Alice Miller has achieved worldwide recognition for her work on the causes and effects of childhood traumas. Her books include The Drama of the Gifted Child, Banished Knowledge, Breaking Down the Wall of Silence, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware, and For Your Own Good. She lives in Switzerland.
With the premise that abuse begets abuse, the famed Swiss psychoanalyst mounts an eloquent argument against all forms of cruelty to children, especially corporal punishment. Believing that "[o]ur bodies retain a complete memory of the humiliations we suffered, driving us to inflict unconsciously on the next generation what we endured in childhood," she argues that childhood trauma is also manifest in many physical ailments, urging doctors to take "childhood reality" into account during treatment. However, frequent references to her other books, notably the bestselling The Drama of the Gifted Child and For Your Own Good give this slim book an air of preaching to the converted. Miller reiterates her distrust of "sadism sanctioned by religions" from Islam to U.S. Christian schools, and of behaviors that range from genital mutilation and circumcision to corporal punishment. She reserves particular concern for the Catholic Church's failure to outlaw beatings in European schools. Among her most intriguing finding is that children who survive brutality without repeating it generally have enjoyed the affection of a "Helping Witness" in their lives. Adults, too, can free themselves through rigorous analysis that acknowledges early trauma and confronts one's defense mechanisms and behavior patterns. Some forms of psychotherapy may be useful, Miller believes, but she discounts the value of "relaxation training or meditation." Even "power of love" alone can be overestimated, she says. (Sept.) Forecast: Given Miller's stature, this book will be visible, though the publicity may drive readers to her more seminal works. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.