Most Groups Become Cultish
VA: I love your book. I would like to be a Facebook friend with you or to be a member of a group. Do you provide therapy?
SIS: Thank you for reading my book and for writing. I don’t provide therapy, but I do try, as time allows me, to write back to everyone that writes me.
I wrote my book sharing my journey to emotional freedom — to be a therapy — and a support to aid others liberation from their emotional prisons.
I don’t run any therapy groups, because I don’t believe in group therapy. From my experience I find it to be a distraction to our emotional work – to experience our authentic feelings — and no matter how good the intentions of the group creator are – most groups become cultish and a trap keeping people stuck in the state of dependence and they don’t encourage or aid a person’s autonomy.
VA: I sure do completely Agree with you. By the Way, thank you for your Quick response. I just don’t really know how to heal. I feel sort of lost. Looking for solutions. Your book is wonderful. I have never seen so much clarity and courage, especially when disclosing holy cows as AA or Al-anon. You are brave and you are unique. Thank you
SIS: You’re welcome. I wish I could hold everyone’s hand through the repressed excruciating painful feelings of the child they once were, but I can’t — in the end — we are all alone — if we want to truly liberate ourselves — we must find the courage and strength to allow ourselves to consciously feel all the repressed emotions of the child we once were, as present circumstances trigger them to the surface. Wishing you courage and strength
VA: So It is. Your courage is very inspiring. That’s enough. Thank you and for your honesty is so very important because simply it is so extremely rare since as you say as soon as one enters into a relationship in therapy or group immediately we are triggered to reenact the roles and traumas or even worse and unfortunately more common. Someone there is more than eager to make living out of others misery and thus subconsciously prolongs the unhealthy state of dependence.
SIS: You seem to understand. Congratulations!
A Sign That I Got it Right
Thank you so much for your email. I really appreciated how you took the time to respond to everything I wrote and added your own observations. What was a little shocking and scary, if I were, to be honest, was when you shared a quote from Alice Miller which used concentration camp victims as a basis for her ideas. For a long time, I used to think of my childhood was like being in a concentration camp. I think I was right. I just recently told my sister this and she agreed without hesitation. Without the proper help, though, that comparison faded in my mind over the past decade because it was too hard to bear. My therapists left the key untouched (!) and my only recourse was to mentally distance myself from it all. As you know, I’m ready to face it now.
I wish I could share more. I can tell I still need to wait, though.
I’m so sorry you have to endure manipulation and abuse from perfect strangers because of your book. However, I think it’s a sign you got it right!
All the best,
I’m so glad my book together with Alice Miller’s books has given you the support you need for you to gather the courage and now you feel ready to face your own childhood repression.
Feel free to write me anytime when you feel a need and ready.
Yes, most people’s childhood is like being in a concentration camp or emotional prison. Most of us were hostages of our parents or parents’ substitutes.
It’s sad that since I published my book I’m targeted by malignant narcissists’ trying to regress me and steal my freedom to bring me back into the emotional prison of childhood.
And it’s even sadder when these people proclaim to be therapists hiding behind Alice Miller, misusing her insights to manipulate me and blind me. These so-called “mental health professionals” just want their patients and everyone else to be tamed and below them, so they can have total control over them.
Yes, you are right, the fact that I’m targeted by so many malignant narcissists after I published my book – it’s a sign that I got it right!
I witness day by day how many use good information to manipulate and abuse others. This is what I have been going through lately with a woman that proclaims to be a therapist named Olane Roos/Liliane Rombout. She proclaims to do her therapy based on Alice Miller’s work. But with her critique of my book, she wants to rewrite my own story and what I should feel or not feel. How fxxked up is that?!
She is twisting the information she read in Alice Miller’s books to manipulate and exploit her clients and followers with half-truths she memorized like a parrot.
