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Marion Milner (1900-1998), was a British author and psychoanalyst, who was born in London, England as Marion Blackett, the Sister of physicist Patrick Blackett, (and is sometimes known as Marion Blackett-Milner). Outside psychotherapeutic circles, she is better known by her pseudonym, Joanna Field, as a pioneer of introspective journaling.

In 1926, a few years after graduating in with a degree in psychology from the University of London, Milner began an introspective journey that later became one of her best-known books, A Life of One's Own (eventually published under the name Joanna Field in 1934). This started as a journal in which she would note down times that she felt happy and thoughts going through her head at those times, in an attempt to discover what happiness was; however, her introspection branched out into other areas, from an analysis of day-to-day worries to experiences which some reviewers described as "mystical".[1] Milner's basic technique is a kind of introspection, observing fleeting thoughts ("butterfly thoughts", as she calls them) combined with an openness to sensory experience she calls "wide awareness".[2] A Life of One's Own was well-received, attracting favorable reviews from such literary notables as W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender,[3] and soon afterwards, she published a work on similar lines (again as Joanna Field), An Experiment in Leisure.[4]

During this period, Milner became increasingly interested in Jean Piaget and the work of Jungian analytical psychologists. Here she was particularly interested in what she originally termed "bisexuality", but would now perhaps be better called psychological androgyny, and also investigated Eastern philosophies such as Taoism.[5] In 1940, she started training as a psychoanalyst and began practicing in 1943. Her best-known work on psychoanalysis, The Hands of the Living God,[6] relates her own lengthy treatment of a psychotic patient and the insights she gained into her own mind. She made considerable use of painting and doodling in her therapy and was also an enthusiastic painter herself; her observations on the benefits of painting were published as On Not Being Able to Paint.[7]


  1. Joanna Field (Marion Milner), A Life of One's Own 2nd ed. (London: Chatto & Windus, 1936, reprinted New York: Puttnam, 1981), p. 222
  2. ibid, p. 108
  3. ibid, pp. 219, 222)
  4. Joanna Field (Marion Milner), An Experiment in Leisure (Los Angeles: J. P. Tarcher, 1937, reprinted New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987).
  5. A Life of One's Own, p. 208-217
  6. Marion Milner, The Hands of the Living God (New York: International Universities Press, 1969).
  7. Marion Milner, On Not Being Able to Paint (Madison, Conn.: International Universities Press, Inc., 1950).

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

Michael Brearley: "Obituary: Marion Milner" The Independent June 10, 1998 Kelley A. Raab: Creativity and Transcendence in the Work of Marion Milner

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