The Drama of The Gifted Child – By Alice Miller

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Review first published by The Honey Mag – March 30 2020

Goodreads Synopsis: 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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“We cannot, simply by act of will, free ourselves from repeating the patterns of our parents’ behavior – which we had to learn very early in life. We become free of them only when we can fully feel and acknowledge the suffering they inflicted on us. We can then become fully aware of these patterns and condemn then unequivocally.” – Alice Miller

Alice Miller, world renowned psychologist, is the author of many books on childhood abuse and trauma. In The Drama of the Gifted Child, Miller takes us through the basics of childhood trauma, why one would go to therapy, and what type of people become psychologists.
I would describe this book as being a basic overview of all her other work, or an introduction at the very least. She describes the two most common reasons she sees people coming into therapy for: depression and grandiose behaviors. She then breaks down where these come from and the basic steps it takes one to work through childhood trauma, saying “It is part of the grieving process that the experience of pain both encourages and is dependent on self-discovery.”
Miller’s general attitude about healing and trauma is very compassionate, and her years of experience are clear throughout the book. Although there was one part of her assumptions that I found to be dated, and that was Miller’s discussion on sexual fetishes. She seemed to believe that all fetishes come from repressed areas of childhood abuse, and that they’re something that will go away once the person goes through therapy. I just don’t believe that this is always the case, and I wish the book could be updated to include newer studies on the intersections of fetish and abuse.
Sadly, Miller is no longer with us so one will just have to take this book with a grain of salt. Still, my overall opinion of this book is that it’s a great place to start for the reader who has not yet encountered Alice Miller. It’s my opinion that everyone should go to therapy at least once in their life, and I hope that reading this book will encourage more people to do just that.


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