book review: the drama of the gifted child by alice miller14 Apr 2021
preface: i first heard about this book from the gabor maté episode of the tim ferriss show.
What are the main ideas?
- we are subject to the emotional limitations of our parents. as in, whatever our parents don’t like or know how to feel, they (mostly unintentionally) suppress in us as they raise us. if their sadness was trained out of them, they will raise us from early ages not to do things that demonstrate our own sadness. as adults, this limited range of emotions is… devastating.
- depression is lack of access to one’s full emotional range.
- healthy self-esteem is linked to our ability to engage the full range of our emotions.
- when we lack access to all of our emotions, we lack access to our true self. if you are only feeling part of your feelings, you are only accessing part of your wholeness.
- on of the most important pieces of work any adult can do is to regain access to their full emotional range. many people have, as a survival tactic, invisibilized the hard, traumatic parts of their childhoods. removing this veil is difficult and necessary work to find your true self. this is done by interrogating one’s childhood and feeling everything we were suggested or demanded not to feel. this is not an intellectual process.
- tendencies toward high-performance are often (always?) a result of emotional dampening that is covered by achievement as a tactic to earn the love of our parent(s). “i will not cry because that makes my parents upset. instead i will work hard and achieve because that makes them happy. i will replace my anger with focused study, award-winning, and things that bring accolades.”
If I implemented one idea from this book right now, which one would it be?
do the work to remove the veil of the rosyness of my childhood. stay on notice whenever i hear myself say or think “my childhood was great/good/excellent.” there were good parts, of course. but the desire to coverup the bad parts is likely protecting things i don’t want to look at. those specific things shape the way i see the world and live. it’s important to dig them up, however i can.
How would I describe the book to a friend?
quite possibly the most devastating 120 pages i have ever read. this book starts by ripping off the bandaid of illusions that cover up our childhood traumas and then pokes and prods relentlessly to show us the depth of our wounds. it provides little in the way of solutions other than general directions and that feels totally right. this is not a guide on how to deal with your childhood trauma; it is a clarion call to action: pay attention to what happen in your early days. it does give broad directions on how to do that tending work: therapy. but it is not a book about solutions and i sort of love that. this book kept it simple and direct. make sure you are sitting down (emotionally) when you read one. have a journal nearby and maybe a therapist in the wings. if nothing hard comes up for you reading this book, you are probably already enlightened and in that case, send help to the rest of us, haha.
reminder: book review structure
words / writing / post-processing
585w / 20min / 9min