THE SYMBOLIC LIFE (Winter 2014)
In past years we have usually published a summer newsletter that we send out by email. In the summer of 2013 I discussed the psychological implications of the shooting of Trayvon Martin, and the dangers of taking fantasies as fact. What the shooter, George Zimmerman imagined Trayvon to be, did not fit the reality of who he really was. Such events have continued to happen in our society and the world, dark moments that happen even during the brightest days.
We had a somewhat different kind of shocking experience—what Jung called an abaissement du niveau mental—at Coldwater Counseling Center in May. A car somehow veered off Coldwater Canyon Avenue and ran into one of our consulting rooms while a therapy session was in progress. Fortunately no one was hurt, and ironically the driver, an elderly gentleman, had no recollection of what happened. The "window" for the car to hit that space at just that moment in time was quite small. We still await the final repairs on the office, though completion is close.
While waiting for the repairs to coalesce I also waited for a story to emerge about events nationally and internationally that were happening during this time, events of which it was also hard to make sense. One of these was the death of actor/comedian Robin Williams. Having seen him for so long in films, comedy acts, and talk shows, and struck by the depth and speed of which the spontaneity in his imagination emerged, his loss was a shock. Yet unfortunately dark elements emerge out of the psyche as well as creative ones, and these challenge us all, both individually and culturally.
Williams death touched many people and on more than one occasion it came up in my consulting room. In the ensuing weeks I found myself reviewing several of the films he had been in and the memorable characters he created. In short, I missed him.
In articles written after his death, Williams was quoted as saying, " I don't know where the stuff comes from. Something kicks in. You're not in control. That's what scary." Such reflections would indicate from the perspective of depth psychology how close he lived to the unconscious. Obviously both a source of his creative gifts and unusual spontaneity, but also of other demons that haunted him more than those who knew him it seems were aware.
Director Chris Columbus was quoted saying that "His performances were unlike anything any of us had ever seen, they came from some spiritual and other worldly place."
So for our "story" this solstice season I would like to use one of Robin Williams films, one featuring his role as Peter Banning in Steven Spielberg's Hook (1991). The story is a "sequel" to that of Peter Pan, in this case "Peter" has become a corporate attorney in America and returns to England where he had been adopted to visit Granny Wendy (Maggie Smith). He has become too busy for his children so while at a benefit for Wendy, his kids are kidnapped by Captain Hook. Wendy makes it clear that only he can save them and to do so he must remember who he really is and return to Neverland (certainly an other worldly place) to rescue them.
The mythic hero's journey is invoked in a new twist. Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) appears to take Peter back to Neverland despite Peter's resistance. Now a success in our modern corporate world, Peter must return to the land he once knew in childhood, the far more magical one that is known so well by children but sadly often left behind by most people as they move into modern adulthood. Hook (Dustin Hoffman) does not recognize his former "worthy opponent" and would kill Peter and his children. Tinkerbell intervenes and is granted three days to generate the real Pan. In the meantime the Captain will work to "hook" Peter's son Jack into liking him, since Peter and his son are not on very good terms with each other. To face Hook and win back his children Peter must remember who he really is. By reconnecting to the full power of his imagination and his feelings (a common theme in other roles Williams played) he "remembers" who he really is and what is truly important to him. Peter becomes a more related and spontaneous personality, and reconnects to his children in dramatic fashion.
The story is very apropos for this time of year as one of renewal and a nice gift from Williams about the hope to transform ourselves, and certainly one to honor his creative legacy.
Editor: Steve Galipeau