Thanks from a Replacement Child
Saturday October 20, 2007
Dear Dr. Miller,
I would like to express my deepest gratitude to you for all of your work on behalf of the neglected and abused children. Your books enlightened me and gave me the courage to face my own childhood reality rather than running away from it.
While I would be considered a successful man by most external standards, I feel empty most of the time and suffer from constant anxiety and panic symptoms. After trying medications and cognitive behavior therapy for a number of years, I was forced to look deeper when I got diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (a chronic digestive disease) about two years ago.
I was born two years after the death of my four years old brother. I remember my mother’s constant grieving of this angelic boy who was apparently perfect in all respects. I was constantly compared to him, and never seemed to measure up to this perfect boy. While these stories have always been with me, I did not have any emotional recall of how I felt when I heard them. My father was not there to help me either. He was an angry man, and I was afraid of him for as long as I can remember. When I was fourteen years old, he severely beat me for being friend with a boy who he thought was homosexual. He called me names and humiliated me in front of my siblings and peers. I was constantly teased and tormented by my school peers for the next two years. I felt deeply ashamed and moved away from my hometown as soon as I got the opportunity to do so. Despite all of this, I still believed that my parents loved me, and that even the beatings I received from my father were justified because I was a disgusting and defective boy.
During my worst moments when I could not sleep, I used to fantasize that I was a poor abandoned boy who was all alone without any friends and resources. I could never understand why these fantasies made me cry and why they brought so much temporary relief from my symptoms. So I just added them to the long list of irrational traits and defects that I was born with.
My therapist recommended me to read ‘Drama of The Gifted Child.’ This book immediately resonated with me and slowly brought a glimmer of understanding and compassion for the little boy who was rejected by his parents and tormented by his peers. I have slowly begun to understand the true meaning behind my ‘fantasies.’ I now realize that they were not merely manufactured sob stories, but represented the true reality of my early childhood. It was your discussion of the von Gogh tragedy in ‘For Your Own Good’ that helped me a lot to understand the unfortunate plight of ‘replacement’ children like me. Now I also realize how devastating my mother’s rejection was to the psyche of the little boy.
Unfortunately, after I began to access and describe some of my intense feelings of grief, my therapist became gradually more impatient and unsupportive. He began rushing me to forgive my parents, and telling me that everyone goes through some childhood pains and I should be careful not to fall into the victim trap. He also started putting much more emphasis on my ‘unresolved’ Oedipal complex. I felt confused, angry, and abandoned. My symptoms, which had become a bit more manageable, started flaring up all over again. It was because of your writing that I was able to see through what these symptoms were telling me, and felt strong enough to trust my feelings and stop seeing this therapist. I know I am on the right path, and need a compassionate companion who would help me to validate my feelings.
I will keep searching for such an enlightened witness. But in the meantime, I just want to say thank you for all you have done to help me.
AM: I am glad that you found the story of van Gogh. No matter what he could provide, it was never enough for his mother because the OTHER Vincent was the one she “loved.” Would she have loved him also if he had not been dead? You ARE on the right path and fortunately your body helps you to recognize the confusion of your therapist and to stop seeing him. Now you no longer can be fooled. Congratulations.