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How going to the Movies subconsciously resolves your issues
and improves your life

Movies can guide us home when we get lost. Skillful screen writers engage our psyches in the plight of the hero. When the journey of the hero matches our own, we solve our issues together as the movie concludes.

Being lost eventually leads somewhere. It drives us towards new avenues so we can surrender to the part of ourselves that knows how to get to the destination. Being lost is an important experience. It gets our attention through feelings of anxiety, frustration or depression. Our soul is speaking to us about what is not working so that we can get back on track. When we�re lost, we�re actually at a crossroads.

Think back to times when you were lost. What happened? You realized something was not right. You realized that you needed help seeing the path.

I got lost in a marriage. I left home too early. I lied about my age to get a decent job. I celebrated my 21st birthday at work when I was 17 ... I was so nervous that my coworkers would want to take me out for a drink and I would be asked for my ID.

By the time I was 19 I thought I was older because my co-workers were all getting married. I felt I needed to get married. No sooner had I made the decision, an older man pursued me, proposed, and we moved away from all I knew. Not that far away mind you ... about a hundred miles. I left my hometown city of San Diego and moved to Los Angeles.

Sadly, my new husband became my new enemy.

Ray had been discharged from the army for reasons of mental instability. His mother had been committed to an asylum for shock therapy when he was a boy. His older brother acted as his parent and social services were never the wiser. Ray was terrified of abandonment and really angry with women. Every day was a new war ... with me.

I was permitted one friendship by telephone. My husband didn�t object because my friend was gay. Mark was living his dream as an international flight attendant. He had expanded his world and gotten some wisdom. Mark invited himself for the weekend. He never made it past the first night though. He could not stomach who I had become or rather, who I was not anymore. He took the red-eye home-bound for New York.

Had I been in movie therapy, my therapist might have recommended The Matrix so that I could see that I was buying into someone else�s reality: my husband�s.

Mark was my guide. He called me every work-day from wherever he was in the world until I filed for divorce. Mark was Morpheus. He pushed my liberation from a twisted, draining perception of reality so I could be born as my true self.

Had I seen The Matrix in 1977 through some sort of time travel, I might have awakened. It became really apparent that I was arguing with insanity when Ray began yelling at me as though I was his deceased mother still incarnate. I was lucky to have a real life guide appear when I needed one.

When we are lost, we need a guide. In an ideal life scenario, a teacher appears in the way Mark appeared for me or how Obi Wan Kenobi appeared for Luke Skywalker. If you do not have such a friend or uncle, you can still get guidance in the tradition of all great peoples ... from a story about someone like you who finds his way.

In our modern world, movies teach us our cultural myths and inherent cultural wisdom.

Wisdom always exists. It always has and it always will. Wisdom is the incredible intelligence that creates universes, monkeys, and bananas. It is undeniably present. Obviously nothing exists without it. It predates humanity. It is as powerful as our own bodies and as present as the atmosphere.

Joseph Campbell, (1904 - 1987), professor, writer, and lecturer, famous for his research and writings in the fields of comparative mythology, was awestruck by the common themes of all peoples around the world.

Campbell got an early start. When he was seven, his dad took him to see The Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. Thus began his obsession: when he was not at the library, he was at the natural history museum. By the time he was ten, he had read everything on Indian lore for children at his local library, so he started in on the adult section. His studies gave him an interesting combination of folklore and modern morality as they rested side-by-side with his Catholic upbringing. He fully-embraced his Irish Catholic heritage with all its traditions and rituals well into his twenties.

In college, Campbell majored in medieval literature. He was a brilliant teacher, editor and writer about mythology ... perhaps the most remarkable because he made it so accessible to the public.

He was credited with owning one of the most extensive collections of tarot decks or their equivalents from around the world.

Campbell wrote about how every primal culture had a set of images that captured their values and how the images were similar no matter where you went in the world. He theorized that all of the myths of the world are creations of the human psyche. He saw the artists of a culture as its mythic generators.

And every culture uses myth and folk stories to explain psychology, society, the cosmos, and why we are here.

Wisdom yearns to create and express itself wherever there are artists willing to give it life. Even the natives of the most remote island would tell their children mythical stories of creation, heroics, beauty, magic, punishment, and reward.

