FOR YOUR OWN GOOD - Alice Miller
18 [Pages 261-280 in the print edition]

Unlived Anger

In October 1977 the philosopher Leszek Kolakowski was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Booksellers' Association. In his acceptance speech he spoke about hatred, with special reference to the event that was on many people's minds at that time, the hijacking of a Lufthansa plane to Mogadishu.

Kolakowski said that time after time there have been instances of people who are completely free of hatred and who therefore offer proof that it is possible to live without it. It is not surprising for a philosopher to talk like this if he identifies humanness with consciousness. But for someone who has been confronted with manifestations of unconscious psychic reality on a daily basis and who sees over and over again how serious the consequences of overlooking this reality are, it will no longer be a simple matter of course to divide people into those who are good or bad, loving or hate-filled. Such a person knows that moralizing concepts are less apt to uncover the truth than to conceal it. Hatred is a normal human feeling, and a feeling has never killed anyone. Is there a more appropriate reaction than anger or even hatred in response to the abuse of children, the rape of women, the torture of the innocent--especially if the perpetrator's motives remain hidden? A person who has had the good fortune from the beginning to be allowed to react to frustration with rage will internalize his empathic parents and will later be able to deal with all his feelings, including hatred, without need for analysis. I don't know if such people exist; I have never met one. What I have seen are people who did not acknowledge their hatred but delegated it to others without meaning to and without even knowing they were doing it. Under certain circumstances, they developed a severe obsessional neurosis accompanied by destructive fantasies, or, if this did not occur, their children had the neurosis. Often they were treated for years for physical illness that was really psychic in origin. Some suffered from severe depressions. But as soon as it became possible for them to experience their early childhood hatred in analysis, their symptoms disappeared, and with them the fear that their feeling of hatred might cause someone harm. It is not experienced hatred that leads to acts of violence and destructiveness but hatred that must be warded off and bottled up with the aid of ideology, a situation that can be examined in detail in the case of Adolf Hitler. Every experienced feeling gives way in time to another, and even the most extreme conscious hatred of one's father will not lead a person to kill--to say nothing of destroying a whole people. But Hitler warded off his childhood feelings totally and destroyed human life because "Germany needed more Lebensraum," because "the Jews were a menace to the world," because he "wanted young people to be cruel so they could create something new"--the list of supposed reasons could go on and on.

How are we to explain the fact that, in spite of growing psychological awareness in the last decades, two-thirds of the people polled in Germany still believe that corporal punishment is necessary, good, and right for children? And what about the remaining third? How many of the parents among them feel compelled to strike their children against their better judgment and in spite of their good intentions? This situation is understandable if we take the following points into consideration.

  1. For parents to be aware of what they are doing to their children, they would also have to be aware of what was done to them in their own childhood. But this is exactly what was forbidden them as children. If access to this knowledge is cut off, parents can strike and humiliate their children or torment and mistreat them in other ways, without realizing how they are hurting them; they simply are compelled to behave this way.
  2. If the tragedy of a well-meaning person's childhood remains hidden behind idealizations, the unconscious knowledge of the actual state of affairs will have to assert itself by an indirect route. This occurs with the aid of the repetition compulsion. Over and over again, for reasons they do not understand, people will create situations and establish relationships in which they torment or are tormented by their partner, or both.
  3. Since tormenting one's children is a legitimate part of child-rearing, this provides the most obvious outlet for bottled up aggression.
  4. Because an aggressive response to emotional and physical abuse is forbidden by parents in almost all religions, this outlet is the only one available.

There would be no incest taboo, say the sociologists, if sexual attraction among members of a family were not a natural impulse. That is why this taboo exists in every civilized nation and is an integral part of child-rearing from the beginning.

I sense a similarity here to the way a child's aggressive feelings toward the parents are traditionally treated. I do not know how people in other cultures who have not grown up, as we have, with the Fourth Commandment have solved this problem, but wherever I look, I see signs of the commandment to honor one's parents and nowhere of a commandment that calls for respect for the child. Could this be analogous to the incest taboo and indicate that respect is instilled in the child as early as possible because the child's natural reactions to ward the parents can be so violent that parents would have to fear being beaten by their children or even killed by them?

