[Written around 2004.]
Alice Miller, perhaps the best published psychology writer to date, opens her most famous book, The Drama of the Gifted Child (first published in 1979), with this sentence: “Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness: the emotional discovery of the truth about the unique history of our childhood.” Few truer words have been written. Yet eighteen years later she closes the afterward of the same book (the 1997 edition) with the following sentence: “I spent a long time looking for a total exploration of my childhood history. Now I see that this was hubris” (her italics). Alice Miller gave up, and in so doing lost her place as a worthwhile role model for the truth seeker.
The only way to achieve full satisfaction in life is to totally explore and resolve the feelings around one’s own childhood history. Until we achieve this, the best we can hope for in terms of life satisfaction is the partial satisfaction of the explorer who stumbles but gets back on his feet and keeps on struggling, guided by his inner voice of confidence.
People give up hope because the path is too scary. They were too damaged when they were children and couldn’t find the resources within or beyond for guidance. Alice Miller’s conscious message in all her books is to make sense of the misery of the past to open oneself to the glories of the present and future. But even she failed. And if she who was so talented failed, then why should we dare to hope?
We must dare because if we don’t we will never be happy. We will become bitter and shriveled like Alice Miller and will write emotionally defensive and dishonest words that reach millions and subtly tell them that life’s greatest joys are unattainable.
Life’s joys are attainable, just not for Alice Miller. Alice Miller is now chaff along the road, a road that she paved a few extra miles for all of us, so that we may walk that much closer to perfection. Perfection is attainable. Ideals are attainable. Healing is attainable. Full self-knowledge is attainable. Enlightenment is attainable.
(More on Alice Miller here.)