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Prisoners Of Childhood: The Drama of the Gifted Child and the Search for the True Self Hardcover – July 4, 1996

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Editorial Reviews Review

Today's responsible parents strive to raise children with healthy egos. But for a lot of adults, the word "ego" carries the negative connotation of "narcissism." Traditionally, the "good" child learned self-control, self-denial and placed parental needs and wishes first. If those needs were abusive to the child, there was no choice but to block the hurtful behavior in order to hold onto adults who were loved and needed. Miller recognized the link between certain emotional problems in adulthood and repressed childhood anguish. Her ideas in this pioneering study are a must-read for anyone seeking truth about the roots of suffering in childhood. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 118 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reissue edition (July 4, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465062873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465062874
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

159 of 162 people found the following review helpful By S. Goodheart on October 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Just so readers won't be misled by one of these reviews, (one wonders if the reviewer even read the book) please understand what Alice Miller means by "gifted" in her own words: "When I used the word 'gifted' in the title, I had in mind neither children who receive high grades in school nor children talented in a special way. I simply meant all of us who have survived an abusive childhood thanks to an ability to adapt even to unspeakable cruelty by becoming numb...Without this 'gift' offered us by nature, we would not have survived." The reviewer who says "we will ever know exactly what makes gifted people gifted" and "that's the fun of it" clearly the foggiest idea about what Alice Miller means when she uses the word "gifted," which makes his or her review ridiculously irrelevant. There's nothing "fun" about being "gifted' in the sense that Alice Miller is writing about! As for this incredible book, no one has written more clearly or insightfully about child abuse than Alice Miller and if anyone knows about what makes children "gifted" (in her special use of the term), it's Alice Miller. People who review books should at least read the book they review, and should at the very least, if they have read it, understand what the writer has written. If you have been abused, whether overtly or by the poisonous pedagogy of our various societies, this book is healing balm to your soul. Read it and may it help you stand up for yourself and be healed.
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Format: Hardcover
Alice Miller's "Prisoners Of Childhood; The Drama Of The Gifted Child," was originally published in 1981. A later revised and updated edition, "The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self" is now available with a new Foreward by Dr. Miller. I read this book over 20 years ago, and recently reread it. I find that it is just as relevant, wise and perceptive today as it was then. Dr. Miller was a practicing psychoanalyst, who gave up her work with patients to write books, for the layperson, primarily dealing with early childhood abuse. In her Forward, Miller continues to disavow psychoanalysis. Although I am not in agreement with her on this, she continues to be one of my heroes.

Dr. Miller, who writes an elegant and easily understandable prose, discusses here the issue of children raised by a narcissistic parent(s). She explains that this book is not about high I.Q. children, but about those who were able to survive an abusive childhood because they developed an adequate defense system. At a very early age the child intuitively apprehends the parent's needs. Since the parent, especially the mother, is the child's soul source of survival, the child strives to please, fearing disapproval, or abandonment. Thus, the child sublimates his needs for the parent's. Roles reverse and the child frequently takes on the parent's responsibility as emotional caregiver. This impedes the growth of a child's true identity, and a "loss of self" frequently occurs. The child adapts by not "feeling" his own needs, and develops finely tuned antennae, focusing intensely on the needs of the all important other. Ms.
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66 of 67 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Miller concicely depicts the damage done by child abuse. I find myself coming out of the pages to meet myself. If the book were any stronger it would have to be sold by prescription.
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78 of 81 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is the translation of the original text of this book; the currently available paperback is a version that Miller rewrote during the mid-90's to conform with her current views. Miller broke with psychoanalysis after her first 3 books (Drama of the Gifted Child, For Your Own Good, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware) and her first post-psychoanalytic book was Banished Knowledge. Later, after a few more books, she went back and rewrote Drama of the Gifted Child. Although I think Miller's move away from psychoanalytic categories was a good one, and I loved Banished Knowledge, I feel that this version of Drama of the Gifted Child is better than the newly rewritten one, and I regret that this version is only available now in hard cover. My recommendation is to read this version, either via purchase or through a library (which may have the old version in the now-out-of-print paperback) and then read Banished Knowledge to see where she went. But if you do read this book, just be prepared not to speak to your mother for a while, as you may not want to. (BTW, For Your Own Good is also excellent, although I personally found Thou Shalt Not Be Aware a bit tough to get through).
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160 of 180 people found the following review helpful By Earl Hazell on November 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is one of those books that are not for the faint of heart. So many books in the world that people think are incendiary or revolutionary, challenging and rechallenging our conception of free speech, religion, citizenship, science and technology, philosophy, economics and politics or spirituality have an attraction to us because of how they serve as metaphors for the painful realities of our personal lives under the illusions we create for public consumption, and the secrets of our inner selves we wish to uncover. We yearn to break free of something and embrace some inner truth; we just don't know what, and therefore call it some aspect of the outer world. The desires we have to be and have more than what we are, the feelings of not knowing who we truly are and never truly being loved- and the root causes of such feelings- are unveiled in this powerful, disturbing, life shifting and life-affirming book.
Alice Miller was one of the patron saints of John Bradshaw, the man whose work heralded the age of the Inner Child that became part of the pop-psychology lexicon of the 90's. Her perspective and conclusions, scientifically, sociologically and philosophically speaking, are practically undebateable. And without even needing the true case examples from her therapeutic practice to underscore her points (which she uses with striking and original clarity and precision across gender, racial, ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic lines), her elucidation of her central thesis on the ignored emotional life of children- and the cost of having parents unequipped to give them the love they need- will undoubtedly make deep seated memories of your own childhood come to the surface.
Why does society have such automatic and irrational contempt for the egotist?
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