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

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4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  6,671 ratings  ·  317 reviews
As charming performers who skillfully reflect their parents expectations, far too many children grow into adults driven to greater and greater achievements by an underlying sense of worthlessness.

Never allowed to express their true feelings, and having lost touch with their true selves, they act out their repressed feelings with episodes of depression and compulsive behav...more
Paperback, 3rd edition, 144 pages
Published December 24th 1996 by Basic Books (first published 1979)
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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...more
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...more
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.
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...more
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...more
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.
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...more
Erin
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...more
Willa
I liked this book better than I expected to. I had read good things about it; apparently the author's insights on childhood were important in developing psychological understanding in the 70's and later. But I was afraid it was going to be a sort of polemic against parents. Rather, it was more a warning for therapists -- she makes the point that therapists often go into the field because of unresolved issues in their own past and if they are not careful, ie, if they don't have therapy to work th...more
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...more
Lori (Hellian)
Another self-help book that I read in my early-20s, and it was instrumental in helping me understand many of my problems. It didn't "heal" me or change me, but it was a major step in self-recognition.
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...more
Tom Burkhalter
In 1994 a friend of mind recommended this book to me. I was going through a rough patch -- divorce, change of residence/state, change of occupation, all those major stressors -- and this book was more than a help, it made me see myself and my personal struggle in a new light.

I can't and won't try to summarize this book in a few trite sentences. Suffice it to say that Dr. Alice Miller is a pioneering psychologist with great insight into the human problem. Dr. Miller states her objective, in the i...more
Hadrian
Aug 15, 2012 Hadrian rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Hadrian by: Alison Bechdel, and an essay on David Foster Wallace
The title here is a bit of a misnomer - 'Gifted Child' in this sense does not necessarily mean a child of academic gifts, but one with an attuned empathetic sense, and thus susceptible to emotional abuse. When this sense is combined with a deficiency or disorder on the part of the parent - anxiety, manic-depressive, etc., the child has to go to extreme lengths.

This creates two 'selves' - the 'true self' - that is, the child's own 'genuine' personality and needs, and the 'false self', complying,...more
Jessica
I'm not entirely sure what to rate this. Rating it purely as a book, I'd probably give it three stars. Many of Miller's ideas are fascinating, though it's hard not to feel like her idealized version of parenting is something that couldn't possibly actually exist anywhere in this universe. People just aren't THAT flawlessly self-actualized, be they parents or otherwise. If EVERYTHING a parent does, EVER, seemingly constitutes manipulation of his or her child, then.....well, the world's just about...more
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...more
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.

(on loan: K. B.)
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...more
Susan
This is a great book for gifted individuals, especially those raised in dysfunctional and/or abusive homes. The only part that I did not like was Miller's repeated insistence that being gifted necessarily means that you 'owe the world something.' I am not sure if this was a 'lost in translation' idea or if she really did not see the contradiction of advising people to move beyond the unreasonable demands of family but then also feel obligated to give in to the unreasonable demands of 'the world'...more
CA
THIS BOOK CHANGED MY LIFE YEARS AGO!
IT'S CHANGING IT AGAIN!
Sibel Kaçamak
'Annem Sen misin?' i okurken Alison Bechdel'in yapmış olduğu alıntılar ilgimi çekince hemen sipariş verdim ve başladım. Bir çok davranışımın bendeki mantığını anlamama yardımcı oldu. Sahte benliklerinin farkında olup altındaki gerçek benliğini arayanlar ya da aramaya niyetlenenler için ideal. Kişisel Gelişim'in beaba'sı... Gerçekte kişisel gelişimin hangi andan itibaren start aldığının farkına varılınca, okunması kaçınılmaz kitaplar listesinde ilke girer diyorum. Tabii ki katedilecek çok kilomet...more
Alice Urchin
I picked this up after falling in love with Alison Bechdel's Are You My Mother? She cites this book throughout her memoir as having a strong impact on her life as well as on her writing. It was an interesting read. A lot of good insight on how your parents shape your emotional development. Some of it (particularly the first section) felt like it was heavily targeted at therapists and psychoanalysts (of which I am neither), so those parts interested me less than rest of the book. I thought that t...more
Ashley
I've been hearing about this book for a while (mostly from Bill!) and wanted to give it a try. Some parts I liked a lot; I thought her points about how emotionally insecure and unstable parents raise children who are unable to fully access their emotions because their emotions have been blocked in order to accommodate their parents' needs were pretty insightful. I also thought she got it right when she wrote about how people's needs for achievement often stem from the feeling that their parents'...more
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...more
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...more
Andrew
Recommended, sort of, in Alison Bechdel's Are You My Mother? Perhaps because Bechdel already summarized much of the book's argument, it did not strike me with as much force as it apparently did for Bechdel. Nevertheless, I found much of it illuminating and, in a way, inspiring, laying out a sort of blueprint for how to act toward children--any children. It should be noted that the term "gifted" of the title (which is an accurate translation of "begabten") nevertheless has, in the book, less of a...more
Cassandra
My dislike of this, and Miller's other book Breaking Down the Wall of Silence, has little to do with the content and message than the constant referrals she makes to her OWN books, and the general conceited air her writing style takes on.

Other than that, I found the book rambling, repetitive, and containing very few concrete examples of the concepts she's trying to get across.

I do believe that most of what she's saying has merit, but the way the book was written didn't give me much confidence...more
Readingwilliam

Powerful! Drama is an excellent complement to Will I Ever be Good Enough (Karyl McBride) and The Places that Scare You (Pema Chodron)which I had just completed. The book addresses the failed caregiving in our early lives (when the adults are still kids themselves) and the difficulties we have as adults.
We must learn to stay and be and sense our own experiences rather than continue to run, and idealize and displace. Chodron addresses the staying and being and toleration of discomfort, as does Mc...more
Rhea Lwin
The title is misleading as the "gifted child" is the reader who still struggles with his/her childhood, the expectations that his/her parents put on them, meeting their needs while losing one's true self. Alice Miller forces you to reflect on some pretty difficult truths. Searching to find one's "true self" and separating it from the "false self" is uncomfortable yet necessary. I was a little disappointed that there was ultimately no advice on raising kids of your own but found her book to be a...more
Shahine Ardeshir
Quick clarification before we get into the review: When Alice Miller says “gifted child”, she refers to almost every child, and the “drama” she speaks of are all the forces that prevent us as children from being authentic true versions of ourselves.

This book reminded me greatly of studying Freud during undergraduate psychology, since it deeply reflects the psychoanalytical approach to personality development. What Miller does very well is explain just how much of who we are as adults is linked...more
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Drama of the Gifted Child 9 44 Sep 07, 2011 09:02PM  
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Psychologist and world renowned author, who is noted for her books on child abuse, translated in several languages. In her books she departed from psychoanalysis charging it with being similar to the poisonous pedagogies, which she described in For Your Own Good .

Miller was born in Poland and as young woman lived in Warshaw where she survived World War II. In 1953 she gained her doctorate in phil...more
More about Alice Miller...
For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence The Body Never Lies: The Lingering Effects of Hurtful Parenting Thou Shalt Not Be Aware : Society's Betrayal of the Child The Truth Will Set You Free: Overcoming Emotional Blindness and Finding Your True Adult Self The Untouched Key: Tracing Childhood Trauma in Creativity and Destructiveness

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“The grandiose person is never really free; first because he is excessively dependent on admiration from others, and second, because his self-respect is dependent on qualities, functions, and achievements that can suddenly fail.” 34 likes
“Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness: the emotional discovery and emotional acceptance of the truth in the individual and unique history of our childhood.” 33 likes
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