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E-Motion Picture Magic

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E-Motion Picture Magic
A Movie Lovers Guide
to Healing and Transformation
Birgit Wolz, Ph.D.
Glenbridge Publishing Ltd.
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Copyright 2004 by Birgit Wolz
Published by Glenbridge Publishing Ltd.
19923 E. Long Ave.
Centennial, Colorado 80016
All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews, no part of this
publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or
mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval sys-
tem, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: LC 2004104793
International Standard Book Number: 0-944435-55-6
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Dr. Wolzs e-mail address: bwolz@earthlink.net
web site: http://www.cinematherapy.com
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1. Basic Discoveries ...................................................................7
2. How Movies Support Healing and Transformation ....19
3. Watching Movies With Conscious Awareness ...............33
4. Using Movies to Release Negative Beliefs .....................56
5. Negative Belief Index.........................................................75
6. Building Self-Esteem...........................................................96
7. Grief and Transformation................................................113
8. How Film Characters Affect Us
The Film Matrix................................................................126
9. Self-Discovery Through Film Characters
The Self Matrix .................................................................136
10. Powerful Tools for Healing and Growth
The Growth Matrix ..........................................................154
11. Creating a Cinema Therapy Group ...............................176
The Film Index.........................................................................185
Endnotes ....................................................................................213
Bibliography ..............................................................................216
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All of my wonderful teachers, who guided me on
this fascinating journey, discovering and
communicating the transformational magic in movies.
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Ever Since Hugo Munsterberg offered the first scientifically-
based, psychological perspective on how movies affect movie-
goers in 1916, the courtship between psychology and motion
pictures has been a volatile, on-again, off-again affair with
libidinous spurts of heart, mind, and, occasionally, spleen.
Ironically, Munsterberg may have been the first to remark
about the psychological impact of this remarkable invention,
this magic lantern, yet it was the less rigorously empirical,
more boldly speculative but aesthetically far more appealing
psychoanalytic theory, which leapfrogged over the likes of
Munsterberg and his staid scientific psychology and quickly
colonized the film world.
Onscreen and off, psychoanalysts explained to the world
the surface and symbolic meaning of words, actions, and
images rambling or racing across movie screens, into the con-
scious and unconscious minds of rapt viewers. The psy-
chopathology of everyday life became the grist for Hollywood
films. While attending the movies, people were often first
exposed to such exotic terms and conditions as psychosis,
depression, hysteria, and the unfolding panoply of treatment
modalities that made terms like psychotherapy, schizophre-
nia, and neurosis integral parts of parlor conversations lex-
ical landscape.
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While films could viscerally depict people wrestling with
psychological demons, grand and petty, as a medium, film was
unwieldy for purposes of using the issues it dramatized as grist
for another mill, the mill of psychotherapy. What was it about
the life on screen that touched the life of the viewer off screen?
How do you easily explore it? A book or poem that moved you,
a painting that touched you, a musical passage that transported
you they could be reread, re-viewed, or replayed to recap-
ture the emotional lightning. But how could the 35mm motion
picture, an expensive, non-portable medium, be used to aid
psychotherapy? Not well and not easily.
Then, in the late 70s the VCR and the video cassette revo-
lutionized film duplication, and the door to cinema therapy was
opened wide. Easy, inexpensive access to emotionally provoca-
tive film stories became a convenient reality. Freed of screen-
ing constraints, film could now easily be recruited to aid the
therapeutic process.
Today, the value of film to the process of self-awareness
and self-improvement has never been more exquisitely appre-
ciated, by both academics and laypersons. Self-help books
designed around recommended and categorized film titles have
appeared. I have read many of them, and some are quite good.
Few, however, are written by therapists who have devoted
much of their practice to the use of film as a central therapeu-
tic adjunct. Birgit Wolz is such a therapist and author. Her
extensive hands-on professional experience in the field brings
a greater sensitivity to the intricacies and nuances of film as an
emotional experience and source of identification and self-dis-
covery. E-Motion Picture Magic: A Movie Lovers Guide to
Healing and Transformation comes with guidance, advice,
insights, and recommendations that reflect her experiences
with the emerging field of cinema therapy.
It is clear that Wolz understands the dynamics of why
movies are such a rich source of personal insight and self-dis-
covery. Movies constitute the premier popular culture form of
the day. This is due, in no small way, to the psychophysiologi-
viii E-Motion Picture Magic
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cal properties of the film medium. While film has been justly
called an emotion machine, it is also a strongly multi-sensory
medium. More than any other medium of entertainment and
communication, movies richly represent the swirl of flesh,
ideas, pain, pride and laughter, symbols, and images that define
what we call the human condition.
But film isnt without its shortcomings. Although research
has shown film to be the premier emotion generator, research
has also shown that books can explain and explore complex
issues far more effectively than can films. In essence, film
arouses and print elaborates. A wedding of film self-help books
can offer the best of both media. This is what the field of cin-
ema therapy has to offer a cinema-savvy society.
Dr. Wolz advises that therapeutic value can be harvested
from good or bad films, from agreeable or disagreeable char-
acters, or from exhilarating or depressing endings. It is not the
aesthetics of the film that is of moment for Wolz, but how the
film resonates with the troublesome narratives of our lives.
Moreover, films can show us, with equal salutatory value, what
works, what doesnt work, whats functional, whats dysfunc-
tional, what we should incorporate into our lives and what we
should jettison. Films become vicarious learning machines for
those who pay attention to how the myriad film muses speak to
us in darkened theaters or dimly-lit living rooms.
The wisdom of Dr. Wolzs understanding of how films can
speak to us in unanticipated ways is cleverly evidenced in the
negative instance. She notes that one neednt like or even be
moved by a character to learn from him or her. I would add that
you dont even have to like an entire film to learn something
about yourself. For example, how or when a movie doesnt move
us is often as important as how or when a movie does move us.
If the entire audience is weeping when the lights go on at the
end of the show, and your eyes are desert-dry, a river of emotion
may be running through the dry gulch, just below the surface.
Dr. Wolz clearly has a comprehensive agenda in mind for her
readers. Drawing from multiple academic and philosophical
Foreword ix
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sources, she combines self-help strategies, techniques, insights,
and exercises addressing the array of personal problem areas
that are emblematic of the modern human condition. She offers
a version of cinema therapy that, more than most, is firmly
grounded in well-tested principles of cognitive-behavior mod-
ification and social learning, and she applies them with rigor
and creativity to this modern treatment modality. Her book eas-
ily appeals to both lay and professional audiences and, most
importantly, she has raised the bar of excellence for future
Stuart Fischoff, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor of Media Psychology,
California State University, Los Angeles, and
Director of the Media Psychology Research Institute
x E-Motion Picture Magic
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Have you ever wished for more perspective on your life? Have
you ever thought If only I could take a couple steps back from
my problems I might feel less insecure, worried, discontented,
angry or confused? I have often observed that true healing
begins when some event occurs that causes us to gain a deeper
understanding of ourselves and our circumstances. Sometimes
this shift in perspective comes about through a major disrup-
tion in our normal routines. Or perhaps a friends life inspires
us and opens us to new insights. Sometimes the object that keys
this extraordinary change of viewpoint is not even a real person
but simply a character in a story.
Throughout history philosophers, psychotherapists, and
spiritual teachers have pointed to a shift in viewpoint as the key
to emotional and spiritual growth. Such a change in perspective
is one of the goals commonly sought by those who practice
spiritual disciplines. In many forms of meditation it is hoped
that the practice will enable us to see into our deeper nature and
that by doing so we will no longer identify so closely with our
individual concerns. In such a scenario our problems do not
necessarily go away, but through meditation we learn to view
them in a larger context. This meditative vantage point is some-
times called an observer perspective. Many psychotherapeutic
methods share a similar goal.
The best movies trans-
port us beyond time. We
hitch a ride on the emo-
tional roller coaster of the
main characters quest.
Cathie Glenn
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Life teaches us that there is often more than one way to
achieve our dreams. Having worked with many clients over the
years, I have been occasionally surprised to watch as one of them
experienced an amazing aha! of recognition and had an inter-
nal shift after watching a movie. These clients were able to iden-
tify with characters who had struggles similar to their own. But
while they identified with the characters, it was also somehow
easier to maintain their distance outside the experience. In
other words, they maintained an observer perspective. In some
cases, instead of identifying with a character, the client was
highly critical of them. Either way, the same active principles
seemed to apply, and combining the movie experience with psy-
chological exploration during our sessions had powerful results.
Having observed this almost alchemical process many
times, I have come to believe that the key to it lies in two critical
aspects of the movie-viewing experience. Movies, more than any
other storytelling medium, have the power to draw us out of our-
selves and into the experience of their characters. Yet, at the
same time, it is often easier to maintain a healthy distance or per-
spective while watching a movie than it is in a real-life situation.
When psychotherapeutic tools are used to process this
movie-prompted experience, healing and transformation can
happen. Viewing a film with conscious awareness, and prop-
erly digesting the whole experience, together form the core
principles of E-Motion Picture Magic a particular type of
cinema therapy.
Throughout this book I offer movie suggestions and intro-
duce these therapeutic methods in the form of exercises. I also
include examples of experiences related to me by clients from
my practice. In all such examples, the clients name has been
changed in order to protect their confidentiality.
The Power of Movies
Since the dawn of the movie era more than one hundred years
ago, cinema has had its skeptics and detractors. Even Louis
Movies offer an unusu-
ally safe, enjoyable way to
peek at all weve denied
our dark sides and our
Marsha Sinetar
2 E-Motion Picture Magic
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Lumire, one of the principal inventors of cinematography,
said, The cinema is an invention without a future.
But happily, Lumire was wrong. Movies did have a
future. They have become enormously popular and immensely
powerful as a tool for telling stories, communicating informa-
tion, and influencing culture. Even the early silent films, with
their jerky, grainy, black and white images exhibited an almost
magical power to captivate their viewers attention. Today, with
bone shaking surround-sound, brilliant color, wide-screen for-
mat, and digital special effects, the power of cinema to trans-
port us into other worlds has grown to gargantuan proportions.
As one measure of just how powerful movies have become,
consider how some sociologists, psychologists, politicians, and
clerics complain that movies are changing the way society,
especially children, view themselves and their world. Such crit-
ics point out that in an effort to appeal to the basest elements of
human nature, many movies overemphasize graphic violence
and sex. Of course, their complaint is about the films content
not the medium. But it is interesting to note that while such
critics level these same complaints against other media
books, magazines, popular music, fine art movies bear the
lions share of such attacks. It is illuminating to ask why. I
believe it is because movies, by virtue of their verisimilitude
and ubiquity, have significantly greater power than other media
to move us, to change the way we see our world and ourselves.
It is obvious that many films play to the lowest common
denominators the base human instincts and desires. Even so,
it is practically impossible to number the movies that seek the
opposite pole, that strive to inspire the highest human values.
The vast majority of movies simply hope to entertain by spin-
ning a good yarn, and even those sometimes end up uninten-
tionally serving as a catalyst for personal insight into the darker
side of the soul. When those dark aspects are brought into the
light of conscious awareness, true inner freedom is possible.
Like no other medium before it, the popular movie pres-
ents the potential of a new power for illuminating the depth of
Introduction 3
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human experience. E-Motion Picture Magic employs that
power as a tool to increase consciousness.
A New Idea As Old As History
As with most new ideas, many aspects of cinema therapy are
not really new. The use of movies for personal growth and
healing carries forward a long-standing connection between
storytelling and self-reflection that in all probability dates back
to the beginnings of spoken language.
Many cultures throughout human history have recognized
the transformative and healing effect of the act of telling and
listening to stories. E-Motion Picture Magic, and cinema ther-
apy in general, trace their roots directly to bibliotherapy, which
is the use of engaged reading in order to gain insight into ones
psyche. The practice of bibliotherapy may go back as far as the
ancient Greeks where the door to the library at Thebes bore the
inscription: The Healing Place of the Soul.
Stemming from the invention of the printing press (1450)
and the invention of the novel (mid-1600s), the rise of popular
literature made it increasingly easier for individuals to hear
well-crafted stories more frequently.
Beginning with the spread of psychoanalysis during the
first half of the twentieth century, analysts began prescribing
specific reading material, often novels, for some of their
patients. In 1916 the term bibliotherapy made its first appear-
ance in psychological literature. During the explosion of the
self-help movement in the 1960s through the 1980s, the main
focus shifted away from the use of fictional books to nonfiction
self-help manuals. Even so, in 1983, James Hillman empha-
sized the practice of using fiction in therapy in his book,
Healing Fiction.
Cinema therapy was mentioned in psychological articles as
early as 1990, and in 1993 Marsha Sinetar published the first
book that specifically discussed the use of movies as a tool for
personal growth: Reel Power Spiritual Growth Through Film.
Practitioners have long
recommended books, plays,
poetry, and visual and
performance arts as a
means of teaching
concepts of mental health
and providing corrective
emotional experiences.
John T. Pardeck
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What E-Motion Picture Magic Is, and Is not
Basically, E-Motion Picture Magic is a way to use the act of
consciously watching movies in combination with therapeutic
or consciousness-raising exercises for personal healing and
Some of the existing literature about utilizing movies ther-
apeutically focuses on professional therapy; others are written
primarily as a self-help guide. The most popular of those self-
help books treat the subject in a lighthearted manner. As a ther-
apist, I believe the movie experience used in a very specific
way can have great healing benefits for those who are willing
to apply themselves. I also believe that this process can be fun.
As to working with a therapist or not, I strongly urge those
with serious psychological problems to seek professional help.
I also believe that for many people the transformative power of
movies can be used for personal growth without the aid of a
therapist, so long as they follow certain guidelines and learn to
watch films with conscious awareness a term that will be
explored in depth later in this book. Conscious awareness is
central to E-Motion Picture Magic: it is both a principal means
and one of the end results of that process.
