An Analysis Of The Limits Of Alice Miller

Plenty of stuff to discuss in the world, with the focus on causes
User avatar
Dennis
Site Admin
Posts: 249
Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2005 2:06 am
Location: Sweden
Contact:

An Analysis Of The Limits Of Alice Miller

Post by Dennis »

An Analysis Of The Limits Of Alice Miller by Daniel Mackler is the first serious critique I've read on her. I admire Daniel's courage to have written down the contradictions and shortcomings in her writings, without ever leaving the side of the child. Former critiques I've read of other people, chose the side of the parent and didn't like the aspect of blaming the parent. Blaming a parent is still a taboo. Why blaming my mother or father, when they also did so many good things to me in my childhood, is a common thing to hear. 'If it wasn't for my parents, I wouldn't be here.' It's exactly this blindness, this confusion that prevents people from social change. People protect authorities, the same way they protect the parents. They are blind to cruelty, deaf to false promises, ignorant of manipulation and afraid of disobedience.

I'm sure Daniel also has a personal motivation in analyzing Alice Miller, as we all have in our lives in the things we do. Maybe in the future someone else will write: An Analysis Of The Limits Of Daniel Mackler. That would be great because pointing out in people who's work we admire, to what they did wrong and what they did right is a very healthy attitude. That's how knowledge grows, that's the way new generations can move forward without compromises.

I noticed during the break-up of Alice Miller and Stettbacher that people either chose side with Miller OR Stettbacher. Nobody that I know of could point out in both writers what was good and what was wrong.

People in an abusive relationship, may it be with a marriage, with a colleague, with your boss, with a friend, with a therapist, or yourself, they always rationalize the abusive aspects. They don't want to see it because there are so many good things as well. People who start recognizing and reacting to the abuse and condemn it, and fight or reject it, they are the ones whose self-confidence will grow. Standing up for yourself, to rebel, to fight, to criticize, to be angry, it's not tolerated in abused children. As adults it's still not tolerated to react like that to parent-figures. I'm glad Daniel found the confidence to describe what's hurtful and manipulative in Alice Miller's behavior, without denouncing the good things she has done.

Dennis
Daniel Mackler
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Oct 20, 2006 10:25 pm
Location: New York City
Contact:

Re: An Analysis Of The Limits Of Alice Miller

Post by Daniel Mackler »

Hi Dennis,

Thanks for the kind words. I had a few thoughts in reply.
Dennis wrote:I admire Daniel's courage to have written down the contradictions and shortcomings in her writings, without ever leaving the side of the child.
That was my goal.
Dennis wrote:Former critiques I've read of other people, chose the side of the parent and didn't like the aspect of blaming the parent. Blaming a parent is still a taboo.
Almost everyone I've seen who critiques Alice Miller does so in a naive and parent-protecting way - and it comes across more like guerilla warfare against her. I wanted to size her up more fully, and take her limits on directly.
Dennis wrote:I'm sure Daniel also has a personal motivation in analyzing Alice Miller, as we all have in our lives in the things we do.
True. I am conscious of many of my motives, and do not hide them. But of course, as I am a partially unconscious person, it would make sense that I have some unconscious motives as well. From studying my dreams I have some idea of these.
Dennis wrote: Maybe in the future someone else will write: An Analysis Of The Limits Of Daniel Mackler. That would be great because pointing out in people who?s work we admire, to what they did wrong and what they did right is a very healthy attitude.
I agree, and I think the first person who has the greatest obligation to write about my own limits is MYSELF, because I have the most access to my unconscious material, and if I keep studying myself with intensity and diligence I can gain a pretty strong sense of my own limits. Unfortunately for anyone else who might wish to write such a piece about me, I am keeping most of my personal history private ? at least for now ? but I feel it is my goal and responsibility in life not just to understand my limits by to heal them, grow out them?and become fully healed within ? to become enlightened.
Dennis wrote:That's how knowledge grows, that's the way new generations can move forward without compromises.
That's the truth!
Dennis wrote:I noticed during the break-up of Alice Miller and Stettbacher that people either chose side with Miller OR Stettbacher. Nobody that I know of could point out in both writers what was good and what was wrong.
I wasn't sure here if you meant that I took one side or the other. I tried not to.
Dennis wrote:People in an abusive relationship, may it be with a marriage, with a colleague, with your boss, with a friend, with a therapist, or yourself, they always rationalize the abusive aspects.
Yes! And so often if they do see the abusive dynamics they see the abusive dynamics of the other - and not their own! For me it's almost a cliché in couple's therapy ? that both partners often really understand all the shortcomings of their partner but have no clue about their own.
Dennis wrote:People who start recognizing and reacting to the abuse and condemn it, and fight or reject it, they are the ones whose self-confidence will grow. Standing up for yourself, to rebel, to fight, to criticize, to be angry, it's not tolerated in abused children. As adults it's still not tolerated to react like that to parent-figures.
No, and the punishments for speaking up are horrible ? rejection by the norm, alienation from the norm, being pathologized and marginalized by the norm. That is a horrible pressure and pain to bear, but from what I've seen it's part of the price of becoming free.
Dennis wrote:I'm glad Daniel found the confidence to describe what's hurtful and manipulative in Alice Miller's behavior, without denouncing the good things she has done.
Thanks, and I hope I succeeded well. I sure worked hard on that paper! And I?m still open to criticisms about it.

