‘Stop blogging about me.’

My older daughter still living at home is holding a dinner party today for a few of her friends. Early morning and she is frantic, trying to turn our normally cluttered kitchen living area into a tidy, well appointed room, elegant enough in which to receive her guests.

I am past trying, but to absorb some of my daughter’s anxiety I oblige, as do the rest of us in this household, even as we tell her to calm down. One day she will hold her own dinner parties in her own place wherever that might be and I will be spared the shared load of preparing the house for visitors.

These days my husband and I do not hold dinners as often as we once did, ten-twenty years ago. Almost every weekend we had friends over for dinner, but in the last several years our socialising at home has dropped off to the occasional dinner with one or two select friends, otherwise we tend to go to restaurants when we want to have a special meal.

I could say I am too lazy, but it is more than that. I am past it, the effort involved. I have never enjoyed cooking as much as I might, though my husband still loves to cook and he cooks well, but even he with his culinary excitement restricts his efforts these days to weekend meals for our immediate family. It is strange how much things change over time, how something that once gave us the greatest of pleasure becomes a burden.

‘Stop blogging about me’, this same daughter says as she walks through my writing room in search of extra glasses for the dinner table. The glass I used last night and left behind in my writing room forms the sixth of a set and she plans to use the lot as ramekins.

It is probably a good thing that blogging did not exist when my children were little for I fear I would be among the first to cover the Internet with words about their antics.

Now that they are self possessed older folk they might well resent the idea that the rest of the world could read about their childhood idiosyncrasies as reported through the loving fingers of their mother.

Which brings me back to that thorny old issue: writing about other people, inside and outside of well placed literary disguise.

Did I tell you? My analyst wrote about me once in a book, an official book called The Geography of Meanings. Find me if you can. I will not identify the chapter because I will thereby identify my analyst. And that is a no no. She has told me she values her privacy.

She and I had something of an altercation many years ago when I wrote a paper on my analytic experience. I did not identify my analyst by name but she was convinced that others would recognise her.

Why not be recognised? I thought at the time. I had identified her lovingly as the analyst who had helped me to come to terms with the paradox of life. My university supervisor, a literary critic, considers that my analyst in this essay reads as another Marion Milner. Milner is the esteemed psychoanalyst, artist and writer, also known as Joanna Field, ‘the pioneer of introspective journaling’.

In my analyst’s essay in which I feature as a previous ‘patient’ in three separate locations, she describes me at one point as a ‘he’.

After I had read the essay, I put my perceived identity to the test and asked my husband to read it and see if he could find me. He did so instantly. For my own benefit, I highlighted the sections.

I say I do not mind being written about in this way. Although the descriptions are not flattening – a person who is rigid in her tendency to split between good and bad – I consider it a description of an aspect of me as I once existed, if at all, in our analytic exchanges, not the me who exists now.

I take offense though at the extent to which my analyst took me to task for writing about her. I have since dedicated an essay to the subject.

It seems one way I cope with my difficulties, I write about them, and even as I write about them, I imagine people lining the streets ready to fire bullets at me for writing about myself, about them or those near and dear to them.

We live in an age of self-exposure. We live in an age of the personal revelation. We read memoirs till they pour out of us and think nothing at learning the most intimate details of another person’s life.

Jacqueline Rose writes about the cult of celebrity as a ruthless tendency to take possession of another, to get our celebrities to be perfect and then try desperately to strip them bare.

We revel in their failures. We enjoy any shaming that can take place in the life of a celebrity. Perhaps in this sense, celebrities can be seen to be like parents, the ones we might begin our lives by putting up on pedestals, only to dash them off when we realise they have failed us.

But our parents are too close to us for us to want to share them. Their faults, after all might be seen to belong to us.

You know how it is? You can insult a loved one, but no one else is allowed to do so.

I feel the same tremulous fear in writing about my analyst, whose strength and help I value, and yet here I am speaking of her in public, however non-identified. I point out her hypocrisy in first criticising me for writing about her, and then later writing about me, however much in disguise, and I feel once again the shiver of guilt that comes from ‘telling takes out of school’.

But the writer in me, refuses to concede to the moralist in me who tells me to shut up and stop blogging.

42 thoughts on “‘Stop blogging about me.’”

  1. That line of what to write about others is a fine one, isn't it? I go with my gut, usually. So far- it's been okay.
    I think your analyst was more than a bit hypocritical, though. Really.

