On Building a Life – Alongside.

by Velleda C. Ceccoli Ph.D. on September 10, 2014

911It is thirteen years after.

Almost to the day.

I do not know when you will be reading this post, but I am writing it on the eve of.

The eve of the event that changed everything for many of us.

Strange to look out my window and see the beams of light knowing what they represent, on the eve of.

September 11 is almost here and I feel compelled to write, as I do on the eve of every September 11, since I began my blog.

It is my own, personal meditation.

And on this evening, I share it with you.

As I look out on the city lights, the shiny new Freedom Tower, and the outstretched beams of white light reaching toward the inky blue sky, I am struck by our ability to rebuild and go on while remaining connected to our grief and the memory of that day. Of course, as a psychoanalyst, this is something I know and believe in – the resilience of the human spirit and our ability to survive, and to continue to be, to continue to live our life. Yet, I am always moved when I experience it.

The events of September 11th 2001 changed everything for me, and for many among us. They made survivors of a generation of New Yorkers and Americans, (and also of many in other parts of the world) who had grown up believing that the world was safe, or at least, sort of safe. On that day, our notion of safety, predictability and comfort was forever changed. Many things changed on that day.

This post is about life post trauma, and the possibility of living fully while grieving what will never again be.

Is that even possible? To continue to live when everything in you has exploded, changed, re -morphed into an attempt to understand, to put pieces back together, to …what?

Continue with life?


It is possible to re-build a life alongside ones’ pain.

It is.

Slowly at first

One foot in front of the other

And then a rest

Perhaps a sit down

Or even a lie down…

Then, later

and maybe only sometimes,

With words and with people

With loved ones and

With loved things

with objects that help us remember

and also forget

With work

that helps us remember a part of ourselves

and also forget

With music

and books

and movies

With nature

and walks

and dance

and art

and tears

With love

and friendship

With community

and sharing

and people

and people

and people

We are always in need of people

and relationships

and many,

many ways of putting language and words to what we feel and what we experience.

This is how

we build a life – alongside.

Sometimes I am able to  help others begin to do this.  My patients, my friends, my family. Sometimes they are able to help me. At such times I feel honored and blessed, renewed in what I have always believed and known – that we can rebuild our lives alongside.

For me, September 11th has become a reminder of the importance of knowing that it is possible to build a life alongside.

As is often the case, I think that poets capture much of our lived experience best, as artists usually do because of their ability to go beyond words and disrupt meaning, stretching words to include what one has lived. Here is an excerpt from Mark Doty’s Heaven’s Coast: A Memoir, which captures the possibility of living alongside.

“Sorrow feels right, for now. Sorrow seems large and inhabitable, an interior season whose vaulted sky’s a suitable match for the gray and white tumult arched over these headlands. A sorrow is not to be gotten over or moved through in quite the way that sadness is, yet sorrow is also not as frozen and monochromatic as mourning. Sadness exists inside my sorrow, but it’s not as large as sorrow’s realm. This sorrow is capacious; there’s room inside it for the everyday, for going about the workaday stuff of life. And for loveliness, for whatever we’re to be given by the daily walk.” 

I don’t know anything different about death than I ever have, but I feel differently. I inhabit this difference in feeling- or does it live in me?- at the same time as I’m sorrowing. The possibility of consolation, of joy even, does not dispel the sorrow. Sorrow is the cathedral, the immense architecture; in its interior there’s room for almost everything; for desire, for flashes of happiness, for making plans for the future…



ON PASSION: and the feeling of intensity.

by Velleda C. Ceccoli Ph.D. on August 12, 2014

PassionMost people think that passion is something that we feel when we fall in love or lust – and while that is true, there is much more to passion. Passion runs the gamut of emotions. Passion adds intensity and a particular kind of alchemy to any feeling that we experience, highlighting its emotional reverberation in us. Passion is felt, the experience unfurls through our senses and bypasses our thinking mind. Passion can lead us to experience great pleasure and also, great pain. It can create a turbulence that augments and escalates all of our emotions, from love to hate to ecstasy to violence to desperation and despair. Indeed passionate states can threaten to overwhelm us with a feeling that enraptures us. Sometimes this is a good thing. It can lead to deep attachments and powerful relationships, as well as the creation of a novel, a painting, a sculpture, a song, a dance. Art, in all of its forms, understands passion well as it speaks the same language- emotional and based on inner experience. Yet passion can also lead us astray, into the territory of overexcitement, of excess, of feeling too much, of pain and suffering. Emotional intensity is the hallmark of passion, and its expression is known implicitly and felt corporeally. It is only after we have felt it that we can revisit it in our thoughts.

