Was Alice Miller an Abusive Mother?

breaking-down-the-wall-of-silenceDaniel 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.

,

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Was Alice Miller an Abusive Mother? | Disinformation -- Topsy.com()

  • WhiteRose

    She should have had a cat instead…

  • WhiteRose

    She should have had a cat instead…

  • Z. St. John

    Rhetoric without a purpose. Alice Miler’s books exposed the psychoanalytic bias against taking adult or childrens’ stories of early life abuse literally and as real history, and the pervasive and very traumatic child rearing practices of a culture dominated by the “Proverbs” mentality, “if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.” This mentality reigns supreme even today. Anyone who has read even a few of Dr. Miller’s books will know why these works are hated and a target of disinformation by the adherents of “children as property” and “children as sinners” ideology (or theology). Alice Miller learning from her child is no different than a therapist learning from their patient. It is not unethical or immoral, but the way an aware and sensitive person grows. I really can’t understand Mackler’s reasoning or even the factual basis for any of this depiction of Alice Miller and I hope it will in no way discourage anyone from reading as many of Dr. Miller’s books they can find. She is on the right side of parental pedagogy for all time and most therapists consider her the guiding light in understanding violence against children and the adult residuals of parental narcissism and sadism.

    • Andrew

      Did you read the part just after the section quoted above where Mackler comes to the conclusion that Miller had pedophilic feelings?

      • WhiteRose

        Exactly, so where does that leave the child room to breath?

  • Z. St. John

    Rhetoric without a purpose. Alice Miler’s books exposed the psychoanalytic bias against taking adult or childrens’ stories of early life abuse literally and as real history, and the pervasive and very traumatic child rearing practices of a culture dominated by the “Proverbs” mentality, “if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.” This mentality reigns supreme even today. Anyone who has read even a few of Dr. Miller’s books will know why these works are hated and a target of disinformation by the adherents of “children as property” and “children as sinners” ideology (or theology). Alice Miller learning from her child is no different than a therapist learning from their patient. It is not unethical or immoral, but the way an aware and sensitive person grows. I really can’t understand Mackler’s reasoning or even the factual basis for any of this depiction of Alice Miller and I hope it will in no way discourage anyone from reading as many of Dr. Miller’s books they can find. She is on the right side of parental pedagogy for all time and most therapists consider her the guiding light in understanding violence against children and the adult residuals of parental narcissism and sadism.

  • Andrew

    Did you read the part just after the section quoted above where Mackler comes to the conclusion that Miller had pedophilic feelings?

  • WhiteRose

    Exactly, so where does that leave the child room to breath?

  • Jordan

    Wow, I’m shocked to read an article so dead-on. I whole-heartedly agree that MOST of the time parents are twisted and don’t even know it, even when yes, it is masked in the form of “it’s good for the child.” This doesn’t have to be taken all the way to the sexual abuse extreme, but also applies in situations such as a mother wanting their son or daughter to be more involved in sports or social activities as a child because the parent was tormented and forbidden to, so it is justifiable in the parents mind that “I didn’t get to do this, so I must make it possible for my child to. I want the best for my child.” Then, when the child is involved in sports or social activities, the parent can then live vicariously through the child, in that self-seeking, self-fulfilling way, without even knowing it. I believe everyone’s parents do this UNLESS they are aware of this exact situation first and make a point to try not to unknowingly eff their children up, which of course, cannot always be prevented. The awareness is what matters though. Great article, Good German. Thanks.

  • Jordan

    Wow, I’m shocked to read an article so dead-on. I whole-heartedly agree that MOST of the time parents are twisted and don’t even know it, even when yes, it is masked in the form of “it’s good for the child.” This doesn’t have to be taken all the way to the sexual abuse extreme, but also applies in situations such as a mother wanting their son or daughter to be more involved in sports or social activities as a child because the parent was tormented and forbidden to, so it is justifiable in the parents mind that “I didn’t get to do this, so I must make it possible for my child to. I want the best for my child.” Then, when the child is involved in sports or social activities, the parent can then live vicariously through the child, in that self-seeking, self-fulfilling way, without even knowing it. I believe everyone’s parents do this UNLESS they are aware of this exact situation first and make a point to try not to unknowingly eff their children up, which of course, cannot always be prevented. The awareness is what matters though. Great article, Good German. Thanks.

