it is the task

of the analyst,

of the theologian, of the lover,

of the humanitarian, of the friend,

of the self, of the neighbor,

to overcome one’s narcissism.

when one has suffered long enough,

one develops.

we are learning

to work-with our madness

for the sake of

soul, psyche, partners,

and world.


dream-life, like good therapy, invites us

to pay attention to ourselves

at every predictable and non-predictable moment.

What is essential is invisible to the eye.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery

It is a bad way of reading another man’s heart to conceal one’s own.
— Rousseau


inside and outside work,

between and individual work,

depth and surface work,

logic and feeling work,

this and that,

you and me,

past and future,

here and now.

this work?

has it all.

time of day.

time of day.

dip,  dive,  into being.



into being.

the face,

reminding us to wake up

from foggy then-&-there,

and live.


there can be no depth without the way to depth.

how little
we know.

To realize that we are in a chronic state of emotional indigestion might go some way toward engendering a gentler approach to one another. We might give each other time, sometimes quality time.
— eigen

"Did this advance things?" -Neville Symington

I often am always questioning: the contents of a session, of what a patient may or may not say, what this might mean about that, who is actually talking about whom—as well as questioning what it is that I'm supposed to be doing. Am I the analytic therapist who sits back and simply listens? Contains? Absorbs and digests? (Interesting that I would use the word "simply" to kind of demean the invaluable art of listening). Perhaps this speaks a little to the pressure I feel within my own personality. Or, am I the kind of therapist that wants change? That wants to advocate and fight for a kind of subtle (radical) transformation in a person's life? Am I content to leave things in a person's personality as I found them, well enough alone, or do I come and knock at that particular door, again and again and again, as long as the person may tolerate me, like a dedicated salesman who is eager to talk and engage and have someone open the door? 

One of my favorite thinkers and practitioners, Neville Symington, asks himself the question after each session: did this advance things? It's possible that he asks himself this after each interpretation, each sentence or word uttered, but I'm not certain if I'm making that up or if I truly did read it somewhere in his work. Did this advance things? Is what I'm thinking, and possibly, then, saying, truly helping nourish or confront something in this other that advocate the conditions for psychological growth? Or am i just talking? Am I just speaking empty words that take up room in the air, not necessarily for good or for worse, but with a kind of benign neutrality that leaves us both feeling safe? Is my patient growing? Is that the expectation? If it becomes the agenda, of the silently agreed upon point of meeting, do we subtly ruin the thing? Is our task to simply meet? There's that word again. As if meeting doesn't provide any kind of advancement or transformation in and of itself. I think of conversations I've had that have shifted my personality. I remember conversations that have, without necessarily meaning to, sent me off on a new direction. Does that count as "advancing things?" As psychoanalytic psychotherapy? And— how many conversations have I been in, that have left me feeling entirely missed and mis-understood and frustrated? How many times have I been the one who has, as the philosopher Martin Buber described, mis-met someone?

How we we, how do I, come to understand what advancement is at all, and what that means for me, for my patients, for my intimate relationships outside of the office? Is advancement in the service of love? Can advancement happen without love? Is it love itself? What is the spirit behind the use of the very word? Is it for a better life? Is it for personal satisfaction? For growth? Is it for both, patient and myself? 

"Much of what we do, we do automatically and without thinking." —Stan Tatkin

Much of what we do.

This is a kind way of saying, that much of our lives, if left unchecked, are left to these unthought-through ways of existing. That we as human animals tend to react, act, react again and again in various ways—and that we are more often than not surrendered, passive, to those automatic, or unconscious, ways of operating in the world. Both inside world and outside world.

The analyst Carl Jung said that, "Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate."

In many ways, that unless we get to work on learning how to partner with our capacities, unless we get to the hard, laborious work of working-with our own flavors of madness and "crazy" and pain, that these entities will remain lodged, so it were, within our personalities. They will remain and they will influence our automatic responses and become part of the 'much of what we do.' 

That trauma or pain or memory, after it is experienced, doesn't dissipate or evaporate in the psyche—but remains in the air of the person. 

