Question about Disownment
Tuesday May 15, 2007
Dear Alice Miller,
I read the Drama of the Gifted Child back in the late 1980’s and immediately felt for the first time that someone understood what I lived through as a child. Your book was and still is a blessing in my life. I cannot adequately express how thankful I am for the help and healing it has brought to me.
I’m a survivor of childhood sexual and psychological abuse. My mother had Narcissistic Personality Disorder and my older brother was also mentally ill. When I was 23 years old I found the courage to confront my older brother. When I confronted him, he admitted to what he had sexually abused me and asked what I wanted from him. I told him I wanted an apology. He apologized and I forgave him. I thought it was a good conversation and that my life would be on a much better path toward healing, even if I still had many issues to work on with my mother. My brother tried to commit suicide that evening. When my parents took him to the hospital he told them that he tried to kill himself because I had made up a bunch of lies about him and he was afraid of how I would hurt him. I found out what happened when my grandmother called me two days after the fact and accused me of lying and trying to destroy the family. The last time I saw anyone in my family or extended family (except for one bizarre, brief encounter with one of my cousins) was on Christmas day of 1990. I tried to reach them by phone many times, but when they were completely unresponsive, I decided to stop calling them and to stop trying to fix it. In time, I found that there is a certain kind of freedom from the past that being disowned or disowning your family affords. I think that my life has probably been much better because of that decision, but it is still difficult at times. I don’t normally dwell on what could have been, what my family is doing now or how it might have been different. They are part of who I am (for better and worse) and I generally enjoy my life today and fully realize that I have to deal with my past as necessary. My question is about something that happened recently that I am working on.
My mother’s birthday passes each year and I normally don’t even notice it, but this year I went looking for her name on the Internet and found her obituary. I’m not sure what compelled me to do it, but I did. I feel this is her second death. The first time I buried her was sixteen years ago when I stopped calling her. Now, I am trying to lay her and many of the residual feelings about her to rest again. I am sure that I am not the first person to experience a loss under these conditions and hope that you can help me. There are only two people in my life who have ever met anyone in my family and it is difficult to explain to others why I feel the need to grieve this loss.
Since I’ve learned of her death, I have begun re-experiences some of the symptoms from abuse that I have not had in over a decade. On some days, my entire body aches and I find myself breaking down in tears at odd times. I’m having trouble falling asleep at night and sometimes I wake up startled in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. I know this is how I am able to grieve right now. I’m not able to find words to describe most of my feelings, but I have discovered a new anger for being shunned. In hindsight, being shunned was my choice and I still think it was the best I could do in those circumstances. I could have continued to work on the one-sided, very unhealthy relationship with my family or I could walk away. I didn’t feel like there were any other choices. Walking away was one of the most painful and difficult decisions I’ve ever made. The aftermath felt something like a personal holocaust. I recently have started to view being disowned as another form of psychological abuse. I equate my part in it as being similar to choosing between the belt and the switch- I got to pick the weapon of abuse. I want to end my internal power struggle with my family. There is a part of me that strongly feels that this is an opportunity for me to experience some tremendous growth and there is a possibility for some very deep wounds to heal. I’m not quite sure where to go with all of these thoughts and feelings. Do you have any suggestions, books or resources that you can recommend to me?
Thank you, S. M. T.
You read the Drama written 28 years ago and it seemed to be helpful. Why don’t you try to read some of the books written later by Alice Miller, above all The Body Never Lies?