Friday, June 01, 2012

Human Development and Film 1

Introduction: Setting the Scene
The Modern Croke Park Stadium, Dublin, October, 2010
Today we live in an era that could most aptly be described in the words of W.B. Yeats as one where “things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.” [1]  More and more of us are attending some form of psychotherapy in one or other of its myriad manifestations.  People readily speak of the stress under which they live their workaday lives.  Legions of psychosomatic complaints abound for which people seek the help of one or other complementary health practice, be it meditation along Buddhist lines, TM, Reiki, the Alexander Technique or the Feldenkrais Method.  In short, we are a fragmented and fractured people seeking a centre (of self) that will hold, that won’t crumble away given the next crisis that we meet in our lives.
In order to evaluate how film may help us to understand the central issues around human development we must first be very clear in our minds what exactly we mean by our terms.  We must, in short, ask ourselves what exactly these central issues are.

The Central Issues of Human Development
According to Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, the greatest repression of humanity was sexual desire and the many concomitant issues associated therewith.  I am in agreement with the contemporary existentialist psychiatrist/psychotherapist Professor Irvin Yalom[2] that the modern repression is death and all its associated trappings, not sex and its allures.  Modern humankind would prefer that death and dying be airbrushed out of its consciousness.  Good therapy, Freudians argue, is all about making our unconscious fears, anxieties and issues conscious.  Here is where I believe film can exercise a kind of therapeutic role in our lives as it can often insist on making us face one or other of these unconscious fears and concerns.
Another central issue in human development is the search for personal identity, not alone through the many incarnations of psychotherapy but also through our very work and also through the Arts.  People read books and magazines, go to concerts and to the cinema and indeed travel far and wide in search of a sense of self, in an attempt to put together their own personal jigsaw of life’s meaning. Here, too, I believe film can exercise an influential role by offering other perspectives, by prodding the mind into action, by posing deeper questions far more effectively than the pages of a book or magazine, because they are enacted on a screen visually before our very eyes.
Finally, films both entertain and educate.  Now, I hasten to add that these two characteristics need not necessarily be mutually exclusive.  While some films may primarily educate and others primarily entertain, when we seriously reflect upon them we find that many participate in both of these much needed characteristics.

[1] “Turning and turning in the widening gyre // The falcon cannot hear the falconer; // Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; // Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world...” The Second Coming, W.B. Yeats.

[2] See Yalom, I (2009), Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco (passim).  He writes therein that “Freud believed that much psychopathology results from a person’s repression of sexuality.  I believe his view is far too narrow.  In my clinical work, I have come to understand that one may repress not just sexuality but one’s whole creaturely self and especially its finite nature or mortality. (Ibid., p.7)

1 comment:

Billy Joe said...

When I lived on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and four corners area, I was told by more than one Navajo elder that psychological and emotional problems among their people were the result of an encounter with death, often at a young age.