  2. Elisabeth, this post really strikes a chord with me. I noticed this year, as I spent as much energy avoiding receiving guests in my home as I once did plotting elaborate foodstuffs and their visually pleasing presentation for an extended social group including people I barely knew, that the shift you describe from a pleasure to a burden had taken place! I'm no more or less antisocial or social, lover of cooking and setting a nice table or not nowadays. It happened to my Mom too, once a magnificent hostess. What can it be? A new interiority that comes with age? Or a new priority or selectivity in how to expend energy, perhaps less on the superficial and more on the substantial? In other words, my real friends, who really get me after many years, will be happy with dinner out or scrounged provisions and an untidy living space, because, well, they're busy too, and they're my friends, and anyone else is no longer worth courting with cocktail napkins and elaborate canapes. But this other issue – how much to say about other people in the course of one's own need to sort through life by writing – this one is harder to resolve, and I'm not surprised it comes up again and again. I too need to write about life to make sense of it, and other people often play a part in the drama I'm recounting. I don't mean to exploit or hurt them – but if, in spite of attempts to conceal or protect them, the bullets are flying and someone gets hit and it's my weapon, well…I'm responsible, if not in a malicious way. It's good though that you still worry about it. It shows that the moral voice may be drowned out by the writer in you, but is not being shut out entirely. And that is about as good as it gets, I think, in the great battle between creative expression and social conscience.

    And – Happy New Year!

  3. Elisabeth – yes to the new shift from entertaining at home being a pleasure to being a burden! Sign of age? The new interiority? I used to court people with cocktail napkins and canapes; now my real friends understand a dinner out, or a scrounged snack in an untidy living space, are worth the opportunity simply to spend time together. As for the ongoing struggle of the writer vs the moral conscience, I too write my way through life, and my life does involve other people, so, much as I try to limit or disguise their appearances in my accounts, well, if it's a choice between my mental well-being and their bruised egos, I think I'm okay choosing me for once. And you too. Then again, we don't publish bestsellers.

    Happy New Year!

  4. So did your analyst ask your permission before writing about you? And, if so, would you have still given it had you not written about her first? (Seems kind of like you owed her one.)

  5. Overall I think you handle privacy for others and exposure for yourself very well, and still manage to make the conversation very interesting. I enjoyed this very much. I face similar criticism from some of those I draw and paint, and then post on my blog, especially some of those I draw without clothes.

  6. Apologies to you E, and all for the redundancy of my twin comments. Blogger rejected my first as too long and it vanished – then I wrote a second shortened version and now there are two. Is this a cosmic commentary on the need to self-edit?

  7. Going with your gut is probably the only way to go when it comes to revelations in the blogosphere, Ms Moon, but even so the fear of distressing others can be paralysing. Thanks.

  8. Interesting post. Most of the stuff I write in my blog and in my weekly newspaper column is about my wife and me.
    I've very mindful how I portray her, and I always have her edit my stuff and if ever she is uncomfortable, I trash the piece and write something else.

  9. Thanks for the multiple comments here, Two Tigers, eloquent as ever.

    One of my daughters has over four hundred friends on Face Book. We all know that such friendships are impossible as real friends.

    Real friends you can usually count on one hand, maybe two when you're young. Real friendships take time and commitment. Therefore you can't have too many.

    As for blogging and exposure of self and others on the Internet, TT, I think as you suggest the issue is irresolvable, but it must be considered and cannot be ignored. Ethical dilemmas such as this go on forever, but at the same time they need not paralyse us to the point where we censor ourselves completely. It's another of those paradoxical tightropes.

    You straddle them at your peril. You avoid them altogether and you lead a less interesting life.

  10. We neither of us asked permission of one another, Kirk.

    It's a vexed one. Though there is a view these days that therapists are bound to get permission from those they work with, whereas therapists themselves are fair game. It seems unequal I grant you.

  11. Of course that would be an issue for you, Anthony.

    It never really occurred to me before. I suppose I assumed that when people agree to model for you naked, they agree to have their naked bodies on public display, but maybe not.

    Thanks, Anthony.

  12. I'm not sure I'd want my husband to vet my writing these days, Life 101. He knows I blog but I don't think he bothers to read my stuff. He doesn't complain, though. He tolerates my writing life and is pleased with my successes. It's not easy living with a writer.

    I can understand though if you and your wife are both involved in this blogging life, then you work together as it were. I've seen many people do this and it works well.

    Thanks, Life 101.

  13. I'm giving the 'good china' to my newly married daughter who has visions of entertaining in style. Like you, I can get up the enthusiasm for making it happen anymore. It used to be a status symbol, being able to serve guests elegant food in elegant surroundings — it was a testament to my adulthood. Now I'm done. Thank goodness.