E-Motion Picture Magic is not watching movies to escape
our problems. It is the very opposite. It is not just popping
videos into the deck hoping that somehow, through a kind of
osmosis, certain life lessons will be absorbed. Much of the
healing work in E-Motion Picture Magic is accomplished
either before the opening fade-in or after the end credits roll on
the screen.
Therapists may use this approach with their clients, but the
therapist needs to be aware that the movie experience should
not be used as a therapeutic modality by itself. E-Motion
Picture Magic includes and in fact rests upon traditional psy-
chotherapeutic methods. Methods from the therapists thera-
peutic tool box other than the one described in this book can
be combined with the conscious movie experience.
Take your life in your
own hands and what
happens? A terrible thing:
no one to blame.
Erica Jong
Introduction 5
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Both fiction and nonfiction films can be used. But for the
purposes of this book I have chosen to focus solely on the use
of fictional films. I do so for two reasons: they constitute the
vast majority of movies most easily accessed (even if some of
those fictional stories are based on true-life stories); and
though documentary and other nonfiction formats are often
used with strong effect and result in films that are truly power-
ful agents for personal reflection, many fictional stories also
contain an added mythic dimension, which is important to the
transformational process and is often missing in nonfiction
6 E-Motion Picture Magic
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Basic Discoveries
How Movies Influenced My Life
It was starting to get a little warmer when spring showed its
first signs in the small town where I grew up in southwest
Germany. I had just turned seven and was having trouble with
some children at school. I had just been transferred into a new
class, and it was hard for me to make friends. My classmates
had formed cliques from which I seemed excluded; I felt too
shy to ask for their attention. In addition I was bored and ready
for adventure after a long winter. I hungered for excitement.
One Sunday afternoon my grandfather invited me to see a
movie in our small theater. I was surprised because Opa and
I were not close. He never seemed to pay attention to me. When
he asked me to go, I did not spend much time wondering about
it, I was very excited. At home, we had just gotten a television,
but going to see a movie on a big screen seemed different.
Although I am aware that my grandfather did not have
many movies to choose from in our village back then, I am
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now surprised about his decision to take me to The Last Days
of Pompeii (1960). Nobody seemed to worry about age
appropriateness or exposure to violence. Today I still
remember scenes in which Christians heroically fought for
their lives and faith in ancient Rome. The martyrs were saved
at the last minute because Mt. Vesuvius erupted and killed
their persecutors.
This movie outing was my big adventure. I was
absolutely fascinated. For the first time I experienced being
engrossed in a bigger-than-life experience the colors, the
sounds and the story of a big screen motion picture. The Last
Days of Pompeii moved me deeply. When I held my grandfa-
thers hand walking out of the theater, the world seemed dif-
ferent. After this intensely emotional experience I felt close to
him for the first time in my life. A new and unfamiliar bond
had developed between us, as if we had prevailed together
over a real tragedy as opposed to one on the screen, as if we
had stuck together during a real war and not a projected fan-
tasy battle. Our relationship was transformed. From that day
on we became movie buddies. No one else in our family
shared our interest.
My first motion picture also opened my eyes to an
important value, standing up and fighting for ones true
beliefs. In some ways I had been aware of this all along, but
it was not very clear in my mind, and I certainly did not have
the words to articulate it. The movie demonstrated that there
have been people in the world who followed this principle.
Although I had felt drawn to stories about Christians and
other heroes before, the film brought their lives to my aware-
ness in a much more vivid fashion. Since I was raised
Catholic and felt deeply committed to my seven-year-old
Christian faith at the time, the movie provided a significant
spiritual experience as well.
I perceived the film heroes as strong and courageous when
they faced their immense challenges. Today I remember that
for a long time after watching the movie, I saw myself as one
Man can learn nothing
except by going from the
known to the unknown.
Claude Bernard
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of them. I felt strong, capable of taking on my problems. The
next day in school, I, the hero, started talking casually to
my classmates. It wasnt hard at all. Making contact actually
felt surprisingly effortless. I forgot my shyness. At first I
almost could not believe that my classmates responded in a
friendly manner. Over time I got used to it and new friend-
ships developed.
I believe that this first motion picture and the subsequent
films I viewed about heroes and their challenges created an
important imprint on my young soul. They helped me develop
an adventurous spirit and the courage to take risks that sup-
ported me in my development.
After my first adventure with my grandfather I saw many
more movies that told stories of heroes. Some were ancient
Romans, some cowboys and Indians who fought with their
enemies or struggled with other big challenges and eventually
triumphed over them.
This early positive experience with the movies planted a
seed that continued to grow throughout my life. I have long
been a confirmed movie lover. That personal interest turned
professional after I began my career as a psychotherapist and
first learned about the technique of using movies as a tool for
psychological healing and personal growth.
E-Motion Picture Magic grew out of this personal and pro-
fessional interest. It is more than merely a guide to selecting a
film to improve your mood. It goes beyond discussion of psy-
chological theory and spiritual advice (though it includes a
good deal of both). It is intended to be very hands-on, a tool
for exploring and developing your inner life. Use the exercises
that appeal to you and save the rest. Perhaps you will feel like
doing them at another time.
To introduce the notion of the exercises I encourage you to
start with this one below. Contemplate the questions. While
youre thinking about your answers, it might help to write
down your thoughts.
The universe will reward
you for taking risks on its
Shakti Gawain
Basic Discoveries 9
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Exercise 1: Beginning Your Process
Do you remember your first important movie
How did it affect you?
Do you believe that it might have had an
impact on how you see yourself and the world
Every developmental stage seemed to draw me to a differ-
ent genre of film. As I entered my teenage years, I lost interest
in adventure movies and became fascinated with romantic
This was a time of insecurity and doubt about my self-
image as a developing young woman. What was a romantic
relationship like? Would I meet someone who loved me? What
was it like to get close? I was a normal teenager and like most
of my peers, most of my daily thoughts focused on these ques-
tions. Various novels and magazines helped me glimpse this
frightening and unknown world, but nothing gave me as com-
plete a window into this aspect of life as certain films I saw.
Looking back now I can see that many unrealistic depic-
tions of romance including the many Hollywood endings
depicted in movies may have been a cause for some unfor-
tunately distorted expectations later. At the time, however, I
was hungry for any modeling that romantic films were able to
When I was sixteen years old I was at the height of my
worries and fears about dating. I felt terribly awkward around
boys and could not imagine how these feelings might ever
change until I saw Love Story (1970). Though the ending
was heart wrenching, my thoughts tended to focus on the
beginning of the film. I was amazed to see the same insecure
and nervous behavior in the main characters (Jennifer and
Oliver) on screen that I imagined I displayed with boys. When
they first met, nothing seemed to go smoothly. Their insecurity
10 E-Motion Picture Magic
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led to strange miscommunication. As the story progressed,
however, I noticed that they did not hide with shame but started
to admire and eventually love each other. Again, it seemed as if
I suddenly saw things with different eyes. Now I understood
that the world was not going to end when I felt anxiety about
meeting a boy I liked.
It was easier, at least for a while, to accept my own inse-
curities. Now I noticed something of which previously I had
been unaware: the boys to whom I was attracted were at least
as anxious as I. To my surprise my nervousness diminished as
I became less concerned about my own feelings. Later, when-
ever my doubts and fears about my impression on others
returned, I recalled the awkwardness of Jennifer and Oliver in
the movie and felt reassured that I was normal. This helped me
to develop more self-esteem over time in my response to boys
for whom I felt an attraction.
I still appreciate the help I received from the world of film
during this significant phase of my life. I believe that movies
like Love Story helped me learn patience and compassion with
myself at a time when I thought I was failing terribly because
of my insecurities.
You may have experienced different excitements and chal-
lenges during your teenage years. Most likely these experi-
ences imprinted significantly on your personality, your rela-
tionships, and your life goals. Movies may have played an
important role in this process. Write down your thoughts to the
following questions:
Exercise 2: Remembering Your Teenage Years
Do you remember a movie that had a special
impact on you during your teenage years?
How did it affect you?
Do you believe that it might have had an
impact on how you see yourself and the world
In the middle of
difficulty lies
Basic Discoveries 11
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Later I had to face several losses and disappointments. One
of the biggest challenges was a life-threatening, disabling ill-
ness. After a time, it became clear that I would live, but the
question still remained as to how I would live. I learned
through this shocking wake-up call that I could never take any-
thing for granted. All possibility of reaching the goals to which
I had previously aspired seemed to evaporate. Relationships
changed dramatically. My future suddenly appeared a com-
plete blank. It presented a frightening picture. The traumatic
nature of this ordeal made it hard to use the spiritual practices
that previously had helped me find inner peace. I was very
depressed and felt cut off from everyone around me as well as
from my true self. Even the solace of tears eluded me. I had
become emotionally paralyzed and could not even cry.
During this time certain kinds of movies seemed amaz-
ingly helpful, even transformative. I noticed with surprise that
I started crying uncontrollably whenever I saw films that
showed characters in tragic experiences. I made a point of
going to movie theaters by myself and sitting in the last row. In
the protective darkness of this environment all the blocked up
tears started flowing in response to watching the characters
pain. I still recall vividly the strong cathartic effect of watching
the political and emotional drama The Unbearable Lightness of
Being (1988), and the portrayal of illness and death in Terms of
Endearment (1983). My catharsis felt emotionally liberating.
Surprisingly, I experienced these movies as comforting too
because they showed me that I wasnt the only person who suf-
fered. Watching the characters hardships helped me put things
in perspective, and I recognized that I was comparatively well-
off. After several months I noticed that tears did not flow as
easily anymore in response to a touching film scene. It felt like
some inner pressure had been released and my focus shifted.
Intuitively I now began seeking out movies that helped
support a different aspect of my recovery. During this phase I
watched films in which a character faced almost bigger-than-
life challenges, suffered from repeated setbacks, prevailed over
In the dark time,
the eye begins to see.
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obstacles, and experienced an internal transformation.
Recognizing that the characters had grown immensely in this
often agonizing process, I was then able to touch into my own
hope and deep inner knowing that this might be possible for me
too. I became fascinated by movies like My Left Foot (1989)
where Christy, who has cerebral palsy, gradually becomes an
artist, writer, and eventually a husband. Among others I
watched Places in the Heart (1984) several times. Here, the
main character, Edna, masters many overwhelming problems
successfully after her husband dies. Each time I saw this film it
enabled me to access my own strength, courage, and determi-
nation not to let my challenges defeat me. Instead, I started to
believe that I, like these movie characters, could eventually
come out of this life crisis matured as well as emotionally and
spiritually transformed.
You may have experienced significant crises in your life
that challenged you emotionally. Perhaps you are in the middle
of working through a trauma or a loss. In response, you may
feel sad, depressed, or anxious. Write down any thoughts in
response to the following questions:
Exercise 3: Remembering Your Hard Times
Do you remember certain movies that affected
you strongly when you experienced hard
If you experience difficult challenges right
now, ask yourself: What do you need most
catharsis, comfort, encouragement, or
modeling of transformation?
What kind of movie do you feel intuitively
drawn to?
For many years I have felt drawn to a variety of movies and
watched them with much enjoyment. After I started using the
principles of E-Motion Picture Magic I not only enjoyed the
movies for entertainment, but I noticed consciously how I felt
I cannot believe that the
inscrutable universe turns
on an axis of suffering;
surely the strange beauty
of the world must some-
where rest on pure joy!
Louise Bogan
Basic Discoveries 13
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 13
most deeply moved when a character demonstrated a strong com-
mitment to their authentic truth or their spiritual self. For exam-
ple in Whale Rider (2003) a young Maori girl challenges a thou-
sand years of cultural tribal history to fulfill her spiritual destiny.
Another one is Powder (1995) where the main character, Powder,
is in touch with deep spiritual truths. Powder is made an outcast
because of his ability to tap into certain powers that frighten peo-
ple, but he remains committed to himself, nevertheless.
Storytelling has always been the preferred tool of great
wisdom teachers. They use stories as allegories to convey pro-
found messages. Some screenwriters follow in their footsteps.
When the allegorical messages of such movies touch me, I
feel reconnected to my own authentic and spiritual self. Feeling
frequently caught up in lifes distractions, these films call me
back to my true priorities and values.
You may have felt deeply touched by certain movies too.
Again, write down some notes about your thoughts in response
to these questions:
Exercise 4: Films That Move You Deeply
Do you remember movies, characters, or film
scenes that moved you?
What kind of feelings did they elicit?
Do you learn anything about yourself as you
contemplate your response?
Using Movies for Personal and
Spiritual Growth
Since movies have impacted my life in such a powerful way, it
did not seem far-fetched to start wondering how they might be
used systematically for emotional healing as well as personal
and even spiritual growth. At the same time I encountered
amazingly transformative therapeutic and spiritual practices on
my personal path and in my training as a psychotherapist.
It is within my power
either to serve God or not
to serve him. Serving
Him, I add to my own
good and the good of the
whole world. Not serving
Him, I forfeit my own
good and deprive the
world of that good, which
was in my power to
Leo Tolstoy
14 E-Motion Picture Magic
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 14
Working with individual clients and my cinema therapy group,
I have observed how these various practices and the power of
films can enhance and complement each other.
Movies work on many levels. I use them in three different
ways: Prescriptively (using films to model or illustrate specific
desired qualities or behaviors), Evocatively (using films for self-
discovery), Cathartically (using films to find emotional release).
The Prescriptive Way
This approach is based on the assumption that watching a
movie can put us into a light trance state, similar to the state
often achieved via guided visualizations. In therapy this kind of
trance work is designed to help clients get in touch with a
mature and wise part of themselves that helps them overcome
problems and strengthen positive qualities.