This is why psychotherapy is for you, is for me, is for the average, flesh and blood individual. This is why this work is so important, so life-changing. For the work on the inside directly relates to the feeling of the outside; we live how we feel. And if "much of what we do" is dictated by these processes, then they are indeed worth our time and energy and our commitment. 

anger. is often grief that has been silent for too long.
— waheed

where are we?

who are we?

what can

we learn

about living?

the fate of pain,

the truth of pain,

the weight of pain,

it's happening

now, now, now.

one of the tasks
of therapy
is to find
all that shame
has hidden.



our minds can change, and with a changed mind our personal world changes.
— n. symington

we dip into,

we fill, we feel,

psyche's colors.

up, up, up.

come down,

this is our work now.

how tightly

our shame winds us (up).




growing/shrinking,  big/small,  too much/too little.

too much/too little.

shame seems

like a solitary pain,

but it is indeed

deeply relational.

we preheat the oven,

we put on the coffee.

we rack our brains

of how

all of these bills will be paid;

bills of rent,

bills of shame,

bills of electricity and power

and feeling trapped.

we try our best

to live and learn,

to love and lose,

to forgive and forget—


it is so hard.

we try our best

at making a life.

Eventually I confess to a friend some details about my weeping—its intensity, its frequency. She says (kindly) that she thinks we sometimes weep in front of a mirror not to inflame self-pity, but because we want to feel witnessed in our despair.

maggie nelson, bluets

the psychoanalyst michael eigen writes 

that therapy work is not easy, that pain is a part of it.

but? so is love. 

and for some, he contends, 

love is the greatest pain of all. 

we create ourselves
by our choices
— kierkegaard

we, all,

have holes

in our personality;

we're, all,


in this way

or that.

getting in touch

with that terrible shame,

that no one

would possibly stay.

we search,

we seek,

we try to find,

all that shame

has covered.



emotional life

is at the core

of everyday life—

feelings matter.

it will be a sore fight letting go
and letting the sea in.
— milner

we learn

to patch together

our bits of life,

to keep ourselves

reaching for more.

therapy as art,

as invitation

to create

from what is

already there.

personality forms and adapts, 
shatters and solidifies, 
ebbs and flow;
we work with
what is available. 



what do we do?

how do we do?

thinking, feeling, sensing,

all part of a life.

it is a joy to be hidden, but disaster not to be found.
— winnicott

we are learning

to live in the

flow of feelings -

to understand

that feelings matter.

our selves

are in

our symptoms.

what will we build together?

psyche, like the spiritual, like art,

cannot stay stagnant -

it demands attention, momentum,


what will we,

what can we, work-with?


what can we build together?


when something goes wrong,

we go deeper.

the good stuff is in the mess.

this is our time,

this is mine.

a psychic playground,

cast out onto the world.

with characters and short stories,

objects and faces.








(you know,

the classics)





wonder, awe.

shock, contempt.

open it up,

rather than

shut it down.


who are you?

who are we?

what have we become?

for not to work-with, is to work against
— mary oliver

wombs of hate,

wombs of shame,

wombs of rejection

and obstruction.

wombs that

give birth

to our feeling

of life.

psyche must
be built, created, sculpted.

concerned with

interior design

of interior world -

psychoanalytic aesthetics.

can we make room for ourselves?
— michael eigen

we protect -
our insecurities,
our insecure senses of ourselves,
our dependencies.

we spend a great deal
of effort, of time, of energy
protecting that which
may not need protection
at all.

psychoanalysis uses words like ego and id, but we forget that we are talking about ourselves.

to understand many things, you must reach out of your own condition.
— mary oliver

to be human,

is to become


...but i cannot know the world to which i am going.
— david whyte

what happens
when we
the unwelcome?

too often,
for feeling -
for developing
capacity to

what if
the scream of infancy
never stops?

what lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
— emerson

we all weather
our (psychic) storms
one way or another.

shame tells us that
something is lacking--
something, missing;
something is wrong at
the floor of personality,
and must be hidden.

paradoxically, shame,
must be faced.

even a little
can be a lot.


therapy, therapist,

as (true) self auxiliary,

as (true) self object -

what does one do

with self in the witness

of (an)other?

therapy, therapist,

where the task

is to introduce


to (him/her) self.

we are traumatized by incapacity to tolerate and work-with what happens to us and within us.
— eigen


going to be


therapy is about survival;
it helps, it teaches
us to taste survival. 
it helps us to survive survival,
to learn how to survive better
more full.

what do we see
when we face faces?

our partner's? 
our children's?
our own?

what do we see
when we face faces?

the eyes of our neighbor,
local and global,
glancing, piercing,
longing, fleeting,
avoiding, shaming,
loving, touching?

what do we see
when we face faces?

and what don't we see
when we don't?

even a little

can be a lot.

we become tyrannized
by what has once
saved us.


it takes a long time

to become who you are.

thoughts, without a thinker.
feelings, with no feeler.
experience, with no body (nobody) to have.

it’s one thing to be alive,
and another to live.

