Begrensningene til Alice Miller?

Med sine teorier har Alice Miller bokstavelig talt forandret livet mitt til det bedre. De setningene som siteres her i Wikiquote, for eksempel, viste meg hvordan jeg kunne frigjøre meg fra de psykiske skadene mine … og det er en annen historie. (Jeg skal oversette dem til norsk etter hvert)

Dagens historie er at jeg har lest de tidligste bøkene hennes om igjen, og jeg har lest hennes nyere bøker. Og følt et nagende ubehag … som jeg først merket for noen år siden da jeg leste «Open Letters» (åpne brev) på hjemmesiden hennes.

Det var en lettelse å finne Daniel Macklers ord til den formløse uroen min: :

An Analysis of the Limits of Alice Miller

Noen sitater: 

And it was Alice Miller who taught me who and what it is that we really need to fight.  We need to fight the lies and denial of our own childhood histories – and the traumas foisted upon us by our parents that still live encoded in our psyches.  I learned this right off the bat in the classic, timeless first line of her first and most famous book, The Drama of the Gifted Child (also known as Prisoners of Childhood), first published in 1979:  “Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness:  the emotional discovery and emotional acceptance of the truth in the individual and unique history of our childhood.” [p. 3].  I have heard it said that if Alice Miller wrote nothing more in her entire literary career that this line would make her a success for all time – and I cannot agree more.

Early in her writings, in her three first books, each brilliant in its own right, she struggled with the concept of blame.  This is the most overt weakness of the books – and the window into their writer’s underlying pathology.  Although she spent countless hundreds of pages using both case examples and theory to delineate exactly how parents are totally to blame for the horrors their child experiences at their hands, she apparently did not build a strong enough case to convince herself that they were blameworthy.
Take page 252 of For Your Own Good (1980), a book in which she offers detailed descriptions of parents who sexually abuse, physically torture, emotionally humiliate, and utterly abandon their children:
…because I do not place blame on the parents, I apparently create difficulties for many of my readers.  It would be so much simpler to say it is all the child’s fault, or the parents’, or the blame can be divided.  This is exactly what I don’t want to do, because as an adult I know it is not a question of blame but of not being able to do any differently.
Not being able to do any differently:  the classic rationalization of the abusive parent!
Or take page 58 of Thou Shalt Not Be Aware:  “[People cannot] grasp that I blame neither children nor parents.”  Later in the page she added, “But when psychoanalysts today attempt to discover who bears the guilt, they are voluntarily relinquishing what is essentially their most precious possession:  their knowledge of the unconscious and of the tragedy inherent in human existence.”


