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On Inside David Foster Wallace's Private Self-Help Library

Maria, I'm not sure it's lack of sympathy for the mother on Miller's part as much that the focus of her polemical book was on the dynamics of the parent-child relationship as it affects the child. But, of course, the narcissistically deprived mother was herself once the victim of parents who mistreated her. Miller did recognize this and wrote often about the cycle of abuse carried from one generation to the next. But I can see your point. The tone of her writing doesn't always suggest much sympathy for the situation of the parent. Thanks again for your important, thoughtful essay.

Posted on April 9, 2011 at 9:04 am 0

On Inside David Foster Wallace's Private Self-Help Library

Maria Bustillos has written a fascinating and brilliant commentary on David Wallace's inner life and suffering. However, I think she tends to misrepresent somewhat Alice Miller's views. Miller's concern to "respect the feelings" of children had nothing to do with so-called permissive parenting. As Miller argued in her many books, permissive parenting is often just the flip side of authoritarian parenting. In other words, both parenting styles are often more about the parent's emotional agenda (or unmet needs) than what healthy parenting should be: To meet the real needs of the child to feel respected, understood, cared for and protected within the family. This hardly means no rules or anything goes. Nor do I agree that the intention of Alice Miller's work was to foster "mother hating" or to assign blame. That's a superficial reading of what was rather a commitment to help individuals better understand the dynamics of their upbringing for the purpose of moving through their troubled feelings to a healthier emotional life. Obviously, staying stuck in feelings of hatred for parents would be counterproductive to that goal. Then again, so is denial of such feelings. The fact that David Wallace studied Miller as he did is a testament not only to his pain, but to a searching, relentless, and obviously difficult effort on his part to understand himself better.

Posted on April 6, 2011 at 7:15 pm 1