My Helping Witness

“Did you ever ask anyone for help?” the former school counselor asked when our discussion led to my father’s alcohol abuse. She meant someone such as a counselor like herself or a social worker, someone who  psychologist Dr. Alice Miller calls an enlightened witness (http://alice-miller.com/index_en.php?page=2). I was unaware of such people when I was a child. Not that I would have opened up to any of them anyway, for I carefully guarded the secret shame.

Moreover,  I didn’t need such a person. Someone else stood in the gap for me. Quoting Dr. Miller: “When I asked for details about their childhood, I was always told of a person who loved them, but was unable to protect them. Yet through his or her presence, this person gave them a notion of trust, and of love.” That was my mother, who never drank, who made sure her children got off to school every morning, who was home when they returned, who kept their clothes and house clean. She was the one who taught us to pray “Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep; If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Also–I can’t speak for my siblings–she was my confidante.

No, I didn’t need a professional, because my mother was my helping witness. As Dr. Miller writes, “The adult who has grown up without helping witnesses in his childhood needs the support of enlightened witnesses.”
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