This was originally posted on July 16, 2012
Child abuse does not have to be physical or sexual. The most widespread forms of child abuse are psychological, and therefore harder to see, acknowledge, and eradicate. As abused children, we unconsciously pass on patterns of abuse visited on us to children, and to others we have power over including students, employees, and even friends and lovers.
The recent visit of a friend who is suffering greatly in a “battle” with her own “demons” reminded me of the important work of Alice Miller. My friend’s “demons” take the form of a persistent self-criticism laced with the feeling that “if only” she did or didn’t do certain things, her world would fall into place. My “demons” generally take a different form, telling me that I am helpless and that there is nothing I can do to ease my suffering.
Such “demons” were not implanted in my friend and me by the devil. They took root in interactions with our own parents, who were not themselves any different from most of the parents of their time and place. Recognizing that our parents were not “bad” people should not blind us to the great harm they did to us. However, when abused children speak of their abuse, the statement that their parents did not intend to harm them usually functions to deflect attention away from child abuse that really did occur. What happened to my friend and me was something like this. In many small and perhaps also a few traumatic interactions, we learned that our feelings do not count. “Don’t talk now, your father is tired.” “Stop making so much noise, your father has a headache.” “Don’t ask your mother for attention, can’t you see that she has more than enough to do with your younger brother.” Harmless in themselves, such messages, when repeated over and over, lead the child to believe that there must be something wrong with the feelings she has.Continue reading “Carol P. Christ’s Legacy: Are Most of Us Abused Children? And is Child Abuse the Root of Evil?”