by Ervin Somogyi
This essay is about looking at some of flamenco’s roots and lore — specifically Federico Garcia Lorca’s famous poem “La Guitarra” (“The Guitar”) — through the lens of modern psychological thought. “La Guitarra” is probably the best known poem on earth about the guitar or, for that matter, about any musical instrument. In Spain, particularly in Andalusia, this ode to the guitar is as well known as the Pledge of Allegiance is in the U.S. I’ve been a student of psychology for years: that bug bit me a long time ago even before I got bitten by the guitar making bug. I’ve faithfully maintained my interest in the former as I’ve sawn, sanded, glued, bent, shaved, braced, and clamped my way through my adult life as a luthier. While lutherie isn’t particularly clinical nor touchy-feely, and psychology isn’t concretely hands-on in the way that guitar making is, it nonetheless seems to me that these disciplines have something important in common: the possibility of getting amazing results based in a person’s ability to grasp intangibles. Both of these fields, at their best, offer the possibility of functioning at the level of an art form. And for that reason I have found them, each in its own way, to be equally compelling. I’ve brought these two interests together in my writings from time to time.
Here, we’re going to be looking at “La Guitarra” from the perspective of one of today’s cutting-edge thrusts in psychological thought: Object Relations Theory. From this theory’s point of view, “La Guitarra” tells of narcissistic injuries the author received in early life, which he expresses through the form and language of Andalusian cante jondo. (Wow, you say; how interesting. Now where’d I leave the t.v. guide?) I don’t want this to come off as a pretentious exercise in undergraduate-level double-talk, so I’ll first explain some terms and then I’ll give you some background on both flamenco and Object Relations Theory; I want you to have a sense of what these are about. Bear with me: I think it’ll be worth the effort.
SOME TERMS AND BACKGROUND
As far as flamenco is concerned, cante jondo is the essence of flamenco — which has with some accuracy been described as gypsy Blues music. cante jondo is the smoldering, cathartic stuff that’s so deep down as to be almost sacred. Seen from an everyday perspective, and using everyday language, it is possible to view “La Guitarra” as being a very deep Blues riff.
To explain Object Relations we have to start by mentioning Sigmund Freud, who is the most important presence in the modern mental health field, period. Even today, when he’s become largely discredited, most psychological thought is still either based in his theories as a direct or indirect outgrowth of them, or even in more or less direct opposition to them. Any way you look at it, and like it or not, he’s the most important single point of reference in the modern field of the working of the human personality. Like, Dude, it all started with him.
Freudian psychology holds that human unhappiness is created by conflicts between incompatible but entirely natural impulses such as aggression and the sex drive on the one hand, and the conscience/voice of society’s needs on the other. Because these drives and forces are innate and necessary, human unhappiness is, consequently, a natural and unavoidable condition. In Freudian thought, resolution of conflicts are brought about by becoming consciously aware of the elements that are in conflict (hence Freud’s invention of talk-therapy); catharsis — an emotinal release of pent-up energies and repressed awarenesses — helps fix the conscious awareness by imbuing it with emotional force. But no other social or interpersonal learning, insight, growth, or maturation is otherwise necessarily involved.
Object Relations Psychology came about when psychotherapists began to notice that Freudian theory doesn’t allow any room for how one’s relational life — how one has been treated by others — to be important in how one is shaped internally and how one winds up feeling about life. Cutting to the chase: Object Relations Psychology holds that the root causes of the deepest human unhappiness can be traced to one’s very early experience of being mishandled — in any of a hundred ways — by those beings into whose hands the forces of life first entrust us. When the mishandling is catastrophic (as when an infant is sufficiently rejected, abused, and/or abandoned) Object Relations Psych calls such experiences self-object failures, meaning a failure in the bonding between an infant (self) and a caretaker (object) at a time so early in development that the infant cannot yet tell the difference between itself and others. Psychologists have their jargon, just as luthiers and academics do. But, bottom line, if the person you can’t tell yourself apart from messes with you, you develop messed up.
Narcissistic injuries is a central concept in Object Relations theory: the phrase is code for “early life experiences that are so bad that they have interfered significantly with the formation of a normally developed sense of self”. The thing is, that without a healthy sense of self one’s personal and emotional maturation more or less stops; you can’t have one without the other. Yet interestingly, at the same time, one’s intellectual, physical, and technical skills can continue to develop unimpaired. I’m sure we all know someone who more or less fits this description: people who are amazingly smart and capable in lots of things, but clueless when it comes to people; it’s because they’re essentially clueless about themselves . . . But I’m really talking about individuals who are at the extreme end of this.