We constantly hear about the cruelty of the times, and yet it seems to me there is a ray of hope in the trend to examine and question inherited taboos. If parents need the Fourth Commandment to keep their children from expressing natural and legitimate aggressive feelings from the outset, with the result that the child's only option is to pass this same commandment on to the next generation, then it would be a sign of great progress if this taboo were done away with. If the mechanism becomes conscious, if people are allowed to become aware of what their parents did to them, they would surely try to direct their response to the preceding generation and not the following one. This would mean, for example, that Hitler would not have needed to kill millions of human beings if it had been possible for him as a child to rebel directly against his father's cruelty.

It would be an easy matter to misunderstand my claim that the untold deep humiliation and mistreatment Hitler suffered at his father's hands without being allowed to respond was responsible for his insatiable hatred. Someone may object by saying that an individual human being cannot destroy an entire people on such a scale, that the economic crisis and the humiliation suffered by the Weimar Republic contributed to producing the catastrophe. There can be no doubt that this is true, but it was not "crises" and "systems" that did the killing, it was human beings--human beings whose fathers were able to point with pride to the obedience instilled in their little ones at a very early age.

Many of the facts we have reacted to for decades with moral indignation and uncomprehending aversion can be understood from this perspective. An American professor, for example, has been conducting experiments for years with brain transplants. In an interview with the magazine Tele, he reports that he has already succeeded in replacing the brain of one monkey with that of another. He does not doubt that in the foreseeable future it will be possible to do the same thing with human beings. Readers have a choice here: they can be thrilled at so much scientific progress, or they can wonder how such absurdity can be possible and what purpose such pursuits can serve. But a piece of seemingly unimportant information may produce an "aha!" reaction in them, for Professor White speaks of "religious feelings" connected with his endeavor. Questioned by the interviewer, he explains that he had a very strict Catholic upbringing and in the opinion of his ten children had been raised like a dinosaur. I don't know what is meant by this, but I can imagine that this image refers to antediluvian methods of child-rearing. What does that have to do with his scientific work? Perhaps this is the unconscious background for Professor White's experiments: by devoting all his energy and vitality to the goal of one day being able to transplant brains in human beings, he is fulfilling his long-harbored infantile wish to be able to replace his parents' brains. Sadism is not an infectious disease that strikes a person all of a sudden. It has a long prehistory in childhood and always originates in the desperate fantasies of a child who is searching for a way out of a hopeless situation.

Every experienced therapist is familiar with ministers' children who were never allowed to have so-called bad thoughts and who managed not to have any, even at the cost of a severe neurosis. If infantile fantasies are finally allowed to come to the surface in therapy, they generally have a cruel and sadistic content. In these fantasies, the early fantasies of revenge of the child who has been tormented by his or her upbringing merge with the introjected cruelty of the parents, who have attempted to stifle or have actually stifled the child's vitality by making impossible moral demands.

Everyone must find his own form of aggressiveness in order to avoid letting himself be made into an obedient puppet manipulated by others. Only if we do not allow ourselves to be reduced to the instrument of another person's will can we fulfill our personal needs and defend our legitimate rights. But this appropriate form of aggression is unattainable for many people who have grown up with the absurd belief that a person can have nothing but kind, good, and meek thoughts and at the same time be honest and authentic. The effort to fulfill this impossible demand can drive sensitive children to the brink of madness. No wonder they try to free themselves from their prison by means of sadistic fantasies. Yet this attempt is also forbidden and must be repressed. Thus, the comprehensible and empathic part of these fantasies remains fully concealed from consciousness, covered over by the gravestone of a dismaying, split-off cruelty. Although this gravestone is not totally invisible, it is carefully avoided and is feared for a lifetime. Nevertheless, there is no other path to one's true self in the entire world than this one leading past the gravestone that has been shunned for such a long time. For before a person can develop an appropriate form of aggressiveness, he or she must discover and experience the old fantasies of revenge, which were repressed because they were forbidden. Only these fantasies can lead one back to genuine childhood indignation and rage, which can then give way to mourning and reconciliation.

