Tag Archives: movies

the archetypes: addict, magical child, hedonist

a magical child from brazilthe following is an excerpt from carolyn myss’ fascinating “gallery of archetypes”. most of us can recognize ourselves in one or more of these archetypes, or typical ways of being in the world. in her descriptions, carolyn myss tells us about the positive as well as the shadow (some would call them negative) aspects of these archetypes. what i really like about this gallery is that she also mentions movies, books, and other places where we might find these archetypes, for example the archetype of the “magical child” in alice in wonderland, or the archetype of the “hedonist” in babette’s feast.

below are a few of these archetypes as carolyn myss relates them – the addict who gains strength from breaking self destructive patterns; the magical child who can see beauty in all things; even in the face of horror and depression; and the hedonist, who celebrates sacred ecstasy.

the addict
every one of us is touched by the addict archetype. besides the usual suspects–drugs, alcohol, food, and sex–one can be addicted to work, sports, television, exercise, computer games, spiritual practice, negative attitudes, and the kinds of thrills that bring on adrenaline rushes. in its positive aspect, this archetype helps you recognize when an outside substance, habit, relationship, or any expression of life has more authority over your will power than does your inner spirit. confronting addiction and breaking the hold that a pattern or substance has on you can impart great strength to your psyche. discovering the empowerment that comes with perseverance has a life-long impact.

in evaluating your connection to the addict, review how many of your life’s challenges concern an external substance or a consistent, domineering pattern of trying to maintain order in your life.

films: jack lemmon and lee remick in days of wine and roses (alcohol); ben stiller in permanent midnight (heroin); dom de luise in fatso (food); claire bloom in the chapman report (sex);

drama: a long day’s journey into night (morphine) by eugene o’neill

fiction: basketball diaries (heroin) by jim carroll; under the volcano (mescal) by malcolm lowry.

religion/myth: soma (vedic god of intoxication, as well as the intoxicating drink itself and the plant from which it is made); tantalus (a son of zeus and king of sipylos in greece, he was invited to share the food of the gods but abused the honor and was punished by being “tantalized” for all eternity by food and drink he could not reach).

the magical/innocent child
the magical child represents the part of us that is both enchanted and enchanting to others. it sees the potential for sacred beauty in all things, exemplified by tiny tim in dickens’s a christmas carol, and by anne frank, who wrote in her diary that in spite of all the horror surrounding her, she still believed that humanity was basically good. her insights continue to inspire people to seek out the wondrous side of life, even in a crisis.

one might assume from the name that this archetype refers to only the delightful qualities of children, but as demonstrated by anne frank and tiny tim, it also embodies qualities of wisdom and courage in the face of difficult circumstances.

baudelaire wrote that “genius is childhood recaptured,” and in that sense the magical child is something of a genius too. the magical child is gifted with the power of imagination and the belief that everything is possible. the shadow energy of the magical child manifests, among others, as pessimism and depression,. they often emerge from an injured magical child whose dreams were “once upon a time” thought foolish by cynical adults. the shadow may also manifest as a belief that energy and action are not required, allowing one to retreat into fantasy.

films: drew barrymore in e.t.; margaret o’brien in meet me in st. louis; george du fresne in ma vie en rose; shirley temple in good ship lollipop.

fiction: the little prince by antoine de saint-exupéry; pippi longstocking by astrid lindgren; alice’s adventures in wonderland and through the looking-glass and what alice found there by lewis carroll.

religion/myth: merlin (in arthurian legend, the “child without a father” who was about to be sacrificed when he saved himself by displaying magic greater than the king’s sorcerers).

the hedonist
this archetype has an “appetite” for the pleasurable aspects of life, from good food and wine to sexuality and sensuality. as scientific research has shown, pleasure can improve our health and extend our lives and needs to be part of a balanced life. indulging the self is central to the psyche of this archetype, whether treating oneself to a health spa or learning the nuances of lovemaking. that the hedonist is generally thought of as someone who pursues extremes of self-indulgence is more a reflection of our puritan heritage than of the archetype itself. in positive terms, it inspires creative energy in the psyche to embrace the “good” things in life. it also challenges in a positive way the collective archetypal fear of being seduced and losing control in the physical world. the shadow hedonist may manifest as pursuing pleasure without regard for other people or one’s own good health.

