Reading Notes – The Drama of the Gifted Child

My Notes

“In order to become whole we must try in a long process, to discover our own personal truth, a truth that may cause pain before giving us a new sphere of freedom. If we choose instead to content ourselves with intellectual “wisdom,” we will remain in the sphere of illusion and self-deception.” p.1

“We become free by transforming ourselves from unaware victims of the past into responsible individuals in the present, who are aware of our past and are thus able to live with it. Most people do exactly the opposite. Without realizing that the past is constantly determining their present actions, they avoid learning anything about their history. They continue to live in their repressed childhood situation, ignoring the fact that it no longer exists. They are continuing to fear and avoid dangers that, although once real, have not been real for a long time. They are driven by unconscious memories and by repressed feelings and needs that determine nearly everything they do or fail to do.” p. 2

Story of young Henry Moore. How he used to massage his mother’s back when he was small to help her with her pain. His sculptures later in life reflect the impression this experience left on him. p. 4

“…every childhood’s traumatic experiences remain hidden and locked in darkness, and the key to our understanding of the life that follows is hidden away with them.” p. 4

“Quite often I have been faced with people who were praised and admired for their talents and their achievements, who were toilet-trained in the first year of their lives, and who may even, at the age of one and a half to five, have capably helped to take care of their younger siblings. According to prevailing attitudes, these people–the pride of their parents–should have had a strong and stable sense of self-assurance. But the case is exactly the opposite. They do well, even excellently, in everything they undertake; they are admired and envied; they are successful whenever they care to be–but behind all this lurks depression, a feeling of emptiness and self-alienation, and a sense that their life has no meaning. These dark feelings will come to the fore as soon as the drug of grandiosity fails, as soon as they are not “on top,” not definitely the “superstar,” or whenever they suddenly get the feeling they have failed to live up to some ideal image or have not measured up to some standard. Then they are plagued by anxiety or deep feelings of guilt and shame. What are the reasons for such disturbances in these competent, accomplished people?” p. 5

“Though people who were raised this way may “seem, to some degree, to be able to empathize with other people. Their access to the emotional world of their own childhood, however, is impaired–characterized by a lack of respect, a compulsion to control and manipulate, and a demand for achievement. Very often they show disdain and irony, even derision and cynicism, for the child they were. In general, there is a complete absence of real emotional understanding or serious appreciation of their own childhood vicissitudes, and no conception of their true needs–beyond the desire for achievement. The repression of their real history has been so complete that their illusion of a good childhood can be maintained with ease.” p. 6

“These people have all developed the art of not experiencing feelings, for a child can experience her feelings only when there is somebody there who accepts her fully, understands her, and supports her. If that person is missing, if the child must risk losing the mother’s love or the love of her substitute in order to feel, then she will repress her emotions. She cannot even experience them secretly, “just for herself”; she will fail to experience them at all.” p. 9-10

“Accommodation to parental need often (but not always) leads to the “as-if personality.” This person develops in such a way that he reveals only what is expected of him and fuses so completely with what he reveals that one could scarcely guess how much more there is to him behind this false self. He cannot develop and differentiate his true self, because he is unable to live it. Understandably, this person will complain of a sense of emptiness, futility, or homelessness, for the emptiness is real. A process of emptying, impoverishment, and crippling of his potential actually took place. The integrity of the child was injured when all that was alive and spontaneous in him was cut off.” p. 11-12

“An adult can be fully aware of his feelings only if he had caring parents or caregivers. People who were abused and neglected in childhood are missing this capacity and are therefore never overtaken by unexpected emotions. They will admit only those feelings that are accepted and approved by their inner censor, who is their parents’ heir. Depression and a sense of inner emptiness are the price they must pay for this control.” p. 18

“Of course, there is the theoretical possibility that a sensitive child could have had parents who did not need to misuse him–parents who saw him as he really was, understood him, and tolerated and respected his feelings. Although such a child would develop a healthy sense of security, one could hardly expect that he would later take up the profession of psychotherapy; that he would cultivate and develop his sensitivity to others to the same extent as those whose parents used them to gratify their own needs; and that he would ever be able to understand sufficiently–without the basis of experience–what it means to “have killed” one’s self.” p. 19

