Brieven van mijn kind aan Alice Miller

Gepubliceerd door Oliane op 1 maart 2022

Thursday April 17, 2008

Dear Alice Miller,

After breaking off any contact with my father, when I was 21 (now 33), last year I was more and more curious to get in touch with him again. I felt there were things to discover about myself and I was very depressed after breaking up with a boyfriend who mistreated and sexually abused me for about a half year. I saw my father four times since September and it was sometimes shocking or disturbing as I was ‘eye to eye’ with the person who was cruel to me, rejected me, and the origin, next to my mothers role in all, of my lonelyness and depression. And the reason to pick out the wrong boyfriend…

The many reasons for breaking off contact back then, can be summarised into that my personal development, my personal freedom caused a deep jealousy from my father towards me, it made it impossible to have a comfortable contact with him, and when I started to go to university around my late teens it became even worse. He also then tried to share his problems about his confused relationships with girlfriends with me or how crazy my mother was, and I had to even listen to his sexual issues… He would humiliate me in front of his friends and his familymembers, while he would be extremely charming to my girlfriends and other people. I felt he was weaving a web around me. I felt very confusing let alone the problems that were going on with my mother (but she went into analysis and started reading your books, that really changed her). It felt as if I had to escape them both in order to survive. When I would express myself in drawings when I was 18 and wanted to go to artschool, my father would say “you are NOT an artist”. I so regret that I somehow believed him, but I understand how insecure I was and why. I went to university and studied arthistory instead, where I had a safe distance towards creation, artproduction, real activity and maybe even myself. I could criticise what other people were making and use all these so-called arttheories to constellate critiques. Instead of making things, I left the drawings, it was an analytical period, away from myself but also not totally as I tried to understand where I came from as well. During that time there was a good friend who said that I was a controlfreak. I broke off contact with her too.

My parents divorced when I was about 8 years old, but my father was never around before, and totally excluded me and my younger brothers from his creative life as a musician. I never understood this as it was seeming so social what he was doing, making music with other people. Why did he shut me out? Why was it so rejected when I wanted to learn to play saxophone or piano? He never kept his promises during arrangements that my mother arranged via lawsuits, my dad was always ‘far away’ even when he was around physically. I feel sad when I think about my childhood and the longing for a real father, or to be part of something safe and beautiful.

Anyway, my last visit at my fathers place two months ago, was somehow a ‘reality-check’. He was cooking and asking all the time: “is the food okee, I hope it will taste nice”, and I realised he was actually a very insecure person. It was a realisation without that I felt pitty or angry towards him, it was a neutral kind of observation. But later that evening he started to talk, his voice was a bit high in his throat but not of joy, about his childhood and how he as a young boy had to go with his father and uncles on huntingmissions to shoot all kinds of animals for a living. He was completely idealising these events and how fantastic they were. And how the bullits for instance were flying over his head and that he had to go down on the ground and that it was a miracle that he survived…
Because expressing myself in front of my father was always very difficult for me, I felt happy now to ‘speak out’ without any worries about his rejection, I said: this is such a cruel story! How can they take a young child on these huntingtrips! It is very dangerous! His response to my concern was aggressive and full of denial, exactly like in the past. He sat there with his arms crossed in front of his chest and without even looking at me: “ah come on, those were the times. It was totally innocent.” Unbelievable that this man who is almost 60 never did anything about himself, no therapy, nothing, no selfreflection, and blames ‘the times’ and other people to hide who is really is. And not only with this example. Anyway I felt very sad and angry as well as proud of myself after that visit. I stood up for myself and was not afraid of being rejected by him.
Two days later I had an extreme nightmare. I did my best to wake myself up because it felt so horrible. The dream was that I was lying in my bed and the lights were on, it all felt very real. There was a heavy thunder going on outside, there were flashes and I had to escape from bedroom to the livingroom, then I looked outside into the darkness and suddenly this explosion made the windows crash and glass was flying through the room in slowmotion. I had to cover my head and dove down onto the floor. Then I managed to wake myself up and felt this deep fear that I never felt before in my life! It really made me think a couple of days about so many things at the same time.
I really think this dream was illustrating what my father projected onto me when I was a baby somehow, I mean the fear felt somehow really old and familiar. And the sound in the dream was intense as well, maybe he played his guitar close to my bed and I didnt understand it. Then I looked at my babyphotos, my father made many of them and he always put me next to our dog, a big Irish wolfhound (the ones they took along with huntings too when my father was a child). I suddenly looked differently at my own expression, I was looking kind of uncomfortable, not very happy with how he positioned me! So far, I had always idealised my hippiechildphotos.

