rachelmanija: (Books: old)
rachelmanija ([personal profile] rachelmanija) wrote2011-12-09 12:08 pm

Drama of the Gifted Child, by Alice Miller

Getting a jump on some school reading for next quarter.

I have only just started this, but... is it just me, or is she annoyingly prone to assuming that everyone experiences similar things in the same way and has the same reactions, and so insisting that anyone who says they feel differently from what she expects is denying or repressing the ONE TRUTH?

Drama of the Gifted Child
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2011-12-09 08:53 pm (UTC)(link)
She reads as dated now, and her ideas can be kind of whacky, but IIRC she was one of the first psychoanalysts to consider adult trauma as a result of parental abuse in childhood. Her idea was that Freud put too much responsibility on the abused child, and essentially left parents off the hook. I think she might have also been one of the first writers to use dead artists as examples of her theories (Freud of course wrote on da Vinci, but she fills her books with examples like Plath, Kafka, Picasso, Joyce, and on and on; Kay Redfield Jamison and others picked this up). She's basically part of the history of reactions to Freud -- people trained in the psychoanalytic discipline who then criticized or broke from it, like Laing, Horney, Klein, Szasz, et al. She's basically the godmother of the "inner child" movement, altho obviously she didn't come up with that term.

Her later books are pretty batshit, but there was a lot of stuff in this one about children who feel compelled to perform for or take care of their parents that was interesting (I remember Sylvia Plath as a big example). That said, she has the anti-mother bias a lot of early psychoanalysts do (again, the Sylvia Plath example).
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2011-12-09 09:02 pm (UTC)(link)
Heh, yeah, even in the early eighties, when I read it, that book was revolutionary. Not so much now.
batdina: hold your own pen (Default)

[personal profile] batdina 2011-12-09 09:34 pm (UTC)(link)
yes. this is what I was going to say; dated, but still important as a "first" person.

And definitely stay away from her other stuff, unless you're girded for it.
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)

[personal profile] staranise 2011-12-09 09:47 pm (UTC)(link)
Hey, it could be worse. You could be reading The Courage to Heal.
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)

[personal profile] staranise 2011-12-09 09:53 pm (UTC)(link)
*snerk* And I'm a tiny bit of an Alice Miller fan. There's so much in the early 80s phenomenological/qualitative stuff that makes the much more rigorous and, well, truthful modern literature seem positively anemic.
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2011-12-10 01:31 am (UTC)(link)
Yeah, Alice went batshit later, but Gifted Child really did help me realize how much my parents had invested in me being a Prodigy Dolly and that it was okay for me to disagree with their narrative that my childhood was Utterly Perfect, which meant a lot at the time -- I think I was 13 or 14.

OH, apparently she revised it in 1997? http://www.alice-miller.com/books_en.php?page=7 Oh. Oh dear. I wonder how different it is. ....LOL, I checked LibraryThing and I have three copies: two of the 1981 edition and one of the 1996.
rivkat: Rivka as Wonder Woman (Default)

[personal profile] rivkat 2011-12-09 10:09 pm (UTC)(link)
I wrote a paper in college on trauma narratives in popular self-help books including The Courage to Heal v. trauma narratives in Stephen King. I had a good time, which says something about me.
rivkat: Rivka as Wonder Woman (Default)

[personal profile] rivkat 2011-12-09 10:18 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, now I'm in trouble. My dad threw out all my old papers, so I'm just riffing on my memories: King follows the narrative of the abused child in those self-help books very closely, particularly with respect to children, usually but not always girls, sexually abused by fathers or in sexualized relationships with their fathers. Healing comes from remembering, speaking out, and discovering that healthy adult sexuality exists. King's often more explicitly feminist (for Second Wave values of feminist) than the self-help books.
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2011-12-10 01:24 am (UTC)(link)
That sounds cool!
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2011-12-10 01:39 am (UTC)(link)
OMFG so many people gave me copies of that book. "You have so many of the traits, even if there was nobody in your family who could have done it, it MUST have happened to you!" Bleah.
vass: Jon Stewart reading a dictionary (books)