In Breaking Down the Wall of Silence (1990 edition), Alice Miller evolved a little further, stating her case more explicitly:  “Preaching forgiveness” – that is, what she used to do tacitly – “reveals the pedagogic nature of most ‘therapy.’” She then added, “It was my experience that it was precisely the opposite of forgiveness – namely, rebellion against mistreatment suffered, the recognition and condemnation of my parents’ destructive opinions and actions, and the articulation of my own needs – that ultimately freed me from the past.” [pp. 133-4]
The problem here is that Alice Miller only blamed parents insofar as she understood them to be guilty, and then let them off the hook after that, due her to her own denial of believing, for a time, that she was in fact fully healed – that is, had achieved a “total liberation” from her childhood traumas.  The 1988 edition of Banished Knowledge, the 1990 edition of Breaking Down the Wall of Silence, and the 1994 edition of The Drama of the Gifted Child are all full of references to her belief that she WAS fully healed, and the theory within these books rests on this misconception.  Try these two references fromBanished Knowledge:  Page xi:  “It took me fifteen years to accomplish this liberation process – from 1973, when spontaneous painting allowed me vaguely to sense the truth, until 1988, when I was finally able to articulate it completely.” Or, on page 142:  “Why, then, was I able to give up the repression?  Because I wanted at all costs to know the truth and finally did find a witness…”
Sadly, time proved her wrong her.  The witness she chose to help her “accomplish her liberation process” and “articulate it complete” was J. Konrad Stettbacher, a primal therapist whose methods Alice Miller embraced.  She wrote, in the preface to Banished Knowledge, “I wanted only to help the truth burst forth.  I eventually succeeded, in 1983, with the aid of Konrad Stettbacher’s therapy method, with which I deal in more detail later in this book.” [p. 7].  Then, on page 162 she added, “Stettbacher’s therapy avoids the danger of misuse by its transparency.”  And then:  “All it does is consistently offer patients the truth, that is, the opportunity to encounter their own past that they have been trying to escape at all costs.” [p. 162].  On the following page she added, “After spending four years applying J. Konrad Stettbacher’s carefully thought-out method to myself, I see ever more clearly that it amounts to the discovery of an inherent logical pattern in human beings, the functioning of which anyone can test.” [p. 163].
This all sounds great – beautiful and true – and like countless other who read these words, I found myself curious about and inspired by Stettbacher – and all the more so when I read Alice Miller’s 1991 Foreword and Afterword to Stettbacher’s book, Making Sense of Suffering.  From the Foreword:
J. Konrad Stettbacher is incorruptible in his judgments.  He is not blinded or unnerved by fear.  The theory he has evolved does not gloss over anything or veil it in secrecy.  It does not preach forgiveness.  Above all, it does not let anything deflect it from its duty as the attorney of the injured child. [p. 4]
This made it all the more confusing when, in the mid-1990s, she decided that his methods were dangerous (in part because he had not formally completed all of his licensure requirements and also had been accused of sexually “interfering” with a client, which I will deal with later in this paper) and she quickly expunged all mention of him from later editions of her books.  In 1996 she even publicly repudiated him on the internet, going so far as to threaten legal action against anyone who used her name to endorse him, despite the fact that it was her endorsement of him that had brought him fame (and fifteen thousand therapy referrals).
The fact that this did not raise her antennae suggests to me that she wrote in her first three books from a non-integrated place – with little conscious recognition of just how much of her psyche remained walled off in dissociation.  In fact, in the first edition of Drama of the Gifted Child (which she titledPrisoners of Childhood) she is so dissociated from herself that she makes the emphatic point that her ideas do not contradict Freud’s drive theories, despite the fact that the ideas she presents therein are some of the most scathing and succinct critiques of drive theory to date.  And she takes it even further by dedicating Thou Shalt Not Be Aware, the book in which she shows how Freud betrayed and abandoned his patients by creating a drive theory which labeled their sexual abuse histories as fantasies which they had desired…to Freud himself!  (She later called this dedication an error on her part – and removed it.)
Yet even though she evolved marginally after her first three books, as the result of her affiliation with Stettbacher, her works don’t suggest she grew much at all after repudiating him.  After her first three books her own theory never went much deeper – and instead just expanded laterally.  Whole books of hers are just taken up with case examples tracing the roots of famous people’s pathologies and creativities back to their unresolved childhood traumas.  None of these case examples, however, came close to providing the reader a deeper model of understanding humanity than her brilliant 1980 explication of Hitler, from her second book, For Your Own Good – pre-Stettbacher.
Jeg kan ikke være enig med Mackler i at mennesker som er traumatisert ikke bør få barn: 
The second consequence of Alice Miller’s denial is that she was never able to state this logical and obvious next step:  if you remain traumatized IN ANY WAY then it is inappropriate for you to have children.  It is inappropriate because you will by definition abuse them.  You cannot help NOT abusing them.  That is what unconscious and partially repressed people do:  they act out their repressed rage and repressed unmet needs on their children.  Alice Miller wiggles around this throughout her works by just taking it as a pre-ordained given that mothers will just go on having children regardless – almost as if there’s no point at even commenting on it.  (Though that doesn’t stop her from repeatedly saying several times that we have an obligation to heal our inner traumas to put an end to war and evil in the world – which happens to be true as well, though because it is a more lofty and detached and grand statement it remains safer to say.)  Alice Miller seems to think it is a mother’s right, regardless of her level of emotional resolution, to have children.  And it is not.  No one has a right to abuse anyone else.  That is a crime against humanity.
Selv om jeg er uenig i dette og andre argumenter, vil jeg anbefale Macklers analyse – og foreslå at den leses med et kritisk blikk.

Endret 15.05.15


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