The Drama of the Gifted Child

Alice Miller

The Drama of the Gifted Child



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Gifted children are usually the apple of their parent’s eye, and have a particular talent for adapting to the needs of their caregivers. The problem is that to adapt, in this case, means to repress any spontaneous feelings that might upset the parents in any way. Parents might find fear, anger or jealousy unacceptable, so children learn to suppress such feelings in order to ensure that they continue to receive praise for being so “good”. The result is that these children develop an ‘acceptable’ personality that is not really who they are, and consequently suffer in silence. In her book The Drama of The Gifted Child, Alice Miller examines this issue and offers advice to anyone who has suffered from such repression on how to break the cycle and find their authentic self.

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Analysis and key concepts


Being seen, understood, respected, taken seriously and loved is a legitimate need held by every child


A loss of the self during childhood shows itself as complete separation from it in adulthood


A sense of greatness and depression are linked to a false sense of self


Depression often goes hand in hand with grandiosity


Struggling to develop one’s emotions creates codependency between parents and children


It is vital that we learn to accept our children’s feelings, even when we don’t understand them


Becoming aware of our past is the only way we can heal from childhood trauma




Take-home message

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Many useful tips to:

  • Understand why childhood is an important time in a person’s life.
  • Learn that gifted children subconsciously adapt to their parents’ needs, thus forgoing the chance to express their own authenticity.
  • Break the vicious cycle of emotional insecurity between parents and children.

Alice Miller was a psychotherapist and writer whose research focussed on childhood and the consequences that a repressive, violent, or loveless upbringing can have on a person’s adult life. Some of her most well-known books include: The Unheard Child, For Your Own Good, The Drama of the Gifted Child and the Search for the True Self, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware, Banished Knowledge, and Breaking Down the Wall of Silence.

Publishing house:

Basic Books