“Robert, now thirty-one, could never be sad or cry as a child, without being aware that he was making his beloved mother unhappy and very unsure of herself. The extremely sensitive child felt himself warded off by his mother, who had been in a concentration camp as a child but had never spoken about it. Not until her son was grown up and could ask her questions did she tell him that she had been one of eighty children who had had to watch their parents going into the gas chambers and that not one child had cried. Because “cheerfulness” was the trait that had saved her life in childhood, her own children’s tears threatened her equilibrium. Throughout his childhood this son had tried to be cheerful. He could express glimpses of his true self and his feelings only in obsessive perversions, which seemed alien, shameful, and incomprehensible to him until he began to grasp their real meaning.” p. 22

“One is totally defenseless against this sort of manipulation in childhood. The tragedy is that the parents too have no defense against it, as long as they refuse to face their own history. If the repression stays unresolved, the parents’ childhood tragedy is unconsciously continued on in their children.” p. 22-23

Another example. “A father who as a child had often been frightened by the anxiety attacks of his periodically schizophrenic mother and was never given an explanation enjoyed telling his beloved small daughter gruesome stories. He always laughed at her fears and afterward comforted her with the words: “But it is only a made-up story. You don’t need to be scared, you are here with me.” In this way he could manipulate his child’s fear and have the feeling of being strong. His conscious wish was to give the child something valuable of which he himself had been deprived, namely protection, comfort, and explanations. But what he unconsciously handed on was his own childhood fear, the expectation of disaster, and the unanswered question (also from his childhood): Why does this person I love frighten me so much?” p. 23

“Probably everybody has a more or less concealed inner chamber that she hides even from herself and in which the props of her childhood drama are to be found. Those who will be most affected by the contents of this hidden chamber are her children. When the mother was a child she hardly had a chance to understand what happened; she could only develop symptoms. As an adult in therapy, however, she can resolve these symptoms if she allows herself to feel what they were able to disguise: feelings of horror, indignation, despair, and helpless rage.” p. 23

“Every child has a legitimate need to be noticed, understood, taken seriously, and respected by his mother. In the first weeks and months of life he needs to have the mother at his disposal, must be able to avail himself of her and be mirrored by her. This is beautifully illustrated in one of Donald Winnicott’s images: the mother gazes at the baby in her arms, and the baby gazes at his mother’s face and finds himself therein… provided that the mother is really looking at the unique, small, helpless being and not projecting her own expectations, fears, and plans for the child. In that case, the child would find not himself in his mother’s face, but rather the mother’s own projections. This child would remain without a mirror, and for the rest of his life would be seeking this mirror in vain.” p. 28

“I understand a healthy self-feeling to mean the unquestioned certainty that the feelings and needs one experiences are a part of one’s self. This certainty is not something one can gain upon reflection; it is there like one’s own pulse, which one does not notice as long as it functions normally.” p. 28

“The automatic, natural contact with his own emotions and needs gives an individual strength and self-esteem. He may experience his feelings–sadness, despair, or the need for help–without fear of making the mother insecure. He can allow himself to be afraid when he is threatened, angry when his wishes are not fulfilled. He knows not only what he does not want but also what he wants and is able to express his wants, irrespective of whether he will be loved or hated for it.” p. 28

“If a woman is to give her child what he will need throughout his life, it is absolutely fundamental that she not be separated from her newborn, for the hormones that foster and nourish her motherly instinct are released immediately after birth and continue in the following days and weeks as she grows more familiar with her baby. When a newborn is separated from his mother–which was the rule not so long ago in maternity hospitals and still occurs in the majority of cases, out of ignorance and for the sake of convenience–then a great opportunity is missed for both mother and child.” p. 29

“The crucial significance of bonding has only recently been proved scientifically. One hopes that it will soon be taken into account in practice, not only in a few select maternity hospitals but in larger hospitals as well, so that everyone will benefit from it. A woman who has experienced bonding with her child will be in less danger of mistreating him and will be in a better position to protect him from mistreatment by the father and other caregivers, such as teachers and babysitters.” p 29

