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Martin, J. (2006). Fame and its Discontents A review of in the Shadow of Fame: A Memoir by the Daughter of Erik H. Eriksonby Sue Erikson Boland. New York: Viking, 2005. pp. 224. Contemp. Psychoanal., 42(3):488-495.

(2006). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 42(3):488-495

Fame and its Discontents A review of in the Shadow of Fame: A Memoir by the Daughter of Erik H. Eriksonby Sue Erikson Boland. New York: Viking, 2005. pp. 224

Review by:
Jay Martin, Ph.D.

Consider the clinical case presented by Sue Boland in her new book. She describes a young woman, Miss E., who grew up with a famous father and, to all appearances, in a perfect family, yet who was “a very unhappy little girl” (p. 20). Miss E experienced psychological conversion symptoms in the form of “frequent stomachaches” and frequently had to be excused from the dinner table. Soon, an obsessive fear began to torment her: she developed a fixed, terrifying belief that she “had appendicitis and was going to need an emergency appendectomy” (p. 28). It seems that this thought had its origin in her reading of Madeline, concerning a little French girl who was sent away “at a heartbreakingly early age” (p. 29) to a boarding school, where she had her appendix removed without so much as a visit from her parents. Madeleine was “all alone, without mother or father,” and this is just what the patient dreaded. She too was sent away to school. Her father she experienced as “awkward” and “irritable,” “preoccupied” with his career, “self-absorbed” (pp. 14-15). He traveled frequently, but even when at home, he frequently “disappeared” from family events. He was kind and attentive toward other children, and widely admired by others for his empathy, but for his own child he showed little concern. Miss E watched him hold the children of friends on his lap, but never was invited there herself. Her mother she experienced as absorbed in father's career much more than in her child. Indeed, mother expected her to be a perfectly behaved child and to appear exceedingly happy, and when she was not, mother's words and actions left no doubt that the girl was giving “the perfect family” a bad name; Miss E's duty was to feel good and be good in order to keep up the family image. Instead, she became a “misfit” (p. 67). She couldn't trust her parents, but she couldn't trust her own feelings either. All she knew was that “it was essential that I never say or do anything, or express any feeling, that even hinted that [her parents]… were not the ideal parents they so desperately wanted to be” (p. 103).

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