Alice Miller’s “The Drama of the Gifted Child” is probably not the easiest book to start with or the easiest to read. One needs a certain background knowledge to understand the many references to Freud’s theories (of which I am not necessarily a fan) and other psychological terminologies, but the book addresses a very interesting topic which is true to more of us than we may realise.
When one reads the term “gifted” one thinks, or at least I did, of extremely intelligent children with extraordinary musical or mathematical talents, and not of oneself. In this case “gifted” refers to a child that is extremely sensitive and emotionally aware, and is so attuned to their parent’s need and expectations that they repress their own needs and emotions in order to fulfill these expectations to receive the things that they need from their parents- love, stability, care, appreciation etc. In this process they lose something incredibly important- their true self.
The true self of the gifted child then stops growing or developing, leaving the child or later the adult feeling empty and emotionally isolated, resulting in depression, and in need of external validation. According to Miller adults need to rediscover their true inner child that has been locked away and that until we address this loss, we are at risk of passing on this pattern to our own children.
This is a short summary of a rather complex book, that I will be definitely reading a few times because I am sure that I missed the one or other important message, but still I found a lot of what Miller wrote, to be very true for myself.
For one I have difficulty expressing certain ‘negative’ emotions such as anger or sadness in appropriate moments, especially in front of other people, and often when feeling angry or sad I can’t stand to be touched. Partially this is because when I was ‘being difficult’ i.e. expressing anger or being upset about something, I was sent to my room until I was calm or happy again. I feel extremely guilty towards others when I show ‘negative’ emotions and am not as happy as they need me to be (or I think they do).
My need for “golden stars” and recognition for achievements is rooted in love/affection being shown by my parents as a reaction to achievements (from school, sport, music, public speaking etc…) leaving a large part of my sense of self-worth as a grown-up dependent on my achievements. I have very high ideals especially for myself, and the absurd idea I need to be “extraordinary”. I have an extremely hard time taking criticism from others, need to be in control and am really quick to feel guilty about most things.
I hope this book is the first step to better understanding the way that I am and maybe being able to accept and/or change the one or other trait.
In continuation with this theme next up is:
Stefanie Stahl’s “Das Kind in dir muss Heimat finden“ (till end of this week)
…which it seems hasn’t been translated into English yet.
It also deals with the loss of the inner child (or the true self as it is described by Miller).