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The bestselling book on childhood trauma and the enduring effects of repressed anger and pain Why are many of the most successful people plagued by feelings of emptiness and alienation? This wise and profound book has provided millions of readers with an answer--and has helped them to apply it to their own lives. Far too many of us had to learn as children to hide our own fe The bestselling book on childhood trauma and the enduring effects of repressed anger and pain Why are many of the most successful people plagued by feelings of emptiness and alienation? This wise and profound book has provided millions of readers with an answer--and has helped them to apply it to their own lives. Far too many of us had to learn as children to hide our own feelings, needs, and memories skillfully in order to meet our parents' expectations and win their "love." Alice Miller writes, "When I used the word 'gifted' in the title, I had in mind neither children who receive high grades in school nor children talented in a special way. I simply meant all of us who have survived an abusive childhood thanks to an ability to adapt even to unspeakable cruelty by becoming numb.... Without this 'gift' offered us by nature, we would not have survived." But merely surviving is not enough. The Drama of the Gifted Child helps us to reclaim our life by discovering our own crucial needs and our own truth.


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The bestselling book on childhood trauma and the enduring effects of repressed anger and pain Why are many of the most successful people plagued by feelings of emptiness and alienation? This wise and profound book has provided millions of readers with an answer--and has helped them to apply it to their own lives. Far too many of us had to learn as children to hide our own fe The bestselling book on childhood trauma and the enduring effects of repressed anger and pain Why are many of the most successful people plagued by feelings of emptiness and alienation? This wise and profound book has provided millions of readers with an answer--and has helped them to apply it to their own lives. Far too many of us had to learn as children to hide our own feelings, needs, and memories skillfully in order to meet our parents' expectations and win their "love." Alice Miller writes, "When I used the word 'gifted' in the title, I had in mind neither children who receive high grades in school nor children talented in a special way. I simply meant all of us who have survived an abusive childhood thanks to an ability to adapt even to unspeakable cruelty by becoming numb.... Without this 'gift' offered us by nature, we would not have survived." But merely surviving is not enough. The Drama of the Gifted Child helps us to reclaim our life by discovering our own crucial needs and our own truth.

30 review for The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self

  1. 4 out of 5

    howl of minerva

    They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had And add some extra, just for you. -Philip Larkin, This Be The Verse Not the facile pop-psychology I was expecting, rather a book with some penetrating insights. As other reviewers note, "gifted" in this context does not refer necessarily to academic or artistic gifts (though these are common in the patient group Miller describes), rather a kind of emotional sensitivity. Briefly, Miller de They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had And add some extra, just for you. -Philip Larkin, This Be The Verse Not the facile pop-psychology I was expecting, rather a book with some penetrating insights. As other reviewers note, "gifted" in this context does not refer necessarily to academic or artistic gifts (though these are common in the patient group Miller describes), rather a kind of emotional sensitivity. Briefly, Miller describes the narcissistic personality disturbance. Here narcissistic is used not in the broad sense of vain, being in love with yourself etc. This narcissism is an internalisation of the great expectations of one's parents, the consequent lasting feelings of inadequacy and drive to greater and greater successes (that leave one hollow). Narcissus did not fall in love with himself, but with a false reflection of himself. The twin manifestations of narcissism are grandiosity and depression. Each is a defence against the other. Grandiosity arises as a person feels their achievements render them superior to everyone else. Depression strikes when they realise they will never achieve as much as "necessary" to support their ego, or that all achievements are empty. Both these manifestations can be traced back to a failure to express one's true self and an idealisation of a false-self instilled by parental desires, pride, ambition, vicarious status-seeking etc. Grandiosity is characterised by contempt for others (who have not, as a casual example, read as many books or displayed as brilliant intellectual and artistic accomplishments). Depression is characterised by contempt for oneself, when one does not (cannot) meet one's own expectations. Anything less than world-historical greatness (and perhaps even that) is seen as failure, that is, pathetic mediocrity. Notably, parents do not have to be physically abusive to have these effects. A small child, entirely dependent on its parents for all its needs, will do anything to ensure their attention and will take careful note of the smallest expressions of admiration or derision. Thus a keen sensitivity as a child instils a cripplingly powerful super-ego. Miller claims that the key to these feelings is the realisation that one was loved as a child not for who one was, but (in large part at least) because of one's achievements. This leaves the child always desperate to achieve more, to safeguard their parents' love. One's own personality, desires, needs and emotions are suppressed to create a projected perfection which attracts love and awe. Recognition of this allows the patients to be who they are for the first time and to experience their own emotions - both positive and negative. It is remarkably difficult for some people to even contemplate negative thoughts towards their parents. Childhood memories of abuse are among the most strongly suppressed or displaced. Miller references Ingmar Bergman who described in great detail the violent abuse his brother faced at his father's hands, but had no recollection of any mistreatment to himself. (Of course, it seems rather unlikely that he went through his childhood entirely unscathed). This is all pretty simplified, the book is brief and well worth reading particularly if you see aspects of yourself or someone you know in the above. Though some of the book passed me by there were sentences that gutted me like a fish... As I look forward to becoming a parent myself within the next few months (against Larkin's advice, if you know the rest of the poem) I can only hope to not fuck up my child, or at least to fuck them up as little as possible. That is, to avoid projecting my own desires and fantasies and personal conception of success onto them and to allow them to flourish as their own person.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cari

