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Free From Lies: Discovering Your True Needs

In her latest study, Free From Lies, famed psychologist Alice Miller examines the way child abuse shapes the psyche and the effect it can have on humanity. While the human brain has an incredible ability to normalize traumatic events, Miller argues that abuses suffered in childhood can never truly be repressed. It appears as though humanity is suffering from a collective amnesia regarding the wrongs we suffered in infancy. These wrongs, according to Miller, will manifest themselves later in life. We see evidence of this everywhere—in the form of domestic abuse, war, and genocide—all of which are prominent throughout our history. Those who have been able to break away from the cycle of abuse (a minority of about ten percent) are not without their problems, often suffering from serious health conditions later on in life.

Miller argues that humanity has, for the most part, come to define child abuse as "good parenting." The negative implications of this are two-fold: first, the child develops conflicting views regarding their parents, who act simultaneously as care-giver and as tyrant, and secondly, that the general, worldwide acceptance of child abuse will ensure it is passed down from generation to generation. Miller examines horrific dictators like Adolph Hitler, revered icons like Marilyn Monroe, serial killers, and domestic abusers. While the common denominator among her subjects is, of course, child abuse, Miller looks at the way her subjects have been psychoanalyzed. She argues that history tends to analyze and treat severely traumatized and/or psychotic adults by looking at the symptoms of their pain rather than determining the causes of it. Miller stresses the importance of asking the right questions when dealing with these seemingly traumatized adults. This, according to Miller, is the only way to determine the root cause of abuse and determine the appropriate course of therapy.

Free from Lies is a logical, well-documented study that examines the ideologies that society has been reluctant to confront. Miller challenges others in her field head-on, wondering aloud why some child psychologists continue to deny and document the existence of child abuse. Not only is her fearless study convincing and engaging, the book is also extremely readable. Miller's approach to writing is refreshingly no-nonsense; she refrains from padding her observations with diatribes and academic-speak, ensuring her work can be read and enjoyed by a mainstream audience.

A compelling read, Free from Lies belongs on the bookshelves of everyone from the novice to the well-seasoned psychoanalyst. This important study has all the trimmings of a classic in the making and it is bound to invite and create debate and dissection for many years to come. The study is best appreciated through multiple reading as it will reveal new truths and insights each time. If we want to better our communities, it is imperative we understand our own inner-workings. Free from Lies will serve as an excellent aid by promoting open discussion and release from our own forgotten abuses.

Written by: Cheryl Santa Maria, July 11th 2009

I never knew how important my childhood was until I had a therapist after a very traumatic breakup ask, "And what about your parents?" Turns out much of it goes back to them, and while I know lots of parents (or I guess adults in general) resent the idea of therapy bringing up a difficult childhood, the end result for me is a functional, healthy adult life (complete with now-healthy partnerships) I would not have otherwise achieved. My parents didn't physically abuse me, but they certainly used me to deal with their own issues and would still do so if I bothered to talk to them. My mother's parents were the same way, and she openly hates them but also chooses to live down the block from them. My father's wife once told me that it was my fault that she'd been mean to me when I was a child and that it was time for me to get over it.

I'm sick of people pretending that family is a cement into which you are poured and that everyone should get over their bad parents and learn to love them. You know what? Some parents really fucking suck, and children are not responsible for that. It isn't a young person's responsibility to be the adult or act in adult ways, but it can be part of adult healing to say "no more" to childhood pain that lingers. Sounds to me like just about everyone in my stupid, weirdo family could use a copy of this one.

Jaliya - I completely agree.

We do have our priorites completely mixed up. In our society, working inside a cubicle for 40 years is more respected in than the parent who makes sacrifices so that they can stay home and raise their children.

Our society holds earning power in a higher regard than human decency - very interesting when you consider the arguments Miller brings up in her book.

  • C

I've long thought that we've got our working priorities backward ... Parenting and caregiving are relegated to "unimportant" (i.e., not making money) status ... and what, really, matters more, especially when you consider the repercussions of what we tend to consider "normal" ...

Maybe not, but it's a message worth repeating with different titles. I agree that her writing is like a one-note samba at times but she makes a good case that childhood should not be discounted in understanding ourselves. Her absolutist insistence on putting our sympathy squarely with the suffering child who came into the world with needs is actually troublesome to many--what has surprised me in discussing her ideas with colleagues is that many still want to discount childhood suffering entirely or to excuse abusers (especially mothers) rather than give that abuse weight. She is also especially attentive to the many ways in which children are used for adult needs rather than adults actually caring for them. What would the world like if children were fully nurtured? Would it be worse than what we have now?

Doesn't sound like she's saying anything she hasn't said in her previous books.