Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Posts – #Influencers – Mark and me by Anne Goodwin

Recently I shared a short series on people how I considered an been a positive influence in my life, either by teaching me to read and write, that dreams can come true, that human kindness comes in many forms or by helping me transition into a responsible adult.

Of course our parents and other members of the family have a direct impact on who we are today, but for me in addition there are those who came and went in my life, but whilst there, changed the way I looked at life in general and my own future.

This series is about the person you feel has had the most influence on your life and has shaped the person you are today, and what you have achieved. That might be in reaching personal goals or to do with your career. The series is now closed but I will feature again in 2022.

Today clinical psychologist and author Anne Goodwin shares her respect for Professor Mark Williams who was committed to the task of getting her through my PhD.

Mark and Me by Anne Goodwin.

As the train draws into the station, I raise my gaze from my book. Across the tracks, I spot a bearded man with a briefcase. No, we don’t lock eyes.

I decide he’s returning home from delivering a lecture. He’s tired, but pleased by the audience response. He’s looking forward to a relaxing evening: a glass of Chardonnay; Pink Floyd on the CD player; chatting with his wife.

Of course I build a story around him. I’m a writer, that’s what I do. But I didn’t consider myself a writer the last time we caught up with each other. At a conference around twenty years before.

He was a distinguished professor (and, I think, although his Wikipedia entry doesn’t show it, vice chancellor of the university). I was presenting a poster (although, again, my memory is rusty) on my extremely undistinguished research.

I’d done an observational study of a group of long-stay psychiatric patients as they made the transition from hospital to community care. This work was to inspire Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, my latest novel, but I didn’t know that then.

My project was rooted in psychoanalytic theory. A world away from cognitive therapy in which Mark made his name. A world away from where, thanks to his guidance and encouragement, I began my clinical psychology career.

Summer, 1980, should have been blissful. I’d graduated with a First in Mathematics and Psychology and moved in with my boyfriend soon after the exams.

But I felt unanchored, unsure of my next step. Although interested in clinical psychology, I knew it was highly competitive. I doubted they’d let me in.

I applied for a couple of jobs and dabbled in voluntary work. My boyfriend was doing a PhD – and switching supervisors due to the first’s racism – so I made enquiries in the department I’d just left.

The statistics lecturer introduced me to Mark Williams. Mark put in a last-minute bid to the Medical Research Council for the funds. I don’t recall contributing much to the process, other than landing in the right place at the right time.

Mark presented as an optimist and extrovert, with the confidence derived from a middle-class upbringing and an Oxbridge degree. I was a shy introvert, and still ashamed of it, with a broad working-class accent other students mocked. He had a comfortable manner that made him pleasant company. I was socially awkward and unskilled.

I was also the last person who should have embarked on a PhD in depression. Yes, I had the intellectual capacity. But emotionally? A mountain of rubble buried my unresolved grief.
Not a single rock rolled from that edifice in the three years we worked closely together. On the contrary, academia poured cement in the gaps between those stones and broken bricks.

Although it seems strange to me now, back then, it couldn’t have been otherwise.

Psychology prized objectivity. Psychologists didn’t inspect their own wounds.

I suspect Mark thought I was a straightforward as he seemed to be. Besides, it wasn’t his job to delve into my psyche. He was friendly, warm and encouraging, and committed to the task of getting me through my PhD. He never seemed to doubt I’d get there, I suspect more from faith in himself as the supervisor than faith in me.

With him, I published my first academic paper; my first print publication of any kind. With him, I learnt about drafts and structure, and the challenge of knocking a lengthy manuscript into shape. Thanks to him, I gained a coveted place on clinical psychology training course, the first step on a twenty-five year career. Oh, yes, and the right to answer ‘doctor’ when some stuffy official asked if I was ‘Mrs’ or ‘Miss’.

The benefits weren’t all in one direction. He got his first PhD student, an occasional babysitter, and the chance to cite my research in one of his early books.

Through his example, I learnt about doing what you believe in, and getting on with the job.