the search for physical ecstasy parallels the search for spiritual transformation, a truth that is apparent in the dual identity of the famous greek icon of pleasure-seeking, dionysus (roman: bacchus). besides being a god of wine and fertility, dionysus also represents the goal of mystery religions, like those practiced at eleusis: ecstatic delivery from the mundane world through the physical or spiritual intoxication induced by secret rites. (see mystic.) the sacrament of soma (also a god of the vedic pantheon) played a similar role in ancient indian spirituality.

films: babbette’s feast; like water for chocolate; big night.

fiction: tom jones by henry fielding; the unbearable lightness of being by milan kundera; les liaisons dangereuses by p. choderlos delaclos.

religion/myth: oshun (yoruba goddess of love and pleasure who is generous and benign); bebhionn (irish patron goddess of pleasure); qadesh (western semitic fertility goddess and epitome of female sexuality and eroticism); bes (egyptian dwarf god originally associated with royalty and childbirth who became popular among the masses as a god of human pleasures of mirth, music, and dance).

for the full gallery, go here.

image by carf

disfigured: anorexia, obesity and a friendship

reviews seem to be the theme these days. here’s a video i was sent – disfigured. i wonder who shouldn’t watch it. one-track-mind rambo fans, perhaps. people who can’t stand delving into other people’s psyches. those who don’t like sex scenes on screen, no matter how elegantly presented. and if you don’t like watching people who are overweight, it’s not for you, either.

if you don’t count yourself among any of these, watch it. it’s well done, it’s interesting, you’ll learn something.

disfigured is about a friendship between two women – one anorexic (darcy), one overweight (lydia), neither of them extremely so. which makes me like the movie right off the bat – it’s good to remember that most of “those” people are actually quite normal (whatever that means, but that’s material for another blog post).

here are some tidbits:

on using anorexia to deal with conflicts:

someone pisses you off, you count how many calories you can cut the next day – YOU’re the one in control … now it becomes a blood sport

both, overweight and underweight, get the “we-have-to-talk-about-your-health talk” from well-meaning people, or people who can’t resist the temptation to stick their noses into other people’s business:

they let me know that i am fat … they always have some great system or plan … “you have such a pretty face if you only – ” (ate more; ate less; exercised more; exercised less – pick appropriate advice)

part of the plot is a half-hearted relationship between lydia and bob. bob weighs a bit too much, as well and – shoot, i’d love to tell you about that but i’d spoil it for you.

on the secrecy of overeating: “you eat at home, alone, when no one’s looking.”

which again, isn’t so much different from being anorexic. when you’re anorexic, you pretend to eat to distract people who are watching you.

on the addictive quality of overeating when lydia, after trying to “learn how to be anorexic” in order to lose weight, caves in an brings home bags full of goodies:

i just want to really get it over with? what – life? i already feel crappy but i have to eat what i bought, i just want to get it over with

then the tables are turned – well, maybe, that’s for you to find out if (when!) you watch the movie:

bingeing: you should try it … it’s better than sex … cross over to the dark side

many psychologists and therapists would say that part of the reason for eating disorders are disjointed feelings around what it means to be cared for and about. this meets with flippancy (“you hate me? no, i’m fine”), eating (“this is me taking care of myself. at least somebody is. – who takes care of you?”), and isolation (“you don’t understand!” “i do understand!” “i won’t let you!”). finally “if anyone is going to try and care me into getting healthy, i’ll scream.” and then … well, as i said, see for yourself.

the film ends with a moving, inspiring monologue by lydia.

these bodies – they’re us. how can we live in them every day and find them so strange? how can we hate them? they’re beautiful, and miraculous and sad – everything we experience, we experience through them. sooner or later we’ll just have to find a way to love them for what they are.

i’m not a big movie buff, actually more of a movie scrooge. if there were more movies like disfigured, though, i’d watch way more.

overeating and anorexia: a dialogue

“yes, it is possible to lose too much weight,” said joshua seth in one of his submissions to the carnival of eating disorders, talking about courtney love’s unfortunate adventures with all kinds of eating disorders.

my first reaction to this was, “well, yes, duh!” but then it got me to thinking. while we read and hear about anorexia in the media, like with many mental health issues, unless it’s in our face all the time, it’s actually not “duh”. it’s not self-explanatory.

there is an interesting dynamic that can take place between people who undereat and those who overeat.

