|Born||Jan. 12, 1923
Piotrków Trybunalski, Poland
|Died||Apr. 14, 2010 (at age 87)
Saint-Rémy de Provence, France
Alice Miller was a distinguished Swiss psychologist who is known for the books she wrote on the subject of parental child abuse. Her work has been remarkable and her books have been published in several languages. In her books, Miller has departed from psychoanalysis, as she considered it to be similar to poisonous pedagogies.
Alice Miller, whose original name was Alicija Rostovska, was born into a middle-class Jewish family in Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland on January 12, 1923. She was the elder of two daughters as she had a younger sister named Irena, who was five years younger to her.
Alice’s family moved to Berlin, Germany, where they stayed from 1931 to 1933. It was while staying in Berlin that she learned the German language. However, the family had to return to Poland in the 1933. As a young lady, Alice had to escape from Piotrkow’s Jewish Ghetto, where all Jewish residents were interned after the city was occupied in September of 1939.
Alice survived WWII while living in the town of Warsaw, where she changed her name to Alice to hide her real identity. Later, she was successful in smuggling her sister and mother from the Ghetto, but she could not save her father, who died there in 1941.
Alice migrated to Switzerland in 1946 and studied at Basel University. In 1949, she married Swiss sociologist Andreas Miller, a Polish Catholic, along with whom Alice had moved to Switzerland from Poland. The couple had two children together – Martin and Julika. However, the couple divorced in 1973.
Miller studied psychoanalysis between 1953 and 1960 and practiced the same in Zurich from 1960 until 1980. After 20 years of teaching and practicing as a psychoanalyst, Miller stopped doing so and focused on exploring and studying childhood systematically.
Alice became very critical of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, as she lost her belief in psychoanalysis, which she thought was not viable at all. In 1985, she left Switzerland and settled in southern France.
Major Publications in Psychology
Alice Miller contributed infinitely to the cause of understanding the childhood years. In 1979, she published her best-selling book – The Drama of the Gifted Child – which is about the children who suffer trauma and permanent scarring at the hands of their parents who use means such as physical punishments or psychological pressure on their children.
Throughout the book, she traced the roots of emotional problems to childhood conflicts, childhood traumas, and abuse by parents. Her first three books were a result of the research she conducted herself, which was in response to what she considered were significant blind spots in her field.
According to Alice, spankings, beatings, humiliation, neglect, betrayal and sexual exploitation are different forms of mistreatment as they injure the integrity and dignity of the children. Alice analyzed the lives of different writers to find a link between the traumas of their childhood and the course of their lifework.
She believed that feelings of repression and regression have a major impact on the personality, and these feelings are mostly traced back to childhood experiences. In her book, The Body Never Lies, she investigated the long range consequences of childhood abuse on the adult body. She explored various known and unknown traumas that can haunt person during his childhood.
Miller’s book, For Your Own Good, is her most thorough explination of the nature and effects of poisonous pedagogy. In this book, Miller proposed that young Adolf Hitler had traumatic experiences during his childhood in the form of beatings and verbal abuse by his father. This had a major impact on his personality.
In 1986, she was awarded a literary award for her book, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society’s Betrayal of the Child. The book was first published in 1981, and it focuses on the social impact of abuse on child’s life. The book demonstrates that we are to blame for anything shameful happens to us.
Later Years and Death
In her last few years, Alice spent time in answering hundreds of letters from readers on her website. She also published articles, interviews, and flyers in three different languages on her website. Alice died in April of 2010, at her place in France. She was 87 at the time. She is said to have committed suicide after suffering from severe illness and having being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.