Categories
psychoanalysis

Wrestling the day (it passes)

1. It is a feature of rough times that one feels one should do something.

2. Often this something is precisely what we cannot do,

3. yet feel we should be doing.

4. Because having a rough time is our fault, isn’t it, and if we just did something — namely the things we cannot do — the rough times would go away.

5. Here are some of the things I feel I should be doing, that I cannot do, and that if I only managed to do would (so the story goes) pull me out of this rough time:

  • Read that one specific book I am finding very hard to read because it’s so fucking bleak (another book won’t do)
  • Watch films (TV shows don’t count)
  • Draw on paper (drawing on tablet doesn’t count)
  • Sleep in the afternoon (dozing without full sleep is a pathetic substitute which shows what a failure I am).

6. The harder life gets on me, the harder I get on myself.

7. Telling myself to ease up on myself doesn’t work. The adult in me, the internalized mom, is very ill-formed and unable to talk to the child who is suffering miserably.

8. This is why I need analysis.

9. The best I can do right now is tell myself to patiently put up with doing nothing and wrestle the day passively (I cannot wrestle it actively) until nighttime brings respite (which itself, I realize, is a huge blessing).

9. The best I can tell myself is that it will pass and just grit it till then.

Categories
psychoanalysis

SC

1. In two weeks it’s my birthday, the saddest day of the year.

2. Tonight Biden won in SC and the media are calling it a landslide but when Bernie won the previous three primaries I don’t recollect them calling it a landslide.

3. I think everyone may be relieved that Bernie didn’t win, but I am not. I prefer Bernie ten times over Biden.

4. Still this is the Black vote and who am I to question the Black vote?

5. But I do, because we don’t need Joe Biden anywhere near the White House this time around.

6. I am sad that the Warren campaign may be over. A Warren presidency would be a dream. Bernie would be good too though not a dream.

7. This is all I have to say tonight here.

8. Also books. Books give solace and wisdom and a look inside the marvels of the human mind. There is nothing like books.

P.S. I just saw that #BidenHarris2020 is trending in Twitter and this is dreamy!

Categories
psychoanalysis

Hope, 2

1. Hope is not a feeling. Hope is a resolution.

2. I feel I have nothing to hang this hope on.

3. Which I think is the entire point of resolving to hope — for a while, see how it goes. (Hope is not a feeling).

4. I don’t want to ask anything of myself but to have hope.

5. Hope today is that:

5.1 S. loves me

5.2 Jennifer loves me.

5.3 My analyst loves me.

6. I can allow myself to be very little.

7. I will allow myself to be very little.

8. I find refuge in the thought that I am very little.

9. Very little babies don’t have to do anything.

10. I am a safe and loved little baby and there is nothing I have to do.

11. I am so scared.

12. Was this baby a terrified baby? Why yes, I think she was.

Painting, masher by Nadia Lysakowska, detail

Categories
psychoanalysis

Hope/luck

1. How much trauma is too much trauma? How do we heal?

2. I just read in the Guardian a beautiful extract from a forthcoming book written jointly by the family of Greta Thunberg. This particular bit is written by Greta’s mom.

3. Healing takes a village. It also takes patience. It also takes luck.

4. I feel I have a village and I have patience, but I need a bit of luck.

5. I am a Christian but it’s hard for me right now to think of God. God is for many such a source of succor. For me now he’s a source of anxiety and also rage.

6. God, I cannot deprive myself of anything for Lent because my life could not be more pared down. If I deprive myself of more there will be nothing keeping me alive.

7. God, why do you keep letting me down?

8. Should I “deprive” myself of hopelessness? Is it possible? What will life look like without hopelessness? Should I try?

(Many apologies because I have not being able to provide alt text for images lately. It’s an unforgivable omission but I find it utterly exhausting. I’ll catch up as soon as I can)

Categories
psychoanalysis queerness

Notes on the psychoanalytic treatment of queer patients

1. Please understand I speak as a lay person. I know so little.

2. All the key notions of psychoanalytic theory and psychoanalytic practice are subverted by queerness. Approaching a queer patient with therapeutic and conceptual tools developed mostly within a patriarchal, heteronormative framework will by necessity cause pain and (re)traumatize.

3. Feminist psychoanalysis is probably a godsend, but I wouldn’t know because I haven’t read it.

4. A queer person has a history in which the development of libido and the development of the death drive go hand in hand. I mean this in the most literal sense possible: our libido was never allowed, never possible. We knew this very early on, probably as babies. Our desire was always a forbidden desire that we absolutely needed to kill. (I realize a certain psychoanalytic thinking understands all sexuality this way; please spare me).

5. Terror.

6. Suicide.

7. Suicidal baby.

8. The queer baby dies in order to survive.

9. Love is tainted. Inherently. Even if we are deeply loved.

10. We are often not deeply loved. We are strange and don’t fit. Our bodies and minds betray us and those we love every day.

11. The patient-therapist relationship doesn’t fall under the terms of traditionally conceived power relations. Using this framework to relate to the patient will hurt the patient, whose longings have already been brutally punished.

12. A new understanding of the love between the patient and the analyst is imperative.

13. Analysts are socialized in a heteronormative, patriarchal society. They need to work hard at shedding as much of their conditioning as they can.

14. We, the queer people, are inherently monstrous. We are inherently unlovable. The therapist and the patient need to dismantle the conditions of possibility of this monstrousness, together.

15. An unusual openness is required. Rules must be broken. The house has already burned down.

16. We grieve together an irreparable sorrow. We grieve together a life lost. Healing can exist only through radical rebuilding. The master’s tools

17. Queer psychoanalytic houses are made of plasticine and wind tunnels. No one is kept out.

18. The boundaries of the self are exploded. They can be affirmed only in love.

18. We go together deep into the wreck; we feed off barnacles; we build underwater chambers in which to have afternoon tea.

