Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

The Drama of the Gifted Child - Book Commentary

Student's picture

The Drama of the Gifted Child, by Alice Miller, is about the child who was so aware, consciously or otherwise, of the wishes of his parents and had such a strong desire to fulfill them, that he lost track of himself and his own identity.  It’s about the child who never discovered his “true self” because he was so concerned with pleasing those around him, and the repercussions of that later in life, as an adult.  The book discusses the unconscious wishes of the parent being often unconsciously bestowed on the child, with the child absorbing these wishes and morphing into this different person.  The Drama offers help by explaining the problems and consequences of growing up in this way, and suggestions for steps as to remove himself from the person he is not, and move towards finding his “true identity”.  While full of useful concepts, this book seems to blame and manipulate situations in order to victimize the child-turned-adult, creating an interesting dynamic for the readers in regards to not only their relationships with themselves, but also with the author.   

           This book discusses a useful and interesting number of concepts.  The first that I found particularly interesting, was where Miller writes, “It is easy to notice, if we pay attention, that they hit almost with regularity- whenever we suppress an impulse or unwanted emotion” (56).  Here, she is talking about depressive moods, and what brings them on.  It makes sense that when we suppress something, it would still be there, under the surface, waiting to get out, and could potentially bother us and cause unpleasant feelings.  I wonder, though, if it is as easy and recognizing these patterns, and adjusting and changing.  If we made conscious efforts to not suppress emotions, to act out the way the way we felt, to do what we wanted, would we really never feel depressed?  Even there though, are we always aware of what we’re suppressing to even have the ability to recognize an emotion so as not to suppress it in the first place?

            Miller goes on to talk about this suppression in further detail, and suggests that adults have an opportunity that children do not- she says, “A child does not yet have this possibility open to her.  She cannot yet see through her mechanism of self-deception” (57).  Here, Miller is discussing the ability to deliberately experience pain as an adult, rather than going through a cycle of disappointment, suppression, and depression.  Unlike the child who aims to please and whose “grandiosity” masks all failure, the adult has the chance to face “reality” and experience pain, in the moment, rather than putting it off to feel later.  It bothers me that Miller asserts this- that she says, with confidence, a child “cannot see through her mechanism of self-deception.”  I think that’s unfair to use as a major point, because I think many adults also cannot see through their own mechanisms.  Many adults have protection mechanisms that make them feel better about themselves, and many adults deceive themselves for this same reason.  While it’s convenient to claim here that a child lacks the ability to acknowledge this mechanism, the point is weakened by her not acknowledging that many adults lack the ability too- maybe it’s harder for the child to see, but I would think the adult may have a stronger will, and with that, a stronger refusal to acknowledge what he does not wish to.

            My largest problem with this book is actually the main concept of it.  This book seems to me, to be written as a guide for those looking for an excuse.  The author, Alice Miller, is a therapist, who seems to be attempting to “sell” therapy and make those, the readers, feel victimized, and gain a trust and attachment to her by making excuses and rationalizing behaviors that, as a result, makes the readers feel safer and justified.  The book is based on explaining what the unconscious desires gifted children have picked up and acted on have influenced them throughout their lives, and suddenly, it makes sense why we have strong repressed desires- or that’s the message.  I think there are concepts spread out in this book that are interesting to think about and maybe build from, but using them as more of ways of justifying behavior and not taking own responsibility seems to be more of the message here.  This book is more on building from a “hurt childhood” or suppression, rather than being suggestive, explaining possibilities, taking what is useful, and finding your own pathway to go next.  It’s ironic, because Miller seems to be preaching about finding one’s own identity after a life of living out other people’s desires, yet she’s delivering the same message, the same solutions, and I would venture to say her own thoughts and wishes, to all of these people who now may feel victimized and vulnerable, potentially having them live out her own ideals and wishes. 

            This raises the idea and question as to how useful it is to know, possibly, why we are the way we are.  It makes sense that we’re influenced by those around us, and that we take different things from people and experiences and that affect us and ultimately help make us who we are.  As for books like these, I think that there’s a choice to be made- we can either fling ourselves into these books, agree, acknowledge, experience, and victimize- or we take the book apart, find useful parts, and use them as building blocks to think off of.  For some people, it’s probably extremely useful to be able to recognize where a certain characteristic of theirs may have developed from- for others, the tendency to blame and remove own responsibility may be too tempting.  Though, the latter probably can be equally useful, if not more so, to some people- some people may need to feel victimized, to not feel responsible, in order to continue on in life without living in a mass of guilt- maybe that’s their need, in which case the book functions to them as well as quite useful.

