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The Body Never Lies: The Lingering Effects of Hurtful Parenting

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  2,175 ratings  ·  221 reviews
Never before has world-renowned psychoanalyst Alice Miller examined so persuasively the long-range consequences of childhood abuse on the body. Using the experiences of her patients along with the biographical stories of literary giants such as Virginia Woolf, Franz Kafka, and Marcel Proust, Miller shows how a child's humiliation, impotence, and bottled rage will manifest ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published August 17th 2006 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2004)
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 ·  2,175 ratings  ·  221 reviews

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Jun 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
The author spends a lot of time arguing that the commandment to "honor thy parents" causes a lot of harm, especially to children whose parents were abusive in one way or another.

I've known several abuse survivors, some of whom still question themselves as to whether it really happened, or if it could have been as bad as they remember, or have spent a lot of time finding excuses for their parents. In that sense, I think this book could be useful for affirming those experiences and allowing heali
Martynas Petkevičius
Aug 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
It's books like this one that give the field of psychology a bad reputation. The Body Never Lies is completely unscientific and, I would say, even dangerous.

Let me save you 200 long-winded pages and summarise the book's idea in a single sentence: bad parenting can lead to mental or physiological problems in adulthood and the only way to get well is to admit your true feelings towards your parents and stop loving them unconditionally. However, the author doesn't specify what exactly bad parenting
Jul 16, 2008 rated it did not like it
Eh! Maybe my hopes were too high after being so enamored of The Drama of the Gifted Child. The thesis is one that I whole heartedly subscribe to; the mind-body connection is clearly illustrated in both my personal and professional life.

However, I found the initial part of the book weak and dull; that she beats the reader to the punch by pronouncing the impotence of the presented material (connecting physical ailments of historical figures to their emotional loose ends from childhood) does nothin
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was unlike any other that I've read on this topic. I read it with great interest and it was refreshing to read some viewpoints so unlike the ones you come across all the time.

I agree with much of what she says and thinks, but not on everything.
She is very very pro child/pro victim, and does not make any concessions at all to abusive parents or parents who do not stop sexual or physical abuse of their children by their spouses or caretakers. It was good to read a book that is all about
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a bad book.

Don't get me wrong - the idea itself, that your body will get ill if you don't respect your needs and emotions, that the morality of respecting your parents often hinders your journey to health and truth - with this I agree.

But it is so poorly written. The author derives stories about artists from single sentences with not much evidence whatsoever. Considering the author is a scientist - and as a psychologist she very much is one - the lack of scientific methodology is outrage
Kathie Jackson
Jul 31, 2013 rated it liked it
The belief that our repressed emotions can cause physical ailments is nothing new. What Miller offers that feels groundbreaking is this: children of abusers need not forgive their parent(s) in order to be free of the pain and damage. As a therapist Miller feels her profession too often preaches the typical morality of "honor thy parents" and finds that most counselors believe forgiveness is key to the patient being able to move on. Miller instead believes a therapist should become an "enlightene ...more
Dec 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
I like that she gives examples of authors in this book. I didn't know about Virginia Woolf's childhood or the reasons for her suicide. The author repeatedly comes back to the point that survivors of abusive parents need to let go of their need for love from those parents. I wish she had given some examples of children who did let go of that, who were either thrown out of the house or ran away, who had to become independent adults without that support. Because living without family is traumatic, ...more
Initially NO
May 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crisis-healing
This book is amazing in its power to enable people, to shift the stuck. I found the descriptions of people who stop eating and get diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia, make more sense than anything I've read on this topic. The idea of desperately trying to find nutrition metaphorically... yes. This is the second book of Alice Miller's I have read. Now, I have to read her entire shelf.

The body never lies - ‘Ultimately the body will rebel, even if it has temporarily been pacified with the help of d
AA Palliser
Jul 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read for therapists and people in any kind of realtional or attatchment based therapy.

I found this book fantastic as a help tool for people in my practice who are dealing with issues around abusive parents or trauma. It gives one the courage to look at the bonds of parenthood and question the realationships with parents who have been cruel or abusive.

I loved it.
Oct 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Interesting and validating. Occaisionally she goes slightly over the top and draws conclusions I found a bit of a stretch. Also it can be repetetive, but I think that was on purpose, since the resistence to these ideas was part of the point. I'm glad this book was written, I think it's important. ...more
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2017
This book is part illuminating, part reductive in its repetition. Always brave.

