Psychosomatic Symtpoms and Working Through the Pain #3
Sunday August 12, 2007
Beloved Alice- You do not have to read this all if you do not have the time or desire. It is long, but your last response provoked a lot inside me, and provided me with a means of great expression. I would love to hear from you regarding some of the questions. Love, M.
August 11, 2007
Psychosomatic Symptoms and Working through the Pain # 3
Dear Alice Miller,
I would like to thank you, from the deepest reaches of my heart, for taking the time and energy to engage in a dialogue regarding my life history, and for continuing to open many doors for me in unraveling the “Truth,” which continues to set me towards my personal freedom.
I sometimes feel as though my emails are burdensome and long, but the liberation, freedom, and priceless wisdom I receive from your thoughtful and profound responses drives me to write you once again; hopefully for the last time.
Over the past seven months, I have experienced the profound rage and fear that I repressed for 24 years. I have been so angry I do not even want to see people. It has been a living nightmare to say the least. With my Therapist, your books, and a great support team, I have been able to face the Truth. I fully know exactly what you mean when you say, “I don’t want to know this (my life truth).” Who would? Why would I willingly want to come to a point in my life where I realize that I was never really truly loved, but was rather treated as a subjugated possession? Why would I ever desire to know that there is an immense reservoir of rage inside me towards my parents and family members for never trying to truly understand me? For never allowing me to mature emotionally and express myself? Why would I ever want to look back on the hell that I have lived through, full of fear, intense judgment, emotional blindness and utter indifference towards a child’s emotions and needs?
When I first read “The Truth Shall Set You Free” I was struck by the way you spoke about people’s defense mechanisms to continually deprive themselves of their own truth. About a week after finishing the book, I began to feel intense anger towards my family. I could not even look at these people who said they “loved me unconditionally.” For a few weeks I struggled, and continued to rationalize, that they did love me, and maybe it was my fault for not being open in communication and not allowing the love to come in. It did not take long, via the light of awareness to see the fallacy of this self-blame.
To begin with, I have really come full circle with my father. I could not even look at him a year ago, but now I am spending hours with him a week, discussing our history and where things went wrong, and what my experience was as a child, teenager, and young adult. I have expressed how I deeply feared him, and that he made me feel uncomfortable and one edge at all times, and that I always felt the need to be perfect in order to be loved. I have also expressed my rage regarding how he treated my mother, and how I never once spoke up for myself because of the intense fear of being punished.
Shockingly, he has opened up and apologized for causing me harm and admitted he has made numerous mistakes. We have both cried as he has told me he never meant to cause me any harm, but in his own way, was trying to be a good father. As we know, he did this unconsciously. He was simply re-enacting his own childhood and his relationship with his father. For the first time in our lives, we have cried together, hugged each other, and he has begun to respect me as an individual who has his own thoughts, emotions, and desires. I did not yell or scream at him in person, but I rather expressed how it felt to always feel subjugated and under pressure to never make a mistake. I expressed how it felt to never let anything out, to never show any emotions, to attempt to be perfect and still not get any of the love I was seeking.
I know my “inner child” hates him. This has been validated through the therapy. There is no doubt, based on my history; part of me hates the man for how he has treated my family. However, he was not all bad. I do not use this to rationalize, believe me. Just as much hate there is, I still love him for some of the good times, and for finally admitting he made big mistakes, and for now fully supporting me in my recovery. For years he could not even believe I was ill, he did not want to hear it (would often refuse to speak with me), but he has now taken responsibility, and is even paying for my therapy, and trying harder than I could even have imagined to help save my life. There is still hate, but there has been so much transformation, but as we both know, there is still part of me that hates him for almost killing me, for never allowing me to be free soul I was meant to be, for never allowing me to show my emotions, for threatening me day after day, for not allowing me to cry as a child, for never supporting me even when I was suicidal. However, I am very thankful for his growth and allowing me to express myself, providing a safe space to discuss my emotions. Although we do not agree one everything, I am just happy I have re-established communication with my father. I am so happy that when I now cry, he can hold me in his arms and say he is there for me and he is sorry.
Now, obviously, things were not as perfect as I thought with my mother’s side of the family. As for my mom, I was also living in a fantasy world where I was forced to believe that she and her parents loved me unconditionally and that everything that happened to all of us was my father’s fault. However, my “inner-child” and body knew all along this was not the case. My mother could never love me because she never received love as a child. Her alcoholic father was kicked out of the family at a very young age, and she was forced to raise her four younger siblings while her mother was at work till late hours at night.