“Even a woman whose own repressed history has been responsible for a lack of bonding with her child can later help him overcome this deficit, if she comes to understand its significance. She will also be able to compensate for the consequences of a difficult birth if she does minimize their importance and knows that a child who was heavily traumatized at the beginning of his life will be in particular need of care and attention in order to overcome the fears arising out of more recent experiences.” p. 29-30

“What happens if a mother not only is unable to recognize and fulfill her child’s needs, but is herself in need of assurance.? Quite unconsciously, the mother then tries to assuage her own needs through her child. This does not rule out strong affection; the mother often loves her child passionately, but not in the way he needs to be loved. The reliability, continuity, and constancy that are so important for the child are therefore missing from this exploitative relationship. What is missing above all is the framework within which the child could experience his feelings and emotions. Instead, he develops something the mother needs, and although this certainly saves his life (by securing the mother’s or father’s “love”) at the time, it may nevertheless prevent him, throughout his life, from being himself.” p. 30

“In such cases the natural needs appropriate to the child’s age cannot be integrated, so they are repressed or split off. This person will later live in the past without realizing it and will continue to react to past dangers as if they were present.” p. 30-31

“People who have asked for my assistance because of their depression have usually had to deal with a mother who was extremely insecure and who often suffered from depression herself. The child, most often an only child or first-born, was seen as the mother’s possession. What the mother had once failed to find in her own mother she was able to find in her child: someone at her disposal who could be used as an echo and could be controlled, who was completely centered on her, would never desert her, and offered her full attention and admiration. If the child’s demands became too great (as those of her own mother once did), she was no longer so defenseless: she could bring the child up in such a way that he neither cried nor disturbed her. At last she could make sure that she received consideration, care and respect.” p. 31

Story of Barbara. p. 31-33

“…the tragedy of an individual history can often be seen with moving clarity. In what is described as depression and experienced as emptiness, futility, fear of impoverishment, and loneliness can usually be recognized as the tragic loss of the self in childhood, manifested as the total alienation from the self in adulthood.” Usually takes one of two forms: grandiosity and depression, thought these are usually intermixed with one lurking behind the other. p 33

“It is usually considered normal when sick or aged people who have suffered the loss of much of their health and vitality or women who are experiencing menopause become depressive. There are, however, many people who can tolerate the loss of beauty, health, youth, or loved ones and, although they grieve, do so without depression. In contrast, there are those with great gifts, often precisely the most gifted, who do suffer from severe depression. For one is free from it only when self-esteem is based on the authenticity of one’s own feelings and not on the possession of certain qualities.” p. 34

Study about depression: “All the patients came from families who were socially isolated and felt themselves to be too little respected in their neighborhood. They therefore made special efforts to increase their prestige with their neighbors through conformity and outstanding achievements. The child who later became ill had been assigned a special role in this effort. He was supposed to guarantee the family honor, and was loved only in proportion to the degree to which he was able to fulfill the demands of this family ideal by means of his special abilities, talents, his beauty, etc. If he failed, he was punished by being cold-shouldered or thrown out of the family group, and the knowledge that he had brought great shame on his people.” p. 35

“Without therapy, it is impossible for the grandiose person to cut the tragic link between admiration and love. He seeks insatiably for admiration, of which he never gets enough because admiration is not the same thing as love. It is only a substitute gratification of the primary needs for respect, understanding, and being taken seriously–needs that have remained unconscious since early childhood. Often a whole life is devoted to this substitute.” p. 36

“Beatrice, fifty-eight, the daughter or missionary parents and a sufferer of deep depression, never knew whether she was hungry or not. Her mother had written proudly in her diary that at the age of three months Beatrice had already learned to wait to be fed and to suppress her hunger, without crying. Discontent and anger aroused uncertainty in her mother, and her children’s pain made her anxious. Her children’s enjoyment of their bodies aroused both her envy and her shame about “what other people would think.” Under such circumstances, a child may learn very early in life what she is not supposed to feel.” p. 40