[personal profile] vass 2011-12-10 02:41 am (UTC)(link)
I haven't read that one, but I did read the one about how child abuse caused World War II.
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2011-12-10 07:30 pm (UTC)(link)
Not quite that simplified. NOT trying to defend her here, but a little bit of the background: she was a Polish Jew who lived through WWII in Warsaw (her books were first published in German). Thou Shalt Not Be Aware was the first book she wrote after her break with psychoanalysis and I think it's also important to understand she was writing in 1981, when it was still difficult for people to analyze Hitler. For once Wiki is pretty good here:

Miller proposed here that German traumatic childrearing produced Hitler and a serial killer of children named J├╝rgen Bartsch. Children learn to take their parent's point of view against themselves "for their own good." In the case of Hitler, he learned to take his parents' point of view against himself, against Jews, and against other groups of people. For Miller, the traditional pedagogic process was manipulative, resulting in grown-up adults deferring excessively to authorities, even to tyrannical leaders or dictators, like Hitler.

Yeah, it's kinda BATSHIT, but no more batshit than a lot of psychoanalytic theory, and it annoys me when people say "she said child abuse caused WWII," which is like saying "Albert Einstein said everything's relative" (and they mean morally speaking). No, not really. I don't agree with her, but I think it's important to realize what she actually said.
vass: Jon Stewart reading a dictionary (books)

[personal profile] vass 2011-12-11 06:36 am (UTC)(link)
The book was For Their Own Good, and I was overstating her thesis for effect. Basically, she argued that German parenting in the generation before WW2 was extremely authoritarian, with the expectation that the child would obey instantly without stopping to question or think. Miller argued that this carried over into their adult life, and made them more receptive to fascism.

[identity profile] thomasyan.livejournal.com 2011-12-09 09:24 pm (UTC)(link)
Argh, I think this is in my to-read pile. Thanks for the warning.

[identity profile] coraa.livejournal.com 2011-12-09 09:27 pm (UTC)(link)
Yup.

I had a therapist (my "talk" therapist from a few years ago, not my CBT therapist from last year) who, while otherwise excellent, really grabbed the "Drama of the Gifted Child" paradigm for what was going on with me. I read the book (at her recommendation) and we talked about it, and my conclusion was that some parts of it fit me and my experience and some really didn't, and some of the explanations made sense to me and some didn't.

But I got a lot of probing of the "are you sure? think back" variety for anything that I felt didn't fit. That in and of itself isn't a terrible thing (obviously, it can be important for a therapist to make sure that their patient isn't minimizing), but it stood out to me that her probing always not-coincidentally happened when I deviated from the pattern in the book. When I agreed that the patterns in the book matched the patterns in my life, no questions; when I said 'nope, that didn't happen to me, and/or I didn't feel/react that way,' lots of questions.

tl;dr: Some useful ideas in there, but wildly over-simplifying, and too encouraging of the idea that any feeling or reaction that doesn't fit the tidy paradigm of the book is a false/"self-deceptive" feeling or reaction.

[identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com 2011-12-10 08:48 pm (UTC)(link)
ARGH. I hate it when therapists do that sort of thing!

[identity profile] cakmpls.livejournal.com 2011-12-09 11:14 pm (UTC)(link)
It is not just you.

Years ago, I threw the book across the room and never read a word of it again.

[identity profile] gaudior.livejournal.com 2011-12-10 01:48 pm (UTC)(link)
Alas, I'm more at the point where I rejoice when a shrink doesn't says that someone who feels differently from what they expects is denying or repressing the ONE TRUTH...

[identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com 2011-12-10 06:21 pm (UTC)(link)
This is why I am drawn to narrative therapy, where you're explicitly not supposed to do that.

[identity profile] lady-ganesh.livejournal.com 2011-12-11 09:09 pm (UTC)(link)
IKR?

[identity profile] tanyahp.livejournal.com 2011-12-11 11:18 pm (UTC)(link)
It's not just you. She comes across that way. I think, on one hand, it's good to have someone shouting "WTF stop abusing children!" at the top of their voice. On the other hand, when Everything becomes abuse then I start to get a little irked. She generalizes to the point where, in my opinion, real catastrophic instances of abuse are put on the same level as somewhat-neglectful or poorly-informed parenting. Her argument that one has no obligation to forgive is one I like, but on the other hand, I also like seeing parents as people, too, and if one isn't inclined to be super-angry at parents that's not a sign one is in deep denial (I think she would maintain that if one is not as furious as she is, one hasn't seen the truth of the matter yet).