I have been meaning to read this one for ages.
In keeping with my goal to read 100 books in German I decided to peruse it in the Teutonic language.
I don’t want to say too much about it. If you want to understand humanity it’s a must read.
It’s a thin book, but packed with insight.
It’s almost an act of injustice to try and summarize it, but let me just say this:
Hurt people will hurt others and themselves.
The pain we endure in our childhood will be passed on to our own children and to the people we meet.
Even when we do not intentionally want to hurt others.
The basic feelings we experienced, good or bad, in our childhood we will recreate for other people in our lives and ourselves.
If we were not seen, if our opinions weren’t valued as children we will later as adults give other people the feeling we are not really listening to them. Even when we think we are.
If we were sexually exploited we will allow ourselves to be sexually exploited later or in some way disrupt the sexuality of others.
If we were often made to feel ridiculous, we will ridicule others the first chance we get and say depreciating things about ourselves.
Worst of all is that we will pass on our negative experiences to our children and inflict the harsh treatment we received on our children.
Important to understand is that violence and mistreatment is not always obvious.
Lots of folks who weren’t horribly beaten by their parents or never locked in the basement or never openly made fun of or sent to bed without food think they actually had happy childhoods and that their parents never ruled over them as tyrants.
Unfortunately children can be left in very dark places by their parents even if it doesn’t look like that on the surface.
My own wife has been deeply affected by her mother’s tactic of simply not talking to her anymore for long periods of time for minor and unexplained deviations of what her mother expected. This may not sound traumatic or even all that bad, but for a child this can turn reality into a terrifying hell.
The older I get and the more I read and the more people I meet I have to say we are all very messed up.
Alice Miller rightly asserts that all this also leads to the deeply ineffective and chaotic political developments we are witnessing today.
People who don’t know what is good for them elect leaders who don’t give a shit about them. And since we are all messed up in some way those great leaders are not even there to choose. In fact, the healthiest people in our society would NEVER develop political ambitions. So all the people we can vote for are almost per definition the wrong people for the job.
At the same time we had to be loyal to our parents as children. We had to go along with how they treated them and block out the negative. We idealized them later.
We do the same with our deeply flawed politicians. The more manipulated people are by emotionally lacking parents the more prone they are to vote for people who – just like their parents before – only pretend to know what is good for them.
The only solution is to take an honest look at our lives and accept the pain that is there instead of denying it or running away from it, because otherwise we will pass it on and it will have negative repercussions for ourselves and all of humanity.
On a personal note: 77 books in German to go.