On Freaking Out: L’angoisse


In a poetic and psychoanalytic mode, the author interlineates her intellectual, personal and clinical experiences of covid19 between February 22 and March 18.




The Analytic Act and its Evidence 



we were all together, well,—not everyone—as always, someone was pissed at someone else, the cock fight fought off stage, princock-peacocks, the wiff of burned tailfeathers straggling in with the remainders and their by-standers. When I walked in…well….just before I walked in, I entered something else—an anticipation, a tumescence an effervescence of mind, an arousal, intellect, expectance of othersvoices-state-of-mind framed my pass through ivy green mask tracing diagonal stonelowwalls,  wrought iron gate, brick steps, glass doors, foyer greetings, etc.  Then the ones you’ve longlonged-waited to embrace, others, long-time familiars, a new face, more than one.  A glass wall stretched stem to stern turning its transparent face upon a graceful lawn, rhododendrons.  Two sections of rowed chairs, an isle down the middle, a wooden lectern, (since this year’s long sequester how long I’ve longed for a seat near the warmth of this standingplace presenting itself, a promise, delight full of musicimbimbation-voiced senior lovers-of-the-Unconscious. Survey the terrain: .…well,  dude, I mean, Obviously (voce valley girl), if there’s an aisle, then it follows, logically,—men’s section, women’s section—pues, since this law has long since pretended to be a forgotten custom, it persists as a trace in seeming-sense that crossing it might provoke a moment’s electric gut-flutter, a signal, a warning (for me, for you) of an as-by-now Uncs.marked infraction of ancient feign-discarded kinship law.  To transgress it, a sweet eroticism (for me, for you). Lips wetted, I glide not unnoticed on silent owl feathers to the men’s section, wing to unoccupied territory perch with the few gathered birds. Wherever birds gather, the enemy position is unoccupied.  Take a position up high facing open ground, and do not go near the water’s flow…. (Suntze).  Employing Empty-Fort-Strategy[1], I listen-in:

Julia Kristeva


knots mathemes


without any foreknowledge

of what the linksmightwrite

through un-juxtaposition


multiple keys tempos

cross merge split

key themes

Kristeva—lends to misreading’s time-at-play

poetry poetic speech Kristeva-textured experiences of time

chronological narrative

our times:

something terrible some terrible thing

has happened to our language

maternal mnemomania  mother-tongue forgotten

lethe Penelope Penelope warp & woof of memory



The AnalyticAct II, (other) scene ii, line 1

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

are dead    (Un)forbidden Pleasures, never

quite as I love you to death I love you to

Pieces hateloving, anamouracion outside

transference there is no analytic act

his/her lack in being

desire ellusive allusive

nonsense truth effect

face      i(a)deals   I(A)deals.

Were you not sent for? Is it your own

inclining?…. Come, come….Nay,

neigh, speak~~wild horse of desire



 a day before Before, I scout the terrain sequester myself behind a girl’s trio, their flutterwhisper a screen from any potential, any phallic, gaze from that day’s lec(h)-turn, I hunker down near a bank display of Lapham’s Quarterly (Ah! Such a delight, the touch, the feel, the brilliance of the subjects, the images, the textdelicious), too too long since imbibing such richquisition textual intercourse.  Parting flutterwhisper slide-in, hunker-down next to Spies [vol IX, Number 1, Winter 2016),

surreptitiously contemplate:

the painting Spy-being-led-to-the-gallows. The spy descends the steps toward his demise.  A loose blue over-jacket frames a narrow-waisted mustached well proportioned desirable man in grey fine wool pants, his phallus, veiled by shapely folds of fabric, occupies the visual center of the canvass, focuses the viewer’s eye toward its slight tumescence—is it fully erect?, no…)?) there )?) pointing east, ….west(?) Why does he carry his hands in his pockets? His face impassive calm opaque handsome. The studied observer notes the apparent real fullness scooped heavily tumescent in its southward direction.