By moving back to NY, and living with my mother while I have been going through therapy, I have re-lived my child-hood traumas again and again, looking for love and support from a woman who does not even know how to love herself. Your book, the “Drama of the Gifted Child” opened the door to this Truth. Instead of loving, supporting, and allowing for my emotions to blossom, my mother was like a child, who constantly had to be reassured and loved. Her father never loved her, and my father was not emotionally programmed to love her, as he was totally indifferent to the whole family’s emotions. He just put us in fear, and we did as he said, always.
When times got tough for me, not only was I being subjugated by my father, but my own mother did not have the emotional capabilities to reassure me or simply love me. She herself was filled with too much depression and fear to support me. As I go through this process, I have re-lived this again and again. On days when I look to her for love and support, she cannot even handle it. She ends up crying and screaming about how its all my Dad’s fault, and she doesn’t know what to do with me anymore, and how she does more harm than good for me. All I am asking for is love and acceptance, and positive support. She is going through a very difficult time right now with the divorce, but it seems the whole past ten years have been the same, a huge conflict where my emotions and life got lost in translation.
The same goes for my grandparents. I invited them over the other day in the hope of re-establishing some form of communication, of trying to let them know how I really felt: how I felt ignored, how I felt the whole family did not take my pain, anxiety, depression, seriously. I let them know that I did not feel supported in any sense of the word. Rather, the family silenced me and my pain, and never once was it spoken of in my presence, and never once did family members try to help in solving the pain, and ask what was really bothering me. It was always, “Your too strong to be in pain, you have a college degree, move on, put the past behind you, and be strong, be a man, we love you!”
When I expressed myself the other day, my Great Uncle could not even look at me and his anger escalated, and all he could do was blame my father, and then tell me that I am selfish, a phony, and that I making up this pain for attention, and that I should be ashamed of myself. He then yelled at me in regards to why I even wanted to talk about this stuff, stating it is all in the past, and does not good for anyone. He blamed my therapist and said there is no good in talking about “feelings.” He also called me pathetic and told me I was doing more harm to the family than good. Where is the unconditional love in this? This is a family who prides themselves in being loving and caring, and would do anything for each other, except accept the fact they don’t have the emotional maturity to sit down and talk and express their own emotions.
This is the family that has lived under the myth that they loved me unconditionally. That they loved me so much, they would do anything for me. I kindly asked him in tears, where is the unconditional love in calling me selfish and pathetic, and invalidating my pain? To them, Love is buying nice things for me, taking me out to dinner, and talking about how great the cousins are doing. It feels like my whole life, I was silenced. No one ever wanted to take my emotions seriously, to take my life seriously. Over the past four years, I have spent so much time alone in bed, I cannot tell you how painful it has been. But to them, they look at me as the image they have created for me, “perfect, healthy, and loving” and cannot get past the physicality to my human experience.
All in all, I have been living a big lie… My conscious mind has been lying to myself for 24 years, and the lie has been that I have been so loved, and that this is all my fault. How could someone who is so loved be in so much pain? Well, now I know. It is because they did not love me in the true sense of the word. It is not to say they do not love me, but rather they too are emotionally blind, and cannot love in the true sense of the word. They try to love, but they cannot understand or deal with emotions. I have been suffering for way too long, and have always blamed myself, but never once was able to look deep enough into my own past to see the neglect I experienced, time and time again. Sometimes I blame myself for not speaking up and demanding more support earlier, but the pattern was already set, no one in my family spoke about emotions. We were all “fine” and “perfect” and had to be “strong” and show the world success.
It took three years of an ongoing nervous breakdown for my father to wake up and accept me and see my pain as real, but I do not think my Mom, Grandma, and Great Uncle will ever truly believe my pain is real, because they are too scared of the emotions that might surface. They rather keep quiet and live in neurosis, than to embrace the truth. At one point, when I was telling my Great Uncle about nights I spent in the hospital during college because I was suicidal, he started crying, “why are you telling me this, I don’t want to hear this, why would we talk about this?” My mom and dad were hiding from themselves and my whole family that I was suicidal and having a breakdown… that did not fit into perfection. And yes Alice, this enrages me. However, as you point out in yourbook, it really is not their fault, they do not know any better. Growing up, I had no where to turn in terms of emotional development and nurturing. Every aspect of life had to be perfect, and anything abnormal had to be repressed.
