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Problems of the Gifted Child

Alice Miller, in Prisoners of Childhood: The Drama of the Gifted Child and the Search for the True Self, first identifies the problem of the gifted child [or the child who is "sensitive," "good," "dutiful" and "exemplary" (viii-ix)] and then offers suggestions for the solution of that problem. The problem specifically is the loss of self experienced by the gifted child who has learned to be available to his parents---especially his mother---while his parents were unavailable to him. The solution to the problem is a psychoanalysis which leads to the adult's discovery of "his long-lost authentic sense of being truly alive" (x).

The gifted child essentially takes the parents' problems onto himself, and neglects his own emotional and psychological reality. He abandons his own self for the sake of the narcissistic parents. The mother, for example, desperately needs the child's love to feel as if she herself truly exists, and the gifted child senses the requirements of this role and tries to fill them. The result for the child is a "splitting-off" of the authentic self: "For the majority of sensitive people, the true self remains deeply and thoroughly hidden. . . . Such people are enamored of an idealized, conforming, false self." The "true self" becomes lost in "'solitary confinement' within the prison of the false self" (ix).

Most gifted patients of Miller have as children "helped capably to take care of their younger siblings" (5). In one way or another, they were as children fulfilling the roles of adults. Because their parents did not truly show or express their love for them in a healthy way, if at all, or were incapable of showing such love, the gifted child increasingly puts more and more pressure on himself to achieve in the world, to accomplish, to succeed. This success is common for such children, but it gives them no peace or satisfaction, because they never experienced the love they seek through such accomplishments. The...

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Problems of the Gifted Child. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 00:06, December 01, 2021, from