“If we have thrown away the keys to understanding our lives, the causes of depression–as well as those of all suffering, illness, and healing–must remain a mystery to us, regardless of whether we call ourselves psychiatrists or authorities in the sciences or both. When psychiatrists with decades of experience have never dared to face their own reality and have instead spent their time talking about “dysfunctional families,” they will need a concept like a “Higher Power” or God to explain to themselves the “miracle” of healing.” p. 41

“Beatrice was not physically mistreated in her youth. She did, however, have to learn as a small infant how to make her mother happy by not crying, by not being hungry–by not having any needs at all. She suffered first from anorexia and then, throughout her adult life, from severe depression. Psychiatrists are denying this type of damage when they talk about “grace” and other “spiritual” qualities. In order to acknowledge the consequences of such early, hidden trauma, they would first have to do some hard work on themselves. Once they become willing to face the facts–their own facts–they will lose interest in teaching others about grace and other “mysteries” in the name of science.” p. 42

“Without free access to these facts, the sources of our ability to love remain cut off. No wonder, then, that even well-intended moral appeals–to be loving, caring, generous, and so forth–are fruitless. We cannot really love if we are forbidden to know our truth, the truth about our parents and caregivers as well as about ourselves. We can only try to behave as if we were loving. But this hypocritical behavior is the opposite of love. It is confusing and deceptive, and it produces much helpless rage in the deceived person. This rage must be repressed in the presence of the pretended “love,” especially if one is dependent, as a child is, on the person who is masquerading in this illusion of love.” p. 43

“As adults we don’t need unconditional love, not even from our therapists. This is a childhood need, one that can never be fulfilled later in life, and we are playing with illusions if we have never mourned this lost opportunity. But there are other things we can get from good therapists: reliability, honesty, respect, trust, empathy, understanding, and an ability to clarify their emotions so that they need not bother us with them. If a therapist promises unconditional love, we must protect ourselves from him, from his hypocrisy and lack of awareness.” p. 45

“Mary, age thirty-nine, would sometimes leave a session feeling content and understood after having come close to the core of herself. But then she would distract herself with a party or something equally unimportant to her at that moment, which would make her feel lonely and inadequate again. After a few days she would complain of self-alienation and emptiness, of once more having lost the way to herself. In this way she was actively, though unconsciously, provoking a situation that could demonstrate what used to happen to her as a child: Whenever she began, through her imaginative play, to have a true sense of herself, her parents would ask her to do something “more sensible”–to achieve something–and her inner world, which was just beginning to unfold, would be closed off to her. She reached to this interference by withdrawing her feelings and becoming depressed, because she could not take the risk of a normal reaction–rage, perhaps.” p. 54

“Depressive phases may last several weeks before strong emotions from childhood break through. It is as though the depression has held back the affect. When it can be experienced, insight and associations related to the repressed scenes follow, often accompanied by significant dreams. The patient feels fully alive again until a new depressive phase signals something new. This may be expressed in the following fashion: I no longer have a feeling of myself. How could it happen that I should lose myself again? I have no connection with what is within me. It is all hopeless… it will never be any better. Everything is pointless. I am longing for my former sense of being alive.” An emotional outbreak may follow, accompanied by strong, legitimate reproaches, and only after this outbreak will a new link with repressed experience become clear and new vitality be felt. As long as these reproaches are directed toward those who are responsible for harming us, a great relief is the result. If, however, they are unjust, or transferred onto innocent persons, the depression will continue until full clarification becomes possible.” p. 55

“The recollection of the pains of puberty, however–of not being able to understand or place our own impulses–is usually more accessible than the earliest traumas, which are often hidden behind the picture of an idyllic childhood or even behind an almost complete amnesia. This is perhaps one reason why adults less often look back nostalgically to the time of their puberty than to that of their childhood. The mixture of longing expectation and fear of disappointment that for most people accompanies the remembrance of festivities from childhood can perhaps be explained by their search for the intensity of feeling they lost back then.” p. 58

“A person seeking help is all too ready to give up his own pleasure in discovery and self-expression and accommodate himself to his therapist’s concepts, out of fear of losing the latter’s affection, understanding, and empathy, for which he has been waiting all his life. Because of his early experiences with his mother, he cannot believe that this need not happen. If he gives way to this fear and adapts himself, the therapy slides over into the realm of the false self, and the true self remains hidden and undeveloped. It is therefore extremely important that the therapist not allow his own needs to impel him to formulate connections that the patient himself is discovering with the help of his own feelings.” p. 59

