“The function all expressions of contempt have in common is the defence against unwanted feelings.”– ALICE MILLER
I read something the other day that got the alarm bells ringing. It was a book called, The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller.
In a nut shell Miller argues that our childhood experience – specifically how we learnt to hide our own feelings, needs, and memories in order to meet our parents’ expectations and win their “love” – fucks us up (I’m paraphrasing), leading to problems such as depression or grandiosity later on in life. She goes onto explain how left unresolved, our neuroses get passed onto our own children unconsciously.
She believes it’s possible that the trauma many of us have experienced may well have been passed down over generations. As in it’s not your parents’ fault you’re fucked up, but your great-great-great-grandad’s (that bastard!).
Anyway, without getting sidetracked into the nuts and bolts of the book, the other unforeseen consequence of not properly respecting our children’s feelings, she argues, is that they will seek refuge from their painful past in ideologies such as Nationalism, Racism and Facism.
She notes, “The basic similarity of the various nationalistic movements flourishing today reveals that their motives have nothing to do with the real interests of the people who are fighting and hating, but instead have very much to do with those people’s childhood histories… Individuals who do not want to know their own truth collude in denial with society as a whole, looking for a common “enemy” on whom to act out their repressed rage.”
Now bearing in mind she wrote this book over 40 years ago she also said this, “The future of democracy and democratic freedom depends on our capacity to take this very step and to recognize that it is simply impossible to struggle successfully against hatred outside ourselves, while ignoring its messages within. We must know and use the tools that are necessary to resolve it: We must feel and understand its source and its legitimacy. There is no point in appealing to our goodwill, our kindness, and a common spirit of love, as long as the path to clarifying our feelings is blocked by the unconscious fear of our parents.”
So what can we take from all of this?
Well my thinking is that first, we should respect our children like adults, stop trivialising their emotions and show them the unconditional love that they need. And second, in order to break the chain of neuroses that our great-great-great-grandparents passed down to us, maybe we should take ourselves to therapy and process our own unresolved childhood issues.
Anyway I’m curious to know what you think. Is the only thing we need to do to secure the future of our democracy resolve our daddy issues?
I look forward to reading your thoughts.
You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com