            Miller uses terminology in her book that also is controversial, or confusing at the least.  She says, “He is not really himself, nor does he know or love himself…” (63).  Here, she is talking about the “gifted child”, who, after growing up so compliant with the wishes of his parents, often attempts to rebel, but this is still not “himself”, since he his rebelling against something that was not him either.  I think the terms of “being himself” or “not being himself” are fairly useless.  How does Miller know first, if this really isn’t himself, or if we’re destined to be certain people at all?  Maybe even if we act on our parents’ wishes, absorb, unconsciously, their desires and act on them- maybe that’s just who we are, and maybe that’s all that matters- who we are in the moment.  Miller argues that we’re in distress by suppressing our more natural desires to fulfill those around us, but maybe that “distress”- if it exists, is merely human instincts and feelings we need to feel in order to be human.  Similarly, Miller writes about “when a patient begins to experience his own feelings and can recognize his true needs” (93).  Again, I don’t think she can know whether or not someone is experiencing, or has been experiencing, his or her “own” feelings and “true” needs, or even if they too exist at all. 

            Something I found particularly interesting and a little troublesome was the very beginning of the Afterward.  Miller writes, “A book is no substitute for a good therapist.  But it can perhaps make us aware of our need for therapy by putting us in touch with our suppressed- or possibly even repressed-feelings and thus triggering a process that may have some very salutary effects indeed” (117).  It seems as if she’s trying to “sell” therapy here, and while I would guess that this book does make some people realize that they may be able to benefit from talking to someone, I think it’s a little overdone to explicitly suggest it here as more than a disclaimer.  I also think her use of “us” here is a little inappropriate- it feels like she’s trying to put herself on the same level as the readers while trying to advise them of what to do, who to seek, where to go, and, coincidentally, it’s her field she’s sending them to.  If someone were to let themselves get involved with this book, identify with the book, I would guess there would be attachment between Miller, who would seem to really understand this person, and the person himself, and I think it’s irresponsible even for her to use the words “us” or “we”, throughout, as she does, which only further suggests a closer bond between the reader and writer, the therapist and the patient.  It’s a book that seems to be purposely addicting, rather than suggestive, and it’s this sneakiness, in a way, that I think bothers me.

            All of this is not to say that this book has not been useful.  I have found it very interesting, especially parts at the beginning, where Miller suggests that it is these gifted children that end up being able to read others better than the “non-gifted” children.  I consider myself fairly good at reading people, and empathizing strongly with others, and I appreciate Miller’s explanations for this.  Miller discusses herself even as one of these “gifted children”- gifted in the way that they’ve always done right, and always have pleased.  I’ve found use in this book in attempting to “read” Miller through the words and pages- I wonder if people who have this ability to read others are the particularly good at reading other people like them, or if they’re so aware, they can mask their own identity, even from their own kind, or even can make themselves appear totally differently.  Throughout the book I was torn, between wanting to find connections Miller made between the child and myself, and feeling frustrated at Miller for often seeming to use these connections later as ways to make the readers feel victimized.  I wondered if I was irritated by Miller because something about her either affected me, or was part of me- I’ve heard before that we’re often most irritated by those most like us, and that bothered me in regards to this book.  Miller seemed to be manipulating situations and I wondered that if I could see that- if I could think that, what do I do, or what am I aware of, that makes me able to see it?  Or, maybe I just picked up the book with the intention of understanding, rather than blaming, and that’s as simple as what bothered me about the book- regardless, the book was interesting in making me wonder of these possibilities. 

            The Drama of the Gifted Child is worth reading with the idea of taking what is useful to each of us- and even just being aware of what is not.  I became invested with the idea of arguing with Miller, because I didn’t like her assertions or assumptions.  However, these assertions and assumptions are definitely thought provoking and can inspire new realms of thought- when wanting to disagree instinctually, I had to figure out just why I disagreed.  Maybe more of the use in this book is just this kind- the kind that’s between the lines, or just the opposite of what’s actually there and written.  I think a lot of people can relate to the image Miller draws of the “gifted child”, and I think being able to identify with this image creates a sense of belonging, and, if nothing else, creates great interest throughout the book.  As far as purpose of the book goes, someone who can benefit from understanding why they may be the way they are could really enjoy and gain a lot from the book.  Those who want- or need, to victimize themselves, may find solace and comfort here.  And, for those just wanting a good read, the book is interesting, full of stories from patients of Miller’s, and useful in providing new ways of viewing our lives.  


Serendip Visitor's picture

Your Analysis

Your analysis appears well-meaning, but lacks insight into the intrapsychic, child development, or child maltreatment. Your projections are blatant here and irresponsible. I have to believe that you are young, and I have to hope that you are not a therapist or interested in becoming one.

Serendip Visitor's picture

The reviewer retracted his comments

Thankfully the reviewer did retract and acknowledge his youthful criticisms as uninformed. I had the same observations as you when first reading his review. Sadly, parenting is still in the dark ages, with parents allowed to do anything they want with children. The child MUST always make the parents "true" and represses the memories of the crossing of instinctual boundary crossing. If a person dares to explore his repressed memories, either they will recoil or others will recoil "I/you shouldn't feel that way!!!! They did the best they could!!" The reality is we have instinctual, archetypal boundaries that can be transgressed and the child is filled with shame and anger when it occurs.

