A story of courage, hope and recovery

Today I publish an account by a friend of her journey from an abusive childhood to healing and a normal life. Janet suffered from serious troubles with social relations, mood, and dissociation and was a patient in the psychiatric system for several years, until she found recovery with help from the works of Alice Miller, Konrad Stettbacher and Jean Jenson.

I recommend Janets account to anybody touched by issues with childhood abuse and psychological suffering. I feel that by focusing on just telling what happened to her, she very well captures the everyday drama that happens to children all over the world.

A brief background on these therapy koncepts: Alice Miller published her first book, The Drama of the Gifted Child. in 1979. In the eighties she wrote several books that were increasingly critical towards the Freudian tradition in psychotherapy. She became quite famous and her books sold in tens of thousands in many languages all over the world. She became sort of a spokesperson for suffering children and childhood. People started writing to her to request how they could find therapy in accordance with her books. She didn’t know of any such therapy, so she choose to recommend the books of Stettbacher and Jenson as basis for self-therapy. She has later taken back these endorsements, as is discussed in Janets text.

Today Janet suffers from a serious cancer. This is extremely sad. You are very welcome to comment on her story, or send her your greetings below in the comment field.

Link to pdf: I want to live by Janet.

Update 19 september 2011: new version of the story published.
Update 23 March 2014: New totally reworked version published (this version was also published in print in Dutch)

10 reaktioner till “A story of courage, hope and recovery”

  1. Hi Janet and hi Daniel!

    Now I have read all of Janet’s story and I want to thank you for writing it down and publishing it! I have learned a lot about myself and my own reactions by reading your story. Your story would definitely help other people, suffering from the consequences of abuse and trauma, if they could read it. Therefore, I wonder if it’s OK that we publish your story too, to our blog (link by my name above)? I see the story is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License so it looks like you want it to be distributed further, but I ask anyway.

    When I got to the end of your story I cried. I am very sorry about your serious illness and I hope with all my heart that you will spend more time here on earth. Sending a thousand hugs (if you want them)! /Katten

  2. Hi Katten,

    Thank you for your reaction. The license indeed tells it can be distributed further. That’s why I published my story at Daniel’s site: to let it read by other people who can find help in it to deal with their own history. More places where people can read it can help to reach those people. So, it’s certainly OK with me. And yes, I want your hugs.


  3. Dear Janet,
    I am very moved and fascinated by your therapy story and your courage to trust yourself; and I am afflicted and shocked by your severe illness. What a severe blow life has dealt you after you travelled so bravely through years of most challenging therapy work and changed yourself and your life profoundly. I am deeply sorry that you have to face cancer and the end of your life after you could build so much happiness for yourself and your family.

    You endured horrific, brutal, gruesome child abuse; you worked your way through uncovering these devastating childhood memories, on your own, with the help of the four steps because you did not find sincere and helpful therapeutic support — it is a most difficult journey to do on your own. Your journey, your writing and your (inner) debates, for example about the Miller/Stettbacher controversy, strike me as authentic, truthful and sincere, and very convincing. I was deeply impressed how you worked your way through this controversy by looking at all the facts and statements, and then decided that you still could trust the four steps, although the therapist that published them made a severe professional mistake. At that time, my contact with Alice Miller was interrupted, and the four steps were essential for my therapy work. So I simply ignored what I heard about her critique of Stettbacher and continued my own work using the four steps, which I did for many years, until I was overwhelmed by anxiety and looked for a therapist.

    What you write is very true for me: ”I do not find it a failure when someone doing self-help therapy needs support or help for some time.” It touches me that you found a supportive therapist for your struggle with cancer. You share some reasons why that is helpful for you, among them: ”Telling my history to a therapist makes it easier to make clear that I don’t accept my father’s prohibition to talk about it. It is necessary to speak, to undo the prohibition to speak. Speaking to a cassette recorder wasn’t enough for that, although it was very useful at the time. And when the therapist tells me that my father didn’t have the right to do what he did, it is easier for me to believe this than when I have to struggle with all my excuses for him alone.” Yes, also for me the presence of a therapist who is not afraid of horrible childhood realities and who is on the side of the abused and neglected child has made a difference.

    Your story is unique and uniquely personal — it affirms how unique we all are; how different our needs, hopes, dreams and wishes are, also in regard to therapy; and how unique every human life is. All that you share underlines how singular every therapeutic journey is; how different our needs are in terms of doing therapeutic work, be that alone or accompanied by a therapist who does not deny the reality of childhood suffering; and what we need to feel safe and encouraged to travel within, confront our past and how it has affected us, and still affects us today. Every new life experience or stage of life has brought up for me new challenges and new awareness about childhood suffering, and either self-help therapy or therapy session with my therapist have helped me face that.

    Ever since I encountered the four steps, I have done most of my therapy work on my own, even when I had weekly sessions with my therapists. After I got to know the IFS approach, I turned the five steps I had been doing into six: the 4th step being about what I did not need and would have needed as a child; the fifth step being about what I don’t need today — and what I do need in my present life; and in the sixth step I began to witness the part I had worked with to help it unburden. In the third step, I sometimes talked directly with a part. By now, it is rare that I use these steps, although I sometimes still do when I feel overwhelmed by a strong feeling. These steps were definitely vital for me for a long time and allowed me to recognize and fulfill needs of my own that had been neglected for so long. 