    On writing about other people — I have a friend of mine review some of the posts I feel are on the edge of appropriateness and she advises me wisely. Sometimes a second pair of eyes is very helpful, as you obviously well know.

  14. I, like Ms. Moon, go with my gut and it's worked, I think, all right so far. I personally believe there's far too much of an uproar about the baring of personal stuff — after all is said and done, how much do we remember of what we read, anyway? I admit to balking, occasionally, when I write really personal things about myself — but that's because I feel embarrassed or even presumptuous.

  15. I stopped writing about my husband on my blog after I hurt his feelings. I continue to write about him in any way I want in my private journals.

    Not writing about the real things going on in my life – that's okay with me as my real life isn't that interesting to me. My poems (& that weird thing going on at LoveSettlement) are more my language version of Cirque du Soleil than personal testimony.

  16. Lotsa thoughts here.

    I find it challenging to blog about my life, my self, without ensnaring others. I try not to self-censor, but I do try hard not to pierce the veil of privacy of others. A great many thoughts have been jettisoned into the ether as a consequence.

    As for friends? I kinda like what Kathy Mattea sings: "Friends I can count on, I can count on one hand…with a leftover finger or two."

  17. I'm right there with you about the hypocrisy. Considering that what you wrote about your analyst was entirely positive, it seems hypocritical to be upset about that, then use you as a case study. She wants to have her cake and eat it to. Well, no one ever said that analysts were infallible or perfect; the truth is, they're just as human and flawed as everyone else. I've known my share, both as peers and at times when I was a client.

    How can we NOT write about our own lives, and the people in them? That would be purely fantasy, otherwise. It would all be pretty dull and bland.

    When I write about others, I keep them anonymous, unless I have their permission. But I'm not going to NOT write about them. (And what goes on my blog is different than my private journals, not that it matters.) I write several different ways, for different purposes, all of them MY purposes.

    My poetry contains a lot of truth from my life, but it's art, it's not memoir. I occasionally write personal essays, and journal entries that are about what I'm thinking about what's going in my life. I don't hide things, and I don't pretend things are other than they are. I've spent most of my life learning to be more authentic, more true to the core truth of my life. I'm not going to otherwise in writing than in life. It's all of a piece.

    I got into a flap early this year with a longtime poet friend who basically called me passive-aggressive for not naming names, including his, when I was being critical of the craziness of poetry culture in the USA. He's dead wrong about me being passive-aggressive: when I'm aggressive, there's nothing passive about it. There was nothing passive at all about what I said to him, or about him, and he took my not naming names wrong. In fact it's because I just don't name names, ever, unless there's a good reason to. People deserve their privacy, and I respect that. I like my privacy, too.

    I work with nude models in my photography. It is standard practice to get them to sign a model release form, so that I can use their likeness in my work. Once I have their release form, I'm free to use the photos however I wish. I am working on some specific series, and also on a long visionary-art series in Photoshop. This is standard practice in art. Model release forms are standard operating procedure. If I don't have their permission, I can't use their likeness in my visual art.

    Creative writing doesn't have such agreements, mostly. Maybe it ought to, but maybe it doesn't matter. I'm not sure it should be made a requirement. Although it's always nice to ask.

  18. My adult children also enjoy the 'fine china', what's left of it TaraDharma, and as for there's a reversal here, isn't there. the finest friendships live on, the others die off and in time there are only a handful of 'fine' friends left.

    A reviewer of blogs pre-publication is a great idea, if only I could find one. Mostly I rely on my instincts.

  19. The fact that so little is remembered is one of my guiding principles, Elizabeth.

    I agree with you, there's so much carry on, and yet we suffer such a glut of information, in two minutes so much gets forgotten or changes in the process. All anyone can safely do is go with their 'gut' assuming their gut detector is sound.

    Thanks Elizabeth.

  20. I think the tit-for-tat part of my analytic relationship might well belong to me, not my analyst, Windsmoke.

    It's not for no reason that I'm working on a thesis that involves explorations of the 'desire for revenge'.

    At the same time I think the talion principle – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth – is alive and well in all of us, only some manage to have better control over it.


  21. It'd be horrible to hurt your husband's feelings through a blog post, Glenn.

    It's easy enough to do though. I've offended a good friend of mine, without consciously intending to hurt her. I stress the word'consciously'.

    I don't know what to do about these things. It's so hard to write without offending at least someone.

