Alice Miller – Child Abuse and Mistreatment

Alice Miller – Child Abuse and Mistreatment.

Wow. In coming back to this some two years after I had identified that Miller was spot on with the late and prevailing outcomes of my early history, I am shocked to find that a) I have not found a good therapist to help me sufficiently with this and b) that I’ve relapsed into denial and – almost inevitably so – major depression. In addition to that, I c) have had catastrophic results with resumed contact with bio family and some therapy “experiments” that backfired in the worst possible way.

I have lost another two going on three years of a total of now 48 years of silent suffering and majorly reduced life quality, the outcomes of which have now fully manifested on the outside as well: Disabled and unemployed since 2008, bankrupt, depending on welfare and thus technically being impoverished with only one or two items left from my former middle class-“ish” life (I’m no longer sure of that, but that’s a different topic altogether). I guess the unresolved inner conflicts have been – most brutally by now – demanding attention following my divorce in 2003 and some additional and major career and personal setbacks in its aftermath. I assume that my so-far fiercely exercised and maintained resilience collapsed in 2007 after a cancelled migration endeavour with Canada as its destination. I seem to have internalized a feeling of helplessness and also being down on myself following that experience. After returning, I left my position with a software startup company and accepted a job offer to become full time editor with a tech publication. I lasted for three weeks until panic attacks and generalized anxiety ultimately had me dysfunctional. We agreed I’d continue to work for them from my home office, but I lost a substantial part of my salary. I initially made up for revenue loss by contracting with additional employers, but soon felt the overall exhaustion of hunting job after job, which I began to give in. Not too long after that, someone diagnosed me with what’s commonly known as a burn-out (I resent this term and I don’t think I burnt out on my career or lost edge in supporting myself. I rather find that the unresolved matters of the past had been festering away at me and eating into the energy needed to uphold a successful career…). After filing for partial disability and struggling with technicalities of the process, I gave myself permission to focus on my health and also to sort of take a break from stressing myself out or allowing others to exploit me in the ways they had before. This, coupled with medical expenses I had to cover out of my own pocket ultimately led to the burning of all my savings – and very quickly so. Needless to say that the 2008 banking crisis didn’t exactly help, when I sold a packaged life insurance/401k plan in order to regain some liquidity and balance out my banking account…

I’ve been on a journey of recovery since 2005 and with increased intensity so again since 2008. I made some progress on the physical “plane”, which seems to have made me even more painfully aware of my emotional conflicts and unresolved accounts. I was not prepared for this and I have been largely unaware of this – heightened awareness of unresolved emotional pain – until not too long ago. I don’t think, I’ve made much progress with the non-physical aspects of my problems. And I feel completely stuck. Not only do I feel stuck – I seem to be stuck with regard to certain aspects and limitations to the overall situation. But the latter doesn’t bother me as much as the feeling of being stuck in my personal recovery and not getting past a certain roadblock. I can be very tenacious and plain stubborn, which is probably a quality that saved me from giving up earlier or simply ending my life prematurely. But in this very context, my being hard-headed seems to have been counterproductive with regard to my progress. And it hit me like a ton of bricks, when I read this sentence in one of Kimberly’s replies in her latest blog the other day:

Sociopaths are completely devoid of feelings for others and incapable of developing them. They are never healed, ever.

Wow. How had I relapsed into denial over this previously identified experience with one of the perpetrators? (I can’t bring myself to saying their name or role… I need to keep the distance at this point). They may not be a sociopath today, but sure enough when they had parental authority. But their being sociopathic wasn’t reserved for me exclusively. Other family, co-workers, their spouse – no one got spared. Only – I didn’t know how to set boundaries let alone defend them and protect myself from the severe verbal, emotional and also mild, but noticeable and programmatic physical abuse like e.g. beating and hitting me on the back of my head so hard I literally saw stars before my eyes. Humiliation in private and public, berating, getting grounded on account of minor things – the whole nine of textbook abuse.

I had given myself permission to let feelings of rage and despair come forth after reading Miller’s The Drama of the Gifted Child in 2009 for the first time, often facilitated by slightly excessive alcohol consumption and a movie that would steer me towards repressed feelings. The combined effects of feeling less inhibited from the alcohol as well as the expressed movie scenes somehow striking an emotional chord in me resulted in those repressed feelings over childhood neglect, humiliation and overall inattention as described above become accessible and eventually fully manifest – often in devastating ways and resulting in a complete nervous breakdown that would last for hours. I’d go to bed exhausted, desperate and with a feeling of infinite solitude over having to carry this burden all by myself and with noone available to talk right after these very intense feelings. With every fibre of my being I wished for something or someone to acknowledge my pain for what it was, regardless of the fact that it might express itsself decades after the original cause for them.

