‘I wanted only to help the truth burst forth’, Alice Miller: 1923 – 2010
Alice Miller died on April 14th. As a leading psychologist and psychotherapist, she published many books on the effects of child abuse and helped popularise the concept of ‘poisonous pedagogy’.Miller opened up a world of possibility to people for whom these possibilities hadn’t existed before. She dedicated her time to changing her life and the lives of others, drawing on her own experience, those of her clients and public figures to illustrate the terrible effects of childhood trauma.Through her work, she has helped thousands, if not millions, of people gain an understanding of their past that they might not have had otherwise.To many, she was one of the first – and only – people in their lives to validate what they felt inside all along: that physical, verbal and emotional abuse of children is wrong and incredibly harmful. Furthermore, she exposed behaviours that are viewed as ‘normal’ by our society to be the damaging events they really are.As I write this, I’m sitting on Primrose Hill, a park overlooking central London. It’s a beautiful day: friends and couples are sitting and chatting, dog walkers are walking, mothers are pushing prams and children are playing. A group of girls are rolling down the hill across from me, laughing as they bump into each other, while a little boy whizzes down the path on his mini-scooter with his baby sister tottering after him.Child abuse is still rife and it saddens me to think that in all probability it is still happening to some of the children I can see now.Alice Miller dedicated her working life to raising awareness of the effects and costs of child abuse – the effects it will have on children like these. Thanks to her, and others like her, we have this knowledge.She has left us with an amazing gift.How are we going to use it?