Friday, August 14, 2009

The Return of Quetzalcoatl: Chapter 2

César Tort returns with Chapter 2 of The Return of Quetzalcoatl. Links to the Preface and Chapter 1 are at the bottom of this post.

Sentences between squared brackets do not appear in the original Spanish version of the manuscript. Also, two brief sections in a block quote were elided (…) due to intense language and content.

The Return of Quetzalcoatl: Chapter 2
by César Tort

The History of Childhood and Its Newton

John Bowlby advanced the fundamentals for understanding attachment; Colin Ross did the same for mental disorders in human beings, and I will keep his class in mind to explain psychohistory. But Ross is a physician, not an historian. In the following chapters I will show the deeper reasons why parents have abused their children since time immemorial. The perspective to our past will open up in the widest possible way: a framework of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years of what has occurred in my family and in all other families of the human and pre-human species. In both this and the following chapters my biography will disappear and it will only reappear in my next book, not without having shown first the psychogenic theory of history.

Lloyd deMause (pronounced de-Moss), born in 1931, studied political sciences in the University of Columbia. After his university studies he borrowed money to establish a publishing house that consumed ten years of his life before again taking up his research work. While Freud, Reich, Fromm and others had written some speculative essays on history on the basis of psychoanalysis, such essays may be considered the Aristotelian phase of which today is understood as psychohistory. In 1958, the year in which I was born, Erik Erikson published a book about the young Luther in which he mentioned the surging of a new research field that he called “psycho-history” (not be confused with the science-fiction novels of Isaac Asimov). After a decade, in 1968, deMause presented a sketch of his theory to an analytical association where, unlike Freud and his epigones, he focused psychohistory into the diverse forms of childrearing. After the West abandoned colonialism and endured for its behavior a handover to other nations and ethnic groups, it became a taboo to focus in the dark side of non-Western cultures. By choosing a frowned-upon research area in academia deMause had to make an intellectual career independently. The drive of his research was always what the children must have felt in the most diverse cultures of the world. As we saw in the last chapter, the mammal, and even more the primate, are so at the mercy of their parents that the specific forms of childrearing cannot be dodged if we are to understand mental disorders. But it is precisely this subject matter, the forms of childrearing and infantile abuse, what conventional historians ignore.

In his essay “The independence of psychohistory” deMause tells us that history qua history describes what has happened, not why, and he adds that history and psychohistory are distinct fields of investigation.

Whole great chunks of written history are of little value to the psychohistorian, while other vast areas which have been much neglected by historians suddenly expand from the periphery to the center of the psychohistorian’s conceptual world.

DeMause does not care that he has been accused of ignoring the economy, the sociology and the use of statistics. “The usual accusation that psychohistory ‘reduces everything to psychology’ is philosophically meaningless — of course psychohistory is reductionist in this sense, since all it studies is historical motivations.” The statements by deMause that I like the most are those in which he says something I had been maintaining for many years before reading them, when I told myself in soliloquies that, if we have to be objective to understand exact sciences like physics, only by introducing subjectivity we could understand the humanities:

Indeed, most of what is in history books is stark, raving mad — the maddest of all being the historian’s belief that it is sane. For some time now, I often cry when I watch the evening news, read newspapers, or study history books, a reaction I was trained to suppress in every school I attended for 25 years. In fact, it is because we so often switch into our social alters when we try to study history that we cannot understand it — our real emotions are dissociated. Those who are able to remain outside the social trance are the individuals whose personal insights are beyond those of their neighbors.

Psychohistory is a science in which the researcher’s feelings are as much or even more a part of his research equipment than his eyes or his hands. Weighing of complex motives can only be accomplished by identification with human actors. The usual suppression of all feeling preached and followed by most “science” simply cripples a psychohistorian as badly as it would cripple a biologist to be forbidden the use of a microscope. The emotional development of a psychohistorian is therefore as much a topic for discussion as his or her intellectual development.

I no longer believe that most traditional historians are emotionally equipped.

