Cover image for Prisoners of childhood : the drama of the gifted child and the search for the true self
Prisoners of childhood : the drama of the gifted child and the search for the true self
Miller, Alice.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Drama des begabten Kindes. English
Publication Information:
[New York, N.Y.] : Basic Books, 1996.

Physical Description:
x, 118 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Translation of: Das Drama des begabten Kindes.

Reprint. Originally published 1981.
Reading Level:
1330 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RC553.N36 M5413 1981 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
RC553.N36 M5413 1981 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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 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.

Author Notes

Alice Miller was born in Lwow, Poland on January 12, 1923. She studied philosophy and literature at the University of Warsaw, which operated underground during the war. After the war, she continued her studies at the University of Basel and received a doctorate in 1953. After undergoing Freudian psychiatric training, she went into practice as a psychoanalyst. She believed that parental power and punishment lay at the root of nearly all human problems.

By the time she wrote her first book, she had stopped practicing psychiatry. Her works include The Drama of the Gifted Child; The Truth Shall Set You Free; Banished Knowledge: Facing Childhood Injuries; For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence; Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society's Betrayal of the Child; The Untouched Key; The Body Never Lies: The Lingering Effects of Cruel Parenting; Breaking Down the Wall of Silence; and Free From Lies: Discovering Your True Needs. She died on April 14, 2010 at the age of 87.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Table of Contents

Forewordp. vi
Chapter 1 The Drama of the Gifted Child and the Psychoanalyst's Narcissistic Disturbancep. 3
Chapter 2 Depression and Grandiosity as Related Forms of Narcissistic Disturbancep. 30
Chapter 3 The Vicious Circle of Contemptp. 64
Works Citedp. 115
Indexp. 117