Annie's picture

DGC very helpful to me

I have read and re-read Drama of the Gifted Child numerous times and found help in every word. DGC gave me language to express what I had felt all my life but not known how to say, was ashamed to say and feared saying to a therapist. If the book did not help you, then you are not hurting enough. I was sexually abused - raped several times between 5 and 8 years old, had an emotionally unavailable narcissistic mother who used to physically beat me excessively and then parentified me in adolescence by using me as a confidante for her adult emotional problems with my father. All my life I sought mirroring in others, placed my identity in friends who I overdealized even when I should not have for fear of losing their "love"At 52, I discovered how to FEEL after spending years developing my intellect, learning to THINK and getting degrees and good jobs - what Miller calls grandiosity - all to avoid my complete lack of self knowledge, self acceptance and self love. Instead of self-respect, love of self I felt deeply irrevocably flawed inside - depression -and tried to cover it with achievement. Her statement that self-esteem is based on acknowledging one's own feelings, feeling their validity without the need for external confirmation is PROFOUND as it led me to realize that my feelings are my friends and not the enemy, I need not fear feeling them, they help guard my boundaries. DGC let me know that MY feelings MATTER and I need to pay attention to them.

Carl Strain's picture

down the road

I first read TDGC in 1996. I knew it fit me like a glove, but I didn't know how to get out of the trap.
It meant more to me than the accumulation of (mostly worthless) therapists up to that point.

Last week, 21 years later, I was mingling at a large social function which my three siblings and mother were also attending. I had seen my mother and siblings when I came in and exchanged a hug and greetings. While mingling, my mother marched up to me and said angrily "are you ignoring me" to which I responded "no, I am ..." and she turned and stormed off.

For the first time in my life, ever, my automatic knee jerk response was NOT guilt and shame for how "mama felt" like she trained me to feel: responsible for her yucky feelings rooted in her disorder, that she tries to get me to put perpetual band aides on by making me feel responsible for her insecurity (which is exactly what Alice Miller points out in her book, what these mother's do when raising you).

Thank you God, Father in Heaven, and thank you Alice Miller (deceased), and thank you all my co-healers and understanders of this awful prison created by this drama that was placed on top of us to keep us bound as a bandage for our mothers who never did their own work, and made it our job to make them feel better because of their disorder.

I don't know about you, but I've got a pretty good idea, all my fellow travelers, that you, too, are sick of the brain washing that required us to wear Mama's bullshit. She can keep it and take it to her grave, it's not mine. Or she can work on it and heal it. But I am finished with that crap that was put on me, that is NOT mine.

Carl Schuch Strain

Joe's picture

Drama of the gifted child. A useful Book.

Glad to read the update from the original reviewer that his writings were those of inexperience and that he disavows much of what he wrote. We were all that way once.
While this is not a one stop shop book for all maladies, it is applicable and useful for many. Also, those with anxiety, or blocks that interfere with their ability to live life, are not looking for an excuse for being that way, but need answers and answers come from knowing the causes.
Even at it's best, parenting is done while in hormonal and brain chemical trances along with cultural and religious delusions that are imposed on a child. Throw in a child being held responsible, in minor and extreme ways, for a parents own moods and things get toxic. Add to that, unmet needs due to large families, parental favoritism, sibling rivalry, punishment with an "edge" and it is still in the realm of typical childhoods. One could say that the default setting for all people is: narcissism at some point on a continuum. This all contributes to the vulnerable child not having basic needs met and therefore carefully observing the parents to figure out how they need BE, from the parents standpoint, in order to have those needs met, thus losing connection with their real selves.
Some children find that being the good child, or mirroring the parent, or being the problem child will be the ticket to receiving parental attention.
I have read this book and several others by Alice Miller. I have found them helpful in explaining my own challenges. I also have had careers with a large amount of people contact and I can see the principles written in this book evident in peoples behavior and challenges.
Most of the first paragraph of the review at the top of this page is an excellent summary. However the last sentence about "this book seems to blame and manipulate situations in order to victimize the child-turned-adult" I disagree with. Other than nature, which may be the source of some anxiety or blocks, there must be a cause or something to blame otherwise. If something damaged us when we were in a vulnerable state, like childhood, then we are a "victim" and it is helpful in our recovery if we recognize that, identify the mechanism of injury and customize treatment for the mitigation.
Like many concepts in psychology, they are all tools part of a well stocked toolkit. Respectfully, the reviewer has a bit of a "devils advocate" edge. Psychology is not a resort that people go to find excuses for how they are, they go to find the source of anxiety, anger or blocks and to get fixed to some degree, so they can move on. The "power of the will" can be useful only when one knows the true causes.
Best regards to all!