DeMause adds that, when he talks with a typical scholar who only uses his intellect, he runs into a stare of total incomprehension. “My listener usually is in another world of discourse”.
- - - - - - - - -
The publication of The History of Childhood in 1974 marks the turning point in the field that deMause created. Putting aside the idealizations of previous historians, the book examines for the first time the history of Western childhood. In the new deMausean paradigm the force of the change is neither technology nor the economy, but the interactions between parents and children. For example, the majority of social and political thinkers set off from the premise that wars and other human catastrophes have a rational explanation, say, economics. Alice Miller and some psychohistorians maintain that at least some wars are irrational actions, and that they result from an unconscious drive: to get even with unprocessed vexations from childhood. A perfect paradigm would be the millenarian Islamic jihad, whose etiology is the locus of control shift [cf. the first chapter] from a destructive parenthood, which determines the behavior of the Muslim adult. However, the daring exposé of an entire rosary of brutalities on childhood, like the ones mentioned in the preface of this book, moved Basic Books to break the contract it held with deMause to publish The History of Childhood. (Precisely because of lack of emotional development, like most academics these publishers were crippled to face the subjective world of psychic trauma.) The process by which from here on contemporary psychohistory was born is fascinating. In this chapter I will recycle and comment on some passages of one of the articles by deMause, “On writing childhood history,” published in 1988, a recapitulation of fifteen years of work in the history of childhood.

DeMause had taken courses at a psychoanalytic institute and put to the test the Freudian idea that civilization, so loaded with morals, was onerous for modern children; and that in ancient times they had lived in an Eden without the ogre of the superego. The evidence showed him exactly the opposite, and he disclosed his discrepancies by criticizing the anthropologist Géza Róheim:

I discovered I simply could make no sense at all of what Róheim and others were saying. This was particularly true about childhood. Róheim wrote, for instance, that the Australian aborigines he observed were excellent parents, even though they ate every other child, out of what they called “baby hunger” [the mothers also said that their children were “demons”], and forced their other children to eat parts of their siblings. This “doesn’t seem to have affected the personality development” of the surviving children, Róheim said, and in fact, he concluded, these were really “good mothers [who] eat their own children.”

Most anthropologists did not object to Róheim’s extraordinary conclusions. In his article deMause called our attention to a very distinct reading by Arthur Hippler on Australian aboriginals. DeMause had already consolidated his publishing house, and in Journal of Psychological Anthropology he published an article in which Hippler, who had also directly observed the aboriginals, wrote:

The care of children under 6 months of age can be described as hostile, aggressive and careless; it is often routinely brutal. Infanticide was often practiced. The baby is offered the breast often when he does not wish it and is nearly choked with milk. The mother is often substantially verbally abusive to the child as he gets older, using epithets… Care is expressed through shouts, or not at all, when it is not accompanied by slaps and threats. I never observed a single adult Yolngu caretaker of any age or sex walking a toddler around, showing him the world, explaining things to him and empathizing with his needs. The world is described to the child as dangerous and hostile, full of demons, though in reality the real dangers are from his caretakers. The child is sexually stimulated by the mother at this age as well…

Keeping in mind what Ross said in the case of the second girl [cf. the first chapter], we can imagine the transfusion of evil that these infants, children of filicidal cannibals, would have internalized; and how could this have affected their mental health. I believe it is appropriate to continue quoting excerpts from the deMause article: it is very instructive to understand psychohistory and how it contrasts with the postulates of anthropologists and ethnologists. Once the observations by Hippler were published, an enraged defender of Róheim responded:

I am indeed much more sympathetic to Róheim’s accounts, precisely because he does not rush to the conclusion that deMause does. Australian Aboriginal culture survived very well, thank you, very much for tens of thousands of years before it was devastated by Western interference. If that isn’t adaptive, what is?

The description that Hippler and Róheim give of this aboriginal culture seems the worst of all possible nightmares for children. But for Western anthropologists to avow condemnatory value judgments is the ultimate taboo. Some of them even accept the Freudian theory that the historical past was less repressive for childhood, and that Western civilization was a corrupter of the noble savage. But they avoid the fact that Hippler and Róheim themselves observed barbarities towards the children that would be unthinkable in the civilized world, like eating them. (Other sources that confirm the veracity of claims of filicidal cannibalism appear in the sixth discursion, almost at the end of this book.) However incredible it may seem, anthropologists and ethnologists do not condemn these cannibal mothers. Under the first commandment of the discipline, Thou Shalt Not Judge, the emotional after-effects of childrearing are ignored, such as the clearly dissociated personalities that I myself saw in the Ross clinic [as an observer], and even worse kinds of dissociation.

