Books by Alice Miller, Ph.D.
Publishers' summaries provided by Alice Miller.
The Body Never
Lies - The Lingering Effects of Cruel Parenting
New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2005.
World-renowned therapist Alice Miller has devoted a lifetime to studying the cruelties inflicted on children. In The Body Never Lies Miller goes further, investigating the long-range consequences of childhood abuse on the adult body.
Using numerous case histories gleaned from her practice, as well as examining the biographical stories of celebrated writers such as Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, Friedrich Nietzsche, and others, Miller shows how a child's emotional traumas, repressed humiliation, and bottled rage can manifest themselves as serious adult health problems. In discussing the lives of these literary giants, Miller explores the known or, in some cases, unknown traumas that haunted each author's childhood. More important, Miller connects the writers' painful childhoods with their later afflictions, which included depression, anorexia, cancer, and even insanity.
While examining everything from parental spanking to sexual abuse and emotional blackmail, Miller exposes the societal pressures that converge to harm children. She explains that we have so many societal mechanisms to prevent us from feeling anger or rage against our parents that we tend never to confront our own feelings. To combat the debilitating effects of such jarring and often contradictory emotions, Miller explores the benefits of using a therapist as an "Enlightened Witness" to reaffirm the patient's repressed reactions to a forgotten childhood experience.
Miller also discusses how institutionalized religion itself can contribute to the crushing guilt that prevents us from being healthy and conscious adults. She urges society to realize that the Fourth Commandment -"Honor thy father and thy mother"- offers immunity to abusive parents. Indeed, she argues, it is healthier not to extend forgiveness to parents whose tyrannical childrearing methods have resulted in unhappy, and often ruined, adult lives.
In a stirring rejection of the "Poisonous Pedagogy" that pardons even the most brutal parenting, Miller examines the cyclical nature of violence and abuse. Parents and guardians who abuse their children, both physically and mentally, leave them embarrassed and hurt. The inability of most children to properly express such feelings causes them to perpetuate the cycle by lashing out at their family, friends, and, above al1, their own children, who will inevitably do the same.
Throughout The Body Never Lies, Miller offers a calm and encouraging voice. Indeed, The Body Never Lies, through its illuminating and provocative insight, affords us a unique understanding of the immense healing powers of the adult self and the body.
Truth Will Set You Free - Overcoming Emotional Blindness and Finding Your True Adult Self
New York: Basic Books, 2001.
Drawing on the latest research on brain development, Miller speaks out against the increasing popularity of childhood corporal punishment and demonstrates how spanking and other disciplinary traumas are encoded in the brain, stunting our ability to overcome them. Our bodies retain memories of humiliation, causing panoply of physical ills and dangerous levels of denial. This denial, necessary for the child's survival, leads to emotional blindness and finally to mental barriers that cut off awareness and the ability to learn new ways of acting. If this cycle repeats itself, the grown child will perpetrate the same abuse on later generations, warns Miller.
In this stunning new contribution to her life's work, Miller not only invites us to confront our own pasts, but reveals how each of us can liberate our present as adults and as parents.
New York: Basic Books, 1981, Paperback under the title The Drama of the Gifted Child, in UK, The Drama of Being a Child.
The common bond unifying the three studies in this volume is a concern with the factors operative in loss of the self and the routes leading towards the achievement of true identity, The Drama of the Gifted Child (and "gifted" here means "sensitive", "aware") has its roots in an intuitive apprehension of the parents' needs by the child at a very early stage. The child adapts to those needs by learning not to feel his most intense feelings, once he has realized that those feelings are considered undesirable. Although these "prohibited" feelings cannot always be avoided at a later stage, they remain split off. This means that the most vital part of the true self is not integrated into the personality. The result is emotional insecurity and impoverishment (loss of self), either expressed in the form of depression or fended off via grandiosity. The examples cited sensitize us to the mute, inarticulate suffering of the child and help us to penetrate the idealizations serving to conceal that suffering. It also opens our eyes to the tragedy of the parents; their unavailability and inaccessibility prove to be the fruit of their availability as children.