Serendip Visitor's picture

Missed much of the point

The review does not mention the obvious and prevalent idea about child emotional development being thwarted by parental narcissism. I strongly disagree that this is a "poor me" "blame someone else" type book, this book is invaluable in understanding what went amiss. Most of us raised by narcissistic parents (including every single one of my siblings and myself) are extremely successful professionally, financially and socially. This provided great insight into the (lack of) emotional development and its consequences. Identifying and understanding the issue is a fantastic step to healing, not blame. Perhaps the reviewer missed the point in the book that the parental figure is often damaged and does not know better, in fact they did their very best. Blame cannot be cast on someone that did their best.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Parental love isn't a myth: a

Parental love isn't a myth: a parent who loves their child does respect that child, listen to him or her and takes them very seriously. A parent who loves a child sets boundaries in order to help the child learn that they cannot simply do or have everything they want, that other people's rights and feelings must be considered. It is possible to discipline a child without abusing the child: in fact, the entire point of disciplining a child is to teach them to discipline themselves, which they must learn to do in order to have positive relationships with other people. There is nothing pleasant about having to interact with an egocentric, self-indulgent adult.

One of the things I find problematic is the failure to distinguish clearly between loving parenting and abuse. Another is the implication that no one who didn't have a horrific childhood could possibly understand how valuable the author's insights are. In my own case, I've found others quite capable of understanding both the dynamics of dysfunction and the after-effects of an abusive childhood, despite not having had the same kind of childhood that I did. Then again, I don't console myself for my childhood by considering myself far better acquainted with pain and tragedy than people who didn't have the same kind of childhood: afaic, tragedizing yourself is just another means of avoiding seeing yourself as normal.

Joyce Rule's picture


In all one has mentioned the healing process. Even Miller only touched on it. Certainly, denying or intellectualizing what they did does not heal us, but neither does blaming them. That is only the first part. I really had to dig to get to the healing steps one must take. For me, when trying to change present behaviors, I had to search for the underlying feelings; go back to the first time I felt them; have in an internal dialog expressing my feeling (rage) to my parents; then grieve the loss of understanding and nurturing that I had so needed. I had to read parts of the book twice to get this but the process really settled some unfinished business and allowed me to have a more equitable relationship with my elderly mother.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Alice Miller and Healing

In response to Joyce Rule
Joyce, I would like to know how to contact you to discuss this healing process.
Will you contact me at the email address that has a period (dot) between my first name and last name, then at gmail dot com on the end?
In response to your 8/30/13 post:

JR: In all one has mentioned the healing process. Even Miller only touched on it.

CS: Miller at one time in her career encouraged the healing process work of a guy named J Conrad Stetbacker. But she later vigorously opposed his technique. IT did take you to the original pain, but she, well, research it a little and you can probably discover why she later decided his process was too dangerous.

JR: In all one has mentioned the healing process. Even Miller only touched on it.

CS: I remember her as having touched on it quite heavily: grieving the pain (of loss of self). And grieving the original pain (when it happened). And this process begins with remembering. And her book is the awakening process for so many of us.
Miller's one book, this book, did more healing for me than all the overpaid worthless therapists I've seen who spend their time getting me to validate their own egos and their own academic training, instead of their validating my reality. The reality of my pain, Never being validated, but being shamed and ridiculed, is what caused the separation from the true self. Because my true self is attached to my true feelings....before someone told me "that's not how I am supposed to feel" or shamed me for a feeling and I learned to "not feel" what I was really feeling, lest I be shamed for it. This is where the loss of the self comes from, and the reverse of that (finding/digging/remembering) how I really feel, is the root of the healing (and it will take me a lifetime but I am doing it).

JR: Certainly, denying or intellectualizing what they did does not heal us, but neither does blaming them.
CS: Acknowledging that the loss of the true self is not a process that we invented, nor one that we had happen to us naturally, but that was intentinoally done by others, is very much required for the healing. If you or others choose to call that blame, then that, too, is a cultural type taboo. It's not blame. It's understanding of truth. All people with the condition described by Alice Miller in this book (in my opinion) have huge, very large, hearts and loving hearts. Intuitively considering what others need, and offering that. Energetically and otherwise. To realize that this was used and abused by those others, is a process that allows those same people to see and understand that the huge betrayal of their own selves, (in my case, myself) is NOT one more layer of guilt and shame that we have to wear (becuase wearing projected guilt and shame is part of the process that shut us down). Therefore, it is imperative that we understand this [that is wasn't our fault; we didn't invent this shame for our feelings blanket, it was put over us] or we will never "come out" of the guilt and shame blanket.

JR: That is only the first part.
CS: Right, it is a part in that respect, but blame is a bad word for it because of how it is misjudged by so many.

JR: I really had to dig to get to the healing steps one must take. For me, when trying to change present behaviors, I had to search for the underlying feelings;

CS: Right. I've been working on this garbage over 20 years, and am only now getting that deep in the onion.

JR: go back to the first time I felt them; have in an internal dialog expressing my feeling (rage) to my parents;

CS: At this point, it's not even to my parents, but if it needs to be I will allow it to be.

