I could say weekends are little deaths but that would be a platitude and it would be false. Weekends are journeys to a place where there is nothing. This place is the land of perpetual suspension. Death brings conclusion but this place, the land of weekends, is not blessed by the possibility of conclusion. This land is the land of eternal and inescapable nothingness.

Weekends are suspended in time in a way only childhood days are. Childhood is the only time in life when time truly never passes. Weekends are a return to the timeless nothingness of awful childhood days. Of those days, I remember the doom. Also, the impotent rage. Also, the wish for death. Also, the desperate (literally — no hope) desire for a rescue I knew could not possibly come.

I invented my own rescues, of course — every child does — but my rescues were rooted in emptiness and were just as desultory as the nothingness of those unrescuable days. My rescues were fantasies of impossible things. I reveled in the impossibility in order to try to give substance and reality to my pain. If I could truly imagine a rescue and then also imagine how this rescue could or would not come, I would be able to feel sad for myself and this sadness would be better than the nothingness.  At the same time, though, I knew I had concocted the whole thing in my head and my feeling sad for myself was phony. At the end, what was real and solid was the nothingness. Acres, miles, infinitudes of nothingness. Nothingness forever. I would get a lump in my throat but the-child-who-had-renounced-tears could not cry. (I would try to cry. I tried to cry for a long time. It took me decades to feel that I was entitled to tears.) Eventually the days passed but the sense of doom never did. The sense of doom stayed on even when the days passed and life trickled (flowed?) again. I had stared hell in the face and I knew hell was real, only a thin gauze away from the normality of my days. Hell was the foundation of my life, more real than anything else in it. The nothingness was what everything else in my life rested on. The nothingness would never, ever go away.

There is no color in the land of weekend nothingness. This is a land of interminable tedium, purposelessness, absence. It’s a land with no one but me. It’s a plain of white rocks, the occasional withered or burned tree stump, a pale sun, dust. There is no temperature and there is no life. There is no air. There is no wind. There is no movement.There is no past. There is no future. The land of nothingness makes a mockery of memory.

Weekends are places of banishment, just like the nothing-days of childhood were places of banishment. Why was I banished there? What had I done? What had I done? What had I done?

Oh, but to really ask that would have been to feel sad for myself and I didn’t feel sad for myself. I had done something awful and the nothingness was where I belonged. The nothingness had been with me from the day I was born or, better, the day I was thought of in God’s mind. I was a child doomed to nothingness. The nothingness would never go away because I was essentially different from everyone and everything in the world and this difference was that I dwelled in nothingness, belonged in nothingness, and nothingness would have me forever.


think difficult

Demo, by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan.

People say things about others that, in some sense, are most accurate and true, yet also intensely relative to that person’s perception or just the fact of their presence (their simple being there, among the people they assess). I knew someone once who told me that a certain department in a certain university was ruthless and cutthroat. Later, I met someone who experienced directly the ruthlessness of that department and reported to me about it in ways that corroborated the first person’s experience. Later yet, I met two more people who ended up not getting tenure in that department but who nonetheless described it as a lovely and supportive place. And then, by a strange turn of circumstances, I made friends with quite a few members of that department and what everyone had told me about it through the years seemed perfectly accurate — that it was ruthless and cutthroat and that it was lovely and supportive — and I could see perfectly well why each of these people would describe that department the way they did, and it wasn’t confusing at all.

So now, in my mind, that department is both wonderful and cruel, and I think I would know what people would find it preponderantly cruel and what people would find it preponderantly wonderful, and why. And if someone asked me, “Do you think I’d fit well in that department?” I’d have to say, “I don’t know, it depends very much on who you are.” But if they entered the department and then told me all about its duplicity and Machiavellian nature, I’d say, “I know,” and if they told me instead how caring and interesting everyone is, I’d say the same.


This is all to say that you can sincerely and non-condescendingly sympathize with everyone when they tell you how they feel about something or someone, but you shouldn’t form an opinion on the people they are talking about before you experience them yourself.

Maybe there are serious psychological studies out there about the kind of people who become ardent Republicans and the kind of people who become ardent Democrats. In general, the choice of political allegiance and belonging seems to me to say very much about the way people relate to themselves, others, the world, and God. I wouldn’t want for a second to suggest that there is some kind of psychological determinism in place here. But one’s history and the ways one finds to negotiate one’s relationship with the world shape very much how one views the world and what one thinks works best to make the world a better, more acceptable, more orderly place.

There is certainly a very complex interaction between psychology and morality, and reducing one in terms of the other would be facile, silly, and unfair (though people do it all the time, especially now that evolutionary psychology is oh-so-popular).  I don’t claim to begin to understand the vagaries of this interaction, but I think we should all make great efforts to eschew simple explanations and always aim for the complex, the difficult, and the tentative.

love psychoanalysis

islands, islets, and reservoirs

If I had to measure the progress of my analysis in terms of the abatement of my symptoms, I’d have to say that it’s being a disaster. The one symptom with which I walked in — or, rather, the symptom that took me there — was paralyzing terror, and the terror is alive and kicking. In fact, the terror has worsened. When I walked into my therapist’s office I was scared out of my mind, but I wasn’t agoraphobic. Now I’m scared out of my mind and badly agoraphobic.