As you have already learned, certain films had this kind of
effect on me. Early in my life films helped me increase my self-
esteem and work with anxiety. They also taught me to connect
with and strengthen my courage and determination. Many of
my clients experienced amazing results in a similar way when
they watched movies under my guidance.
I concluded that a combination of watching certain films
with conscious awareness combined with effective therapeutic
methods helps to reach deep layers of the psyche to bring about
healing and growth. Using the Prescriptive way, specific films
are recommended as a kind of teaching tale, to model problem
solving, or to access and develop an undiscovered capacity.
They also can be chosen to demonstrate the wrong way of doing
things so the viewer can learn by proxy. In Chapters 4 through
7 you will be introduced to some applications of this approach.
The Evocative Way
Another way of utilizing movies in a therapeutic and growth-
provoking manner borrows from dream work. Films can be
Ancient sages and
psychologists alike
insist that music, art,
and drama are potent
transformer of
Marsha Sinetar
Basic Discoveries 15
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 15
seen as the collective dreams of our times. When certain
movies resonate with us, they touch into the unconscious part
of our psyche. A film may move us deeply, as I experienced
with Whale Rider and Powder. A character or a scene might
also upset us intensely. Understanding our emotional responses
to movies, just as understanding our nighttime dreams, can
serve as a window to our unconscious. Both are ways to bring
our unconscious inner world to a conscious level.
One of the most effective ways of using dreams to tap the
wisdom of the unconscious can be found in Jeremy Taylors
book Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill.
I have adapted
some of his basic principles for interpretation and utilization of
dreams to the process of self-discovery and growth through
films. As you understand your responses to movie characters,
you will get to know yourself in ways of which you were pre-
viously unaware. Consequently these responses will teach you
how to reach increased health and wholeness. This is possible
because expanded awareness alone often helps us to let go of
unhealthy patterns and reconnect with our authentic self. In
case insight alone is not sufficient, I will also introduce a series
of exercises to work with your new discoveries.
In this process films are used in an evocative way. Different
from the Prescriptive way, the choice of films is not limited to
a certain kind of movie. As it is possible to gain insights from
any dream, your emotional responses to almost any kind of
movie can teach you to understand yourself better. You will be
introduced to this approach in chapters 8 through 10.
The Cathartic Way
Our cultural preference for processing emotions cognitively
instead of feeling them in our bodies tends to maintain and
prolong distress. Emotions are stored in the body, not only the
mind. Cathartic therapeutic techniques allow therapists to help
clients access these stored emotions and release them. These
methods are based on the assumption that the more catharsis
Movies do more than just
entertain. A good movie
can also teach.
John K.
16 E-Motion Picture Magic
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 16
clients experience, the faster they move through the healing
Painful emotions can do more than produce tears; they
have also been proven to create stress chemicals in our bodies.
Catharsis helps to counter these by releasing buried feelings.
Nature has provided us natural cathartic processes like laugh-
ing and crying to move us through and beyond our pain.
Because many films transmit ideas through emotion rather
than intellect, they can neutralize the instinct to suppress feelings
and trigger emotional release. By eliciting emotions, watching
movies can open doors that otherwise might stay closed. For
many of us it is safer and therefore easier to let go of our defenses
while watching a movie than it is in real life with real people. By
identifying with certain characters and their predicaments, we can
experience emotions that lie hidden from our awareness.
Aristotle theorized, Tragic plays have the capacity to
purify the spirit and aid us in coping with aspects of life that
cannot be reconciled by rational thought. He insisted on the
cathartic power of tragedy because it cleanses disordered
emotions and heals trauma.
As my own experiences bear out, sometimes tears flow
over a sentimental film but not in real life, especially under
duress. Watching and empathizing with a movie character who
experiences tragedy can stimulate the desired emotional
release. This release usually lifts our spirits for a little while as
the overwhelming emotion diminishes. Energy that was
drained by depression can reemerge, at least temporarily.
Often this break allows a depressed person to start exploring
and healing the underlying issues that caused the depression
Cathartic psychotherapy tells us that laughter too releases
emotion. It provides the physical process that releases tension,
stress, and pain, physically as well as emotionally. Laughter
decreases stress hormones, increases pain-relieving hormones,
and activates our immune system. As it does, it enriches our
bodys biological drug store.
The single most impor-
tant conclusion I have
come to in my work is
that all dreams come in
the service of health and
Jeremy Taylor
Basic Discoveries 17
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 17
The late author Norman Cousins wrote about watching
humorous films as part of his recovery from degenerative dis-
ease: Ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic
effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep.
Increased physical well-being most often improves our psy-
chological state.
Laughter can also relieve anxiety as well as reduce aggres-
sion and fear. Many clients have told me that after watching a
humorous movie they were able to approach a solution to a
problem they were worried about with less emotional involve-
ment and a fresh and creative perspective. Even light depres-
sion can lift for a while.
Most of us respond differently to different kinds of humor-
ous or sad movies. With our unique sensibilities, some of us
like intellectual humor, some gallows humor, some slapstick,
etc. A one-hanky film for one person might be a five-hanky
movie for her friend. Therefore you will find the best emotional
release when you choose a movie using your own experience
of your typical emotional responses. For guidance consult the
Film Index. You will find two categories that are designed to
help you choose movies for catharsis: Laugher Works As
Medicine (under Inspiration) and Crying For Emotional
Catharsis (under Personal Questions).
The criteria you use in selecting your film should not be
based on the same criteria typically used by a movie critic or a
jury of a film festival. For E-Motion Picture Magic to be effec-
tive it is much more important that your choice center on find-
ing a film that speaks to you about your specific life situation,
not on whether it has high artistic merit. A movie that touches
you deeply or demonstrates a character development you are
aspiring to will help you best with your healing or personal
growth. Through the exercises and film recommendations in
this book you will learn to choose the right movie for your spe-
cific need at a certain time.
Films trigger emotions
and open doors that might
otherwise be closed.
John W. Hesley
& Jan G. Hesley
18 E-Motion Picture Magic
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 18
How Movies Support Healing
and Transformation
When Movies Impact Us
My first inklings about cinema therapy came from stories I
heard. Prior to having encountered the term cinema therapy,
and before I thought about the idea of using films therapeuti-
cally, several friends and clients confirmed my own experi-
ences when they told me how films had affected them. Their
reports illustrate how, even without the assistance of a thera-
pist, individuals sometimes utilize movies for their own heal-
ing and growth. The following stories help explain how motion
pictures can effect our psychological well-being in a powerful
Elaine feels bad about herself. A graduate student in her
third year, she has just left her classroom and feels overwhelmed
by the demands of the program. Her immediate problem is a
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 19
paper. It was assigned two weeks ago and was due yesterday.
She wonders whether she is capable of writing it. Elaine has
very high expectations of herself and does not know how to
start writing. Nothing she thinks of seems good enough. Sitting
in front of her computer and wracking her brain just seems to
make things worse. She gets increasingly fearful of making
mistakes, begins criticizing herself, and feels depressed.
From experience Elaine knows that watching one of her
favorite lighthearted comedy movies will interrupt her in her
habitual self-criticism and lift her mood. She decides to rent A
Fish Called Wanda (1988).
Many scenes in this film make her laugh. As she watches,
her emotions change. Mistakes the characters make are por-
trayed in a humorous, uplifting, and forgiving manner. Elaine
starts feeling lighter, more optimistic.
After the movie she notices that, somehow, the negative
beliefs about herself have dissipated. For the time being she
feels more accepting of herself. She makes some tea and sits
down at her computer. Ideas about the paper begin to pop into
her mind. She feels just a little more confident and creative. As
she starts writing, Elaines trust in her capability to write a
good paper grows.
Alice is in a very dark spot in her life. Yesterday she had
another big fight with her husband. It became clear to her that
her marriage might end soon. She had tried for a long time to
make it work. Because of her overwhelming sadness at this
prospect she made a big mistake at work and was reprimanded.
Now Alice remembers hearing about the power of positive
thinking. She tries to cheer herself up by thinking uplifting
thoughts, but try as she might, she comes up blank.
Finally she recalls that in the past, whenever she has been
really sad, crying always made her feel better. But today, tears
somehow seem blocked; she can find no emotional release.
Alice knows that renting a sad movie sometimes opens the
floodgates. She rents Snow Falling on Cedars (1999) because
Every time you dont
follow your inner guid-
ance, you feel a loss of
energy, loss of power,
a sense of spiritual
Shakti Gawain
20 E-Motion Picture Magic
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 20
she remembers that she cried when she saw this film a few
years ago. As she watches the sad scenes, tears start flowing. It
feels really good to cry, and her mood lifts a little. Things do
not look as bleak anymore. The thought occurs to her that there
might be a light at the end of the tunnel. For the first time she
started accepting that her marriage might be over soon and that
she might be happy again after a period of grieving.
Hal has a very hard time making a decision. He has
received two job offers and is going back and forth, favoring
one, then the other. He even writes down all the pluses and
minuses of each. Neither job seems to stand out as an obvious
choice. He feels kind of paralyzed, tense. His head starts hurt-
ing. Hal knows that he cannot make a decision from this tense
inner place. He struggles for hours until his friend Mark hap-
pens to come over. Mark has brought a video to watch together:
Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973).
After they watch the film, Hal feels somehow lighter and
inspired. It is as if something in his consciousness has shifted
away from his usual concentrated thinking mode. His tense,
arduous mentality changes into an open-minded, relaxed atti-
tude. When the two friends start talking about the pros and
cons of Hals job offers, he suddenly knows intuitively from
deep inside, which of the jobs is best for him.
Sally feels confused and worried. Last night she became
very angry with her boyfriend Jim and yelled at him. This led
to a big fight. Now she feels bad because she sees that the small
mistake he made when they cooked dinner together did not jus-
tify her acting out that way. The real reason for her reaction
was her hurt about his plans to leave the next morning for a
two-week fishing trip with friends. This made her feel excluded
and abandoned.
Sally intuitively senses that it would help both of them if she
apologized, but she is afraid this would make her look stupid
and needy. It could make her feel too vulnerable and weak. She
How Movies Support Healing and Transformation 21
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 21
believes that Jim might take advantage of her vulnerability,
criticize her, or push her away. Then she would feel even
worse. So she discusses this inner conflict with her friends.
Unfortunately they have no useful advice for her.
Suddenly a movie scene appears to Sally: The character,
Helen, in Sliding Doors (1998) did not seem to worry about her
vulnerability when she ran into her boyfriend James on the
street after having been separated for some time. She remem-
bers that Helen expressed her desire for James even though she
was not sure whether he was still interested in her. Sally
decides to watch this film again and pays close attention to this
scene. In the movie Helen looks like she put herself out on a
limb. She looks emotionally vulnerable but not weak at all. In
fact, she seems kind of courageous and strong, allowing herself
to be so open and vulnerable. James responds with emotional
openness too, and they develop a close relationship.
Sally feels very inspired. Suddenly she can identify with
Helen. What Helen demonstrated, Sally can do too. Her per-
ception of Jim changes as well. Remembering how good-
hearted her boyfriend actually is, she suddenly realizes that they
will have an opportunity to experience more emotional close-
ness as soon as she apologizes for her yelling and expresses the
truth about the hurt she had felt beneath her anger.
Cindy sits in a doctors waiting room reading a magazine
about psychology. She learns that children who grow up with
alcoholic and dysfunctional parents usually believe that their
experience is normal. She also finds out that this normalization
is their way of coping with the pain of their unfortunate situa-
tion. Thats how these children make their lives work. They do
not have a choice because they depend on their parents for
physical survival and emotional well-being. The article contin-
ues that later in life these children frequently create dysfunc-
tional families of their own. Cindy is surprised because she
grew up as an only child with her divorced, severely alcoholic,
and frequently abusive mother. Cindy was never allowed to
There is vitality, a life
force, energy, a quickening
that is translated through
you into action and
because there is only one
of you all the time, this
expression is unique. And
if you block it, it will
never exist through any
other medium and will be
Martha Graham
22 E-Motion Picture Magic
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 22
play with friends from school or visit their houses. Having
been married happily for twenty-five years, she raised two
wonderful children.
The next day, on a walk, she tells her girlfriend about the
article and a memory that came back to her after reading it. She
remembered being seven years old and thinking that there was
something very different in her home from how it was sup-
posed to be. Now both women wondered how she could have
known at that young age that something was seriously wrong
at home. How did she know that parents can and should be dif-
ferent from her out-of-control mother?
As they talked, suddenly Cindy remembered that anything
she knew about families in general was from watching movies
and shows on television. While mom was getting drunk or
sleeping it off, there was nothing else to do except sit in front
of the television. She was a little embarrassed when she shared
this with her friend because everyone seemed to be against kids
spending too much time watching television these days. But
Cindy is now convinced that watching many different kinds of
films helped her intuitively understand the difference between
healthy and dysfunctional families when she was a child.
Through movies she also learned about a big range of feel-
ings that she almost never experienced at home, such as love,
joy, trust, and compassion. Her mother demonstrated anger
almost exclusively. Now Cindy thinks that watching movies as
a child helped her not repeat her mothers mistakes later in her
own life. Some movies taught her hope and courage. She espe-
cially remembers watching The Wizard of Oz (1939) whenever
she had an opportunity.
Even now, when she feels afraid or depressed because she
faces career or health challenges, Cindy watches films that
help her find courage. She was surprised when she noticed that
the heroes in these movies were merely adult versions of the
characters in films she had seen as a child. The basic structure
of their plots and their allegorical messages were almost the
Fairy tales deal in
literary form with the
basic problems of life,
particularly those inherent
in the struggle to achieve
How Movies Support Healing and Transformation 23
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 23
Why Movie Plots Affect Us
In order to understand the effects of movies, a multidiscipli-
nary approach is needed. The following explorations therefore
draw from theories in several relevant disciplines.