The career of the Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt, who in all probability has never undergone therapy, can serve as an example here. He grew up in a Protestant parsonage, and his first act as a young writer was to confront the reader with the grotesque absurdity, hypocrisy, and cruelty of the world. Even his studied emotional coldness, even the most abrasive cynicism cannot completely erase the traces of his early experiences. Like Hieronymus Bosch, Dürrenmatt depicts an experienced hell, even though he probably no longer has any clear memory of it.

The Visit could never have been written by someone who had not learned for himself that hatred finds its strongest and most cruel expression when there are very close ties to the hated object. In spite of all he has sensed so deeply, the young Dürrenmatt consistently displays the coldheartedness acquired by a child who must always conceal his feelings from those around him. In order to free himself from the moral strictures of the parsonage, he must first reject those highly extolled virtues, such as pity, altruism, and mercy, that he has come to distrust, and finally express his forbidden and cruel fantasies in a loud and distorted voice. In his more mature years, Dürrenmatt seems less compelled to conceal his true feelings. In his later works we sense not so much the provocative nature of the earlier ones as the urgent need to do humankind the service of confronting it with uncomfortable truths. For, as a child, Dürrenmatt must have been able to see through the world around him uncommonly well. Because he is able to describe what he has seen in a creative way, he also helps his readers to become more attentive and aware. And having seen things with his own eyes, he has no need to submit to the stultifying influence of ideologies. This is one form of working through childhood hatred that is of immediate benefit to humankind--it doesn't have to be "socialized" first. Likewise, those who have benefited from analysis will not have the need to inflict harm on others once they have confronted their childhood "sadism." Quite the contrary, they become much less aggressive if they are able to live with their aggressions and not in opposition to them. This is not a case of sublimation but a normal process of maturation that can begin when certain obstacles have been removed. It does not require any great effort, because the warded-off hatred has been experienced and not abreacted. These people become more courageous than they were before: they no longer aim their hostility at those "below" them (e.g., their children), but directly at those "above" (who wounded them and thus caused their anger). They are no longer afraid of standing up to their superiors and are no longer compelled to humiliate their partners or their children. They have experienced themselves as victims and now do not have to split off their unconscious victimization and project it onto others. Yet there are still countless numbers of people who utilize this mechanism of projection. As parents they use it on their children; as psychiatrists, on the mentally ill; and as research scientists, on animals. No one is surprised or indignant at this. What Professor White is doing with the brains of monkeys is acclaimed as science, and he himself is quite proud of his activities. Where is the line to be drawn between him and Dr. Mengele, who performed experiments on human beings in Auschwitz? Since Jews were considered nonhuman, his experiments were deemed "morally" legitimate. In order to understand how Mengele was able to remove the eyes and other organs of healthy people, we only have to know what was done to him in childhood. I am convinced that something almost inconceivably horrible to outsiders would be uncovered, which he himself no doubt regarded as the best upbringing in the world, one to which, in his opinion, he "owed a great deal."

The choice of available objects on which a person can take revenge for his or her childhood suffering is practically limitless, but one's own children provide an almost automatic outlet. In nearly all of the old child-rearing manuals, major emphasis is placed on how to combat willfulness and the tyranny of the infant and how to punish infantile "obstinacy" with the severest of measures. Parents who were once tyrannized by these methods are understandably eager to try to free themselves from the burden of the past as quickly as possible by means of an ersatz object; they experience their own tyrannical father in their child's anger, but here they finally have him at their mercy--like Professor White his monkeys.

