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

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  19,917 ratings  ·  1,198 reviews
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
Paperback, 144 pages
Published July 22nd 2008 by Basic Books (first published 1979)
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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
Aug 19, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mental-illness, 2010
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
Aug 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
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
Tina Hertz
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Mar 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
"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
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most important books in my life.
Michael Perkins
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Susan Ellinger
Apr 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Jan 20, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Erin Rouleau
Jan 19, 2009 rated it liked it
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 other words, kids who grow up in
Dec 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
May 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Dec 28, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adults
Recommended to Helen by: No-one.
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
Christine Palau
Dec 01, 2010 rated it liked it
"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
Feb 18, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Feb 07, 2020 rated it did not like it
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 ...more
Dec 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
"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.
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: self-help
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
Jan 08, 2019 added it
- 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
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
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
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
David M
Jul 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
By encouraging grown adults to see themselves as permanent victims of their childhood, this book casts a long shadow. Andrea Dworkin said all sex is rape; Alice Miller says all parenting is abuse. And if you think you had a happy childhood, or have something positive to say about your parents, well clearly you need to go to therapy to dispel that false consciousness.

One example she gives of abuse is a father not giving up his ice cream stick when his two year old son throws a tantrum. Just ridi
Pippi Bluestocking
Jan 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: phil-psych-spir
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.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author by this name in the Goodreads database.

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

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