    It has been important for me to feel clearly in charge of my process and my life. Certainly, the four steps had empowered me to become ”my own therapist.” So when I began to work with my IFS therapist Richard Schwartz in 1997, I felt I could continue on MY OWN journey, because he understood and valued how I had worked in the four steps as ”you have been talking with your parts” and affirmed that in IFS therapy, I would remain my own therapist. I think this was a strong reason why I trusted and worked with him. Today, I intermittently ask for a phone session with my therapist when the need arises, and I find them deeply effective and healing. During these sessions, I (= my Self in IFS) talk autonomously with my parts, supported by my therapist’s presence and infrequent comments or questions. 

    You bring out the importance of unmasking lies in therapy, and I strongly agree with you. You write: ”When I correspond with John and others I again conclude that for me ”uncovering lies” is a really important part of my therapy. In a way, the conclusions I had to draw as a child about the abuse, have caused the most lasting harm. I had to believe so many lies, and I am still struggling with them. In the therapy I often encounter intense confusion whether it was good or bad what my father did.” For me, too, it has been indeed an essential task of therapy to uncover lies in order to face and speak the truth; again and again, I had to realize how I still was caught in confusion, like I had been with Alice Miller in the fog admiration for example, only to awaken painfully to the truth of how abandoned, deceived and betrayed I had been as a child. It is an enormous therapeutic task to break away from accustomed beliefs, above all from believing in lies.

    You mention Jennifer Freyd’s book ”Betrayal Trauma”, and I think that the feeling of being betrayed is the most devastating aspect of child abuse and neglect, especially of sexual abuse and incest. I ”transferred” this overwhelming feeling onto my therapist in 2003, broke off all contact and saw him as the reason for all my disappointments in life. I could not even realize how deeply I was caught in the scariest disappointment and deepest agony that an abused and neglected child must face — the betrayal by one parent, or by both parents.

    Thank you from my heart for your honest and open sharing, and for speaking up so strongly for Stettbacher’s four steps and for self-help therapy. Effective therapy nurtures our ability our ability to communicate with and question our feelings and beliefs; it supports our independence, our innate strength, skills, desires and goals — but not dependence and fellowship. I wish you well for the tragic path you are on now, as you have to say good bye to your life, to your husband and children, whom you have mothered with true love. You have given them more in their first years of life than most people ever experience; your children have a solid foundation to stand on for the rest of their lives that will support them to face also life’s tragic losses and other sorrows or traumas.

    With all my respect and empathy,

  4. The comments have been closed due to spam – I move this comment from olivia here:

    Dear Janet,

    I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing your story.
    I just finished reading it, here in my kitchen in Sweden, tears running down my cheeks. You are very brave and a great inspiration to me. I have learned so much from your writings.
    I understand that your cancer has gone far and that you most likely aren’t interested in getting in contact with a healer (from the Netherlands) that I know is excellent. Please contact me if this is interesting, though.
    I am so happy that you have written what you’ve written. I see it as a survival story that could be made into a movie- a psychological thriller. (I work as an actress and singer). It is a brave and lonely journey that you’ve undertaken- and I admire and respect you for coming out of the “fog”. This fog that I am far too familiar with myself.
    I am now going to use the Stettbacher/Jensen therapy. I am so grateful that you came into my life at just the right time, when I was considering psychotherapy as the last solution. There you come- with something so precious and helpful- better than everything I’ve looked for.

    Thank You.

    I send you and your beautiful family my best wishes.
    It is true- we can live in peace and joy. You are a living example of that.

    I love you.



  5. Thanks for the story. It helps immensely to see someone else persevere in this way using the 4-Step technique.

  6. Janet -THANK YOU so much for your story!

    I started to read it some weeks ago and I’m still reading.
    First I thought that I would never be able to read all those 98 pages.
    Your experiences are terrible and hard to take in. How is it possible? How can man be so awful? And HOW can someone survive after all that?!

    The more I read the more I understood you, myself, others and the important connections the present has with the past. What a big AHA!
    What made me continue to read and read and read is also your strenght and will to go on. It’s an amazing courage!!! It is inspireing!

    Our stories are quite different, my own memories are unclear with a few exceptions and what has been right or wrong in my life is unclear as well. What I do share are some of your symptomes, most of your feelings and your descriptions of the struggels of daily life. Sometimes I cannot belive how you just describe exactly what I experience myself. You give me the valuable words that are stuck inside and couldn’t be formulated. I always knew someting was not ok, but I couldn’t find the words. I struggled and struggled in the dark trying to reach for the light.

    Something very important begun when I started to read you. I’m also reading Jean Jenson and Stuttbacher while trying to get my daily life go on. All this takes time and strenght, but finally I think I found how to get out of the dizzyness, the feeling of being wrong, weird etc. Seeing the truth, the real truth, the painful truth is necessary in the process.

    I understand that you are severly ill(i cheated and read your epilogue before finishing your story). I think of you, pray for you and wonder how you are doing.

    THANK YOU again for sharing your story. It was sent from above to me.
    All the best and lots of love to you and your family!

  7. OLIVIA – can you please contact me? I had to move your comment from another place on the blog, so I don’t have your e-mail
    /Daniel (daniel @ dkraft.se)

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