In the academic world Róheim was not as well known as Philippe Ariès, an historian who collaborated with Foucault and an author of a classic book on the history of childhood, L’enfant et la Vie Familiale sous l’Ancien Régime. Ariès started from the Freudian premise of the benignancy of the milieu towards children in past times. Just as with Róheim, Ariès didn’t deny the beatings, the incest and the other vexations against children described in his book. What he denied was that such treatment caused disturbances. “In other words,” deMause writes mockingly, “since everyone whipped and molested children, whipping and molesting had no effects on any child.” Ariès has been taken as an authority in the history of childhood studies. DeMause not only rejected his assumption that there were no psychological after-effects; he inverted Freud’s axiom. DeMause’s working hypotheses are simple: (1) within the West the forms of childrearing were more barbarous in the past, and (2) compared to the Western world, other cultures treat their children worse. These hypotheses, which broke the table laws of the anthropologists, would give birth to the new discipline of psychohistory. For the academic Zeitgeist the mere talk of childhood abuse, let alone of soul murder [the title of my second book], was against the grain of all schools of thought in history, anthropology and ethnology, which take for granted that there have been no substantial changes in parental-filial relations.

The academics could not deny the facts that fascinated deMause. As we saw above, Róheim did not deny them; in fact, he himself published them. Ariès also did not deny them. The tactic that deMause found among his colleagues was the argumentum ex silentio: without historical trace of any kind, it was taken for granted that children were treated in a way similar that in the West today. The following is a splendid paradigm of this argument. In 1963, ten years before deMause started publishing, Alan Valentine in his book Fathers and Sons, published by the University of Oklahoma, examined letters from parents to their children in past centuries. He did not find a single letter that transmitted kindness to the addressee. However, in order not to contradict the common sense that in the past the treatment a man gave his sons was not different, Valentine concluded:

Doubtless an infinite number of fathers have written letters to their sons that would warm and lift our hearts, if we only could find them. The happiest fathers leave no history, and it is the men who are not at their best with their children who are likely to write the heart-rending letters that survive.

DeMause found the fallacy of the argumentum ex silentio everywhere, even among the same colleagues who contributed articles to his seminal book, The History of Childhood. For example, when deMause made a remark to Elizabeth Wirth Marwick about these kind of letters, and also about the diaries that parents wrote, Marwick responded that only the bad left a trace in history. Most historians agreed with her. DeMause had started to study the primary sources of these materials. Marwick was only one among two hundred historians that deMause had written to for his book project, of which he worked with fifty. He claims that in all of them the argumentum ex silentio appeared at the time of reaching the conclusions to which the evidence pointed out to. The reasons were, naturally, psychological. An Italian historian delivered to deMause the draft of a chapter that began by saying that he would not consider the subjects of infanticide and pederasty in ancient Rome. DeMause had to reject it. Other would-be contributors went further. At the beginning of this book I spoke of the torment that swaddling with tight clothes has represented for babies. John Demos, author of a book about the family in American colonists, denied that the European practice had been imported into American soil despite the evidence that deMause had collected and published (in a television history program even I saw a drawing of an Anglo-Saxon swaddled baby). As regards other kinds of abuse in American childhood, Demos used the argument that bibliographical evidence in letters, diaries, autobiographies and medical reports was irrelevant; that what mattered were the court documents. The problem with this argument is that in colonial times there were no organizations for the protection of childhood, which originated in nineteenth century England and which have become much more visible since the 1980s. Demos did not only argue from the basis of lack of court documents against the thesis that parents abused their children more in colonial times. He also argued that “had individual children suffered severe abuse at the hands of their parents in early New England, other adults would have been disposed to respond.” Demos’ conclusions were acclaimed in his time. But just as in his argument about court documents, this last conjecture suffers from the same idealization about the past of his nation. If other adults were unwilling to respond it was simply due to the fact that in those times the social movement of infant protection had not yet arisen. The indifference from [Mexican] society that I myself suffered exactly two centuries after the independence of the American Union [in 1976], as demonstrated in my previous book, exposes the fallacy of Demos’ argument.

Once deMause discarded all those who argued on the basis of the argumentum ex silentio, nine historians remained. Even while the contributors were delivering their articles, some of them showed reticence about publishing all the evidence they had found. Before publication the nine contributors — ten with deMause — circulated their articles among themselves. Most of them were shocked by the first chapter written by deMause, whose initial paragraphs became famous in the history of psychohistory:

The history of childhood is a nightmare from which we have only recently begun to awaken. The further back in history one goes, the lower the level of child care, and the more likely children are to be killed, abandoned, beaten, terrorized, and sexually abused. It is our task here to see how much of this childhood history can be recaptured from the evidence that remains to us.

