The narrator in Julian Barnes’ recent, prizewinning novel The Sense of an Ending asks:
“How often do we tell our life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, and make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our accounts, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but - mainly- to ourselves.”
Memory has always been a central issue in analytic work. Our understanding of its significance has shifted from the need to uncover repressed memories, to an understanding of the way in which memories are distorted, inaccurate and irrecoverable. This paper aims to explore the tension between current thinking about the complexity of memory, with its ever-shifting uncertainties, and our need to know who we are so that we can have a relatively fixed and stable sense of identity. I will be using my work with two patients who experience very different struggles with traumatic memories from their past that are central to their sense of self. When looked at together, they highlight the specific issues and challenges that this paradox presents for our work and for the individuation process.
Basia Gasiorek initially trained as a clinical psychologist obtaining a doctorate in Experimental Clinical Psychology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She worked for a number of years in the NHS before completing her training as a Jungian Analytical Psychotherapist at the West Midlands Institute of Psychotherapy. She is currently a member of the Jungian Training Committee and is in full time private practice in Birmingham.