“Recognizing the fragility of the healing process obviously does not mean that the therapist must adopt a mostly silent and hurtful attitude, but merely that he must exercise care in this respect. It will then become possible for old, unremembered situations to be experienced consciously in their full tragedy for the first time and be mourned at last. Apparently, for many people that works more effectively without the help of therapists.” p. 59

“It is part of the dialectic of the grieving process that the experience of pain both encourages and is dependent on self-discovery. If the psychotherapist invites the patient to share in his own “grandeur,” of if the patient is enabled to feel powerful as part of a therapeutic group, he will experience relief from his depression for a while, but the disturbance will still exist, appearing in a different guise for a time. Because grandiosity is the counterpart of depression within the narcissistic disturbance, the achievement of freedom from both forms of disturbance is hardly possible without deeply felt mourning about the situation of the former child. This ability to grieve–that is, to give up the illusion of his “happy” childhood, to feel and recognize the full extent of the hurt he has endured–can restore the depressive’s vitality and creativity and free the grandiose person from the exertions of and dependence on his Sisyphean task. If a person is able, during this long process, to experience the reality that he was never loved as a child for what he was but was instead needed and exploited for his achievements, success, and good qualities–and that he sacrificed his childhood for this form of love–he will be very deeply shaken, but one day he will feel the desire to end these efforts. He will discover in himself a need to live according to his true self and no longer be forced to earn “love” that always leaves him empty-handed, since it is given to his false self–something he has begun to identify and relinquish.” p. 60

The true opposite of depression is neither gaiety nor absence of pain, but vitality–the freedom to experience spontaneous feelings. It is part of the kaleidoscope of life that these feelings are not only happy, beautiful, or good but can reflect the entire range of human experience including envy, jealousy, rage, disgust, greed, despair, and grief. But this freedom cannot be achieved if its childhood roots are cut off. Our access to the true self is possible only when we no longer have to be afraid of the intense emotional world of early childhood. Once we have experienced and become familiar with this world, it is no longer strange and threatening. We no longer need to keep it hidden behind the prison walls of illusion. We know now who and what caused our pain, and it is exactly this knowledge that gives us freedom at last from the old pain.” p. 60-61

“How often depressive patients are aware that they have reacted oversensitively, and how much they reproach themselves for it. It is precisely their oversensitivity, shame, and self-reproach that form a continuous thread in their lives, unless they learn to understand to what these feelings actually relate. The more unrealistic such feelings are and the less they fit present reality, the more clearly they show that they are concerned with unremembered situations from the past that are still to be discovered. If the feeling that begins to arise is not experienced but reasoned away, the discovery cannot take place, and depression will triumph.” p. 61

“One might ask whether adaptation must necessarily lead to depression. Is it not possible, and do we not sometimes see, that emotionally conforming individuals may live quite happily? There were perhaps many such examples in the past. Within a culture that was shielded from other value systems, an adapted individual was, of course, not autonomous. He did not have an individual sense of identity (in our sense) that could have given him support, but he felt supported by the group. Today it is hardly possible for any group to remain completely isolated from others with different values. The individual must therefore find his support within himself if he is to avoid becoming the victim of various interests and ideologies.” p. 62-63

“Some children have latent powers to resist adaptation and become partially adapted. Older children, particularly as they reach puberty, may attach themselves to new values, which are often opposed to those of the parents. An adolescent may accept and conform to the ideals of a group of youths just as he did to those of his parents when he was younger. But since this attempt is not rooted in an awareness of his own true needs and feelings, he is again giving up and denying his true self in order to be accepted and loved, this time by a peer group. His renewed sacrifice will therefore not relieve his depression. He is not really himself, nor does he know or love himself: Everything he does is done in hopes of making somebody love him in the way he once, as a child, so urgently needed to be loved; but what could not be experienced at the appropriate time in the past can never be attained later on.” p. 63-64

