Essays and Reflections on Enlightened Witnessing

Friday, September 4, 2009

One Versus Many

In a recent discussion a new type of therapy was touched on. It wants us to look at ourselves as having many parts. It also seems that these parts can be further and further divided, without limit.

This is most interesting because Alice Miller has always focused on there being a True Self.

How does one reconcile the idea of there being one versus their being many. It applies here, and in a myriad of other situations as well.

Long ago I decided to see the relation between one and many as a process. I even invented a meditation ritual to help in becoming more open to this. If you start with there being one, you can always see that there are grounds for division. So you have fragmentation. If you continue the process of fragmentation, you will get so many pieces that you have atomization. If you continue this further you get a continuous flux. But as you look at that and take it all in, you again have a singular unity.

The idea is that these distinctions lie in your own perception. There is no way of separating yourself from what you claim to perceive.

Of course this applies to things like monotheism and polytheism. But it also applies to epistemological claims to there being a singular truth, a true self, or some other fixed foundation.

Alice Miller stays with Truth and True Self. That is useful because she is trying to show that there is pervasive denial. This Truth and True self are hidden behind the wall. They exist in relation to it. But this does not mean that the concepts need to be used outside of that relation.

In ancient Egypt the idea of monotheism developed as a kind of mystical insight. This was not in any way in opposition to their historical pantheon of Netters. Rather it was just a way of understanding such. One and Many were fully compatible. This occurred in their mystery schools.

It would be later that Ikhnaton tried to impose an absolutist monotheism. Then about 80 years later we find Moses, also operating from mystical insight, and also in relation oppression, championing a counter monotheism. In the tradition which sprang from this it became an absolutist monotheism imposed by the sword. This type of absolutist monotheism still underlies western religion to this very day.

About realms that both have disjunctions and are continuous, I suggest the works of Gilles Deleuze. It is also found in many of those he writes about, like Bergson, Nietzsche, Leibniz, and Spinoza.

back to

When Awareness is not a Choice

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Liberal Pedagogy

One of the most scathing and obtuse denunciations of Alice Miller comes from someone who is held up as a paragon of the nurturant family, Robert Karen, in his Becoming Attached. This is even more interesting because of how I had learned of Karen. Its from George Lakoff's Moral Politics.

Essay Coming Soon!

back to

When Awareness is not a Choice

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Alice Miller

Daniel Mackler

Dennis Rodie

Barbara Rogers

ACA Community Forums

back to

When Awareness is not a Choice

Post Content Rules

Responses to shares must only be affirmative. People cannot be challenged, questioned, or otherwise made to feel that what they say might not have been heard. Don't tell them to see a therapist or to post some place else.

The inspiration for this is the No Cross Talk rule from the f2f meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. There you are not allowedd to say anything at all. Because this is not f2f we have to modify the rule some. People need to know that they have been heard. So affirm what you can. We allow this much in responding. But again, no questioning, no refuting, no alternate explanations, no attempts to change their thinking in any way.

More information will follow

back to

When Awareness is not a Choice

Suggested Reading

What is Hatred?, by Alice Miller

Roots of Violence, by Alice Miller

The Ignorance or How We Produce the Evil, by Alice Miller

We Can Identify the Causes of Our Sufferings, by Alice Miller

The Longest Journey, by Alice Miller

Depression, Compulsive Self-Deception, by Alice Miller

Taking it Personally, Indignation as a Vehicle of Therapy, by Alice Miller

A Love Letter to My Anger, by Barbara Rogers

The War Against the Child's or Victim's Credibility and Truth, by Barbara Rogers

On My Side, by Barbara Rogers

The Limits of Alice Miller, by Daniel Mackler

Alice Miller and Existentialism

Liberal Pedagogy

back to

When Awareness is not a Choice

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Alice Miller and Existentialism

Lots of people decry the horrors of the abusive family, and prescribe something different. Going back to The Drama of the Gifted Child, Miller is not doing this. Rather, she shows that at least often, people have children because of their own woundedness, the Narcissistic Wound. This idea is radical and threatening to most people. She is challenging something which is central to their systems of denial. She is not even suggesting that it could be any different, unless perhaps we were to come out of denial and start dealing with truth. Denial is both personal and societal, and so none of us are in a position to say what it would look like if this were not the case. None of us can claim access to some privileged realm of non-denial. Miller shows that all pedagogy is the product of this denial, as well as a means of propagating it.

