Thursday, February 05, 2009

On the feeling of accomplishment

Ugh - day of uselessness and exhaustion. Let us hope tomorrow will be significantly more productive!

In the meantime, an interesting essay by Sue Erikson Bloland on the power and costs of the fantasy of fame. It was published in 1999 in the Atlantic, and I learned about it via Lowebrow; I liked the essay enough to get hold of a copy of Bloland's book In the Shadow of Fame: A Memoir by the Daughter of Erik H. Erikson.

Here's a bit, anyway, on Laurence Olivier, a figure Bloland came to write about as she underwent analytic training and became interested in a cluster of traits she saw in her father also:
Writing of his boyhood, Olivier confesses that "the wish for this treacherous glory . . . has been obsessive all my life." Along with this ferocious appetite, he had a penchant for grandiose fantasy regarding the stardom he craved. He says quite simply of his early ambition, "My will was granite. I was determined to be the greatest actor of all time."

Many would claim that Olivier achieved this lofty goal. But within the account of his extraordinary success as an actor is evidence that his spectacular career failed to provide him with the sense of accomplishment that he so desperately longed for - accomplishment sufficient to free him from his deepest feelings of unworthiness. He reports having experienced great happiness during periods in his life when he was working at a frenetic pace - a pace he seems to have required to ward off feelings of depression. But he was rarely able to feel happy doing anything other than work. It was only in the exercise of his magical talent that Olivier experienced even momentary freedom from feelings of self-loathing.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, that is one of the classic depression indicators and experiences - even if you become the greatest actor in the world (which, when I was a girl, I believed Olivier was, though I did not get to see him on stage in his prime), you stil feel a failure. Sad. There is some official word for it, like "discounting". But it may not be that - as that sounds like what we are doing now that we are in this financial meltdown.