    Miller presents a solid theory with some difficult truths, but at time the narrowness of her idea turns into a sort of tunnel vision with sweeping generalizations that are far too much. She gets carried away with herself and disregards other influences, other options. I always bristle at any theory that attempts to explain everything with a single reason or cause, especially in the complicated matters of psychology or human emotion. Regardless, the clarity of her presentation makes this an easy Miller presents a solid theory with some difficult truths, but at time the narrowness of her idea turns into a sort of tunnel vision with sweeping generalizations that are far too much. She gets carried away with herself and disregards other influences, other options. I always bristle at any theory that attempts to explain everything with a single reason or cause, especially in the complicated matters of psychology or human emotion. Regardless, the clarity of her presentation makes this an easy read, and Miller's ideas have a great foundation, doubtless a benefit to many, many people. (There were, however, times when I felt an equally apt title would have been, "Yes, you really are fucked up, no matter what you think, and it's all mommy's fault!" I'm fairly certain that my parents' toilet training techniques contribued nothing to why I'm a hot mess. In fact, I'd be willing to bet their success in that endeavor has significantly aided me in my quest to be anything other than a filthy hermit. Just sayin'. That part made me choke on my tea.) Two quotes from the book that I really liked: "The true opposite of depression is neither gaiety nor absence of pain, but vitality--the freedom to experience spontaneous feelings." [p. 61:] "...I can understand my suicidal ideas better now, especially those I had in my youth...because in a way I had always been living a life that wasn't mine, that I didn't want, and that I was ready to throw away." [p. 62:]

  3. 4 out of 5

    Missreb

    for the people who seem to have it all yet hunger for so much. this is not the psychopop of twelve-step, i-got-in-touch-with-my-anger-today, neurosis-no-more books. "gifted" here has nothing to do with what your school counselor/teacher told was gifted or talented. rather, the original german word refers to the ability to empathize and meet the needs of a parent figure--at the loss of your true self. while this gift might enable one to survive his/her childhood, the gifted person's unmet need to for the people who seem to have it all yet hunger for so much. this is not the psychopop of twelve-step, i-got-in-touch-with-my-anger-today, neurosis-no-more books. "gifted" here has nothing to do with what your school counselor/teacher told was gifted or talented. rather, the original german word refers to the ability to empathize and meet the needs of a parent figure--at the loss of your true self. while this gift might enable one to survive his/her childhood, the gifted person's unmet need to express without fear her true feelings and wishes lingers like a virus that wreaks a quiet havoc on one's sense of self throughout adulthood if untreated. this book offers the start of such treatment, best summed-up in a word: hope. thanks to this book, i have a lot of hope. not to mention a keener understanding of a lot of the characters in my life--the good, the bad, and the ugly. we gifted types are everywhere.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tina Hertz

    I read this in my mid-30s and at the time, I found this to be the most helpful book I had ever read. Narcissism is fully explained - though many may think that is just another word for self-centeredness - in its many complexities. The title is misleading and apparently renamed for marketing purposes. The child who is victimized by the Narcissist is gifted because they deal with such heavy challenges and become over-sensitive to others' needs, always eager to please, while suppressing their own s I read this in my mid-30s and at the time, I found this to be the most helpful book I had ever read. Narcissism is fully explained - though many may think that is just another word for self-centeredness - in its many complexities. The title is misleading and apparently renamed for marketing purposes. The child who is victimized by the Narcissist is gifted because they deal with such heavy challenges and become over-sensitive to others' needs, always eager to please, while suppressing their own self-knowledge, emotions and needs. The book described my life in extraordinary detail, it was a catharsis to see expressed what I never could have spoken. There were a few details that did not match my life for sure, but on the whole, this book freed me. The book describes the extraordinary behaviors, symptoms, resulting characteristics in both the Narcissist and the victim. Too you can't explain away a person with just one cause, and no one is a pure Narcissist, nor should anyone be a total victim. The biggest drawback to the book is that after reading it, being enlightened and more aware of Narcissistic behavior and the stunted growth of the victims...you then say: then what? Alice Miller never ever talks about forgiveness or how to overcome being victimized, stuck in indignation. Learning the exercise of gratitude and forgiveness is the only way to beat the despair of self-pity. Today if I read it, I might take exception to the Freudian slant, to her constant complaining, to her utter atheistic outlook - but at the time I read this book, I was in no shape to weigh those kinds of things.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Fergus

    This wonderful book details the inner spiritual death suffered by little kids who are conveniently SACRIFICED ON THE ALTAR OF PARENTAL EXPECTATION - and thus of vicarious parental ambition. An awful story, if it applies to any of you. These kids, now grown up, relive their childhood nightmares of being put in a spiritual coffin by their controlling guardians. And the result is a meaningless life of ‘going through the motions of living’ WITHOUT ever knowing their true selves. And this awful outcome This wonderful book details the inner spiritual death suffered by little kids who are conveniently SACRIFICED ON THE ALTAR OF PARENTAL EXPECTATION - and thus of vicarious parental ambition. An awful story, if it applies to any of you. These kids, now grown up, relive their childhood nightmares of being put in a spiritual coffin by their controlling guardians. And the result is a meaningless life of ‘going through the motions of living’ WITHOUT ever knowing their true selves. And this awful outcome is now more and more the Rule rather than the Exception in our conveyer-belt lives. (I thought it would touch a real nerve when applied to the car wreck of my own life.) But in fact, it did not... You see, in the spring of my thirteenth year I made a conscious decision to relive the memories of my early childhood to such an extent that they - as the record of my real self, likely soon to be submerged as I entered the regimental high school system - would henceforth be indelibly stamped on my mental identity. I would generally walk the LONG way home from my nearby elementary school (no junior high back then!) and gradually tease these buried memory threads into my conscious wakeful mind. And in such a way I amassed an inner archive of detail of the Living Self that had experienced them. I musta been prescient. The adult world was waiting in the wings to do a number on my inner child! But with this inner archive, I was later able to more or less easily restore my real self - after the arduous and uncompromising night of neuroleptic drugs eventually lightened into a jagged, broken dawn. And talking on Goodreads helped enormously! So, no - this book didn’t apply to me. But to those to whom the calamitously deleterious memories of vicarious adult ambition resulted in your spiritual death: While your childhood may remain a closed book to you... Your vitality will be reborn, if you follow this book’s many stories into your deep mourning for your lost inner child!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    This is an excellent book for learning more about yourself, how you became the way you are, and also as a possible source of help regarding the causes and cure of any emotional difficulties you may have. It will also help you better understand the people around you and how they came to be the way they are. It is a good source of psychological knowledge. Alice Miller shows very clearly how the way our parents raised us when we are children formed us psychologically. Alice Miller wrote her second b This is an excellent book for learning more about yourself, how you became the way you are, and also as a possible source of help regarding the causes and cure of any emotional difficulties you may have. It will also help you better understand the people around you and how they came to be the way they are. It is a good source of psychological knowledge. Alice Miller shows very clearly how the way our parents raised us when we are children formed us psychologically. Alice Miller wrote her second book, For Your Own Good, as a continuation of this book, and I think the detailed examples and analysis she provides in the second book will be very interesting to anybody who likes Drama of the Gifted Child. Another thing that I found helpful was to re-read Drama of the Gifted Child some time after reading For Your Own Good, to see how much more I was able to learn from it after having some time to react emotionally to what I had read the first time. I learned so much that I was inspired to keep re-reading her books periodically to continue learning more and more. Initially Alice Miller's claims about the extent of damage done to us by our parents seemed exaggerated to me, and I felt that one should not say such things about parents. After recovering somewhat from my parent's punishment of me for saying the truth to them about themselves during my childhood, I am now able to realize that it is true that the most commonly practiced child-rearing practices devastate us psychologically, and that I need to re-discover what my parents did to me during my childhood and how I felt about it in order to recover my psychological health. For those who have the ability to heal from the traumas they suffered by feeling the repressed feelings from those traumas, Alice Miller's books provide enough information to provoke a long-term emotional healing process. This healing improves your psychological health, and, she claims, will eventually lead to the re-discovery of your true self, your untraumatized soul. I hope this is true. Highly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Terri