These commonalities that all ancient peoples shared that have been passed on to our modern day existence influence our behaviors and choices. These ancient influences stimulate who we are as humanity. They are not only primal, they are cosmic.

This body of primal energies are what Dr. Carl Jung (1875 - 1961), father of analytical psychology, labeled the collective unconscious.

When we personally repress one of these primal energies, or live in a society that represses one of these energies, we fall out of balance and make decisions that further throw our beings and lives askew. When we restore the primal energy to a pure state by recognizing it for what it really is, we come back into balance and make decisions and display behaviors that make us happy, healthy, successful, and free.

One such primal energy is aggression. In its pure form, aggression shows up as the heroic warrior who fights to retrieve something precious or protects the innocent.

In its repressed form, it is the righteous warrior who violently kills to preserve his idea of a perfect world. Trouble is, it is an ideal borne of his ego,

Dr. Jung named these primal energies �archetypes.� The collective unconscious is comprised of archetypes. As the collective unconscious expresses itself, it does so through archetypes.

The word archetype comes from two Greek words: arche, which means first, and type, which means imprint or pattern.

Jung was not the first with this concept, but he was the first to coin the idea.

Two-thousand plus years earlier, Plato taught that there are primal forms within the Divine mind. These forms were his idea that everything falls into a primal category.

For instance, as any teenager will tell you, sex changes everything. Therefore, everything sexual would fall under the Divine category of transformation, as would the other transitions of life, i.e., puberty, birth, menopause, and death.

Another category is beauty, which includes everything spurred from an intention of beauty. The ancient Greeks conceived Aphrodite as their primal form that represents beauty, but she is still very much alive in the shops of Rodeo Drive and in the leading ladies of stage and film.

Archetypes crystallize into our own unique expression the moment we first become conscious as a physical being. Some archetypal philosophers believe we inherit them the same way we unconsciously inherit brown eyes or curly hair. They are the life force that express one�s soul in the same way that DNA constructs your body.

And just as DNA continually regenerates our physical being as we evolve, archetypes continually regenerate patterns of behavior as we psychologically evolve.

As the part of the collective unconscious that lives inside us, archetypes also live all around us as the rest of the collective unconscious. In other words, all the archetypes comprise God, which is our soul, other souls, and the world we live in.

Inside, you meet them in your dreams. Outside, you meet them at work, school, church or temple, neighborhood, parties, in books, TV shows, myths, and movies.

The archetypes you are comfortable with, you express as part of your personality and the ones that you are uncomfortable with, you repress into your alter ego. Since they insist that you acknowledge them, they draw people into your life that strongly express your repressed aspects so that you can still experience those primal energies.

The movies are our modern-day means of connecting to the experiences and the inherent wisdom of the people in the world. Movies carry our cultural myths that help us to put life into perspective.

Movie theaters are the shuttles into outer space into the farthest reaches of our cosmic consciousness as a species.

Because movies are conceived within the fertile beds of imagination, they perfectly reflect our reality. All of the elements of outer world reality are depicted in film reality. Here we find our teachers. The key is to identify the forks in the road. Start by identifying your path.

The various personality typing methods identify sets of themes, just as movies fall into different categories. Once you know your theme, you know your path. Once you know your path, you can rest assured that others have been stuck at the same points you have encountered and have written scripts about it.

These writers become your teachers as you witness their stories or the stories their souls have accessed through their imaginations.

The best part is that you stimulate your growth and evolution by going to the movies.

Watching a movie in a theater differs from watching a movie on your television at home. The movie theater captures the ingredients of an altered state that enables psychological processing.

Going to the movies is hypnotic, except that it is an externally-fabricated state-of-mind.

In hypnosis, the subject closes his eyes to achieve a state of darkness in order to see internal images that will stir his imagination and act as a catalyst for change upon his subconscious mind.

At the movies, the viewer is subjected to a state of darkness in order to see external images that will stir his imagination and act as a catalyst for change upon his subconscious mind.

It has been proved in hypnosis that the subconscious mind does not register the difference between actual experience and properly-imagined experience. Proper in the sense that the hypnotized subject�s subconscious mind believes the imagined experience is real.