JR: then grieve the loss of understanding and nurturing that I had so needed.

CS: Right, right, right.

JR: I had to read parts of the book twice

CS: Only twice? You are fast! And that is excellent!

JR: to get this but the process really settled some unfinished business and allowed me to have a more equitable relationship with my elderly mother.

CS: And prior to that process, the "power" of your mother remained sort of "over you" and "how you felt"?

Kgins + 6 years's picture

As the author this post...

Hi to everyone,

I wrote this book review/response as a sophomore in college. My professor, a wonderful professor (Paul Grobstein- the founder of this website, serendip), recommended this book to me when I came to him and opened up about my stresses, thoughts, and concerns. He was always an incredible listener, and so effortlessly brilliant. It is only now, so many years later, that I understand how perfect this book was for my situation-- I was completely lost, and my only sense of identity came from what my parents imposed on me. I was so enmeshed in that world, so defensive of my parents, that I couldn't blame or critcize them for anything, and I couldn't think they did anything that could have possibly hurt me. Six years later, thankfully I can think my own thoughts and have developed my own identity, and I would imagine that now, at this point, my take on this book would likely be very different. Am looking forward to reading it with a far clearer, much more open head.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Rev follow up

Very cool that you re -visited the book and the feelings your younger self had for it. Talk about documentation of personal growth!

Carl Strain's picture

Rev follow up

This comment was posted on Aug 8, 2014:

"Very cool that you re -visited the book and the feelings your younger self had for it. Talk about documentation of personal growth!"

But it is unclear to me what post it as referring to.
Can anyone help me understand to what post the above comment refers?
Thank you.

Joyce Rule's picture


Thank you for clarifying your own misunderstanding of THE DRAMA OF THE GIFTED CHILD. I just finished reading it for the first time after having it on my shelf for about 20 years! I found it totally 'right on' as Miller appeared to neither blame parents nor excuse children. She did, however, pay much more attention to the consequences suffered by children when certain "wrongs" are committed by parents than to the healing element. I had some trouble finding the healing process, but once I was able to sift through the stories and sort it out, I found the process extremely useful in solving certain reoccurring issues in my life. It helped me take responsibility for my own healing rather vacillating between either intellectualizing and denying my parents' part or angrily blaming them. If you have such recurring issues, you may want to revisit the book.

Anonymous guest's picture

"Drama of the gifted child"

Thank you for all the comments you have made regarding this book. I have now made up my mind to buy it and look forward to reading it to help me make sense of my own situation. If I've learned nothing, I've learned that we are a product of our upbringing. I totally agree with the comment submitted by the anonymous guest - I also don't want to blame anyone for the terrible decisions I've made in my life, I just want to fully understand why I made them and try not to make them again. I feel at the age of 48 I've finally had enough. Thanks again for all the comments.

Emma's picture

Very interesting article. I

Very interesting article. I completely agree that many parents cross the line from being supportive and end up intruding on or "living through" their child's life and accomplishments. What these parents as loving actions are actually very harmful to their children. I recently read another article on the topic that I found to be very interesting and informative,, I highly recommend it!

Maria Hill's picture


Alice Miller's book is one of the greats for understanding human beings. She is writing about the tragic situation of not being loved by your parents, of only being used. Children of narcissistic parents can only please to get positive attention from them. Since children are dependent that puts the child in an impossible bind. The child needs compassion and a lot of help to recover.

Serendip Visitor's picture

the truth

there are at least 2 pretty awful comments given here. One, of course from the first person on this site. And the person that stated "Boundaries learned as chldren means freedom as adults"- They are misrepresenting parenting by stating that people can't give and chidren structure and discipline and NOT ABUSE, smother are create codepenedent kids. My daughter always has had more rules (structure and discipline) than the average kids she encounters but it is being done in a completely different way (almost oposite) than that of my parents. They disiplining was done to avoid their own anxiety, distress, and to maketheir life easy because they couldn't handle anything much less intimacy. I knew a girl who would inadvertently put her pajamas on afeter a 5 oclocl dinner just because she knew on her own that her parents wanted her to go to bed as soon as possible. Social services was called her mom was just so full of anxiet with or without her antianxiety pilss that the kids was just trying to be invisible. Being invisible and disciplined are 2 very difefernt things in childhood. It much easier for adults to be invisible because it much easier not to back to do the research into your own childhood to fix yourself. But it is impossible to get well without going into the past and seeing what was created. The goal is to get rid of the information and behaviors which are detrimental and that were learned. As SCott Peck advised, I am constantly scrutinizing my parenting and what role modeling I'm providing (which requires Much derived from love) to ensure I done innocently or mistakenly give her the wrong teachings. All unnecesary ego must be cast aside in oder to do this. You have to be able to tolerate healthy shame, which is something my parents wouldn't be able to tolerate for too long. Therefore, I don't bother relating to them in the the of intimacy that I do with the real people in my life. I have to let them live out their archaic and senseless lives because it is the path thgey have chosen. I wouldn't have been able to do it without ACA WSO Claudia Black, Pia Melody, A. Miller, Earnie L. Google ACA Speakers and view top 2 sits.. If a circus dog or elephant is trained top do bad things well I hate to say what either of those 2 will be doing. But to them it would be ok and conscious behavior by then. I have a 10 year old rescue dog who is just now finally getting rid of some of its phobias, by just watching another healthy dog and much socilaization. It warms my heart and i can't believe it lived almost its entire life (he's got about 2 or 3 years left) afraid like that. Iwouldn't be the I am today hadn't Alice Miller wrote her book. John Bradshaw had us all reading her book for a reason. Because it changed his life, too. Unlike, my dog Shadow, too bad my parents never got to be who they were supposed to be , nor they don't even know what kind of parents they were. Trajedy. I would've liked to have gotten to know who they would be without that wall. Sad.