To be here, I’ve traveled:

home-Uber-airport-plane-Uber-hostel-bunk on 2nd Street two blocks from the beach, the wide wide sand houses pre-dawn flecks of rag-like-scatter, single dried brown tea leaf blown here, blown there, homeless sleeping wrapped in bags, the otherwise wide littoral, empty.  The freshness the horizon the surf.  I take the stairs. I have seven sisters in this dorm, An Australian for an Ayauasca trip for peaceofmind, two Germans Icomehereeveryyear, one Chinese shesleepsaboveme, one South Indian Ivejustarrived, one Older American alonealoneItravelaloneshh-quietsmile. and Me Iamhereforaseminar. We greet delicate chien-like sniffwiff curiousity  play?  sidelong glance, smile, speak, avert delicate our eyes veil for privacy. We hang our towels over bed-railings.  I make my toilette in the communal standing line of women before sink and mirror each fresh-bathed each dipping tapping blotting stroking blowing blinking patting lips posing, poise, purse puss pussy pussy glove your pussy pussy finger me too, here pussy-pussy-pussy playing in the glass stage Wuhannews as yet static-y distance.  We think we are innocent. We are the innocentthinking  effecting catastrophe wrought by innocence.  We don’t know that yet. We are innocent-ignorant the fantasy-of-far-away:  

more of this I’m going to do live more of this travel all over the world stay in hostels make friends from every rinconcorner find out spy on the world  spy harriet the spy undercover peek watch spy listen listen-in,  now,  now’s the time how fascinating these women their skins their voices their bodies their proximities who are they accent-scent-voice-world?  discover/come to know/   Supreme ignorant arrogant confidence there will be another time.    pack-check-out-Uber-airport-fly-uber-home…



“Now it is unethical to say that innocence must be annulled; for even if it were annulled in the instant of being uttered, ethics forbids us to forget that it can be annulled only through guilt. Therefore if one speaks of innocence as of immediacy, and has the logical impudence and bravado to treat this most fleeting of things as having vanished, or is aesthetically sensitive as to what it was and over its having vanished, the one is merely geistrich [clever] and forgets the point.

Just as Adam lost his innocence through guilt, so too does every human being.  If it was not through guilt that he lost it, then it was not innocence that he lost, and if he was not innocent before becoming guilty, then he never became guilty.”

(The Concept of Anxiety Sǿren Kierkegaard)



New York Times

 April 2020

California Today headline, “Will We Travel Again?”




after Before but before Day 0


in time to celebrate 21st Birthday eldest son Z.  It is a solemnity

in a way that surprises, disappoints. We dine at a delicious restaurant. He, a gourmand, as per the arrogance installed in his name. We order exotic cock-tails tahini mint arak bourbon.  He dips his fingers into the communal bowl licksmacks his fingers~ I Fauci-freeze.  The word “cavalier” begins to circulate.  Shake it off.  De-negation.  Remain present, present give the present   Suntze, Art of War:  “beloved eldest son, study the terrain, it will frame manner method pace advance retreat alliance, in accord with the winds of the state of the ground of the clues of the enemy—assess whether there will be advantage, the cost-in-blood of advantage gained.  Avoid catastrophe.  If catastrophe cannot be avoided, remember”:

disaster is to fail to wrest advantage from catastrophe



02/ 25-26/2020   

Analysand #___ Session 2/25/20

shakey & stressed-out whole time stressed—speak about—immediately felt no…. heart sank to pit of stomach

lost memory things I’m supposed to not feel tingly out of it not totally there mouth gets dry don’t know what to do with my limbs very aware of posture & face~encouraging looks felt so good—comfortable energized present felt so good—thankful—self-conscious.  A warning is worse it doesn’t feel like….it is in my control  > not present not confident not interested<  I want to know why—sometimes I can replicate….shows up in many different places, [cite at   I can’t do anything else until I take care of it  ]


