Psychoanalysis and Creativity

You don’t need to have any expert background in psychoanalysis, or in psychology, to appreciate the way Skorczewski puts together an intriguing narrative out of Anne Sexton’s therapy tapes. Sexton hadn’t been writing for a decade when she began therapy with Dr. Martin T. Orne, and he encouraged her to start again. She was 28 and he was 29 when she began seeing him two or three times a week for eight years.
We learn from the tapes that Orne refused to engage with Sexton over the specifics of her work, yet she wrote a lot about him and their therapy sessions. In some poems, she seemed to be writing FOR him, but he tried to keep her focus on her mental illness, her family, and her life, not on seeking his approval for her poetic output. Skorczewski writes,

Orne remained committed to the idea that Sexton should learn to feel special just for being herself. Neither her poetry nor her fame could be owned as aspects of her real self. But her children might be, as Orne’s question about them suggested.

It’s hard not to wonder whether that approach was precisely the best one for Sexton.

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