Alice Miller digs into the psycho-history behind the mental-illness cases she deals with, turning her lights on the legacy of parent education from medieval through early-modern times. And to a large degree Miller lays the blame for traditions of mental illness on Christian theology. If children were presumed to be born evil, then the struggle to raise them could be something like exorcizing demons. How should a God-fearing parent proceed? The examples Miller cites from parenting literature are many and disturbing. In a 1740s "Essay on the Education and Instruction of Children", J. Sulzer, argues that the first necessary step was for children to learn that the world of adults had an established order, which could not be altered by wailing protests or selfish demands. Second, they must learn to obey the authors of that order:
"The second major matter to which one must dedicate oneself beginning with the second and third year is a strict obedience to parents and superiors and a trusting acceptance of all they do. These qualities are not only absolutely necessary for the success of a child's education, but they have a very strong influence on education in general. They are essential because they impart to the mind orderliness per se and a spirit of submission to the laws. A child who is not used to obeying his parents will also not willingly submit to the laws and rules of reason once he is on his own ..., since he is already accustomed to act in accordance with his own will. Obedience is so important that all education is actually nothing other than learning how to obey." (p.12)
Perhaps Miller aims indiscriminately at religion in general. She is focused on cases of abuse, like a policeman who sees crime all day. Her call for compassion is not the whole answer for parents, but it is crucial for a saner world.
--author of Correcting Jesus: 2000 Years of Changing the Story