So what does it mean to be passionate? To have a passionate nature? To be passionate about things? And why only certain things?

Traditionally, psychoanalysis has viewed passion as the realm of the hysteric, that poor soul that suffered from ‘reminiscences’ which reverberated physically and could not be captured in words. Thus evolved the talking cure: helping to put words to experience that was so powerful it spoke through the body and its symptomatology. And while words do help us to understand and name our experiences and feelings, I think there are times when they cannot capture what is felt, particularly when that feeling is a passionate one.
Because passion involves an unconscious communication that transgresses spoken language and arrives at implicit experience directly, engaging relational patterns that are unthought but known through feeling.

Yes, passionate emotions can bring on emotional disequilibrium because they highlight the space between fusion and separation, and break down the boundaries between our private and our public life, between the thing and what we imagine it to be, and between the felt/experienced/lived event and the one that is narrated. Passion as an implicit, sensual and sensorial communication has to be experienced and felt, in order to be recognized, known and understood. Passion carries an early relational dialogue within it, which comes alive in the context of relationships to people and objects that evoke that early sensual echo.

How can this be?

Remember falling in love? How absolutely captivated by the other, how enraptured in sensation, imagination, possibility? When life itself seemed dull without the promise of that particular loved one? Passion.
And if that relationship broke your heart, remember the pain of that? Intense, never ending, haunting you through the day and rousing you at night? Passion.
Or perhaps you can recollect a time when you found yourself transported into another land by a novel, or enchanted by a piece of music -lost in the playing of it for hours at a time.
Or when you found yourself in the lines of a particular poem, which seemed to capture the most private parts of you, and speak only to you.

Passion has preferences and they are most personal. We do not choose our passions, they find us, often surprising us in the process.
I think this is because passion involves an ongoing relational exchange in which we feel implicitly recognized and known; in communion with an other through felt experience that is so strong that words are not enough to capture it. The passionate exchange has a logic of its own, embedded in us and unearthed by a particular object or person. So perhaps this is why passion is often defined as love or Eros – both need relationship to come about, and it turns out that passion and its evocation require a relationship as well.

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ON IMAGINATION – and the power to make things right.

June 9, 2014

“Logic will get you from A to Z; but imagination will get you everywhere.” ― Albert Einstein   I have always been partial to fairytales and science fiction because they helped me explore lands that I could only dream of, until, as a young child, I realized that I often dreamed of them while awake, […]

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ON MINDFULNESS – and minding your p’s and q’s.

March 31, 2014

Mindfulness is a term that gets used a lot these days, despite the fact that it has been around for centuries. Eastern thought, primarily Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism, and meditative disciplines have always had the concept of mindfulness at their core. The idea of mindfulness has entered western ideas through the world of spirituality and […]

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February 10, 2014

Recently I posted a blog on the power of laughter and humor. I was writing about the  kind that makes your belly tremble and your chest heave. The kind that moves the neurobiology of your insides and translates into mood shifts on your outside. The REAL kind. Today’s post is about its opposite, what I […]

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ON LAUGHTER : And the power of humor.

January 20, 2014

A good belly laugh can change the mood, tone and connection to an other in an instant. Teasing or joking with someone can invite them into a space to play with something in a different way. I have noticed that in my clinical practice, the ability to tease or joke with my patients about a […]

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On Beginning Anew

December 31, 2013

It is the end of another year and beyond the celebrations and hoopla of the holiday season, it is a time to take stock of our lives, and for many, a time to think of what needs changing. The New Year often brings resolutions, and those resolutions are based on a reckoning with ones desires […]

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THE COMPANY OF MEN – And why it is important.

November 11, 2013

Having written about women, and how important it is for us to have other women in our lives (http://drceccoli.com/2010/06/its-a-girl-thing/ ), it is with great pleasure that I once again step outside my world to dive into the other dark continent- the world of men, and how important men are to each other. Men need other men- […]

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ON MEN: Shaken and stirred.

October 29, 2013

Ah men. That other dark continent that somehow is supposed to be clearer, simpler, more known. To whom? I wonder. Other men? As a woman writing about men, I find myself besieged with stereotyped notions of masculinity and what it means to be a man. Culturally and societally embedded ideas within the folds of my […]

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ON MASCULINITY: And What It Means To Be A Man.

October 14, 2013

I have been keen to write about masculinity and men for some time now, and am aware that in doing so I am traversing the great divide of difference between us. As a woman, I cannot avoid these differences, nor would I want to, rather I intend to speak from a position of difference. In […]

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