Elaine obsessed over her paper. She needed a little vaca-
tion from her troubles. A lighthearted film kept her from spi-
raling into a more depressed mood. This is not about escaping
from problems. Watching certain movies can help us approach
a solution with less emotional involvement and obsessing. It
creates an opening for a fresh and creative perspective.
New hypotheses in the science of evolution suggest that
early humans may have increased their odds of survival by
learning from their mistakes. Pain plays a key role in this
process. And just as physical pain indicates that there is some-
thing wrong in our body, emotional pain, such as worries and
depressed feelings, might indicate a need for learning from a
mistake we made. Instead of using these feelings as an indica-
tor for a need to make improvements and focusing on finding
creative ways to resolve a problem, we often get stuck in obses-
sive negative thinking, which can lead to spiraling hopeless-
ness and depression. Elaine stopped this cycle early and was
able to access her creativity, which had been blocked by her
negative beliefs about herself.
Alice experienced emotional release when she watched a
sad movie. Her tears opened a door through which she saw that
her suffering would not last forever. This created a break in the
overwhelming flood of emotions she had been feeling, which
allowed her natural grief and despair to start the healing
Most people say they feel better after they cry. Crying
makes people feel better because emotional tears help rid the
body of chemicals that build up as a result of stress. Emotional
tears (produced by showing sad movies) have more protein and
Trust in yourself. Your
perceptions are often far
more accurate than you
are willing to believe.
Claudia Black
24 E-Motion Picture Magic
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 24
various stress hormones in them, than do irritant tears (trig-
gered by onion vapors). Some researchers theorize that crying
may stimulate the release of endorphins, substances that ele-
vate our mood and relieve pain.
Emotional release through tears may not be possible for
everyone in all situations, however. Though crying is more
acceptable now than it once was, it still elicits embarrassment
in many of us, which sometimes outweighs the benefits. In this
case tears would only trigger an additional kind of emotional
stress. For some shame might block the tears that a sad movie
might otherwise elicit. Sometimes this can be mitigated by
watching the film together with a trusted, compassionate per-
son and in a safe environment, perhaps at home.
Hal was caught in his logical thinking mode about his job
decision. He needed to step back, open up to another dimen-
sion of his psyche, his intuition and inner wisdom. This way it
became easier for him to make his decision. Some relate this
inner knowing to the right hemisphere of the brain. Others just
refer to it as making a decision from the gut. Most of us can
process more information in the more relaxed and expansive
mental state that Hal experienced as a result of watching an
inspirational movie.
Elaine, Alice, and Hal each experienced a shift in their
awareness by watching a film. Previously, each had experi-
enced a buildup of tension when their effort to resolve their
problems by thinking about them did not work. All three
changed from an active, perhaps even obsessive thinking mode
to a more receptive inner stance as they watched the movies.
An unknown author said, Our pain is a measure of our
resistance to life as it is unfolding. Sometimes that pain is a call
to action. Sometimes it is a call to prayer. Sometimes it is a call
to surrender. If we hit a wall as we try hard to fix a problem
by thinking intensely about it, we need to admit to ourselves
that our logical mind is not always the most useful tool. In such
a case we might benefit from adopting a more passive, recep-
The creation of
something new is not
accomplished by the
intellect but by the play
instinct acting from
necessity. The creative
mind plays with the object
it loves.
Carl Gustav
How Movies Support Healing and Transformation 25
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 25
tive internal stance. This is called surrender. Our passive
receptivity experienced while watching a movie supports this
inner shift.
With our habitual, often externally oriented and logical
approach to problems, we sometimes stand in our own way. We
forget to give the deeper layers of our soul, our intuition, more
room to guide us; the source of our inner wisdom and creative
solutions for our problems often lie there. New possibilities can
emerge; new ideas pop up as we get out of the way and let our
deeper soul have more say in how we live. There are many tools
available to make this internal shift to access our inner wisdom,
such as writing, drawing, praying, meditating, yoga, walks in
nature, hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, and many more. Watching
certain films, especially if done with conscious awareness can
serve as another important instrument for this process.
Sallys perspective changed when she remembered a
movie scene in which a character modeled an inner posture that
she wanted to adopt. This was possible because she was able to
see herself as the character. Sally already carried the capacity
to own her mistakes and show vulnerability inside herself.
Otherwise she would not have recognized this strength in the
character, Helen. But before she remembered the movie scene,
Sally was unable to access this latent capacity on her own. In
times of emotional stress we are often not aware of our assets
and the means by which we can reconnect with them.
Identifying with Helen helped Sally to recall her forgotten
resource and to find the right opportunity for this capacity to be
Young Cindy learned from television and movies that fam-
ily life can be different from hers with an abusive, alcoholic
mother. This understanding might have played a major role in
preventing Cindy from perpetuating the dysfunctional pattern
with her children in her own family. As an adult, when she
faced challenges again, Cindy continued to use films because
The artist is the one who
communicates myth for
26 E-Motion Picture Magic
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 26
of their modeling capacity. They helped her find courage
because many screenplays provide a template for ordering and
understanding the emotions of lifes changes.
Movies are a significant part of our evolving mythology.
The individual is linked to the past of the whole species and
the long stretch of evolution of the organism. Carl Gustav Jung
placed the psyche within the evolutionary process. According
to his theory, we inherit as part of our humanity, a collective
unconscious, the part of our mind that is prefigured by evolu-
tion, just as is the body. Jung also said that mythic stories
make up a collective dream. The whole of mythology can be
taken as a sort of projection of the collective unconscious.
The patterns of myth are used in many fairy tales, novels, the-
ater plays, and screenplays for movies. Therefore our responses
to certain movies demonstrate recognition of these deep layers of
our unconscious. Films, like myths, tap into patterns of the col-
lective unconscious. Their stories have such a powerful effect on
us because they speak directly to the heart and spirit, avoiding the
resistance of the conscious mind. In doing so they help us in our
personal process of healing and transformation.
If we make the following assumptions:
That striving toward growth and transformation by
working with and taking on lifes challenges is part of
human nature;
That sometimes this impulse, and our capacity to
respond to it in a healthy way, is compromised;
That myths, as products of the collective unconscious,
can help us re-access this capacity through modeling;
That movies express our evolving mythology;
That many typical screenplays, which mirror real-life
transitions, are structured in a way that is similar to
then this conclusion makes sense:
Watching certain movies can support our psyches
growth and transformation.
How Movies Support Healing and Transformation 27
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 27
Christopher Vogler points out in The Writers Journey that
the ideas embedded in mythology and identified by Joseph
Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces can be applied
to understanding almost any human problem. The stages of the
Heros Journey can be traced in all kinds of stories, not just
those that feature heroic physical action and adventure, but also
in romance, comedy, and thrillers, etc. The protagonist of
every story is the hero of a journey, even if the path leads only
in his own mind or into the realm of relationships.
Dorothys voyage in The Wizard of Oz shows how film
characters stories are often similar to the Heros Journey. On
her quest she goes through phases of hesitation, fear, meeting
mentors, becoming aware that she cannot go back, facing tests,
obstacles, and crises, confronting fear, gaining new perspec-
tive, and undergoing inner change. For example, she brings
back a new idea of home, a new concept of Self.
In The Laugh & Cry Movie Guide Cathie Glenn Sturdevant
describes the typical plot development according to modern
rules of screenplay writing.
The main character commits to a
quest after a surprising loss of innocence, goes through a phase
of inner conflict about taking on a challenge, and reaches a
point of no return. Then the film hero acts despite fear, releases
old ideas, renews his or her commitment, acts without fear,
sometimes revises plans into realistic goals, and concludes the
original quest by resolving it from a new perspective.
These similarities justify the assumption that the patterns
of many movie plots are born out of the aspect of the collective
unconscious that is reflected in our mythology. The viewer is
hooked into the same pool of consciousness as the screen-
writer. Both tap into the following wisdom: The antidote for
the ache lies in ceasing the resistance to our calling, finding the
courage to face our worst fears, and consequently expanding
our possibilities. Especially when we go through life changes,
the movies with these kinds of typical screenplays can help us
access our courage to release the hurt that is stuck in the past
and the fear and angst projected into the future. We follow the
The Heros Journey is
not an invention, but an
observation. It is a recog-
nition of a beautiful
design, a set of principles
that govern the conduct of
life and the world of sto-
rytelling the way physics
and chemistry govern the
physical world.
28 E-Motion Picture Magic
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 28
characters process of letting go and learn to move into the
present moment where we can take action with clarity.
For these film stories to be effective, they do not need to
match our specific life circumstances. Our mind translates the
allegoric messages from the movie into the appropriate guid-
ance for our situation. The transformative power of symbols
and metaphors has long been utilized in psychotherapy. Depth
psychotherapy assumes that the unconscious communicates its
content primarily in symbols. Other therapeutic approaches,
like hypnotherapy for example, developed methods that impact
the unconscious through metaphors and allegoric teaching tales
because it is believed that they address the unconscious and
bypass the conscious mind. Imagery that is stimulated through
the symbolism seen in films increases feelings that otherwise
have not been experienced in this way. With certain movies this
process engages insight and creative problem solving by cir-
cumventing obsessive thought patterns.
Effects of the Cinematic Medium Itself
Movies affect us not only through the story they are telling.
They also elicit emotions by stimulating our senses: sight
through visual images and hearing through music and other
sounds. Directors use visual effects, spatial relations, timing,
sound effects, and music to prompt the emotions of the audi-
ence in a particular direction, thus widening the range of their
If you are intrigued by the emotional effect of movies
through sensory input, try an experiment that psychophysiol-
ogy researchers have performed in a more precise fashion.
Rent a movie that has affected you emotionally in the past. It
might have made you feel joyful, openhearted, inspired, scared,
or sad. As you watch the movie, notice which scenes affect you
strongly. If one of these scenes has minimal or no dialog but
intense music, stop and rewind the tape to the beginning of the
sequence, take a ten minute break, and watch it again, this time
It may be much easier to
understand how to resolve
a movie characters
dilemma than your opwn
situation. Then you can
evaluate how those solu-
tions might aply to your
Cathie Glenn
How Movies Support Healing and Transformation 29
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with no sound. Afterwards watch it one more time with the
sound turned on. Compare how this film sequence impacts you
differently with and without music. Most likely you will find
the difference in emotional impact amazing.
Charles Tart explains that music can stimulate the mid-
brain, the seat of emotional response, which encourages access
to feelings.
Hearing certain kinds of music, our inner control
is loosened and a greater range of sensitivity to feelings is
made possible. Therefore the score plays a significant role in
how movies affect us, especially when they are utilized for
catharsis (see The Cathartic Way, above).
Carol A. Bush emphasizes in Healing Imagery & Music
that music expresses universal themes and imagery and con-
nects us with our deeper self. It enters the brain spreading out
in the corpus callosum where memory is stored. From there it
can stimulate the capacity of recall, loosening a flood of psy-
chologically significant images or related memories.
In the
process of self-discovery through movies, the score contributes
to the process of gaining access to psychological material that
has not been fully conscious (see The Evocative Way, above).
Music brings increased dimensionality to movies; it helps
to carry our experience along, encouraging the unfolding of
dynamic material. In most films music is used to intensify the
impression of the visual image by providing a parallel illustra-
tion of the same idea. Referring to plays, Aristotle said that
music produces emotional dispositions like those evoked under
real conditions. In movies, music enhances their capacity to
draw us into the action and therefore enables us to identify with
the characters more than acting alone can do. When we choose
certain films, this supports our process of assimilating mes-
sages that guide us in our healing and personal growth (see The
Prescriptive Way, above).
Unlike any other medium, music, together with the emo-
tional capacity of the visual channel, affords the possibility of
manipulation. Since we want to be manipulated into becom-
ing healthy and whole, our choice of movie is a big factor when
Music is the shorthand of
emotion. Emotions, which
let themselves be described
in words with such
difficulty, are directly
conveyed. . . in music, and
in its power and
Leo Tolstoy
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we use the prescriptive way. By selecting the appropriate films
we can learn to improve ourselves.
This assumption is supported not only by psychology but
also by theories of learning and creativity. Research about
accelerated learning indicates that acquisition and retention are
enhanced when, in addition to the use of stories and metaphors,
multiple senses are engaged during the learning process.
Teaching methods that draw from this are demonstrated in
movies like Dead Poets Society (1989) and more recently,
Pay It Forward (2000). These films portray teachers who
believe that the way to teach their students is by attaching
meaning to the material; by creating an environment or situa-
tion where students will experience what is being taught on
many levels, rather than just reading or hearing about it.
Movies can provide a similar learning environment.
Elaine, Alice, and Hal experienced a shift in their awareness by
watching a certain film after efforts to solve their problems
cognitively had failed.
Howard Gardner suggests that we have multiple intelli-
The more of these intelligences we access, the faster
we learn, because by doing so we employ different methods of
information processing. Sturdevant hypothesizes that watching
movies can engage most of these intelligences:
The films plot engages our logical intelligence
Script dialogue engages the linguistic intelligence
Pictures, colors, and symbols on the screen engage the
visual-spatial intelligence
Sounds and music engage our musical intelligence
Storytelling engages the interpersonal intelligence
Movement engages the kinesthetic intelligence
Self-reflection or inner guidance, as demonstrated
especially in inspirational films, engages the intrapsy-
chic intelligence
The viewer accesses the last three intelligences not directly but
through identification with the characters.
As the mind explores the
symbol, it is led to ideas
that lie beyond the grasp
of reason.
Carl Gustav
How Movies Support Healing and Transformation 31
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The above demonstrates how movies speak to us on a vari-
ety of psychological and physiological channels; and the effect
is synergistic, all of which further elevates cinemas potential
for healing and transformation. Film characters often model
strength, courage, and other positive qualities, helping us
through lifes difficult times. Movies also connect with us on a
mythological level, spurring us to live from our deepest, wisest
self. Many of us naturally find that certain films jog us out of
unhealthy patterns of emotion and thought. If specific movie
recommendations and some guiding exercises are added, this
effect can be utilized and significantly enhanced.
