Easy work

1. This is a psychoanalytic blog.

2. You won’t find comfort here (ok maybe a little).

3. You won’t find wisdom here (hmm maybe some?)

4. You won’t find guiding principles or witty maxims (I’m pretty sure).

5. You might find a quote or two.

6. Nothing useful (definitely).

7. Only the hard (tender, gentle, easy) work of love.

Drawing by Emma Kunz.

love psychoanalysis

Psych drugs, moms, and transitional objects

1. There is a site called Street Rx where people anonymously post how much they paid for street drugs.

2. It’s a crowdsourced way to help people not get overcharged.

3. I am not myself a consumer of street drugs (don’t need to; I have a good psychiatrist who gives me all I need and health insurance that pays for it, a tremendous privilege I never take for granted) but it gives me a strange comfort to see which ones of my drugs have street value.

4. When I get scared, or worried, or feel that my drugs are not enough to hold me together, I go to Street Rx and see that my drugs are sought after by people who are maybe also scared and worried, and I think that if these drugs are sought after by people then they are good, helpful drugs, and they will keep me together.

5. A psychiatrist once told me that drugs are psychodynamic. I believe this deeply. All care is pyschodynamic.

6. For me, at this time, drugs are transitional objects. They are the long arm of my analyst sitting at the bedside of little scared me and giving me a glass of warm milk and a kind, kind smile.

7. After my parents separated (a brutal and violent affair) I had night anxieties. I don’t remember much. I was very young. What I remember is that I had to call my mom. I would lie in my bed a long time trying to tough it out and always caved.

8. Maybe I caved only a handful of times and those few times feel like always.

9. My mom doesn’t remember any of this.

10. I couldn’t possibly get up and go to my mom myself because I was scared of the ghost men that populated the dark, so I called and called until my mom came.

11. I remember calling a lot. I remember calling with despair. I didn’t want to call my mom. I wanted to leave her alone, let her sleep. I was worried about her. She made constantly present to us how terrible everything was for her and us, how precarious and dangerous our situation. I wanted to take care of her. I needed to take care of her so that she would take care of us.

12. But I did call, and she would come, eventually, and say, What? and I would say the only words I could find to say.

13. I can’t sleep.

14. She would go into the kitchen and make me instant chamomile tea. She would sit on my bed and cool it with her breath and give it to me in spoonfuls.

15. But she didn’t smile. She was exhausted and anguished and worried. She would say, Hurry up, drink, and I tried to hurry up.

16. That is and forever will be the tastiest hot drink in the world.

17. Much earlier, before my parents separated, I promised myself I would never show weakness in front of my mom or dad.

18. But I did, on these post-separation nights, and my mom came, and, albeit not very graciously, she took care of me.

19. I know now, and in some small part of me I knew then, that my mom had no room in her mind to empathize with her kids.

20. I know now, and in some small part of me I knew then, that she would always take care of our physical health, but would never be able to connect with our minds. Our feelings were not something she worried about. I don’t think she could conceptualize that we had feelings at all.

21. I have been reading a lot of literature written by people with troubled childhoods real or fictional and I know I’m not alone in my experience of a radically absent mother. But I have seldom seen, in literature, a mother with such profound inability to form any understanding of the fact that her kids need her more than for clothing and food.

22. The only two places, in real life or in representation, where I have seen this complete abdication of the tenderness of motherhood are the Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante and the film version of Ordinary People (I have read the book but don’t remember it).

23. I scroll Street Rx and see those drugs that are the equivalent of a cup of hot milk (not chamomile tea, it’s hot milk now) my therapist is giving me while I lie scared and lonely in my bed in the dark, and see they are coveted, and think, I have this coveted thing that scared people seek. My psychiatrist has given them to me. My therapist (through my psychiatrist) is here with me and sees my pain. My therapist loves me.

24. I am not alone.

Painting by Vincent Buchinsky, via All Things Beautiful


Therapy during the pandemic

A couple of days ago a twitter thread by historians debated which historical moment was more similar to the current one. Historians were evenly split between the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and the 1918 flu pandemic.

What about all those other massively deadly times, though? World War I. World War II. Vietnam. South East Asia and the Middle East since 9/11. All the border deaths. All the genocides.

I worry that this time feels new and dreadful because we didn’t think it could happen to us, the capitalist West, the developed West, our (predominantly) White countries full of structure and infrastructure, full of law abiding (White) people with good jobs and good livings and a ton of technology and comfortable homes.

My homeless-on-and-off friend (most unhoused people are on and off; they still count as homeless) is not giving the pandemic a thought. Maybe she has bigger problems on her hands. Maybe she has less to lose. Maybe she doesn’t care about dying (she doesn’t).

I have therapy on skype and:

1. I ask myself if my trauma shit is still relevant.

2. I ask myself if my therapist thinks my trauma shit is still relevant.


3. My shit doesn’t go away because there is a pandemic.

4. My shit gets worse because there is a pandemic.


5, The pandemic brings up childhood horrors.

6. The paranoid infant.

7. The abandoned child.

8. The child left to fend for herself.

9. The child with no tools to fend for herself who nonetheless built herself a little fire each night and curled up by it to ward off the horror.

