About Work Abuse

by Alice Miller

About Work Abuse
Saturday June 01, 2002

I am glad that the exploitive, disrespectful, manipulative, numbing, or in other ways destructive patterns of our upbringing are being more and more recognized in our social life: in work, in the sport industry, in politics, in partnership – wherever. The book STALKING THE SOUL (Helen Marx, 2000) written recently by Marie-France Hirigoyen that describes these perverse patterns at work became a bestseller in France over night. I agree with the author that it is absolutely important to help victims of work abuse to recognize these patterns so that they become able to combat them and to use their options as grownups (professional groups, the internet, lawyers etc), especially if they have been used to this kind of disrespectful treatment from their first days of life.

But the study quoted on the forum “ourchildhood.usa” july 1, 2001, seems to suggest that a person with a healthy childhood can become an abuser of her/his children because she/he is victimized, humiliated and badly treated during the day at her/his work.. Journalists who preferred to find the causes of child abuse in the present life than in the childhood of the abuser (because the issue childhood frightened them) often confronted me with this point of view. They were convinced that parents are likely to beat their children because they are overwhelmed by work or because they are unemployed or whatever. I must admit that I never met one single father or mother who beats their children because of troubles at work if they were not maltreated in their own childhood. But I do know of many people who terribly humiliate their children, even if they have the most independent life conditions, as artists or professors.

For that reason I must disagree with the suggestion that there is a mutual causality between work abuse and child-mistreatment and that parents hit their children BECAUSE they are defenseless at work as was stated out. I am convinced that the 95% of world population, the parents who beat their children for “educational reasons” do it ONLY because they learned this behavior by imitation very, very early in their lives. However, by manipulating, humiliating, betraying, scaring and hitting a little child we are taking the risk that his/her brain will develop accordingly to this experience, we are teaching children by giving examples of cruelty, dishonesty, and indifference. These children will most certainly deny their early suffering, will blame others than their parents for their plight later in life and will restage what they have learned, at work or with their own children. Thus, I believe that parents who were not beaten in childhood will not be driven to do it, even if they may have other problems.