    "The voice of parents is the voice of gods, for to their children they are heaven's lieutenants.” - William Shakespeare Psychology writer and therapist Alice Miller's classic book is a must read for anyone who has a interest in psychology and childhood trauma/abuse. Written in 1978, it is brilliant and life-changing at little over one-hundred pages. The author, Alice Miller was forced to live in Warsaw as a Jewish girl living under a false name in World War Two. She was a victim of the holocaust a "The voice of parents is the voice of gods, for to their children they are heaven's lieutenants.” - William Shakespeare Psychology writer and therapist Alice Miller's classic book is a must read for anyone who has a interest in psychology and childhood trauma/abuse. Written in 1978, it is brilliant and life-changing at little over one-hundred pages. The author, Alice Miller was forced to live in Warsaw as a Jewish girl living under a false name in World War Two. She was a victim of the holocaust and never recovered completely from it as her father died in the Warsaw Ghetto. Alice was never able to completely talk about her devastating experience with her friends and family. She spent her life and career trying to understand how the German people could have followed Hitler and went along with his murderous plans. In her outstanding book, she delves into childhood and how your parents behavior has shaped you. It is very painful in that she insists that the reader must accept their parents behavior and accept it for what it really is. She also makes you examine your own parenting. I really liked that part where she discusses children having to repress their own needs to appease their parents. She also comes down very hard on society and believes that all criminals were infants/children who were emotionally, sexually or physically abused and repressed it. An unwanted child leads a life of despair and furthermore is most likely incapable of love. When you read this book, you will come face to face with your own childhood and start the journey to your own story. This is a book you might find yourself reading and processing, a few times over the years. This is a four plus star book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    William

    One of the most important books in my life.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    Those who have experienced insecure or disorganized attachment to their parents as a result of absent or authoritarian parenting, may experience the impact for the rest of their lives. Such parenting can interrupt the bonding process, depriving a young child of the opportunity to feel safe and loved, and ultimately of developing a healthy sense of well-being. As they grow into adulthood, they may try to compensate for that lack of a healthy sense of self by seeking praise and accolades from devo Those who have experienced insecure or disorganized attachment to their parents as a result of absent or authoritarian parenting, may experience the impact for the rest of their lives. Such parenting can interrupt the bonding process, depriving a young child of the opportunity to feel safe and loved, and ultimately of developing a healthy sense of well-being. As they grow into adulthood, they may try to compensate for that lack of a healthy sense of self by seeking praise and accolades from devotees in the outside world— sometimes at all costs. It becomes almost a matter of survival. ============= In his book Humankind, the author treats the terms placebo and nocebo as psychological outlooks. Placebo is positive and encouraging and nocebo is the opposite. These insights complement Alice Miller's book. My mother was nocebo. My parents were married young and lived through The Great Depression as adults. My dad went to college and medical school during this time and was drafted the day after he finished his medical residency at Boston General Hospital. After the War, they set up my dad's solo medical practice in the small New Hampshire mill town they were from. While my father did the doctoring, my mother ran the business side. After 17 long years, my dad's mid-life crisis resulted in the radical move of our family to the SF Bay Area when I was 7. I only figured out recently that these experiences did not foster resilience in my mother, rather she may have had PTSD as a result. She was agoraphobic and had a very negative outlook. Her attitude was "why bother?" She was always advising us to give up, to quit. Not the message you need from a parent. My father finally came out, in a letter to me, and admitted she was crippled by fear. He made the mistake of covering for her at all costs at the expense of the children. In this book, the author talks about people (and the media) too readily assuming the worst about people. But argues that a close examination of people, especially during a crisis, demonstrates the opposite. If you are nocebo, you're going to be sad, negative, and pessimistic, which turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. My mom's perspective, and my dad's unconditional support of her, did profound damage to the children that ended in tragedy. This is no way to live. ============= I told my story in this review..... https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ========= This is something, quite damaging, that I don't recall the author covering in her book, at least in any detail. There are, or have been, three instances of this in my extended family. https://www.divorcemag.com/blog/effec... ---------- A few insights from the book.... "Where there is no parental respect for a child's feelings, he will seek refuge from his pain in ideologies. Nationalism, racism, and fascism are in fact nothing other than ideological guises of the flight from painful, unconscious memories of endured contempt." "In Hermann Hesse's story, “A Child’s Heart” about his fundamentalist parents we read: If I were to reduce all my feelings and their painful conflicts to a single name, I can think of no other word but: dread. It was dread, dread and uncertainty, that I felt in all those hours of shattered childhood felicity: dread of punishment, dread of my own conscience, dread of stirrings in my soul which I considered forbidden and criminal." "It is among the commonplaces of education that we often first cut off the living root and then try to replace its natural functions by artificial means. Thus we suppress the child’s curiosity, for example (there are questions one should not ask), and then when he lacks a natural interest in learning we offer him special coaching for his scholastic difficulties." "We could make great progress in becoming more honest, respectful, and conscious, thus less destructive, if religious leaders could acknowledge and respect these simple psychological laws. Instead of ignoring them, they should open their eyes to the vast damage produced by hypocrisy, in families and in society as a whole." "A child has a primary need from the very beginning of her life to be regarded and respected as the person she really is at any given time." ============== These insights go with this review. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... =========== Regrets of the dying... https://bronnieware.com/blog/regrets-...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    A succinct and insightful book about the effects of child abuse. While childhood mistreatment may give kids certain gifts - such as increased empathy and greater achievement - these strengths come at a great cost. Only by confronting and honoring their pasts can these children rise above their unmet needs. Alice Miller writes with conviction and compassion, and I most enjoyed how she emphasizes the hope all of us gifted children should have: we can all lead fulfilling and meaningful lives, with A succinct and insightful book about the effects of child abuse. While childhood mistreatment may give kids certain gifts - such as increased empathy and greater achievement - these strengths come at a great cost. Only by confronting and honoring their pasts can these children rise above their unmet needs. Alice Miller writes with conviction and compassion, and I most enjoyed how she emphasizes the hope all of us gifted children should have: we can all lead fulfilling and meaningful lives, with effort and kindness to ourselves. Miller does make some generalizations in The Drama of the Gifted Child, as I doubt all feminist women with piercings or angry male politicians faced childhood abuse. However, considering this book's publication date, I forgive her. I read this book at quite the fitting time in my personal life, so expect it to make an appearance in my future memoir/writing.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Susan Ellinger

