The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search For the True Self, Alice Miller, Basic Books, Div. of Harper Collins, 1994, 144 pages, $11.00

Reviewed by John A. Speyrer

". . . psychoanalysis was specifically created by Freud to conceal
childhood injuries, and it continues to serve its purpose well.
Freud dealt with his fear of his childhood traumas by making
endless unverifiable speculations, and by denying the possibility
of a verifiable access to childhood reality. By doing so,
he retarded progress in our knowledge of ourselves,
and in effective therapeutic work, for a hundred years."
- Alice Miller in The Drama of the Gifted Child

Ex-psychoanalyst Alice Miller's latest work is a revision of her earlier small book of the same title which was published in 1981. Its title has always puzzled me. The author explains that the book is not about high I.Q. children, but rather about those who were able to survive an abusive childhood by nature's 'gift' of a adequate defense system. With a completely new introduction and afterword, Miller has revised the earlier edition because she felt that some readers who read the older edition might be misled into thinking that her orientation was still that of a psychoanalyst.

Many years and books ago, the internationally popular author began her disavowal of psychoanalysis. In Drama she continues the disavowal, as she embraces Stettbacher's self-primaling therapy method for which she has the highest praise. Alice Miller, however, credits no others for Stettbacher's therapy discovery. She writes that Stettbacher's next book will give more details on how to do the four-step method without a therapist, and that her next book will recount how she successfully used Stettbacher's self-primaling method. (Note: The author no longer recommends Stettbacher's therapy. See Communication From Alice Miller.)

Alice Miller, unlike Stettbacher, does not call the therapy "primal." In fact, the word does not appear in her book. The name "Janov" appears once, but that is because she wants to emphasize that Stettbacher's therapy is different from Janov's. Here is what she says: "To assume that we are dealing with a special form of Janov's theory, where just feelings are called therapy, would be completely misleading" (p. 6). This is a beginning of her explanation. She continues it in her foreword to Jean Jenson's Reclaiming Your Life. To be persuasive, I believe she should give a more in depth explanation.

Miller has been writing from a primal perspective for many years. In this book she continues this approach as she writes about the origins of grandiosity as a form of denial and its relationship with depression. Another interesting chapter deals with the process of parental derision and how it results in humiliation and possible psychic trauma of the child.