Whether there will have been actual abuse done (and unfortunately there very often is) is technically moot; while parents may or may not be consciously abusive toward their very young, the fact is that infants experience things with an intensity that adults have long since lost the ability to even imagine. For the very young, things can easily be either really blissful or totally awful, in a completely direct and unfiltered way; the key word is total. They don’t have the maturational development or defenses to do or be otherwise. One can think of them as highly sensitive microphones set for maximum receptivity, with no volume knob to tweak1.
For self-object failures to be most deeply damaging to a coalescing sense of self (“narcissistically damaging”) they need to have occurred by the age of three or four. In contrast with classical Freudian thought, Object Relations psychology postulates that since deformation of the human psyche comes about through traumatic experiences with early-life primary caretakers2, then healing, resolution and change come about through not only conscious understanding but also through integration, maturation, transcendence, “working through”, and personal growth.
There’s one other thing. Since infants experience with a direct intensity that is inconceivable to most adults, conscious memories of bad early experiences — and their attendant pain — cannot be directly tolerated: they are much too uncomfortable-making. Therefore such memories are “split off” [this is more technical jargon: it’s what lay people would call ‘majorly blocked out’ or ‘really driven underground’]. Nonetheless, these buried memories remain alive internally and strive to be expressed. And they do manage to gain expression — although in hidden, disguised, and encoded form. Much art has such energies at its roots; and so do a lot of successes and failures in life, marriages, and a lot of other things.
As far as matters of mental and spiritual healing are concerned, it is the task of the sensitive helper/counselor/therapist to help the individual to become aware of, recognize, feel, and ultimately reintegrate parts of one’s own self and experience that have been forgotten . . . and from which dark areas, like unseen celestial bodies that emit pulses into the cosmos, these consciously forgotten but still active traumas send their strangely encoded and problematic signals into one’s daily life. This is what talk therapy at its best is really all about; and while this may sound awfully fanciful to many readers, those who have had successful counseling, therapy, or any kind of inner exploration will probably know and recognize such things.
LORCA AND “LA GUITARRA”
Okay, enough about psychological theory. Let’s segue to Federico Garcia Lorca, who is the most famous Spanish poet and playwright of the twentieth century, and who is still holding his own quite well in the twenty-first. While his theatrical plays have won him worldwide recognition he has been most strongly associated with, and claimed as one of their own by, the Spaniards of Andalusia. Lorca, himself an Andalusian, was killed during the Spanish Civil War. One of the strongest factors in the bond between Lorca and the Andalusians is his [quite famous in Spain] essay on duende, which captured in words and defined better than anyone else before or since the essential outlook onto the world of the Andalusian soul.
This outlook is expressed in cante jondo — literally, Deep Song. It is a plaintive, solitary cry, somewhat like the quintessential “high lonesome” sound of American bluegrass — but with a vengeance. Duende [pronounced ‘dwen-day’] refers to the quality of expression of the cante: immediate, raw, unfiltered, passionate, pained. Deep Song with duende has incredible emotional and lyrical power and can be a hair-raising experience even for non-Spaniards who cannot understand the words: it can discharge with the emotional power of a Greek tragedy. It is at the root of flamenco — although flamenco has changed more and more over the last one hundred years into commercial and theatrical entertainment.
The guitar itself, by the way, has a real and unique place in flamenco that is not matched by the relationship any other musical instrument has to any other culture or musical idiom that I know of. For the flamencos the guitar is something revered, mysterious and special. As I said before, Lorca’s poem “La Guitarra” (“The Guitar”) is probably the most widely known poem in existence about a musical instrument. While “La Guitarra” is a poem and not sung, it is pure cante jondo.
