Finding Meaning in Film Can be Empowering
What could the most recent super hero movie Aquaman possibly have to do with mid-life?
People close to me know about my obsession with film. I’m drawn to Fox Bay Theater in Whitefish Bay at least weekly, viewing some films as many as six times, always sitting at my usual table enjoying my usual drink. On my walk home, I often break out in tears because I discovered something about myself AND laughter because of my compulsion to find depth in everything.
Film offers escape and entertainment, AND there is always something deeper going on. Exploring your reactions to film can tell you things about yourself that can be empowering or things about society that help make sense of cultural events and movements.
Mid-Life as a Time of Death and Rebirth
I learned how to look at film in a new way during my own mid-life crisis, which coincided with my studying depth psychology. C.G. Jung suggested the first half of life was spent building our egos – in a good way – and finding a place in the world. Sometimes though we become too one-sided trying to live by the values of society while ignoring our inner most desires.
Jung suggested that the tasks of mid-life included: (1) Bringing to light and reconciling all of the stuff that we have repressed because of trying to fit in – positive and negative; and (2) Finding meaning and new purpose in living.
In many cases, mid-life plays out as crisis, because we are not aware of what’s going on beneath the surface of our daily lives. Marriages break down, people discover they are unhappy, and many times people suffer great anxiety or try to fill the new holes with new partners, alcohol or other addictions. These crises are meant to prompt a kind of death of one way of living AND a time of birth of a new way of living, but we never received a manual for how to get through this process.
What’s In It For You
So, back to film. I have lots of thoughts about this most recent super hero movie, Aquaman, which is DC Comic’s top grossing movie worldwide with $1 billion in sales. In this post, I want to share a little bit about my experience with the movie Aquaman and a kind of template you can use to explore your own experiences with film, Netflix series, or even music and song lyrics.
Step #1 – Identify Images that stick out to you.
Don’t TRY to do anything different, but be alert to images (visual, verbal, movie lines) that stick out to you. One image in Aquaman that stuck out to me was the descent through the Kingdom of the Trench required to get to the Lost Kingdom, where the golden trident was guarded. Another occurred the fifth time I saw the movie, I became emotional at seeing the transformed Aquaman with his golden trident riding the beast. The sixth time I heard a line for the first time – the character played by Willem Dafoe looked at the transformed Aquaman and quietly said, “The King is Risen.”
Step #2 – Reflect about what the images make you think about or feel.
Just let your imagination go or talk about it with someone. For me, the descent represented a “dark night of the soul” experience. The creatures of the Trench were said to have regressed into pure uncontrollable instincts after the fall of Atlantis. But beyond the Trench was the Lost Kingdom, a peaceful prehistoric place – and held the golden trident. This imagery brought to life the pain of facing your shadow AND the promise that it holds the key to healing.
Step #3 – Ask yourself “Where is this happening in my life?”
Exploring what intrigues you in a film may bring to the surface a desire you’ve repressed or something that you’ve been projecting onto others that you can’t admit about yourself, for example your own intolerance. My emotional reaction to seeing the transformed Aquaman on top of the beast made me realize that I have overcome something important recently. The fact that I did not hear “The King is Risen” until the sixth time may indicate my not realizing this, denying this, or just being too used to being in transition. The “King is Risen,” is me – a new me with a new power and purpose for life, which requires new action on my part.
Step #4 – Develop a Practice for Journaling and Reflection.
Don’t expect too much right away – insights may come fast or slow. Consider developing a practice of seeing metaphors and symbolism that are right in front of you, whether in films that intrigue you, your favorite songs, or Netflix series you binge watch. There’s a hidden and deeper reason you’re drawn to what you’re drawn to, and being open to what’s beneath the surface can provide real direction for your life. My practice of working with dreams and films have caused dramatic shifts in my confidence and lowering of anxiety when it comes to knowing which actions to take as I contemplate what my new vocation and purpose might be. Films seem to be a favorite way for my unconscious to reach me.
Join a growing number of women who gather with me monthly to talk about mid-life. Working with film, dreams, and other ways our unconscious talks with us is always part of the conversation. Click here to register for the February 6th workshop at Elle Studio.
Deborah Lukovich holds a M.A. and is a Ph.D. Candidate in depth psychology. She works with people who want to understand themselves better in order to find a greater sense of purpose and overcome obstacles that may be holding them back. Click here to learn about Deborah's services.