Humiliation for the child, contempt for the weak and where it goes from there

A dropped cone

Below is a beautiful example from Alice Miller that shows how humiliation and contempt play out in everyday life.

I was out for a walk and noticed a young couple a few steps ahead, both tall; they had a little boy with them, about two years old, who was running alongside and whining. (We are accustomed to seeing such situations from the adult point of view, but here I want to describe it as it was experienced by the child.) The two had just bought themselves ice-cream bars on sticks from the kiosk and were licking them with enjoyment. The little boy wanted one, too. His mother said affectionately, “Look, you can have a bite of mine, a whole one is too cold for you.” The child did not want just one bite but held out his hand for the whole ice, which his mother took out of his reach again. He cried in despair, and soon exactly the same thing was repeated with his father: “There you are, my pet,” said his father affectionately, “you can have a bite of mine.” “No, no,” cried the child and ran ahead again, trying to distract himself. Soon he came back again and gazed enviously and sadly up at the two grown-ups, who were enjoying their ice creams contentedly and at one. Time and again he held out his little hand for the whole ice-cream bar, but the adult hand with its treasure was withdrawn again.

The more the child cried, the more it amused his parents. It made them laugh a lot and they hoped to humor him along with their laughter, too: “Look, it isn’t so important, what a fuss you are making.” Once the child sat down on the ground and began to throw little stones over his shoulder in his mother’s direction, but then he suddenly got up again and looked around anxiously, making sure that his parents were still there. When his father had completely finished his ice cream, he gave the stick to the child and walked on. The little boy licked the bit of wood expectantly, looked at it, threw it away, wanted to pick it up again but did not do so, and a deep sob of loneliness and disappointment shook his small body. Then he trotted obediently after his parents.

– From “The Drama of the Gifted Child” by Alice Miller

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2 thoughts on “Humiliation for the child, contempt for the weak and where it goes from there

  1. Pingback: Caring vs. Caretaking: How do we tell the difference? « Living Ubuntu Blog

  2. Pingback: Caring vs. Caretaking: How do we tell the difference? « Living Ubuntu Blog

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