if you aren’t learning, you have not been paying attention. if you have nothing to say, it is because your heart is closed.
— hoagland

sometimes joy - full,
oftentimes pain - full. 
what's the fate of all of this pain?
who can welcome it? 
you? me? anyone
who can tolerate - suffer - these growing
edges of pain? these growing pains?

what's the point? 
this never - ending sea of progressing,
better said, processing,
that we swim around in.
sink around in. 
where faces and stories and tapes
and moments of then and there,
happening here and now,
are recorded, 
or not

who can suffer learning? 
who among us can face it's beauty,
it's demand? 
who can open up arms,
and limbs,
real or phantom,
to this eternal
and never - ending
and defeat?

a psychoanalytic session
is in itself
the very unrepeatable and yet repeated experience.

blame is a failure of understanding.
— day

slowly, no doubt,
is this work
of learning
to hear the soft voice
of our own lives.

walled (off) self.
walls, surrounding self,
impenetrable existence
where you stay there and i’ll stay here.

high, tall structures
of wood, of brick,
of concrete grey like seattle sky.
walled off from sun, from ultraviolet space.
walls creating space,
space necessary (or used to?) for life.
protective dividers from unbearable world (self)
of you and i and me and them and different.

walls (rise) when self touches,
whether pain or pleasure touch.
walls when self feels,
(weather) storm or springtime feeling.

holding perimeters
that keep (us) the elements at bay,
away, afar. 
raw material of
love and death and joy and shame,
wall(full) lives of safety,
of shelter, of (sense of) control.
walls of home, of prison,
decorated and lively,
colourful and drab.
walls of fashion, of debt,
no one can afford.

walls that (sometimes) give way,
crumble down, expose.
experience knocks at the screen door,
and we, wall-less, go to answer,
go to let (them, self) in.

wall-less naked-ness.
naked moments,
naked experience,
naked (psychic) touch;
where only skin is left
to hold the self.

such moments,
make us ready
to work with walls.

oceans and selves,
more similar than different;
like music, like poetry, like stories,
all, take time
to happen.

intrapsychic (inside - mind)
interpersonal (outside - person)

our violence
(bion wrote of psychic murder)
is our attempt
to reduce
the complexity of meaning.

this is how we make important changes: barely, poorly, slowly.
— lamott

what we expect to see,
is the
only thing we see.

what’s therapy about?

therapy is about learning;
it’s all about learning how to build,
how to organize,
how to understand and
how to make use of

complicated mind.

psychoanalysis becomes a place where patient and therapist dream each other into life.
— eigen

what we don’t know
how to make room for,
and how to work with,
will persecute us
from within and without.

we need struggle
with ourselves,
and see what else
is there.

we wake up, 
we ready the eggs, put on the coffee, 
we break fast.

we, as william blake says,
bear the beams of love,
of sun,
of cloud and moon.

we wake up,
we follow our feet, try to be alive to this
last and first,
one and only day.


pressing, pressure.

emotional pressure,
per bodily square inch. 
upwards, downwards,
pressure(s) from self,
pressure(s) from other.

all over pressure.

force, force(d),
press and
push and

emotional pressure,
to do and think and be
accepting ways
that aren’t
always true.

make us
soft again.

we’re always
working something out, 
aren’t we?

(i’ll use you,
you use me)

trying to organize,
trying to create,
trying to make sense,
trying to live in the world
with some floor underneath.

the mind
is healed
by truth.

we all
suspect deep things
of one another -
until these things are dealt with,
we will never know
(real) relation.

much of human psychology is based on the consequences of early life experience, attachment, and nurturance, because that is when the brain lays down its model of the world.
— hawkins

in the art of love,
we all
must start
from the beginning.

greed is in(timate) with scarcity. 

we are learning, how.

how to live, how to work-with,
how to suffer, how to stay,
how to get-our-arm-around,
how to slow.

we are learning, how.

how to hold, how to make room,
how to play, how to imagine,
how to dip and feel,
if only for a little while.

we are learning, how;
we are learning (im)possible things;
we, will never stop learning.

confidence isn’t
the absence of fear or anxiety or doubt;
it’s choosing to take a step
(left foot, right foot, slowly)

knots of pressure,
knots of shame,
knots of aggression
and betrayal
and loss of faith
and anxiety;
we long to take care
of knots.

it turns out, that welcome is solidarity
— lamott

(care, responsibility, 
respect, knowledge)
is the only thing
that can change
the human heart.

is the workshop
of heart & mind;
body & soul;
life & death.