For Your Own
Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-rearing and the Roots of Violence
New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1990.
In this book, Alice Miller opens our eyes to the devastating effects of education and care purporting to have the "child's best interests" in mind. She does this first by analyzing what she calls the "pedagogic approach", and secondly by describing the childhood of a drug addict, a political leader (Adolf Hitler), and a child-murderer.
Her book succeeds in conveying not just factual (and hence uninvolving) information, but also an emotional awareness of the way in which psychoses, drug addiction, and crime represent a deferred and indirect expression of experiences undergone in early infancy. For a child to develop naturally, she needs respect from her caregivers, tolerance for her feelings, awareness of her needs and sensibilities, and authenticity on the part of her parents. This authenticity manifests itself in an upbringing style in which it is the personal freedom of the parents - and not educational dogma - that imposes natural limits of the child.
Por Tu Propio Bien (Spanish Edition)
Barcelona: Tusquets, 1998
Not Be Aware: Society's Betrayal of the Child
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998
Child abuse is beginning to be recognized as something more significant than an isolated family affair. The title of this book, first published in Germany in 1981, spells out the unspoken commandment that such abused children - indeed, all of us - have been obeying since early childhood. We have all been made to feel from our earliest days that we are to blame for anything shameful that happens to us, so that our awareness of these inflicted abuses dims.
Alice Miller demonstrates that this centuries-old tradition also finds expression in Freud's notions of the "Oedipus complex" and "infantile sexuality" - his drive theory - which put the blame on the child. Freud maintained that his patients who claimed to have been sexually molested as children were only "fantasizing" as a defense against their own sexual desires for their innocent parents. This theory helped to conceal the fact that sexual abuse of children occurs frequently and results in later emotional disturbances in the victims of such abuse - because they are not allowed awareness of it.
In fairy tales, works of literature, and dreams, Alice Miller maintains, the truth about childhood can emerge, precisely because it is not recognized as such. Detailed examples from Kafka, Flaubert, Beckett, and Virginia Woolf offer proof of her thesis and illustrate her understanding of human creativity.
Pictures of a
New York, Penguin USA, new edition 1996.
In Pictures of a Childhood, Alice MiIler explores the connection between childhood and that creative activity which "somehow permits us to give form to the chaos within and thereby master our anxiety."
Having realized in the early seventies a lifelong desire to paint, Dr. Miller found an unfamiliar world emerging from her paintings: not the "nice" world of her childhood, to which she had always testified, but one of fear, despair and loneliness.
Meditating on her spontaneously executed watercolors - sixty-six of which are reproduced here in full color - and their implications, Dr. Miller offers an analysis of the roots of creativity in the authentic self's struggle for survival.
Key: Tracing Childhood Trauma in Creativity and Destructiveness
New York: Anchor-Press, 1992
As in her former books, Alice Miller again focuses on facts. She is as determined as ever to cut through the veil that, for thousands of years now, has been so meticulously woven to shroud the truth. And when she lifts that veil and brushes it aside, the results are astonishing, as is amply demonstrated by her analyses of the works of Nietzsche, Picasso, Kollwicz, Keaton and others. With the key shunned by so many for so long - childhood - she opens rusty locks and offers her readers a wealth of unexpected perspectives.
What did Picasso express in "Guernica"? Why did Buster Keaton never smile? Why did Nietzsche heap so much opprobrium on women and religion, and lose his mind for eleven years? Why did Hitler and Stalin become tyrannical mass murderers? Alice Miller investigates these and other questions thoroughly in this book. She draws from her discoveries the conclusion that human beings are not "innately" destructive, that they are made that way by ignorance, abuse, and neglect, particularly if no sympathetic witness comes to their aid. She also shows why some mistreated children do not become criminals but instead bear witness as artists to the truth about their childhoods, even though in purely intuitive and unconscious ways.
It is Dr. Miller's goal to encourage these sympathetic witnesses, to lend them support, and to inform them about the world-wide and ignored plight of children, for she thinks that only by confronting the truth that has been avoided from time immemorial can human beings be saved from blind destruction and self-destruction. This discovery is eloquently illustrated in the last section of The Untouched Key, wherein the story of Abraham and Isaac and the story of "The Emperor's New Clothes" are retold to reveal their profound meaning.