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Watching Movies With
Conscious Awareness
One of the most important aspects in beginning to use E-
Motion Picture Magic is learning to watch films with con-
scious awareness. We enhance our conscious awareness when
we bring non-judging attention, curiosity, and acceptance to
whatever is arising in our experience of the present moment.
Many psychotherapeutic and spiritual orientations teach us
to become more aware of ourselves because they recognize the
healing power of awareness. The Jewish Talmud points out that
normally we do not see what we think we see, that what we
perceive is more a reflection of us than it is objectively it.
Everything we experience is altered and shaped by our minds.
Our desires filter our selection of the items that we perceive.
Our emotions color those perceptions. And finally, our atten-
tion wanders from perception to perception, virtually guaran-
teeing that what we see of the world and ourselves is mostly
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 33
Buddhism makes the same basic observation and gives it a
name: mindlessness. In this usage, the term includes the
absentmindedness that we mean when we say mindless, but
it encompasses more, too that our awareness is clouded, that
we are spiritually asleep.
Wise men, poets, storytellers, and philosophers have
echoed this idea throughout the ages. Today, many psycholo-
gists agree with the idea that mindlessness, in the Buddhist
sense, is very common, much more so than we might realize.
Mindlessness conditions us to replace authentic experience
with habitual responses. Think about our state of mind when
we are tired, ill or in pain: we tend to have a short attention
span and little patience. We often react with fear or anger and
regress into old childhood patterns we thought we had out-
grown. In such a low state of awareness, our motives and emo-
tions are most likely to be habitual. It is no wonder that we
often miss important details or react from an unhealthy place.
Though we may not always be tired, ill, or in pain, we
might experience our regular state of awareness as an almost
continuous low-level discontent, nervousness, or boredom.
Think of it as if everything we see, hear, touch, and smell were
our own personal radio station to the world. Our low-level
unease introduces background static that becomes so normal
that we forget it was not always there. Just as with static on the
radio, or some irritating background noise like a dripping
faucet, we usually tune out this static from our direct con-
sciousness. Often, the only time we are aware of it is when it
suddenly stops. And when it does, we are relieved.
Though the idea of trying to cover up background static
with further noise makes little rational sense, many people,
without realizing it, attempt to cover up their low-level unease
by an excess use of alcohol, drugs, sex, food, work, television
or shopping. When they do, that activity soon loses whatever
native joy or pleasure it might have had when used in modera-
tion. Instead, it quickly becomes infected by a compulsive
quality. It becomes an addiction, and whatever ability to cover
Like consciousness itself,
film engages our senses,
intellect, and heart, cap-
turing our attention so
completely that we can
enter the world of self-
Marsha Sinetar
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up the original unease the activity might have had soon disap-
pears. Now, instead of relieving the static, it only adds to it.
The only effective way to address this low-level unease is
to bring it into the light of our conscious minds. But when first
attempting to do so, we might encounter a strong inner resist-
ance and negativity. These reactions manifest in various ways:
impatience, fierce anger, depression, resentment, despair.
At first glance, these forms of negativity make no sense;
they seem an irrational response to the possibility of letting go
of the unease in ones life. After all, what possible good could
be coming from that low-level discontent or nervousness? But
psychologists and mystics who have probed the origins of such
resistance have found that there is a certain logic to it: an
unwise part of us believes that such negativity can manipulate
reality into delivering whatever it is that it identifies as bring-
ing happiness.
For example, a man might equate financial wealth with
happiness. He also believes that the only way to get wealth is
to strive for it constantly. In order to maintain his motivation,
he must vigilantly remind himself that his current status is
extremely unsatisfying. Momentary feelings of happiness are
therefore viewed as a threat to his larger goal of attaining
money. The flip side of that logic is that a little unhappiness
now will bring him a larger happiness later. And anything that
challenges his belief in the value of his current unhappiness
must be resisted.
We often find ourselves in similar situations, regardless of
our particular object of desire. The end result is the same: when
we first try to bring our low-level unease (or static) into the
light of consciousness, the resistance we often encounter can
usually be traced to our perceived need to hang on to our exist-
ing beliefs about what will bring us happiness.
Your resistance to increasing your awareness might also
take the form of doubts like this: by only focusing on the qual-
ities of my awareness instead of taking some kind of action,
Im really just avoiding resolving my problems.
Unhealthy motives and
emotions erupt most
during moments of
Eckhart Tolle
Watching Movies With Conscious Awareness 35
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Perhaps a more realistic appraisal of this dilemma is that
by being fully present to our experience, we increase the effec-
tiveness of any potential action we might eventually take. By
increasing our conscious awareness we will be less likely to
react to a given situation based on past conditioning. Should a
real need arise to take action, we will be more likely to respond
from a place of clarity and wisdom.
Even though recurring negative emotions can contain
important messages, most changes that we make in our life cir-
cumstances, though they might be helpful, are ultimately only
cosmetic unless they arise from a change in our level of con-
sciousness. Most of us have had the experience of moving to a
different place or trading one relationship for another only to
find that nothing has really changed in how we feel about
Many of us live in an impaired and painful state of con-
sciousness. The great religions speak of this state as a dream,
illusion, or maya in which, according to Buddhism,
Christianity, and Islam, our minds are veiled. St. Paul claimed,
A veil lies over their mind, while Islam multiplied the
metaphor to seventy-thousand veils.
Philosophers, poets, and psychologists have had similar
ideas. Plato suggested figuratively that we live in a cave, mis-
taking shadow for reality. William Blake saw man as peering
through narrow chinks in his cavern, and Charles Tart offered
that we live in a consensus trance that is a much more per-
vasive, powerful, and artificial state than ordinary hypnosis,
and it is all too trancelike. The metaphors differ, but the mes-
sage is the same.
The experience of watching movies can be seen as a
metaphor for this trance or illusionary state. Becoming con-
sciously aware in the present moment helps us to wake up. This
is like remembering that we are watching a film even as we are
deeply absorbed in the story. Sensing our arms as they touch
the seat in a movie theater might make us conscious that we are
just watching images on a screen in front of us.
We are not human
beings having a spiritual
experience. We are
spiritual beings having a
human experience.
Teihard de
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In our daily lives, concentration allows us to direct atten-
tion to whatever experiences we wish. On the other hand, con-
scious awareness, like the Buddhists mindfulness, allows us to
explore these experiences in a more sensitive way. To live with
increased conscious awareness is to be more present in every
moment, to notice subtle details and nuances that all too often
go unnoticed, to turn off our autopilot and heal our hearts and
minds. Conscious awareness allows us to tune in to the deep
motives and emotions of others and to empathize more strongly
with them. It is an antidote to our daily mistakes, forgetfulness,
and absentmindedness. And it will bring us into a more com-
passionate relationship with ourselves.
Another benefit of increasing our awareness is that it
sharpens our senses, enhances our pleasure in small moments,
and decreases our cravings for quantity, while simultaneously
increasing our appreciation for quality. It also fosters concen-
tration and calm, and frees us from unconscious destructive
dynamics that create painful emotions such as anger, fear, or
despair. As conscious awareness deepens, we begin to notice
not only our actions but also the emotions that underlie and
empower them. Once these underlying self-defeating forces are
brought into the light of consciousness, they tend to shrivel,
losing their power over our lives.
In Destructive Emotions: How Can We Overcome Them
Daniel Goldman provides a commentary on meetings between
him, the Dalai Lama, and world-class scientists and philoso-
They discuss new findings with high-tech devices that
permit scientists to peer inside the brain centers responsible for
calming the inner storms of rage and fear. Experiments have
demonstrated that awareness training strengthens emotional
stability and greatly enhances our positive moods.
In an excellent study of such destructive emotions, the
two main characters in the movie Changing Lanes (2002)
begin to follow their impulses to their ultimate conclusion.
Happily, they stop short when their own actions raise their
Watching Movies With Conscious Awareness 37
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 37
Movie Preview: Changing Lanes
Two hotheads become locked in escalating rounds of
retaliation when a morning rush hour fender bender
causes both to miss crucial court deadlines. As he is
rushing off to court from the accident, attorney Gavin
hands the other man his card and says Better luck next
time! then accidentally drops a signed form that means
millions to his firm. A moment later, after Gavin refuses
to give him a ride, Doyle, the other driver in the acci-
dent who is a recovering alcoholic, finds the attorneys
form. When Gavin shows up at court without it, the
judge gives him until the end of the day to produce
it or his firm forfeits the money.
Meanwhile, Doyle wants to convince his ex-wife not
to move with his children to Oregon. He hopes that by
keeping his family nearby he might save his failing
marriage. To accomplish that, he needs to prove to a
divorce judge that he is solvent and stable and plans to
do so by showing him that the bank has approved his
home loan. But because of a flat tire caused by the
accident he shows up twenty minutes late and finds the
case has been decided without him. Blaming Gavin, he
takes out his rage by taunting him with a page faxed
from the form that he found. Gavin retaliates by getting
a hacker friend to artificially ruin Doyles credit rating.
A spiraling series of attacks and counterattacks
eventually leads both men to see that their worst
enemy is their own anger.
Gavin and Doyle keep trying to demonstrate their individ-
ual power by acting out their anger at the other person. For one
whole day they do not have the awareness or the inner con-
tainer that would help them with their destructive emotions.
In this film we see two men hit an emotional bottom. But
they learn from their experience. By the end of the day, each
38 E-Motion Picture Magic
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mans own anger scares him more than the other person. After
reacting only to the actions of the other in unconscious ways
for a long time, both became aware of themselves, their own
behavior, and the subsequent consequences. This enabled both
men to start taking responsibility for their actions, develop
empathy for the other, and find inner peace again.
A client of mine, a young woman named Nancy, came to
see me to work on her sudden outbreaks of anger. She was
afraid that her uncontrolled outbursts might damage her mar-
riage. First Nancy learned different ways of managing her
anger, but rage would sometimes well up in her so suddenly
and strongly that she felt overtaken and out of control.
Things became more manageable when she learned to
become consciously aware of the very first onset of rage
toward her husband, Rob. Exploring the possible origins of her
anger also led to enlightening insights. But Nancys real break-
through happened after I asked her to watch the video
Changing Lanes. I instructed her to watch the movie while
simultaneously applying the concept of conscious awareness.
Her husband watched the film with her.
In our next session Nancy told me that at first she com-
pletely identified with Doyle and his anger when Gavin said:
Better luck next time! She started yelling at Gavin on the tel-
evision. How can you do this! She almost got into another
fight with her husband who had a more removed perspective
and questioned Doyles response to the insult. Nancy felt angry
about the indifference she thought she had perceived in Rob. In
her already upset state she could not objectively hear what he
said. She understood him to say something like So what? in
response to Gavins Better luck next time! But rather than get
into a fight with Rob, she remembered my suggestion about
conscious awareness and noticed what had just happened
inside her. They turned off the video and talked.
Having just seen on the screen almost exactly what she
experienced inside, it was much easier for Nancy to step back
and reflect on what happened as her anger rose in her.
We live in a consensus
trance that is a much
more pervasive, powerful,
and artificial state than
ordinary hypnosis.
Charles Tart
Watching Movies With Conscious Awareness 39
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Normally, when she would feel herself being drawn into her
rage, it was impossible to take this conscious internal step
back. Now, with the support of the distancing effect of the
movie, plus her effort to become more aware of her emotional
responses, Nancy suddenly saw how she had been caught in a
very familiar pattern. She was surprised how absurd her previ-
ous reaction looked to her now and clearly recognized the
process in which she tended to fall into blind rages over and
over in her life.
Being blinded in this way, at first Nancy had not been
able to understand Robs perspective when he made the com-
ment on the movie characters behavior. But after her break-
through, she told me, I really get it now. When Im angry I do
not hear what he really says. With more conscious awareness
her perspective opened up to a more objective view of what he
said. Now she understood what Rob really meant and that he
was including both characters perspective. From this new
angle she thought that his comments just reflected his way of
seeing things in general, which now seemed acceptable to her.
Nancy told me she felt as if she had awakened from a bad
dream. For the first time, she understood on a deep level how
this blinding mechanism had completely distorted her perspec-
tive of reality and how it robbed her of her capacity to see
things objectively. After they talked, she and Rob finished
watching the rest of the movie. Nancy said she had a much
clearer perspective during this part of the film and enjoyed it
much more than before.
Nancy also mentioned another benefit of this process. The
movie provided a voice for her to communicate something she
was unable to explain before. Previously, Rob never took seri-
ously her efforts to work on her rage in therapy. Now, during
their discussion, he saw Nancy struggling and conquering her
demon right in front of him. Afterwards she had even been
able to explain the process she had just gone through. It helped
that both of them witnessed the movie characters acting out
their anger so destructively for a big part of the movie. Rob
Much human suffering
stems from destructive
emotions, as hatred breeds
violence or craving breeds
The Dalai Lama
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actually saw two movies: Changing Lanes and Nancys
process. He was able see the difference in Nancys efforts as
well as her level of awareness. Rob became very impressed
with the progress she had made in her inner work.
In our session I suggested she ask Rob to remind her of the
awakening process she had gone through while watching
Changing Lanes. I told her to have Rob mention the character
Doyles name in a lighthearted or humorous way whenever he
saw her falling into anger or rage. This would help her tune in
to the same process in a split second and bring back the aware-
ness she had gained that previous night. Nancy agreed and
thought that this also might be fun for both of them.
Weeks later Nancy told me she had experienced only one
small episode of rage, which ended almost immediately when
Rob followed my suggestion. As she was able to become cen-
tered and rational again, Nancy now could address more
clearly the real reason for her anger. Rob was able to listen
calmly and hear what she had to say.
Why Watch Movies with
Conscious Awareness?
