Nature or nurture
Looking back Miller commented on the title of her book The Drama of the Gifted Child: “When I used the word ‘gifted’ in the title, I had in mind neither children who receive high grades in school nor children talented in a special way. I simply meant all of us who have survived an abusive childhood thanks to an ability to adapt even to unspeakable cruelty by becoming numb…. Without this ‘gift’ offered us by nature, we would not have survived.”
I feel the author is confusing cause with effect here…
The child in question is not gifted thanks to an ability to adapt in order to survive, it has acquired that ability as a result of some talent or gift, which it was not aware of, but which has been recognized as such by at least one of the parents.
A parent may have (had) a skill or talent which he or she feels has not (fully) come to fruition. If one of his or her children has the misfortune of showing early signs of the same talent or skill, it may well be singled out and become its parent’s project on making up for missed or failed opportunities.
While its brothers and sisters are living the life of Riley – as life should be for every small growing up human creature, every now and then admonished for wrongdoing by ‘correctional officers’ Mum and Dad, but predominantly left alone to explore their potential according to their own intuition – at the same time the child onto which the mummy’s or daddy’s hopes are projected is incessantly being picked upon, as it is not only showing early signs of an applauded talent, but also signs of weaknesses that either mum or dad strongly detest in themselves and therefore need to be suppressed in ‘the project’. The child gets even more confused – ‘conditioned’ if you will – by such hot and cold behavior in the ‘important’ parent – it learns ‘highs’ when it is praised (euphoria and a promise of real love that comes with it) as well as ‘rock-bottom lows’ that come with rebuff.
The child in question is not becoming numb [period], as Alice Miller puts it, it is becoming numb to its own intuition and impulses, as it is constantly made aware that at any moment it may need all its resources to cope with the unpredictable outbursts of the demanding parent – in this survival mode it almost resembles one of those sleeper agents that only spring into action the moment they receive particular outside stimuli.
Therefore, in my ever so humble opinion, the child’s disconnection from any personal desire or want, in favour of its survival-mode preparedness for outside demands, is not ‘a gift offered [to] us by nature’ as the author puts it, it’s learnt – it’s nurture.
Now, it’s common knowledge that focus is everything. If one can make a child focus on one goal, the chances of success are pretty close to hundred percent.
However, the obligatory fulfilment of somebody else’s potential instead of its own, leaves the child with a sense of emptiness for the rest of its life – an emptiness that cannot be filled, only numbed (with euphoria brought on by loud applause or – in the silent bits in between – by substitutes). The sense of bottomless loneliness acquired at a tender age is for life as well.