In the Shadow of Fame is a psychoanalytic memoir by the daughter of one of the twentieth century’s leading psychoanalysts, Erik H. Erikson, the famous author of Childhood and Society and Identity, Youth, and Crisis, books that I saw on many desks and bookshelves when I attended college in the 1970s. Like her father before her, Bloland has become a psychoanalyst, but it took her many years to embrace this career. She spent much of her youth trying to escape the family fame.
According to Bloland, her parents suffered from addiction to achievement and desire for renown. Though her father was famous as a healer attuned to the mental health of individuals, he and his wife were unable to cope with their own problems. When her younger brother Neil was born with Down’s syndrome in the 1940s (he was called a Mongolian idiot at the time), her parents sent him to an institution immediately and told their children and friends that he had died at birth. This lie led to further lies. Not knowing what was wrong with her parents, the author felt that she had lost favor with them. About this time, Childhood and Society became a best seller, her father and mother spent more time focusing of his career, and the author was sent to boarding school.
Now that she is a psychoanalyst, the psychology of fame is the author’s specialty, and she discusses her studies of the famous, especially Lawrence Olivier, in this book. Her conclusion, that fame does not validate a person’s self worth, that fame does not bring happiness to troubled individuals, may sound cliché, but in a society in which celebrities are worshiped and many people long to be chosen for reality television series, it bears repeating. Bloland can verify that the byproducts of fame can be unpleasant.
Bloland, Sue Erikson. In the Shadow of Fame: A Memoir by the Daughter of Erik H. Erikson. New York: Viking, 2005. ISBN 067003374X.
Unabridged compact disc: Blackstone Audiobooks, Inc., 2005. ISBN 078618230x
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