Many professionals out there, do great analyses and understand well the reasons of mental illness, depression, addictions and chronic illness, that is linked to childhood loss and trauma, and I quote few other professionals in my book to prove that are out there, other professionals saying what Alice miller says, but how they go about to heal those traumas, they use all kinds of manipulatives tactics and the same old tools like yoga, meditation, 12 steps and controlled drugs, that all it does is manipulate people’s feelings, and repress their authentic feelings all over again, and as long people go on repressing their authentic feelings, they will be driven by them into the state of repetition compulsion of doing to others, themselves or both, especially their own children, what once was done to them, when they were defenseless little children.
And the reason they do this is because they have not broken free from their own childhood repression. The only thing they have changed in their lives is the roles. Now they play the all-powerful role of father or mother figure over others keeping everyone stuck in the emotional prison of childhood.
It’s the repression of our authentic feelings that cause us long-term harm and not the trauma itself.
The Problem in our Society is an Emotional Blockage with the so-called “Educated People” We don’t need more studies or analyses to show us what causes mental illness and violence.
The problem is not lack of knowledge and educated people, there are plenty of educated people with intellectual knowledge, the problem is an emotional blockage with the so-called “professionals” or “educated people” hiding behind their rationalizations and seductive theories to protect themselves from having to face and feel their own emotional pain.
It takes courage to see, face and feel the repressed emotions of the child we once were. Intelligence alone is not enough; but it rather helps create seductive rationalizations, theories, illusions, and lies to hide behind.
I think you also might like reading the e-mail I wrote to M in the link below:
Wishing courage and strength,
We Must Become Our Own Enlightened Witness — If We Want to Liberate Ourselves
I’ve just finished reading your book “A Dance to Freedom” and I just wanted to reach out and thank you sincerely. I’ve read all of Alice Miller’s books and have always wanted to know if there were other people out there who “get it”.
I’ve been in therapy with three different people in my life, a total of almost 20 years and I’m done with therapists. I’m finally free now (at 51) to dive into my childhood and early years without anyone trying to correct my true feelings and make me feel like it’s all my fault.
So, thanks to your book, I’m able to do this now. It’s only been a week of working every day for an hour or so with my past and honest feelings, but I’ve been able to start to really understand where my hurt, anger, rage, incredible loneliness, and sadness come from without a therapist trying to ‘correct’ me. I’m finding my body loves being able to express the rage and express it at the real culprits.
It can’t say it’s much fun, but it’s fun simply because I feel free now to do this. I’m no longer beholden to any group, or person, or even society. I’m single, live alone, and have the time for this deeper work.
Some of the connections (connecting the dots) I’ve been able to make have been amazing. I want to tell somebody about them, but I really feel I’ll be misunderstood and I can’t bear that now. I’m too raw at the moment, but I hope one day to share with you my story, if you’re interested.
I do think now that society is very hypocritical and incapable of dealing with strong, true feelings. Parents and family are sacrosanct, even today. I’ll share one thing I realized:
An adult can live for years, decades even, with an abusive violent spouse and we call it a crime. We sympathize with the victim and offer them counseling and a sympathetic ear. A child may live its whole childhood and teenage years with an abusive, violent parent and we treat it as something part of his past which the child luckily survived. How much more frightening it must have been for the child than the adult. The child is truly and completely defenseless and dependent for its very survival (unlike the adult). It is almost too painful to contemplate, which is exactly why people don’t want to make the connection (!)
I’ve said enough. Thank you for reading my email and thank you for your generous hard work.
All the best,
P.S. Your book is sorely needed. If it weren’t for your book, I still wouldn’t know quite what to do with all of the information I received from Alice Miller. Alice Miller is the tops, don’t get me wrong, she had true courage and absolutely brilliant psychological insight. She called a spade a spade.
Thank you for writing and for reading my book!
I keep getting target by sociopaths — some proclaim to be psychologists — trying to regress me into the state of the wounded child — to gain control over me and discredit my book — they feel threatened by my book because it exposes their lies and the fraud that they are.