“It is not only the “beautiful,” “good,” and pleasant feelings that make us really alive, deepen our existence, and give us crucial insight, but often precisely the unacceptable and unadapted ones from which we would prefer to escape: helplessness, shame, envy, jealousy, confusion, rage, and grief. These feelings can be experienced in therapy. When they are understood, they open the door to our inner world that is much richer than the “beautiful countenance”! Narcissus was in love with his idealized picture, but neither the grandiose nor the depressive “Narcissus” can really love himself. His passion for his false self makes impossible not only love for others but also, despite all appearances, love for the one person who is fully entrusted to his care: himself.” p. 66-67

“Disregard for those who are smaller and weaker is thus the best defense against a breakthrough of one’s own feelings of helplessness: it is an expression of this split-off weakness. The strong person who–because he has experienced it–knows that he, too, carries this weakness within himself does not need to demonstrate his strength through contempt.” p. 72

“The suffering that was not consciously felt as a child can be avoided by delegating it to one’s own children… it is not the frustration of his wish that is humiliating for a child, but the contempt shown for his person.” p. 73

“We cannot, simply by an act of will, free ourselves from repeating the patterns of our parents’ behavior–which we had to learn very early in life. We come free of them only when we can fully feel and acknowledge the suffering they inflicted on us. We can then become fully aware of these patterns and condemn them unequivocally.” p. 73

“Disrespect is the weapon of the weak and a defense against one’s own despised and unwanted feelings, which could trigger memories of events in one’s repressed history. And the fountainhead of all contempt, all discrimination, is the more or less conscious, uncontrolled, and covert exercise of power over the child by the adult. Expect in the case of murder or serious bodily harm, this unrestrained use of power is tolerated by society; what adults do to their child’s spirit is entirely their own affair, for the child is regarded as the parents’ property in the same way as the citizens of a totalitarian state are considered the property of its government.” p. 74

“Until we become sensitized to the small child’s suffering, this wielding of power by adults will continue to be regarded as a normal aspect of the human condition, for hardly anyone pays attention to it or takes it seriously.” p. 74

“It is very fortunate when our older children become aware of what we were doing and are able to tell us about it. We are then given the opportunity to recognize our failure and to apologize. Acknowledging what we have done may help them, at last, to throw off the chains of neglect, discrimination, scorn, and misuse of power that have been handed on for generations. When our children can consciously experience their early helplessness and rage, they will no longer need to ward off these feelings, in turn, with the exercise of power over others. In most cases, however, people’s childhood suffering remains affectively inaccessible and thus forms the hidden source of new and sometimes very subtle humiliation for the next generation. Various defense mechanisms will help to justify their actions: denial of their own suffering, rationalization (I owe it to my child to bring him up properly), displacement (it is not my father but my son who is hurting me), idealization (my father’s beatings were good for me), and more. Above all, there is the mechanism of turning repressed suffering into active behavior.” p. 75-76

“Ingmar Bergman, however, had another means, apart from projection and denial, of dealing with his suffering: He could make films and thereby delegate his unfelt feelings to the spectator. We, as the movie audience, are asked to endure those feelings that he, the son of such a father, could not experience overtly but nevertheless carried within himself. We sit before the screen confronted, the way that small boy once was, with all the cruelty “our brother” has to endure, and feel hardly able or willing to take in all this brutality with authentic feelings; we ward them off. Bergman also spoke regretfully of his failure to see through Nazism before 1945, although as an adolescent he often visited Germany during the Hitler period. I see this blindness as a consequence of his childhood. Cruelty was the familiar air he had breathed from early on, so why should cruelty and disdain for others have caught his attention?” p. 79

“If this is so with the most blatant examples of physical mistreatment, then how is emotional torment ever to be exposed, when it is less visible and more easily disputed? Who is likely to take serious notice of subtle discrimination, as in the example of the small boy and the ice cream But each patient’s therapy reveals endless comparable examples.” p. 79

“There are other ways of exploiting the child apart from the sexual: through brainwashing, for instance, which underlies both the “anti-authoritarian” and the “strict” upbringing. Neither form of rearing takes the child’s own needs into account. As soon as he is regarded as a possession for which one has a particular goal, as soon as one exerts control over him, his natural growth will be violently interrupted.” p. 81

