Prisoners of Childhood

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The "drama” of the gifted—i.e., sensitive, alert—child consists of his recognition at a very early age of his parents’ needs and of his adaptation to those needs. In the process, he learns to repress rather than to acknowledge his own intense feelings because they are unacceptable to his parents. Although it will not always be possible to avoid these "ugly” feelings (anger, indignation, despair, jealousy, fear) in the future, they will split off, and the most vital part of the "true self” (a key phrase in Alice ...

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Overview

The "drama” of the gifted—i.e., sensitive, alert—child consists of his recognition at a very early age of his parents’ needs and of his adaptation to those needs. In the process, he learns to repress rather than to acknowledge his own intense feelings because they are unacceptable to his parents. Although it will not always be possible to avoid these "ugly” feelings (anger, indignation, despair, jealousy, fear) in the future, they will split off, and the most vital part of the "true self” (a key phrase in Alice Miller’s works) will not be integrated into the personality. This leads to emotional insecurity and loss of self, which are revealed in depression or concealed behind a facade of grandiosity.Alice Miller defines the ideal state of genuine vitality, of free access to the true self and to authentic individual feelings that have their roots in childhood, as "healthy narcissism.” Narcissistic disturbances, on the other hand, represent for her solitary confinement of the true self within the prison of the false self. This is regarded less as an illness than as a tragedy.The examples Alice Miller presents make us aware of the child’s unarticulated suffering and of the tragedy of parents who are unavailable to their children—the same parents who, when they were children, were available to fill their parents’ needs. In her psychoanalytical work, Dr. Miller found that her patients’ ability to experience authentic feelings, especially feelings of sadness, had been for the most part destroyed; it was her task to help her patients try to regain that long-lost capacity for genuine feelings that is the source of natural vitality. Many people who have read her books have discovered within themselves for the first time in their lives the little child they once were. This may explain the unusually strong and deep reactions Alice Miller’s books have evoked in so many readers from different countries. The Drama of the Gifted Child and the Search for the True Self is the original title of the book, which was published in Germany.

Examines how narcissistic parents form and deform lives of talented children.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465062874
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 7/4/1996
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 128
  • Lexile: 1330L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Alice Miller has achieved worldwide recognition for her work on the causes and effects of childhood traumas. Her books include The Drama of the Gifted Child, Banished Knowledge, Breaking Down the Wall of Silence, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware, and For Your Own Good. She lives in Switzerland.

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Table of Contents

Foreword
Ch. 1 The Drama of the Gifted Child and the Psychoanalyst's Narcissistic Disturbance 3
Ch. 2 Depression and Grandiosity as Related Forms of Narcissistic Disturbance 30
Ch. 3 The Vicious Circle of Contempt 64
Works Cited 115
Index 117
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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  • Posted May 9, 2010

    The Contagion of our Discontent

    It was first published more than 30 years ago ("ancient history" in the rapidly developing field of human behavior). The author is an old-school, first-wave, neo-Freudian psychoanalyst. There are no references to empirical verifications of the author's still-stunning assertions. It's not even 120 pages long, including the index. It attacks (relentlessly) the accepted norms of Western pedagogy. And it often costs a lot of money to lay your hands on one.

    I have dealt with adults molested as children for almost 20 years now. My philosophical background is principally cognitive-behavioral, experiential, neuropsychological and "evidence-based." But I also understand the psychodynamic route to the core issues that I'll have to use REBT, CBT, CAT, SIQR, schematherapy, interpersonal, DBT, ACT, mindfulness, Vipassana drop drill, EMDR and other more "modern" methods to deal with.

    Many of the personality theorists and developmentalists saw the linkages between severe forms of abuse and adult behavioral results like paranoid, narcissistic, antisocial, borderline and avoidant personality disorders. But no one else I've run into thus far has shown how the standard, generally accepted and largely unquestioned beliefs and behaviors of our culture are handed down from one dysfunctional generation to the next.

    The following quotations sum it nicely:

    "There was a mother who at the core was emotionally insecure, and who depended for her narcissistic equilibrium on the child behaving, or acting, in a particular way... The child had an amazing ["gifted"] ability to perceive and respond intuitively, that is, unconsciously, to this need of the mother, or of both parents, for him to take on the role that had unconsciously been assigned to him."

    "...the mothers of all my patients had a narcissistic disturbance, were extremely insecure, and often suffered from depression... What these mothers had once failed to find in their own mothers they were able to find in their children: someone at their disposal who can be used as an echo, who can be controlled, is completely centered on them, will never desert them, and offers full attention and admiration... she can make sure that she receives consideration and respect."

    "As soon as the child is regarded as a possession for which one has a particular goal, as soon as one exerts control over him, his vital growth will be violently interrupted... Thus we suppress the child's curiosity... and then, when he lacks a natural instinct in learning he is offered special coaching for his scholastic difficulties... We find a similar example in the behavior of addicts... People who as children successfully repressed their intense feelings often try to regain -- at least for a short time -- their lost intensity of experience with the help of drugs or alcohol" [or sex, romance, work, food, or, or, or...].

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2001

    The Sad Narcissist

    Alice Miller is by far the most prominent popularizer of the twin concepts - True Self and False Self. She regards the True Self as a prisoner within the walls of the False Self. The latter is an intricate and multi-faceted defence mechanism. Defence against what? Against one's emotions that were repressed during early childhood. The narcissist plays a role - that of the gifted, docile, accepting, tranquil, loving, peaceful and well-adjusted child. He becomes the extension of his parents: their unfulfilled dreams and sexret wishes. His identity is moulded to fit the idealized and ideal offspring. His negative feelings are buried deep inside his tormented psyche. These emotional skeletons later erupt and produce depression, suicidal ideation or narcissistic defences. Excellent, readable and - if one can use this word in this context - entertaining. Sam Vaknin, author of 'Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited'.

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