How does that happen? There has to be sufficient sensory stimuli to make the mind believe it is actually having an experience.

Hypnotherapy typically offers several types of sensory input to the hypnotized subject, along with a suggestion that stimulates an emotional reaction, so that the subject imagines the desired experience as real.

The hypnotherapist describes a scene that the subject can imagine seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting, or feeling.

This is even more easily created in filmmaking. In fact, it is nearly impossible to have fewer than two types of sensory input as viewers are automatically exposed to visuals and sounds as part of watching the movie. And whose mouth didn�t water while watching the meal preparation in Tortilla Soup or find their appetite stimulated during the sensual chocolate scenes in Chocolate?

All that is needed is an emotional reaction that relates to your life and your mind will believe that you are actually having a new experience.

Movie therapy works because the act of being in a movie theater simulates entering the unconscious: the dark unknown that focuses upon projected images.

I have assigned movie therapy issues and correlative plots to twelve different categories.

1) The individual who has lost touch with what his heart desires. I suggest he watch romantic movies and movies about how failure leads to success, such as Bring It On, Liar, Liar, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Mr. Deeds, How to Lose A Man in Ten Days, Bruce Almighty, Cry Baby, The Majestic, and Catch Me If You Can.

2) People obsessed with what they perceive is missing that would make life meaningful. Use movies that show how to put ideas and ideals into reality, such as Nick Bottom in Midsummers Night Dream, Serendipity, Gone with the Wind, Mrs. Doubtfire, and The Whole Nine Yards.

3) Individuals that are so shut down from abuse or pain they fear intimacy. Recommend movies showing a life made rich and full by risking rejection, such as Gracie Hart in Miss Congeniality, and Cameron Frye in Ferris Buellers Day Off.

4) Unsung heroes, neurotics, cynics, and phobics need movies that teach how the return of something precious is worth the risk of death or loss of reputation (can also be an ego death), such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Dr. John Mickler of Don Juan de Marco, Moonstruck, Missy in Bring It On, Tucker, The King and I, French Kiss, and The Muse.

5) For clients that are always searching for something new because of a fear of commitment and avoidance of emotional pain, recommend movies that show the joys of a simple life and that there is no perfect choice, such as Something�s Gotta Give, As Good As It Gets, Terms of Endearment, Ketcher Block in Down with Love, Two Weeks Notice, What Women Want, and Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady.

6) Issues of vulnerability ... the individual won�t allow himself to cry, feel regret, pity, sadness, or loss, but instead stays in power or bullies others. He needs movies that show how a person becomes truly great by embracing vulnerability and sensitivity, such as Fight Club, Wall Street, Scarface, and Danny in Grease.

7) People who sacrifice their dreams to hold their family together or who will do anything just to have some peace and quiet should watch movies that show the power of standing up for one�s self, such as Norma Rae, Hugh Grant in Love Actually, and Me Myself and Irene.

8) The client so focused on doing the right thing that he is missing fun should watch movies that show how the old model of being perfect is no longer working, such as Bennie and Joon, Ten Things I Hate About You, Keeping the Faith, and What�s Eating Gilbert Grape.

9) Individuals who have diminished themselves in service to someone else can find empowerment in movies that show how the person who has found pride in being the power behind the throne can now step up into power for him or herself. Recommend Tootsie, Sabrina, The Mirror Has Two Faces, Beauty and the Beast, The First Wives Club, Snow White, Legally Blonde, and Fried Green Tomatoes.

10) Those with the Peter Pan syndrome ... the puers who fear that growing up means the end of everything magical in the world ... benefit from seeing how the misfit has a unique place in the world, such as in The Grinch, Shine, The Man Who Cried (Suzy), Chocolate, Romy and Michelle�s High School Reunion, Edward Scissorhands, Amadeus, A Beautiful Mind, Sylvia, and The Shining.

11) For clients who are coping with extreme sensitivity through some sort of an addiction, I recommend movies that show the importance of being in body and relating to this world, such as Leaving Las Vegas, Postcards from the Edge, The Doors, and Jackson Pollock.