But I’m being imprecise. Agoraphobia developed later, as a way, I believe, to give borders and definition to the terror. Unbound terror is impossible to live with. My mind decided that I’d be safe inside the house, thus giving itself much needed respite. And I’m not scared out of my mind the way I was then. I’m scared out of my mind occasionally; most times, I’m pretty much okay as long as I stay home or within the confines of an area that my mind perceives as pretty safe. The size of this area changes. Sometimes, on good stretches, it’s a sizable area. Sometimes I feel pretty good. Lately I’ve felt terrible.

There are a few things that are making these days terrible, not that I understand them all. One of these things, I think, is that the group of humans who make me feel like I am taken care of has temporarily rearranged itself. Another of these things is that I feel a devastating, reciprocal love between my therapist and me.

The first thing is something my mind grasps pretty easily. If I think of people’s reassuming their ordinary places and roles in my life I immediately, and I hope rightly, anticipate relief. The second thing I understand only with a sort of therapeutic instinct. There are parts of me that seem to float at some distance from the main island of my raw emotional self — little islets connected only with pontoons or maybe thin isthmuses. Or maybe that’s how I see things now because the part of me who is writing this is sitting smack in the middle of the Raw Emotional Self island and perceives those other pieces of land as small and distant. In any case, the Therapeutic Instinct islet tells me that it is impossible that I should be delving deeply into the warm throbbing love between my therapist and me, allow myself to feel it, allow myself to believe in it fully, without being absolutely terrified.

The day I met her I told myself, “I will not fall in love with this woman.” Of course I failed repeatedly, but always managed to keep some reservoirs of distance (in the guise of rage, contempt, paranoia, indifference, etc.) between us. Now, for the first time, these reservoirs have evolved into stagnant swamps, drained down a sinkhole of steady, unflinching work on both of our parts.

The Therapeutic Instinct island tells me it is not possible that I should relinquish the distancing mechanism that have kept me sane and functioning all this time without experiencing a serious worsening of symptoms.

Now, what do we make of all these water metaphors?



Sometimes psychic pain is so intense that the mind goes into red alert and summons up all of its resources, police, firetrucks, paramedics rushing to the scene of hurt blaring deafeningly and cacophonously. sadness morphs into rage morphs into terror. terror wins the day. terror is the mind in definite, intolerable overload.

love psychoanalysis

learning to love

Glassell Park graffiti, L.A.

I am now loving my analyst. What a difficult feeling this has been to carve, hold, allow, sustain. I almost don’t mind missing her terribly on weekends because this missing does not feel, as it used to, like the desperate abandonment endured by an uncomprehending baby but, rather, like the wrenching longing for someone who is temporarily absent but fundamentally there, loved and loving, certain to return. While the week could not go any faster, the weekend minutes etch themselves in my mind in precise detail. I notice them all. The weekend is a very rich time. These excruciatingly slow days are their own gift in intensity and abundance.

My mother is visiting, but how to explain to her, the woman who could not teach me love, what it is to push myself up and, step by little step, learn to love on my own? In this slow slow weekend I tell her that I’m very sad; she helps me any way she can, tenderly, solicitously, attentively. She does or does not ask me why, but it doesn’t matter, because if I tell her I miss my analyst she’ll simply say, soothingly, “Oh, but you’ll see her soon!” Yet this is a gift, too, this ham-fisted consoling, this trying to make me things better for me, to obliterate the pain with reason. There could be dismissal, incomprehension, jealousy. I am grateful for every moment in which those who love me do not feel jealous of the fierce love I feel for my analyst.

In fact, I am genuinely lucky with my cheering crowd, my little fan club. They love my therapist for teaching me to love her. Miraculously, they understand. Would I understand if I were in their place? No, not yet. I haven’t yet learned to run on my own. I am only now beginning to walk, step by little wobbly step.



At first i didn’t believe I was the author of my own story. At first I couldn’t even say my name out loud.

It’s weird, this issue of authorship. You don’t realize its depth, is breadth, until a symptom points you to it. I couldn’t say my name out loud. I couldn’t say any name out loud. Names scared me tremendously.

Authorship, authority, authorization, authoritarian, authoritative. I couldn’t think of myself as the author of the narrative of my life.

Can you be the author of your life if you don’t think yourself capable of being the author of the narrative of your life? Can you think of your life except in terms of narrative?


I had to start from the very early days. “The day i was born my dad said, ‘What an ugly child’.”


Who authorizes this blog, this post, this narrative attempt? Who authors it? What authority does it carry? For whom?



You have to start with the pain. The pain always comes first. The pain is an absolute — it doesn’t allow contestations. The pain is the bedrock of interpretation. All interpretation builds on the uninterpretable: the foundation, the primus movens, the pain.