|La Guitarra||The Guitar|
|Empieza el llanto de la guitarra.||The weeping of the guitar begins.|
|Se rompen las copas de la madrugada.||The wineglasses of dawn are shattered.|
|Empieza el llanto de la guitarra.||The weeping of the guitar begins.|
|Es inutil callarla.||It is useless to hush it.|
|Es imposible callarla.||It is impossible to quiet it.|
|Llora monotona||It weeps monotonously|
|como llora el agua,||the way water weeps,|
|como llora el viento||the way wind weeps|
|sobre la nevada||over the snowdrifts in the mountains|
|Es imposible callarla.||It is impossible to silence it.|
|Llora por cosas lejanas.||It weeps for things far, far away.|
|Arena del Sur caliente que pide camelias blancas.||Sand of the hot South that begs for white camellias.|
|Llora flecha sin blanco||Weeps [like] an arrow without a target,|
|la tarde sin manana,||the afternoon without a morning|
|y el primer pajaro muerto||and [for] the first dead bird|
|sobre la rama||upon the branch|
|Oh guitarra!||Oh guitar!|
|corazon malherido por cinco espadas.||heart gravely wounded by five swords.|
One cannot be unmoved or untouched by the images in this poem: it is unrelenting misery and loneliness. We have the image of the guitar weeping (interestingly, guitars playing in other idioms of music are usually said to sing, not weep). It weeps so emphatically and unstoppably that it is like forces of nature — like wind, like water flowing. It weeps like nature works: ceaselessly, monotonously, remorselessly, impersonally. It is not possible to quiet it, to calm it, to soothe it, to contain it. There is the image of hot bare sand, an arrow without a target, an afternoon without a beginning, a dead bird, and a heart pierced by swords. This landscape is as inhospitable to a man as the cold windy mountains or the hot empty desert. Comfort is far away and will not heed a call. The weeping is everywhere.
The principal themes which these images carry are endlessness (the weeping, the arrow in perpetual flight, things far away, night with no dawn, wind and water); beginninglessness (an afternoon without a morning, hot sand, day with a shattered dawn); hopelessness (unstoppable weeping, hot sands begging for flowers); emptiness (broken wineglasses, absence of images of people, deadness, the desert); qualitylessness (there are no adjectives — only nouns — until very late in the poem, and then there are only four: hot, white, far, and dead); and death (dead bird, a heart mutilated by swords).
This is pretty sad and heavy stuff. Yet, the deeply expressive nature of cante jondo is based in this kind of experience of the world and resonates to it mightily. It is what flamencos tap into when they sing their Deep Song. A sensitive listener might be moved by compassion at the thought of an inner world that can call up such images out of itself: what must one have experienced to be able to express such things? Or, perhaps one can marvel at the creative imagination which can call forth images which are powerful enough to touch so many people and put them together with such skill and unerring rightness that they cross the line of personal experience and pain to become universal, a work of art. To the flamenco, however, cante jondo is not to be compared to other possible world experiences nor enshrined as art. It is to be in, as he sings. cante jondo, to which “La Guitarra” belongs, is recognized by the flamenco as Telling It How It Is. It transcends the moral categories of right or wrong and to the flamenco it feels HERE and NOW — the essential existential Andalusian truth3.
For myself, it is also largely my existential reality. As a Holocaust survivor and a child of Holocaust survivors I can resonate to a world view of such grief and devastation. I am also a flamenco guitar player, and even though I don’t sing cante jondo the way in which the guitar itself participates in and expresses Deep Song has brought me to flamenco. The razzle-dazzle of everyday stage flamenco is nice, but it doesn’t hold a candle at all to the release I am able to experience when I play the real stuff for myself, or possibly for a friend or two. I don’t play like that very often but, like the real blues, IT FEELS GOOD to let it all hang out. Flamenco is the most cathartic music I know.
So what can a poem like “La Guitarra” tell us about Lorca the man? What kind of inner life must he have had to write something as evocative as this work? And what suppositions about these can be supported by the images, themes, and content of the poem?
This poem places us into a personal, existential geography of great alienation. In Object-Relational terms, what Lorca is expressing are the effects of significant and consistent early life self-object failures. He is telling us the story of his own emotional abandonment. As is usual in such cases the self-object failures occurred too early and/or were too painful for consciously remembered memories of them to survive. Hence the feelings are projected outward, onto the world. But the story points to a drastic failure with the mother, one’s first and most powerful self-object. For where else in one’s self can one find such scale of feeling for abandonment, useless longing and sense of alienation, loneliness and bereavement — except in one’s own and repeated and emphatic rejection by (i.e. failure to bond with) one’s own mother? The poem’s imagery supports this so strongly as to make it a virtual certainty.
Since the poem is about the guitar, let us make this our starting point in our exploration of what “La Guitarra” tells us about its author.