  • that1guy

    “There is nothing symbolic about abortion, and it goes far beyond “psychic” destruction! Abortion shows that an extreme element of parents-to-be have no regard for their own unwanted, unborn children – and physically (not symbolically) murder them when they do not want them. Yes, there are contingencies and exceptions, but in the great degree of cases, those are the facts.”

    Those are not “the facts.” They are a valid interpretation of the facts. Here’s a different interpretation:
    Not to get too political, but the equation of a 2oz 4-inch fetus (week15, before which 90% of abortions in the U.S. occur, and well before which the majority of that 90% occur) with a child is a symbolic act. There’s nothing wrong with protecting fetuses as potential human life, but making decisions about potentialities is not the same as making decisions about present actualities.

  • that1guy

    “There is nothing symbolic about abortion, and it goes far beyond “psychic” destruction! Abortion shows that an extreme element of parents-to-be have no regard for their own unwanted, unborn children – and physically (not symbolically) murder them when they do not want them. Yes, there are contingencies and exceptions, but in the great degree of cases, those are the facts.”

    Those are not “the facts.” They are a valid interpretation of the facts. Here’s a different interpretation:
    Not to get too political, but the equation of a 2oz 4-inch fetus (week15, before which 90% of abortions in the U.S. occur, and well before which the majority of that 90% occur) with a child is a symbolic act. There’s nothing wrong with protecting fetuses as potential human life, but making decisions about potentialities is not the same as making decisions about present actualities.

  • Privacyisparamount

    What an offensive piece of shit!  This person should be sued for slander.

  • Privacyisparamount

    What an offensive piece of shit!  This person should be sued for slander.

  • Marcella

    I am a mother and a neglected child.  In the course of time, I realised many situations I would have liked to do more to protect my children but often the damage is already done as many parents are unaware or the circumstances presented us with different priorities which often the children succumbed together with the parents.  Alice Miller confirmed to me the dinamic of how child abuse in it multifaceted forms is perpetuated, she too learned her lesson which led to the insight she so capably was able to communicate to the world through her books.  The lesson is reflected in those very words the article quotes and I repeated it below: 

    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]

    I believe the above was not a need for Dr. Miller to justify her ‘blind spots’ for not for having protected her daughter or even being the cause unawaringly for that matter, but instead I see the above statement as an act of generosity in sharing with the world her own family story which certainly gave the insight particularly on the subtleties of abuse hidden cultural practices.   

    Those that have benefitted from her insight and all we can do is make our contributions to her work for the good of humanity. I am skeptical on criticisms that tend to destroy or create doubt on such monumental insights as Alice Miller and others are doing.

    I could more for my own children, but I had reached a good level of awareness and important priorities for survival prevented me from doing more.  My own children may not have serious problems thanks to the awareness I had reached at a certain point of their development.

    Thank you for your attention and hope the above contributes to further reflection.

  • Marcella

    I am a mother and a neglected child.  In the course of time, I realised many situations I would have liked to do more to protect my children but often the damage is already done as many parents are unaware or the circumstances presented us with different priorities which often the children succumbed together with the parents.  Alice Miller confirmed to me the dinamic of how child abuse in it multifaceted forms is perpetuated, she too learned her lesson which led to the insight she so capably was able to communicate to the world through her books.  The lesson is reflected in those very words the article quotes and I repeated it below: 

    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]

    I believe the above was not a need for Dr. Miller to justify her ‘blind spots’ for not for having protected her daughter or even being the cause unawaringly for that matter, but instead I see the above statement as an act of generosity in sharing with the world her own family story which certainly gave the insight particularly on the subtleties of abuse hidden cultural practices.   

    Those that have benefitted from her insight and all we can do is make our contributions to her work for the good of humanity. I am skeptical on criticisms that tend to destroy or create doubt on such monumental insights as Alice Miller and others are doing.

    I could more for my own children, but I had reached a good level of awareness and important priorities for survival prevented me from doing more.  My own children may not have serious problems thanks to the awareness I had reached at a certain point of their development.

    Thank you for your attention and hope the above contributes to further reflection.

21