In a sense, then, Cottle is a psychologist who carries his clinical training and knowledge into the streets of ordinary folkstheir homes and places of work, their children and the schools they attend. He is also a lively, and often, lyrical writer who wants to reach usheart, mind, and soulso that we are given pause, second thoughts. Not least, he is, as he tells us in his helpful and appealing introduction, a storyteller who learned as a child the healing and suggestive power to which a story can be privy. He knows to mention and revere Erik H. Erikson, the guardian spirit for so many of usthe intellectual pioneer who dared take psychoanalysis into neighborhoods otherwise beyond its interest or ken; and I think what Erikson said about psychological and sociological storytelling applies very much to Tom Cottle personally, and to the clinical research he has done so carefully and earnestly these past years.
One day, recalling his own attempts to link the lives of children to the world, and to events that happen in their young minds, their emerging sensibilities (as in Childhood and Society, whose very title made an urgent, demanding statement), Erikson arched back in his office chair, looked at his bookcase, with its many volumes by Freud, and then talked not of the past, often his wont, but of the years ahead: I hope that in the future we have many young psychologists and psychiatrists who are interested in going a little beyond the psychopathology of everyday life [the title of one of Freuds first books]who are interested in everyday life as it can shape psychopathology. Im being a little murky here, or ironic, but Im trying to remind myself constantly that we inherit our problems from our family life, yes, but we do go from day to day, in the neighborhood whose distinctive life is its ownso, the issue is not only the passage of time and of events that happen, but also the specific events that take place here, rather than there, and for this reason or that reason. The long and short of itof what Im trying to get atis that all us live our own everyday lives, depending upon the country that is ours, and our place or situation in that country, and (I keep reminding myself) depending upon the time that is ours, the moment of history we call our very own."
Such words well deserve to be linked with those of Tom Cottles, he who gave us Times Children, and he who has made sure that he converses continually with a broad range of individuals in such a way that their human particularity is affirmed, is given its necessary and confirmed chronicle. In the pages that follow we keep meeting, it can be said, Cottles various informantsthose whose stories he chooses to render, to tell in their various details. Those informants become ours, to the point that a book such as this ends up being a round-up, a lineup, of vivid, knowing, fellow individuals, who in their sum, turn into a group of teaching companions, each one of them able to carry us forth, hand us along, through the assist of the attentive observer, the persuasively arresting writer, Tom Cottle (his words energized by their words). To return to Erik H. Erikson, now speaking as he was working on his last major psychoanalytic study, Gandhis Truth: Sure, its helpful to learn from the great figures of history, but we shouldnt forget those who looked up to themwe should know why [they did] and we should know what they taught their great leaders, who, after all, have to take the measure of those who follow them. By take the measure I dont mean take a poll, or a survey; I mean the human measurewhich we do through listening to one another. That is, needless to say, the heart of psychoanalysis: speakers and listeners embracing a mutual path of discovery (of one another, of themselves), and that can be the heart of good writing, alsoauthors helping us to know ourselves. In that spirit, Tom Cottles latest book invites us on a journey of inwardness, of recognition and self-recognitionhis descriptive and evocative writing, always vigorous and summoning, claims us, prods us to take heed and careso that, finally, we readers become the grateful recipients of the engaging thoughtfulness, the heartfelt social wisdom, which the pages ahead abundantly offer.