Guitars are many things: wood, gut, metal, science, music, etc. They are also female (and in Spanish explicitly so), with curves and mystery and subtlety. This is perhaps symbolized especially strongly for the flamenco, for whom even holding the guitar is a sensuous experience. For one thing, the traditional flamenco holds the guitar differently than do other guitarists. Classical guitarists carefully hold their instruments on their thighs, using footstools to help the balancing; others simply hang the guitar from a strap over their shoulders. But the flamenco literally embraces his guitar, holding it in a difficult and awkward “standing” position, balanced on his right thigh — seemingly just so as to be able to embrace it. Try it: it’s tricky. Hugging the guitar like that, once you get the hang of it, is a genuine sensual experience (fig. 1). Flamencos also use a wide array of stroking, playing, pulling, hitting, tapping, and scratching techniques which, if they lack the subtlety and sophistication of classical technique (although this is arguable), more than make up for it in the variety of achieved contact with the instrument and its strings. All in all, it’s a great physical experience for the guitarist and gives outlets for both sensuality and aggression4. The romance, the passions, and the rejections of life are all flamenco themes which Lorca would have, so to speak, taken in with his mother’s milk — and are for the flamenco closely associated with the guitar.
|Fig. 1. The traditional way of holding the flamenco guitar, from the cover of Lives and Legends of Flamenco by D.E.Pohren.|
From the title alone, therefore, we can have the idea that there is a woman and sensuality/physicality represented in this poem. Are there other feminine images?
Virtually all the nouns in this poem are female-gender nouns (Spanish possesses male, female and neuter nouns). Further, the camellias, which are themselves female and symbolize femininity, are also known as “japonicas” (Japaneses), suggesting the oriental eye-slits which adolescent Latin boys learn to associate with the shape of the female genitals5. This poem is awash in femaleness. But add to that the overwhelming emotional content of the work and it is no far leap to accept that what is being described is a primary association with a woman. The word “mother” does not appear in the poem, but who else is female who would carry that much of an emotional charge?6 What woman other than the mother who is so primarily and overwhelmingly linked to inner life — whatever the quality or content of that inner life?
It is a virtual certainty that Lorca’s mother served as an essential self-object for Lorca early in life, during which period his world view would have been substantially formed. What then does the poem suggest is his relationship with his mother, specifically?
Of the images that carry the thematic meaning of this poem I have already made note: this truly is a work expressing unrelenting bleakness and lack of fulfillment. A stylistic analysis of the poem, which is outside the scope of this essay (but includes analysis of the different stylistic elements of the poem: the syntax, meter, accents, position and length of key words, gender imagery, punctuation, rhythm, ambiguity, specific use of nouns and adjectives, etc. — and how these interact and add to or detract from the thematic meanings) would further bear out Lorca’s skill at maintaining congruence between the poem’s structure and its meaning. That is, that the poem expresses at the level of internal structure the same bleakness, disconnectedness and despair that it expresses in words. However bad life was for Lorca, he at least created good poetry out of it.
The most directly human image of the poem, and really the only one, is of (the guitar as) a heart seriously wounded, perhaps mortally wounded, by five swords. It’s an image of violence, both deadly and emotional. It is at the same time the image of someone playing a guitar — and wounding it! It point of fact this is an image which explains why the guitar has been crying all through the poem: it’s been being wounded by the player.
Playing the guitar is usually a purposeful activity, not a random one, and is indeed the only image of overt, purposeful, active human behavior in the entire poem: everything else is static or reactive. Therefore it is probably a good idea to scrutinize it even more closely. The image of the guitar gravely wounded by five swords (the player’s hand and fingers) suggests the purposeful wounding of the instrument.
This image has a basis in reality as the flamenco style of playing, which Lorca certainly knew, is very hard on the guitar physically: the player can literally pummel, pull, scratch, hammer, tear and wrench the rough, shrill, wailing, melancholy and certainly crying sounds out of the flamenco guitar. (As a matter of fact that’s why flamenco guitars have golpeadores [tap plates: literally, hitters or pummelers, or the things for hitting and pummeling] while classical guitars don’t: they need them.) On the other hand there are two very interesting symbolic interpretations of the meaning of a guitar being wounded by the player, and these, I believe, are (not to make a pun) at the heart of the poem’s meaning.
If there is a guitar player — an active, independent initiator of behavior — who is cradling in his arms (in the physical flamenco guitar playing position) something as wonderful and important as Andalusians think of the guitar as being, yet which also is at the same time something passive, receptive, inert and crying — something that is not a center of initiative — then cannot we recognize in this a disguised image from earliest life, that of a mother holding her child? Yet the “player” is hurting the “guitar” gravely and making it cry! If this is truly an image of an early mother-child connection/bond/cathexis then it is an image of the mother’s great insensitivity or cruelty, or perhaps even sadism, toward the child.