    I've read a lot a really helpful books that my therapist has recommended to me in the past six months or so. This book is amazing and straight to the point. I would recommend it for anyone that has issues w their parents that they want some perspective on or anyone concerned about possibly passing on the legacy of their own difficulties to their children, however inadvertently. I will read all of Alice Miller's books after reading this one. I've read a lot a really helpful books that my therapist has recommended to me in the past six months or so. This book is amazing and straight to the point. I would recommend it for anyone that has issues w their parents that they want some perspective on or anyone concerned about possibly passing on the legacy of their own difficulties to their children, however inadvertently. I will read all of Alice Miller's books after reading this one.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Antigone

    At slightly over a hundred pages, this slim volume addresses the effects of narcissistic parenting and is one of the more highly-regarded works on the subject within the treatment community. Alice Miller, a Swiss psychologist with twenty years in clinical practice, had come to reject traditional forms of analysis and broke from the theories of Jung and Freud - concluding the standard approach to such emotional injuries left too much power in the parent's court. The primary caretakers (most freque At slightly over a hundred pages, this slim volume addresses the effects of narcissistic parenting and is one of the more highly-regarded works on the subject within the treatment community. Alice Miller, a Swiss psychologist with twenty years in clinical practice, had come to reject traditional forms of analysis and broke from the theories of Jung and Freud - concluding the standard approach to such emotional injuries left too much power in the parent's court. The primary caretakers (most frequently mothers) were not being held to account for the damage they themselves had suffered and had unconsciously passed on. Holding the perpetrator inviolate, she felt, made it virtually impossible for victims to come to terms with the who and why of their experience and the reality of their plight. The "gifted child" she refers to is the child whose natural gifts were forced underground at an early age because they threatened the parent. Recovery, as Miller perceives it, lies in resurrecting that oppressive dynamic and feeling (frequently for the first time) what could not be felt in childhood without the terrifying loss of a mother's love. Such emotions might include deep pockets of rage, fear, frustration, despair, and a clear sense of danger. I think this is invaluable material for anyone weighing the prospect of entering therapy. Miller does not sugarcoat the process. Few will describe so precisely what it is for an adult not only to recover those childhood traumas but to re-experience them as that child did, in all their nightmarish proportion. Such an emergence of raw, infantile emotion can prove profoundly shocking to the adult mind. Unhinging. Disabling. And once that Pandora's Box is opened? There's really no way to close it again. This book, in all its fierce revelation, makes an excellent case for the importance of finding the right therapist from the outset - even if it means interviewing five or seven or twelve. Where I take issue with Miller, and I do take issue here, is in her passionate insistence on the existence of a "true" self. If we are to accommodate influence, distortion, solipsism, and the ever-shifting nexus of authenticity itself, then I suspect a nature can only ever be temporarily true and, if sought on a psychic map, will forever be sailing North, South, East and West, to a bewildering variety of foreign locales - each of which will require the re-establishment of anchorage and the reassessment of our definition of "true." That's my sense of it, anyway, and stands as a minor complaint in the grander scheme of a useful book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Erin Rouleau

    Ignore the title. This is a book for anyone struggling with their childhood. And not only those who were abused or not, it's basically anyone that had tough things happen in their childhood that weren't dealed with appropriately. I would think everyone would fall into this category. The book was written for therapists, but a lot of patients end up reading it. The author believes that depression really comes from the separation of your real self with yourself...in other words, kids who grow up in Ignore the title. This is a book for anyone struggling with their childhood. And not only those who were abused or not, it's basically anyone that had tough things happen in their childhood that weren't dealed with appropriately. I would think everyone would fall into this category. The book was written for therapists, but a lot of patients end up reading it. The author believes that depression really comes from the separation of your real self with yourself...in other words, kids who grow up into a false self to please their parents are depressed over this separation of self. This all happens via illusions towards your childhood and not dealing with the truth and most importantly not mourning the loss. Obviously, I'm paraphrasing, but it's a good book, and very direct/short. The one complaint I have so far is that she gives advice for confronting your childhood as an adult, but she doesn't give advice on how to raise kids even though she shares a lot of the don'ts. ___________________________________________________________________ So after finishing this book, I still found it good and it had great food for thought. But there wasn't a lot of hopefulness in it, and I felt like it was lacking constructive examples of how to take her advice and confront and mourn things that went wrong in your own childhood. Maybe I'm dense, because confronting and mourning should be pretty straight forward, but I would have still appreciated some more insight in how to do it. Also, this was a book written for therapists and not patients so that could have something to do with the lack of hands on advice.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Avalon

