Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Woman Visits a Shrink

Her story is compelling, should never be forgotten. The woman dies, the shrink authors a book about his late patient. Nightmare or gift? 

As a writer reluctant to share my own personal story I've come up with different scenarios to mislead not just what I know to be my internal editor, but the safe-keeper and guard of my family secrets. What if I'd pretend to be dead and have my husband send all of my material to an editor of a publishing house? What if I would let a shrink be the storyteller?

To see how the latter would work out, I bought Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves. The novel's narrator is a shrink, so intrigued by a patient, that he starts investigating the man's life, crossing professional boundaries as he develops a personal interest in the patient's wife and child. The book turned out to be about the shrink's obsession, and the book's premise reinforced my notion that psycho therapists are regular fallible people too.

Having someone tell your story may be a dream come true, yet it can also be a patient's worst nightmare. Does the fact that the husband of the dead woman's family gave the psycho social therapist the go-ahead to write and publish her story, mean that she would have given hers? Did she leave a will in which she stated so?

Is the notion "Never Again!" enough of a reason to disclose thoughts uttered in the privacy of a psycho therapeutic session?

Leo Feijten, author of Ik geloof dat hij Hans heette (I Believe His Name Was Hans) states on his publisher's site, that his wish is, that by telling the story of his patient —her family and foster brother were murdered in the Nazi death camps— he's helping to prevent that something like the Holocaust will ever happen again.

That could be a good enough reason. Still, the notion that therapists would use patients' files to publish books throws me off. Even if the project is approached in an honorable and sincere manner.

Or is Feijten, by using the point of view of his patient's foster brother Hans —not focusing the story on her, but the whole book on (her story about) this German Jewish Horst Eichenwald — off the hook?

What are your thoughts on this?

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
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