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.
1. I thought I might start listing things that are absolutely incontrovertibly horrible yet for some reason my mind is not lighting up in full red alert terror that they might happen to me.
2. Also things that don’t cause me to feel empathy so disregulated that it’s as if they were happening to me.
3. And just to be clear, empathy, concern, and opprobrium are good responses. Abject terror, despair, and a sense that the world is ending, well, they don’t help anyone.
4. And now I feel ashamed to list them so they’ll stay forever in my mind.
5. But here’s an exercise: find the things that do not terrify you, then wonder if the things that do terrify you are not so dissimilar. And if they are not, why do similar things fall on different sides of the terror spectrum? What else is going on?
6. And maybe just maybe that other thing that is going on? Maybe that can heal.
2. Once someone said to me she lives with terror all the time so she understood me and my terror entirely and I said well the kind of terror I feel could not be lived with all the time because it is literally unendurable.
3. She became angry that I was invalidating her terror.
4. When we endure the unendurable we die and the person who keeps living is a dead person.
5. My therapist has started seeing the dead little girl and she has started taking to her so maybe there is rescue yet.
6. I wonder how much terror I gobbled up as a kid. Must have been a lot.
1. Many of my friends are scared. I am scared. We have a terrible, cruel president who portends more and more pain, insecurity, and death for all of us.
2. And then we have COVID-19, and a government that will make it all but impossible for an epidemic to be managed anywhere near decently in our country.
3. Already people are charged ridiculous sums of money for COVID-19-related hospitalizations. Already, we know, people won’t come forward for fear of enormous bills, lost wages, lost jobs, deportation.
4. And then there are all the captive populations, mostly poor, mostly minorities, mostly abandoned (we still have concentration camps; we have bigger concentration camps; they are places of genocide and torment).
5. In the early 2000s I felt great despair over Guantánamo. Guantánamo is still there. Its population will die out, unfreed. Guantánamo is now all over the US. Children are in it. We are too exhausted and too frightened to do anything.
6. Analyst A gave me a mug once for my birthday. I have loved this mug. Last night the mug broke. I have put the broken mug, its two broken pieces, one inside the other on the shelf in front of me.
7. Life breaks irreparably but then we all — all of us find ways to be happy, at least sometimes, after the wreck. We find ways to be happy. We may not always be happy, but sometimes we are happy.
8. Maybe if we count all the moments we are actively miserable and all the moments we are actively happy, they even out.
9. How can therapy help when the world is so horrible?
10. First, you ask yourself how much of your pain is pain you are actually feeling your own self in this moment and how much is pain you feel because of uncertainty about the future, empathy toward others, or fear of what might happen.
11. Fear has deep roots. The capacity to feel the pain of others also has deep roots.
12. I go back to a time when I was afraid and no one helped me. My parents had no capacity to reassure me in any way. My parents could not even see me. My fear was annoying, negligible, or funny.
13. You learn to keep your fear to yourself. You learn to be tough. You never learn to modulate it. One day, tough is no longer enough and fear spills over the confines of your body and inks the entire universe. You float in terror.
14. No one ever helped me develop a containment system. I don’t have a decent one. My therapist and I have to start from scratch.
15. When your emotionally remote parents experience pain or distress, these feelings become yours.
16. Except you are little and your parents’ troubles are too big and scary and everyone is going to die. Pain evades the confines of your body and inks the sky.
17. You try to help your mom and dad.
18. You cannot help them.
19. You become a child of sorrow.
20. Therapy takes me back to when these injuries happened. My therapist looks with me into the wounds and the chasm. Then we have a do-over, the two of us.
21. Scary things are realistically scary when the confines of your body hold.
22. The pain of others, just like yours, is marbled with good days, resilience, even joy. It is not yours to carry. They are not carrying your pain.
23. You talk and talk and the past loosens its grip on you. Your body grows stronger confines. You hold the pain and worry in small places you can leave and distract yourself from.
24. You allow yourself joy. You allow yourself life.