That this pattern has not previously been noticed by historians is because serious history has long been considered a record of public not private events. Historians have concentrated so much on the noisy sand-box of history, with its fantastic castles and magnificent battles, that they have generally ignored what is going on in the homes around the playground. And where historians usually look to the sandbox battles of yesterday for the causes of those of today, we instead ask how each generation of parents and children creates those issues which are later acted out in the arena of public life.

Once the initial impression was past, some of the contributors were reluctant that their articles should appear beside the initial chapter by deMause, and, as I previously mentioned, Basic Books broke its contract. However, since deMause was already the owner of a publishing house he decided to publish it himself.

Although the contributors finally accepted that their articles would appear under a single cover, the history journal reviews were very hostile. Even a magazine like New Statesman derided deMause: “His real message is something more akin to religion than to history, and as such unassailable by unbelievers. On the other hand, his fellow-contributors to The History of Childhood have much useful historical information to offer.” Some reviewers were impressed by the body of evidence on child abuse in past centuries, but they supposed that future investigations would place such evidence on a much more benign context. “Ariès for one,” wrote deMause, “remained convinced that childhood yesterday was children’s paradise.”

The initial chapter of the book edited by deMause was titled “The evolution of childhood”. DeMause claims that of the published reviews on this chapter, translated into German, French, Italian, Spanish and Japanese, no reviewer challenged the evidence as such; only his conclusions. “Yet not a single reviewer in any of the six languages in which the book was published wrote about any errors in my evidence, and none presented any evidence from primary sources which contradicted any of my conclusions.” As we will see in the discursions, deMause’s theories are not exempt from error. Far from it! There are errors: lots of them. But these critics who rushed to judge him falsely did not see the real faults of his model. With regard to the published reviews, deMause wrote:

Since it was unlikely that I could describe the childhood of everyone who ever lived in the West for a period of over two millennia without making errors, it was extremely disappointing to me that the emotional reactions of reviewers had completely overwhelmed their critical capacities. No reviewer appeared to be interested in discussing evidence at all.

There were nonetheless magnanimous reviewers like Lawrence Stone, who in November of 1974 wrote in New York Review of Books about “the problem of how to regard so bold, so challenging, so dogmatic, so enthusiastic, so perverse, and yet so heavily documented a model.” But the majority adhered to the conventional wisdom, as did E.P. Hennock in a specialized magazine:

That men in other ages might behave quite differently from us yet be no less rational and sane, has been a basic concept amongst historians for a long time now. It does not belong to deMause’s mental universe. The normal practices of past societies are constantly explained in terms of psychoses.

Once more, the evidence as such is put aside to proclaim the conventional wisdom, which is taken for granted. Despite the rejection from academia, in the next years his colleagues who contributed to articles to the Institute of Psychohistory undertook the task of analyzing deMausean theories. More than twenty scholars familiar with the subject made a constructive criticism of his work. The first academic who exhaustively evaluated it was Glenn Davis in his book Childhood and History in America. Davis concluded: “I believe the psychogenic theory of history has by now passed a crucial initial test and has moved to a new stage of development.” The academic establishment thought the opposite. The American Historical Review called Davis “a convert” and The Journal of American History published: “If deMause seems to be the Pangloss of the history of childhood, Davis, with this book, lays claim to be its Candide.” Davis felt deeply hurt. He abandoned psychohistory to continue his doctoral studies, but soon after he committed suicide by jumping from the George Washington Bridge.