    Sometimes the ones we hurt are the ones we love. I write this sentence and I think of my mother's mantra about my father – he hurts most those he loves the most – and find we're entering the domain of masochism.

    It's tough. We can only do our best and 'to our own selves be true'.

    Thanks, Glenn.

  22. It's such a razor's edge we straddle, Jonas, the fine line between writing without censorship and writing in such a way as not to hurt our loved ones.

    I've yet to master it.

    Thanks, Jonas.

  23. Although I wrote positively about my analyst, she seemed more concerned to conceal or at least protect her privacy from colleagues I suspect, rather than from the general public.

    Posterity will view all of this differently Art, if posterity bothers to pay attention.

    I think I once read something of this altercation between you and your poet 'friend', Art. I can remember the tone of criticism and counter criticism.

    Your friend clearly felt affronted and you tried to write a response that countered this. To no avail as I recall.

    Although we communicate on line with great success, when it comes to our real relationships it's better by far to talk face to face, and in person, to have all of our communication tools, including the non-verbal, at our disposal.

    Writing to one another can compound misunderstandings, particularly in situations of conflict.

    As for the publication of nude models, clearly people agree to have their bodies on display, some I suspect even enjoy it.

    Writing, too, is a type of 'exhibitionism', as others suggest. And all these things, writing, photography and the visual arts are constructed. They only show certain aspects of the story. There's so much that remains hidden even with a displayed naked body or 'honest' text.

    Thanks, Art.

  24. I have a young cousin, Muffy, who I used to blog about all the time some years ago. She would wine and complain about this, so eventually no matter how fertile the material, I stopped writing about her. About a month later she sent me an email saying the only thing worse than being written about in my blog was not to be written about at all.

  25. I would not like anyone to write about me as I would not like anyone to publish a photo of me, but I publish photos of others. I think we all have a problem with the way people look at us but are eager to share our views…
    Is it hypocritical or just human?

  26. I was first drawn to your blog through Jim Murdoch's blog and a comment you made about revenge writing. I am still just as intrigued by what you have to say and the tightrope you walk between exposition and privacy.

    I began writing in earnest after divorcing my first husband. I was still in college and studying writing with a very accomplished author. I had a strong need to catalog my ex's offenses and it was not good literature at all. But I had to get it 'out there.' Those things will never be published, but if they ever got edited enough to be good fiction, my ex's privacy would be intact through intricate obfuscation.

    Whose toes we step on when we write is a very individual thing. If you go around codependently overcaring about everyone's feelings, it really stifles your creativity, as has been mentioned.

    How much heat can you take from your public (including your family)? …And what is your goal? We all want to be whole, authentic and self-actualized and it's often at the expense of other people's comfort.

  27. Human beings are so funny in this way. We are so certain that everyone is looking at us, that everyone has figured us out and is on to us when someone writes about us without using our names. The reality is, though, most people simply read what they will and move on without giving it a second thought as to the identity of someone else. How often do you read blogs where people say, "I was talking to a friend, and she was rude to me" and you find yourself obsessed with finding out who exactly that friend is?

    Almost never. It is our own guilt and lack of perspective that outs us, far more than any "revealing" clues. I bet if I read that book I wouldn't be able to find you, nor would that bother me much.

    I would say it's a tad hypocritical that your analyst would do to you what she condemned you for doing to her, but again, that's another aspect of humanity that is so funny to me. When it's happening to someone else, it's fine. When it's happening to ourselves – well, it's downright tragic.

    I hope you had a very lovely holiday and that 2011 is a wonderful, peaceful, non-broken-leg-filled year for you. 🙂

    Much love and I'm so grateful I get to read your thoughtful posts and comments,

  28. I believe secretly people really like being the subject of a blog and protest out of vanity. It is similar to those who put their hands up over their faces when you go to photograph them. But if you didn't try, their feelings would be hurt.

    My wife makes it into the subject matter of some of my blogs… although she does get editing privileges prior to publication. (Hey, I'm not stupid!!)

  29. Some of us, like me, guard our privacy not because of a dislike of the adulation of other readers, but because of cyberstalkers. In my former blog, I used my name. My online stalker was able to find out where I live and began harrassing me. I am now hypersensitive about who knows and uses my name. But please continue to visit. I enjoy meeting new people.