It would be ideal if we were able to be consciously aware in our
everyday life. If you have tried it, you might have noticed that
it is not an easy task. As Nancys example and the movie
Changing Lanes demonstrate, unconscious patterns and reac-
tions tend to take over easily. We might get angry, frustrated, or
fall into despair in response to something our boss or friend
says or even just to a critical thought we had on our own. If we
fail in constantly reminding ourselves to step back and look
at the situation with more awareness, we may remain caught in
one of these patterns for a long time.
To enhance your conscious awareness and ability to be
present, mindfulness meditation or other forms of meditation
can be a helpful reminder. I have practiced different kinds of
meditation and similar practices over the years. Despite this
When anger arises it
biases our perception and
cognition, and there is a
refractory period during
the anger when you dont
even have access to your
own intelligence.
Alan Wallace
Watching Movies With Conscious Awareness 41
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 41
depth of experience, it is often still hard to avoid falling into
unconscious patterns of thinking and behavior that do not serve
me. Though these practices were and are helpful, I became very
excited when I noticed that it seemed easier to practice con-
scious awareness while watching a movie than it did in every-
day life situations. I also discovered that using this process
serves as a bridge to more awareness in general and deeper
understanding of myself. It therefore also helps me to resolve
issues and consequently to increase contentment in my life.
I became curious why this practice was easier in the reel
world than in the real world, and I came to the following con-
clusion: When we are watching a film, part of us naturally
understands that we are sitting in a seat and looking at a movie
screen or television. Therefore we usually have a little more
emotional distance from the characters and circumstances in
the film than we do with the people and situations in our real
life. It is this greater distance that makes it easier to practice
conscious awareness while watching a film compared to nor-
mal life situations. We do not get emotionally entangled and
lost in unconscious patterns as we so often do with our spouses,
friends, or colleagues.
The effect is similar to a phenomenon dramatists have long
used in writing and producing plays a dynamic called aes-
thetic distance. While watching a play, an audience can be so
absorbed by the action that they temporarily forget they are
watching a play. A dramatist then would say that the persons
aesthetic distance has been reduced to zero. For some play-
wrights, this is precisely what they want. Others prefer to use
various techniques to subtly, and sometimes not so subtly,
remind the audience that they are in a theater watching actors
on a stage. Bertolt Brecht, who wrote during the first half of the
twentieth Century, is particularly associated with inventing and
employing such techniques. He thought a good play should both
entertain and educate, but that during the 1920s and 1930s,
most plays tilted too far toward entertainment. In order to
enhance the educational some might say didactic aspect
A problem cannot be
solved on the level of
consciousness on which it
was created.
Albert Einstein
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of his plays, he invented several techniques to ensure that his
audience maintained a level of aesthetic distance. One of these
techniques was to have an actor walk across the stage during an
emotionally wrenching scene holding a sign that commented
on the action and reminded the audience that it was only watch-
ing an illusion.
In some movies a similar effect is used, as in Equus (1977)
or Wit (2001) in which the main characters address the audience
from the screen. It focuses the attention back on us, the viewer.
As we watch any movie, we have the opportunity to
increase our aesthetic distance and consequently our conscious
awareness. Reminding ourselves that we are watching a
screenplay engages our observing perspective and therefore
helps us to move our attention to our inner world.
But no matter what we do, some part of us may be fooled,
especially once our attention has been pulled into the movie.
As we identify with a character, we might begin to feel his or
her emotions. When we see a couple fighting on the screen we
might feel the anger or frustration of one or possibly even both
antagonists. Or, if somebody dies in the movie, we might feel
the grief of the character that survives.
This tug-of-war combination of emotional involvement
and observing perspective while watching a movie is an ideal
tool for learning to increase conscious awareness. Even though
the movie images are outside ourselves, as we respond to them
emotionally, we can see how they reflect our inner world.
Through the imagery of films we can discover ourselves
because the unconscious communicates its content to our con-
scious mind mostly in symbolic images. By studying films and
our reactions to them we can learn about imbalances in the way
we relate to various circumstances and people.
Where does this process lead?
As you watch a film with conscious awareness, you learn to
become aware of and consequently diminish your identifications
Watching Movies With Conscious Awareness 43
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 43
with psychological problems. That in turn can help to remove
whatever blockages you might have that are preventing mental
and emotional clarity. You learn to relate to the content of the
mind instead of from it, which allows a whole new dimension
of participation in life itself. You learn about the minds games
and projections so you can let go of them. Problems are mind-
made and do not survive when you are fully aware in the pres-
ence of the moment. Your life opens up to more peacefulness,
light, inner freedom, and creativity.
Sometimes it is not possible to deeply understand and
immediately let go right away of your emotional reaction.
Often it can take a long period of practicing before you under-
stand your minds games. In the meantime watching a movie
with conscious awareness helps you learn to tolerate undesired
emotions in a safe environment. During such practice you no
longer need to suppress your feelings. Likewise, you no longer
need to act them out in destructive ways against yourself or
others. In the safety of an illusory movie experience, you
slowly develop a strength that will be very valuable later on
when the same emotion is triggered in your real life. Think of
it in the same sense as practicing a martial art or training your
muscles in a gym so that you are strong enough when you have
to defend yourself physically in the world.
I call this psychological strengthening process creating a
larger inner container for your undesired emotions so that
you can hold them consciously. The more you learn to be able
to tolerate unwanted feelings while watching a movie, the less
you feel compelled to suppress them or act out against yourself
or others in your real life. Instead, you become strong enough
to not resist them. And the more you practice, the more confi-
dent you will be.
Such practice allows you to stay centered and clear despite
a rising unwanted emotion such as anger or frustration. You do
not need to yell at anybody or drink alcohol to drown your
feelings. If you just feel your undesired emotions consciously
without suppressing them or acting them out, they will either
You cant heal what you
cant feel.
John Bradshaw
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emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 44
dissolve or help you to take appropriate action, depending on
whats needed in a specific situation. The benefits are a life
lived fully and spontaneously because you are no longer pre-
occupied defending and managing things in a reactive way.
Joy, ease, and contentment can enter your life again. How long
this process takes depends on the intensity of your undesired
emotions and the strength of your inner container before you
started this process.
Watching a movie with conscious awareness can also help
you regain access to certain values, virtues, or capacities in
your everyday life with which you had lost touch. This process
can provide an opportunity for you to become aware of your
inner wisdom or higher self. You might reconnect with the
most mature and healthy parts of yourself. You may notice
some inner expansion or an intuitive, positive aha experience
with new deep insights. You might leave a movie theater with
an exiting new inspiration or an unexpected solution to a prob-
lem with which you have struggled. As a result of all these
processes, you may find it easier to be increasingly accepting
and compassionate with yourself and others.
How do we watch movies consciously?
Lets first look at the connection between conscious awareness
and inner wisdom. When you experience a movie, or anything
else in your life with conscious awareness, you increase your
capacity to access your inner wisdom. Inner wisdom is more
than knowledge. Whereas knowledge is simply acquired infor-
mation, wisdom requires understanding on a deep level.
Knowledge informs us, wisdom transforms us.
Since our rational mind is only a small part of the portal to
your inner wisdom, I suggest a process in which you watch and
listen with your whole body, not simply your mind. Body
awareness helps you to access inner wisdom through a felt
sense rather than through mental perceptions. This approach is
derived from body-focused psychotherapy such as Somatic
The more moments we
decide to stay put and feel
whats here, the more the
confidence that we can
handle whatever is going
on grows.
Tara Bach
Watching Movies With Conscious Awareness 45
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Experiencing, developed by Peter Levine and Focusing, devel-
oped by Eugene Gendlin. If at any time you are finding it hard
to get in touch with your body as a whole, it is usually easier
to focus first on your breathing.
Our awareness of our physical reactions, especially our
breath, is an important vehicle to increasing awareness. The
reason is that even when our mind has become disconnected
from our authentic experience, our breath usually remains
locked into it. Sometimes, when we attempt to mask our feel-
ings, our breath can sometimes give them away despite our best
efforts to hide them. Perhaps this is natures way of ensuring a
certain degree of emotional transparency between the creatures
of the world. Ironically, even when our breath, or some other
body-language sign, broadcasts our true feelings for all to see
despite our best efforts to hide them, often we are the only ones
fooled by the deception.
Tapping this potential key to greater awareness is a tech-
nique you can learn. A good place to begin is to find out what
happened to your authentic feelings and why your body is still
connected to them. The problem usually begins during infancy.
Most young children quickly learn that it can be dangerous to
express their full range of emotions. As they learn to hide unde-
sired feelings from their parents, siblings, and the rest of the
world, they also hide them from themselves. Gradually, they
stifle their own awareness of their true state of being and learn
to distrust themselves.
Gaining awareness of our physical reactions, especially
our breath can reveal buried experiences. One sign of neuro-
sis is that we forgo self-awareness for self-consciousness.
When self-conscious we project our minds outward toward
others reactions to us. As we increase our awareness, we
regain fresh, uncontaminated, whole sight. For example, as
we notice a tension or an expansion in our chest, how our
breaths vary, or other reactions to movie scenes and their
messages, they show us our biases and pinpoint the way to
our healing.
All neurosis is a substi-
tute for unfelt legitimate
Carl Gustav
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As you become aware of a physical sensation that is trig-
gered by emotions during a movie experience, you increase
your capacity to tolerate unwanted emotions without needing
to suppress them, to numb out, act out, or release them in other
unhealthy ways. You do not need to resist these feelings any
more because you experienced them as just another energy in
your body. Without resistance your emotions can run their
course and do not get unnecessarily stronger. This can be seen
as a desensitization process.
Imagine that one of your recurrent undesired emotions
centers on situations in which it appears you are failing to
achieve a certain set goal. As you watch a film in which a char-
acter faces a similar situation, you might just notice some anx-
iety combined with increased tension in your stomach or faster
breath as you identify with the character.
As you practice the exercise at the end of this chapter, you
will most likely notice that it becomes increasingly easier for
you to stay with your authentic feelings and sensations in a
conscious way. Your container will have grown larger and
stronger. The next time you encounter a situation in which you
appear to be failing at something, you will be able to use the
same process you practiced when watching a movie.
As you are able to be more centered and clear, your
responses will become more and more appropriate. You will be
less likely to respond in an unconscious reactive mode, or to
not respond at all due to suppressed feelings. In the example
above, you might be less likely to numb your fear in addictive
behavior such as alcohol abuse, overeating, or overworking
because you will not feel so unbearably anxious anymore.
Instead of avoiding the feared challenge, you can develop the
courage to face it because your anxiety no longer overwhelms
or paralyzes you. You will feel the fear and do it anyway as
the title of a popular book says. Eventually the fear will dissi-
pate, and you will feel strong enough to take on the challenges
that previously prevented you from achieving your goal. This
will make you more successful in life.
We know that the mind
can be reprogrammed, but
conditioned patterns of
perception tend to persist
in the absence of self-
awareness and conscious
intention to change.
Watching Movies With Conscious Awareness 47
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While the desensitization process I just described is for
undesired emotions, a similar approach can help you increase
and learn about your desired emotions as well. With such
increased awareness, you will experience positive emotions
more intensely as you watch a film. Most people go to the
movies to enjoy themselves. Now you will enjoy your movie
experience even more. While watching a movie with conscious
awareness, you will become sensitized to desired emotions.
This helps you understand how to increase the frequency and
intensity of these feelings in your real life.
The following examples show how a positive movie expe-
rience made me more determined to bring the same positive
qualities into my life that I felt while viewing a film.
I first discovered how amazingly helpful it is to watch a
movie with conscious awareness when I saw Il Postino or The
Movie Preview: Il Postino (The Postman) (1994)
Marios undiscovered talents and passionate heart
never had reason to show themselves. His life on a quiet
Italian island had been simple, carved out for him as it
was by his fisherman father. But when renowned poet
Pablo Neruda is sentenced to political exile there,
Mario takes the job of delivering his daily fan mail and
gradually becomes friends with the famous man.
Neruda introduces Mario to poetry and helps him win
the heart of a local beauty that had never given Mario a
second thought.
For two hours, I fell under The Postmans spell and became
completely enchanted. There is much vitality and genuine pas-
sion in this film.
I noticed while I watched with increased awareness that the
stunning nature scenes and the simplicity in the characters
lives made me feel joyful and relaxed. It felt as if I could
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breathe a little deeper, as if my busy life had stopped for a
while, and I could just enjoy these moments of peacefulness.
The tenderness in the relationship between Mario and Neruda,
as well as the authenticity that Mario displayed, touched me
deeply. After the closing credits this feeling stayed with me,
and I recognized that the movie had brought deeply held values
to my attention again, values that had been buried in my every-
day life. I decided to bring these qualities back by spending
more time in nature and trying to bring more tenderness and
authenticity into my relationships.
Tom was a friend of mine. He was depressed because of
chronic pain in his hips. He had gone from doctor to doctor,
had seen chiropractors and acupuncturists. Nothing seemed to
help. He felt so bad he didnt want to think about his situation
any more. I noticed he had gained weight since I had last seen
him. He told me he felt deflated and ready to give up.
Suddenly the movie Lorenzos Oil came to my mind. I
encouraged Tom to watch it and explained to him the process
of watching with conscious awareness.
Movie Preview: Lorenzos Oil (1992)
Based on a true story, two parents struggle to find a
cure for their sons apparently incurable, degenerative
and terminal disease. The Odones have a five-year-old son,
Lorenzo, who is diagnosed with adrenokukodystrophy
(ALD). The doctors say it is a rare disease that strikes
only boys. Victims die after losing all sensory functions.
All known treatments are experimental and none is
rated as successful. No boy with ALD has ever survived.
Though the parents enlist the boy in the most promising
of the experimental treatment programs immediately
following his diagnosis, the disease progresses rapidly
and things look hopeless.
