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Loew, C. (2009). Developing Narrative in Analysis and Memoir. Psychoanal. Perspect., 6(2):65-66.

(2009). Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 6(2):65-66

Developing Narrative in Analysis and Memoir

Clemens Loew, Ph.D.

One of the purposes of writing a memoir is to find one's own voice and to make sense of one's life. It is particularly valuable because it builds continuity to the past, fills gaps in one's memories, and, most importantly, opens doors to spaces that are often surprising and wonderfully cathartic.

In this section, Helen Epstein and Sophia Richman will explore the development of their personal narrative from two perspectives: creating it through writing in solitude and co-creating it as an analysand in the presence of a participating witness in psychoanalysis.

Whether one develops the narrative by oneself or in analysis, he is never alone. As T. S. Eliot said, “To write is to discover how to transform the words you think into a language you hear and to begin a state of ‘auditory inwardness.’” In autobiographical writing, the inwardness is occupied by many voices clamoring to be heard and written. Some voices, Richman points out, may be so loud that they are projected onto the person to whom one is writing. The entity to or for whom one is writing can be imagined as a hostile audience, a benign supportive friend, a kind mentor, or a judgmental group, depending on the nature of the projected voice.

In analysis, one finds a partner who, in the transference, can become, as Helen Epstein says, “a dancing partner, mountain guide, or lepidopterist”— not to mention lover, mother, or father—all of whom may direct the narrative.

In either situation, the memoir writer is using an imaginative process for the purpose of self-discovery, thus gaining a chance to see his inner and outward life from multiple perspectives. Hopefully, engaging in this process will illuminate the complexity of one's world and organize it in a meaningful way.


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