  30. Kass' point about codependently caring about other's feelings being an inhibitor to creativity is well-said. I have to say, that argument with that (former) poet friend I already mentioned revolved around, in part, his arrogance on exactly this point. He's a smart guy, and his poetry criticism is often really, really good—but like others I know because he's often right he tends to believe he's ALWAYS right, even when he's not. Furthermore, he prides himself on being a no-holds-barred critic, who tells it like it is, isn't afraid to be offensive, honest, and truthful, even when it hurts. He has gone out of his way to start literary fights with several big names in literature, and he's proud of that. Part of the difficulty I had with him is, that, yes indeed, I have changed—I've been through several life-changing experiences in recent years, and I find literary to have become a giant waste of my time, and choose not to engage in them. So I'm wrong for not wanting to go out of my way to hurt peoples' feelings and deliberately step on their toes.

    What's wrong with this picture? LOL

    BTW, I totally agree that in one's personal relationships, especially with lovers and family and close friends, it's ALWAYS better to work things out face to face, or on the phone, rather than by writing. I have one dear friend who's been one of my best friends for decades, whose tone in her writing is always more forceful and undiplomatic than she really means to be, and comes across as dictatorial. She just writes that way, it seems to be something she can't change. So we just always talk things out on the phone. makes life simpler. LOL

    (Do I worry that anybody I personally know will ever read these comments on your blog that I've written? No. None of them even read my blog, much less those I visit regularly. LOL There are limits to paranoia.)

  31. You're right no doubt, Elisabelle – our contrariness in this regard,namely your wish to put photos of people up on your blog but not to have photos of yourself published is more human than hypocritical.

    We all want to be presented in the best light, most often chosen by ourselves.

    It's a bit like being a passenger in a car. You feel anxious when you are not the one whose foot can apply to the brakes, when you have to trust that others are in control.

    Thanks, Elisabelle.

  32. Recently I read a PhD thesis based on one woman's experience of the break up of her marriage. 'Ethnography' she called it.

    It's a wonderful work and goes to show that today's stories are yesterday's history.

    How can we keep a record of how we live if we do not give details that inevitably include other people's stories?

    Given what I have read so far of your writing, I'd be surprised if your account of your ex-husband is as bad as you make out.

    I suspect it might make for both fascinating and fantastic reading, but presumably not to him.

    Thanks, Kass.

  33. I agree, Tracy, most readers probably don't think twice about the 'real' identity of the people we describe, including ourselves in the blogosphere.

    And yet at the same time there is this wish to get behind the scenes, if only in our imaginations. As long as we recognise it for what it's worth – an imaginary reconstruction.

    Thanks, Tracy, and best wishes to you, too, for the festive season.

    I'm also very pleased to have chanced upon your blog. Although we are from different worlds – different generations and geographies – we have certain salient experiences in common. It makes for a sense of being like kindred spirits.

  34. Your comment is similar to Laoch's Robert, the idea that people protest too much and that certain of them would be offended if they were not included in our blogs.

    Sensible man, to include your wife in relevant posts. If I needed to I would as well, but I watch what I post about my immediate family and therefore don't need too much scrutiny at least not these days. I too have been burned.

    Thanks, Robert.

  35. It's the nature of the recognition that counts Kleinstemotte.

    If you write in a certain way there are some who will be offended regardless.

    I've written about this elsewhere:
    'A writing friend tells the story of how in her early writing career she made the mistake of making a gift of a successfully published short story she had written about her grandmother to several members of her family. Her aunts were furious.
    ‘You make Grandma sound like an alcoholic,’ they said.
    When my friend asked how they had surmised this from her story, her aunts pointed to a passage in which my friend had described in vivid detail the image of her grandmother’s knuckled, arthritic fingers folded around a crystal whisky glass.
    ‘Grandma never drank whiskey, only ever brandy,’ her aunts said. ‘And she certainly never drank during the day.’
    There you have it. A slight alteration of ‘facts’ not only reduced the writer’s credibility in the eyes of her aunts, it made her a dishonest reporter who had wanted to defame her beloved grandmother.'

    Sometimes, you cannot get it right, Kleinstemotte, however hard you try.


  36. Now stalking is a different matter, Gaelic Wife. I haven't encountered it myself, at least not online.

    It's one of those complex experiences that leaves everyone feeling vulnerable.

    As long as your identity is relatively protected, I suppose you can go on blogging and enjoy the experience, but if someone wishes you harm or indeed if someone 'imagines' they 'love' and want you too much, in that possessive way that sometimes happens, then it's too much. It can make you wary.

    I'm pleased to meet you here, Gaelic wife.

    When I think on it, in some ways the whole blogosphere is built up on a sort of stalking.

    A scary thought.


