A cry from the dark?

A cry from the dark?
Tuesday November 18, 2008

Dear Mrs Alice Miller,

I have read all your books.
I agree – with all my heart – that violence addressed to vulnerable children is the basis of the main sicknesses of our society.
However, it seriously alarms me that the world doesn’t understand that it’s definitely not “necessary” to use physical actions (like slapping, spanking, kicking, sexual abuse etc.) in order to damage the healthy emotional development of a child.
I am convinced that it is also possible to damage children without any physical “stimuli” at all. It is even more specific: it is not because of the slaps, kicks, strokes (that I had to “collect” during my childhood) that I have been struggling with my past for many, many years, but it has been the psychological component of these physical actions (mainly practised by my father) and the complete lack of respect (mainly from my mother and father) that influenced my emotional constitution negatively.
In The Netherlands nowadays we even have a Ministry for family affairs and – to my opinion – this department makes a huge mistake by following the today’s thought that fighting against child abuse can only start by observing (and reporting) bruises on children’s bodies…
Within a Dutch Association of (adult) members who have ever been the defenceless “targets” of an unsafe and violent environment during their childhood, I had the privilege to listen to thousands of stories from members that are struggling with the most dreadful memories you can think of. The so-called Prisoners of Childhood. Out-of-date War Childs. That is how I (sometimes) felt. This unique Association forms a little safe and protected spot where nobody is left alone when it comes to sharing each others’ “old” pain and experiences. The members have meetings every 6 weeks where we can discuss – and share – a variety of topics such as “how to cope with your personal history in the today’s daily life” etc.
This unique Association (“Knokkers”, the Dutch equivalent of “Fighters”) is definitely not a bunch of crying and helpless “puppies” who are “addicted to their earlier trauma’s”. No, on the contrary! It seems that the more we share our personal histories in a safe and secure environment, the more we are able to help each other to find the proper words to express those unpronounceable shocking and embarrassing life events when we were only kids that were fully dependent on the educative skills of our “caring” parents.
Day by day we find the strength to take that violated and abused child “inside” of us by the hand and help him/her expressing those “old forgotten feelings” of many years ago.
That’s a reason why I feel myself responsible – as a grown-up adult – to write a letter like this one for and on behalf of that angry and embarrassed little guy inside of me (kicking and alive…).
This journey to this personal truth is often quite painful, but it is – as you describe in your books – the only way to build a future anyway indeed.
In most cases the common public does not like it to listen to our “stories” at all. It’s probably too much confronting. When we start talking, our opponent will almost automatically be exposed to his – or hers – own hidden feelings. And as you also describe in your books; those old and dark feelings are not supposed to get unveiled yet. Instead of examining their own state of mind, people instantly try to keep us from telling any further nasty stories. Psychologists call this a “self defence mechanism”.
We have co-operated with various radio and TV programmes on the subject “Child Abuse”. However, it appeared that the “pity-part” of our contributions is the only ingredient for the common audience that “sells”. It’s like entertainment. Maybe the philosopher Nietzsche is right by concluding (on the item “compassion and pity”) that many people seem to be attracted to look at – as spectators – other people who are suffering.
Dear Mrs Miller, I am aware that my father was very violent to me.
From our former neighbours I have learned (more than 40 years later!) that my father even punched me when I was a nine month old baby “because” I was crying. I remember how my father regularly hit me with a wooden stick and I found out that the rain of strokes on my body only stopped when I stopped yelling. The more I cried, the more aggressive he would get.
In other words: my father’s behaviour has “trained” me to avoid any crying, screaming whatsoever.
A new macho has been “born”…
When I read that recent newspaper article (a man has killed a toddler “because” he couldn’t stand the crying of that child) I might believe that my skills to suppress that pain and to keep down my anger during my father’s corrective treatments has probably saved my life…
Since I am aware of my past I have read many books (especially your books, Mrs Miller), interviews, and watched television and listened to radio programs on this subject in order to solve the questions “What has been the cause of my father’s behaviour?” and “What is the reason that nobody has the courage to protect children”.