“It is among the commonplaces of education that we often first cut off the living root and then try to replace its natural functions by artificial means. Thus we suppress the child’s curiosity, for example (there are questions one should not ask), and then when he lacks a natural interest in learning we offer him special coaching for his scholastic difficulties.” p. 81

“We find a similar example in the behavior of addicts. People who as children successfully repressed their intense feelings often try to regain–at least for a short time–their lost intensity of experience with the help of drugs or alcohol.” p. 81

**“If we want to avoid unconsciously motivated exploitation and disrespect of the child, we must first gain a conscious awareness of these dangers. Only if we become sensitive to the fine and subtle ways (as well as the more obvious but still denied ways) in which a child may suffer humiliation can we hope to develop the respect for him he will need from the very first day of his life. There are various means of developing this sensitivity. We may, for instance, observe children who are strangers to us and attempt to feel empathy for them in their situation. But we must, above all, come to have empathy for our own fate. Our feelings will always reveal the true story, which no one else knows and which only we can discover.” p. 81

“The urgent wish for a child… may express among other things the wish to have an available mother. Unfortunately, children are too often wished for only as symbols to meet repressed needs.” p. 83

**“… there are needs that can and should be satisfied in the present. Among these is every human being’s central need to express herself, to show herself to the world as she really is–in word, in gesture, in behavior, in art–in every genuine expression, beginning with the baby’s cry.” p. 83

“For the person who, as a child, had to hide her true feelings from herself and others, this first step into the open produces much anxiety, yet she feels a great need to throw over her former restraints. The first experiences do not always lead to freedom but quite often lead instead to a repetition of the person’s childhood situation, in which she will experience feelings of agonizing shame and painful nakedness as an accompaniment to her genuine expressions of her true self. With the infallibility of a sleepwalker, she will seek out those who, like her parents (though for different reasons), certainly cannot understand her. Because of her blindness caused by repression, she will try to make herself understandable to precisely these people–trying to make possible what cannot be.” p. 83-84

“If we start from the premise that a person’s whole development (and his balance, which is based upon it) is dependent on the way his mother experienced his expression of needs and sensations during his first days and weeks of life, then we must assume that it is here that the beginning of a later tragedy might be set. If a mother cannot take pleasure in her child as he is but must have him behave in a particular way, then the first value selection takes place for the child. Now “good” is differentiated from “bad,” “nice” from “nasty,” and “right” from “wrong.” Against this background will follow all his further valuation of himself.” p. 86

“Many people suffer all their lives from this oppressive feeling of guilt, the sense of not having lived up to their parents’ expectation. This feeling is stronger than any intellectual insight they might have, that it is not a child’s task or duty to satisfy his parent’s needs. No argument can overcome these guilt feelings, for they have their beginnings in life’s earliest period, and from that they derive their intensity and obduracy. They can be resolved only slowly, with the help of a revealing therapy.” p. 87

“Probably the greatest of wounds–not to have been loved just as one truly was–cannot heal without the work of mourning. It can be either more or less successfully resisted and covered up (as in grandiosity and depression), or constantly torn open again in the compulsion to repeat. We encounter this latter possibility in obsessive behavior and in perversion, where the mother’s (or father’s scornful reactions to the child’s behavior have stayed with him as repressed memory, stored up in his body. The mother often erected with surprise and horror, aversion and disgust, shock and indignation, or fear and panic to the child’s most natural impulses–his autoerotic behavior, investigation and discovery of his own body, urination and defecation, or his curiosity or rage in response to betrayal and injustice. Later, all these experiences remain closely linked with the mother’s horrified eyes. They drive the former child to obsessions and perversions in which the traumatic scenes that were endured can be reproduced. In order for pain to be avoided, the true meaning of these scenes must remain unrecognizable to the person himself.” p. 87-88