Analysand ##___  Session  2.26.27

I almost missed you…gratitude….his presence …calm calm calm…That good-for-nothing  <bon a rien>  Eh? Bon a rien, bon a rien,  exactement  I am in the position of owing stuttering on something like shewa shewa shewa she exposed her breast in front of the school! You cannot do this~I did I did yes~tired tired worn out too much

(I muse, I don’t say:  …it moved lord Hektor not at all. The young man’s mother wailed from the tower across, above the portal, streaming tears, and loosening her robe with one hand held her breast out in the other say: “Hektor my child, be moved by this, and pity me, if ever I unbound a quieting breast for you. Think of these things dear child; defend yourself against the killer”;           we know how that ends

 (Iliad, Book Twenty-Two, lines 93-103.)

(I muse, I don’t say: “When the child is to be weaned the mother blackens her breast, for it would be a shame were the breast to look pleasing when the child is not to have it. So the child believes that the breast has changed but the mother is the same, her look loving and tender as ever.  Lucky the one that needed no more terrible means to wean the child! ”(Fear and Trembling, p46).


Analysand C# ___ Session 2/25/20

(She enters stands looks examines the consulting room hesitant gestures toward the couch, the chair, hesitates, sits in the chair, I proffer a footstool            [        silence          ]  she prolongs her contemplation of the hanging bluecobalt Rothko

<what do you see?>  [ “the black line horizontal line where I can hide…he looked at the edges of concentric balls I always looked at the vanish point”. She looks down and away a sad expression. She vanishes toward her vanishing point.  A small smile distractedly quivers…. I turn my gaze downward away fold my hands cross my thumbs wait. She averts her gaze.  After a very long silence she reclines makes a gesture toward the ceiling~hands fingers wiggle up at daddy longlegs in the corner.  She recounts a dream, then, associates: “stones bread crumbs very stale breadcrumbs, yellow stone road….S on yellow stone road going very slowly. At each stone 12 decisions to make. why are they going down yellow stone road? To find the wizard. What do they want from the wizard. the way to go home.  I am peeling shrimp but I’ve peeled the legs off. You are supposed to hold shrimp by the legs to peel it. I’m peeling an already peeled shrimp! (laughter, hers).  [         silence         ]      She clutches a buckwheat pillow, asks, What is it for?

{I do not say it is the weight of a cat in one’s lap}




a day before

Day 0 



I am standing in the living room my husband is sitting in the big chair why is he home it’s a week day I can’t remember the warnings the alerts the sirens the urgency warning roads will close travel ban, businesses doors slam, streets empty I am gesturing my voice rises rises repeating go get him now you must go get him now go now go now he doesn’t listen to me he listens to you we have to have a family meeting now a plan an emergency plan this is it this is now this is the emergency we are a family bring everyone home yes we share sickness we share immunity too family immunity we are a family go now….He does. Brings Z home. Z listens. Z agrees. Z’s frightened. He flees. He angers, goes radio-silent. De-negate to cavallier.




7:30am California PST

 10:30am New York EST

Z is 31 months. D, 4 months. It’s early drop off at Gan Shalom peace-garden garden-of-peace preschool.  I settle onto a tiny chair to breastfeed nurse give milk give suck to fussy D before saying good-bye to Z, busy on the carpet with block letters. Andy races in breathless. “Dead! Thousands dead!” What are you talking about? AndyAndy?  We gather our children we race home.  Everything Jewish shuts immediately schools synogogues federations.  How much anti-Semitism is dosed in this attack? We don’t know. We suspect. M races home from work. We sit in front of the screen in the den in the house we lived in back then watching the towers come down over and over and over as if one of those repetitions would pierce the numbness instantiate the real of the crushed twins, towers, concrete blowing white ash the splintered glass glitter the smoke the smoke the smoke.