I believe, given the quality and intensity of the imagery in “La Guitarra”, which reflects Lorca’s feelings in life, there can be no doubt that he experienced such cruelty. That his mother might or might or might not have actually, consciously, done such things is moot: Lorca experienced much of his early life in just such a way.
And again, going back to this last image, if we accept the guitar as being a symbol for the mother/female and not the cradled child, then the image for the active and passive agents are reversed, yet still equally hostile to each other. Then, rather than the mother hurting the child, the guitar player with the sword-fingers is purposely hurting the mother and making her cry. Either way, one is inflicting pain on the other. But while poetic imagery can make it seem that either antagonist — and we must recognize the guitar and the player, the mother and the child, as being alternately victim and torturer, locked in permanent conflict — could be arbitrarily hurting the other (depending on which image we are focused on), in real life only one truth can be recognized: that children are absolutely helpless and vulnerable to the power of the mother to love, reject or punish. Children are in no position to abuse their mothers — only to defend themselves. And if this defense is in turn attacked, then the child enters a surreal, Kafkaesque world of hopelessness and despair which must cover his enormous narcissistic rage7. [NOTE: “Narcissistic rage” is psycho-speak for the kind of rage that is total and, once released, cannot be controlled. An example is given in the literature of someone hanging a picture on a wall; under normal circumstances, if the picture hanger hits his [or her] thumb with his hammer he’ll be frustrated and in pain, and probably swear a bit; this is normal anger, and it quickly subsides. If the episode is experienced as a narcissistic wound, however, the man will respond as though the nail had attacked him personally and he’ll try to get back at it. He will try to kill it . . . even if it means destroying the nail, the wall, and even the picture; narcissistic rage won’t subside until the cause of the wound has been annihilated. It is thought that much spousal abuse, many war-related behaviors, etc. come from this primitive level of mental life.] In Object-Relations theory such intense rage covers equally intense disintegration anxieties (this is psycho-speak for the intense early- life fears that the child will lose his self-object should he aggress against it); and it is known that Lorca suffered all his life from such debilitating anxieties and profound feelings of alienation8.
It is most likely that Lorca had, but was not able to be aware of, his own towering narcissistic rage toward his mother. The image of the active agent/guitar player wounding the woman/mother/guitar in such a way that she cries endlessly, deeply and inconsolably shows how strong the impulse to hurt must have been. And the quality of the intended hurt, cosmic and all-pervasive as it is shown, indicates the depth of the pain received. Lorca is unconsciously saying: “I would like to do to you what you did to me, to show you how it felt to be me; my pain was impossible to stop; I wept all the time because you were so far away from me and did not come; I wanted you but it was just as useless to long for you as it is for the desert to ask for flowers; I waited but my dark night had no morning; I felt like an arrow with no place to go; I felt like an afternoon with no point of origin; I felt like a day whose dawn had been shattered in the night; I cried forever; OH, I’d like to wound your heart like you wounded mine!”.
I have known for a long time that flamenco is a very matricentral form: much of cante jondo concerns itself with one’s mother, one’s sorrow at the loss of a mother through death, one’s betrayal of the mother through finding a mate, memories of the mother’s caring and love, and so on. Granted that the mother-images in “La Guitarra” are much more hidden and violent than the openly expressed and positive mother-images of everyday flamenco, they both get their energy from the same spark plug — a protective reverence for the memory of the mother. The father is hardly ever mentioned, in contrast.
This longing for and devoted holding onto the idealized maternal image while at the same time professing a view of the world which is a distillation of profound pessimism and expectations of rejection — the split between what the individual would like to have or to have had, and what he probably actually experienced (namely, early experiences in rejection and cause for lack of hope) — is a split which is by no means limited to Andalusians. That the flamenco seems not to notice this split and instead institutionalizes the idealization of the mother would seem to validate that area of modern psychological thought that asserts that the impulse to protect the mother — and to protect ourselves from an awareness of knowing our bad experiences with our mothers (and fathers) — is in operation. Author Alice Miller’s books, particularly For Your Own Good and Thou Shalt Not Be Aware are the most articulate and convincing writings on this topic.
