For the first half of Alice Miller’s book “Free from Lies: Discovering Your True Needs“, I was saying “Yes, Yes, Yes,” as I read, knowing I finally found someone who really knew the subject matter of child abuse and what it took to heal. She is truly a pioneer in this field. Her point of professionals being a witness who drops the “neutral” position between her client and the parents (who are not her clients), is right on the money. As a client, I remember when I could feel the therapist not believing what I said and this left me even more isolated. If the person I was going to help for was questioning me (and at this point in my recovery, we were dealing with the lighter stuff), then maybe I was exaggerating. After all, I had been told I made mountains out of mole hills, that I was a liar, that it wasn’t really that bad, that things hadn’t happened the way I saw them happening. And for years, I believed it.
Fortunately for me, at a point in my life when I became aware of my dissociation, I bravely visited an relative for the purpose of exposing a small peice of the abuse. To my surprise, he told me stories that I did not remember, but matched the brutality of the ones I did. Then later came pictures of the abuse which confirmed a brutality far more than I could have ever imagined.
I found this book to be a valuable read, especially the first half. It confirmed a lot of what I knew already in my heart. However in the second half, Alice and I came to different conclusions about love and forgiveness. I am not saying we must forgive, for when one comes to the healing point in their life where that is an option, that their choice. But it is an option and choice.
If I understand Alice correctly, she was saying that to feel anything less than hatred for the person who abused you as a child is disrespectful to the child within who experienced abuse. Because Alice was so on target, and I agreed with her insights 90% of the time, I actually went through a period where I questioned my feelings about my mother. It kept me in a state of confusion, not knowing what to think for about a week.
I love my mother very much and found what I was reading disturbing. From my understanding, Alice was saying that the child abuser never loves the child. I had a hard time with that statement too. I understand that to the child abuser, it is all about them however I am of the belief that my mother loved me to the best of her ability. Having grown up in an orphanage my mother didn’t know what love looked like, let alone how to love. So what I got was her convoluted sense of what she thought love was.
I have dealt with the ramifications of the child abuse as an adult. I make no bones about it having been a journey through hell. There were times I hated my mother. I once drove 400 miles to take a butcher knife to her grave. I hysterically stabbed it into the ground as it was the first time I could let myself feel the years of rage that gushed out at her for what she did. I am glad she was dead, as I’m not sure how that kind of rage would have played out had she been alive.
But now I’m in a different place. I left that raw rage with her, at her grave site. I’m curious about her life, how she got to be who she became. What she did was awful, but it doesn’t define her whole being or her whole life. She was an alcoholic woman who was tormented with mentally illness and did not know what to do with the explosion of feelings that boiled inside her. I was just the closest person that she could unleash her own rage onto.
Perhaps I am further along in my healing the wounds from the child abuse. Perhaps we just disagree on these two points.