A friend of mine (my ex-boyfriend to be exact) gave me a copy of legendary psychologist Alice Miller‘s groundbreaking 1978 book The Drama of the Gifted Child during the middle of summer, yet for some reason I had been avoiding reading it. I’m stubborn to no end so that may have been part of the reason, or maybe I just assumed it wasn’t worth the time — how could a book this small have anything substantial to say about the human experience? Yesterday marked day #7 of a nasty cold I’ve been working hard to get rid of, so it may have been the fact that I was desperate for any activity other than staring at my walls that led me to open Alice Miller’s book once and for all. With no ounce of exaggeration I can tell you I had goosebumps from beginning to end, and devoured every page from start to finish. Certain portions resonated so deeply I had to re-read them three times over to make sure I absorbed as much as I possibly could.
Since finishing the book, I have come to learn just how profound of an effect it has had on not only the field of psychotherapy, but also for the millions of people whose lives have been transformed by its groundbreaking insights. I grew up in what I like to describe as Canada’s Tennessee, the Ottawa Valley, where country music plays on every radio, 3/4 of the population lives on farms, and every guy has three dreams: to own a brand new 4×4 pick-up truck, get shit-faced on beer each and every weekend, and watch as much hockey as humanly possible. Not a fun scenario for yours truly whose only dreams when it came to the NHL involved naked superstar hockey players, a steamy shower, and hours and hours of tongue hockey. Adding to the complexity of my adolescence was being raised under the iron fist of Pentecostalism which pushed me so far deep into the closet it took me until 24-years-old to find my way out. My mom, dad, and four older sisters, were very loving and in many ways it was (and still is) the perfect family. But the trauma of having to hold that deep secret of my true self for all those years played an incomprehensibly huge role in shaping my development. I compensated by being a straight-A+ student, I built thick walls of defense around my secret, I became the most likeable guy in school who made everyone feel good about themselves, and on and on and on.
In its broadest sense Miller’s book is about parenting, and the near infinite number of ways parents can often do damage to their children’s development by voluntarily (or involuntarily as in my case) preventing them from discovering their true selves. I came out to my friends in my final year of university and to my family about a year later. The process was difficult, but in the back of my mind I kept telling myself that the reward would be total liberation from my false self and the embracement of my true self. But as the years went on after telling my family, I noticed this new found honesty wasn’t having the transformative effect I was hoping for. No, things were infinitely more complicated than that. As it turned out, the problem wasn’t a linear one — it was geometric and had roots far deeper than I had ever imagined. The most shocking part of reading Alice Miller’s book was how from beginning to end the goosebumps were coming from a place of borderline shock for two reasons: 1) reading these words felt as if Alice had been a quiet witness to my entire life’s journey and I was reading her observations of me, and 2) I had finally discovered the book that I had been searching for my entire life.
I could easily spend the next 10,000 FEELguide posts writing about what is inside this book, but one of the most fascinating results of Alice Miller’s The Drama of the Gifted Child is how it has connected to such a huge range of people’s personal circumstances worldwide. Whether you’re 13 or 113, a new parent or an old parent, gifted or not gifted, gay or straight, lost or not lost, married or single, and everything else under the sun — this book is quite simply profound and I would consider it essential reading for every human soul. I’m half tempted to say it’s the ultimate chicken soup for the soul, because as of today my cold is completely gone. You can pick up your copy of the book HERE, and as of right now Alice Miller is my newest FEELguide Hero and her book is officially my newest FEELguide Classic.