russty  booble's picture

attitude/experience of reviewer-scarry, otlunch

Some pathology of significance on reviewer's words-thoughts. E x ample == Parental love is a myth? BULL: something to demean:more bull ! Assuming oneness is a soul's Goal, what is more important than a child feeling loved, nurtured and held?And then moving forward in kindness to be kind to others??.

Carl Strain's picture

The Drama of the Gifted Child

This is the single most helpful book I have ever read in my attempts to unplug from the subconscious garbage that binds my conscious actions and feelings through my subconscious beliefs (which were developed during the periods described by this book).

I must conclude from the initial author's post on this site, that he does not have the gift described in this book, or he would understand, rather than attack, the book's helpfulness, and Alice Miller's helpfulness, and intent at helpfulness, in mentioning therapy is the path.

I was enlightened by the viewpoint some of the posts mentioned, accusing Alice Miller of promoting therapy with her words. But on consideration that they might have a point, as I thought through what I have read of Alice Miller and how she places those plugs, they are not about therapy plugs at all. They are about "healing" or "being released" from this garbage, deep garbage, that binds some of us, and at the time she wrote that, therapy was the only path she knew.

I have yet to engage any therapist who understood this stuff half as well as I do, and thus none, absolutely none, of them have been helpful. But I don't see Alice Miller's post as promoting therapy, but as promoting healing....and from what little I have read from her, not in books but in this or that article, she is actually against a lot of therapy ...she is for the understanding of "what happened" and unplugging from it, but against a lot of the therapy which is allegedly helpful, when it is not (it is often more about denial of the truth that binds us rather than breaking it down by seeing the truth that sets us free).

Ryan's picture

I thought this was a good

I thought this was a good book. However one downfall I thought was Miller really only emphasized the Mother being the narcissistic individual to the child and not the father. I felt that she overlooked the narcissism of the father. And could have went into talking about standing up to it, but overall I really liked the book.

Serendip Visitor's picture

"Drama" and Intergenerational damage

In my struggle to understand why our marriage of 30 years collapsed I started therapy. I had to do it on an individual basis since my wife found even the thought of delving into her fears and pain much too difficult. My individual therapy included an assignment to read Miller's "Drama". The first read left me both skeptical and critical. After a few more months my therapist suggested I re-read a specific portion. Amazingly it all came together. I have read, and re-read, the book, seeing more and more each time. Through "Drama" I can now see much more of the pain experienced by my bride in both childhood and adulthood. Through the reflective image of her pain I am coming to see my own.

Miller's ability to understand the mechanics of how we develop and cope came through studying those much more afflicted than the two of us, yet it enabled her to see how we ALL use the same basic tools to bury our pain and respond to the our caregivers of our infancy and young childhood. This is what sets the pattern for our behavior in adulthood.

I have shared this information with those willing to listen, including my mother-in-law. Even though she is so largely responsible for her daughter's issues, I see how her own parents inflicted their plans, fears, and expectations upon her. Each generation inflicts itself upon the next. Miller's work finds the pattern, resolves the conflict through therapy, and assists the "victim" with recovery. Her work helps break the cycle which would otherwise continue in each successive generation.

My beautiful bride and I used the tools at hand to escape the disapproval of well-intending, but thoroughly unprepared parents, just as they did in their childhoods. Because so much of this happens during our less organized, pre-language period, we have little, if any, memory. Those memories that do survive may be hidden in order to mask or avoid the pain they invoke. The pioneer wagons wore deep ruts in the prairie, so too our earliest experiences created the "ruts" in the behavioral patterns we continue to follow today. Changing those behavioral patterns is Miller's message. Like an aerial camera, Miller seeks to give us a new perspective of the trail we have followed. Her goal is for us to see what we missed, understand the losses incurred on our journey, and free us to take new paths. Otherwise we, and our children, are destined to simply continue as we have until we die. Thank you, Alice Miller.