Indirectly, he taught me how to separate person and role. A useful skill in any field: an antidote to imposter syndrome and the fear of success that stops some people, especially women, striving for the top. How refreshing it can be to leave our insecurities at the bottom of the wardrobe and don our professional kit.

This was one of the themes of my debut novel, Sugar and Snails,. My character, Diana has concealed her vulnerabilities for all her adult life. The downside is that the more she hides her secret, the more terrifying is the prospect of it leaking out. The more guarded she is, the more lonely she feels.

Although this novel is set in the psychology department of a university, it has nothing to do with my supervisor and me. But he did set me on the path which meandered its way to my latest novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home. If I hadn’t trained as a clinical psychologist, and then got a job in a long-stay psychiatric hospital, I wouldn’t have had the experience to write this humorous and heart-breaking novel about a brother and sister separated for fifty years.

 

I’m not sure Mark is the person who has most influenced me in my life. But, through his research, his books and his teaching, he could be the person who has influenced most other people in addition to me. If you practice mindfulness meditation, then he’s already influenced you:

PS. As a fiction author, this felt very strange to write. I’m used to writing non-fiction articles and blog posts, and sharing my vulnerabilities, but I’ve never considered addressing a long-ago relationship with a living person. Should I get his permission? Should I at least let him know? What was my motivation? Did I want to bask in reflected glory? Or an excuse to get in touch?

Who knows? But your feedback would be especially welcome on this one.
 

©Anne Goodwin 2021

About Anne Goodwin

Anne Goodwin writes entertaining fiction about identity, mental health and social justice. She is the author of three novels and a short story collection published by small independent press, Inspired Quill. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her new novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, is inspired by her previous incarnation as a clinical psychologist in a long-stay psychiatric hospital. Subscribers to her newsletter can download a free e-book of prize-winning short stories.

Read the reviews and buy the books : Amazon UK – And : Amazon US – follow Anne : Goodreads – blog: Annecdotal – Twitter: @Annecdotist

 

Thanks for dropping in today and I know Anne would love to hear from you… thanks Sally.

39 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Posts – #Influencers – Mark and me by Anne Goodwin

  1. I know little about the world of academia, especially how one sets about getting a PHD. I have just checked and realise I have Anne’s collection., somebody’s daughter and all her novels sound very fascinating as I love thos sorts of themes.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ah what a pleasure to read of Anne’s mentor. And having known her for a few years now I never knew of the Dr. title by which I should have been addressing her. Mea culpa! And of course it reminds me of the failure to do what I promised which is read and review Matilda. It will happen!

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  3. What a beautiful story of finding that person who can influence your life. Serendipity at work! Anne, thank you for sharing, I am so glad to know about your work!! Sally thanks for introducing Anne to us!

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  4. Thanks for the introduction to Anne and her memories of Mark and how he influenced her life. As well as her books. Funny how one choice leads to another. I love the line: “Oh, yes, and the right to answer ‘doctor’ when some stuffy official asked if I was ‘Mrs’ or ‘Miss’.” Very nice. Great share, Anne. Thanks for the connection, Sally.

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  5. A fascinating article, Anne. It is amazing how some ‘teachers’ have such a big influence on our lives. I was thinking today about Father Muike, the Catholic priest who looked after our congregation when I was a young girl. Such a lovely man and I have such good memories of him. I included him as a character in my book, Through the Nethergate. I also had a wonderful teacher, Sister Agatha, who helped nurture my taste for classic books. Thank you for sharing this post, Sally.

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  6. I really enjoyed finding out a bit more about Anne. I recently read Matilda Windsor is Coming Home and can hand-on-heart recommend it. xx

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  7. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up.. 14th – 20th November 2021 – Boosters, Thanksgiving, Hits 1982, Green Kitchen, Ghosts, Book Reviews, Bloggers, Health and Humour | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  8. This is a great post by Anne and a very interesting insight into the process and her career. Having read and reviewed Matilda Windsor is Coming Home, it is good to know a bit more about Anne. Thanks, Anne and Sally!

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