Alice Miller on: the true self, human nature and… Anarchy?

Psychotherapist Alice Miller goes to the core of the issue of the true self and the perversion that parenting imposes on it.

Splitting of the human being into two parts, one that is good, meek, conforming, and obedient and the other that is the diametrical opposite is perhaps as old as the human race, and one could simply say that it is part of “human nature.” Yet it has been my experience that when people have had the opportunity to seek and live out their true self in analysis, this split disappears of itself. They perceive both sides, the conforming as well as the so-called obscene, as two extremes of the false self, which they now no longer need…

… Free sexuality is never obscene, nor does violence ever result if a person is able to deal openly with his or her aggressive impulses, to acknowledge feelings such as anger and rage as responses to real frustration, hurt, and humiliation.

How can it have come about that the split I have just described is attributes to human nature as a matter of course even though there is evidence that it can be overcome without any great effort of will and without legislating morality? The only explanation I can find is that these two sides are perpetuated in the way children are raised and treated at a very early age, and the accompanying split between them is therefore regarded as “human nature.” The “good” false self is the result of what is called socialization, of adapting to society’s norms, consciously and intentionally passed on by the parents; the “bad,” equally false self is rooted in the child’s earliest observations of parental behavior, visible only to the child, who is used as an outlet. Perceived sympathetically by the child’s devoted, unsuspecting eyes and stored up in his or her unconscious, this behavior is what comes to be regarded automatically, generation after generation, as “human nature.”

… [A]s a psychoanalyst one is faced with the difficult task of calling attention to the poison producer by the early exercise of parental power, a poison we have been storing up inside from the very beginning and then inflicting on our own children. Further, it is our task to recognize that it is not a matter of assigning blame to individual parents, who after all, are themselves victims of the system, but of identifying a hidden societal structure that determines our lives, like practically no other. Once recognized, it can be found in a wide variety of society’s forms. To take this step will necessarily cause us anxiety if we have been raised according to pedagogical principles,m which is no doubt the case of most of us. It is understandable, then, if fear of our introjected parents’ anger, the child’s fear of losing their love, compels us to overlook striking societal patterns for the sake of sparing our parents.

Alice Miller, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society’s Betrayal of the Child, p190-192 (bold mine)

She cuts short of identifying this “hidden societal structure.” But, it sounds to me very much like she’s talking about hierarchies, don’t you think?

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