“oh i wish i was skinny like you!” is something that people whose anorexia does not manifest in radical or overly visible weight loss often hear. hearing this can be crazy-making, because the cognitive-emotional reaction often goes in two opposite direction at once. one is a wistful, almost helpless “if only you knew that i’m not skinny-beautiful, that i’m skinny-sick”. the other is a prideful, judgmental, “it’s because i have discipline, you fat cow!”

once in a while it happens that two people at the opposite spectrum of eating disorders sit down and talk and realize that they have a lot in common: a constant preoccupation with food, body image and weight. not infrequently, it plays itself out in similar ways, for example, going to great lengths to avoid situations where certain types of clothing are worn (e.g. weddings, beach); not eating in public; excessive weighing; crushing feelings of guilt over every morsel that is eaten; an obsession with diets; an intense craving for junk food, etc.

and every once in a while, these conversations reveal that eating disorders are precisely not about what the preoccupations are about. a significant proportion of people with eating disorders suffer from depression and anxiety. somehow, at some level, food – eating or not eating it to excess – turned out to be a useful tool for coping with overwhelming thoughts and feelings. granted, at some point the coping mechanism doesn’t work anymore and then a person is burdened with the eating disorder on top of everything else. but that’s usually some time – even years – down the road because another common denominator of eating disorders, similar to drug use, often start out quite pleasant. for the person who eats too much, chocolate tastes good, and the one who doesn’t eat enough, knowing that a lowly feeling such as hunger can be beaten down and ignored can give a heady feeling for control.

“yes, it’s possible to lose too much weight” – and let’s add, it’s dangerous to do too much of a lot of things. one thing that we rarely do enough of, though, is talk to each other and share our experiences. and dialogues between overeaters and anorexics – there’s definitely not enough of that, and i honestly believe it would help everyone.

p.s. there is a movie about this topic, disfigured. i haven’t been able to get it yet but am looking forward to seeing it. anyone been to it yet?

frozen pea friday: a buddhist on cancer

mount shastafor today’s weekly frozen pea breast cancer post, i was wondering what some of the buddhists on the net say about cancer and came across reverend mugo from jade mountains. this blog is “an expression of gratitude to all those who read, leave comments and provide support by offering dana, friendship, hospitality, guidance, and encouragement.” jade mountains contains, and points to, various sources of buddhist teachings. reverend mugo is a female disciple and dharma heir of the late rev. master jiyu-kennett having been ordained by her in 1981 at shasta abbey california.

i’d like to offer to you some of the numerous references to cancer in this blog.

this entry about climbing mount shasta may give a glimpse as to why rev. mugo mentions cancer here and there – perhaps for reasons similar to my own:

my attention has been drawn to the breast cancer fund climb against the odds expedition to the top of mt. shasta in june this year.

at 14,162 feet, mt. shasta stands as the most striking mountain in northern california and is home to california’s largest glaciers. besides training for the peak attempt, climbers commit to raising a minimum of $5,000 for the breast cancer fund’s work to prevent the disease. we provide the support to achieve both.

the breast cancer fund identifies – and advocates for elimination of – the environmental and other preventable causes of the disease.

when i was a novice at shasta abbey in the early 1980’s i was with my ordination sister goso in the bath-house, where speaking is strictly forbidden. looking up at the mountain through the window she whispered, we’ll climb that one day. sadly she didn’t live long enough for us to do that. she died in november 1986, of breast cancer.

in for whom the bell tolls, rev. mugo mentions the film wit:

“wit, this HBO film presentation, chronicles the personal awakening of a longtime literary scholar (two-time oscar-winner emma thompson), who learns the importance of simple human kindness when faced with the most daunting of crises: a diagnosis of advanced cancer.”

i think emma thompson is wonderful in what ever she does and her part in the film wit is no exception. one might think that the story of a woman undergoing aggressive treatment for cancer would be a sad one. after watching the film last week i was left both uplifted and stilled. it pointed out that illness, terminal illness, can transform into a gift that helps the heart to walk through the flapping door of death, with equanimity and humility.

finally, bows to valiant hearts:

for those who care, who are the carers of those who need caring for, nine bows of gratitude.

for the nurse who was punched to-day, by a patient suffering from dementia, bows.

for the elderly man with terminal cancer who cared for his wife until the time now come, to be cared for. valiant man!

nine bows to all those who, alone or with others, face the task of helping another to get through another day, and another day and another and another…the unrelenting another day. i’ve been there and those days have been privileged days. perhaps those days never end.

in many ways giving is easy; receiving care, not so easy. i hope i have the good grace and fortitude to be cared for, should that time ever come.

i bow to you, reverend mugo. thank you for caring.