Thanks for having this forum here. You've got a good thing going.

-Daniel
Daniel Mackler

http://iraresoul.com
User avatar
Dennis
Site Admin
Posts: 249
Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2005 2:06 am
Location: Sweden
Contact:

Post by Dennis »

Hey Daniel,

It shows that you spend a lot of time on this. If I remember well, you mentioned on your forum that it took you 5 years.

What I meant was with people choosing side in the Miller-Stettbacher controversy, was that people either chose the side of Miller, and didn't want to hear anything bad about her while being all negative about Stettbacher and the other way around. It seems that few people can point out was was wrong and what was right in both people (in both their writings that is).

Do you plan to submit this critique to a paper? What are your plans with it?

Dennis
Daniel Mackler
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Oct 20, 2006 10:25 pm
Location: New York City
Contact:

Post by Daniel Mackler »

Dennis,

I?m not sure what my plans are for the paper. Any ideas? For now it just stays on my website ? and I actually was scared to put it up at first, because I didn?t know if I might get blasted or how I might be attacked for what I wrote.

The actual writing of the paper was very quick ? I wrote it in a couple of weeks, and basically had a good draft done in a couple of days. But the preparation ? mental, emotional ? for writing the paper was what took so long. I started catching the deeper limits of Alice Miller a few years after I started reading her, and then it took me a while to really think about them, see the deeper commonalities between her limits, and tie them together into a coherent line of reasoning.

Writing that paper was actually fun ? as I?m sure you have experienced as a writer yourself.

I just hope lots of people read the paper, and not for self-aggrandizing reasons, but because of my hope of spreading these ideas that I hold to be so necessary.

Also, there was a funny feeling that I had while writing the paper and even more so afterward that I would never have to do such a critique of a writer or thinker again, because I held Alice Miller to be the best, the top of the top. Also, I heard it said that to really critique someone fairly you should love them first, and I would say that is the case with Alice Miller. She?s helped me more than anyone. And she?s the only writer whom I have multiple copies of her books. Anytime I find a spare used copy of one of her books on the street I buy it!

Out of curiosity, are their psychology writers whom you hold to be more valuable and insightful than Alice Miller? Perhaps Janov? I liked him ? or what little I read of him ? but didn?t find he had the depth she did.
Daniel Mackler

http://iraresoul.com
User avatar
Dennis
Site Admin
Posts: 249
Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2005 2:06 am
Location: Sweden
Contact:

Post by Dennis »

I you write something controversial, you also take the risk to be judged and attacked. It happens to me sometimes but I try to put it in perspective. If I get a negative reaction to what I've written, good. People are allowed to get emotional. If I get a positive reaction, good, it helped them in understanding something better. If I get no reaction, at least I expressed myself.

Someone asked me once to write an article about my experiences with Alice Miller but I told him 'who cares about Alice Miller in the popular press'. If someone who doesn't know Miller and reads this, he or she wouldn't be motivated to read her books. And that's a shame. For people who have read her books, it would be very interesting. So send it to Miller, maybe she'll write a whole book about it.

As far as psychological writers, I value Alice Miller's discoveries, but also Janov's. Funny thing is that I had blocked out what Miller had written about him, when I was reading her books in 1991/92 and after I read them I went to the public library and typed Alice Miller in the computer and got as topic 'primal therapy'. That led me to Janov and I read Prisoners of Pain. That book made a huge impression on me, as well as The Feeling Child, Primal Man, and The New Primal Scream. There's also plenty of stuff in those books about the older childhood.

