Alice Miller in a Nutshell: A Brief Critique

[Written in late 2009.]

Although I have already written a sixteen thousand word essay analyzing the work of Alice Miller—my favorite writer in the psychology field—over the years several people have asked that I create a shorter, more concise, easier-to-read version.  I have finally done so—and have gone in a few new directions too…

Before I begin the new essay, I want to make a few background points.  I wrote the longer essay in 2006.  A few months after I wrote it someone passed it along to Alice Miller herself, and she read it—and criticized it harshly on her website.  She labeled parts of it “highly confusing,” she argued that I was taking her words out of context, and she stated that my motivation was to confuse her readers.  However, by putting my name on her website she generated a significant amount of attention for my essay, because within hours a horde of people googled my name, found the essay, and read it for themselves.  (Several wrote me complimentary emails.)  The next day, however, Alice Miller realized her “error” and removed my name from her website, calling me “Mr. X.” instead, presumably to make it more difficult for people to find the essay and judge my words for themselves. Continue reading

An Analysis of the Limits of Alice Miller

[Written in 2006.]

It may be considered indiscreet to open the doors of someone else’s house and rummage around in other people’s family histories.  Since so many of us still have the tendency to idealize our parents, my undertaking may even be regarded as improper.  And yet it is something that I think must be done, for the amazing knowledge that comes to light from behind those previously locked doors contributes substantially toward helping people rescue themselves from their dangerous sleep and all its grave consequences.
      –Alice Miller, The Untouched Key, preface

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Alice Miller has influenced my thinking more than any other writer in the psychology field.  She opened my eyes to the struggle of the child in the repressive family, she introduced me to the idea that an abused child will compulsively need to replicate his repressed traumas until he is able to resolve them, and she banished from my mind the idea of inherent evil in the child – or the adult.  Continue reading

To Those Who Have Given Up Hope

[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. Continue reading