Concerning Forgiveness: The Liberating Experience of Facing Painful Truth | Alice Miller

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From alice-miller.com: “In those by-now familiar groups in which addicts and their relations go into therapy together, the following belief is invariably expressed: Only when you have forgiven your parents for everything they did to you can you get well. Even if both parents were alcoholics, even if they mistreated, confused, exploited, beat, and totally overloaded you, you must forgive them everything. Otherwise, your illness will not be cured. There are many programs going by the name of ‘therapy,’ whose basis consists of first learning to express one’s feelings in order to see what happened in childhood. Then, however, comes ‘the work of forgiveness,’ which is apparently necessary if one is to heal. Many young people who have AIDS or are drug-addicted die in the wake of their effort to forgive so much. What they do not realize is that they are *dying to keep the repression of their childhood intact.

. . . It was my experience that it was precisely the opposite of forgiveness – namely, rebellion against mistreatment suffered, the recognition and condemnation of my parents’ misleading opinions and actions, and the articulation of my own needs – that ultimately freed me from the past. In my childhood, these things had been ignored in the name of ‘a good upbringing,’ and I myself learned to ignore them for decades in order to be the ‘good’ and ‘tolerant’ child my parents wished me to be. But today I know: I always needed to expose and fight against opinions and attitudes that I considered destructive of life wherever I encountered them, and not to tolerate them. But I could only do this effectively once I had felt and experienced what was inflicted on me earlier. By preventing me from feeling the pain, the moral religious injunction to forgive did nothing but hinder this process.

The demand for good behavior has nothing to do with either an effective therapy or life. For many people in search of help, it closes the path to freedom. Therapists allow themselves to be led by their own fear – the mistreated child’s fear of its parents’ revenge – and by the hope that good behavior might one day be able to buy the love their parents denied them. The price that patients have to pay for this illusory hope is high indeed. Given false information, they cannot find the path to self-fulfillment.

By refusing to forgive, I give up my illusions. A mistreated child, of course, cannot live without them. But a grown-up therapist must be able to manage it. His or her patients should be able to ask: ‘Why should I forgive, when no one is asking me to? I mean, my parents refuse to understand and to know what they did to me. So why should I go on trying to understand and forgive my parents and whatever happened in their childhood, with things like psychoanalysis and transactional analysis? What’s the use? Whom does it help? It doesn’t help my parents to see the truth. But it does prevent me from experiencing my feelings, the feelings that would give me access to the truth. But under the bell-jar of forgiveness, feelings cannot and may not blossom freely.’ Such reflections are, unfortunately, not common in therapeutic circles, in which forgiveness is the ultimate law . . .

A child can excuse its parents, if they in their turn are prepared to recognize and admit to their failures. But the demand for forgiveness that I often encounter can pose a danger for therapy, even though it is an expression of our culture. Mistreatment of children is the order of the day, and those errors are therefore trivialized by the majority of adults. Forgiving can have negative consequences, not only for the individual, but for society at large, because it can mean disguising erroneous opinions and attitudes, and involves drawing a curtain across reality so that we cannot see what is taking place behind it.

The possibility of change depends on whether there is a sufficient number of enlightened witnesses to create a safety net for the growing consciousness of those who have been mistreated as children, so that they do not fall into the darkness of forgetfulness, from which they will later emerge as criminals or the mentally ill. Cradled in the ‘net’ provided by such enlightened witnesses, these children can grow to be conscious adults, adults who live with and not against their past and who will therefore be able to do everything they can to create a more humane future for us all.

. . . It has already been scientifically proved that weeping caused by sadness, pain, and fear not only causes tears to fall. Stress hormones, which lead to a general relaxation of the body, are also released. Of course, this cannot be equated with therapy. Nevertheless, it is an important discovery that should find its way into the treatments used by therapeutic practitioners. So far, though, the opposite has been the case. Patients are given tranquilizers to calm them. What would happen if they began to gain access to the causes of their symptoms! The problem with medical pedagogy is that the majority of those involved, the institutions and specialists, in no way wish to know why it is people become ill. The result of this denial is that countless chronically ill people become permanent residents of our prisons and clinics, while billions are spent by the government on keeping mum about the truth. Those affected must on no account realize that they can be helped to understand the language of their childhood, thereby truly reducing their suffering or even relieving it altogether.

. . . The dangerous teaching of ‘poisonous pedagogy’ – ‘Thou Shalt Not Be Aware of What Was Done to You’ – reappears in the methods of treatment practiced by doctors, psychiatrists, and therapists. With medication and mystifying theories they try to influence their patients’ memories as deeply as possible, in order that they never find the cause of their illness. These lie, almost without exception, in the psychic and physical mistreatment and neglect suffered in childhood.

Today, we know that AIDS and cancer involve a drastic collapse of the body’s immune system, and that this physical ‘resignation’ precedes the sick person’s loss of hope. Incredibly, hardly anyone has taken the step that these discoveries suggest: that we can regain our hope, if our distress signals are finally heard. If our repressed, hidden story is at last perceived with full consciousness, even our immune system can regenerate itself. But who is there to help, when all the ‘helpers’ fear their own personal history? And so we play the game of blindman’s buff with each other – patients, doctors, medical authorities – because until now only a few people have experienced the fact that emotional access to the truth is the indispensable precondition of healing. In the long run, we can only function with consciousness of the truth. This also holds for our physical well-being. Bogus traditional morality, destructive religious interpretations, and confusion in our methods of child-rearing all make this experience harder and hinder our initiative. Without a doubt, the pharmaceutical industry also profits from our blindness and despondency. However, each of us has been given only one life and only one body. It refuses to be fooled, insisting with all means at its disposal that we do not deceive it.”