Therapists are often struck by the fact that their patients regard themselves as very demanding for having the most modest--but vitally important--of needs and by the fact that they hate themselves for this. A man who has bought a house for his wife and children, for example, may find he does not have a room he can retire to, although he ardently wishes for one. That would be too demanding or "bourgeois." But because he feels smothered without this space of his own, he considers abandoning his family and escaping to the desert. A woman who entered analysis after a series of operations considered herself especially demanding because she was not grateful enough for all that she had been granted in life and wanted still more. In therapy it was revealed that for years she had had a compulsion to keep buying new dresses that she really didn't need and seldom wore and that this behavior was in part a substitute for the autonomy she had never been given. From the time she was a little girl, her mother had told her how demanding she was; she was very ashamed and tried all her life to be frugal. For this reason, she did not even consider psychoanalysis. Not until she had had several organs removed in surgery did she reach the point of allowing herself the expense of treatment. And then it slowly became clear that this woman had provided the arena in which her mother tried to assert herself against her own father. No resistance whatsoever had been possible against this tyrannical man. But from the very beginning her daughter accepted a pattern of behavior that made all her wishes and needs look like exaggerated and extravagant demands, which her mother then opposed with moral indignation. As a result, any impulses on the daughter's part in the direction of autonomy were accompanied by guilt feelings, which she tried to hide from her mother. Her most fervent wish was to be undemanding and frugal, while at the same time she suffered from the compulsion to buy and amass unneeded things, thereby proving to herself that she had the demanding nature attributed to her by her mother. She had to undergo many difficult sessions of analysis before it was possible for her to cast aside the role of her tyrannical grandfather. Then it became obvious that basically this woman had very little interest in material things--now that she was able to realize what her true needs were and to be creative. She no longer was compelled to buy what she didn't need in order to make her mother believe she was tyrannically demanding or to secretly seize autonomy for herself, and she was finally able to take seriously her true spiritual and emotional needs without feeling guilty.

This example illustrates several of the ideas advanced in this chapter.

  1. Even when the needs a child expresses are quite harmless and normal, she can be perceived by her parents as demanding, tyrannical, and threatening if the parents have suffered under a tyrannical father, for example, without being able to defend themselves against him.
  2. A child can respond to these "labels" with demanding behavior that comes from his or her false self, thereby embodying the aggressive father the parent is seeking.
  3. Reacting to the behavior of the child or later patient on the level of drives, or even trying to help him or her learn "drive renunciation," would mean ignoring the true history of this tragic substitution and leaving the patient alone with it.
  4. There is no need to attempt "drive renunciation" or "sublimation" of the "death wish" if the personal roots of an aggressive or even destructive way of acting are understood, for then psychic energy will of itself be transformed into creativity, provided that no attempts have been made to "educate" the patient.
  5. Mourning over what has happened, over the irreversibility of the past, is the prerequisite for this process.

    The Permission to Know

    Parents are of course not only persecutors. But it is important to know that in many cases they play this role as well, and very often without even being aware of it. In general, this is a little-known fact; when it is known, it is the subject of much controversy, even among analysts, and it is for this reason that I place so much emphasis on it here.

    Loving parents in particular should want to find out what they are unconsciously doing to their children. If they simply avoid the subject and instead point to their parental love, then they are not really concerned about their children's wellbeing but rather are painstakingly trying to keep a clear conscience. This effort, which they have been making ever since they were little, prevents them from letting their love for their children unfold freely and from learning something from this love. The attitudes of "poisonous pedagogy" are not restricted to outdated child-rearing manuals of the past. There they were expressed consciously and unabashedly, whereas today they are disseminated more quietly and more subtly; nevertheless, they still permeate most major areas of our lives. Their very omnipresence makes it difficult for us to recognize them. They are like a pernicious virus we have learned to live with since we were little.

    We are often unaware, therefore, that we can live without this virus and would be better off and happier without it. People of high caliber and with the best intentions, like, for example, A.'s father (cf. page 92), can become infected without even realizing it. If they do not happen to undergo therapy, they have no occasion to discover the virus, no opportunity ever to question later in life emotionally charged convictions they adopted from their parents in early childhood. In spite of their sincere efforts to bring about a democratic family environment, they simply cannot help discriminating against the child and denying his or her rights, for, on the basis of their own early experiences, they can hardly imagine anything else. The early imprinting of these attitudes in the unconscious guarantees their enduring stability.