Thus constructive criticism reduced itself to the same journal published by deMause. Because of the discretion of the contributors, this entailed a situation in which the most weak, and even fantastic aspects, of deMausean theory were not criticized (as I said, in the discursions fourth and fifth I myself do the criticism). However, scholarly evaluations of the evidence of the treatment of children in the past presented by deMause were published. William Langer, Richard Trextler, Barbara Kellum and R.H. Helmholz backed up the evidence about infanticide. One of the most interesting aspects of such segregation between orthodox academics and those who moved inside deMause’s circle is that today’s encyclopedias, such as the Britannica of 2007, continue to claim that infanticide was done out of poverty. Langer and other authors had demonstrated that rich people committed infanticide in a greater scale than the poor. This is one of the problems that show up when the academia decides to ignore a field of study. Among the psychohistorians, in Germany Friedhelm Nyssen wrote Die Geschichte der Kindheit bei L. DeMause, in which he examined the bibliographical references he could track in the works by deMause. Another German, Aurel Ende, focused on verifying the historical sources of the battering of German children by their parents. Raffael Scheck examined more that seventy autobiographies of Germans born between 1740 and 1820 and confirmed Ende’s findings. Keeping in mind the class with Colin Ross on the attachment to the perpetrator, it is interesting that Scheck wrote: “In most autobiographies can be felt how much children loved their parents even when they were cold, beating and abusive.” Attachment to the parental figure so much permeates the human mind that the ubiquity of the social identification with the perpetrator should not seem odd for us. For instance, in a couple of articles of deMause’s journal, Karen Taylor documented in great detail how the conservative sectors opposed the movement against violence on children in the nineteenth century. Elizabeth Pleck studied more than a hundred autobiographies, diaries and letters by Americans written between 1650 and 1900 in Domestic Tyranny: The Making of American Social Policy Against Family Violence from Colonial Times to the Present, and she quantified her findings. It is interesting to note that, according to Pleck, in the first half of the nineteenth century parents started to shift from beating their children with objects to spanking. The American Joseph Illick, who had contributed to one of the chapters of The History of Childhood, wrote in 1985: “DeMause created an interest in the history of childhood which did not exist before, and he has been the original source of inspiration for most of the scholarship on childhood in this country over the past decade.” Peter Petschauer, a German psychohistorian, expanded in great detail on how swaddling was practiced along with other barbarities in Prussian education. Other European researchers of childhood also commented on the work by deMause: Katharina Rutschky, Alice Miller and Linda Pollock. Miller accepted both deMause’s material and his conclusions. Rutschky only accepted the evidence but rejected the conclusions. Pollock rejected both.

Although Rutschky is the author of books on history of pedagogy, and coined the term “poisonous pedagogy” that Miller popularized and that was so useful in my previous book, I will only briefly comment on the other author, Linda Pollock. Her book Forgotten Children: Parent-Child Relations from 1500 to 1900 is most often cited to deny the deMausean thesis that the treatment of children was different in the past. According to Pollock: “With few exceptions, children seemed to be quite attached to their parents as infants and continued to have deep affection for them.” Pollock does not seem to have any knowledge that, as is the case of other mammals, our biology predetermines us to attach to our parents independently of their behavior. The most pertinent criticism by deMause on Pollock is his pointing out that her study was based on diaries of the parents themselves. “A similar methodology,” writes deMause, “would construct a statistical history of crime by ignoring all police reports and relying solely on the diaries of criminals to establish crime rate statistics.” Despite such elemental reality, many reviewers considered Pollock’s book as definitive in the field vis-à-vis the deMausean model.

At present studies of the history of childhood continue to emerge from psychohistorians and other academic historians alike; for example, the study by Colin Heywood. But it is precisely books like Heywood’s, which accept the historical evidence of abuses of childhood but differ from deMause’s conclusions, that have convinced me that deMause has found a gold vein that still has substance for much exploitation. DeMause ends his retrospective article of 1988 by pointing out that, despite the rejection by the academy, The History of Childhood, the books of Alice Miller and other popular authors who advocate the cause of the child are widely read by an important niche of society.

The central thesis in psychohistory is that the dynamics of social emergency is psychogenic: it has its roots in the treatment of children, not in economics [see, e.g., Robert Godwin’s article on Muslim childrearing]. DeMause has no illusions. Like Thomas Kuhn, he knows perfectly well that paradigm revolutions are achieved gradually while the defenders of the old paradigm die and are replaced by new individuals. “If childhood history and psychohistory mean anything,”, writes deMause, “they mean reversing most of the causal arrows used by historians to date.” In other words, the way of seeing the world in the humanities and in social sciences is upside down, and psychohistory places our feet back on the ground. The relations between parents and children have determined the social, political and economic aspects in all civilizations of the world. In contrast to the findings of Darwin about the organism and its environment, in Homo sapiens the external world does not mold future developments so definitively as the intergenerational emergency of empathy does, as we will see in the next chapter. In a nutshell, the main finding of psychohistory is that academic history fails to recognize the profound role that the love of the parents for their children plays in the future developments of mankind.

