April 24, 2010 § 4 Comments
Addition April 30:
“Alice Miller, Psychoanalyst, Dies at 87; Laid Human Problems to Parental Acts” in New York Times by William Grimes. Also see this article here.
“Alice Miller’s Gift to Humanity” by Olivier Maurel April 2010.
“Spankings. Questions and answers about disciplinary violence” by Olivier Maurel.
“Why we blame our parents” by Tara Parker-Pope in New York Times.
Addition May 3: The Swedish pediatrician Lars H. Gustafsson about Alice Miller.
He writes, in my amateur translation to English, that he had the advantage (or benefit) of meeting Miller at a small, informal seminar Save the children arranged around 25 years ago. An overwhelming meeting he writes.
He had just written his book “Leva med barn” (Live with children) and asked Miller how she looked at “the problem” with parents’ guilt feelings.
He told her that he met many parents with high demands on themselves, parents constantly walking around with bad conscience.
He had also noticed when he gave lectures for parents about children’s needs and rights that this easily made such feelings arise.
He didn’t know how to handle this.
Miller interrupted him, fastened her eyes on him and said sharply:
“My dear friend, parents SHALL have bad conscience. They have to take this, it is their damn duty.
When parents have done so many bad things to their kids through the years…
No, don’t come here now and talk about bad conscience as a problem in this circumstance! They are grown up people, aren’t they!”
Many people in the Swedish media (and not only in Swedish media) are in denial, have fairly strong defences? Denying what Miller has written about and the importance of those things? Denying how in fact essential the way we treat our kids are?
Addition May 5: See the article ”How I Found Alice Miller, and Lost Her” by Jane Isay.
April 21, 2010 § Leave a comment
Relationships with others, care, respect, knowledge.
Creativity, develop a loving and interesting life.
Feeling of belonging.
Sense of Identity
See ourselves as a unique person and part of a social group.
Frame of orientation
Understand the world and our place in it.
Excitation and Stimulation
Actively strive for a goal rather than simply respond.
A sense of oneness between one person and the “natural and human world outside.”
The need to feel accomplished.
April 17, 2010 § Leave a comment
The American neurologist Jonathan J. Pincus on Frank McCourt from the chapter “Hitler and Hatred” in his book “Base Instinct – What Makes Killers Kill” ISBN 0-393-32323-4 page 179- 180:
“Frank McCourt’s book Angela’s Ashes offer insight into how abuse might lead to bigotry.
The author movingly portrays the poverty into which his father’s alcoholism and his mother’s depression had thrust the family. His father would return home late at night, intoxicated, his paycheck gone.
He would awaken his starving children and have them stand in the kitchen and recite noble poems and sing patriotic songs that celebrate the Irish and condemn the English as the cause of the misery of the Irish and, in extension, of his family.
As a reward, the father gave each child a penny with which to purchase candy the following day.
Their father successfully displaced his own responsibility for the family’s poverty to the English. Fortunately for the author, his father and mother were not violent and abusive [physically!?], but what if they had been? Could deprivation and abuse be the origin of IRA terrorism in lower middle-class Belfast?
The dreadful sense of helplessness and humiliation that is engendered by child abuse, the victim’s sense of powerlessness and fear, and the rage which spring from it are crucially important motivators toward violence.
Depression in an abused person intensifies this dynamic. The brain damage and/or intoxication that can be superimposed interfere with the capacity of the abused individual to control the expression of his rage and hatred.
The paranoia and delusional thinking of individuals who have additionally inherited mental instability and mental illness exacerbate these dark feelings and abolish the capacity to love, to trust, and to enjoy life.
So fundamentally do these factors harm the psyche that the life’s work with such victims can be seen as an attempt to escape from their victimhood and sometimes ‘rise’ to the level of perpetrators.”
But from where comes brain damage and psychiatric problems?
McCourt also writes about severe abuse by teachers at school. Not least physical. But this kind of abuse is also combined with other sorts of disrespect for the child. The realization that you have a living human being in front of you, with own thoughts, feelings, emotions, and reactions.
Violence is more than “just” physical.
Alice Miller on Frank McCourt in her book “The Truth Will Set You Free – Overcoming Emotional Blindness and Finding Your True Self” ISBN 0-465-04585-5 pages 100-103:
“Protection and respect for the needs of a child – this is surely something we ought to be able to take for granted. But we live in a world full of people who have grown up deprived of their rights, deprived of respect /…/
Also, there is less of a tendency today to idealize and romanticize childhood; the misery frequently comes across in all its starkness.
