Core Beliefs

Core Beliefs

my therapist says overthinking
can be a defense mechanism

overthinking can be
a defense mechanism

overthinking can be
an unfenced metaphorical prison

it’s not my fault
my therapist says

confessional poems
can be used against me

my therapist runs a mom & pop
Oedipal arrangements shop

with thirty-one flavors
of oral fixation lollipops

overthinking can be
a dense intellectual prism

a defense mechanism
defense mechanism

anxiety is a preexisting
human condition

paid for by a
state institution

my therapist ties
Freudian slip knots

to agoraphobics flying
kites in parking lots

it’s not my fault
it’s not my fault

I don’t believe
it’s not my fault

my therapist is the reason
I’m in touch with my feelings

c b snoad

Voice Recognition

A young psychoanalyst named Fliess once asked Freud how a therapist knows when a patient has been cured. “When the patient realizes therapy never ends,” Freud said.

I’ve been thinking about taking a break from therapy in the near future. After at least one monthly session for the last decade and a half, I’m ready to move on.

We all tell ourselves stories about ourselves, each of us simultaneously a personal expert and unreliable narrator of our lives. We awake each day in the same body we went to bed with, but our worries and neuroses, played out in dreams or nightmares, don’t disappear overnight. Our core conflicts persist but manifest in different ways according to our moods or external stressors. Yet every morning we begin again in the middle of things, psyching ourselves up for the inevitable challenges of facing the world in front of our mirrors.

My personal narrative includes memories of individual therapy sessions spent crafting and revising an inconclusive autobiography, therapy itself a series of stories-within-stories, a self-reflexive automatic writing of the soul.

There’s no cure for the trauma I’ve suffered, but I’ve learned to recognize the sound of my own voice again, which speaks to the kindness of my therapists. A kindness I’m now showing myself.

Rules Of The Load

Depending on the way it is used and its particular features . . . the motorcar may equally well be invested either with the meaning of power or with the meaning of refuge: it may be a projectile or a dwelling-place. But basically, like all functional mechanical objects, it is experienced—and by everyone, men, women and children—as a phallus, an object of manipulation, care, and fascination. The car is a projection both phallic and narcissistic, a force transfixed by its own image.

–Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects, translated by James Benedict (74)

Google wasn’t around during the Sexual Revolution, but in the spirit of experimenting, engineers today want to turn us on to the Google Self-Driving Car. Baudrillard focused on the act of driving, on the manipulation of the car’s features. This car handles itself. We’re just along for the ride.

Don’t ask me how I know this but there are people who can achieve what’s called a touchless orgasm. They retreat deep into fantasy and climax without any physical contact.

The self-driving car mirrors the touchless orgasm. It gets you there without your having a hand in the matter. It sounds sexy—you no longer worry about steering wheels, turn signals or brake pedals. But in choosing luxury you sacrifice power.

With self-driving cars there’s nothing left to play with but yourself.

Mourning Sickness

In 1917 Freud wrote his influential “Mourning and Melancholia” essay in which he compares the process of mourning a loved one versus the persistent sadness involved in depression. When a loved one dies the mourner feels an incredible sense of loss, but after a reasonable amount of time he realizes the person is gone and can’t be reclaimed. As the energy attached to the deceased withdraws the mourner moves on to other libido investments.

The depressed patient differs from the mourner in two important ways. First, he is unable to let go of the loved one or desired object. His connection to the person/object was so strong, and his willingness to release the energy surrounding it so weak, that he mistakes the object for part of his ego. Second, he develops what Freud calls “a delusional expectation of punishment.” Guilt weighs heavily upon him, even when he’s not in error or deserving of blame.

Freud concludes that depression is a result of “narcissistic identification with the object.” The depressed patient takes pleasure in punishing himself, often by announcing publicly (today perhaps on a blog) how awful he is. Actually he finds someone else “awful” (usually a loved one living in close proximity) but renders judgment on himself. In the midst of depression his behavior “proceeds from a mental constellation of revolt.” Hence the idea that depression is anger turned inward.

Of course psychiatry has advanced light years beyond Freudian theories. With little data in hand Freud assumes that depressed people have a “pathological disposition” that leaves them vulnerable to melancholia. What if the patient’s excessive guilt is a symptom of his illness rather than existing prior to it? I get the sense that Freud sees depressed people as self-obsessed attention hounds looking to blame others for their misery. This approach sends the wrong message to folks already in a lot of pain.

But I appreciate Freud’s attempts to understand this devastating disease. It makes me wonder: What have I been mourning all these years? What part of me is missing? Against whom am I revolting and how many of my wounds are self-inflicted?

When You’re Downtown


We meet one day after
a long Chicago winter
in the rush of Union Station.

She finds me as I am,
nervous at a corner table
practicing my first impression.
I shake her hand, enjoy
the way words escape me.

We discuss our travels,
how we reached this point.
I get a sense of
where she’s coming from.

Some folks chat but never meet,
she says, lamenting the
difference between profiles
and how you actually appear.

We speak of childhood,
French philosophy, Freud’s
interpretation of dreams.

She asks about my poetry.
I share theories, outline
methods, draft revisions,
wondering what she’ll
make of these lines.

c b snoad

Don’t Be Cruel

The other night I had a dream worthy of some Freudian analysis. A figure outside myself but clearly a part of my psyche asked me a question: Why be kind?

Why be kind when the world is full of cruelty? Why be kind when people can be so awful?

I’ve heard from more than a few women, upon expressing their desire not to see me anymore, that I’m a nice guy. I pride myself on treating people well regardless of the situation. We’re all suffering in our own way and the odds are often against us; a little compassion goes a long way.

