Fallen Idols: Alice Miller & Me

The final article in The Healing Voices Series on Alice Miller: Icon & Ideas

When idols fall, we expect to be shocked, but with Alice Miller there was no surprise. Her dominance in my recovery had eroded over time. Her works served as a crucial stepping-stone in my escape from the impact of abuse. Over decades after discovering her, however, I had learned a baseline truth: after all the therapy and peer support, all the fury and tears, all the books and audiotapes and workshops, I could not heal myself. Just like everybody else, I need a Savior.

My recovery started in 1984. The scandal of abuse within the Church had not been exposed widely. I assumed something uniquely insane had festered in my Catholic parish and school. There may have been small news pieces in New York papers about an isolated allegation in the early 1980s, but my awareness of them slipped into the same forgetfulness as my reactions to triggers in the Church. Attending Mass, I was unable to breathe. Seeing a Roman collar on an anonymous figure in a commuter crowd, I crumpled against a fence or building until I could breathe again. I saw no connections between these bouts and my abuse. Different, unrelated matters drove me into therapy, which I expected would last at most a few months.

My first therapist was introduced as a New York University graduate student assigned by a counseling center. Keeping my abuse hidden, I answered his questions until his demeanor abruptly changed. He must have seen what I could not, explaining that he believed I should know he was a Catholic priest. Several blocks down Broadway, I rested against a retaining wall near a church. My body was drenched with sweat, and I noticed only then that I had fled the room without reply.

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