Readers’ Mail

 

Your lovely book!

Sylvie,

Your “journey” has brought you to a level of understanding and peace that so few have.  And you had to share your life’s story so that others could benefit…and you did it in a way that others could understand and see that they, too, could overcome the bonds of their childhood and live a full life.  Thank you!

I have primarily focus my “journey” on my “spiritual” growth and have neglected my true emotional development.  My spiritual journey has brought me to a level of peace and acceptance of many things that apparently upset others such as sexual identity, death, abortion, and other social issues.  As a psychologist who had provided therapy and a lot of psychodiagnostic testing, I have neglected my emotional history (like many you refer to).  Like so many I, too, always remembered by childhood in such positive ways due to having a “happy” childhood.  After I divorced my first wife, my parents “disowned” me.  They couldn’t accept that their son would do such a thing and hurt his wife and children (three daughters). I excused them since I knew that “lose” was an issue within their lives since they had lost a son before I had been born.   Then I began to realize how their “love” had always been so conditional and they had always dealt with any strong emotional issue by withdrawing themselves and their love.  After losing my second wife of 16 years to brain cancer, I met Sally.  We are best friends and now (since 12/12/12) are husband and wife!

Sally had a journey like yours with much emotional abuse as a child from parents who were both schizophrenic and alcoholics and who through her two marriages and much therapy and AA involvement transcended into a loving and self-understanding person.  Between Sally confronting me with my past and challenging and encouraging me to look again at those sources of issues and then reading your book has opened new understanding….my journey continues in letting those experiences and early emotions (much which were denied and excused by my parents since they were both emotionally unavailable due to their own issues) come forth, experience them, confront them, and then move on with even greater peace and love of myself and others.  My journey continues!

Thank you!  Being dyslexic as a child, you have overcome or mastered your learning issues to be able to relate in a wonderful way to others.  Your style of writing is easy to read, enjoyable, and thought provoking.  Great job!  I’ve tested children and adults for dyslexia and other learning disabilities throughout my career and still do evaluations for college students seeking special accommodations on tests (extended time, alternative test taking site, etc.) and consult with some local private schools, doing testing for children with learning or emotional issues so that they can receive special educational services.  I love doing the testing and have given up all therapy since I’m semi-retired.

I do agree with you about “therapists” and other mental health people.  When I was seeking therapy for myself during my divorce, I had much difficulty finding someone I could relate to and with whom I felt comfortable.  I do know several who would meet your criterion who are loving, caring, and very self-aware of themselves and their own histories and who are really good and effective therapists.  You might like to read Voices in the Family by Dan Gottlieb.  Dan is a friend who has been paralyzed for a number of years (from a car accident) and was on NPR for a while.  He lives in southern NJ and had practiced in Philadelphia.  He continues to write and has a number of books, several talking with his grandson who has autism about life (Letters to Sam).  He, like you, writes in a comforting and loving way through which others can abstract the underlying emotions and gather great wisdom and understanding about themselves and others.

I’ll end now but just wanted you to know a little about the effect that your book had on me and some of my background.   I will continue to grow in emotional understanding and spiritual awareness, even more now due to reading your book.  Thank you for your life, your sharing of it, and for being a really caring person!  Peace.

E (I look forward to continued communication and friendship via FB, blogs, email, etc.)

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Hi E,

I’m sorry it took me so long to reply to your e-mail, but still needing a real job at the moment to take care of myself; it takes a lot of my time and most days after work I’m beat with little time and without disposition to write anymore. Having a job dealing with the public, where almost everyone unconsciously and compulsively are looking for a scapegoat to take revenge for the wrongs done to them when they were defenseless little children and having to be constantly on guard, it’s very draining that after work I just want to relax, go for walk and play with my cats.

Thank you for writing to share so much about yourself with me. I don’t come across very often of mental health professionals willing to share anything about themselves.

It means a lot to me that someone in the metal health profession appreciates my book and doesn’t feel threaten by  it, like most do, actually you are the first person in the mental health profession not to feel threaten by it. Most feel too threaten by me and pretend not to see me and don’t acknowledge my existence — hoping I will never get notice by anyone.

Hearing that you find my book helpful in your own journey and opened your understanding; makes all my hard work of writing it and all the emotional harassment I have been through in the work place after I publish my book worthwhile.

I’m sorry your present wife, S had a similar journey to mine with much emotional abuse and neglect as a child from parents that were both schizophrenic and alcoholics. No child should be born to suffer all alone in an emotional desert island like we did. But we are a few of the lucky ones that after a long journey, we have been able to break free, from the emotional prison of our childhood with two health legs to stand on without crutches  and able enjoy the rest of our lives in freedom.  I had exactly the same experience as Alice Miller, just like she wrote in her article  “The Longest Journey”  “..it has been a very long Journey, it has taken me also all of my life to finely free myself of all the crutches and get two healthy legs to stand on.”

I’m sorry your parents disowned you after you got divorced. I had my dancing money embezzled and pretty much rejected and ostracized by everyone — so in a way I have been disowned too — being rejected and ostracized is a price we pay, most of the time, for being authentic and true to ourselves, but all of my life has been a risk I’m willing to take. I rather die than live a false life like most people. All of my life I could not help myself, but be true to myself.

Staying true to ourselves even at the risk of losing the people we love, the pain is deep but we must stay true to ourselves.  These words by Alice Miller are so true: “…Witness of sudden political upheavals report again and again with what astonishing facility many people are able to adapt to a new situation. Overnight they can advocate views totally different from those they held the day before—without noticing the contradiction. With the change in power structure, yesterday has completely disappeared for them.

And yet, even if this observation should apply to many—perhaps even the most—people, it is not true for everyone. There have always been individuals who refused to be reprogrammed quickly, if ever. We could use our psychoanalytic knowledge to address the question of what causes this important, even crucial, difference; with its aid, we could attempt to discover why some people are so extraordinarily susceptible to the dictates of leaders and groups and why others remain immune to these influences.

We admire people who oppose the regime in a totalitarian country and think they have courage or a “strong moral sense” or have remained “true to their principles” or the like.  We may also smile at their naiveté, thinking, “Don’t they realize that their words are of no use at all against this oppressive power?  That they will have to pay dearly for their protest?”

Yet it is possible that both those who admire and those who scorn these protesters are missing the real point:  individuals who refuse to adapt to a totalitarian regime are not doing so out a sense of duty or because of naiveté but because they cannot help but be true to themselves.  The longer I wrestle with these questions, the more I am inclined to see courage, integrity, and a capacity for love not as “virtues,” not as moral categories, but as the consequences of a benign fate.

Morality and performance of duty are artificial measures that become necessary when something essential is lacking.  The more successfully a person was denied access to his or her feelings in childhood, the larger the arsenal of intellectual weapons and the supply of moral prostheses has to be, because morality and a sense of duty are not sources of strength or fruitful soil for genuine affection.  Blood does not flow in artificial limbs; they are for sale and can serve many masters.  What was considered good yesterday can—depending on the decree of government or party—be considered evil and corrupt today, and vice versa.  But those who have spontaneous feelings can only be themselves.  They have no other choice if they want to remain true to themselves.  Rejection, ostracism, loss of love, and name calling will not fail to affect them; they will suffer as a result and will dread them, but once they have found their authentic self they will not want to lose it.  And when they sense that something is being demanded of them to which their whole being says no, they cannot do it.  They simply cannot.”

Again thank you for writing and congratulations for your courage to be authentic even at the risk of losing the people you love.

Best wishes,

Sylvie