I think Stettbacher's book is very good. But it doesn't deal with the intense emotions that a person might get if early trauma comes up. The self-therapy lacks in that.

I also admire Elnora van Winkle very much (she passed away a few years ago) because she's the missing link between Janov and Miller.

Then there's Rien Verdult and Gaby Stroecken from Belgium who wrote a few books that stay hundred percent on the side of the child and are fully aware of the books by Miller and Janov, among others. I contemplated of translating and publishing their latest book 'The Myth of the Happy Childhood' in English but the publisher wants 1200 Euros (almost a 1000 dollars) for the rights, which is outside my league.

Dennis
D.R.B.

Post by D.R.B. »

Dennis:
It looks like Daniel's forum has taken over from this one as the place to discuss Alice Miller (Janov fans never showed much interest anyway). Some posts were transferred. Although there are too many posts each week for me to keep up with, I did read the correspondence you quoted from Alice Miller's old forum.
Jim Rich wrote:Untreated trauma victims such as those in the Forum just go on defending/attacking, avenging, abusing, lying, and spoiling everything and everyone in an unconscious effort to get revenge for their early injuries and find peace...
It sounds like a description of the person on Daniel's forum who makes more posts than anybody else. That person said about Chickadee: "She has to be taught a lesson in that forum." The language of poisonous pedagogy. If parents who were just beginning to reconsider their child-rearing principles came across Daniel's forum I think they would recoil in confusion. On his site, it's Alice Miller who's the target of an intellectual lynching -- because she has blind spots like everyone else. And I mean everyone (except narcissists in the superior psychoclass, of course!)
User avatar
Dennis
Site Admin
Posts: 249
Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2005 2:06 am
Location: Sweden
Contact:

Post by Dennis »

I remember reading similar stuff on Janov, at Speyrer's forum, where people tried to establish what was wrong about Janov (and not his writings). At Daniel's forum there is a lot said about Miller, but I don't see it as a intellectual lynching because everyone of us valued and still value her discoveries and give her credit for it. I believe good things will emerge from this because it gives people strength to see the shortcomings of those they look up to.

Cesar said indeed that he wanted to teach Chickadee a lesson and I suggested he shouldn't do that because it's not what it's about. John tried to explain that such intense emotions should be directed at one's own parents. I disagreed with Cesar on his social engineering ideas. But from disagreement I often learn.

People primarily interested in Primal seemed to have little interest in Alice Miller's discoveries. And people primarily interested in Alice Miller's work are seldom interested in Primal. The long-term subtle abuse that Miller speaks of cause strong defenses in people, especially at an intellectual level. The more intense traumas that Janov speaks of also create strong defenses, but at an emotional level. But in daily life this all interlinks with each other. I think that is what happened to a lot of people doing the 4-step-therapy of Stettbacher who experienced suddenly intense feelings of dying and were unprepared to deal with that. I think if they had read most books of Janov (and others), those feelings of death would perhaps have been lived and worked through.

Dennis
D.R.B.

Post by D.R.B. »

Alice Miller doesn't claim to be perfect. Somewhere on her site says she is not a Guru, and somewhere else she said she asked for her Nobel Peace Prize nomination to be retracted. I posted my comment when I went online to do some research into the Swedish Corporal Punishment Ban. I found one particular study of the results quoted again and again. But I wanted to know what happened within Swedish culture that persuaded the government to ban corporal punishment all those years ago. Was it a campaign of aggressive verbal attacks on un-enlightened parents? There must be something worth learning about how public opinion was turned around.
User avatar
Dennis
Site Admin
Posts: 249
Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2005 2:06 am
Location: Sweden
Contact:

Post by Dennis »

D.R.B. wrote:But I wanted to know what happened within Swedish culture that persuaded the government to ban corporal punishment all those years ago.
I don't know why such a law was installed at the time but I do know that 90 percent of the people at that time was against such law. Now it's as low as 10 percent. Someone in the government must have thought then: screw democracy, this law is for the future and then people will realize its benefit. I'll see if I can find some more information on this.

Dennis
D.R.B.

Post by D.R.B. »

I would appreciate it if you could find some more information (preferably in English). One article I found attributed the change to three factors:

1) The growth of the children's rights movement, represented by two organizations, Rädda Barnen (Swedish Save the Children - http://www.rb.se/eng) and BRIS (Children's Rights in Society).

