The Drama of the Gifted Child

All text is © Anita Roy 2004. All rights remain with the author.

Alice Miller’s book The Drama of the Gifted Child is such an affirmation of my belief that what we are modeled to as children – and what we model to our children – is the key to future happiness. When Alice Miller says “gifted” she doesn’t mean academically gifted, but rather the natural gift that we have as children to survive, to find a way to survive when we are confronted with pain, humiliation, anger and sorrow that we cannot express, because we are not safe in doing so. As children, we are neglected and abused in varying degrees, despite the best intentions of our parents. We have nowhere to escape to and so have no choice but to consider our situation a normal life. It becomes our reality as adults unless we become conscious of the process.

As children, we need our parents to survive physically, for food and shelter, and when they cause us pain and suffering, we cannot express ourselves honestly lest we lose those who can meet these most basic of needs. We grow to love our parents because we have not known any other reality, and the ties, the connections, are profound. We are bonded to them and the reality they present us, even if that reality is painful.

We survive by taking the happy times and suppressing feelings about the bad times. We focus on the good times and sometimes, glorify them. The bad feelings don’t go away however, they go underground, and later surface as compulsive behaviors and grandiosity. My father vacillated between delusions of grandeur and depressed alcoholism. These were the recurring themes in a man who was otherwise intelligent, generous and charismatic. He had not had an easy childhood. Being the oldest son of an East Indian family, he had alternately been doted on and pressured into inappropriate responsibilities.

We suffered as children because we were walking on eggs not knowing how he might be mood-wise at any given time. There was a tacit understanding that we had to keep up the illusion of being a successful family. My mother, the enabler, would be equally unpredictable. She was the steadfast backbone of the household, but sometimes, regularly, she would fall apart, emotionally, and lose herself in despair and grief. Loving though she was, she didn’t give the love we *needed*, but only the love she knew how to give, which was to be affectionate and to care for us. She did not see our pain, as no one had seen hers when she was a child. She was looking in all the wrong places for the love she never got from her parents. She was hoping for unconditional love from her husband, but he didn’t know how. The one place where she got close to that kind of love was her babies, but babies aren’t supposed to give their parents the love they never had. Babies have their own needs.

When I realized all this in my personal work I spent a lot of time being pretty angry at them. Furious actually. Both my parents were victims in their own right. It was an edifying time in my life when I realized that my parents were just people who happened to have made babies, and not perfect humans who understood everything. Nevertheless, I had been wounded and I needed to take care of myself.

Paraphrasing Miller, if we don’t become *mindful” of our pain and what happened, then we are condemned to repeat the pattern and make our kids suffer. This is not an easy path, it is fraught with pain and sorrow, but that is the only way to become conscious of which we are. It is “lonely work” and we have to deal with some pretty scary demons. Alternatively, we may look for parent figures in an authoritarian church, political party, domineering husband, Alcoholics Anonymous, or corporate career, so we can exchange personal power for protection just like when we were babies. That protection may be valuable, for a while, until we are stronger: a holding pattern to build courage. But in my experience, at some point, we can no longer stay away from seeking our true selves.

 Quoting Anais Nin:

“And the day came when the risk (it took),to remain tight in the bud was more painful, than the risk it took to blossom”.

All text is © Anita Roy 2004. All rights remain with the author.

Author: iceman18

For many years, I worked hard to build a charmed life. I had been living that life to the fullest until the time came when I took a precipitous fall into the abyss of alcoholism. Unwittingly, I claimed my family as hostages and took them right along with me. I survived addiction and have been in recovery since February 9, 2007. Since that time I have been working courageously to face down "the ghost" and eliminate the demons of my past. I find that writing My Story has had great therapeutic value. If along the way, my experience can help one person, or maybe even more, well....that would be pretty awesome. I also pray that my blog will help illuminate the generational cycle of child abuse that continues to plague our society today. By bringing awareness to what is often called "Our Nations Shame" I have faith that one day soon we will witness real progress toward the illumination and understanding of child abuse, followed by its eradication from the under belly of mankind. I have faith! But, faith without works is dead. I pray everyday for the strength, the courage, and the resolve, to take action!

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