    The Drama of the Gifted Child is one of those rare gems that isn’t afraid to cut deep into the heart of the psyche. Alice Miller, an esteemed therapist, explains that those who grew up with parents or caretakers that disrespected, neglected or abused them have developed a false sense of self. The child becomes molded into what the parents want them to be, rather than accepting the child for who he or she is. This is also true for those of us who were praised for our accomplishments rather than f The Drama of the Gifted Child is one of those rare gems that isn’t afraid to cut deep into the heart of the psyche. Alice Miller, an esteemed therapist, explains that those who grew up with parents or caretakers that disrespected, neglected or abused them have developed a false sense of self. The child becomes molded into what the parents want them to be, rather than accepting the child for who he or she is. This is also true for those of us who were praised for our accomplishments rather than for who we really are. Miller asserts that in order to reconnect with our true self, which here means our needs and emotions, we must confront and grieve the history of our painful childhood in the safety of the therapy. It is only once we allow ourselves to feel and understand our repressed emotions that we can begin to show up as our authentic self. This also allows us to break free from maladaptive generational cycles of behavior and hold space and unconditional love for our own children. This is a fantastic and insightful book that unflinchingly peels back all of the layers. The Drama of The Gifted Child tackles a challenging and emotional subject with unparalleled clarity, grace and aplomb. At only 144 pages it manages to be both succinct and accessible. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to dive deep and get to the root of their problems once and for all.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    To be fair, I'm going to start with the caveat that I'm not a huge fan of Freud, on whose theories of psychoanalysis Alice Miller seems to rely quite heavily in constructing her own. But while I admit my personal bias against the foundation for her psychological theory, I still believe the construction of her general arguments to be weak as well. She seems to depend far too heavily on isolated instances as evidence of the childhood "abuses" that have crippled her patients in their adulthood, whi To be fair, I'm going to start with the caveat that I'm not a huge fan of Freud, on whose theories of psychoanalysis Alice Miller seems to rely quite heavily in constructing her own. But while I admit my personal bias against the foundation for her psychological theory, I still believe the construction of her general arguments to be weak as well. She seems to depend far too heavily on isolated instances as evidence of the childhood "abuses" that have crippled her patients in their adulthood, while dismissing more pronounced examples of abuse as too extreme for the case she wishes to make. Furthermore, it seems that her entire exploration of the "gifted child" -- not one who is overly bright, but rather a child who is able to empathize with his parents as they struggle through their issues -- is based on her own mama-drama rather than on more objective studies. It seems that Miller is grasping at examples to justify her own childhood frustrations. While surely cathartic, this doesn't strike me as a sound basis for a psychological treatise. I might be able to forgive all that, had the writing been more compelling or better organized. I cannot excuse the poor construction of this text, or Miller's failure to adequately support her points or tie together the various threads of her argument. Without a conclusion, her complaints fall flat and her thesis remains unsound. I'm not really sure of what, if anything, she's believes she has proven, or what substantial evidence she has given to back her claim. I come away feeling that a parent can't possibly do right by their child, as any attempt at a reprimand is considered borderline abuse. Miller might have done better to include suggestions for positive parental models or success stories, to better indicate the goals of her methods or the point of this book. Her other texts may be more compelling, but this one is a definite must-miss.

  16. 4 out of 5

    David J. Bookbinder

    I first encountered this book in the mid-80s, a year or two into my first serious psychotherapy, and it was as if all the lights suddenly went on in a previously dimly lit room. Although it's been a long time since I read The Drama of the Gifted Child, the shock of recognition - of the dynamics of my family, of my role in it, of the roles filled by my siblings, my mother, and especially by my father - became starkly revealed in a way no amount of discussion or dream analysis had approached. Ther I first encountered this book in the mid-80s, a year or two into my first serious psychotherapy, and it was as if all the lights suddenly went on in a previously dimly lit room. Although it's been a long time since I read The Drama of the Gifted Child, the shock of recognition - of the dynamics of my family, of my role in it, of the roles filled by my siblings, my mother, and especially by my father - became starkly revealed in a way no amount of discussion or dream analysis had approached. There's something compelling about how some authors can strip away the confusion surrounding a complex psychological set of interactions and lay bare the bones of it, and Miller did that for me in this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    This is the best book I have ever read. Do not be fooled by the title--the original title of the book was "Prisoners of Childhood," and I believe the publisher talked the author into changing the title so that proud parents would want to buy the book. As a marketing ploy, it worked. But it's really not about "gifted children" in the contemporary sense, which is often about ratings and education. It is about the most important issue of our time: raising children. This is the best book I have ever read. Do not be fooled by the title--the original title of the book was "Prisoners of Childhood," and I believe the publisher talked the author into changing the title so that proud parents would want to buy the book. As a marketing ploy, it worked. But it's really not about "gifted children" in the contemporary sense, which is often about ratings and education. It is about the most important issue of our time: raising children.