    There is another factor that also has a stabilizing effect here. Most adults are parents themselves. They have raised their children with the help of an unconscious storehouse filled with their own childhood experiences and have had no other recourse but to do everything the same way their parents did before them. But when they are suddenly confronted with the knowledge that the greatest and most lasting harm can be done to a child at a very tender age, they understandably are filled with often unbearable guilt feelings. People who were raised according to the principles of "poisonous pedagogy" suffer particular anguish at the thought that they may not have been perfect parents, because they owe it to their internalized parents to have made no mistakes. Thus, they will tend to shy away from new ideas and will seek a haven all the more behind the old rules of child raising. They will insist emphatically that duty, obedience, and suppression of feelings are the portals to a good and honorable life and that we become adults only by learning to keep a stiff upper lip; they will find it necessary to ward off all knowledge about the world of their early childhood experiences.

    The knowledge we need is often quite close at hand, even "right under our very nose." When we have the chance to observe children of today who are growing up with fewer constraints, we can learn a great deal about the true nature of the emotional life, which remained hidden for the older generation. To give an example:

    A mother is at a playground with her three-year-old, who is clinging to her skirt and sobbing as though her heart would break. Marianne refuses to play with the other children. When I ask what the matter is, the mother tells me with great sympathy and understanding for her daughter that they have just come from the train station. The little girl's daddy, whom they had gone to meet, had not been there. Only Ingrid's daddy had gotten off the train. I said to Marianne, "Oh, but that must have been a big disappointment for you!" The child looked at me, large tears rolling down her cheeks. But soon she was stealing glances at the other children, and two minutes later she was romping happily with them. Because her deep pain was experienced and not bottled up, it could give way to other, happier feelings.

    If the observer is open enough to learn something from this incident, he or she will be saddened by it and will wonder if the many sacrifices that had to be made were perhaps not necessary after all. Rage and pain can apparently pass quickly if one is free to express them. Can it be possible that there was no need to struggle against envy and hatred all this time, that their hostile power holding sway within was a malignant growth whose magnitude was a consequence of repression? Can it be possible that the repressed feelings, the calm and controlled "balance" one has proudly attained with so much difficulty are in reality a lamentable impoverishment and not an "asset" at all, although one had become accustomed to seeing it as such?

    If the observer of the scene described has until now been proud of this self-control, some of the pride may turn to rage, rage at the realization that all this time he or she has been cheated out of free access to feelings. And the rage, if it is really acknowledged and experienced, can make room for a feeling of sorrow over the meaninglessness as well as the inevitability of the sacrifices. The change from rage to sorrow makes it possible for the vicious circle of repetition to be broken. It is easy for those who have never become aware of having been victims, since they grew up believing in the principles of being brave and self-controlled, to succumb to the danger of taking revenge on the next generation because they themselves have been unconsciously victimized. But if their anger is followed by grief over having been a victim, then they can also mourn the fact that their parents were victims too, and they will no longer have to persecute their children. This ability to grieve will bring them closer to their children.

    The same thing holds true for the relationship with grown children. I once talked with a young man who had just made his second suicide attempt. He said to me: "I have suffered from depressions since puberty; my life has no meaning. I thought my studies were to blame because they involved so much meaningless material. But now I have finished all my exams, and the emptiness is worse then ever. But these depressions don't have anything to do with my childhood; my mother tells me that I had a very happy and sheltered childhood."

