Jane Haynes is the author of Who is it that can tell me who I am? Her second book, If I Chance to Talk a Little Wild, was published by Quartet Books on 26 September 2018.
Jane kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about If I Chance To Talk a Little Wild.
I wanted to write a memoir that was as much about the fascinating people who have made an impact on me as about myself. On the first page I write that ‘my intention is to provide an often discursive and anecdotal palimpsest of identity through an inseparable broth of my personal and professional lives.’ As I am a psychotherapist I wanted this broth not only to refer to ‘knots’ or challenges in my personal life but also – and always with their permission – to examples from the emotional knots in some of my patients’ lives. I become frustrated that so many books written about psychotherapy do not feature the patient, or client, or person’s voice. (I am never sure how to name the people who consult me.) I am not interested in pathologizing my patients or presiding over their minds like an owl or oracle but want our consultations to be dialogues. Although my patients cannot be my friends because I have to maintain strict ethical boundaries, I wanted to write a book in which there was a chapter where I explored ‘the politics of friendship’, in both therapy and my personal life.
Switching now to another topic I explore: I become disheartened when I read so many articles or listen to news events about child sexual abuse which deny the sad fact that – unlike other criminal offences – sexual abuse exists in every social group and unlike most other crimes it has nothing to do with an absence of education, privilege or money. It has existed since time immemorial and it is about time there were more informed public discussions, and less outrage, about how society should work towards reducing the shocking statistics from the NSPCC which suggests as many as one in four children are abused and most frequently by a family member, (bearing in mind that this statistic does not allow for the majority of cases that are not reported!) I refer to novels like Lolita and Death in Venice to provide other perspectives. It is literature, which at its best is non-judgmental, rather than Freudian, Jungian or any other theory which helps me most to understand the vagaries of human nature.
2. What inspired the book?
I had no intention of writing a book until I had a fabulous or furious row with my daughter, (she also happens to be a psychotherapist). I cannot now remember what on earth the row was about but just the fury. I came home and announced, out of the blue, “I am going to write a book!” My husband said the book should be called ‘Daughters Beware Daughters’! We have long since forgiven each other.
3. This is your second memoir. Did you find it easier to write this latest book or did you face any unexpected challenges?
It was easier. With my first memoir nobody wanted to publish it. All the rejections said it was beautifully written and interesting but what shelf would it belong on? (I am suspicious of beautiful writing.) I refused to be defeated and self-published. When the memoir was unexpectedly shortlisted for an important prize I sold it. This time around I have allowed myself to enjoy speaking what I feel and not what I ought to say.
4. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
Hmm! I am useless at relaxing. As a psychotherapist I absorb so many narratives every day – believe me Life is much stranger than any fiction, -and I don’t have attention left for TV, or box sets. I spend a lot of time gazing into space or at my beautiful dog, Dido. (There is a chapter in the book called ‘Dido’s Lament’ which is not only about dogs.) And, I love brushing my smallest grandchild Bell’s hair. Once I finished writing this book I started reading again.
5. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’, but sadly in translation.
6. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
The question would be: ‘What is it that makes you arrogant, or aggressive enough to think ‘the world’ needs your book?
I spend a lot of time thinking about the answer. I am struck by the fact that so many people either want to become a published writer or a successful psychotherapist. There are not enough publishers or patients to go around! Therapists are usually invisible and for better or worse nobody except the patient, (who is sometimes too desperate to be positioned to judge) knows whether the experience of therapy has been helpful or damaging. Writing makes the secretive consulting room more transparent. Again, for better or worse, I like throwing down my gauntlet.
About the book
A HAUNTING AND HEARTFELT MEMOIR BY A LEADING PSYCHOTHERAPIST
This is the brutally honest, passionate and unorthodox sequel to the PEN Ackerley Prize shortlisted Who is it that can tell me who I am?
Building on Jane Haynes’s personal and clinical experience and with extensive references borne of her love of literature (she devotes a whole chapter, for example, to the impact of Proust on her psychoanalytic thought) and with constant mention of her first great mentor, the legendary R. D. Laing, If I chance to talk a little wild will haunt, educate, surprise yet always fascinate its readers long after the book has been read.
About the author
Jane Haynes originally trained as a Jungian psychoanalyst but then ‘defected’ and now refers to herself as a relational psychotherapist. In 2008 her book Who is it that can tell me who I am? (Little, Brown) was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley Prize for literary autobiography. She lives, and practises, in London.