  18. 5 out of 5

    aPriL does feral sometimes

    I was on fire to discuss this book with people and I had so many place saving stickers all over it I realized I simply wanted to talk about every sentence! I read it 20 years ago and I felt like I finally found explanations that made sense! Since then I've read many other good books discussing the same issues which also were excellent so the fire became a little light. It's an excellent book of possible truth, and definitely should be near the top of that book list if you have an interest in thi I was on fire to discuss this book with people and I had so many place saving stickers all over it I realized I simply wanted to talk about every sentence! I read it 20 years ago and I felt like I finally found explanations that made sense! Since then I've read many other good books discussing the same issues which also were excellent so the fire became a little light. It's an excellent book of possible truth, and definitely should be near the top of that book list if you have an interest in this subject.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    I thought this was an amazingly insightful book on the root causes of many disorders, including "group madness" such as fascism, nationalism. The author's thesis is that child abuse is carried forward generation after generation, if only unconsciously, and that child rearing that does not respect the child's needs and feelings, will add to this cycle. The child in order to earn the parent's love, will suppress its rage at not being respected, as well as any other feelings or impulses deemed inap I thought this was an amazingly insightful book on the root causes of many disorders, including "group madness" such as fascism, nationalism. The author's thesis is that child abuse is carried forward generation after generation, if only unconsciously, and that child rearing that does not respect the child's needs and feelings, will add to this cycle. The child in order to earn the parent's love, will suppress its rage at not being respected, as well as any other feelings or impulses deemed inappropriate by the parent, which will subsequently be displaced on an innocent scapegoat, many times their own children. Also, he may compulsively seek ways to recreate the early disapproval of the parents later in life. The cycle of the abused becoming an abuser cannot be broken unless a patient unlocks the feelings of rage they had suppressed since childhood, and mourns for their lost childhood - once they achieve this insight, they are freed from the compulsion to continually re-enact the same old patterns, and they are also put in touch with their true selves; they will gain vitality and be freed from the cycle of depression/grandiosity caused by self-alienation. The author states that every single contemptuous and unkind act or word by ones parents' from the beginning, the hurt from these acts or words is stored in every cell of our bodies, and can eventually contribute to chronic illnesses. The self-knowledge that this is why we are alienated from our feelings, which we learned to suppress since infancy, is liberating. Most people who were abused as children subsequently forget the trauma of childhood and love or even idolize their parents. They displace the rage they felt toward their mother onto innocent people later in life, they are vengeful, in this way they discharge their rage onto others while preserving their love for their parents, when the persons who really should be the object of their anger is their parents. They can unlock this tragedy of their lives either through a process of therapy or self-therapy.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karson

    Just finished this quick little read. This is a specific kind of book for a specific type of person at a specific point in their specific lives. If the time or the person isn't a great fit, you might hate this book and think it is useless, but if the timing is right, then you might love it. It's about learning about yourself and where you came from. To a certain extent we are all trying to better understand who we are and where we came from. Some people do it more obviously then others. Even if Just finished this quick little read. This is a specific kind of book for a specific type of person at a specific point in their specific lives. If the time or the person isn't a great fit, you might hate this book and think it is useless, but if the timing is right, then you might love it. It's about learning about yourself and where you came from. To a certain extent we are all trying to better understand who we are and where we came from. Some people do it more obviously then others. Even if you completely deny that you came from anywhere because you dont like that place, that is your attempt to figure it all out. I read this over three days. The first day i loved it. The second day i hated it, and the third day it was at least likeable once again. It's a psychoanalyst's approach, so there is a lot of talk about your "inner-child," and that isnt always my favorite thing, but there is also a lot of wisdom in this approach to life aswell. Specifically, in the earlier pages the author made a distinction between depression and grandiosity and drew some great commonalities between the two seeming opposites. That was the one section that struck me, and gave me some "ah ha" moments.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hester

    This book is both brilliant and full of schlock. I know people with the problems she described, people who were never going to be loved for who they were, so either buried themselves in achievement or cut off important parts of themselves. These childhood traumas have crippled them in adulthood. The thing about these people, though, is that their parents were fundamentally flawed and repeated these actions over and over again. Unlike in Miller's book, these were not one-off events. I think it is This book is both brilliant and full of schlock. I know people with the problems she described, people who were never going to be loved for who they were, so either buried themselves in achievement or cut off important parts of themselves. These childhood traumas have crippled them in adulthood. The thing about these people, though, is that their parents were fundamentally flawed and repeated these actions over and over again. Unlike in Miller's book, these were not one-off events. I think it is great that Miller decided to write about these people, but she took the ideas too far. Babies should have their needs catered to and children should be respected for who they are, but they should not be allowed to "order their mothers around like paschas." It is normal for good, loving parents to need a night off, and it is necessary for them not to indulge their child's every whim. It is called parenting. Also, I do not think it is neurologically possible for someone to remember being sexually abused once at three months old. Conclusion: This book can give you some real insight if you are willing to wade through a lot of junk.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

    "The only defense we have against mental illness is the discovery of the truth of our childhood." Should be required reading for every psychologist. I liked it even more when, in the third section of the book, the author used Hermann Hesse as an example! I learned something about my favorite author--and, more importantly, gained some highly valuable insights that I hope I can put into practice in integrating my own self. "The only defense we have against mental illness is the discovery of the truth of our childhood." Should be required reading for every psychologist. I liked it even more when, in the third section of the book, the author used Hermann Hesse as an example! I learned something about my favorite author--and, more importantly, gained some highly valuable insights that I hope I can put into practice in integrating my own self.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Azraa

    - If a mother respects both herself and her child from his very first day onward, she will never need to teach him respect for others. He will, of course, take both himself and others seriously—he couldn't do otherwise. But a mother who, as a child, was herself not taken seriously by her mother as the person she really was will crave this respect from her child as a substitute; and she will try to get it by training him to give it to her. -The parents have found in their child's "false self the co - If a mother respects both herself and her child from his very first day onward, she will never need to teach him respect for others. He will, of course, take both himself and others seriously—he couldn't do otherwise. But a mother who, as a child, was herself not taken seriously by her mother as the person she really was will crave this respect from her child as a substitute; and she will try to get it by training him to give it to her. -The parents have found in their child's "false self the confirmation they were looking for, a substitute for their own missing structures; the child, who has been unable to build up his own structures, is first consciously and then unconsciously (through the introject) dependent on his parents. He cannot rely on his own emotions, has not come to experience them through trial and error, has no sense of his own real needs, and is alienated from himself to the highest degree. -it is remarkable how these attentive, lively, and sensitive children who can, for example, remember exactly how they discovered the sunlight in bright grass at the age of four, yet at eight might be unable to "notice anything" or to show any curiosity about the pregnant mother or, similarly, were "not at all" jealous at the birth of a sibling. Again, at the age of two, one of them could be left alone while soldiers forced their way into the house and searched it, and she had "been good," suffering this quietly and without crying. They have all developed the art of not experiencing feelings, for a child can only experience his feelings when there is somebody there who accepts him fully, understands and supports him. If that is missing, if the child must risk losing the mother's love, or that of her substitute, then he cannot experience these feelings secretly "just for himself" but fails to experience them at all.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christine Palau

