Essay, Research Paper
Its existence has been questioned no less than that of God, truth, and the limit to our universe. It has no textbook definition, because, like cold temperature, nobody has yet been able to agree on a concrete meaning of it. It is the key topic of countless songs, poems, books, works of art, plays, movies, and quarrels; and yet, we don?t even know if it exists. Nevertheless, when asked, most people will say that they have experienced the unidentifiable feeling of love.
Many people will agree that our need to be loved is just as basic and important as our need for water, food, and shelter. A human being can go without water for hardly more than a day, and food for a few days before he meets the inevitable ending. When this happens, several biological factors result in the shutdown of our bodies. But how does a person die from not being loved?
In The Drama of a Gifted Child, Alice Miller presents her personal theory on what makes us yearn for that elusive feeling of love. Like most deep-seated emotions, this longing stems from events in our early youth, according to Miller.
To better understand Alice Miller?s viewpoint, we must first define a key word in her philosophy. Narcissism is defined by Alice Miller as emotional disconnection, or the basis for a certain kind of personality construct. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines the word as “psychoanalysis, self-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder.” Miller believes that it is this condition which causes our never-ending search for the illusion of love. But where does narcissism itself arise from?
It has been determined that the human mind does not develop the ability to reason logically on its own until around the age of seven years in most people. Until then, we are all not only physically, but also emotionally, defenseless; anything can hurt us. Coincidentally, our minds are extremely absorptive at such a young age. This was obviously nature?s intent in order for us to quickly learn basic survival skills in order to survive.
After an egg is fertilized, the miracle of its development into an infant is miraculous because it?s so fragile, and so many things can go wrong. Similarly, the human mind is just as fragile, with perhaps even more harmful events which can take place. This, according to Miller, is where we often experience abuse from those close to us. Whether it?s a mother repeatedly scolding a child, or a schoolmate maliciously hurting the feelings of another, it leaves permanent scars on our souls. This is what causes narcissism and our confusion.
The abuse we experience is often unintentional, and is a result of our own human weaknesses, or perhaps the abuse we had encountered as children. Sociological studies have shown us that abused children often grow up to be abusive parents. Even more often, and less recognized, is the fact that we sometimes run out of patience for our children and don?t realize just how important each little thing we say to them is.
Most of the harm which results in the substitution of the illusion of love for love, usually comes from the mother, the person with whom the child has the closest bond. This unclear understanding of love is created within the child, as the way his mother feels about him when the mother expresses contentment with him. Naturally, whenever the mother is upset with the child, he assumes that his mother will stop loving him, if he continues such behavior. In effect, the actions opposed by his mother have become deep-seated and will forever be associated with the loss of love, trust, and care. Hence, a seemingly insignificant display of annoyance by the mother has embedded itself eternally inside the young mind, and although it was never meant to do so, will follow this person wherever he/she goes, until he/she realizes it, and chooses to fight it.
From this moment forth, the youth will grow and develop with this misconception about love in the back of his mind. He unconsciously believes that the only way to obtain the love which was provided by the mother, is to act the way others want him to. This person does not live for him or herself, but for the approval of others. Consequently, the belief that what is trendy in terms of behavior, is the correct way to live, is not true.
Thus we see how a once-innocent and defenseless child now wanders the world not as himself, but a lemming, in order to once again recreate that feeling of love. But this “love” that it finds is not real. It is a mere illusion, because love is not conditional and therefore not the equivalent of approval. What the person finds is a comfort zone, which is in some way familiar to his childhood. The next generation will be taught the same way. Unfortunately this is something which can not be taught, or stopped unless we open our eyes to what Alice Miller is saying, and make ourselves aware of what we do to our children.
The Drama of a Gifted Child by Alice Miller