  37. Face to face has to be better, Art, as you say. We are human beings after all, fine tuned for deeper communication than the written word allows.

    On the other hand, the written word allows for our imaginations to come into 'play' more.

    Maybe to some extent that's also where the paranoia comes in.

    We can't know what people's responses to our writing are, unless they tell us.

    When we write and hear nothing in response, we can imagine all manner of things, including the thought that our closer acquaintances might object to what we have written. In other words, we rely on our own fantasy to imagine a response. This fantasied response can be far worse than any actual response.

    Thanks again, Art.

    At least we, you and I, have a dialogue of sorts going, and need rely less on our imaginations, though I'm certain that we, too, like everyone else, are prone to misunderstanding one another from time to time. Hopefully not to often.

  38. Psychiatrists have been writing about their patients for as long as psychiatry has existed. It’s how other psychiatrists learn by reading about the experiences of others. They’re not like other doctors who get to play with cadavers to learn their craft, no, they need to see inside people’s lives before they’re finished with them. We now know that Anna O. was Bertha Pappenheim but what the heck, she’s been dead seventy-four years besides most of what we now know about her consists of what Breuer wrote and that’s not who she was just a record of what she went through at a particular time in her life. You are no longer the person your therapist wrote about either. How Pappenheim herself assessed the success of her treatment is not documented. She never spoke about this episode of her life and vehemently opposed any attempts at psychoanalytic treatment of people in her care. So all we have presented to us in Studies on Hysteria, is one side of the story and that is where most storytelling falls down: there is no right to respond and we never get to see the bigger picture. We have to accept biographical works like this (even where they are presented in a clinical context) as of limited value.

    But what about doctor-patient confidentiality? You were not a dilapidated building that's had time and money spent on it to restore it to its former self and I have no doubt that books have been written about successful refurbishment projects like this; I’ve certainly seen TV programmes about them. I looked up ‘physician–patient privilege’ and I confirmed two things: 1) the duty of confidentiality continues even after the patient stops seeing or being treated by the doctor, and b) it most definitely includes mental health practitioners. So maybe you should sue her. Part of me feels that patient records should be sealed until after their deaths unless they agree to the information entering the public domain before that.

    As you know I did find the book but I have no intention of reading it. Our relationship is a personal thing (despite the fact much of it is carried on in public) and if you want to tell me about who you were once upon a time then you obviously think our relationship will benefit from such disclose. Personally I don’t expect, need or want it. Most importantly I don’t have time for it. I’m never going to meet the you you once were so let her be.

    As for your daughter – and my daughter if it comes to that – maybe there should be such a thing as parent-child privilege; they do have a right to their privacy should they choose to exercise it. But getting a mention in a blog is like getting caught in the background of a photo and who is going to be petty enough to ask that their image be pixelated? So I let my daughter exist in the background of my blog – she is a supporting character in my life – and so far always in a positive light. She may, however, get in a stooshie when she reads the book I’m working on just now and sees some of herself in the character of the daughter but every daughter who reads it will see something of themselves in her; it doesn’t mean it’s based on them.

  39. There's a chap, an American psychoanalyst, Glen Gabbard, who has written extensively on the ethics of therapists writing about their patients, Jim and it's a tough one.

    It's clear such writing needs to happen, as you suggest, in order to develop therapists' understanding and skills, but the issue of confidentiality is always such a vexed one.

    I have elected not to write about people with whom I work. I have plenty to write about from my own personal experience, but many of my colleagues I know struggle with the issue of how to write about so-called 'clinical material' without disrespecting the people who have taught them so much.

    We all learn from one another.

    I also agree with what you say here about our children as back ground characters in a photograph. Perhaps that's what riles them so much.

    Carolyn Steedman who has written a terrific book, part theory part biography of her mother, part autobiography, called Landscape for a Good Woman, in it she writes that children are always bit players in their parents' drama.

    And children resent this. I speak from my own experience.

    My mother has written a long autobiography, her first 85 years in Holland and Australia and in it she records little about any of her children beyond the fact of her giving birth to each one of us at different times. That's all – a record of our birth.

    I felt cheated but had she written more I perhaps might have felt offended.

    She would, as you say, have only written a partial – very partial – version of my view of me. Better that she concentrate on herself.

    Even then I can remember one of my mother's brothers complaining later that she got much of it wrong, according to his memory of events.

    Isn't that always the way: My version clashes with yours, his with hers.

    Whereas all of them coexist and all of them are only partial, a glimmer of the whole thing which would be impossible to record anyhow.

    Thanks Jim.

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