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The body never lies : the lingering effects of hurtful parenting
Alice Miller
Adult Nonfiction RC569.5.C55 M55713 2005

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From Publishers' Weekly:

In her latest vehement treatise, Swiss psychoanalyst Miller (The Drama of the Gifted Child) reprises her classic critiques of filial duty. In her view, our culture systematically denies childhood abuse sufferers access to their true feelings. Repressed emotional responses to early humiliations and unfulfilled needs are inevitably transferred to the body, Miller believes, producing long-term illness. She also believes that the majority of therapists are bent on fostering an attitude of forgiveness. Miller instead urges the reader to reappraise the substance of the Fourth Commandment, which she construes as containing "a kind of moral blackmail" and, reflecting on her own unhappy childhood, argues that what survivors of parental cruelty need most is someone who shares their feelings of indignation. Miller traces the relationship between inadequate or tyrannical parenting and adult bodily illness, depression and suicide in pithy biographies of Dostoyevski, Chekhov, Kafka, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and many others. Yet Miller is more a subjective observer and a guru than a social scientist. Her highly personal, undertheorized and generalizing approach will strike some as simplistic, yet those who loyally follow her child-centered philosophy will probably find much to enjoy in the conviction with which she writes. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

These two studies of trauma are as different as pessimism and optimism, rage and love. Swiss psychoanalyst Miller (The Drama of the Gifted Child) would like to abolish the commandment "Honor thy father and thy mother" because it protects perpetrators of child abuse. Even therapists, she says, are culturally inhibited from critically assessing bad parenting. Miller believes that nothing is forgotten by the body, though much is repressed by the mind. Those like herself who find an "enlightened witness" (therapist or friend) can confront emerging rage and escape bodily ills that include dermatitis, tuberculosis, tumors, and rheumatism. The truth of the matter-and there is some here-suffers from overgeneralization. Some children are indeed victims of bad parenting, but not all suffer as Miller describes; she fails to differentiate categories of experience, remedy, and outcome. Furthermore, she scorns forgiveness and has little to say about resilience. As a result, her insights become diluted through oversimplification: blame the parents and the biblical morality that shields them. French neuropsychiatrist and ethologist Cyrulnik (The Dawn of Meaning) takes a subtler view of trauma: it has to have salience, meaning, in order to be remembered by its victims. We are not traumatized, he asserts, by those we do not love or respect but suffer twice when the hurt comes from someone we do love. His book is made up of 43 short chapters containing vignettes, most clinical, some historical, with psychological teachings imparted with poetic charm. Unlike Miller, Cyrulnik is as interested in trauma as he is in strength and resilience-the factors that sustain people through traumatic experiences or enhance their recovery: "Because they had been loved, they had a hope of being helped.We can dream to protect ourselves or to imagine ourselves." He finds examples of such recoveries in street children, outcasts from the Middles Ages, and orphans of war and examines instances of physical, mental, and sexual abuse. The Whispering of Ghosts is outstanding and highly recommended for all libraries; The Body Never Lies is limited in scope but worth considering owing to Miller's considerable audience.-E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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