day 0


I race to the market. The shelves housing all the pasta imported from Italy are barren.  Italy’s borders close, squares empty, only the most expensive organic peanut butter is left, bleach, alcohol, aloe vera, gone.  D, burrowed in the grotto of his college dorm raises his head only to sniff Redwood winds.  Wake up wake up You must must wake up… He becomes mulish. Coax  coax wheedle insist. Nothing. He falls ill calls with cottonthroat. Strepthroat. Antibiotics.  This fact a strange relief (I’m glad  my child is sick with strepthroat? ) this fact does not rule out—sotto voce—co-vid19.  Will we bring him home nurse him to health risk exposure?  Of course, innocent of any verification by test we opt for ignorance. and hope. He digs in his heels.  Stubborn to a fault.  He must do this first, he must do that first.  Days pass.  I heat the hull-filled pillow the size and weight he once was.  I hold this warmth, resting….



baby head on my shoulder beneath my chin

brush my cheekslips across his

tender koppele  kisskiss

hush-quiet  hush-quietquiet

patpat-smooth-rock…quiet    patpat-smooth-rock…quiet

pat-smooth   rockquiet

pat-smooth   rockquiet

pat-smooth rock…quiet

rock       quiet      rock       quiet





through the garden through the house through the cottage through the garden through the house through the cottage through the garden through house through the cottage through the garden~




day 0




The sky presses down. There is a bodily thrumming. Not everyone with rounded shoulders is thereby an Atlas. My last (?) dawn run at Point Isabel with doggie-doo, the city reports say “closed”.  It is so. the next morning,  barricades, the signs read “Park closure Due to wildfire, Fire danger: High.  October 2018.”   Its 2020.  Careening from one catastrophe to the next, no need to update signage.






the iceberg the iceberg


you always work

you are always working

you only have one speed


switch track(s)





what is the order of the stroke

the strike

one must know the order

of the strikestroke~


the world~

absent of sound.




What had been Horizon’s line of possibility heaved off-kilter. I perceived the rumbling growl before others. I felt the intimations bodily, a state of mind the equivalent of a plucked string, taught, reverberant. “Pivot.” Without question I flew to the market flinging frozen fruit vegetables yogurt bread olives canned anything tomatoes tuna into the cart. “Looks like you’re stocking up,” laughingly. At that moment, there were no lines. Later that day, I watched them waiting six feet apart, the length of a coffin, regulated. At the last minute, I got an appointment for a haircut. Mine, his last, before he closed shop. It is hard to contemplate now what came before. My son away at college in the dorms ill with…what? “Go get him. Now.” My elder boy, “Sequester. Now.” Both reluctant, cavalier, ill. Are these premonitions those the mother smells on her child’s breath, the rank of streptococcus before the culture confirms, before the thrush appears? The doctor-husband who refuses to done a mask before the high-ranking officials give the order. The mother arguing “any barrier is better than none” weeks before Fauci deigns to “recommend.”


I rise each morning 4am. I smell the world. I spy and return with reports—the line at Costco begins at 5am. By 7am it snakes up down around around hundreds lined for hours masked six feet apart. The freeways are empty. A pair of geese fly low. That park is now fenced. The other, barricaded. Then not. Then again. The semi-circular stretch of horizon from downtown Oakland Port of Oakland across Bay Bridge through San Francisco over Golden Gate Angel Island Alcatraz Sausalito Port of Richmond dark empty the lights have gone out. The cities’s skylines without light at dawn. Sky devoid of planes. A single tanker stationary beside a tug at the Port of Richmond. Ferry landing shuttered.


Suddenly, questions of Being belonging to each alone turned to exquisite dread when the shelter-in place-order went into effect. Impediments of Being intensified, displaced. Each wished to flee. And at a peak of fear, of sudden loss of privacy, of longing for far-flung loved ones, each called in their analyses from their cars; one, indeed, while driving.

“It’s like some other world we’ve been thrown into.”


day 0

[D]ifferent possibilities of Being emerge in fearing. Bringing-close, close by, belongs to the structure of the threatening as encounterable.  If something threatening breaks in suddenly upon concernful Being-in-the-world (something threatening in its ‘not right away, but any moment’) fear becomes alarm.  So, in what is threatening we must distinguish between the closest way in which it brings itself close, and the manner in which this bringing-close gets encountered—its suddenness (Being and Time, p142/p181).



day 1



I convert all treatment to the phone. Voice—a partial object. Each analysand takes their session hour into their cars. Each analysand’s mother-discourse rises in pitch, in dream, in absence.  One is mad. One distracted. One enraged. One drugged.  Anguish displaced.  What about this anguish?