the anxiousness,
of not-knowing

this anxious place,
this place of anxiety

(bion wrote of a stomach
for anxiety)

one must have a stomach -
to stomach it,
to hold it,
to digest (to try)
to break-it-down

one, instead,
is tempted
to throw it up,
to shit it out,
to a kind of bulimia nervosa (insatiable nervousness)

insatiable nervousness
untolerable anxiety

where one cannot make use of
the nutrients of anxiety,
which is to say,


psychoanalysis (mind-knowing)
is like beauty;
its effects (affects)
cannot be destroyed.

we live
the way
that we feel.

where shall we seek the nature of man? in the stars? in the earth? in the snarl of a tiger, the terror of the heart? i seek within.
— wheelis

what is therapy?
a long, slowly arrived at letter–
a bit chaotic,
hard to read, to write
at times,
always unfolding
to new pages.

at the center of psychotherapy,
is a radical faith (not-knowing);
a radical openness;
a radical curiosity (attempting to know).
on earth (in the room) 
will we discover?

there is no easy way out of oneself;
one must work with oneself
all life long.

grief (spills)
on the streets,
on dream canvas.
grief (drips)
on the page,
the screen.

in solitude, we sit.
we throw on the wet suit,
(too tight, not tight enough)
preparing to dip down
into watery self;
an ocean of known & unknown,
lakes & ponds
of sludge, 
of shit,
of slime.

in solitude, we hear our ambivalence,
we feel desire & dread dance,
even here (especially here)
anything to distract–
to get us out & away,
off the hook, they say.

tweet, text, tone–
someone save us from slippery self.
self that spills,
out and on,
every moment,
every day,
every body.
self that cannot
but interact, 

(cannot help?)

someone save us from suffocating self–
in a room too small,
walls too close–
that the wetness of feelings
fill up (feel up)
too quickly;
we are all afraid. 
we are all so scared (sacred) selves.

someone (you? me? us?) helping to surrender to self;
we are wanting to drown,
to get wet,
to feel,
to explore,
enliven, at the same time, not interested.

in solitude, it all is here.
in solitude, yes & no.
in solitude, sinking into self
& scared out of mind self, both, welcome.
in solitude, sinking
& scanning, scouting, for higher ground.

we (cannot help) but
try and sit, to live it all.

we are alive
trying to learn
about living.


are always 


what is therapy?

it is beginning
to take apart
the deep stitches of the mind,
in hopes
of sewing,
something new.

the conscious fear is not being loved; the unconscious fear is that of loving.
— fromm

it feels as though we’re no different than the garden snake, you and i, 
to take off the old life.

when we remember, 
we do just that: 
re - member
we put back together. 
we bring back into relationship. 
we hold the hand of.

full of thought, regret, hope dashed or not dashed yet,
full of memory, pride and more than enough
of spilled, personal grief, 

i begin another page, another poem.

so many notions fill the day! i give them gowns of words,
sometimes i give them little shoes that rhyme.

what an elite life!

while somewhere someone is kissing a face that is crying. 
while somewhere women are walking out, at two in the morning–many miles to find water. 
while somewhere a bomb is getting ready to explode.

/mary oliver

wrestle in the sheets of your bed.

pay attention at the stoplight when the memory returns.

bite your lower lip at those waves of affection that warmly grace your shore, from time to time.

live it all.

we sweep the floors,

we sip our coffee,

we do the laundry,

taking down baskets at a time;

baskets of whites,

baskets of grief,

baskets of desire, even worse,

desire unfulfilled.


we preheat the over,

we rack our brains

as to how

all of these bills will get paid;

bills of rent,

bills of shame,

debts of electricity and kindnesses and warm feelings of love.


we try our best,

to survive–

but even more,

to have a life.

i’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life.
— angelou

trembling, shaking,
leaving, staying;
drinking, writing,
working, playing;
fearing, losing,
attaching, grieving;
ignoring, avoiding,
facing, weeping.


are the things of a life.

more, more, more

but all, in best effort, 

to fill the emptiness,
to fill the prison, 


not enough.



we’re always changing, aren’t we? 

our entire bodies–

our hair, our bones,

our blood, our fluids,

our skin, our faces.



we’re always in a kind of fluidity, like the ocean, aren’t we? 

our very persons, the seat of our souls–

our opinions, our tempers,

our moods, our rhythms,

our pleasures, our dreads.









we strive,

we war,

we set-up,

we demand,

we architect,

we bleed

for certainty. 

You will become well

only to the extent

that you become yourself. 

the truth is, we’re all beginners.