Cancer patients

Cancer patients
Thursday August 06, 2009

Dear Alice Miller,

You have a lot to do I know, but is there any chance that you could advise what you would do with patients in my position:

I am an art therapist working with cancer patients. It seems to me that everyone (not patients) assumes that what patients need is to work through the trauma of the cancer experience, yet what I hear almost without exception is nothing whatever about the cancer but always about the childhood, e.g. the dominant, cold mother, the strict father etc. I have a very limited time to work with this people they are mostly end stage patients and worry that if they get into such deep conversations (which is almost always the case) they will realise that they have no time to grasp the enormity of the wrongs done to them and the consequences, and will instead end their days in shock or some kind of a ‘zusammenbruch’.

I feel so strongly that they have the right to allow themselves to know what they already know (if you know what I mean) but I wonder whether the cancer is itself enough to manage without confronting its possible cause.

I would be so grateful for any advice.

Regards, W.R-H

AM: I think that neither you nor I can know what the patients can bear in this end stage of their illness. If they are afraid to know what their body knows so well and what they have denied their whole life, maybe it is too late. I am sorry that I can’t tell you more. Only if a person really WANTS to confront her childhood you can help her to do so but we should nobody force to do a work that they refuse to do.