I guess, I am still looking for someone to be my helping witness, as Miller coins them… I seem to realize very clearly that I will make no further progress, if I can’t find someone to “walk me” through the experience and processing of these very, very intense repressed emotions. So I guess, the search for a qualified therapist as well as the struggle of creatively bridging gaps in my health insurance plan is for me to be resumed yet another time…. Can I get a collective “Ugh” from the audience….?

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6 thoughts on “Alice Miller – Child Abuse and Mistreatment

  1. Sociopaths are completely devoid of feelings for others and incapable of developing them. They are never healed, ever.

    They are people who walk without souls, excluding that reserved exclusively for the self. No one is excluded — or rather — included. The error is to think they can be saved. The fundamental point of development of personality in childhood has passed. Without regression — perhaps even with it — there is no rescue possible. One must think of them other-wise. They are different from those of us who feel for others. We can never be like them. They can never be like us.

    What helped me most was the extension of my empathy to my father (without his involvement, of course). I feel for the child he was and the person that he is who cannot ever, ever, ever have the joy of feeling for another person so completely that you lose your sense of self and become a part of everything that ever mattered.

    But… I cannot and will not save him. I will only forgive him because he did not mean to be this way and exclude him completely from my life because he is and always will be.

  2. “But… I cannot and will not save him. I will only forgive him because he did not mean to be this way and exclude him completely from my life because he is and always will be.”

    This – is exactly part of the roadblock I’m currently hung up on (and have been hung up on for the past years). It feels completely unacceptable to leave things at that. The realization that you are right “on the money” with your statement again is yet another nightmare come true – and one that feels so completely devastating that I had rather resorted to partial denial again in oder to avoid it. For it carves this long-felt solitude into stone and makes it fact as something, I can only understand or deal with by calling it my destiny (sorry for the dramatic wording, but I have never found a better term so far). As a result and in order to reembark on a path to healing myself, I have no other choice but to exclude the former perpetrators – both of them, actually, as they cooperated in their eerily synchronized, choreographed co-dependency – from my life again and for good now. The realization that I will never be acknowledged as a sentient individual by them feels like an all-annihilating blow to my psyche and entire persona. It feels as if I never had a personal history and borders on feeling I am not here at all, but merely a faint shadow of what could have become a person in the first place.

    “One must think of them other-wise. They are different from those of us who feel for others. We can never be like them. They can never be like us.” This effectively and instantaneously makes me an (emotional) orphan. Again – this is a feeling I have been having all along, I just shied away from the shattering truth of this as being fact.

    I can’t lie: To see these longstanding assumptions or rather: findings of my own “uncovering” work – as Miller calls it – confirmed seems too much to bear on my own. I need help. I need someone to take my hand in processing this most brutal past and its debilitating outcomes. I need help in finding my place in the world – if there is one at all, which I can feel semi-safe in. I need a helping witness for processing the traumatic past and I need help in mastering the present and future. I have been going this road on my own for as long as I was able to. But I have really reached the end of my rope as far as resilience. I need help. And soon. And the system keeps throwing spokes in my wheel and curve balls left and right. It is a nightmare of epic proportions.

    But don’t get me wrong: I’m still grateful for your sharing your insights. And like I said: At the very least, you confirm to me that these weren’t all delusional musings. In other words: Before that, I wasn’t even a person, but a mere biological functionning “device” or “machine”. To find that my feelings are valid, is a step in the right direction. The being hung up on is on account of the – still missing – validation from outside. I would have given a lot, if that could have happened in ways you described about yourself and your journey. The way you broke ground there feels like a silver bullet to me. From reading Miller and other accounts, I think you managed to bring about a very special, powerful situation in terms of empowering yourself. Again: Silver bullet, really. So congrats and I’m glad, it worked out in this way for you.

    • P.S. Why should I even consider including them in my life? Meaning to say, it felt a little easier when I was in a full blown rage/aversion/blaming mode. Well – the very empathy of forgiveness brought about the longing to be real close with them and be able to share small and larger accomplishments. I guess I’m saying the longing for a sane relationship abounded from this very empathy that enables forgiveness in the first place. After all – a child’s love is also unconditional at large (ok, minus the need to be fed and otherwise physically cared for). The child-me still wishes for intimacy and being connected in a good way and misses the fact that this never happened. The devastating emotional response expressed above is from realizing that this will never never be – at least not with these very persons. And there is a great possibility, intimacy will never happen (again) for me after so many failed relationships that have me conclude that I’m simply too damaged to even be able to allow intimacy to happen. I’m afraid, this is the very reason all previous relationships fell apart sooner or later – for I couldn’t allow them all in with me and my life, my feelings, my thoughts.
      The infinite abyss of solitude opens its gaping mouth again with acute anxiety setting in as we type. Noone should have to experience such things, nowhere in the world.

