The Longest Journey – or, What Can We Expect from Psychotherapy? | Alice Miller


From “The longest journey of my life was the journey to my own self. I do not know whether I am an exception in this matter, or whether there are other people who have experienced the same thing. It is certainly not a universal experience: fortunately, there are people who from the moment of their birth were lucky enough to be accepted by their parents for what they were, with all their feelings and needs. Right from the outset these people had unrestricted access to those feelings and needs. They did not have to deny them, nor did they have to embark on long journeys to find something withheld from them when they needed it most.

My experience was different. It has taken me all my life to allow myself to be what I am and to listen to what my inner self is telling me, more and more directly, without waiting for permission from others or currying approval from people symbolizing my parents.

I am frequently asked what I understand by successful therapy. I have in fact answered this question indirectly in many of my books. But after this brief introduction perhaps I can put it more simply: Successful therapy should shorten this long journey. It should liberate us from our ingrained adaptation strategies and help us learn to trust our own feelings – something our parents have made difficult, if not impossible. Because it was prohibited, and hence feared, right from the beginning, many people find it impossible to embark on such a journey. Later, the role played initially by our parents is taken over by teachers, priests, society, and morality, all of them conspiring to cement this fear. And cement, as we know, is very difficult to soften.”

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  1. A support group of caring, intelligent, non-judgmental peers with appropriate life experience can perform the same function as therapists without the degrading labels and power imbalance inherent in a therapeutic relationship. Without the “scientific” authority conferred by the wholly subjective diagnoses and treatments of disorders that are incorporated into or dropped by the DSM depending on the current cultural trends (e.g. the declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973), what gives so-called mental health professionals the wisdom and skills to ply their bogus trade?

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