“…[A]nxiety doesn’t seem to be the thing that stifles you, as psychoanalysts, I mean. and yet, it would not be going too far to say that it ought to. Indeed, it’s part of the logic of things, that is to say, the logic of the relationship you have with your patient. Sensing what the subject can bear of anxiety puts you to the test at every moment (Lacan, L’angoisse, X, p5).


Analysand #____Session 03/17/2020: 

focus on getting food stressed about whether work—all employees will work


go on a walk

feels good something is happening

recognition things are not normal





the worse it gets

simmer back there….

don’t want to feed the feeling

Strip away any interest of my own, decision to

Speak to someone who recognizes

consistently lying to myself & I didn’t even know

if trying to suppress this feeling gives truth to what he was saying

trying to ignore cover up something that I know was there


Analysand ##____Session 03/16/2020


Dream: girl with mother “mami I’m hungry”’

mother not paying attention

space   park

I’m watching & unable to help

little girl 2-3-4 city park

mom let’s go home I’m hungry

mom distracted

I happened;    unable to do anything

witnessed that scene

wanted to tell mother

I just watched

Assoc: I wish I were comfortable enough to be there without the dread

no crisis no drama

dread would be even thicker and heavier to bear

I don’t

I would not trust myself

able to keep my composure

It needs to end


[“What is anxiety? We’ve ruled out the idea that it might be an emotion.  To introduce, I will say that it’s an affect…affect…isn’t repressed….It’s unfastened, it drifts about. It can be found displaced, maddened, inverted, or metabolized, but it isn’t repressed. What are repressed are the signifiers that moor it” (Lacan, Langoisse, X, p14).]

Analysand ###____Session 03/18/2020


….first time it did not happen I was very hurt

I felt I was seen and wasn’t being ignored

recognized for my talent

right before mom was arrested & right after

chorus—given solo

being seen as in the lead

role so incredibly important for my adjustment it affirmed in these other ways gave me a role in the world

beyond her

care taker & being recognized

different conception of myself it’s good to be

trapped in mom’s desire only

I might have been depressed….


Analysand C#____Session 03/17/2020


I don’t care of I die

I’m not desperately clinging to life

…big long house meeting…

I didn’t speak the less I spoke the less I could speak

didn’t      spoke

wall around me grows and grows a jello wall

quarantineing in house—maintaining distance inside

Yes, live together or die together….mother called—haven’t spoken of my mother in awhile. Just can’t deal with her stress

I treat her as

I think of her as

not human

wall of jello




A defense against an unwelcome internal process will be modeled upon the defense adopted against an external stimulus, that the ego wards off internal and external dangers alike along identical lines. In the case of external danger the organism has recourse to attempts to flight…Repression is an equivalent of this attempt at flight.  The ego withdraws its (preconscious) cathexis from the instinctual representative that is to be repressed and uses that cathexis for the purpose of releasing unpleasure (anxiety). (Freud, Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety).



All week the news has been filled with reports of anti-Chinese hatred and violence.  Then came reports of Chinatown’s economic suffering—the fortune cookie maker (if I cough because my throat is dry, they look at me coronavirus, just because I am Chinese), the woman who has been giving guided tours for 40, (is it,?) years now, telling Amna Navaz of the abandonment of Chinatown by locals and tourists alike.  My heart sinks. What act?  What can one do? What geste a peau?


All the days that have led to this day can be plotted on the Matrix of Anxiety. We have arrived at Symptoms where the energy of concern and care is displaced onto a surrogate of our turmoil our perversions, lust. In this way the act can be justified. It is a place of mourning and the place of defense against mourning. The body is implicated. The imagined scene staged in the real is an act in the world. It cannot be undone.