This isn't my favorite of Alice Miller's books, but I love her for writing it.
Oct 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A very interesting read about how child abuse of any form is stored within the body and either results in the child becoming an abusive adult or an adult suffering from various mental and health problems. Because society teaches us to love our parents (the 4th commandment) we are unable to express our hate, hurt or whatever negative emotion we have towards our parents and end up suffering or letting others suffer. Whilst I don't agree with everything she says I think it will show the reader a fe ...more
The 2 stars are for the main point of this book; that it doesn't bring any good trying to honour parents who abused you and that the notion that you can only find peace through forgiveness is harmful. Other than that,it was all over the place and preposterous at times. Using deceased writers as examples claiming their illnesses that caused their death was directly caused by their parents mistreatment of them. It all got a bit too crazy for me when she writes a fictitious diary of one of her pati ...more
Lindsay Nixon
May 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’d give it 100 stars if I could 💯 ⭐️
May 18, 2017 added it
Alice Miller, author of the cult book for children who had to act as parents to their own (The drama of the gifted child), here tackles the mind-body connection, which reacts loudly when we try to love our parents even if we suffered neglect and abuse at their hands. She talks about everything from pure, brutal abuse, to "casual" slaps now and then, and the most undetectable kind of neglect - denying the child its own feelings, needs and desires without truly listening. She demonstrates her idea ...more
Nov 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: inner-work
Excellent book on the effects of cruel parenting. I had a several "aha moments" with this book. ...more
Dec 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A good read for anyone who is working on themselves and their childhood.
Gives you a good lens to view things differently.
Jan 19, 2019 rated it did not like it
The idea that harmful experiences as a child can inhibit someone as an adult is nothing new, nor is the idea that it can exacerbate illness. (Felitti et. al's study "Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study" is hallmark and fantastic in examining some of the ways childhood harm perpetuates through adulthood. It doesn't just talk about abusive childhoods and addresses trauma from pover ...more
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Controversial. The fourth commandment represses emotions towards cruel parents and results in physical ailments. Alcoholism. Anorexia. Bulimia. Cancer. Asthma. Allergic skin disease.
A lot of it was anecdotal. It rings true. Psychosomatic illness is real. And the commandments have exceptions. Controversial as that is. It’s better to break the shabbat and do good. than to keep it and fail to do good. It could be some relationships are so poisonous, toxic to the individual that to recognize this a
Craig Bergland
Simply outstanding. Anybody who was once a child needs to read this book, particularly if you have any mysterious illnesses, whether physical or psychological. A challenge to both conventional wisdom and conventional morality that affirms all of our experiences and feelings over the cultural tendency to protect parents at all costs. This book fits nicely with the work of Gabor Mate and others who understand the profundity of the mind-body connection. Highly recommended!
Mary Ronan Drew
May 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
I think Alice Miller has some brilliant insights. The idea that all (ALL) adult ill health is caused by cruelty in childhood is not one of them. I quit on page 85 of a 214-page book so I really did give it a chance.
May 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant..Provides simple and powerful insights on what the body communicates in distress and internal conflict situations..
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It explained to me for the first time why I suffered from anorexia as a young teenager. (I was dying to be fed genuine communication and intimacy through human connection.) It also helps me understand how I need to change so that I don't pass down my verbally abusive tendencies (constant criticism and controlling) onto my son. It's a very complex situation, being a parent. This book demonstrates how our bodies tell us when there are problems. Psychological stress comes up as p ...more
Beatrice Stan
Feb 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
About healing and awareness. Really love it.
Diana Nagy
Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was inspired by the information contained within this book. I think the main reason is because it was a bit off the beaten track. Or maybe a lot. Going the other way. I liked the advice that considers the fourth commandment regarding respect towards your parents and forgiveness to them regardless of what is done to you. The fact is that those of us who were treated badly as children whether we were physically sexually or emotionally abused or not paid attention to and neglected have been great ...more
Tess Parker
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
While there are points I disagree with (namely the take on Virginia Woolf's life, where being in the crux of WWII and being much more than her mental health suffering - a socialite and a clever, humorous, intelligent, creative human being - were not taken into account) but that aside, Miller makes groundbreaking points on the unconscious prescription of the "Fourth Commandment," which prescribes the performance of a 'false self' from the formative social (and emotional) conditioning in upbringin ...more
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Over the course of my life, I've had more illnesses than I can count. From being poisoned as a small child ( which is conveniently labelled "Munchhausen-by-proxy" for the female terrorist who did it to me-of course, the poor female "could not help herself..."), to rapidly putting on weight in my adolescence (after being brainwashed into believing I was "fat" and "ugly" and "disgusting" from the earliest age possible), the list goes on. Reading this, as well as Andrew Vachss's article "You carry ...more
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Miller posits a fascinating theory regarding childhood abuse & neglect and health issues late in life.

Miller takes a vehement, almost strident, approach to the idea that our societal insistence on honoring our parents, regardless of the wrongs they committed upon us, has caused some to experience dramatic, even life threatening, physical and mental health issues. She supports her theory by using personal accounts of well known artists and writers and explores how societal adherence to the 4th Co
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Alice Miller explains how cruel parenting can develop physical diseases in their victims. It also talks about the relationship of some artists' premature deaths and the abuse they suffered as kids.
I really loved the first part. However, I couldn't get to understand how abuse affects the body directly. I believe it because of the proof the author gives, but there were no scientific explanations.
I think this is a fast-paced book and approachable for everyone. I recommend it to anyone who has bee
Joanne Stevenson
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
Interesting concept for the book, reexamining the art and correspondence of important cultural figures(Dostoyevsky, Proust etc.) and linking their physical ailments to repressed painful relationships with their parents. I found myself never being fully disabused of my skepticism, however, and I don't know whether this is my failing or the author's. ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author by this name in the Goodreads database.

Psychologist and world renowned author, who is noted for her books on child abuse, translated in several languages. In her books she departed from psychoanalysis charging it with being similar to the poisonous pedagogies, which she described in For Your Own Good.

Miller was born in Poland and as young woman lived

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2 likes · 1 comments
“Thus he spent his whole life searching for his own truth, but it remained hidden to him because he had learned at a very young age to hate himself for what his mother had done to him. (...) But not once did he allow himself to direct his endless, justified rage at the true culprit, the woman who had kept him locked up in her prison for as long as she could. All his life he attempted to free himself of that prison, with the help of drugs, travel, illusions, and above all poetry. But in all these desperate efforts to open the doors that would have led to liberation, one of them remained obstinently shut, the most important one: the door to the emotional reality of his childhood, to the feelings of the little child who was forced to grow up with a severely disturbed, malevolent woman, with no father to protect him from her.” 34 likes
“A system of morality tells us what to do and what not to do, but it cannot tell us what we should feel. Genuine feelings cannot be produced, nor can they be eradicated.” 14 likes
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