2) A collectivist orientation that places children's welfare at the centre of social policy.

3) Parenting classes in schools.

That was the nearest to what I was looking for, but other countries have had active childrens' rights organizations for a century or more without coming close to banning corporal punishment. Who's idea was it to introduce parenting classes into schools? Did it come long before the ban?
Daniel Mackler
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Oct 20, 2006 10:25 pm
Location: New York City
Contact:

Post by Daniel Mackler »

D.R.B. wrote:
Jim Rich wrote:Untreated trauma victims such as those in the Forum just go on defending/attacking, avenging, abusing, lying, and spoiling everything and everyone in an unconscious effort to get revenge for their early injuries and find peace...

It sounds like a description of the person on Daniel's forum who makes more posts than anybody else. That person said about Chickadee: "She has to be taught a lesson in that forum." The language of poisonous pedagogy.
I don?t agree with Chickadee being taught an emotional lesson, and I think that when we have a desire to teach someone a lesson it probably is as you/Jim Rich say: a desire to get revenge on the parents. And that, to some degree, was mentioned on the thread. Meanwhile, I still have a desire to have Alice Miller read my long essay about her limits, and probably in part it is motivated by the same thing. Translation: ?grow up Mommy, see me, hear me!? That?s a big part of why I?m not sending it to her. And also I?m not sending it because I don?t see her changing AT ALL, so what?s the point? And also she?d probably hate me for sending it to her!
D.R.B. wrote:If parents who were just beginning to reconsider their child-rearing principles came across Daniel's forum I think they would recoil in confusion.
I think if people were to recoil in confusion after reading my bulletin board it would really be disguising their desire to not have to look at any of this stuff. It?s an open forum, and people have to accept that anyone in the world can come and post on there, and that I?m not only allowing stuff to be posted on there that suits my tastes. I think that?s a big part of the beauty on it ? and on this forum. And if some people can?t handle that, then I would suspect that they really don?t want to reconsider their child-rearing principles so deeply.
D.R.B. wrote:On his site, it's Alice Miller who's the target of an intellectual lynching -- because she has blind spots like everyone else. And I mean everyone (except narcissists in the superior psychoclass, of course!)
Oh? She?s not being lynched, she?s being critiqued for her legitimate flaws. We?re not out to hurt her or crush her, but to ? No, let me speak for myself. I?m out to come to a realistic appraisal of who she is, what her weaknesses are, and through this to figure out what her strengths are. Does this appraisal some how take precedence over my self-therapy and my self-analysis? Hell no! If anything it bolsters it. Alice Miller has proven herself extremely mature in many ways ? the top of the conventionally published field, I believe ? and extremely rigid, dogmatic, and stuck in other ways. I don?t want to fall into the same trap.

Also, as I pointed out in my Alice Miller paper, many of the tools I learned for analyzing the relative healthiness versus unhealthiness of others came from Alice Miller. What?s the crime in applying her tools to herself ? especially where she herself fails to apply them to herself?

By the way, I would MORE than welcome Alice Miller to come onto my forum and defend herself, and speak for herself. I wouldn't throw her off, that?s for sure! And I would 100% defend her right to defend herself without fear of insult or attack on her truth. Tell me a lynching where that happens?
Daniel Mackler

http://iraresoul.com
John
Posts: 22
Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2006 3:55 am

Post by John »

D.R.B. wrote:
If parents who were just beginning to reconsider their child-rearing principles came across Daniel's forum I think they would recoil in confusion.
Daniel wrote:
I think if people were to recoil in confusion after reading my bulletin board it would really be disguising their desire to not have to look at any of this stuff. It?s an open forum, and people have to accept that anyone in the world can come and post on there, and that I?m not only allowing stuff to be posted on there that suits my tastes. I think that?s a big part of the beauty on it ? and on this forum. And if some people can?t handle that, then I would suspect that they really don?t want to reconsider their child-rearing principles so deeply.

