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Discovering Your True Needs
BY ALICE MILLER
Since the landmark publication of The Drama of the Gifted Child, no psychoanalyst has been more influential than Dr. Alice Miller in empowering adults whose lives were maimed emotionally and physically during childhood. Now, on the thirtieth anniversary of the book that truly established her name, Miller offers FREE FROM LIES: Discovering Your True Needs [W. W. Norton & Company; June 29, 2009; $24.95 cloth], a work which takes her original theories and groundbreaking analysis several steps further and presents the means by which readers can overcome the trauma of their childhood through therapy. In this new book, Miller makes an even more compelling case for the fact that we do everything we can to avoid facing our personal history and truly understanding the child within, an act which requires conscious acknowledgment and recognition of our suffering at the hands of our parents. FREE FROM LIES is as much an opportunity to recognize Miller and her role in the field of therapy for child abuse as it is about her most recent contributions.
No one is born evil, she asserts; the deciding factor is the reception a child is given when it comes into the world as well as its ensuing raising and treatment. Though the majority of people are mistreated as children, they are quick to deny the fact. A large part of the book focuses on this abuse in the form of spanking and physical mistreatment, which Miller believes the world willingly ignores, despite its later correlation with torture. Adults condone spanking because of the mindset they were forced to adopt as children: that being spanked was "for their own good" because they had misbehaved and were deserving of said punishment. This self-inflicted guilt, which Miller believes children internalize and carry with them into adulthood, is a defense mechanism for their survival.
Dr. Miller continuously returns to the question, "Why?" Would a child really believe that she or he is deserving of such recurrent abuse? The answer to this question is rooted in our understanding of the concept of love. For most people, the idea that they are not loved by their parents, the people who conceived and raised them, is unbearable. Consequently, the stronger the proof is, the more steadfastly an individual clings to the illusion.
In FREE FROM LIES, Miller outlines a number of different "remedies" individuals draw on to keep the memories of childhood abuse firmly rooted in the unconscious. She, of course, uses the word remedies ironically as she includes drugs, alcohol, nicotine, pills, and immersion in work in this laundry list. Miller also counts depression as a remedy; individuals use it as a form of protest against the free flow of genuine emotions, such as rage, grief, and joy, in reaction to the mistreatment they have suffered.
Those individuals who feel the subconscious need to emote, but also must protect the fragile child and repressed memories within, often express the syndrome of misplaced hatred. Instead of directing their true emotions towards the cause of their pain, they misplace their hatred and direct it towards substitute figures. When taken to an extreme, sadism and terrorism develop, and individuals like Adolf Hitler, Slobodan Milosevic, and Saddam Hussein emerge.
At the end of FREE FROM LIES, Miller includes a few uniquely formatted sections. Over the many years of her practice, she has received thousands of letters from readers, and here she provides answers to some of the most poignant and moving queries, such as how to find the right therapist, whether the goal of therapy is forgiveness, and the long term effects of being spanked as a child, including the bodily memories. Furthermore, Miller includes excerpts from several in-depth interviews, a noteworthy inclusion as she is known for her dislike of the media. And finally, there is "The Diary of a Mother," in which a mother learns how to communicate honestly with both herself and her daughter. Sure to be as influential for survivors of child abuse as The Drama of the Gifted Child, FREE FROM LIES represents Miller at her best: passionate, thorough, and utterly compelling.
About the Author
TITLE: FREE FROM LIES: Discovering Your True Needs