Two dreams encouraged my work on this book. In the first dream I have a horrible, black, ugly-looking wound on my left upper arm. A little see-through pipe begins to grow out of this wound and turns into a tiny hand. Then another hand grows out of the other side of the wound, and above those tiny arms grows the tiny face of a child—called in the dream a hero child.
Through my work in therapy, a painful childhood wound became visible, was attended to, and a brave child grew out of this work—the child who always wanted to speak up but never could—and never dared to defend herself. My true Self and I accompany and support her in writing this book and telling about her ordeal.
For many years, my fear of speaking up about my parents' mistreatments and crimes paralyzed me—as if I was committing a crime if I told the truth about my childhood. In the second dream, I am in front of a tribunal in a big public hearing. I know that I have not committed a crime; but I am accused for my convictions.
My mother rises and declares that my convictions are wrong, impossible, and also dangerous. I speak up: "Be on my side—or leave." Infuriated and insulted, she marches out of the hall. People storm out of the assembly hall with her. Among them, I recognize my sisters and other members of my family. At the end of my dream, I am not on trial anymore. I am walking down a street by myself. I have won my freedom—in solitude.
As a German born in 1950, my life has been marked by the question of how the unspeakable crimes committed by Nazi Germany could have happened. True—political, historical, social, and religious factors all contributed to the rise of the fanatic, fascist regime. But—severe, strict, often violent and cruel child-rearing practices were also an important, and often overlooked, factor.
Human beings are not born evil but can be programmed to act in evil ways, if mistreatment and cruelty are inflicted on innocent and powerless children. Aside from our spoken language, we teach our children a behavioral language that forms them deeply and has lasting consequences. I believe that inhuman child-raising methods created a volatile reservoir of repressed emotional energy, whose destructive power Hitler and his movement found easy to unleash.
My book and these 'screams' are the result of a long search and a painful struggle. Aside from therapeutic writing on my own, I worked for many years with different therapists and different forms of therapy. I see myself as a searcher who has deeply explored her past and her unconscious, and who submits her report.
My personal journey led me to leave the family I grew up in, my first marriage, my country, my upper-class life, and the religion of my youth. Parts of my journey I have described in the essay "Facing a Wall of Silence" in the book Second Generation Voices, where I wrote, "I see my life as being in the service of overcoming silences, within me and around me."
With my book, I want to help overcome the silence about childhood suffering and its consequences, which a misused and misleading concept of forgiveness towards parents has imposed upon us. The most difficult process for me was to believe and embrace my abused, suffering inner child and to learn to be on her side in order to help her move past her fears and overwhelming feelings of powerlessness.
These 'screams' were written over a period of twenty years. I see them as emotional paintings of the child's feelings and of the reality I could not be aware of and know as a child. I, the mature woman, have given the child my brain and my voice to express them. Like the pieces of a puzzle compose eventually a coherent picture, my childhood becomes manifest as each 'scream' reveals moving insights about it. Through the 'screams,' the truth can come to light.