If you haven't discovered Alice Miller, here is an example of some of her brilliant work. My personal favorite is BANISHED KNOWLEDGE. Miller made me realize that until we acknowledge our own "banished knowledge"---meaning the memories we protect ourselves from---our brains won't work properly; there is always some part being successfully blocked, some synapse that just won't fire. - Susan Ferguson]
Alice Miller Website URL>
Although centuries of novels and autobiographies
have dealt with the subject of
child abuse in all its forms, society has been slow in recognizing the frequency
with which this assault is committed. Only in the last twenty years has there
been any real progress in this respect, and most of it is due to the efforts of
a small number of researchers and above all to the media.
Still underestimated and sometimes contested
are the consequences very early
abuse will have for the victims in their adult lives. The issues involved have
been largely ignored, and there is correspondingly little mention of them in
historical and anthropological studies.
...phenomenological discussion of the people who volunteered to torture and humiliate others...
The reader seeks in vain for an explanation.
What made respected members of
society suddenly act like monsters? How could a former teacher like Klaus
Barbie, and other men described by their daughters as kind, caring fathers, have
innocent people tortured or indeed do the torturing themselves?...
The hypothesis that German anti-Semitism was
the real reason for the Holocaust
has been rightly criticized by urging a comparison with the First World War. At
that time anti-Semitism was just as strong in Germany but no organized genocide
resulted. And why no Holocaust in the other anti-Semitic countries, Poland,
Russia and other parts of Europe? The argument that in the Weimar Republic unemployment and poverty caused immense general frustration that was discharged via the mass murder of the Jews is hardly convincing, given that Hitler was quickly successful in getting unemployment under control.
There must have been other factors at play
which have hitherto been ignored,
factors going some way to explaining why the Holocaust happened in Germany and
why it happened at this particular time rather than another.
...one possible operative factor
is the destructive child-rearing style
practiced widely on infants around the turn of the century in Germany, a style I have no hesitation in referring to as a universal abuse of infants.
Of course children in other countries have
been and still are mistreated in the
name of upbringing or care giving, but hardly as babies and hardly with the
systematic thoroughness characteristic of the Prussian pedagogy.
In the two generations before Hitler's rise
to power, the implementation of this
method was brought to a high degree of perfection in Germany. With this
foundation to build on, Hitler finally achieved what he wanted:
"My ideal of education is hard. Whatever
is weak must be hammered away. In the
fortresses of my militant order a generation of young people will grow to strike
fear into the heart of the world. Violent, masterful, unafraid, cruel youth is
what I want. Young people must be all that. They must withstand pain. There must
be nothing weak or tender about them. The free-magnificent predator must flash
from their eyes again. I want them strong and beautiful...That way I can fashion
This education program revolving on the extermination
of everything life-giving
was the forerunner of Hitler's plans for the extermination of an entire nation.
Indeed it was the prerequisite for the ultimate success of his designs.
...when the tormented children had themselves become parents, the former victims did the same with their children as had been done to them, with no feelings of guilt. It was the only thing they knew, after they had repressed and denied their own pain.
Studying child abuse confronts us with the
astonishing fact that parents will
inflict the same punishment or neglect on their children as they experienced
themselves in their early lives. But as adults they have no recollection of what
they went through.
In the case of sexual assault on children, it is quite usual for the perpetrators to have no conscious knowledge of their own early life history or at the least to be cut off from the attendant feelings aroused by those experiences. It is not until they are in therapy (always supposing they are given any) that it transpires that they have been reenacting what they went through as children.
The sole explanation I can advance for this fact is that information on the cruelty suffered in childhood remains stored in the brain in the form of unconscious memories.
For a child, conscious experience of such treatment is impossible. If children are not to break down completely under the pain and the fear, they must repress that knowledge.
But the unconscious memories drive them to reproduce those repressed scenes over and over again in the attempt (and with the false hope) to liberate themselves of the fears that cruelty and abuse have left with them.
The victims create situations in which they
can assume the active role in order
to master the feeling of helplessness and escape the unconscious anxieties.
But this liberation is a specious one because the effects of the past don't change as long as they remain unnoticed. Over and over again the perpetrator will go in search of new victims.
As long as one projects hatred and fear onto
scapegoats, there is no way of
coming to terms with those feelings. Not until the cause has been recognized and the natural reaction to wrongdoing understood can the blind hatred wreaked on innocent victims be dissipated.
The function it performs, that of masking the
truth, is no longer necessary. Sex
criminals who have worked through their lives in therapy may no longer run the
risk of a destructive reenactment of their traumas.
What is hatred? As I see it, it is a possible consequence of the rage and despair that cannot be consciously felt by a child who has been neglected and mistreated even before he or she has learned to speak.
As long as the anger directed at a parent or other first caregiver remains unconscious or disavowed, it cannot be dissipated. It can only be taken out on oneself or stand-ins, on scapegoats such as one's own children or alleged enemies.
Sympathetic observation of the cries of an
infant brings home forcibly to the
onlooker how intense the feelings involved must be. The hatred can finally work
as a lifesaving defense against the life-threatening powerlessness.
From Alice Miller:
"Contempt is the weapon of the weak and a defense
against one's own despised and unwanted feelings."
"See God in Every Eye" - Inanna, Goddess of Love
author, Inanna Returns and Inanna Hyper-Luminal