Monday, April 16, 2007

Prisoners of Childhood

Prisoners of Childhood

by Alice Miller

ISBN: 0465062873
ISBN-13: 9780465062874

From the Publisher

The "drama" of the gifted - i.e., sensitive, alert - child consists of his recognition at a very early age of his parents' needs and of his adaptation to these needs. In the process, he learns to repress rather than to acknowledge his own intense feelings because they are unacceptable to his parents. Although it will not always be possible to avoid these "ugly" feelings (anger, indignation, despair, jealousy, fear) in the future, they will split off, and the most vital part of the "true self" (a key phrase in Alice Miller's works) will not be integrated into the personality. This leads to emotional insecurity and loss of self, which are revealed in depression or concealed behind the facade of grandiosity. Alice Miller defines the ideal state of genuine vitality, of free access to the true self and to authentic individual feelings that have their roots in childhood, as "healthy narcissism." Narcissistic disturbances, on the other hand, represent for her solitary confinement of the true self within the prison of the false self. This is regarded less as an illness than as a tragedy. In her psychanalytical work, Dr. Miller found that her patients' ability to experience authentic feelings, especially feelings of sadness, had been for the most part destroyed; it was her task to help her patients try to regain that long-lost capacity for genuine feelings that is the source of natural vitality.

Customer Reviews

Sam Vaknin (, the author of 'Malignant Self Love', 01/24/2001
The Sad Narcissist
Alice Miller is by far the most prominent popularizer of the twin concepts - True Self and False Self. She regards the True Self as a prisoner within the walls of the False Self. The latter is an intricate and multi-faceted defence mechanism. Defence against what? Against one's emotions that were repressed during early childhood. The narcissist plays a role - that of the gifted, docile, accepting, tranquil, loving, peaceful and well-adjusted child. He becomes the extension of his parents: their unfulfilled dreams and sexret wishes. His identity is moulded to fit the idealized and ideal offspring. His negative feelings are buried deep inside his tormented psyche. These emotional skeletons later erupt and produce depression, suicidal ideation or narcissistic defences. Excellent, readable and - if one can use this word in this context - entertaining. Sam Vaknin, author of 'Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited'.