I am now thinking it makes no sense to meet my father again, I dont feel the same urge as a few months ago, I feel I now discovered something important about myself. But still I feel so sad sometimes because there is no real contact and he is living in this illusionary space, neglected emotionally all his kids (also my two brothers and halfsister) and still is doing this in fact, and although I am a grown woman and see that the past isn’t the present he manages to still give me a bad feeling about who I am in a way by snaring at me. Why should I bring myself in a painfull position? Why, if he is not open to me should I try again to explain how painfull it all was and sometimes still is because of him not wanting to see? (literally his eyes suddenly lost half of their sight…). If I am honest, I actually feel a sort of hate towards him for who he is what he caused, and I hate his parents too who ‘produced’ 12 kids for religious, stupid catholic reasons, without taking loving care of each child, they are now both dead unfortunately, otherwise I would have said it right in their faces.
At the same time, I am happy that I am able to feel this anger and sadness, and to be able to still feel my freedom. I also started to draw again and play the piano, and recently read Drama of the Gifted Child again, that is written very sublte, so sensitive, warm-hearted and intelligent. Your mentality is a big inspirationfor me. If no one understands my lifestory, that happens often when I try to share it, I have to say it is a complex one, I like to read your book and feel less alone with my memories.
All the best, RJ

AM: Thank you for your wise letter. You are obviously able to check your feelings, to learn from your experiences and to give up illusions. This capacity is quite unusual at your age. Congratulations.


Without feelings
Thursday February 18, 2010

Dear Alice Miller,

Yesterday evening I was reading a chapter in Bruce D. Perry’s ‘The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog’ (2006) co-edited by Maia Szalavitz. I read the chapter with the same title as the book. It was disturbing to me how the author described the abuser of the little boy Justin who was raised his first six years in a cage with dogs. According to my version of the book, Perry tends to use quite some softening words and in my view fails to inform the reader occasionally.

In the chapter Perry first describes how he finds Justin in this hospital, caged again by the staff/nurses because they didn’t know what to do with him. Certainly in this context, I would have written at least, how wrong this institution, the nurses etc, were to cage a traumatized child once AGAIN.

Then he talks about Justin’s grandmother who took care of the boy from 2 months till she died when he was 11 months. I do not know how he could know this for sure, but she was ‘[…] by all accounts, a kindhearted, nurturing woman who adored her grandchild’. And when Perry describes Justin’s torturer: ‘during her illness her live-in boyfriend Arthur, babysat for Justin. Baby Justin’s behavior became difficult, surely a result of losing both his mother and his grandmother in such a short time. Arthur, still grieving himself, didn’t know what to do with a crying, tantruming young child, and being in his late sixties, he wasn’t physically or mentally prepared for such a challenge […]’. Later on Perry writes: ‘Arthur was not malicious, but he was ignorant about the needs of children. He made his living as a dog breeder and sadly, applied that knowledge to the care of the baby. He began keeping Justin in a cage.’ Yes Perry this is very SAD indeed.

He continues: ‘He was very limited himself, probably with mild retardation. He raised Justin as he raised his other animals: giving him food, shelter, discipline and episodic direct compassion. Arthur wasn’t intentionally cruel: he’d take both Justin and the dogs out of their cages daily for regular play and affection. But he didn’t understand that Justin acted like an animal because he’d been treated as one, and so when the boy ‘didn’t obey’, back into his cage he went. Most of the time Justin was simply neglected.’

Maybe it is me, but this description of a horrible situation sounds to me very naive, almost as if he doesn’t seem to feel what it means what he is writing. What about connecting Arthur’s grown-up behavior to his past childhood, that would have been maybe more informative than this very naive sounding description of the dynamics of a severely disturbed man towards a very young child.

There are more of these stories in the book all very tragic about abused children and Perry knows a lot about development of the brain of children and how trauma works yes, but why describing it all with so much emotional distance?

Thanks for reading,


AM: You are writing: ” Perry knows a lot about development of the brain of children and how trauma works yes, but why describing it all with so much emotional distance?” Apparently he can much understand and analyse but he can’t feel. My impression when I read this book was the same as yours: this man seems unable to feel. Thank you for sending us this letter, I think that the whole psychological literature is full of works like this: lifeless and thus naive, as you rightly say




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