To my therapist:

10. You keep your shit together for me.

11. You appear on the screen with a smile, freshly washed hair, a nice shirt, say, “How are you” and mean it.

12. You hesitate to go fully online because some of your patients don’t have the technology, the privacy, or the stability to do therapy online.

13. You say, I’ve got you.

To all therapists/helpers:

14. This is not just a job though it is also a job.

15. You are in the business of healing which is the business of love and

by God

16. There is no higher calling; there isn’t a nobler pursuit.

Painting by Perle Fine via a casualistic tendency


Grieving (twenty steps)

1. My friend G. spent decades in the company of despair. Her despair was deep and unrelenting.

2. During the time she was active, working at her job, and able-bodied she would catch a break once in a while, for a bit.

3. Then she got bad cancer and the despair abated for a while. Cancer felt like a break.

4. Part of the relief was that she thought she would die soon, and that felt delicious to her.

5. But she carried on living for years, and her life went back to being filled with despair, and her lifedespair meshed with the despair of not dying, the incomprehension of being still alive.

6. I didn’t talk to her much during her last few years, but when I did she would ask me if I thought she would die soon, and I would say, Yes, don’t worry, it will be soon.

7. I don’t think she had these conversations with many people. I don’t know that many people would have known to comfort her by assuring of her soon-death.

8. She was never really in physical pain.

9. I think of her often, partly because I miss her terribly, partly because of her depth of her pain.

10. I tell myself I did alleviate it a bit.

11. I tell myself she had moments of tremendous joy and also quiet peace (she did).

12. I tell myself no one knows what goes on in another’s life.

13. I tell myself that the lives of people in great pain have a way, from the outside, to hide the joy the people still feel.

14. My friend G. could never have committed suicide. She said she was too chicken for it.

15. When I think about her, I also think that she left me here.

16. For a while after she died I believed she might help me from the heavenly dimension where she certainly is, but I haven’t felt her help.

17. I haven’t even felt her presence.

18. This person was more than a sister to me, more than a friend. She was my life.

19. Why isn’t she talking to me.

20. Why isn’t she helping.

Painting Alexei Adonin


Italy [heart emoji]

The mayor of Rome put this banner on a balcony at city hall (overlooking one of the most beautiful squares in Rome): “Andrà tutto bene.” “Everything will be okay.”

Thank you mayor.



Over the months I have gotten sicker

I leave bed only to bathe fetch bottles of green water

they tell me, Have hope

where in my body?

where in my mind?

I tell Kate, One day at a time

me, I can’t find a leaf to hang on

Painting by Marianne Hendriks.


Patient’s lament

1. Analyst A said

2. You don’t need to work so hard

3. Please ease up

4. Take breaks

5. Happy sessions are okay

6. Analyst B says

7. We don’t blast through defenses

8. Defenses are there for a reason, we respect them

9. But I say

10. How can I not work

11. Hard

12. How can I not want to be thrown into

13. The deep end of the mucky pool

14. When

15. Flames are licking my heels

16. The ground underneath is splitting open

17. I see nothing in the next hour but

18. My extinction

Painting by Peggy Lee (detail)


Analysis is a scary place

1. Fear is a feeling among feelings, and like all feelings sometimes you just can’t tell where it comes from.

2. You live with it, as best you can.

3. Phobias and obsessions are fears attached to arbitrary or symbolic objects.

4. Maybe.

5 I don’t know anything.

6. The fear that has been gripping me is ebbing, but I so wish it gone.

7. I have to say, though: it is preferable to rage.

8. Maybe this fear is rage turned inward, so no one gets hurt but me.

9. I am infinitely disposable. I can take the pain and anguish of the world. Please let no one be hurt but me.

10. The omnipotent child is an absolutely, cosmically terrified child. Air hurts her body, her throat, the cavity of her chest. She is cold. She waits for death like a mercy and her just deserts.

11. Maybe fear is what happens when you trust your analyst with your baby self.

12. Maybe fear is what happens when you don’t trust her enough.

13. This is not to be solved by thinking. This is to be solved by living.

14. Analysis is a very scary place.

15. There are very few answers.

16. This is why it’s beautiful.

Painting by Elizabeth Lennie.

art psychoanalysis

All walls crumble

Photograph Matthew Grandanson

Let’s meet at the corner shop

1. Analyst A and I had an ongoing, entirely therapeutic (I mean this) conversation about the best song ever written.

2. At the time I was pretty solid on the idea that Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide” was the best song ever written.

3. Analyst A smiled and said, “That’s a damn fine song.”

4. Her pick was “Send in the Clowns” sung by Judy Collins.

5. I listened to it once.

6. Analyst A was older then me by maybe 10 years.

7. Analyst B is younger than me by 10 years and we have few cultural reference in common.

8. She is not a reader of novels (she claims she was and will be again) or poetry, nor a watcher of films or TV. She is American. She likes art but does not know a lot of it, I don’t think. And i don’t know her generation’s music (I wasn’t in the US during her music-taste-shaping years).

9. Analyst B is not a theoretician or a philosopher or if she is she keeps it to herself.

10. It’s hard for me that I have few cultural references in common with my analyst.

11. She’s been making a fine, fine mom these last few months though, and that has been beautiful.

Painting by Doortje Hannig.