Knowledge: Facing Childhood Injuries
New York: Anchor-Press, new edition 1997.
Cruelty to a "bad child" will make that child into a bad adult and later create a bad world, unless an enlightened witness comes to the rescue. A child respected and taken seriously will create a different world; our biological mission is not to destroy, but to protect human life. "It is not true that evil, destructiveness, and perversion inevitably form part of human existence, no matter how often this is maintained. But it is true that we are daily producing evil and, with it, an ocean of suffering for millions that is absolutely avoidable. When one day the ignorance arising from childhood repression is eliminated and humanity has awakened, an end can be put to this production of evil." (Alice Miller, Banished Knowledge).
the Wall of Silence
New York: Penguin USA, new edition 1997.
Psychohistorical analyses of such brutal tyrants as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Nicolae Ceausescu show the obvious links between the horrors of their childhoods and the horror they inflicted on the world.
Dr. Miller pleads for a course of remembrance and recognition on the part of the victim, and for awareness and condemnation of child abuse on the part of society. She advocates getting access to and articulating long-denied emotions so that healing may take place. In her extensive new preface for this edition, Alice Miller discusses the increasing attention being paid to childhood abuse since the book's original publication. She also reveals personal details about her own life that explain her special interest in childhood and emotional growth, the kind of growth that can encourage survivors to face the truth and to heal, thereby preventing future abuse from taking place.
The Drama of
the Gifted Child
New York: Basic Books, new edition, revised and updated, 1997.
The first publication of The Drama of the Gifted Child (1979) and of this book are separated by fifteen years of experience - the author's experience with her own self-therapy and with other recent therapy methods, and finally her knowledge of the life histories of the several thousand readers who have written to her. The research into childhood she has undertaken in this period has led to a further fine-tuning of her earlier findings, as is documented and illustrated here with an abundance of examples.
The author examines the consequences of repression at the personal and social level, the causes of the physical and psychological harm done to children and how this can be prevented, and finally the new methods at our disposal for dealing with the consequences of infant traumas.
El Drama del Nino
Dotado (Spanish translation)
Barcelona: Tusquets, 2009
Life: Seven Scenarios
New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.
Here are seven "life stories" of characters who, in recounting their lives to one another, invite us to think back over our own lives and see what has formed us and how we may yet become free.
How do our first experiences of pain and love affect our future? This is the key question. Alice Miller shows us people who have suffered great loneliness in childhood and who now, in adulthood, despite their yearnings for contact and communication, are still trapped in inner isolation. But encounters with others who had the good fortune to grow up in loving families open them to new worlds in which they too can learn to change.
As we watch, some manage to speak the truth, to free themselves of old fears and defensive myths, to trust. The luckiest come to love and be loved-by partners, friends, and their own children, whom they can then free from the curse of having to relive their parents' inner traumas.
Paths of Life: Six
New York: Basic Books, 2008.
Several poignant scenarios and two essays of reflection focus on a range of issues - from birth, motherhood, and partnership to hatred, cults, and the Holocaust. In this updated tenth anniversary edition, Alice Miller offers new reflections on the transformative power of childhood.
From Rage to
Courage: Answers to Readers' Letters
New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2009.
Collected for the first time, Alice Miller's most helpful, therapeutic, and invaluable answers to hundreds of readers' letters. The renowned childhood researcher, psychotherapist, and best-selling author Alice Miller has received, throughout her long and distinguished career, countless personal letters from readers all over the world. In From Rage to Courage, Dr. Miller has assembled the most recent, producing an insightful work that illuminates the issues and consequences of childhood abuse.
Free from Lies:
Discovering Your True Needs
New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2009.
Practical and perceptive, Miller's work explains what we can expect from therapy, how we can identify the causes of our own pain, and why subconscious pain, unaddressed for decades, manifests itself later as depression, self-mutilation, primal inadequacy, and chronic loneliness.