Johnston's picture


the book is not an excuse. rather, it shows a way to overcome the "drama of the gifted child". who might be envying the gifted child that has found an explanation for his misery? perhaps the gifted child that has not accepted its own drama yet. if you are not sure about your childhood (infact it's not the childhood but the babyhood we talk about!) - look at your baby pictures: if you smile as a baby, you habe been abused. babys don't smile unless they have to smile for their life. if you ain't sure yet, think about your life and your essential decisions about it. do you think you acted according to your core wishes?
finally, to overcome the drama one has to accept it, and one has to let come the grief. this book is hope for the lost.

Vis medicatrix's picture

Oh, good grief. If you smile

Oh, good grief. If you smile as a baby you've been abused? What a load of nonsense. Babies mirror the facial expressions of their caregivers, it's part of the attachment process. Parent and baby gaze deeply into each others' eyes, smile, coo, and fall in love. Neural patterns are laid down partly through this mimicking process. If you never smile as a baby, it's more likely because you are miserable and likely no one ever smiled at you (or you are autistic, or you were just born grumpy, like the child of a friend of mine, a friend who is a very happy and smiling person). We must be careful not to characterize every part of human interaction as pathological.

Khari's picture

On the childs inability vs. adult inability

I think that Alice's missive is fairly accurate on the point that a child doesn't have the ability to see past suppressive mechanisms and the adult does. In your critique of Alice's logic, you stated that adults due to having stronger will may not have an ability to to see past themselves, or something to that extent. When we start speaking of will, we are speaking of choice. Adults choose to suppress. Yes, it is true that we can start habits as children that carry forward throughout our lives, but we do come into contact with experiences and information via books, relationships with others etc. that give us some insight into our choices.

I have a lady friend that you would think doesn't possess this ability, as you say. She, however, comes into information all of the time that reveals to her the choice to either suppress or to choose to express and grow. She chooses not to express and grow because she desires not to experience the pain of the death of antiquated and outdated lifestyles that serve her no purpose anymore. She consciously shuts out wise counsel and rigidly holds on to ill-fated ways of living that consistently show her their uselessness in her life. So this is a choice she makes. Sure, it would be easier for her if she were to have practiced being more expressive throughout her life. But the mere fact that her strong will allows her to suppress in a more calcified manner than most other people that I know suggests that the same will can be used to do the opposite. Children, on the other hand, are far more primal in their instincts.

I recall my own childhood well and many of the abusive things that I experienced from both of my parents. I recall the emotional scars of abandonment by my mother and the verbal and physical abuse by my father. As a child, I only wanted to continue to enjoy myself. Amidst the arguments and physical fights they would have, I would find ways of entertaining myself and shutting out the violence. These were primal instincts at work. It took no thought. The instinct was to try to keep my mental world enjoyable. Yes, this did play out well into my adulthood. I found, however, that as time went on, my desire to not accept what was going on and my choice not to express emotion through loss of whatever proved to be more detrimental to my growth. It led to me being quite the cynic and not a very happy person.

Eventually, I could no longer suppress. I would find myself crying profusely for no reason. After one situation that left me crying literally for months, I felt cleansed of the pain from that situation and was able to move on. This taught me a lot. While many people teach the importance of suppression of emotions, I say find healthy ways of expressing them. We do have the choice. If we didn't have the choice to do such, we'd be no better than the common dog. I respect everyone's ability to choose, but I encourage everyone to choose what is healthiest for them.

Anonymous's picture

wrong title

This book really need to be titled the Trauma of The Gifted Child.

drama reader's picture

...recently read "drama of

...recently read "drama of gifted child", and thought it was an important piece of work that I wanted to share my comment on. thank you.

drama reader's picture

Drama Reader

...for as long as I can remember, I have felt a strong emotional tide towards other people to deal with their emotional business...a strong focus to look at them, help them in some way to cope with problems. I consider less my own emotional health as for being loved and cared for, though I know I want it and need love desperately at times. I sometimes feel overwhelmed to express care and concern for others, but I lack sensitivity to feel it from others when I can plainly see they are showing concern for me. I feel unworthy, I get red in the face, I feel embarrassed, I feel threatened by it. It is irrational. I have been looking to understand my situation for years as my attention would inevitable seep into my past, my eyes glazing over to envision what brought on this particular imbalance of perception. I look for enlightenment as to cause and effect for my situation. One of my life purposes is to understand contributing factors so that I may see what thorn was put in me and pull it out. More importantly, I wish to understand the mechanism so that I don't foolishly repeat the same condition for others to bare. "Drama..." provided good insights. I was shown that we all look for the unadulterated witness who can be present but uninhibiting. This presence is what comforts us and supports us to see ourselves and grow in the contact and context of the self. Without this window to knowing ourselves we can become overwhelmed with serving others that we totally miss out on the "know thyself" portion of our lives which one can feel painfully missing when it is not there. Though it is unlikely I will find this sort of person to be a mirror for my soul growth, it is likely in solitude, that the mirror of my soul can see itself and know itself. This makes complete sense to me...and I thank Alice Miller for sharing her experiences in this area.

