, concerning the importance of feeling the RAGE, and the theories of primal therapy.