But in most autobiographies I have read the authors still maintain an emotional distance from the suffering they went through as children. Little empathy and an astounding absence of rebellion are the rule.
There is no inquiry into the whys and wherefores behind the injustice, the emotional blindness and the resulting cruelty displayed by the adults, whether teachers or parents. Description is all.
On every page of the brilliant book Angela’s Ashes, for example, Frank McCourt describes such cruelties in gruesome detail.
But even as he recalls his childhood, he never rises up against his tormentors, attempting instead to remain living and tolerance and seeking salvation in humor. And it is for this humor that he has been celebrated by millions of readers the world over.
But how are we to stand up for children in our society and improve their situation if we laugh at and tolerate cruelty, arrogance, and dangerous stupidity? /…/
Humor saved Frank McCourt’s life and enabled him to write his book. His readers are grateful to him for it. Many of them have shared the same fate and they want nothing more dearly than to be able to laugh it off.
Laughter is good for you, so they say, and it certainly helps you survive. But laughter can also entice you to be blind. You may be able to laugh at the fact that someone has forbidden you to eat of the tree of knowledge, but that laughter will not really wake you up from the sleep.
You must learn to understand the difference between good and evil if you want to understand yourself and change anything in the world as it is.
Laughter is good for you, but only when there is reason to laugh. Laughing away one’s own suffering is a form of fending off, a response that can prevent us from seeing and tapping the sources of understanding around.
If biographers were better informed about the details and consequences of what some indifferently call as a normal strict upbringing, they could provide us with precious material for better understanding our world.
But there are not many who try to figure out how such upbringing was experienced by their subject as child.”
I discovered that McCourt died almost one year ago, just before he turned 79 in the after-effects of malign melanoma. Something that felt so sad when I now finally have started to read his book and in curiosity started to read more about him, and listen to him.
April 1, 2010 § Leave a comment
In a short paragraph in a paper distributed to all the residents in the municipality where I live I read something interesting about two male counselors/therapists helping men at a centre in the neighbor city.
I have tried to translate the notice to English:
Aggression and violence destroy many people’s relations. In most cases it is men that exercise the violence (not women) and up to now there have not been any offers concerning help to changes to these men.
And violent behavior is not only physical but also emotional/psychological and of course also sexual (in form of impropriate touching too). In disrespect for the other person (child).
A man using violence against his partner (kids and other people) needs help to get in contact with the emotions and experiences that make him use violence. I think all this can be dated back to early life. See what Alice Miller has written for instance.
Using violence leads to failures and damages both for the man himself and for other people (not least his children).
What these men need is courage to admit that they are exercising violence, and help not to blame other people, and they also need will to change their behavior.
However, it is important to emphasize that it is only the practiser of violence who is responsible for the violence he exposes other people to.
To help the man to analyze what is happening in his life, and to analyze how different occurrences stick together with his behavior, can be a step in the right direction towards a change.
Men using violence basically don’t feel so well.
My further reflections on what I read were:
People have tried to find genetic explanations to tendencies to violent behavior. Pincus refers to the Richard Speck case (see the picture above, click on them to make them bigger).
If you believe or presuppose that (small) boys have inherited tendencies to anger, fury, outbursts of rage, maybe even violence, maybe you believe you need to stifle those traits and treat them “accordingly.” In a belief that this maybe will stop them from further developing those traits.
However, is it this that in reality makes small boys and latter grown up men violent – and more violent than women, who were less roughly treated when they were small girls (but they were treated in other ways, which in turn caused them problems, but of other sorts)?
On top, small boys were also often handled more roughly than small girls to make the small boys tougher and not girl-like.
We can see remnants of this in our treatment of small boys and girls, in our attitudes towards them, in our expectations, or lack of expectations, on them. The reasons for this is that we in turned were taught this very early in life; how we are and (thus) also how other people were. Behaviors and attitudes that are difficult to shake off, and things we many times are not even aware of because we learned them so early in life.
With great difficuly, and probably a lot of pain, we can change though. If we are allowed to admit to and acknowledge what caused all this in the first place. For this we need a therapist that is not in denial him or herself.
Read the article “Frenzy” by Thomas Gruner about Pincus’ book.