As far as my love of flamenco goes, I am a bit nervous at the thought that something I have enjoyed so deeply over the years might be a cultural expression of a psychopathology that I would necessarily have a connection to, or investment in. Is this what expressive folk art forms are all about? A friend of mine argues persuasively that this is so, citing American bluegrass and country music, with their wailing laments of fickle fate, betrayal, loneliness, women lost to other men, and similar sentiments, as expressing much the same fundamental issues and world views. Yet, neither of these makes such a big deal about mothers as specifically as flamenco does. Maybe one difference is cultural between European and American parenting patterns.
It’s easy for me to believe that individuals with European backgrounds (as I have) get a heavier dose of parent-idealizing, in much the same way that Alice Miller (who herself has a European background) describes, and this comes out in folk musics. I do know that in Hungarian, my mother-tongue [and isn’t that an interesting phrase?], the common public mode of referring to one’s parents [edes apam and edes anjam ] translates literally as “sweet father” and “sweet mother”, or “dear father” and “dear mother” — as compared with, say, the “my dad and mom”, “my father and mother”, “my old man and my old lady”, “my parents”, etc. that we’re used to hearing in English. On the other hand, it’s been persuasively argued that Americans’ reverence for people like Ronald Reagan and George Bush have the same root causes: namely, projection of Godlike wisdom onto people whom you ordinarily wouldn’t want to buy a used car from.
Also, as a final example, and referring back again to Spain, today’s most prominent and revered flamenco-playing God is Paco de Lucia. Paco’s “real” name is Francisco Gomez Sanchez. But Paco has been called Paco de Lucia forever, or at least since he needed — and got — his own personal handle/nickname to identify him as a three-dimensional and separate individual, distinguishable from others, within the culture of his birth. Paco de Lucia means Paco from/of Lucia, Lucia being none other than the name of his mother. In other words, Paco de Lucia = Paco (el) de Lucia = Paco-(he)-who-who-is-of/from/came-out-of-the-woman-Lucia. Isn’t it interesting that this brilliantly talented musician is associated/known the world over with his mother’s personal name? Sorry, dad; better luck next time; ‘bye. On the other hand, Andres Segovia, who is quite equally and probably even more famous on this planet as a guitarist, affiliated with a Different Cultural World and wouldn’t ever have had such a public mother-connection mindset. Understandably, his expressive life passions would have been of a different kind.
1: ‘Volume knobs’ and ‘Off buttons’ are pretty much what adult defenses — ego strength, denial, repression, projection, sublimation, rationalization, etc. etc. — are all about. Without these, input is received on the (young people’s) default max setting,
2: It is thought that if the caretakers are adequate then one can learn to cope in a healthy way with life’s other ‘real’ traumas; it’s when the caretakers are absent or incompetent that there are developmental black holes.
3: There are plenty of flirty, light, silly, teasing, topical, etc. flamenco verses and songs. But they are not cante jondo; they are cante chico (“small song”). Flamencos understand that these are very separate things.
4: It is true that flamenco guitars often take a real pounding. Such treatment horrifies the average classical guitar player, who would not dream of subjecting a prized and valuable object such as even the flamenco regards the guitar as being to such rough treatment. There’s a clue to the nature of flamenco in this contradiction, I think.
5: I grew up in Cuba and Mexico, and that was part of my own sexual upbringing.
6: As a matter of culture in general, Latinos and Iberians are not, repeat not, into gayness. It’s all very hetero.
7: Psychologists and writers have focused on Kafka and make him a point of reference because he was so good at writing about such dislocated feeling-states. Even easy emotions are really are hard to describe verbally, but Kafka did some of the more difficult ones and did them very well indeed — especially the surreal parts, where the world looks real and yet at the same time doesn’t. Those are pretty unsettling experiences to have in real life. They have to do with the difference between (1) “ordinary” anxiety states, in which, no matter how scary and horrible they might be, the person having them knows, or can at least hang onto knowing, that he’s having anxieties, and hence can to some extent have a steady external point of reference to the real and “normal” world until the attack passes, and (2) narcissistic ones, which are worse because they’re sort of like having anxieties while on a bad drug trip: you not only lose “the real world” but you also lose yourself. Psychologists believe that this is one of the most extremely terrifying categories of experience possible. Unsurprisingly, it’s hard for anyone who hasn’t had something like that kind of experience to understand what it feels like, no matter how cleverly one uses words to try to get it across.
8: See footnote 7; it fully applies to Lorca