By Alice Miller
Publish yr note: First released in 1991
Miller accommodates psycho-historical analyses of Hitler, Stalin, and Ceausescu to bare the hyperlinks among the horrors in their childhoods and the horrors they inflicted at the global. She pleads for an expertise of society’s position in baby abuse and for acceptance of the sufferer.
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Extra resources for Breaking Down the Wall of Silence: The Liberating Experience of Facing Painful Truth (Revised Edition)
As far as she was concerned, her behavior was justifiable punishment for my wrongdoing. qxd 10 10/13/08 11:41 AM Page 10 b r e a k i n g d ow n t h e wa l l o f s i l e n c e offered his protection, this long, unremitting silence was an agony. Even worse than the silence itself was the child’s doomed but persistent attempt to discover its cause. As in Kafka’s Penal Colony, the accused was in this case denied any clarification as to the nature of her offenses. This omission, however, contained a message: “If you don’t even know why you have earned this punishment, then it is clear that you are quite without conscience.
But when I look back over those encounters, none of them, however painful, irritating, or simply regrettable, was as threatening or destructive as my mother’s silence at the time of my greatest dependence on her. As an adult I could choose to confront that silence with questions and facts. I could evaluate a person’s behavior and responses. qxd 12 10/13/08 11:41 AM Page 12 b r e a k i n g d ow n t h e wa l l o f s i l e n c e relationship. I also had access to other people, people who did not punish me with their silence or take liberties with me.
So rather than question my mother’s behavior, I cast doubt on the rightness of my own feeling that I was being unjustly treated. As I had no point of comparison of her behavior with that of other mothers, and as she constantly portrayed herself as the embodiment of duty and self-sacrifice, I had no choice but to believe her. And, anyway, I had to believe her. To have realized the truth would have killed me. Therefore, it had to be my wickedness that was to blame when Mother didn’t speak to me, when she refused to answer my questions and ignored my pleas for clarification, when she avoided the slightest eye contact with me and returned my love with coldness.