This paper is a review of Alice Miller's book, "Drama of the gifted child". Miller was a renowned psychologist and she used this book to create more insight on the repercussions of childhood emotional trauma. The title is deceptive as Miller mainly explores the tribulations of a troubled child and their lasting effects. She makes no reference to a gifted child as the title alludes! Miller mainly highlights the manner in which unresolved childhood trauma subsequently manifests itself in the stages of adolescence and adulthood. Adult depression is rooted on gruesome repressed memories which continuously trigger a vicious cycle of mental imbalance. Miller uses her life experience as a troubled child in an attempt to create sensitization on the crucial role of proper parenting.
Parents and elders greatly impact on a child's life as they can either turn the child into a monster or a mentally stable individual. According to Miller, "Had just one person understood what was happening and come to my defense, it might have changed my entire life" (Miller viii). The psychological and emotional needs of children should be adequately addressed. Failure to do so largely predisposes the children to neurosis development in the subsequent life stages. In this book, Miller shows the manner in which depression and grandiosity could be signs of unfulfilled childhood narcissism. In this respect, Miller delves into her emotional imprisonment which she attributes to parental neglect. As a child she was in dire need of emotional support but her mother was not available. "I was amazed to discover that I had been an abused child, that from the very beginning of my life I had no choice but to totally comply with the needs and feelings of my mother and to ignore my own "(Miller viii). This was the genesis of her emotional turmoil and it led to the development of severe mental dysfunction. Therefore negligence of children's' emotional needs is tantamount to abuse as both negatively impact on an individual's mental development.
The book's climax is marked by Miller's autonomous discovery of her emotional problems and hence self closure. This was the turning point and for the first time she decided to conquer the root cause of her problem which she rightfully diagnosed as unresolved childhood feelings. According to Miller the "the child in her was condemned to silence long ago--abused, exploited, and turned to stone-- who finally found her feelings and along with them her speech" (Miller viii). The discovery was a source of great redemption and the beginning of her pursuit for mental stabilization. In fact her main goal is to reach as many people who might be grappling with similar repressed feelings. Miller describes the process as a tough journey laden with many challenges.
Conventional psychoanalytic approaches present one of the main challenges. Miller advocates that hurtful people need to feel 'healthy pain' as a means to overcome emotional turmoil. This causes controversy in the psychological field as pain is generally avoided and bypassed in most therapeutic approaches. Miller critiques these approaches as she portrays their deficiency in addressing emotional problems arising from unfulfilled childhood narcissism. This judgment is somewhat flawed as it comes from a patient/psychologist. It is inappropriate for her to totally dismiss the efficacy of psychology theories. Her failed therapeutic experience does not provide sufficient grounds to overrule conventional psychological approaches.
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The book is an exceptional piece of work as Miller gives a real experience of her painful childhood. Readers grappling with similar emotional problems get to connect with Miller. In addition they get to appreciate that mental problems are not necessarily inherent but they actually arise from very real causes. Most important real solutions exist and they can be utilized to overcome such problems.