Psychohistory continues to be, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, a controversial field of study. However, at the moment of writing, psychohistory courses are given in Boston University and in other universities in New York, and The Journal of Psychohistory has been published for more than thirty years.

©2008 César Tort

The Return of Quetzalcoatl

Forthcoming chapter:

  • Periodization of Parental-Filial Relations


Chechar said...

Thanks Baron and Dymphna for publishing my second chapter. I hope that each time a chapter is published GoV-ers will begin to see that that there’s indeed a connection between bad parenting and the developmentally stunted mentality in the Muslim world.

Incidentally, this article responds to DP111’s various posts in the preface thread (for a summary see this post). Those who have read this short chapter might start to catch a glimpse of the larger picture: infanticide was far more irrational than the rational explanations postulated by academics working within their current anthropological paradigm: an anti-Western paradigm that exonerates both Islam and tribal cultures from accusations, to put it plainly, of barbarism.

Profitsbeard said...

"History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awaken." -James Joyce.

The unintended diary of humanity (History) is the intentionally-damaged record of our ascent from pre-consciousness to the present para-conscious state of the species. A condition of mind which ranges from an a-historical tribalism (a kind of diverse Dreamtime) to the most advanced post-Renaissance insights that analytical Philosophy, Existential Phenomenology, post-Freudian Psychology, and the Newtonian-Einsteinian Sciences have permitted us to achieve.

Technically, before the advent of modern Psychology (Charcot, Freud, James, Jung, etc.), the entire planet was (at best) pre-sane, because it had no way of determining "sanity", only orthodoxy or heresy toward the local taboos.

It was literal a mad world before the mind was freed from globally-constrictive religious prohibitions
and able to begin to examine itself "scientifcally", or at least rationalistically.

We are in the infancy of Consciousness, and at the dawn of sanity.

And we risk losing it all to the twin "tide[s] of black mud" (to use Freud's disturbingly Ferenczian image) "of occultism" (currently incarnated in Islamic irrationalism and its assisting homicidal dogmas) and the technical-scientific community's foresightless development of a cybernetic replacement for our nascent intelligence with an artifical one.

The future may see-saw back down into the brutal darkness of the Id if we do not defend the illuminating gains of Reason that we have struggled to establish in the past few centuries.

Thanks for the stimulating article Cesar!

Chechar said...

Hey Profitsbeard!: you are a kind of clairvoyant.☺ Your phrase “the entire planet was at best pre-sane” resonates with what I say in the (still untranslated) chapter on Julian Jaynes; and “the brutal darkness of the Id…” is almost a citation of what I say at the end of the (still untranslated) second discursion.

The only difference with what you say is that, to me, the monsters from the Id are surging from inside the minds of self-hate Westerners who are destroying civilization. The next chapter periodizes the ascent of man from infanticidal pre-consciousness to the present, an almost conscious state. I say “almost” since we are still struggling with our “monsters from the Id”.

Hope you’ll like it!

César (a.k.a. “Chechar”)

Profitsbeard said...

Chechar (Cesar)-

Glad to be a bit prescient!

Looking forward to your further work.

Sounds like we are heading in the same direction on parallel tracks.

Jaynes' "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" is a book I try to get everyone to dip into.

A preconceptions-shaking experience.

Nietzsche's insights into the linguistic presumptions inherent in our "love of wisdom" and species' consciousness are also stimulating, and prefigured Wittgenstein's entire thrust, which he summed up in the very Nietzschean phrase:

"Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language."

(James Breasted's "The Dawn of Conscience" is also a profoundly useful and fascinating work.)

Dymphna said...


I hope you are not dismayed at the lack of commenting here.


You bring up the primal problem in human relationships: we all have an internal map, the template of which was completed by the end of our first year while we were mostly pre-verbal. Thus the images attending this template are distortions of a primitive mind.

So we go out into the world equipped with our “map”. We superimpose our family-of-origin template onto every encounter. The other, our interlocutor, is doing the same thing.

Winnicott said that delving into child development was a dangerous business and he was sooo right. Those who choose to work with damaged adults and children risk secondary exposure to trauma.

I may have said this at your blog, but I hope you've had the opportunity to read Wilfred Bion. The only book I have of his is Experiences in Groups. I return to it again and again. Maybe someday I’ll do a post on the basic kinds of groups.

