Movie week on the Fiction Therapist continues with Shall We Dance.
You often know the answer to your problems, but sometimes you need someone to listen while you work out the solution. Sometimes you need a witness. Other times, you need to wtiness.
There is a scene that has always touched me in the movie Shall We Dance? A man whose marriage has ended asks, “Why do people get married?” His companion says, “Because we need a witness to our lives. You’re saying, ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will witness it.’”
There is a Buddhist recitation for invoking compassion, and it highlights the role of listening in caring for others. “We shall practice listening so attentively that we are able to hear what the other is saying—and also what is left unsaid. We know that by listening deeply we already alleviate a great deal of pain and suffering in the other.”
Therapists trained in absorptive listening say that it can, by itself, catalyze healing. There are types of therapy in which the therapist does not say anything, letting the wisdom emerge from clients as they listen to themselves talk.
Movie week on the Fiction Therapist continues with A Beautiful Mind.
Although John Nash, a brilliant mathematician suffering from schizophrenia, knows his hallucinations won’t stop, he takes a moment to say goodbye to the characters created by his mind.
A Beautiful Mind. Directed by Ron Howard. Screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, based on A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar. Nominated for eight Academy awards and won four, including best picture.
An excellent example of acceptance appears in A Beautiful Mind, a 2001 movie about John Nash, a Nobel Prize winner in economics. The movie portrays his struggles with psychotic symptoms throughout his life. One of the powerful aspects of this movie is that the viewers see things from John Nash’s perspective and therefore get to experience what it’s like to be overwhelmed by images, thoughts, and feelings that are totally in his mind. As the movie progresses, the viewers, like the main character, experience a change in perspective as the hallucinations are revealed to be passengers on his bus (our wording). That is, the main character starts treating these very convincing, often flattering persons as characters convincing, often flattering persons as characters conjured up by his mind and not what they claim they are: an FBI agent recruiting him for a special assignment or a best friend who rescues him from his loneliness. In a very moving scene toward the end of the film, John tells the images, “I will not be able to speak to you anymore” and walks away. It is understood that although he will no longer be engaging in conversations with them, these characters created by his mind will continue to follow him.
Victoria M. Follette and Jacqueline Pistorello. Finding Life Beyond Trauma: Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Heal from Post-traumatic Stress and Trauma-related Problems.
To commemorate the upcoming Academy Awards, the Fiction Therapist is running a movie week, beginning with a scene from Jerry Maguire.
Jerry Maguire announces to his wife that she ‘completes’ him. Although it’s a touching and brave scene, looking for someone else to complete you can be very unhelpful.
Jerry Maguire. Written and directed by Cameron Crowe. Starring Tom Cruise. Nominated for five Academy awards in 1996, including best picture.
When it comes to movies, I’m a big sucker for romantic comedies: Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones’s Diary, When Harry Met Sally. I just love them. One of my favorites was Jerry Maguire, which gave us the great phrase, “You complete me.” This is the phrase that Jerry Maguire says to his girlfriend at the very end of the movie, to prove how much he loves her—at which point, I suddenly choked on my popcorn!
This is such an unhelpful idea to buy into. If you go along with this myth and act as if you are incomplete without your partner, then you set yourself up for all sorts of problems. You will be needy, dependent, and fearful of being alone, which is not conducive to a healthy, vital relationship.’
Language, like the Force in Star Wars, has a dark side. We have to learn to use it to our advantage, rather than let it use us.
Luke Skywalker attacks the “Death Star,” a manmade fortress as huge as a planet. But it’s not fully constructed. A vulnerable slot lies open on one side of the sphere. Luke must not only attack into the slot, but hit a vulnerable spot within it. He’s an expert fighter pilot but tries without success to hit the spot. As he maneuvers his craft by computer, he hears the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi: “Go with the Force, go with the Force.”
‘A sudden dilemma of irreconcilable goods: the computer versus the mysterious “Force.” He wrestles with the anguish of choice, then pushes his computer aside, flies by instinct into the slot, and fires a torpedo that hits the spot. The destruction of the Death Star climaxes the film, a straight action out of the Crisis.’
Robert McKee. Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting
‘We cannot appreciate the human dilemma if we do not see the nature and speed of human progress clearly. Human misery can be understood only in the context of human achievement, because the most important source of each is the same: human symbolic activity. To borrow a phrase from the Star Wars trilogy, language is truly “The Force” in human progress. It is so enormously influential in human affairs because it has such a bright side.
‘But The Force has a dark side too. Psychotherapists know that side well. This dual nature of human language impacts not just at the level of the group—the human species or human civilization—but also at the level of the individual. Each individual has experienced both the bright and the dark side of The Force. To ask an individual human being to challenge the nature and role of language in his or her own behavior is tantamount to asking a carpenter to question the general utility of a hammer. But hammers are not good for everything, and language is not good for everything either. We must learn to use language without being consumed by it. We must learn to manage it rather than having it manage us. We must learn to overcome the dark side.’
Steven C. Hayes, Kirk D. Strosahl & Kelly G. Wilson. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: An Experiential Approach to Behavior Change.