12) Self-destructive types benefit from movies that explore the dark side, such as Meet Joe Black, Bedazzled, Fight Club, Death Becomes Her, Indecent Proposal, The Godfather, A Star is Born, Saturday Night Fever, China Town, Citizen Kane, Pulp Fiction, and American Beauty.

Help your client identify his dominant life theme category. After he has viewed the movie, the two of you can discuss the character that was most transformed or healed. Guide your client to hear the message imparted by the screenwriter and then identify a means for him to integrate that message into his life. I use these nine questions:

1) At what point in the movie did I feel the most uncomfortable?

2) When was the first time I felt that kind of emotion?

3) What was going on in my life at that age?

4) Was there a specific, upsetting, incident?

5) What decisions did I likely make as a result?

6) How did that decision help me at the time?

7) Does it help me or hinder me now?

8) If I look at that part of my life as a part of a movie, and myself as a character in that movie, why did the character need that experience for his development?

9) What would happen if I replaced that decision with a new decision?

It is easy to miss important details when we see a complex movie for the first time. The second time we see it, we become aware of the subtleties. We are able to relax and really enjoy the movie.

If we choose to see life as a movie, we can identify the central myth we are enacting. Owning our life in this way, we can elect ourselves producer of the movie. Now we have power as to whether the movie follows the story line and how the star plays out the plot. We might decide that the role of the star needs to be rewritten to reflect more self-understanding and minimal victimization.

Every life has a story. Some are more dramatic than others, but each person lives his story.

When you listen to an old person tell his story, you hear the purpose of his life. He is old enough to see the whole tale. A lot of the time he tells you that it did not turn out the way he thought it would, but it turned out for the best.

Sometimes he tells you of the opportunities he did not see and bemoans his deepest regrets.

Sometimes an individual recognizes his life theme early on and everything goes according to plan just as he anticipated it would.

Imagine having a conversation with your 90-year-old self when you turned 30. You could find out how the 90-year-old self is doing. If content, you could rest assured that everything turns out okay. If unhappy, you could find out what happened and use that knowledge to pick a different path at the forks in the future.

Let us assume your Higher Self picked a story that would best help you develop certain aspects of awareness through your experiences of life. Knowing the story now enables you to recognize the forks in the road and where each road leads so that you can fall into step with your the highest path of your soul.

Now you know what you need to grow and what you need to release.

This helps you identify your true teachers, friends, and occupation ... and who is likely to tempt you off your true path.

I believe your soul already knows all of these answers. Most people felt some part of themselves screaming inside when they first stepped on the wrong path.

Our soul seems to communicate to us through our feelings and bodies ... like the bride who stands at the altar with her stomach all in knots. She contemplates saying no. It is an exciting thought. She could be free. Then she thinks about all the people in the church. She convinces herself that it will be all right and if it�s not, she will just get a divorce. She does not see that the altar is her fork in the road. She does not really check in with her feelings as to where each road will take her. Two babies later, it is obvious she has to leave to save her sanity. The experience has given her a lot of wisdom, but at a price.

Would she have chosen to marry this particular man had she known the myth that she was playing out? Probably not. (Her myth is Aphrodite Betrayed as illustrated in the Greek myth when Aphrodite consents to marry Hephastes to please Zeus.)

Had she known that the purpose of the relationship was to learn to be whole in who she was, she probably would have opted for awareness in a different way.

Our modern Aphrodite in our example chose instead to get to wholeness by sacrificing her power to her husband. She made him the keeper of might and wisdom. He accepted the responsibility of determining her worthiness because he felt worshiped by her and he enjoyed the additional power, but in the process he lost his respect for her. The power she gave him to make her his queen is now turned against her as she falls from grace.

Had she chosen to stay single until she knew herself better, she would have discovered her own inner power to declare herself a queen. Both roads lead to wholeness, but one is full of hardship and the other is full of joy. If we view her choices as two movies, the first is Michelle Pfeiffer in Married to the Mob and the second is Cher in Moonstruck.

If you happen to love counseling, movies and mythology, consider this rapidly growing sector of therapy.

~Copyright 2007

Stephanie Jourdan, Ph.D.


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