Suppose someone tells me, "When you were a child, your parents abused you." What does this really explain? Why did they do this? Did I do something wrong? Was I unlovable? It still leaves one needing answers, and likely needing to recreate the situation to show that they now know how to handle it better. Or more often, they will recreate it placing themselves in the parental role. Saying that I was abused promotes the idea that there is some other standard of a non-abusive family.

Miller is not talking about abuse, about things widely recognized as wrong. She is talking about denial, people having a huge emotional stake in keeping their own experience repressed, and the means that they use to do this. One of the most pervasive of means is having their own children and dealing with them via a pedagogical system. This is a useful explanation because it not only explains my parents, it explains how all societies have worked going back to time immemorial. What shifts is our understanding of what tendencies lead people to having children. This is both radical and threatening. It exposes how pro-family ideology exists to let people stay in denial.

One of the most obtuse criticisms of Alice Miller that I have ever encountered comes from Robert Karen, in his Becoming Attached. Karen is a champion of the Nurturing Family and of the Mother Child Bond. Karen's reality revolves around this and it is necessary to his own system of denial. What Miller says is extremely threatening to Karen, and so he deligitimates Miller and anyone who listens to her by going ad hominem. Karen doesn't think adults should still be having issues with their parents. This exemplifies the opposition between Miller and the Liberal Pedagogues. What Karen is championing is regarded us an unquestionable and sacred truth by most.

I learned of Karen because of George Lakoff's Moral Politics. Lakoff is arguing that the discourses of the political right and the left both amount to the projection of a family metaphor on to the nation state. With the former it is the Poisonous Pedagogy model ( James Dobson's Focus on the Family ) and for the latter it is the Liberal Pedagogy model ( Benjamin Spock, and now Robert Karen ). Lakoff is not saying that he thinks it good to project these kinds of models onto the nation state, or that he supports either of them. Rather he is just showing that if you want to be effective in the political realm, you need to understand how people are already thinking. One will not be heard unless they are speaking to this.

Karen is an advocate for the Good Family. Miller, at least in her earlier writings, is not any such advocate. She denounces all pedagogy and all ideology. They are means of promoting denial. Miller is showing how very often people are moved to have children so that they can stay in denial. Miller is not making moral judgements about the things people do. Rather, she is working to expose societal lies. What Miller is saying was fore shadowed in Ellen Peck's 1972, "The Baby Trap". Peck explained that a girl who is unhappy is always finding herself steered towards maternity. It comes from family, friends, co-workers, doctors, and advertising.

The vantage point the early Miller spoke from is provocative, and it is hard to live from that place. Her contribution cannot be over estimated. Daniel Mackler has written about Miller as someone who's ideas are pivotal, and have been his primary influence. But he also shows how in more recent times she has tended to be more moralistic and to promote non-abuse over abuse. He shows that she has done exactly what she exposes. She has gone to her own children, looking for absolution, to fill her own Narcissistic Wound, and to legitimate her own socio-public identity. I am inclined to agree with Mackler on this. Though I also have to say that Mackler also gets quite moralistic in his prescriptions.

Limits of Alice Miller

Mackler explains why parents always want grandchildren. It means that they get exonerated from any taint. Once their children have children, they are no longer in any position to make deep criticism of their own parents. Mackler feels that in an Alice Miller inspired therapeutic context it is much more difficult, though not impossible, to work with people who already have children. Those who have children just have so much more invested in the denial system of pedagogical doctrine and justification.

Miller talks in terms of Truth and Self. I suggest here that this type of foundational thinking in Miller is simply the result of the fact that the world is living in lies and denial. She postulates a true world which underlies the false world. If it is taken beyond that, then her foundationalism becomes a liability. This is something to explore later, as it gets to the differences between Postmodernism and Existentialism.

One of the most useful texts for understanding the underpinnings of various view points is Within Nietzsche's Labyrinth, by Alan White. Read this chapter Nihilism, and follow White's analysis of religious, radical, and complete nihilism. You might also read more of the book to get a sense of what Alan White is like.

AM versus The Outsider

Essay Coming Soon!

back to

When Awareness is not a Choice