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2 COMMENTS

  1. “the moral religious injunction to forgive did nothing but hinder this process.” Yes, and in my personal case – where I dealt with Holy Spirit blaspheming doctors – forgiveness is not even my right, it’s God decision, since blaspheming the Holy Spirit is the only unforgivable sin in the Holy Bible.

    ‘Why should I forgive, when no one is asking me to?

    And as one who was drugged up, for questioning a dream about the Holy Spirit, by an ELCA Holy Spirit blaspheming psychologist, whose primary actual goal – I eventually learned, when my family’s medical records were finally handed over – was covering up the sexual assault of my three year old child. And I learned the hard way, the ELCA Lutheran bishops most definitely DON’T want forgiveness, I’d be one of the many widows mentioned in the Preface of this book.

    https://books.google.com/books/about/Jesus_and_the_Culture_Wars.html?id=xI01AlxH1uAC

    “But it does prevent me from experiencing my feelings, the feelings that would give me access to the truth. But under the bell-jar of forgiveness, feelings cannot and may not blossom freely.’ Such reflections are, unfortunately, not common in therapeutic circles, in which forgiveness is the ultimate law . . .”

    Most definitely, once the medical evidence of the abuse of my child was finally handed over, the truth was what was very helpful to me. And, as I stated, it’s not my job to forgive those who committed the only “unforgivable sin” in the Holy Bible, those are sins one hands off to God.

    “Cradled in the ‘net’ provided by such enlightened witnesses, these children can grow to be conscious adults, adults who live with and not against their past and who will therefore be able to do everything they can to create a more humane future for us all.”

    I hope that’s the truth for my children, so far they’re doing reasonably well. But largely because I was able to get my children away from the child molesters fairly quickly, and gave them lots of love. I do pray for all child abuse survivors, especially those that have been caught up within our satanic, systemic child abuse covering up “mental health” industries.

    “What would happen if they began to gain access to the causes of their symptoms!”

    Yes, the “invalid” DSM distracts from the truth of one’s family’s problems, and nothing the current psychological nor psychiatric industries’ believes, helps people.

    “‘Thou Shalt Not Be Aware of What Was Done to You’ – reappears in the methods of treatment practiced by doctors, psychiatrists, and therapists. With medication and mystifying theories they try to influence their patients’ memories as deeply as possible, in order that they never find the cause of their illness.”

    Indeed, that is the truth. Deny, deny, deny, and neurotoxic poison – forever – it does seem, is the mantra of today’s doctors, psychiatrists, and therapists.

    “we can regain our hope, if our distress signals are finally heard.”

    Or even if they are not heard, by anyone other than God. At least in my case, maintaining hope in God – while my childhood religion went off “partnering with the mental health workers” – a religion that is now being confessed to be hitting bottom by others – has been helpful to me.

    https://www.firstthings.com/article/2018/10/elca-hits-bottom

    “No fear,” and maintaining hope in a good and just God, is a good belief system, IMHO.

    “If our repressed, hidden story is at last perceived with full consciousness, even our immune system can regenerate itself.”

    Indeed, being handed over the medical evidence of the abuse of my child, finding the medical evidence of the anticholinergic toxidrome poisonings of me, and learning about the story of my dreams. Then my awakening to the systemic religious, medical, and other corporate crimes committed against me and my children, did help me.

    “But who is there to help, when all the ‘helpers’ fear their own personal history?”

    And I must agree, the systemic child abuse covering up “mental health” ‘helpers’ are more of a part of the problem, than a part of the solution.

    “only a few people have experienced the fact that emotional access to the truth is the indispensable precondition of healing.”

    Thankfully, I do think I may be one of them. But that does not mean we are not in the midst of an enormous Spiritual battle of good vs. evil. And I agree, “the truth shall make you free.”

    “In the long run, we can only function with consciousness of the truth.”

    In as much as I agree with you regarding the systemic crimes of our religions. I also agree, “However, each of us has been given only one life and only one body. It refuses to be fooled, insisting with all means at its disposal that we do not deceive it.”

    And it was my experience that deceiving people is the primary actual function of the DSM deluded, systemic child abuse covering up, so called, “mental health professionals.”

  2. No one should ever be forgiven for child sexual abuse and child cruelty.

    That is a line in the sand.

    Beyond that though I feel that “mercy”, which is within forgiveness is a kind of giving that gives back to the giver a million fold.

    Parent bashing is just not my thing. It used to be. I wore Millar’s book like sandwich board strapped to my back for a few years and borrowed Millar’s ire to humiliate, berate, bully, ridicule my delightfully eccentric, caring, nice parents.

    I grew up. I grew to see that my parents are frail, vulnerable, muddled up, lost, products of their own era. I stopped seeing them as gods who had outrageously disappointed me. I found a better superpower than A. Millar’s anger. I found the superpower of mercy and with it I became “realistic” and reduced my absurd expecatation of them. Until there was nothing to forgive.
    Our parents are with us for only a few decades and then they are gone forever. I think a lot of people are aware of this and that is amongst one of the most powerful of reasons why they feel angry at parents….

    People get angry not so much at their parents for being ineffectual but because of the abandonment parents will always succeed at through their simple human mortality.

    How can we ever forgive our parents for dying?

    That’s not how it’s supposed to go!

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