But despite the pessimistic prognosis from all the
experts the parents refuse to give up. From their various
All you need to do to
receive guidance is to ask
for it and then listen.
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discussions with the experts it is clear to them that one
problem they face is the lack of a system for integrating
knowledge about the disease. So they take it upon
themselves to organize an international symposium of
experts and parents of afflicted boys. The father combs
the medical literature looking for clues. The mother
stays at the sons side. Neither loses hope or faith, but
the emotional strain takes its toll on their relationship.
Eventually, they begin to connect various unrelated and
overlooked theories, and despite resistance from a
disbelieving medical world, they finally connect the
right two ideas, discovering in the nick of time that the
cure for ALD lies in olive oil.
When I saw Tom again, he told me how surprised he was at
what happened to him when he watched this movie while
employing the technique of conscious awareness. First he felt
even worse when he sensed the parents pain. He noticed a
sinking feeling in his stomach. As I had advised him, he stayed
aware of his physical sensations and even remembered to
breathe into them (see exercise below). After a while these
difficult feelings dissipated, and he noticed how he became
more and more excited. He even got in touch with a deep inner
knowing, like a hunch or an intuition that he should not give up
yet but keep looking for ways to heal his hips. This made him
feel less depressed and gave him new energy to make more
calls to find a specialist who would be able to treat his ailment.
It took a while, but eventually he found the right treatment.
Tom feels much better now.
Sue, a client, told me that she gets into fights with her
boyfriend every night when she comes home from work. She
didnt think that this had anything to do with her and kept com-
plaining about him.
I had previously introduced her to the method of watching
movies with conscious awareness, and one day she told me that
We all know we are often
at our worst when we are
tired and our awareness is
weak. At such times we
are particularly likely to
react with fear or anger
and to regress to childish
patterns of behavior.
Unhealthy motives and
emotions erupt most
during moments of
Roger Walsh
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watching the movie Sliding Doors in this way had a profound
effect on her.
Movie Preview: Sliding Doors (1998)
Sometimes when the worst happens to us, it sets us
on a better path than the one we were on even when
we have no idea there is a better alternative. Helen is
unjustly fired from her glossy advertising job, then,
coming home early, misses the tube, gets mugged,
goes to the hospital, and eventually arrives home to find
her live-in writer boyfriend getting a late start on his
day. Her life is all downhill from there as she then takes
on two menial jobs in order to support them both while
he shams finishing his novel and instead has an affair
with his ex-girlfriend.
But this film shows us a parallel reality, simultaneously
weaving both versions of Helens life together in an
intricate, cross-referencing braid. Back at the subway
station, Helen makes a last minute dash through the
sliding doors of the train and thus arrives home in time
to catch her boyfriend in bed with his ex. Dumping the
loafer and moving in with her best friend, she eventually
heals her pain, starts her own PR firm, and falls in love
with James, a genuinely caring man.
Sue told me that, as she watched the unhappy Helen in the
movie, she experienced feelings of despair and a queasy sensa-
tion in her stomach. She also noted that those were familiar
feelings, ones she experienced regularly at work and immedi-
ately following work. Instead of ignoring these feelings and
sensations as she viewed the film, she stayed present to her dis-
comfort and wondered why Helens life affected her so much.
Soon she was able to see that she also felt very unhappy about
her work situation but had tried to ignore it. Her suppressed
frustration had spilled into her relationship and led to fights
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with her boyfriend. At this point in our session Sue said she felt
flooded with awe and gratitude about her understanding and a
renewed love for her boyfriend. Following our session, they
became closer, and she started to become more proactive in
finding another job.
Choose a movie that seems that it might touch you or that did
touch you when you saw it the first time. If you want to focus
on a specific aspect of yourself or your life, find a film in the
appropriate category in the Film Index at the end of this book.
A movie experience can be used for healing and growth
even if you only use some of my suggestions or none at all. You
might find your own way to watch with conscious awareness.
Just allowing yourself to become absorbed in sections of the
film or the entire movie and reflecting about your responses
afterwards can be very beneficial.
You may benefit greatly by applying the following sugges-
In preparation for each viewing session, sit comfortably.
Let your attention move effortlessly, without strain, first to
your body then to your breath. Follow your breath in a watch-
ful way for a while. Notice any tension or holding. To release
tension you may experiment with breathing into any part of
your body that feels strained.
Your gentle attention helps you to become more present.
Experience yourself without inner criticizing or comment. If
you notice yourself judging or thinking of things from the past
or future, simply return to your experience in the present
As soon as you are calm and centered, start watching the
movie. Pay attention to the story and to yourself. Do not con-
tinue to create a particular state, such as relaxation but rather
be a compassionate witness of what is. Observe especially how
the movies images, ideas, conversations, and characters affect
Anything unconscious
dissolves when you shine
the light of consciousness
on it.
Eckhart Tolle
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your physical sensations. What happens when these throw you
off balance because they trigger undesired emotions? Just put
your attention on that experience while you are watching. In all
likelihood, a films stimulants are similar to whatever unbal-
ances you in daily life.
Stay present and alert. Watch your responses with inter-
ested, curious detachment. Bring your inner attention to a
holistic bodily awareness (a felt sense). This means you are
aware of all of you head, heart, belly, etc. Once in a while
you might notice a certain sensation or emotional response
from your subtle, always-present intuitive core. After a while
you might let yourself get totally absorbed by the movie for a
while and forget about anything else. Notice your sensations
when you come back to awareness of yourself.
Another entryway into conscious awareness is to observe
how the movie images, ideas, conversations, and characters
affect your breath. Notice its shallowness or fullness; its speed
and quality. Do not try to change or control it. Do not analyze
anything while you are watching. Be fully present with your
If, at any point during this process, you start feeling
annoyed with the split awareness of the movie and yourself,
just let yourself focus on the film alone and forget about every-
thing else. Most likely you will find the experience beneficial
If you experience emotions that you find uncomfortable,
first try to identify the physical sensation associated with this
emotion (such as a knot in your stomach if you feel anxiety,
etc.) and try to breathe into the physical sensation. This
might seem strange if the sensation is a tension in your shoul-
der for example. It is still possible though to breathe into a
pain in your shoulder. Just imagine your breath flowing from
your lungs into your shoulder. Although it is just an image, the
mind/body works in mysterious ways. In most cases you will
notice that your difficult emotion soon dissolves. This practice
will prepare you for coping with similar feelings in real life.
Thinking is only a small
aspect of consciousness.
Thought cannot exist
without consciousness, but
consciousness does not
need thought.
Eckhart Tolle
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There are possible exceptions to what I just said. A movie
or movie scene might remind you of an emotionally traumatic
experience and trigger intense emotions that seem too over-
whelming or depressing. Trying to be more aware of these
emotions might feel unbearable because it takes you out of a
state of protective denial. In this case be gentle with yourself
and make sure to take care of yourself. If you sense that con-
tinuing to watch the movie might re-traumatize you, leave the
theater or turn off the television. I suggest that you talk to a
professional psychotherapist about your experience. Do not
continue with the exercise.
For everyone else, after watching the movie reflect on the
following. (It is helpful to write down your answers):
Exercise Recording Your Observations
Do you remember your feelings and sensations,
or whether your breathing changed throughout
the movie? In all likelihood, what affects you
in the film is similar to whatever influences
you in your daily life.
Notice what you liked and what you did not
like or even hated about the movie. Which
characters or actions seemed especially
attractive or unattractive to you?
Did you identify with one or several characters?
Were there one or several characters in the
movie that modeled behavior that you would
like to emulate? Did they develop certain
strengths or other capacities that you would
like to develop as well?
Notice whether any aspect of the film was
especially hard to watch. Could this be related
to something that you might have repressed?
Did you experience something that connected
or reconnected you with certain values, virtues,
Films also introduce
clients to ideas that might
be too threatening if
suggested directly.
John W. Hesley
& Jan G. Hesley
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capacities, inner wisdom, or your higher self as
you watched the film or immediately after?
Did anything in this movie touch you? The fact
that a character or a scene moved you might
indicate that your subconscious mind is
revealing information that might guide you
toward healing and wholeness. Dreams have
the same capacity. What might this guiding
message be?
As you examine your reaction to the film, try to avoid
focusing on the artistic merits of the film or even the story.
Usually when we discuss films, it is with respect to their enter-
tainment value; the most prevalent example of film analyses
are those written or told to us by professional film critics, but
their focus is usually on the film and the filmmakers. In E-
Motion Picture Magic, it is you, the film viewer, who should
remain at the center of attention.
If some of the guidelines in the exercise turn out to be use-
ful, you might consider adapting them to scenes in your real
life after you have practiced in reel life. These guidelines are
intended to help you become a better observer. As observing
helps you to step back, the bigger picture becomes more obvi-
ous. Such practice will help you learn to understand yourself
and others more deeply in the big movie of your life and to
see yourself and the world more objectively.
Watching Movies With Conscious Awareness 55
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Using Movies to Release
Negative Beliefs
Have you ever found yourself watching a movie that seemed as
if it were a scene from your own life? Or have you become so
deeply involved with a film that after the end credits rolled and
the lights came up you had to struggle to make the mental tran-
sition back to everyday reality? We have become so accus-
tomed to watching movies that it is easy to take for granted the
amazing power films can exert over us. It is also easy to forget
that it is we who actively endow them with that power.
Movies are illusions, light projected on a white screen. We
all know that, and yet sometimes we react to them almost as if
they were real. When the hero dies, we cry; when the bully is
made to look the fool, we laugh; when the villain approaches
with his knife, we cringe. Our heartbeat races, we sweat, we
squirm. These are very real reactions to an obviously unreal
experience. How is it that we can simultaneously know we are
sitting in a dark theater experiencing a manufactured illusion
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 56
and at the same time react to that illusion as if it were real? The
secret to that riddle can be summed up in one phrase: our
capacity to create beliefs.
When we watch a film, and without being consciously
aware of it, we tell part of ourselves to believe the illusion. We
willingly suspend our sense of disbelief, our critical faculty that
automatically compares what we see against what we already
know to be true. The only reason we cry, laugh, or cringe is
because we have decided to believe in the movies reality.
It is interesting that we also do this in everyday life. We
make a decision generally an unconscious one to believe
in our perspective of reality. That decision to believe in what
we see plays a much greater role in shaping our reality than we
probably realize. This is especially true regarding interactions
between people.
When it comes to our five senses, we usually trust what
they tell us without question. If we see a thin, silver object with
a sharp point on one end we know it is a needle. When we hear
a certain high, familiar squeak we know the door to our bed-
room has just swung on its hinges. In both instances we might
have simply noted the sensory observation: There lies a thin,
pointed, silver object or I hear a high familiar squeak.
Instead, we automatically take the additional step of assigning
a meaning to our observation. We identify the silver thing as a
needle, the squeak as a door. The particular meanings that we
assign to the sensations are based on our beliefs about objects,
ideas that we formed when we were young.
This same process of assigning meaning is involved in
more complex observations and assumptions about behavior.
As you drive down the road, if you see a car zooming toward
you at high speed on the opposite side of the road, you do not
pull over to make sure it does not hit you. Instead, you keep
driving with perhaps as little as five feet of space separating
you from the other vehicle. Your action is based on a belief that
everyone on the highway understands and obeys the same
set of rules. For most of us, our faith in that belief is never
Drama is life with the
dull parts cut out.
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challenged by our experience. It may have been difficult to
maintain that belief when we were first learning to drive.
Perhaps we involuntarily flinched as a car sped toward us. But
repeated successful driving experiences reinforced our belief
until it became second nature. Taken as a whole, the network
of beliefs that we hold about objects and people forms what we
think of as consensual reality.
Usually, our beliefs about reality remain invisible to us,
locked safely away in our unconscious. Normally, we go
through our day lulled by a comfortable sense that the world of
our perceptions is a real world, not a product of our own unique
belief system. But sometimes things conspire to remind us of
this hidden aspect of our inner world. Have you ever experi-
enced something that, for a moment, felt as if it happened in a
movie? Have you ever had a vague memory of something but
then find that you no longer know whether it really happened
or whether you dreamt it or saw it in a film? How valid is our
perception of reality?
You probably feel confused when the boundaries between
what we call reality and our fantasy, or between real life and
reel life, become blurry. It can help to remember that this
fuzzy perception of things is actually closer to the truth than
the more comfortable version of reality that normally inhabits
our days even though it might not always be easy to accept that
things are not always black and white.
Beliefs Can Be Misleading
Beliefs help us to focus on important details. But they can also
cause us problems when they do not match reality. For exam-
ple, at one time most people believed the earth was flat. And
why not wherever they looked, the ground and water
stretched out flat in all directions?
Of course, in hindsight we now know that their belief did
not match reality. We also know it had negative consequences:
it kept people close to shore because they believed the flat earth
A belief is a statement
about reality that you
think is the truth. And
this belief molds your
behavior, your emotions,
and your attitudes.
Morty Lefkoe
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had edges. If they sailed too far from shore they would fall off,
which prevented them from discovering what lay beyond the
Our beliefs can help us or they can mislead us. Fortunately,
when we discover we are holding a misleading belief, we are not
stuck with it forever. But often, we find ourselves holding onto
our beliefs long after we have good reason to change them. In the
above example, most people held fast to their belief in a flat earth
long after evidence emerged that it was round. And who can
blame them? After all, it was much easier to ignore a few
obscure scientific details than to adjust to an entirely new reality.
Our beliefs about inanimate objects (like needles and doors
and even the planet Earth) tend to be fairly straightforward. But
our beliefs about human behavior and feelings are sometimes
convoluted, especially our beliefs about ourselves. Often we
form such beliefs based on powerful emotions. We form them
unconsciously, without carefully examining all the evidence.
Therefore, our beliefs about ourselves and about people are
often less than completely reliable. Sometimes they are out of
sync with objective reality.