Also I became highly interested in my own emotional and mental career.
My personal history has definitely coloured my present personality.
All the 34 years before my “awakening” I tried to stay alive with the idea that I had “deserved” the pedagogical “corrections” of mum and dad.
For your guidance, I’m 53 years old/young now.
There is one important aspect that I have learned and adopted so far:
The physical punishments of my father (and scouting leaders, sports teachers etc.) haven’t been the “reasons” of my personal and mental scars later on.
No, I believe that the basis of my internal injury has been caused by the fact that I could be reduced to just an object by anybody. 34 Years I have lived in a virtual tent where the zipper of the door could only be opened from the outside by anyone who had the urge to do anything with or against me without any laws, morals etc. protecting my integrity as a worthy world citizen. A complete lack of respect. That has been the one and only reason that made me sick.
Probably I cannot find the proper English words to explain my exact point of view any better.
Obviously my Dutch is better than my English I guess. I’m sorry for that.
However, I am really worried that a very large part of the present adult population world-wide is “asleep”. They use their energy in order to maintain their believe that they had a “nice childhood” indeed because “they have never been slapped, kicked or whatsoever”.
When I talk to such “lucky” people and carefully unveil bits and pieces of my childhood, they feel that something somewhere “inside of them” is also not really O.K. but they cannot remember any spanking, slapping, sexual threats by daddy or mummy whatsoever.
No bruises and/or broken bones or wounds and that kind of stuff…
This is also fully in compliance with your own ideas and suggestions, Mrs Miller.
As I tried to explain above: one does not need any physical actions at all in order to achieve a destructive educative influence on the further mental development of children.
The extensive group of people with such an unsuspected past can be considered as a “ticking time bomb” generation waiting for the charismatic leader with the power to lead them to the apocalypse (like Hitler and many other dictators did) or – hopefully – a sort of shepherd to lift the world’s society to a higher level (like nobody ever did so far…).
An awakening process can only be triggered when the world-wide definition of “Child Abuse” and also when the world-wide definition of “Violence” becomes more specific.
Violence is much more than war, killing, spanking, torture, bloodshed, bruises…
Violence is violence. Period. Full stop.
That violence inside of us chooses millions of types and styles to be worked off via “things” (like children that are reduced to the status of an “object”).
Most of these styles of aggression are extremely subtle…
Making people ridiculous is (for example) such a style driven by violence that is hidden inside of us. Most “jokes” are not funny at all. It’s worth studying why people laugh after hearing such jokes. Laughing is – in such cases – also one weapon delivered by that psychological self-defence mechanism.
People are not aware that they are violent themselves.
Protesting against wars, weapons, child abuse etc. doesn’t mean that our hearts are free from violence. Even the Pope is not free from the impact of violence. We are all violent.
Most people do not understand and are not aware of what violence can do with them and what violence can do to them.
I can understand if you do not have an opportunity to respond, Mrs Miller, but I do not know any other person else who could possibly understand the immense danger that I sense in this world. A world that is getting more and more child unfriendly and more and more violent without being noticed by the majority of the world’s population.
Maybe Nietzsche was not sick and/or mentally ill at all.
Maybe he was fully aware of the danger that he could see.
Maybe this immense danger has overwhelmed his spirit completely.
Maybe the same danger that you have tried to unveil to a wider audience via your most interesting – and alarming – books.
I feel desperate in this society that prefers to stay asleep, including our minister of Family affairs, the entire Government and – most alarming – our entire parliament as well.
I don’t really know what to do.
I pray(ed) often to God to save our children.
But He doesn’t answer.
Sometimes I’m afraid that he (or she) doesn’t live anymore.
Maybe the answer lies in His not-answering.
Probably God is as desperate as we are.

AM: Thank you for your letter. You are absolutely right, what is most dangerous is the denial of the pain, highly supportet by religion and governments. But especially physical violence is still hold in high esteem, it is for that reason that I write so often about it.