Book Recommendation: The Drama of the Gifted Child

 Image from book cover shown on Amazon

Image from book cover shown on Amazon

This thin, innocuous book was once given to me by a previous therapist whose help I treasured. At the time I started reading the book, underlining diligently as any good perfectionist student does, but I quickly put it down again, fearful of the rising tides of emotions this book brought me. I don't think one book has ever captured the essence of my childhood so perfectly. There are so many pieces of this book I have underlined and could quote. This paragraph begins to scratch at what audience the book aims to reach: 

Quite often I have been faced with people who were admired for their talents and their achievements, who were toilet-trained in the first year of their lives, and who may even, at the age of one and a half to five, have capably helped to take care of their younger siblings. Assording to prevailing attitudes, these people—the pride of their parents—should have had a strong and stable sense of self-assureance. But the case is exactly the opposite. They do well, even excellently, in every thing they undertake; they are admired and envied; they are successful whenever they care to be—but behind all this lurks depression, a feeling of emptiness and self-alienation, and a sense that their life has no meaning. These dark feelings will come to the fore as soon as the drug of grandiosity fails, as soon as they are not “on top,” not defintiely the “superstary,” or whenever they suddenly get the feeling they have failed to live up to some ideal image or have not measured up to some standard. Then they are plagued by anxiety or deep feelings of guilt and shame. what are the reasons for such disturbances in these competent, accomplished people?
— Alice Miller, from The Drama of the Gifted Child

There is often an emptiness, an ache, a depression in patients I have seen as well. I reread this book last week and its message resounded so strongly for several of my patients that I ordered 10 copies of it to give out as it seemed necessary. Addressing childhood feelings can be very threatening. Many people are scared to give up the veneer of happy perfection they glossed over their childhood hurts, but facing those is essential to making peace with them and moving on. The goal of therapy is not to remove those happy memories, but to release the unhappy ones that are still lurking silently in the corner. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to raise their awareness and dive in to exploring childhood as it truly was, not just as you wished it to be.