    We saw each other again several years later. In the meantime, his mother had undergone therapy. There was an enormous difference between our two meetings. The young man had become creative not only in his profession but in his whole outlook; unquestionably, he was now living his life. In the course of our conversation he said: "When my mother loosened up with the help of therapy, it was as though the scales fell from her eyes, and she saw what she and my father had done to me as parents. At first it weighed on me the way she kept talking to me about it--apparently to unburden herself or to win my forgiveness--about how they had both in effect squelched me as a young child with their well-meaning methods of raising me. In the beginning I didn't want to hear about it, I avoided her and became angry with her. But gradually I noticed that what she was telling me was unfortunately entirely true. Something inside me had known it all along, but I was not allowed to know it. Now that my mother was showing the strength to face what had happened head-on, not to make excuses, not to deny or distort anything, because she felt that she, too, had once been a victim--now I was able to admit my knowledge of the past. It was a tremendous relief not to have to pretend any longer. And the amazing thing is that now, in spite of all her failings, which we both know about, I feel much closer to my mother and find her much more likable, animated, approachable, and warm than I did before. And I am much more genuine and spontaneous with her. The insincere effort I had to make is over. She no longer has to prove to me that she loves me in order to hide her guilt feelings; I sense that she likes me and loves me. She also doesn't have to prescribe rules of behavior for me anymore but lets me be as I am because she can be that way herself and because she is herself less under the pressure of rules and regulations. A great burden has fallen from me. I enjoy life, and it all happened without my having to go through a lengthy analysis. But now I would no longer say that my suicide attempts were unrelated to my childhood. It's just that I wasn't permitted to see the connection, and that must have intensified my feeling of desperation."

    This young man was describing a situation that plays a role in the development of many mental illnesses: the repression of awareness dating back to early childhood that can become manifest only in physical symptoms, in the repetition compulsion, or in psychotic breakdown. John Bowlby has written an article entitled "On Knowing What You Are Not Supposed to Know and Feeling What You Are Not Supposed to Feel," in which he reports on similar experiences.

    In conjunction with this story of a potential suicide, it was instructive for me to see that even in severe cases analysis may not be necessary for a young person as long as his parents are able to break the ban of silence and denial and assure their grown child that his symptoms are not pure fabrication or the result of overexertion, of "being crazy," of effeminacy, of reading the wrong books or having the wrong friends, of inner "drive conflicts," etc. If the parents are able to stop desperately fighting their own guilt feelings and as a result need not discharge them onto the child but are willing to accept their fate instead, they will give their children the freedom to live not against but with their past. The grown child's emotional and physical wisdom can then be in harmony with his intellectual knowledge. If mourning of this nature is possible, parents will feel close to their children rather than distant from them--a fact that is not well known because the attempt is seldom made. But when mourning is successful, the false demands of child-rearing are silenced and true understanding of life takes their place. This understanding is accessible to anyone who is ready to rely on what his own experience tells him.


    After I finished the manuscript of this book and sent it to the publisher, I was talking about problems of childrearing with a younger, very empathic colleague whose work I regard highly and who is himself the father of two children. He said it was a shame that psychoanalysis still has not worked out any guidelines for humane pedagogy. I expressed doubt that there could be such a thing as humane pedagogy, having learned in my analytic work to recognize even the more refined and subtle forms of manipulation that pass for pedagogy. Then I explained my firm conviction that all pedagogy is superfluous as long as children are provided with a dependable person in early childhood, can use this person (in D. W. Winnicott's terms), and need not fear losing him or her or being abandoned if they express their feelings. Children who are taken seriously, respected, and supported in this way can experience themselves and the world on their own terms and do not need adult coercion. My colleague was in complete agreement, but he thought it important for parents to be given more concrete advice. Then I quoted my sentence that appears on page 132: "If parents are also able to give their child the same respect and tolerance they had for their own parents, they will surely be providing him with the best possible foundation for his entire later life."

    After giving a short, spontaneous laugh, my colleague looked at me very gravely and after a moment's silence said, "But that isn't possible..." "Why not?" I asked. "Because...because...our children do not use coercive measures against us, they don't threaten to leave us when we are bad. And even if they say it, we know they wouldn't do it..." He became increasingly reflective and then said very slowly, "You know, now I wonder if what is called pedagogy may not be simply a question of power, and if we shouldn't be speaking and writing much more about hidden power struggles instead of racking our brains about finding better methods of childrearing." "That's exactly what I have tried to do in the book I have just finished," I said.

