In the Shadow of Fame: A Memoir by the Daughter of Erik Erikson

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As the daughter of Erik H. Erikson, Sue Erikson Bloland had to learn from an early age toreconcile the public view of her father as a pioneering intellectual with the complex and rather insecure man whom she knew. How could Erikson, who first gained renown based on his groundbreaking work in child psychology, feel so inadequate in his private role as a father?

Bloland recounts her father's rise to celebrity and the eagerness with which her parents embraced fame in the hope that ...

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Overview

As the daughter of Erik H. Erikson, Sue Erikson Bloland had to learn from an early age toreconcile the public view of her father as a pioneering intellectual with the complex and rather insecure man whom she knew. How could Erikson, who first gained renown based on his groundbreaking work in child psychology, feel so inadequate in his private role as a father?

Bloland recounts her father's rise to celebrity and the eagerness with which her parents embraced fame in the hope that it would heal their childhood wounds. Feeling left out of their “fairy tale” existence and hopelessly unworthy as the daughter of such charismatic figures, she struggled for many years to find direction in her own life. She watched her father relate comfortably to strangers in ways that he was unable to with his own family. And like the children of many celebrities, she felt compelled to support her father's idealized image—to help protect him from public exposure of his personal vulnerabilities.

In her beautifully written and moving memoir, Bloland describes her family through her own eyes, a portrait enriched by her own psychoanalytic training. Fame, she argues, is not the emotional panacea that we all imagine it to be. Ultimately, we can find fulfillment and validation only through more genuine sources of self-acceptance.

Author Biography: Sue Erikson Bloland did graduate work in both anthropology and sociology before obtaining her master's in social work from New York University and her certificate in psychoanalysis from the Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis. She has written for The Atlantic Monthly and Psychoanalytic Dialogues and has given numerous lectures on fame. She is a practicing psychotherapist in New York City and a faculty member at the Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Reflections on fame by a woman who witnessed its effects on her parents, lived in its shadow for many years, and then studied it as a psychological phenomenon. Erik H. Erikson's book Childhood and Society (1950) made him a celebrity when his daughter was 13. Young Sue was uneasily aware that the public image of her parents as an exceptionally gifted couple with valuable insights into human relationships was at odds with her experience of them as real, tormented people with unresolved issues. The most painful of these concerned the Down syndrome baby her mother gave birth to when the author was five. He was immediately placed in an institution, but her parents told her the baby had died, and she did not learn the truth for eight years. This abandoned, handicapped child, Bloland believes, was the emotional centerpiece of Erikson family life. The appearance of normality was essential to her father's professional reputation; she was instructed never to misbehave in public, never to act in any way that might indicate that her parents were other than ideal. The author was well into adulthood before she understood the harmful effects of such stultification on her own sense of self-worth. In addition to recounting what it was like growing up in such a household, Bloland delves into her parents' pasts, finding in their early experiences of parental rejection the explanation for their overwhelming need to be admired by others and to achieve fame. In time, as Boland underwent psychoanalysis and trained to become a psychotherapist, she concluded that a paradoxical relationship always exists between an idealized public image and the private self. As a professional, she decided to focus her attentionon issues related to fame, the drives associated with it, and its emotional fallout. Her thoughts on those matters make up the later chapters, which are likely to be of interest primarily to other mental-health professionals. A memoir of potentially broad appeal muffled by theoretical material: the latter belongs in another book. Agent: Maria Carvainis
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670033744
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • Publication date: 2/3/2005
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 0.92 (d)

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