I am beginning to understand why I have pain. Like you say, I do not want to know this. I do not want to know that there was never anyone there by my side. There was never anyone who was truly there trying to understand and alleviate my pain. If anything, all I had was a father telling me to be perfect, to show no emotion, be a strong man, and do as he said or I would be cut of from the family. Even at the lowest points of my life, sitting in a bed at the hospital, wondering if I would wake up the next day, there was no one next to me, and my parents did not want to hear it. So yes, I am enraged at them. I want to scream at both my father and my mother for failing at being loving parents. I have dreams where I am screaming in rage at both of them. There is no love in neglect and there is no love in indifference. There is no love in subjugation and possession, and there is no love in emotional blindness. For my whole life, I have been lying to myself, that my family truly loves me…. But when it comes down to it, my body feels neglected, punished, and unwanted. There is the conflict. That is the truth.
Alice, this point has been real hard for me to come to. Part of me doesn’t want to believe this realization. It wants to continue to blame myself, for not expressing myself and for not demanding to be heard. I realize how tragic and upsetting all this is to my mind, and there is no wonder why my mind creates so much pain. Someone told me that I should really not blame anyone because my whole family is a reflection of how I treated myself… I can see that, but I was only a child, and no one ever allowed my emotions to flow and be expressed, and how could I love myself, when no one around me knew how to love.
I do not blame them, for they were all victims of their own life experiences, but I have been able to come to terms with my own experience and what truly angers me at the deepest level. I just want to heal. I have begun to stop blaming myself with all these new insights. All I ask you is, what is next for someone like me? What will it take to stop the pain mechanism inside me? I know the truth, I have felt the alienation, the neglect, the instilled fear, the pain, the depression, and the rage. I have been living an ongoing nervous breakdown for three years, and I have begun to see signs of it abating. I want my life back but I fear maybe I have not felt enough, or that I am still rationalizing that they love me. It is so hard to get mad at my mother and her parents. They are so fragile and so insecure. They mean well, they really do, but they simply cannot deal with illness and emotions. They just want me to eat good food, be happy and well. I feel bad being angry at people.
What did you mean when you said: “but my therapist must be able to hold your body when you are screaming at your father and telling him that he almost killed you when you were a small child and that this isa crime. Repeat it MANY times, in the arms of your therapist, and you will see that you will eventually feel your tremendous rage. SCREAM OUT YOUR JUSTIFIED RAGE and THE PAIN OF YOUR WOUNDED SOUL and the pain of your body will leave you…” Did you mean this metaphorically? Meaning she must be totally present and provide the space for me to let the rage out without the fear of being hurt of killed.
Moreover, when you say ‘I am free to hate my father”, I somewhat get confused. I do feel hate towards him, but I also feel love. Is it enough to acknowledge the rage, feel it, but also refrain from totally hating him, because our relationship has really transformed through this whole process, and he is there for me for the first time in his life. I can finally look him in the eyes and tell him how I feel. Last night I drove over to his place and just cried, and he held me, and reinforced that everything is going to be okay… and we spoke about what I was feeling, etc. This kind of love and acceptance is what I wanted my whole life.
THANKS for all your work. Thanks for being so great at what you do. Your books inspire me, open many doors for me, and have allowed me to come to terms with my life history and feel things I never imagined feeling. I would have rather to seen doctor after doctor about my pain, than taking the time to unravel my life history. Thank you Alice. I apologize for the length of this letter, but it has provided me with an invaluable means of looking deeply into my own realizations. With all my love and gratitude from the deepest reaches of my heart. Even though I am a college graduate, I am thinking of going back to school for Psychology and one day, after I work through all my own pain, becoming an enlightened witness. Thank you!
AM: Thank you for your frank, honest letter. I read it twice and was very moved by your desperate, heart-breaking search for love and understanding from your family. You can’t believe that they don’t understand even your simple sentence: “Please look at me,” but they can’t because their hearts are frozen. The advantage of your search is clear – you will be unable to deny this reality again. But there is also a disadvantage: by feeling so strongly your solitude, you are in danger of betraying the child you have been (the way Barbara explains it so clearly to you). Doubtlessly, however, your body will warn you at times, by corporal pain, should you become again a victim of self-betrayal. A child can’t live without the illusion of loving parents; the adult can if he wants to. And he may want it because he knows already the terrible pain he would have to pay for a new illusion.