    "It's a seminal work in my field," Dr. Paul Weston (HBO's "In Treatment") said in response to Frances, the daughter-diagnosed-narcissist, when Frances asked her therapist, Paul (the brooding Gabriel Byrne), if he's ever heard of, "The Drama of the Gifted Child." Naturally, I downloaded the book the next day. Self-help it is not. Well, not exactly; and I mean that in a good way. But it is a quick read, and only $5 on Kindle! If you're even thinking of having kids, you must read it, or not, because "It's a seminal work in my field," Dr. Paul Weston (HBO's "In Treatment") said in response to Frances, the daughter-diagnosed-narcissist, when Frances asked her therapist, Paul (the brooding Gabriel Byrne), if he's ever heard of, "The Drama of the Gifted Child." Naturally, I downloaded the book the next day. Self-help it is not. Well, not exactly; and I mean that in a good way. But it is a quick read, and only $5 on Kindle! If you're even thinking of having kids, you must read it, or not, because then you might not want to procreate and perpetuate the madness. ;) This book seems to be written for therapists, or rather, psychoanalysts. It's Freud-heavy without being exactly Freudian. We are all deeply affected by what happened to us as children, even if we were loved and nurtured, chances are, something messed with us. And in turn, we will dish out similar horror on the people we love, especially our children, unless we get the bottom of it, and find our true self, a self that might have been repressed because of a childhood trauma. Is therapy the answer? Yes, but not always. Perhaps one of the most practical parts of the book is when Miller lists what she would look for in a therapist, and the types of questions she would ask the prospective analyst, specifically: "Why did you choose this field?" This is essential. But even if you go to therapy, and think you've found a good shrink, he might be unconsciously taking his issues out on you. This is why it's so important to do your research, and ask for references. To paraphrase Socrates, the unexamined life is not only not worth living, it's dangerous to future generations.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jeannette

    I read this book at the encouragement of my adult daughter who thought it might help me understand some anxieties and resentment in her younger brother. I read it with some other women which was a good thing to have their companionship as I found this book absolutely graceless. The author’s premise that all adults who suffer from anxieties or depression must do the work of recalling and recognizing the destructive actions of their parents, most often their mother, no matter how well intentioned I read this book at the encouragement of my adult daughter who thought it might help me understand some anxieties and resentment in her younger brother. I read it with some other women which was a good thing to have their companionship as I found this book absolutely graceless. The author’s premise that all adults who suffer from anxieties or depression must do the work of recalling and recognizing the destructive actions of their parents, most often their mother, no matter how well intentioned they may be. According to her, from birth the mother has laid on expectations which have stunted the emotional growth of their children. They have used their children in a form of abuse to meet their own needs. Example after horrific example was given of mothers who abused, exploited, and damaged their children with their religion, their own damaged past, and with any and all expectations of behavior. Furthermore, all are doomed to repeat the pattern to the next generation. I would not recommend this book to anyone.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chriso

    Holy crap, this book. It kind of blew my mind apart, to be honest. I found myself relating to it so much that I returned my library copy after buying a copy for myself; primarily so I could go at it with a highlighter and dog-ear a ton of the pages. I read this book after reading about it in Alison Bechdel's 'Are You My Mother' and thinking it sounded like something I needed to check out. In some ways, it was like opening Pandora's Box. But since I am dedicated to self-work and to asking myself Holy crap, this book. It kind of blew my mind apart, to be honest. I found myself relating to it so much that I returned my library copy after buying a copy for myself; primarily so I could go at it with a highlighter and dog-ear a ton of the pages. I read this book after reading about it in Alison Bechdel's 'Are You My Mother' and thinking it sounded like something I needed to check out. In some ways, it was like opening Pandora's Box. But since I am dedicated to self-work and to asking myself difficult questions/challenging myself, I think it was a good thing. Still, if you're planning to read this, prepare to have your world potentially upended in a very quick read. And I agree with the sentiment of a few other folks: one really out to read this book if one is planning on having/has had children. Seriously.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pippi Bluestocking

