Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Great Mind Is Gone

Alice Miller has died. (Via Arthur Silber, who promises more on the great psychoanalyst) Miller took on God and won.

"Honor thy father and thy mother" is one of the Ten Commandments, and has been drilled into every generation before and after its codification. It is the fundamental law of the fundamental unit of the family, and obedience to the father and love for the mother are taken for granted as necessary and beneficial to the upbringing of the child. Miller pointed out the simple fact that not everyone is able to love; some people never received love and therefore are unable to give it. Abusive parents demand obedience in response to and in revenge for abuses heaped upon them as children. They are emotionally needy since none of their emotional needs were met while they were growing, and they use their children to satisfy those needs--for unconditional acceptance, for a good self-image, for a feeling of power and control over their lives.

Worse of all, the child is expected to be grateful, to honor these parents and to love them. The guilt at being unable to love someone who was unable to love you, the resentment at being used to satisfy an adult's needs when you have needs of your own that are neglected, the anger at the suffocation of your personality, your self-image, your need for control--these are utterly crippling for most people. They lead to rape and murder, to greed for money, to war, to childhood cruelty and bullying. They lead to all the ills of the world, and most people would rather have this cruel world than admit that their parents didn't love them, and have to give up hope that they will--somehow--finally earn or be given that love. And even that won't satisfy them, because the adult is no longer a child and cannot go back in time to when he most needed that love.

Miller gave us a way to be free of authoritarianism and relief from crippling guilt and self-hatred. We can learn to recognize why we act destructively and suffer from seemingly inexplicable emotional pain. When we accept the pain of loss of love, we stop practicing destructive behaviors that are used to avoid pain. When we accept our parents couldn't love us, we stop looking for that absolute love from God, party, spouse, or other source.

But that means giving up the myth of our happy family, our parent-substitute gods that reward and punish us and tell us when we are good, our excuses for our bad behavior and our hope for perfect love. In return we get peace and freedom, but many people would rather watch the world burn than give up their chains.

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