Anonymous's picture

my understanding

Just as it is hard to for "normal people" to admit that most of what goes on in the name of spoken communication (such as
politics, TV, radio, education, business) is not spoken communication at all, but actually various forms of manipulation, domination, exploitation, alienation, fragmentation, forcefulness and diversion (just to name a few), it is equally difficult to acknowledge and accept that what goes on in the name of upbringing is violence, abuse, neglect and humiliation. The reason it is so hard to recognize real needs from phony needs is because t he latter pushes out the former. People get angry when you not only question, but also expose their rotten values.

solange's picture

the drama of the gifted child

I read this book in my late 30's and was in tears after I read it because I could relate with everything that she said. I was raised by a mother that truly loved me but was bipolar in Asia, so was physically and mentally abused. Her parents both were manic drepressive, so she did the same thing they did to her to me. Luckylly, I was put in a boarding school where I learned structure. I knew my mother loved me but could not comprehend the pains she constanlly hurt me in the name of love. I never knew all my life that it was because of my upbringing that cause my dysfunctionnal life, and in my therapy, I did realize it was because of my mom, I never blame her, just acknowledged the pains , accept the knowledge and responsibility so I could go on and help my own daughters. unless you have suffer the abuse of an unstable parent and the abuse of the catholic nuns, there is no way you can understand what she is writing.
I am glad I had the chance to find that book. It helped me tremendously and also the book, the ability to love by Allen Fromme and the Road less travelled.

Anonymous's picture

I use to be an Alice Miller fan...

I use to read a lot of Alice Miller's books and strongly believed in a lot of what she had to say. However, now that I am older and have worked with children my opinions of Alice's views have changed a lot. I think she makes it too easy for people to victimize themselves and blame their parents for all their problems in their adult lives. What about free will and our choices? I think it's important that young children learn boundaries - a lot of kids and adults can manipulate situations in a manner where they will victimize themselves in order to take revenge and/or seek attention.

I now believe more in the belief - "Boundaries learned as children means freedom for adults...".

I agree many kids (including myself) have had some poor parenting...however, I finally realised that blaming everything and hating my parents isn't the answer - I think learning my boundaries and asserting them, and empathizing (versus victimizing myself) my parents has been a much more healthy journey for me...


Steve T's picture

I've heard that "Drama"

I've heard that "Drama" still outsells all of Miller's other books combined--which is odd and unfortunate, since, being her first, she was still in the early stages of her thinking when she wrote it. If ever a better case has been laid out that the sun doesn't orbit the earth as we've been taught (or that the opposite is in fact true)--that cruelty to children is the self-perpetuating mother of all evil (you name it, it stems from child abuse!), I don't think it's been done any better than in her later book: "For Your Own Good", available free to read online at But sure--it's good to be skeptical and suspicious. Too bad more of us weren't able to hold onto those qualities as kids. The world might not be in the mess it's in now if we had.
Anonymous's picture

Perhaps instead of judging

Perhaps instead of judging and insulting, you should appreciate that you do not fully understand the situations that Miller has seen, and that hundreds of children encounter. You have been lucky in life because the situations described in the text are not familiar and poignant to you.

As a rebuttal to your statement that people are looking for an out - someone else to blame their problems on - this is ridiculous and uneducated. I was referred to this book because I've been in counseling for 8 years trying to work through my lack of self-esteem, identity and enormous amounts of doubt and insecurity. I've put in quite a bit of work to improve myself and my life and really resent having the statement that I'm looking for someone to blame my problems on. So I'm looking for an excuse??? If one is actively pursuing self-improvement, as most of the people that read this book probably are, they're not looking for "an excuse," they're looking for help, for answers, for clarity. Perhaps the people committing large crimes and causing enormous amounts of damage to themselves and others are scapegoating and avoiding dealing with their emotions, but how dare you attack those of us that are working so hard to move forward with our lives.

Your evaluation of this book is certainly interesting, but obviously not written by someone that has any true knowledge of the pain and damage that Miller is addressing.

Working Through It's picture

Completely Agree

I completely agree with your reply. Adding that I don't think it is a bad idea at all for Miller to "sell" therapy. I think it would be a much better world if more people were trying to pursue self improvement and clarity in their lives.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Couldn't agree with you more Anonymous

I just had to add that i couldn't agree with you more. The author clearly does not know what abuse really means and how much this book does to help us deal with our childhoods.

Anonymous's picture

Dear Anonymous, I agree with

Dear Anonymous, I agree with your comment 100%. Alice Miller's book, "The Drama of the Gifted Child" has clarified a lot of things for me. We're on the same boat. The book has been a very big help to me. And it is apparent that the author of this site did not experience the horrors that Alice Miller went through, things that you and I find resemblances in our own experiences. I like the way Ms. Miller destroyed the myth of parental love by saying that what children really need is to be respected, listened to and taken seriously. I really say Amen! to that.