On “Resilience”

by Alice Miller

On “Resilience”
Sunday April 01, 2001

The excellent picture of the iceberg, introduced by Olivier Maurel, has opened my eyes for the fact that the groups that so enthusiastically speak of the child’s resilience seem to take care solely of the visibly mistreated and neglected children. It is true, to those children society offers today several ways to overcome even the most terrible effects of their traumas undergone before and to become resilient, thanks to the confidence that they could develop since. The legal system that often (if not always) sides with them, enlightened witnesses, some empathetic attorneys, well informed therapists, all these people help a mistreated child to become a conscious survivor who, later, won’t want to repeat with his/her children what has been done to him or her.

But us, the group that is concerned with the problem of educational violence, we talk of something else. We talk of the 90% of the world population that underwent an ” educative ” madness without ever becoming aware that it was connected to humiliation and other serious traumas. Victims of this kind of violence cannot count on the empathy of society, because the whole society denies their suffering, as it denies its own. To victims of these kind of traumas don’t exist any courthouses, nor enlightened witnesses, nor compassion of anybody – at least as long as almost everybody repeats without a second thought: “Being spanked didn’t do any harm to me, it made me strong”. For that reason victims of educational violence can’t develop resilience, they will say instead: “What was good for me will not harm my children.” In this way they create what we call the “repetition transgénérationnelle”. Children beaten for “educational” reasons will be nearly inevitably tomorrow’s beaters if we don’t begin to give attention to this dynamics.

Thanks to the clarification of Olivier Maurel, I understood that partisans of resilience take care of the summit of the iceberg and neglect the hidden part. It is necessary that medias understand this distinction so that serious misunderstandings can be avoided in the current discussions on this topic. It is necessary to know that without enlightened witnesses, without the help of a conscious and well informed society, the usually beaten children remain alone with their repressed suffering, and it is why, all their life, they will be convinced that they have been beaten for their own good. They cannot develop any awareness of this injustice, hence no resilience either.