(image thanks to volcanicbyway.org)

vancouver events at this year’s mental health week

this week is national mental health week in canada. like last year, i’ll dedicate all my posts this week to mental health. (in a way, all my posts are about mental health but this week we’ll just be a bit more explicit, ok?)

today a roundup of mental health events happening in and around vancouver this week.

movies and psychiatry – may 5th
the depiction of mental illness in film. a multi-media mental health awareness week event, presented by dr. harry karlinsky. a clinical professor at the university of british columbia, founding director of the award-winning frames of mind mental health film series and festival film critic for the canadian psychiatric association. dr. karlinsky will provide a historical overview of the depiction of mental health issues within the world of cinema. he will also explore how the practice of psychiatry can be influenced by concepts first introduced in popular movies. various film and video clips will be utilized throughout the forum to illustrate key points. date: may 5th, time: 7:00pm – 8:30pm, and location: douglas college, 700 royal avenue, new westminster room: 2201. enquiries: 604-523-1072.


improving your life-work balance – wednesday may 7, 7-9:30 pm.

organized by the canadian mental health association, vancouver/burnaby branch.

in this interactive workshop, we’ll discuss what life-work imbalance is, how it impacts your life, the different ways that you can improve your own life-work balance and spend more time doing what you love. you’ll leave the workshop with an action plan for improving your life-work balance.

admission is $10.00 at the door, cash only please.
alan emmott building
6650 southoaks crescent
burnaby, bc


turning grief into action – dealing with teen suicide

when jude platzer’s 15-year-old son josh committed suicide in 1999, her future became clear.

the vancouver resident, overwhelmed with emotion, jumped into action and adopted an advocacy role to help raise awareness about teen suicide and prevent other families from going through what hers had.

this week, as part of national mental health week (may 5-11), platzer will speak at the canadian mental health association north and west vancouver branch’s health lecture series on wednesday, may 7 at john braithwaite community centre at 7 p.m. for more information, go here.


face value by the youth theatre action group
a play about teenagers dealing with mental health issues, addiction and prostitution. may 6th-8th at the roundhouse community centre. there are two matinee shows on may 7th and 8th at 1:15 p.m. evening shows are may 6th, 7th, 8th at 7:30 p.m. all shows will take place at the roundhouse community centre in vancouver. more info here.


public education series on addiction
at the pacific spirit community health centre on west 43rd. all are welcome to come to this free drop-in group. every friday from 9:30 to 11:30. this friday, may 9: chemicals and the body. more info here.

for a full list of events put on by the canadian mental health association in british columbia, go here.

a buddhist carnival – april 2008

a buddhist imagewelcome to the buddhist carnival, a selection of buddhist posts all over the blogosphere.

this month is poetry month. let’s start with a zen poem, then, by p’ang yun, who lived from approximately 740 to 808 C.E.

when the mind is at peace,
the world too is at peace.
nothing real, nothing absent.
not holding on to reality,
not getting stuck in the void,
you are neither holy nor wise, just
an ordinary fellow who has completed his work.

you can find this and other zen poems at the zen frog.

and on with creativity. janet riehl has a series of interviews with buddhist artist eden maxwell, entitled “life purpose is dharma in daily life”, “art in zen and the zen of art” and “make rejection work for your creative life”. here’s a teaser:

in zen buddhism, the fundamental concept is to intuitively grasp the truth; there are no lengthy discourses, and no reasoning for a logical answer.

those who practice zen reject the phantom world; you are capable of perceiving the world directly; this is power; this is the gift each true artist paints, writes, dances”name your form.

nothing is more profound than direct personal experience of a thing, which is the point of both zen and art.

finally, an artistic contribution from the world of film, buddha wild monk in a hut. in a related post, it says

the film gives us a glimpse into the cultural and monastic lives of missionary monks. it provides a mixture of both seriousness and humor that i see both in myself and the monks who are kind enough to teach me here in kansas. plus, a little bit of humor goes a long way in adding dramatic effect. buddha wild takes us on an exploration of the tenets of buddhism, celibacy, politics, the role of women in asian society as well as the everyday goings on of the monks.

and as a last feature, from the art of therapy, wayne contributes non-habitual living and being

i break the habit of being normal.

i discover that standing forth as a whole, centered, focused, and clear human being is ultimately, what life is really all about.

the worst habit you can have is to live your life as if you have no choice. continue to ignore yourself at your peril. see with new eyes, and the world and you are transformed, transcended, and whole.

other submissions include

let’s try this again next month! the next edition of a buddhist carnival will appear here at change therapy on may 15, 2008.

have an article you think we should see? go here to submit it.

