Daniel Mackler writes:
When asked to define abuse in an 2005 interview with Borut Jesenovec, Alice Miller stated: “Abuse means to me using a person for whatever I want from her, him, without asking for their agreement, without respecting their will and their interests. With children, it is very easy to do so, because they are loving, they trust their parents and most adults, and they don’t realize that they were abused, that their love had been exploited.” [from www.alice-miller.com].
Although this definition most obviously applies to extreme cases of abuse – such as overt sexual and physical abuse – I hold that it also applies to Alice Miller’s relationship with her daughter. How could it not, considering that she herself has explained that she had not even explored her childhood at all by the time she had her own children, and thus was not aware of what her own unresolved and unmet childhood needs even were? And when you consider that the mentally retarded are not even allowed to give their consent for so many adult activities, because of their limited intelligence and inherent dependency, as children they are often the most ripe for being exploited by people with unmet needs. Now I grant, I am not stating that Alice Miller was in fact a full-blown monster with her daughter – but I am stating that on the metaphorical level, she was. And until each of us heals from our own repressed traumas and thus are able to find mature, adult ways to meet our own needs, we will all inevitably exploit those over whom we wield power. We may try to rationalize it as being “for the child’s own good” – to use Alice Miller’s classic phrase – and perhaps sometimes it is MORE good (or less bad) for the child than a different form of abuse might be, but the fact is, when the primary need being met is the parent’s, which it always is wherever the parent retains repressed and unresolved traumas, the behavior remains abusive of the child’s basic essence and needs. And if Alice Miller’s son gave his consent to her and did not blame her for the abuses she perpetrated on him (because, after all, she was still ‘anti-blame’ when she wrote about her son in For Your Own Good), certainly her mentally retarded daughter was in less of a position to blame her.
Miller goes on writing about her relationship with her daughter:
The spontaneity with which my daughter expressed her childlike, innocent, affectionate nature at whatever age she happened to be, and her sensitivity to insincerity and disingenuousness in whatever form, gave my life new dimensions and new objectives. [Breaking Down the Wall of Silence, 1996 revised edition, p. xiii]
This again begs the basic questions of whose need was being met here – mother’s or daughter’s? Miller clearly states that it was her own – as if this were obviously acceptable – but all abusers rationalize their abusive behavior of children. That is the standard line, and in the milder cases our society doesn’t bat an eye. Even recidivistic pedophiles sometimes get away with defending their overt molestations of children as being positive for the child – and point out that the child enjoyed it, or wanted it, or was gaining a “valuable” sexual education from it, or that it was “natural.” Regardless, all abuse of children, from the most extreme to the most mild, violates the basic principle of not meeting the child’s needs. And I guarantee that Alice Miller’s daughter’s was not born with the inherent need to give her mother’s life “new dimensions and objectives” and bless her abused mother with a “new opportunity for communication.”…
Where does this leave Amy Chua and her Tiananmen Square style of parenting? Read more (of Mackler’s analysis of Miller) here.