“Hesse, like so many gifted children, was so difficult for his parents to bear not despite but because of his inner riches. Often a child’s very gifts (his great intensity of feeling, depth of experience, curiosity, intelligence, quickness–and his ability to be critical) will confront his parents with conflicts that they have long sought to keep at bay by means of rules and regulations. These regulations must then be rescued at the cost of the child’s development. All this can lead to an apparently paradoxical situation when parents who are proud of their gifted child and who even admire him are forced by their own repression to reject, suppress, or even destroy what is best, because truest, in that child.” p. 101

**“Despite his enormous acclaim and success, and despite the Nobel Prize, Hesse in his mature years suffered from the tragic and painful state of being separated from his true self, to which doctors refer offhandedly as depression.” p. 103

“…his problems cannot be solved with words, but only through experience–not merely corrective experience as an adult but, above all, through a conscious experience of his early fear of his beloved mother’s contempt and his subsequent feelings of indignation and sadness. Mere words, however skilled the interpretation, will leave unchanged or even deepen the split between intellectual speculation and the knowledge of the body, the split from which he already suffers.” p. 104

“One can therefore hardly free an addict from the cruelty of his addiction by showing him how the absurdity, exploitation, and perversity of society cause our neuroses and perversions, however true this may be. The addict will love such explanations and eagerly believe them, because they spare him the pain of the truth. But things we can see through do not make us sick, although they may arouse our indignation, anger, sadness, or feelings of impotence. What makes us sick are those things we cannot see through, society’s constraints that we have absorbed through our parents’ eyes. No amount of reading or learning can free us from those eyes.” p. 104                                             

“Oppression and the forcing of submission do not begin in the office, factory, or political party; they begin in the very first weeks of an infant’s life.” p. 105

“The aim of therapy, however, is not to correct the past, but to enable the patient both to confront his own history and to grieve over it. The patient has to discover early memories within himself and must become consciously aware of his parents’ unconscious manipulation and contempt, so that he can free himself from them.” p. 106

“The contempt shown by many disturbed people may have various forerunners in their life history, but the function all expressions of contempt have in common is the defense against unwanted feelings. Contempt simply evaporates, having lost its point, when it is no longer useful as a shield–against the child’s shame over his desperate, unreturned love; against his feelings of inadequacy; or above all against his rage that his parents were not available. Once we are able to feel and understand the repressed emotions of childhood, we will no longer need contempt as a defense against them. On the other hand, as long as we despise the other person and over-value our own achievements (“he can’t do what I can do”), we do not have to mourn the fact that love is not forthcoming without achievement. Nevertheless, if we avoid this mourning it means that we remain at bottom the one who is despised, for we have to despise everything in ourselves that is not wonderful, good, and clever. Thus we perpetuate the loneliness of childhood: We despise the weakness, helplessness, uncertainty–in short, the child in ourselves and in others.” p. 107

“The contempt for others in grandiose, successful people always includes disrespect for their own true selves, as their scorn implies: “Without these superior qualities of mine, a person is completely worthless.” p. 107

“Contempt as a rule will cease with the beginning of mourning for the irreversible that cannot be changed, for contempt, too, has in its own way served to deny the reality of the past. It is, after all, less painful to think that the others do not understand because they are too stupid. Then one can make efforts to explain things to them, and the illusion of being understood (“if only I can express myself properly”) can be maintained. *If, however, this effort is relaxed, one is forced to realize that understanding was not possible, since the repression of the parents’ own childhood needs made them blind to their children’s needs.” p. 110

“Then there are people who can seem very friendly, if a shade patronizing, but in whose presence one feels as if one were nothing. They convey the feeling that they are the only ones who exist, the only ones who have anything interesting or relevant to say. The others can only stand there and admire them in fascination, or turn away in disappointment and sorrow about their own lack of worth, unable to express themselves in these persons’ presence. These people might be the children of grandiose parents, whom they as children had no hope of emulating; but later, as adults, they unconsciously pass on this atmosphere to those around them.” p. 111-112“People who discover their past with the help of their feelings, who learn through therapy to clarify these feelings, to look for their real causes, and to resolve the transference, will no longer be compelled to displace their hatred onto innocents in order to protect those who have in fact earned this hatred. They will be capable of hating what is hateful and of loving what deserves love.” p. 114