It was so nice and refreshing to read your e-mail.
To help people gather the courage and strength to stand alone and find their own autonomy, free to be, to feel their authentic feelings, take them seriously and listen to what their inner self is telling them without waiting for permission from or approval from people standing in symbolizing their parents or their childhood caregivers — this is why I wrote my book and makes it all worth it when I get e-mails like yours saying my book is helpful to them.
Congratulations on your courage to let go of your therapists and embark on this journey of self-discovery all by yourself without an enlightened witness by your side.
No one should have to be alone when going through the intense or overwhelming feelings of the child we once were without an enlightened witness present.
But more and more every day I come to the conclusion that finding a true enlightened witness is near to impossible. And we must become the enlightened witness to the child within us and liberate the little boy or little girl in us at her/his own speed without someone casting themselves in the parent role — rushing us or making us feel guilty or wrong for not moving at their speed or the way they think we should.
Yes, I will be more than happy to read your story when you are ready to share it.
I could not agree more with these words you wrote: “I do think now that society is very hypocritical and incapable of dealing with strong, true feelings. Parents and family are sacrosanct, even today. I’ll share one thing I realized:
An adult can live for years, decades even, with an abusive violent spouse and we call it a crime. We sympathize with the victim and offer them counseling and a sympathetic ear. A child may live its whole childhood and teenage years with an abusive, violent parent and we treat it as something part of his past which the child luckily survived. How much more frightening it must have been for the child than the adult. The child is truly and completely defenseless and dependent for its very survival (unlike the adult). It is almost too painful to contemplate, which is exactly why people don’t want to make the connection (!)”
Reading your words brought to mind these words Alice Miller wrote in her book For Your Own Good: Hidden cruelty in child-rearing and the roots of violence:
No one seriously doubts that inmates of a concentration camp underwent terrible suffering. But when we hear about the physical abuse of children, we react with astonishing equanimity. Depending on our ideology, we say, “That’s quite normal,” or “children have to be disciplined after all” or “That was the custom in those days,” or “Someone who won’t listen has to be made to feel it,” etc. An elderly gentleman I once met at a party told me with amusement that when he was a little boy his mother had swung him back and forth over a fire she had lighted especially for the purpose of drying his pants and breaking him of the habit of wetting them. “My mother was the most wonderful person you’d ever want to meet, but that’s the way things were done in our family in those days,” he said. Such lack of empathy for the suffering of one’s own childhood can result in an astonishing lack of sensitivity to other children’s suffering. When what was done to me was done for my own good, then I am expected to accept this treatment as an essential part of life and not question it.
This kind of insensitivity thus has its roots in the abuse a person suffered as a child. He or she may be able to remember what happened, but in most cases, the emotional content of the whole experience of being beaten and humiliated has been completely repressed.
This is where the difference lies between treating an adult and a child cruelty. The self has not yet sufficiently developed for a child to retain the memory of it or of the feelings it arouses. The knowledge that you were beaten and that this, as your parents tell you, was for your own good may well be retained (although not always), but the suffering caused by the way you were mistreated will remain unconscious and will later prevent you from empathizing with others. This is why battered children grow up to be mothers and fathers who beat their own offspring; from their ranks are recruited the most reliable executioners, concentration-camp supervisors, prison guards, and torturers. They beat, mistreat, and torture out of an inner compulsion to repeat their own history, and they are able to do this without the slightest feeling of sympathy for their victims because they have identified totally with the aggressive side of their psyche. These people were beaten and humiliated themselves at such an early age that it was never possible for them to experience consciously the helpless, battered child they once were, In order to do this, they would have needed the aid of an understanding, supportive adult, and no such person was available. Only under these circumstances would children be able to see themselves as they are at that moment—namely, as weak, helpless, downtrodden, and battered—and thus be able to integrate this part into the self.