But mean people take advantage of nice people. Sensitive men are often seen as effeminate, over-civilized mama’s boys. It’s not easy being kind. Sometimes I wish for a harder shell.

A dream full of questions left me with a partial answer. Why be kind? Because when you’re kind to people you’re showing yourself compassion. You’re being kind to you.

But my illness, hell-bent on keeping me down, challenges this axiom. In my darkest moments I abandon myself on the precipice of disaster. Life sucks and I turn the vacuum on full blast. I’m cruel to myself, curse my imperfections, swear off hope for a lifetime of dread.

I forget that I can’t show kindness to others without first caring for me. The world is tough enough. I can’t be strong for you if I’m too busying beating myself up. The question isn’t why be kind but how can we learn to forgive ourselves.

Apocalypse Film Theory

World War Z hit theaters last week. It’s another in a long list of recent films focusing on the apocalypse. Why the appeal of these end-of-the-world narratives? Here are a few possibilities:

Apocalypse Films Express Our Fears, Serve As Metaphors For Global Terrorism

We’re on constant alert for attack and every day brings the threat of disaster from unknown sources. Apocalypse films put terror into motion, which is both frightening and a relief in the sense that, rather than waiting for terror, we have to face it.

The Zombies And Aliens Represent The Other, Help Us Secure Our Identity

Apocalypse films contain well-defined enemies who come from other worlds and states of being. They help us realize our place in the world as good human beings. They are the quintessential Other—foreign, unnatural, hostile to our way of life. And, of course, we’re right and they’re wrong.

We Enjoy Viewing A Romanticized Version Of Our Political Origins

When the world comes crashing down, we’re forced to reconstruct society from the ground up. Apocalypse films show us from a distance the nuts and bolts holding together the framework of society. Leaders emerge to combat threats and in the process teach us the origins of contemporary democracies. Heroes operate within politics; as society crumbles someone needs to save the superstructure.

We Need An Outlet For Our Cultural Guilt, Our Collective Death Wish

Freud would’ve had a field day analyzing these films. When you’ve mastered the environment and hold the fate of the world in your hands, you’re bound to feel the weight of such power. Maybe you secretly desire a way out, an exit from responsibility. While apocalypse films focus on the will to live, our tendency toward self-destruction lurks in the shadows.

It’s Really A Morality Lesson, An Overcoming-Sin-To-Reach-Redemption Tale

In the end we enjoy seeing things destroyed only to be rebuilt. Old-time religions may be lagging these days, but spiritual quests are fixtures of the human experience. When the threats are mitigated (at least until the sequels arrive) and the monsters/terrorists are turned away, we emerge heroic. The End is just a new Beginning.

Can You Feel My Love Buzz?

I like my music loud and aggressive. It’s been that way since I fell in love with Guns N’ Roses in grade school. By no means have I outgrown my passion for rock n’ roll. My anger, as with the frustrations that accompany adulthood, remains stronger than ever.

Indeed rebellion plays a big role here. But what am I rebelling against?

Perhaps it’s from the sublimation of my desires. That great twentieth-century psychoanalyst was on to something when he outlined this idea. In order for each of us to live safely in society, we must forgo dangerous impulses toward things like sex and violence. We sacrifice our strongest urges for the comfort of community.

But civilization, in domesticating us, ultimately fails to tame our inner beast. We still crave action, especially where it’s prohibited. When I can’t get what I want, this very moment, I get angry but refrain from expressing my fury lest I be judged a threat to myself or others.

Bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against The Machine bring me temporary relief through the guitars, drums, microphones and amplifiers they employ. Or so this theory goes.

Here’s another, less complicated take.

My high school graduation was over fourteen years ago, but I still remember the daily battles between the jocks and freaks—the clever label given to artsy kids who liked to skateboard and don super baggy jeans. There’s no denying that I embodied the essence of the anti-jock, but I wasn’t a full-fledged freak either.

I was just a geeky teen looking for love. Listening to grunge and punk songs made me feel special and immune from the herd mentality. It gave me confidence and helped me tackle the day.

Better yet, it helped me impress the ladies.

The jocks had their games (and gym class) to show off. I had poetry, music, art. We both wanted the same thing, though: to get laid. Rather than simply allowing me to release my rage, music afforded me a chance to turn my experience of it into a performance to wow the crowd. A crowd, I still hope today, with at least one chick that digs me.

What I Want Versus What’s Expected Of Me

“In a nutshell, it all comes down to what I want versus what’s expected of me.”
–Faye Miller to Don Draper
Mad Men, “Christmas Comes But Once a Year”
Originally aired on AMC, August 1, 2010

This quote intrigued me beyond its ramifications for the characters on my favorite TV show, Mad Men.

My mind went right to good old Sigmund Freud and his ideas regarding the Pleasure Principle as it relates to the Reality Principle.  We all possess many desires, and we often yearn for instant gratification, but there exists, of course, the fact that we are compelled to tame our passions for the sake of keeping society together.

Beyond Freud, though, something else struck me after looking deeper into Faye Miller’s line to Don Draper.

There are many times, when considering topics for this blog, that I struggle to focus on what I want to write as opposed to what I believe people expect me to write.  This is especially the case when I imagine what family and friends might think of me, of my thought process, after reading my posts here.

It’s a matter of my authenticity set against my need for approval.  Hopefully, as I move forward with my blogging endeavors, I’ll allow myself more opportunities to express my true sentiments, and thus gain my readers’ respect, even if we don’t always agree.