For Freud, nearing the end of his life, the fateful question for the human species came down to whether and to what extent our cultural development would succeed in mastering the disturbance our aggressive and self-destructive instincts inflict upon our communal life.
Daisy Bassen is a poet and practicing psychiatrist who graduated from Princeton University’s creative writing program and completed her medical training at the University of Rochester and Brown. Her work has been published in Oberon, McSweeney’s, The Sow’s Ear, and [PANK] as well as multiple other journals. She was the winner of the So to Speak 2019 Poetry Contest, the 2019 ILDS White Mice Contest, and the 2020 Beullah Rose Poetry Prize. She was doubly nominated for the 2019 Best of the Net anthology and for a 2019 Pushcart Prize. She lives in Rhode Island with her family.
At first, I did not know why I was weeping inconsolably upon seeing the image of George Floyd’s naked face as his neck was crushed by the knee of a man fully armed with police gear and, more strikingly, a look of total nonchalance. I did not know why I could not bear watching the video of one human, so unmoved, with such ease, squeezing the life out of another human being who was squirming, pleading, begging, calling for his momma.
I want to stay a little naïve and desperately in touch with my emotions rather than become anxious and angry. It’s not easy to understand society at this moment. It’s not easy to be reassured when “fake’ is a new derivative of reality. It’s not easy to trust people when power games go beyond understandable limits, and when polarization is more recognizable than union in diversity. It’s not easy to stay in touch with your own nature during a pandemic and other natural disasters… But I’m trying.
What if our patients who “feel too much” aren’t just poorly regulated but are sensing something more that needs to be told? What if our patients who have been called “too sensitive” really are resonating with a more collective grief than their own? What if they have capacities and sensitivities that overwhelm them because no one has believed them and trained them how to use them? What if they feel “different” from others, not just because of trauma, or neuropsychological differences, but because they are carriers of old truths, of memories from before their time?
We can all—or most of us—agree on the existence of a thing called structural racism. But can structures have a life of their own, independent of the people inside them?
It had been an unseasonably hot day in July. The news said—improbably, I felt—that it didn’t break a record. The fifteen chickens in the coop next to me panted through their open beaks, spread their wings to create shade, or moved within the stingy shadows, one pecking the neck of another to get a place to scratch down to cooler earth.
Early in January 2020, while anxiously speaking to a colleague, I was thinking about how I have become dysfunctional. I obsessively read everything. My panic-stricken and recurring thoughts about the state of my country, my home, were haunting me like a waking nightmare. My colleague at the time responded and said, “That’s how everyone is. Panic and dysfunction are not a pathology of the individual anymore. You are not alone.”
Karachi is underwater. They say the flooding is devastating. They speak as though it is constitutive of the people of Karachi to suffer, that they just can’t imagine another way of being: hardship, plight, poverty. 1948 is all that comes to mind. Partition. Colonialism. But nineteen years and counting: Afghanistan, that is how Pakistan exists to them, a mere association.
Aremu Adams Adebisi is a North-Central Nigerian writer and economist. In 2019, he was nominated for Best of the Net, a Pushcart Prize, and the 2019 Philadelphia Fringe Festival. His work of poetry, “Force Mechanism,” was adapted into Lucent Dreaming’s first theatrical performance in Wales. He has works published in Newfound Magazine, Lucky Jefferson, and elsewhere. He served as a mentor for SprinNG Fellowship and a panelist for the Gloria Anzaldua Prize. He edits poetry for ARTmosterrific, facilitates Transcendence Poetry Masterclass, and curates the newsletter Poetry Weekly on Substack.