Dear Friend,

Today gathering objects of wandering~

emblems/memory drop to my hands

3 coins

a writing brush

Cantonese character near-dear



a poem


drop to my heart

in old way ancient way

She said call me Mama Cheung

no I don’t have Art of War sold last copy yesterday,

here, love poems, boys like war, girls like romance, read this.

she begins to teach me a character for a word~ two people standing and speaking to each other—this sign, see this sign? it is heart in middle of character. Traditional Chinese.( She reviled the destruction of the language). Simplified simplified Chinese take out heart.

“You must keep heart in character. Keep heart in character! How can be near-dear if take out heart? Stand~near-dear! How can have language if take out heart?” Ignorant mouths use words to spit Learned Ancients sing mother-tongue songs. First forms:

 remember this.



Dear Friend,

3 coins


a writing brush

a poem










Structure of Interpretation/Economies

of Jouissance



Hey~What’s up?

I have an idea


Meet me at Dragon Gate?



(Noon)~~Grant Street vacated shuttered empty. A few shops open proprietors hawking a bit. I’m the only non-Chinese. There is the violin player stringing a plaintive thread not yet accustomed to no audience. Those few who have dared to go out are old, trudging, carrying bags of groceries, masked. We meet at Dragon Gate eat at Hunan. Restaurant is empty. My friend orders~~intonations of Chinese roll back and forth. Mapo tofu. Yum. But this is a problem for a Jew and a vegetarian and the specific exclusions result in a sauce that gets scathing critique from the gourmand but no matter we both pile seconds and thirds.  We do not speak of the impending doom, the empty restaurant, the shuttered business, and it gets so late I’m not able to visit Mama Cheung as I’d intended.  We enjoy enjoy basking in the intimacy and enjoyment of food friendship intellectual resonances, future possibilities.  We’re late to the seminar.  I have low expectations. I am astonished by who I encounter what I learn. The mooing at trauma, the evocation of the master signifier, interpretation with equivoce slide with your voice away from meaning, cite where it slips. Phallic jouissance. Other jouissance.  Jouissance de la vida.   Jv.   The enjoyment possible in this register  Jv  jouissance de la vida, strikes me. I’m thunderstruck. There is no English equivalent for it.  It’s a concept, a-being-in-the-world, a state of mind, absent from our current linguistic (in)sensibility digitized~word voice accent~digitized tech-noc-ra-tized bloodless. That’s been the problem all along.  What would it be in Chinese? Jouissance de la vida.   Jv.   This is where you fall off the matrix of anxiety step quietly into the now this now pleasures of your now life bubble overflow rest effervescence jouissance de la vida.  Now is the now. There is no other now. Later it occurs to me that this must have been the first place in the country to go dark.  Those most vulnerable are hit the hardest and first.  Maybe our east cliff west lake friends, pilloried there, pilloried here on west cliff gold mountain, maybe those who ply the wet markets in Wuhan are

the most vulnerable maybe

that’s why

it happened

there first  maybe

they were most


always have we failed


to care cura



we are all

most vulnerable



Something terrible some terrible thing has happened to the language.


“You must keep heart in character. Keep heart in character! How can be near-dear if take out heart? Stand~near-dear! How can have language if take out heart?”

this is now

this is the now

now is the now

bring everyone


yes, share



now is the now


Portrait of the analyst


[1] Wu emperor Sun Quan, attacking a fortress defended by Wei general Wen Ping, finds the fortress empty, suspects subterfuge, and withdraws his forces. Wen Ping ordered his forces to hide undercover in their fortress, a tactic known as Empty Fort Strategy; after Sun Quan retreated, Wei Ping’s forces left their hiding places, having avoided battle entirely (Battle of Jianling, 223 BC).


Hannah Patricia Bennett, CALMFT (California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists), Candidate Analyst San Francisco Lacanian School of Psychoanalysis, Faculty member of the School, maintains a private practice in Berkeley, California.

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European Journal of Psychoanalysis