I think that what DRB is saying here has a ring of truth to it. Dennis had posted a quote from Prisoners of Pain, Janov where the essence of it was..."the neurotic wants chaos". One has to be aware that the ego is sneaky. It can get chaos, drive away the possibilty of understanding in the general population and then claim "openness". One of the costs of freedom is the necessity for boundaries. Which comes from identity. But people don't necessarily have that ( and even less so if they are wide open in a pain-release process!). Plus not everyone's motives are known to them. Daniel Mackler wrote a great essay on boundaries:

http://iraresoul.com/friendship.htm

Maybe Miller was trying in her imperfect way to get some of that in place? Perhaps without boundaries and not dealing with the above "Janov concept" , she set herself and others up to fall into family system repeats. Take a look at Daniel's essay. Is that about poisonous pedagogy? Taking away freedom? It's about IDENTITY. Which is expressed in boundaries.

Forums often lack boundaries. And sometimes there are hidden assumptions that just want to make chaos happen. Anyone in the primal process has an appreciation for the sheer depth of the ego. It's selective perception is limitless.

Just as a therapist has boundaries, so too can any medium of communication. On the other hand it does expose the state of each participants PERSONAL boundaries. Some people can operate anywhere. Chaos. Order...whatever. They get along fine. But lots of people aren't there. That's a reality that needs to be looked at I think. The idea of "democracy" as a sweeping term doesn't cut it in my opinion.

Daniel wrote:
Meanwhile, I still have a desire to have Alice Miller read my long essay about her limits, and probably in part it is motivated by the same thing. Translation: ?grow up Mommy, see me, hear me!? That?s a big part of why I?m not sending it to her. And also I?m not sending it because I don?t see her changing AT ALL, so what?s the point? And also she?d probably hate me for sending it to her!



It does seem that there is reliance on the intellect to give good signals on what to do. The ego will always be one step ahead of that. I think only pain release gives insight on what's right here...or if there is a big pain-blocking strategy being cooked up. Trauma release = sight. Even "admitting" mommy projections doesn't stir up the pain that it represents. It probably strengthens the defence.

I practically memorized John Bradshaw's work on 12 step and codependency. I was able to see my ego. And my ego convinced me that seeing it was beating it.

How wrong I was.

I'd have to agree with DRB on this one.

John
Daniel Mackler
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Oct 20, 2006 10:25 pm
Location: New York City
Contact:

Post by Daniel Mackler »

John wrote:I think that what DRB is saying here has a ring of truth to it.
I do too ? but I also stand by what I?m saying.
John wrote: Forums often lack boundaries.
True, and that adds a stress to it for me as a ?forum moderator.? But what I have determined is that a little chaos on a forum in which people can truly have the chance to express themselves is better than no forum at all. I was thinking about it recently, how FEW, FEW, FEW therapists I know have web forums. I give Alice Miller credit for trying. Not easy! It sounds like she had a concept in mind and it flopped. Forums have a fair amount in common with group therapy, and yet it?s much more complex and, as you point out, boundariless. But there are advantages for many people as well: the chance to really self-express, to be anonymous, to have it be an international venture, and to be open to the potential input of endless numbers of people!
John wrote: Just as a therapist has boundaries, so too can any medium of communication. On the other hand it does expose the state of each participants PERSONAL boundaries.
Well said. True for all of us!
Daniel Mackler

http://iraresoul.com
D.R.B.

Post by D.R.B. »

Daniel wrote:And if some people can’t handle that, then I would suspect that they really don’t want to reconsider their child-rearing principles so deeply.
It's perfectly OK if your forum is mainly for preaching to the converted. That's your prerogative. I asked Dennis about cultural factors in Sweden because I'd like to know which approach actually works.
Guest

Post by Guest »

I just found out about the other forum, psychology and emotional healing".

I am one of those "Janov fans" who has never really been interested in Alice Miller.
I have to admit I haven't read any of her books. The thing is, Miller talks about and exposes the terrible things that happened to us as children. But as a primaller, I already know all about this. What she talks about is important for people to read who are not aware of the effects of childhood trauma.

As far as I know, she doesn't really elaborate on methods of therapy herself. Since I haven't read her books I am not sure if this is correct.
This accounts for my lack of interest and probably for other primallers as well. I can't really do much at all for anyone else. The best thing I can do is continue with my own therapy.

Another point and this also relates to Lloyd De Mause's work, I believe that there is little validity in trying analyze anyone from a distance.
We can say that certain things happened to Adolf Hitler as a child,
but he himself would have had to have undergone therapy to really know what they were and how they related to his condition as an adult.
Also, society as a whole seems to be sick and neurotic, but society as a whole can't undergo therapy. Individuals have to do that. Ideally we would get healthy leaders, but when so many of us are sick, there seems to be little chance of that.

Phil
Locked