    Be warned: dated, rife with gender essentialism, awkward generalizations, bad science. Yet, the main argument (how we learn to suppress feeling and expressing emotion because of our parents' parenting) is worth a look. Although I'm guessing there are better and more recent books that incorporate the same line of reasoning. Be warned: dated, rife with gender essentialism, awkward generalizations, bad science. Yet, the main argument (how we learn to suppress feeling and expressing emotion because of our parents' parenting) is worth a look. Although I'm guessing there are better and more recent books that incorporate the same line of reasoning.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    Seems really dated and simplistic, which, given all we've learned about depression since the advent of SSRI's, isn't all that surprising for a book almost 40 years old. I found it useful more for how it helps illustrate the evolution of psychotherapy and how it helped me understand certain things about how therapists I saw approached their practice than for any insight it offered into myself. Re: the evolution of psychotherapy, I was struck by the focus on mothers and what they do wrong. You wou Seems really dated and simplistic, which, given all we've learned about depression since the advent of SSRI's, isn't all that surprising for a book almost 40 years old. I found it useful more for how it helps illustrate the evolution of psychotherapy and how it helped me understand certain things about how therapists I saw approached their practice than for any insight it offered into myself. Re: the evolution of psychotherapy, I was struck by the focus on mothers and what they do wrong. You would think that most people have only a female parent, that fathers play almost no role in a child's life. This was really brought home to me in this passage: In the Zurich exhibition (1977) to commemorate the centennial of [Hermann] Hesse's birth [in 1877], a picture was displayed that had hung above the little Hermann's bed and that he had grown up with. In this picture, on the right, we see the "good" road to heaven, full of thorns, difficulties, and suffering. On the left, we see the easy, pleasurable road the inevitably leads to hell. Taverns play a prominent part on this road, probably because devout women hoped to keep their husbands and sons away from these wicked places with this threatening representation.[emphasis added] Notice how she rushes to blame "devout women" for wanting to spoil the pleasure of "their husbands and sons." Did "devout women" in 1877 have much influence over art? Were they allowed to create it? Did they have time to create it when they were also probably busy raising families? Did they write and deliver the sermons about the evils of taverns? NO. They didn't. And here's another thing: women both devout and otherwise had good reason to fear when their husbands went to taverns and came home drunk, because drunkenness is a contributing factor to domestic violence against both wives and children. For women who had no independent income, no vote, no say in governance, and who could lose all custody of their children if they left an abusive husband, a primary way to try to keep their children safe from violence was to try to keep their husbands out of taverns. But sure, the real problem was that these horrible women made four-year-olds feel bad about their unconscious desires to hang out in places full of drunk male adults. That's just some straight-up misogyny. And considering that misogyny has been one of the things at the root of my depression, a book so steeped in it isn't likely to give me a lot of relief. The insistence here that depression MUST BE ROOTED IN SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS IN EARLY CHILDHOOD, an idea more recent research undercuts, is also a problem. I had a therapist or two who followed that dogma in ways that probably caused a lot of harm. A therapist told me the key to my healing was to discover my early childhood trauma. I was like, "Nah, I was a pretty happy little kid; the shit hit the fan around the time my body started changing and boys started getting mean and scary in sixth and seventh grade." She flat-out told me, "You were traumatized as a child, probably through a molestation, and you have to uncover the memory of the trauma." I actually followed the visualizations she gave me and dutifully went into a meditative state to talk to my seven-year-old self, who told me, when I asked her what was wrong, that she couldn't help me fix the problem I wanted to address because it hadn't happened yet. When I told my therapist that, she actually got upset at me and insisted I'd just done it wrong. She told me I better uncover a memory of being molested if I wanted to get better. I had very clear memories of my early childhood (something people who have repressed memories typically lack) and I also understand female biology enough to be confident of when certain events happened to me (hint: it was adulthood) to be confident that I was right about my life and she was wrong. So I fired her. If someone did that shit now, they'd lose their license. It's completely unethical--and with good reason. While there are certainly people who have recovered memories of being molested in early childhood--one of my good friends experienced that, and it's the only thing that explains certain aspects of his life--there are others who invented memories to please aggressive therapists like the unethical, wrong-headed person I worked with. In any event, we now know that puberty REALLY FUCKS WITH PEOPLE'S BRAINS. Adolescents are weird. They are super anxious, and there are biological reasons for this. That anxiety can be something they don't grow out of, and there can be biological reasons for that, too. It's not automatically because their parents fucked them up. So all in all, with its misogyny and its erroneous insistence that adult depression has to be rooted in trauma inflicted by parents on children in early childhood, I think this book does as much harm as good. I'm glad it seems dated and simplistic, since that means psychotherapy is moving on from it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chrystal

    Alice Miller states that when she uses the word 'gifted' in the title, she had in mind "neither children who receive high grades in school nor children talented in a special way. [She] simply meant all of us who have survived an abusive childhood thanks to an ability to adapt even to unspeakable cruelty by becoming numb...Without this 'gift' offered us by nature, we would not have survived." I would like to give this book only 1 star for the pain it caused me in unlocking repressed memories from Alice Miller states that when she uses the word 'gifted' in the title, she had in mind "neither children who receive high grades in school nor children talented in a special way. [She] simply meant all of us who have survived an abusive childhood thanks to an ability to adapt even to unspeakable cruelty by becoming numb...Without this 'gift' offered us by nature, we would not have survived." I would like to give this book only 1 star for the pain it caused me in unlocking repressed memories from my childhood. But as Miller says, "The aim of therapy, however, is not to correct the past, but to enable the patient both to confront his own history and to grieve over it. The patient has to discover early memories within himself and must become consciously aware of his parents' unconscious manipulation and contempt, so that he can free himself from them." And so I would give this book 5 stars in it's startling revelations that have unlocked unconscious mental shackles in me and that will forever change my parenting. Doing the math, I end at a 4 star rating. This book is not for the faint of heart, nor the happy adult fully unconscious of denial of past hurts. But if one has lost the grandiose facade you once learned to create to be acceptable, and find yourself in a place of consequent depression because of the unconscious need to suppress one's painful buried emotions, this book is instrumental in finding the forgotten wounds that hold you bound. This process can release you from the vicious cycle. I think the author's efforts are most impactful in bringing many old ghosts to rest in the inner-child.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Hanan Kato

    First things first, misleading title. "Prisonners of Childhood" is more accurate. This book is an eye opener! I've read some of it a few years back and just now have gotten to reading it fully. The gist of it is that parents' expectations of their children can be projected in such a way on them, that it robs them from their "true feelings" and "true self", trying to become the "perfect" child that will meet their parents approval and gain their love.A lot of times, the children ignore/shut off/re First things first, misleading title. "Prisonners of Childhood" is more accurate. This book is an eye opener! I've read some of it a few years back and just now have gotten to reading it fully. The gist of it is that parents' expectations of their children can be projected in such a way on them, that it robs them from their "true feelings" and "true self", trying to become the "perfect" child that will meet their parents approval and gain their love.A lot of times, the children ignore/shut off/repress their own needs and feelings to fully live up to their parents' expectations/demands, out of fear that if they don't, their parents will abondon them (not literally, but their love might wear off). Very powerful read. As an adult, it truly puts your childhood in restrospective, and makes you understand that how you were brought up as a child influences heavily how you conduct yourself as an adult.

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