    It is the tragedy of well-raised people that they are unaware as adults of what was done to them and what they do themselves if they were not allowed to be aware as children. Countless institutions in our society profit from this fact, and not least among them are totalitarian regimes. In this age when almost anything is possible, psychology can provide devastating support for the conditioning of the individual, the family, and whole nations. Conditioning and manipulation of others are always weapons and instruments in the hands of those in power even if these weapons are disguised with the terms education and therapeutic treatment. Since one's use and abuse of power over others usually have the function of holding one's own feelings of helplessness in check--which means the exercise of power is often unconsciously motivated--rational arguments can do nothing to impede this process.

    In the same way that technology was used to help carry out mass murders in the Third Reich in a very short space of time, so too the more precise kind of knowledge of human behavior based on computer data and cybernetics can contribute to the more rapid, comprehensive, and effective soul murder of the human being than could the earlier intuitive psychology. There are no measures available to halt these developments. Psychoanalysis cannot do it; indeed, it is itself in danger of being used as an instrument of power in the training institutes. All that we can do, as I see it, is to affirm and lend our support to the human objects of manipulation in their attempts to become aware and help them become conscious of their malleability and articulate their feelings so that they will be able to use their own resources to defend themselves against the soul murder that threatens them.

    It is not the psychologists but the literary writers who are ahead of their time. In the last ten years there has been an increase in the number of autobiographical works being written, and it is apparent that this younger generation of writers is less and less inclined to idealize their parents. There has been a marked increase in the willingness of the postwar generation to seek the truth of their childhood and in their ability to bear the truth once they have discovered it. The descriptions of parents found in the books of such writers as Christoph Meckel, Erika Burkart, Karin Struck, and Ruth Rehmann and in the reports of Barbara Frank and Margot Lang would scarcely have been conceivable thirty or even twenty years ago. The same holds true for America, where more and more books about childhood (by Louise Armstrong, Charlotte Vale Allen, Michelle Morris, Florence Rush, and many others) have been appearing recently that display an authenticity and honesty unknown heretofore. I see great hope in this as a step along the road to truth and at the same time as confirmation that even a minimal loosening up of child-rearing principles can bear fruit by enabling at least our writers to become aware. That the academic disciplines must lag behind is an unfortunate but well-known fact.

    In the same decade in which writers are discovering the emotional importance of childhood and are unmasking the devastating consequences of the way power is secretly exercised under the disguise of child-rearing, students of psychology are spending four years at the universities learning to regard human beings as machines in order to gain a better understanding of how they function. When we consider how much time and energy is devoted during these best years to wasting the last opportunities of adolescence and to suppressing, by means of the intellectual disciplines, the feelings that emerge with particular force at this age, then it is no wonder that the people who have made this sacrifice victimize their patients and clients in turn, treating them as mere objects of knowledge instead of as autonomous, creative beings. There are some authors of so-called objective, scientific publications in the field of psychology who remind me of the officer in Kafka's Penal Colony in their zeal and their consistent self-destructiveness. In the unsuspecting, trusting attitude of Kafka's convicted prisoner, on the other hand, we can see the students of today who are so eager to believe that the only thing that counts in their four years of study is their academic performance and that human commitment is not required.

    The expressionistic painters and poets active at the beginning of this century demonstrated more understanding of the neuroses of their day (or at any rate unconsciously imparted more information about them) than did the contemporary professors of psychiatry. During the same period, Freud's female patients with their hysterical symptoms were unconsciously reenacting their childhood traumata. He succeeded in deciphering their language, which their conventional doctors had failed to understand. In return, he reaped not only gratitude but also hostility, because he had dared to touch upon the taboos of his time.

    Children who become too aware of things are punished for it and internalize the coercion to such an extent that as adults they give up the search for awareness. But because some people cannot renounce this search in spite of coercion, there is justifiable hope that regardless of the ever-increasing application of technology to the field of psychological knowledge, Kafka's vision of the penal colony with its efficient, scientifically minded persecutors and their passive victims is valid only for certain areas of our life and perhaps not forever. For the human soul is virtually indestructible, and its ability to rise from the ashes remains as long as the body draws breath.

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