19. There is no normal.

20. Libido freely passes back and forth between patient and analyst.

Illustration

Categories
books queerness

Deborah Levy’s The Man Who Saw Everything and Queer Trauma

Reviewers have read this as a story of self-absorption, but I see it instead as an investigation of the ways trauma disrupts time.

Saul, the protagonist, is a bisexual man who carries a hefty load of queer trauma. After his mother’s death his father and his brother torture him for being “inappropriately” masculine, and if you know about gender/sexuality trauma, you know that it never, ever goes away. Society will never stop being heteronormative, and every fresh reminder of your unfittingness will break the wound wide open.

When we encounter him, Soul is startlingly beautiful and universally attractive. His girlfriend has turned down his marriage proposal and, since he’s a scholar of the GDR and, fittingly, also a scholar of male dictators and their attitudes toward women (is he himself the women dictators abuse?), he goes to East Berlin to do research. In East Berlin traumatized, queer Saul lives that most heady of all times: the miraculous point in one’s youth when suffering and delight are equally acute and plentiful, and life feels like a torrential, delicious flood of pathos, lust, and love.

No one can stay long in such time. People prolong it with drugs but it inevitably ends. The mind cannot take all that intensity, and life anyway doesn’t work that way.

The non-traumatized mind (or the not-too-traumatized mind) moves on, looks back with nostalgia or embarrassment, incorporates the past into the present through memory, and finds a way to create satisfaction and contentment (and joy!) in adult living. The traumatized mind remains stuck in the past and the past is the present and its presence and absence equally torture us.

Levy is doing two things here:

The first is the thought experiment, would you survive a trip into your headiest days? Could you carry on after the acute re-experiencing of what you had and lost?

The second is an investigation of the mind of those who cannot but live in two places at once — the suffering and excitement of their past, the inevitable disappointment of their present.

I think the thought experiment is not really the point here. I think the point is that saul needs to go back, and back, and back, and both fix the terrible things that happened to him and also relive the grand things that happened to him and, this time, make them last, make them not go away. He needs to be back there and make it all override the way his life has become.

I love levy’s portrayal of the free, whirlwind, reciprocated desire Saul experiences in East Berlin. It’s beautiful and queer and delightful. Saul is innocent and kind, forgetful and selfish; he gets to have a second, less troubled childhood. He is hurt and he smothers this hurt in sex, as queer people sometimes do. Queer sex connects Saul to himself and heals, to an extent, or for the moment.

We don’t really know what the rest of saul’s life is like. We know he is loved, at least by some, and we also know that he fails massively at being happy.

Time is a kindness. Queer-traumatized people, most of us, find some relief in the dulling that time brings. How can one survive reliving freshly the moments when everything was still possible? Maybe one can’t.

Painting: Fred Smilde, Until that Time.

Categories
psychoanalysis

Disappointment

1. I started this as a way to keep in touch with my analyst.

2. I resumed this as a way to keep in touch with my new analyst.

3. Write is what I do.

4. I want to post book reviews here.

5. My analyst stopped reading my book reviews so I stopped sending them to her.

6. I don’t think she knows the role books play in my life.

7. This is not about her not reading my reviews. This is about her not knowing what books mean to me.

8. Here’s on thing: without books I wouldn’t have made it through childhood.

9. Without books I wouldn’t have made it through life.

10. I will post book reviews here. This is how I learn, by reading and thinking. This is how I keep alive.

11. I’ll send them to her and she is welcome not to read them.

12. I will review here the books I read.

13. My book reviews were really meant for her but when she stopped reading them they stopped being for her.

14. Is life being able to bear disappointments? I think it is. I wish I were able to find the joy though. Is there someone life gives you beside what it takes away?

15. Painting Tomasa Martin, Ref: 1369 BOOKS IN BALANCE, detail.

Categories
psychoanalysis

Comfort as connection

1. Sometimes you lose all sense of what keeps you connected to the world. In these times you need to find comfort.

2. Comfort is the connection of you to you.

3. It’s okay if you can only find it with drugs, or food, or drink, or touch.

4. Heat. Coolness. A bath. Music. Blankets. The internet. Scrolling. Tv shows. The passage of time.

5. Today I used drugs and the awareness of the passage of time. I connected to myself by

  • lowering agitation and inner torture
  • telling myself it would pass.

This second is fucking-A self soothing.

(Photo credit Ashim D’Silva, instagram.com/randomlies)

Categories
psychoanalysis

Transit

1. This is a nondescript, none too inspired new theme, but at least it’s legible.

2. Writing is hard.

3. Last week the connection with my analyst had to withstand great external blows.

4. I have inherited my mom’s, my dad’s, and my uncle’s physical and verbal violence. Thanks for nothing y’all.

5. Thank God in heaven I am not too emotionally violent, and can repair.

6. I absolutely loathe bringing this violence into my life.

7. I feel very sad when I am faulted for it but I take the accusation like a (sad and dejected) trooper (i.e. not much of a trooper but still).

8. Analyst A built me up for seven years then proceeded to take me down hard until I said enough and walked away.

9. This is the best testimony I have that good work sticks.

10. Analyst B has just learned that taking me down destroys me. Now she builds me up. I forgive her for destroying me.

11. Analyst B is as strong as the Golden Gate bridge. She sways and rocks but by God she is open for transit every fucking day.

Categories
psychoanalysis

Rage

1. Dissolving.

2. Dissolving.

3. Physical pain coming back.

4. Dissolving.

5. Rage.

6. Rage.

7. Rage.