For an anecdotal but fascinating look at childhood trauma see this book:

Too Scared to Cry.

(I put her book in a Google search and came up with my own forgotten review)

From the practical side, see Stephen J. Bavolek, Ph.D. His Parent Nurturing Programs began with his experience in Colorado as a clinician in a residential program for seriously sexually abused children. When time & space permit, I’ll tell you some of his stories.

I studied under Stephen after I left state social work (a bureaucratic horror that government intrusion has ruined). His program is community-oriented, labor intensive, and immensely helpful to all the participants – parents, children, and facilitators.

I went into communities to train facilitators who’d requested help, usually after a brutal child abuse case was exposed and people felt helpless. They wanted to do something. They were appalled & angered knowing the local Social Services was familiar w/the family & (some of) the abuse but left the child in the home. Our federal government mandate says “keep families together”…and the feds pay the money that keeps local DSS operating.

Another vital recommendation, again: van der Volk’s life time work on abused children, first at Baylor, then at Harvard. I don’t know where he is now.

When I was apolitical I told the Baron the larger stage didn’t interest me -- all those world leaders were nothing but 4 y.o.’s acting out childhood traumas. I’m more politically-oriented now, but politicians are the same. I may have been too optimistic: they are closer to age two, before the brain begins accelerating the neural connections between the frontal lobes.

Child sexual abuse is rampant. Pediatric clinicians will burn out if they’re not careful. You can only enter into so many hells with children (or adults)…before you feel you are drowning in evil.

BTW, is Jaynes the one who wrote on the bicameral mind?

Dymphna said...


A belated Happy Birthday!

I found a wiki on a theorist who has studied Bion extensively. It has some tantalizing references to works in Spanish.

Rafael Lopez-Corvo

Chechar said...

Thanks, Dymphna. Yes: last Wednesday was my birthday.

>I hope you are not dismayed at the lack of commenting here. People are afraid of childhood, including (especially?) their own.

Throughout the decades, most people I tried to tell about a family tragedy freaked out, including therapists. Incredibly, no psychoanalyst, therapist or shrink allowed me to fully speak out in Mexico. Not a single one! And it wasn’t until I read Alice Miller and Jeffrey Masson that I discovered the profound whys of their fear before my testimony. That’s why I wrote this (unpublished in Spanish) 5-book work on child abuse.

In my third book I recount how I had to wait 22 years after the family tragedy to find an understanding ear (a female friend). And I had to wait 26 years after the same tragedy to feel vindicated, intellectually and emotionally, about what happened: my encounter with the writings of Miller.

>We superimpose our family-of-origin template onto every encounter. The other, our interlocutor, is doing the same thing.

And this is why poor parenting is turning Islamists into what they are…

>Those who choose to work with damaged adults and children risk secondary exposure to trauma […]. You can only enter into so many hells with children (or adults)…before you feel you are drowning in evil.

In my own experience I only feel really bad when I cannot help a child because it’s parents who have the (abusive) power, for example when you say that “They were appalled & angered knowing the local Social Services was familiar w/the family & (some of) the abuse but left the child in the home.” On the other hand, I find it very invigorating talking to adults who have been extremely abused, including those labeled as schizophrenics. In fact, it’s precisely my readings of the Gulag and the Holocaust literature, that other people find depressive but I find fascinating, what allows me to understand these people better.

>It is my contention that the roots of global terrorism lie partially in the family system of fundamentalist Islamic cultures.

You say that in your book review of the book you mention above. Miller, Lloyd deMause, Robert Godwin and I believe that abusive parenting within the context of Islamic culture is not partially, but the basic etiology of terrorism. For the moment it may be hard to understand why we are reductionists. I hope the forthcoming chapters will clarify the matter…

>BTW, is Jaynes the one who wrote on the bicameral mind?

Yup! He’s the guy.

Zenster said...

The [Australian Aboriginal] baby is offered the breast often when he does not wish it and is nearly choked with milk. The mother is often substantially verbally abusive to the child as he gets older, using epithets… Care is expressed through shouts, or not at all, when it is not accompanied by slaps and threats ... The world is described to the child as dangerous and hostile, full of demons, though in reality the real dangers are from his caretakers. The child is sexually stimulated by the mother at this age as well

Much of this would seem to explain why English colonists found Australia's Aborigines no more advanced than at the stage of using easily harvested wood, bone, mineral and shell implements. If the above assertions are true, it is difficult to imagine that Aboriginal offspring did not carry forward latent, if not outright, hostilities that might easily have resulted in oppositional defiance or even patricide and matricide.

