In her writing about childhood abuse, one of my favorite
authors, Alice Miller, has coined the term
"enlightened witness." To Miller, an
enlightened witness is an understanding person who helps
a victim of abuse "recognize the injustices they
suffered" and "give vent to their
feelings" about what happened to them. From my
reading of Miller's writing it is clear she believes that
having an enlightened witness is essential to helping you
recover from abuse.
book, The Truth Will Set You Free, Miller
writes, "If mistreated children are not to become
criminals or mentally ill, it is essential that at least
once in their life they come in contact with a person who
knows without any doubt that the environment, not the
helpless, battered child, is at fault."
own case, I would say that originally it was not so much
one, individual person who played the role of my
enlightened witness. Instead, it was a variety of sources
I discovered through my online research on the subjects
of self-harm, depression, and suicide. This research led
me to the field of abuse, and from that I began to see,
for the first time, that it was not so much something
wrong with me, as I had been led to believe, but
something wrong with my environment - exactly as Miller
explains throughout her extensive writing.
was also fortunate enough to have found several people
who fit Miller's description of an enlightened witness,
though I did not really think of them in that way at the
time. I just thought of them more as emotionally
supportive people who I felt safe talking to about my
abuse. In early 2013 when I read her book Free From
Lies, the importance of an enlightened witness
became more clear to me.
to Miller, enlightened witnesses are "people who
have understood and recognized the consequences of child
abuse", and are therefore able to help others who
have never had the reality of their dysfunctional
environment completely acknowledged or taken seriously.
I see a lot of value in this idea, so now, several years
after discovering Miller's work for the first time and
several years into my own recovery from abuse, I am
offering to be an "enlightened witness" to
someone who needs it.
In my life, I have noticed how much it really helps to
have someone on your side who understands the long term
effects of abuse; someone who doesn't judge you, who
doesn't minimize your pain, or make you feel wrong for
simply feeling the way you do, and who doesn't defend
those who abused you.
To me, an enlightened witness is someone who not only
listens (as a therapist or counselor would), but who
also: Cares, Understands, and Supports
Enlightened witnesses care because they know how serious
abuse is and how it affects every aspect of your life.
They understand because they have also been abused and
they know that it is a big part of who they are today,
and who you are today.
They support you because they know that you did not
receive the emotional support you needed while growing
up, and they know this support is necessary for recovery.
They also realize that only someone who knows about abuse
first-hand can provide the kind of support you need.
As I see it, here are some things an enlightened witness
or diagnose you.
Defend your parents, culture, country or any
religious or spiritual beliefs or practices which may
have damaged you.
Give you advice.
the above is how I would define an enlightened witness in
general. More specifically, I also want to give you some
more information about how I would personally try to help
I will tell you how I feel about things you share with
me. I will tell you when I feel sad or worried. I will
use feeling words to express myself, and I will help you
do the same. I believe this will help us have a safe,
emotional connection - something neither you nor I got
while growing up.
Besides helping you identify your feelings, I will help
you identify your emotional needs that correspond to
those feelings. For example, if I see that you are
feeling rejected, I will help you connect that to your
natural need to feel accepted. For me, this idea of
connecting a painful feeling to an unmet emotional need
has been one of the most useful things I have learned to
do in my recovery process (and something I am still
I believe I would also feel real empathy and compassion
for what you are going through because I am also
suffering from result of the many years of abuse, neglect
and lack of emotional support by my own parents, teachers
to add that I'll probably limit how many people I can
emotionally support to 1 or 2 at a time, for my own
mental health, but also so that I can be better involved
with supporting you.
As far as fees, I work on a donation basis; whatever you
feel comfortable with as long as I have the time
If you'd like to contact me about being your
"enlightened witness," here is my contact page.
Thanks for reading.