Theoretically, a child beaten by his father could afterwards cry his heart out in the arms of a kind aunt and tell her what happened; she would not try to minimize the child’s pain or justify the father’s actions but would give the whole experience its due weight. But such good fortune is rare. The wife of a child-beating fathers shares his attitude toward childrearing or is herself his victim—in either case, she is rarely the child’s advocate. Such an “aunt” is, therefore, a great exception, because the battered child is very unlikely to have the inner freedom to seek her out and make use of her. A child is more likely to opt for a terrible inner isolation and splitting off of his feelings than he is to “tattle” to outsiders about his father or mother. Therapists know how long it sometimes takes before a child’s resentments, which has been repressed for thirty or forty or even fifty years, can be articulated and relived.
Thus, it may well be that the plight of a little child who is abused is even worse and has more serious consequences for society than the plight of an adult in a concentration camp. The former camp inmate may sometimes find himself in situation where he feels that he can never adequately communicate the horror of what he has gone through and that others approach him without understanding, with cold and callous indifference, even with disbelief,* but with
few exceptions he himself will not doubt the tragic nature of his experiences. He will never attempt to convince himself that the cruelty he was subjected to was for his own good or interpret the absurdity of the camp as a necessary pedagogical measure; he will usually not attempt to empathize with the motives of his persecutors. He will find people who have had similar experiences and share with them his feelings of outrage, hatred, and despair over the cruelty he has suffered.
The abused child does not have any of these options. As I have tried to show in the example of Christiane F., she is alone with her suffering, not only within the family but also within her self. And because she cannot share her pain with anyone, she is also unable to create a place in her own soul where she could “cry her heart out.” No arms of a “kind aunt” exist there; “Keep a stiff upper lip and be brave” is the watchword. Defenselessness and helplessness find no haven in the self of the child, who later, identifying with the aggressor, persecutes these qualities wherever they appear.
A person who from the beginning was forced, whether subjected to corporal punishment or not, to stifle, i.e., to condemn, split off, and persecute, the vital child within himself will spend his whole life preventing this inner danger that he associates with spontaneous feelings from recurring. But psychological forces are so tenacious that they can rarely be thoroughly suppressed. They are constantly seeking outlets that will enable them to survive, often in very distorted forms that are not without danger to society. For example, one person suffering from grandiosity will project his own childish qualities onto the external world, whereas another will struggle against the “evil” within himself. “Poisonous pedagogy” shows how these two mechanisms are related to each other and how they are combined in a traditional religious upbringing.
In addition to the degree of maturity and those elements of loyalty and of isolation involved in the case of a child, there is another fundamental difference between abuse of children and of adults. The abused inmates of concentration camp cannot of course offer any resistance, cannot defend themselves against humiliation, but they are inwardly free to hate their persecutors. The opportunity to experience their feelings, even to share them with other inmates, prevents them from having to surrender their self. This opportunity does not exist for children. They must not hate their father—this, the message of the Fourth Commandment, has been drummed into them from childhood; they cannot hate him either if they must fear losing his love as a result; finally, they do not even want to hate him, because they love him. Thus, children, unlike concentration-camp inmates, are confronted by a tormentor they love, not one they hate, and this tragic complication will have a devastating influence on their entire subsequent life.
*William G. Niederland’s book Folgen der verfolgung (The results of Persecution) (1980) presents a penetrating analysis of the uncomprehending reception given former inmates as reflected in psychiatric diagnoses.”
You can read more in the link below if you like:
Wishing you courage and strength and all the best to you too, Sylvie
Your lovely book!
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 focused 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 my 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.)
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 the 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 mental health profession appreciates my book and doesn’t feel threatened by it, like most do, actually, you are the first person in the mental health professionals not to feel threatened by it. Most feel too threatened by me and pretend not to see me and don’t acknowledge my existence — hoping I will never get noticed 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 workplace 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 healthy 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 finally 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.
Interesting blog in the link below debation an ex-dancer from New York