      • I’m here. You’re not alone. And you are strong, stronger than you can possibly imagine. While I am sad for the child you were, I want so much to throw my arms around the child in you now and say that it’s really okay. You are on the path to finding the one person that will take care of that young boy in you, you. The complete you. I believe you can find unconditional love you need within yourself and come to a very good place.

        My discovery has been that when I practice and recognize unconditional self love, I find intimacy all around me. I find it without labels or possession, just in the happy chat with a store clerk or a moment with my nephew watching football. Intimacy is about connection without reservation. When it happens in most of our interactions, it happens in most of relationship and they grow because of it.

        Intimacy that is attached to a domestic partnership is something else. The two can work together, but I’ve never been able to make them successfully fit. So, I had to work on accepting that I wouldn’t have a domestic relationship for a while, maybe never. But I don’t have to give up intimacy. I just have to accept that it means something different than the stereotyped Hollywood ideal. We have to accept the experience of it, allow it in … and recognize some safety in it. There is safety in having a connection without reservation when I go to the BBQ place and order my dinner. I just talk to the person taking my order as if I’ve known them my whole life and have always cared about them. I don’t tell them my life story, just place my order and make casual conversation. I always feel lighter and happier when the other person joins in… and truthfully, they almost always do. Because I have to move on and they have other customers, it’s safe and quick and pleasant. Nothing more needed. Maybe the next person I meet will be someone at the park and we can sit on the bench and swap stories and smile and admire something pretty about the day.

        These are the things I do — when I anxiety is low and I am having an outside day. Try it. Find out the name of the clerk at your local store or the waitress at your favorite restaurant. Trust me, you’ll love it when they know your name, too.

        As for the parents. The point of growth — in a psuedo-Eriksonian sense — is to grow beyond the external parents to become your own internal guardian. Coming from a dysfunctional family, we don’t progress through all of the growth needed to reach this point. We are stunted. But we can re-grow. If we can re-experience, we can re-grow. Maybe that is why our brains make our minds regress. Silly thought perhaps, I have no science for it all, but it kinda feels like that sometimes.

        I’m here for you. You can be there for yourself, too.

        Write an affirmation to remind yourself that you are complete, just as you are. There is still a journey to make, but everything you need is within you and around you.

  3. BTW: I divorced my father. I sent him a decree and have nothing to do with him and never will again. The paper was symbolic, but it meant everything to me. I figure I was an orphan anyway where he was concerned.

    I had some big feelings to process, still do. He did a lot of damage, but I won’t let it go unhealed. I deserve better.

    So do you.

  4. Thank you so much, Kimberly. I will re-read this in the morning and process it some more, then potentially add another reply. However, right off about intimacy: I think I’ve experienced what you beautifully express above a few, precious times. However, these feelings can only come forth, when all other known stressors have not kicked in for a while. When I’m in a calm mood, don’t feel anxiety and ideally, when there is something outside to be enchanted about, like walking along the lake in pretty weather or marvelling at another fiery sunset, which I soooo love. For a few precious times, I think I was able to hang on to that feeling of being centered and somehow protected by the very experience of being in the moment. And a few precious times – last summer – I then met people going about what I was doing, and we would have a meaningful little conversation. And there were things of the nature you describe above, too, like being familiar with people we see when running errands and having a short friendly chat and such. I guess, I have experienced these things a few times.
    I am becoming more and more convinced that I was further progressed in my journey. Asking “them” for help with money in a situation where I had become desperate and worn out to the point, when I could no longer count on my impulse-control and when a formerly close friend let me down, might have thrown me back a few notches. And I really wanted to believe we ALL could heal together and have something new and beautiful arise from the ashes of our pasts after acknowledging each other’s place and feelings at the time and forgive and move on, both individually as well as together. I guess, I have been nourishing hopes of “saving” us all and make a once dysfunctional family into a functional one. Again and so typical of me, I wouldn’t want to settle for less than the best possible outcome. And now I’m realizing that this can not be accomplished and that I will have to let go. But as I tend to be an all or nothing at all kinda person, writing the decree and divorcing them for good becomes more and more likely. It’s almost spooky that I thought of the exact same thing – a cancellation note – prior to reading your reply.
    I’m going to allow myself some sleep now. All this is incredibly taxing, isn’t it? At least at times. Maybe I’m exhausted over watching something on DVD that reminds me of how things could have been, if I only they’d been willing to see and love … me… as the boy, the person I was then. I don’t know why that is that I always want things to be perfect – when they never were or will be. *sigh*
    Thanks so much, Kimberly. Your reply means a lot to me. xo

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