(image by steve evans

creativity blocks, metaphysics and individuality

in our last conversation about creativity, jeremy from PsyBlogs talks about the difference between “chaotic” and “ordered” creatives and then moves on to discuss creative blocks.

recently, i came across a doctoral thesis in divinity that talks about the connection between chaos, creativity and spirituality. kurt sander from northern kentucky university points out the important nature of “failure” among creatives. “we must acknowledge that the understanding of a composer’s identity is incomplete if one looks only at masterpieces.” he goes on to say that most creative blocks do not stem from a lack of ideas but from an inability to manifest those ideas. ideas are trapped in the creator’s mind and cannot come out.

according to sander, to make sense of creative chaos, one must find a way to say ‘no’ to individual ideas, “not only to expedite the compositional process, but also to maintain a work’s cohesiveness.”

how to do that? he quotes one of my favourite composers, john taveneran icon, who says, “we live in an age when man has lost belief not only in god, but also in himself. metaphysics has been completely split from the world of the imagination.”

sanders suggests, then, that the way out of chaos is to organize one’s creative process into “a quest for artistic perfection symbolizing the greater human quest for divine perfection.” sanders himself does that with the help of iconography, an ancient art form that de-emphasizes the individual creator’s ego and places art within the context of a greater good.

that is one point of view. let’s add another one – the great filmmaker fellini’s, as discussed by dr. john parris springer, an english professor and movie specialist. this point of view is also about chaos, creativity and creative blocks – but it takes a different, perhaps even the opposite tack. fellini solves his creative crisis by getting as intensely personal as he could possibly get.

fellini had struggled for several years developing ideas and working on a script for the famous film . there was intense pressure to make a film that would top la dolce vita, an international sensation when it was released in 1960. fellini was suffering from the filmmaker’s equivalent of writer’s block, uncertain of his purpose and hesitant to commit to a particular narrative or aesthetic plan for the film.

fellini’s solution was to make a film about a movie director who is riddled with uncertainty and doubt – a character in the same dilemma as fellini himself. thus, 8½ is extremely personal and psychological (which led to accusations of self-indulgence by his critics.)

in 8 1/2, one critic – a sort of alter ego – follows fellini (portrayed by the character of guido) throughout the film, constantly throwing intellectual cold water over the project. the critic’s final pessimistic speech to guido is a plea to abandon the project:

“such a monstrous presumption to think that others could benefit from the squalid catalogue of your mistakes.”

however, 8½ ends on an uplifting, redemptive note. while sitting in his car listening to the critic, guido experiences a sudden epiphany that permits him to achieve a renewed sense of artistic purpose and personal commitment to his wife and friends. guido’s final declaration is, “life is a celebration! let’s live it together!”

at first glance, these two points of view on the creative crisis are very different. one emphasises moving away from the ego or individual to the greater good. the other moves deeply into the individual.

in the end, however, both make me think of buddhism. for example, delving into process is something that is advocated by insight or vipassana meditation. pema chodron speaks very eloquently about that. go inside. get to know yourself, that feeling, intimately.

at the same time, buddhism teaches non-dualism. we are all one, and part of the cessation of suffering is to experience ourselves as more than our tiny little individuality.

buddhism is also very much about detaching from the chaos of our thoughts – thoughts, for example, of failure, self-criticism, pressure to perform, uncertainty and lack of direction, and move towards a groundedness in nothing but the exclamation, “let’s live, together!”

(image by mharrsch)

meditation in an indian prison

meditation in a prisonyesterday at the meditation meetup, we watched a film, doing time, doing vipassana – a moving documentary of how meditation can change life in prison.

this is the story of an ancient meditation technique named vipassana, which shows people how to take control of their lives and channel them toward their own good. it is the story of a strong woman named kiran bedi, the former inspector general of prisons in new delhi, who strove to transform the notorious tihar prison and turn it into an oasis of peace. but most of all it is the story of prison inmates who underwent profound change, and who realized that incarceration is not the end but possibly a fresh start toward an improved and more positive life.

these people have shown that reform can work if it is self-reform. their success has been so dramatic that recently the indian government decided to apply vipassana in all the country’s prisons. other countries are becoming interested as well. the filmmakers spent about two weeks inside tihar central prison in new delhi and baroda jail in the indian state of gujarat. they interviewed inmates and jail officials, and filmed in places rarely accessible to film crews, whether indian or foreign.

“we are all in prisons,” said one of the people shown in the movie. we are imprisoned in our frames of mind, in feelings of anger and resentment, we are imprisoned by our cravings. meditation is one of the keys that lets us open the prison and go free.