Australian Aboriginal culture survived very well, thank you, very much for tens of thousands of years before it was devastated by Western interference. If that isn’t adaptive, what is?.

I dispute this. Aboriginal culture did not "survive very well" for all those "tens of thousands of years". The marginal technology that English settlers found them in possession of strongly indicated a subsistence level culture with little prospect of advancement. One merely has to examine how British colonists needed only two short centuries to transform Australia into a thriving agricultural enterprise and treasure-house of natural resources.

Some of them even accept the Freudian theory that the historical past was less repressive for childhood, and that Western civilization was a corrupter of the noble savage.

"Nature's Gentleman", AKA "The Nobel Savage", is one of the most enduring and patently false myths that continues to permeate Western thought and, especially, the Liberal mindset. Whatever abbreviated lifespan our savage ancestors had was Hobbesian in nature, being; "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". Our modern world has been infected with this "Noble" drivel to such a degree that the primitive is now viewed as more "authentic" and the crude as more "genuine". As if Bach's concertos were unable to convey the most fundamental aspects of human aspiration and emotional elevation.

For example, when deMause made a remark to Elizabeth Wirth Marwick about these kind of letters, and also about the diaries that parents wrote, Marwick responded that only the bad left a trace in history.

This is just more hatred of the successful. If "only the bad left a trace in history", our world would be far more ugly and hostile and, quite possibly, wiped clean of human existence due to an inability to wrest civilization from the behavior of our savage forebearers.

“Ariès for one,” wrote deMause, “remained convinced that childhood yesterday was children’s paradise.”.

I'd say that a prediliction for Fairy Tales has resulted in such a puerile assessment as to the upbringing that children historically endured. Alas, for these sub-morons, Charles Dickens' "Little Dorritt" is but fiction without any historical basis.

Chechar said...

I still have one comment left in this relatively old thread and would like to respond here to what Watching Eagle asked in my blog, here:

@ DeMause's work may be incomplete, because he never would have imagined secularists surrendering and helping institute Islamic Theocracy.

It is not only incomplete but wrong in some aspects. The problem with deMause is the problem with most intellectuals: the drive that moves them toward extreme liberalism and to the left.

@ Hopefully, you can go further than he did and explain things more. While reading your article, I got two questions. 1) Why would Leftists (from privileged backgrounds, mainly) hate their countries so much? What went wrong in the parenting?-- if that is your explanation.

Yes: that is my explanation (I am a sort of psychologist ☺). There are two kinds of extreme liberal people in the West. I use the word “psychology” in the 19th century sense of intuitive psychology, for instance as Schopenhauer and Nietzsche used the term (in contrast to the academic sense). In the 21st century there are some known writers that may be considered intuitive psychologists (e.g., Alice Miller and her psycho-biographies). I have lived in Mexico, in the US, in England and in Spain (where I am presently living). I have concluded that the West-haters that I have “analyzed” are invariably transferring the hate they feel toward the way they were educated onto the powerful West and the powerful America. I can only explain this subject with an article on specific psycho-biographies of West haters, something that I plan to do after I finish the English translation of The Return of Quetzalcoatl.

@ 2) What went wrong with the masses of the people that they allowed such destructive lies to run rampant (socialism, feminism, enlightenment—the bad side of it—, etc.) rather than making them stop spreading? I agree that in former centuries, (such as with the Inquisition) there was not always enough freedom of thought, but the West has seemed to go to the other extreme, and tolerate ideologies which have the stated purpose of destroying our society. In the parenting department, these two questions seem difficult to understand, because parenting was supposed to be getting better, according to deMause's theory.

Yes: that’s the crux. Very important question—actually the sort of questions that moved me to introduce deMause and psychohistory to the GoV audience.

Not everything stems from unconscious hate toward one’s own abusive childhood. Only part of it. I have a few words left before this post reaches the maximum of 500 words. So I would recommend reading a couple of posts in my blog: the "slim book" about Con Swede's worldview, and the section starting in “The whys of the West’s darkest hour” in another entry.

As I said, this is my 4th and therefore last post in this thread. Please direct further questions on this topic in this specific entry of my blog.