Such mistaken beliefs can limit what we see and cause us
to act against the best interests of those we love and ourselves.
And because distorted beliefs are largely unconscious, we tend
to focus on the wrong thing when we try to correct the prob-
lem. We might try to change our actions, when often it is our
mistaken belief that is causing that problem.
For example, John has a problem with motivation. No mat-
ter what the situation, he has a hard time working up the emo-
tional energy required to make a real effort. He cannot get
going in the morning. He is late for almost everything. He for-
gets promises he has made and postpones every task until the
very last minute, even when he knows that doing so causes him
to make errors and perform sloppily.
Because of the many disappointments John has experi-
enced, he is well aware that he has a problem. And he has tried
to solve it by changing his behavior: setting alarms, putting
He who knows others is
wise; he who knows
himself is enlightened.
Lao Tzu
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reminder notes on the morning mirror, buying organizers, set-
ting deadlines, and making lists. But no matter what he tries, he
still somehow finds a way to sleep through the alarm, blow off
the deadlines, and perform tasks in a slipshod manner.
The reason behind Johns dilemma is that long ago he
formed an unconscious belief: No matter what I do, I never
win; so why bother making any effort at all? Even though
John is not fully conscious of it, this belief controls his daily
actions and overrides all his efforts to change his pattern.
Rather than focusing on his actions, he would be better off try-
ing to change his distorted belief.
Because we are usually unaware of how large an impact
they have on our lives, negative beliefs often result in our
repeating the same mistake over and over, despite our best
attempts to change. Many undesired situations could be
avoided if only we saw that the root of the problem lies in our
mistaken beliefs.
Seeing is Believing
Another way to view this is to realize that when we look out at
reality, what we see is but a representation of reality, not real-
ity itself. To illustrate, take this oversimplified example of what
happens when we see a cup sitting on a table. Light bounces
from the cup to our eye. Nerves in our eye send signals to our
visual cortex, which interprets those signals as representing
basic patterns such as shape and color. At this point, we do not
yet see a thing, only shapes and colors. Next, signals repre-
senting those patterns are sent to our frontal lobe, the part of
our brain that interprets the patterns and assigns them a mean-
ing. The meaning it assigns them is based on experiences dur-
ing our first years of life. From those initial experiences of
infancy we formed a belief that certain combinations of pat-
terns represent a cup. In other words, in order to see the cup
today, we must first have developed a belief about cups, and
usually it is a belief we formed long ago.
The most beautiful thing
we can experience is the
Albert Einstein
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Even though most of the time our picture of reality is quite
close to the actual thing itself, sometimes our beliefs get in the
way of seeing something for what it is. Understanding that we
may possibly have a distorted belief about reality is the first
step to releasing it, to letting it go. In the process it may seem
as if we are holding two different interpretations of reality in
your mind. And that is exactly what we are doing.
To understand this better, it might help to recall the well-
known visual trick where a simple black and white image can
be viewed either as a white vase against a black background or
as two faces silhouetted against a white background. Usually
people will either see one or the other image to begin with. It
is as if they perceive an entirely different version of reality
when they finally discover the other image.
Rubins Vase and Faces Illusion
The Myth of Reality
What we take to be real is, in fact, a highly edited, thoroughly
filtered version of reality. Think of it as our personal myth of
The world of reality has
its limits; the world of
imagination is boundless.
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reality. Numerous films have been made that reflect this myth
including: Altered States (1980), Brazil (1985), Dark City
(1997), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), The
Matrix (1999), Open Your Eyes (1997), Pleasantville (1998),
Solaris (1972 and 2002), Thirteenth Floor (1999), Total Recall
(1990), The Truman Show (1998), and Vanilla Sky (2001).
More films can be found in the Film Index in the category
Dimensions of Reality under Inspiration. All of them develop
elaborate metaphors that comment on the act of perception. I
recommend watching one of these movies and focusing on the
allegorical message about our perception of reality in order to
gain more clarity about this previous section. The following
two Movie Previews illustrate how such films can support the
ideas illuminated above.
Movie Preview: The Truman Show (1998)
Director Peter Weir and writer Andrew Niccol
devised a carefully crafted object lesson on the need to
question our reality.
Truman Burbank lives an ideal life in an ideal, if
limited, world. Like each of us, he accepts his reality,
shrugging off the occasional odd moment that just does
not seem to fit the picture (as when a strange man leaps
out of a Christmas present shouting incongruous
protests and then is quickly wrestled out of the living
room). Truman accepts his reality. What else is he to
do? He is happy, more or less. And yet a subtle
uneasiness seems to pervade his world.
As the audience gradually learns, Trumans world is
an elaborate hoax perpetrated on him by television
producer Christof. From his control room high in the
artificial sky, Christof and his minions work 24/7 to
maintain the increasingly complex illusion of reality and
to prevent Truman from discovering it, which, of
course, he does inevitably, thus moving the film into the
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philosophical deep end of the pool as the Job-like
True-man braves the god-like Christ-offs worst
tempest in his bid to escape the confines of a limited
world view. As the filmmaker obviously intends, the
audience learns that piercing the scrim of ones reality
can entail a dramatic shift in ones priorities.
Movie Preview: The Matrix (1999)
This film poses the same questions about reality but
from a slightly different angle. In the flashy, fast-paced
blockbuster, the hero, Thomas Anderson, is a computer
programmer by day and a hacker by night who goes by
the handle, Neo. Having plumbed the deepest recesses
of the global computer network (and along the way
breaking almost every known computer-crime law on
the books) he has come to be haunted by an irrational
but unavoidable hunger to learn about something called
the Matrix.
As the film opens, Neo is sought out by a mysterious
woman who introduces him to Morpheous. Morpheous
shows Neo that the world he thinks is reality is in fact
an elaborate computer simulation called the Matrix.
The Matrix is an illusion maintained by machines that
run the world in order to keep their human slaves
unaware of their true condition. The humans are farmed
as energy cells and live out their entire lives unable to
move, trapped inside Plexiglas cases filled with pink
liquid and feeding the electrical grid.
Morpheous and his crew have escaped from their
cells and are on a mission to free as many others as they
can. But in order to do so they must reenter the Matrix
so they can locate and communicate with individuals
judged ready to withstand the shock of the transition to
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Our Inner Movie
The following metaphor can be useful in understanding how
questioning our perceptions can lead to growth and healing. In
perceiving the world, it is as if our eyes and ears were a cam-
era and microphone. Instead of actually witnessing reality
directly, we watch what I call an inner movie, on a screen inside
our heads. And this screen, it turns out, is often unreliable.
Our inner movie plays the story that we tell ourselves
about the world around us and about who we are. Though the
content of the inner movie is supposed to primarily reflect out-
side reality, several personal factors can determine what shows
up on our screen.
Personal Factors
Specific personal factors affect our perception. For example
each of us is born with certain innate traits. These include
physical characteristics such as height, skin color, right- or left-
handedness etc. But they also include tendencies to develop
certain behaviors as well. Some infants are just more excitable
than others, while others are unflappable. Some are naturally
intuitive, while others have quick reflexes.
In discussing our inner movies, it is important to remember
that such traits tend to affect what we value. An excitable infant
might value peace and quiet, while an unflappable baby might
love highly stimulating environments. An intuitive person
might love guessing games, while someone with quick reflexes
might be more attracted to games of skill.
Our physical state might also have an impact on what we
see in our inner movie. Illness, fatigue, alcohol, and hunger
all can affect our perception. And even if we are aware of the
effect our condition is having on our perception, we may not be
able to do anything about it. Someone with a thyroid condition
might know that his listlessness and jitters are due to his hav-
ing skipped medication, and yet that knowledge itself does not
The life, which is not
examined, is not worth
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make the symptoms go away. The lesson to be learned here is
that even though someone appears to be irritated with us, his or
her irritation may have nothing to do with us at all.
Habits and coping mechanisms adopted in childhood may
also influence how we interpret reality. For example, our fam-
ily may have tended to use sarcasm and irony. If out of habit
we are doing the same thing with all our adult friends, we may
be wondering why we turn off so many people. A person who
was abused as a child may have learned to anticipate without
asking the needs of people around them and to avoid asking for
what they themselves want. But if they carry those habits for-
ward, they will likely have problems achieving satisfying adult
relationships. The baggage we carry with us from our past can
change how we interpret reality. It is almost as if we were
superimposing our old beliefs and habits like an old home
movie on top of the scenes currently playing on our inner
Likewise, our emotional state can greatly affect our inter-
nal movie. Anger will tint your whole world red; depression
will tint it blue. Previous emotionally traumatic experiences
can influence our current emotional state.
And our personal philosophies, prejudices, and values also
influence how we view the world. People who place a high
value on individual freedom, for instance, may perceive those
who strive to establish social rules as wanting to deprive them
of an essential right. Those who value fairness and equality
may judge individualists as being selfish and uncooperative.
Inner Movies Can Cause Chain Reactions
Not only are our inner movies impacted by these mental,
physical, and emotional factors, but our inner movies them-
selves, in turn, affect our perception of ourselves, the world,
and, subsequently, our behavior. The plot of our inner movie
often tells a story about the world and ourselves that is based
on early life experiences. Undesired inner movies can produce
Believing that there is
something wrong with us
is a deep and tenacious
Tara Bach
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a chain reaction. For an adult who was abused as a child, the
fact that he is superimposing his old home movie on top of
current reality makes it more likely that he will think nega-
tively about himself and not trust relationships. He might
often feel fearful and suspicious, which could lead to unsatis-
factory and unhealthful friendships and relationships. That in
turn may reinforce negative beliefs about relationships, which
could increase the probability that he will form further
unhealthy relationships. Picture the core elements of this chain
reaction as follows:
It is how we think about or interpret a situation that deter-
mines how we feel.
Say your older brother put you down frequently when you
were little. This created a psychological imprint that we call
your undesired inner movie.
Projecting this childhood movie on todays reality, you
might believe that there is something wrong with you, or that
you are not good enough or capable enough and that therefore
you do not have a right to speak up and express your needs.
This is an example of a negative belief.
Because of this belief, you may feel fearful when you
want something different than what your friend or spouse
wants. This is the undesired feeling produced by the negative
ndesired Feelin
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Expressing your desire could potentially lead to a conflict,
so you often keep quiet and comply whenever a conflict might
arise. This is the undesired behavior.
Later you might feel resentful toward the person to whom
you surrender and possibly do not even know why. The unde-
sired behavior may then produce more undesired feelings.
A second example of this kind of chain reaction is if you
experienced unjust treatment in childhood (the cause for your
undesired inner movie), you might believe that everyone treats
you unfairly most of the time (negative belief). Subsequently
you might often feel angry and hurt (undesired feeling) and be
short and unfriendly to many people (undesired behavior). This
might lead others to treat you badly in return, which confirms
your initial belief and makes you more hurt and angry (more
undesired feelings).
Cognitive therapists teach their clients to look for these
patterns in order to give them a framework for understanding
why they are struggling. This framework helps create some
sense of control over their emotional reactions, and by chal-
lenging the validity of the evidence that the client gives to sup-
port them, helps them change their beliefs. The therapist
encourages the client to act consistently with an alternative
belief to test its possible validity.
For the purpose of using movies to release negative beliefs,
a combination of this cognitive approach and understanding
childhood influences is most effective. Though several thera-
peutic methods work with this combination, I chose to draw
from Morty Lefkoes Decision Maker Process because it is a
very concise and well structured approach.
Loefkoe points out that the main sources of our beliefs are
interpretations of circumstances earlier in life. Fundamental
beliefs about life and ourself usually are formed before the age
of six. After a belief has been formed, however, we act consis-
tently with it, thereby producing current evidence for the
already existing belief. In other words, life becomes a self-ful-
filling prophecy.
The systematic training
of the mind, the
cultivation of happiness,
the genuine inner
transformation by
deliberately selecting
and focusing on positive
mental states and
challenging negative
states, is possible because
of the very structure and
function of the brain.
Howard Cutler
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Negative Feelings and Beliefs Are
Caused by Early Associations
We might experience negative feelings in our life on a recur-
ring basis: fear, anger, guilt, anxiety, and sadness. Such feel-
ings may occur every time specific events happen: fear when-
ever we make a mistake or someone gets angry at us; anger
whenever we are told what to do. Sometime early in life we
form an association between the triggering event and our neg-
ative feeling. Behavioral psychologists often illustrate this kind
of association using the landmark experiment on conditioning
conducted by the Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov.
Pavlov was studying digestion in dogs. He would come
into the lab and place a morsel of food on the dogs tongues,
then watch for saliva to form and record his observations. He
later noticed that the dogs started to salivate simply upon his
entering the room, before any food was present. His curiosity
prompted his now famous experiment that demonstrated the
phenomenon psychologists call classical conditioning.
Prior to feeding the dogs, Pavlov rang a bell. The dogs would
hear the bell then receive food. Pavlov repeated this process many
times until the pattern was well established. Then he rang the bell
but produced no food. The dogs salivated anyway.
The dogs salivated because they had associated the bell
with the food. In other words, an event that normally would not
produce a response (the bell) does so because it becomes asso-
ciated with an event that does produce a response (the food).
People are conditioned in a similar manner. Suppose Joe
experiences fear whenever he makes a mistake. Asked to iden-
tify the first time he experienced fear following a mistake, Joe
recalls that when he was a child, his father was never satisfied
with anything he did. When his father called him stupid and
yelled at him, he felt fear.
When Joe thinks further about what happened to him as a
child, he realizes his fear was not really caused by the mistake
itself. He sees that what really caused the fear was the meaning
There are certain kinds
of thoughts we might cul-
tivate to strengthen our
positive emotions.
Richie Davidson
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he unconsciously attributed to his fathers behavior. Joe the
child felt that the person he depended on for his very survival
was withdrawing his love. If he were not loved, he would not
be cared for; if he were not cared for, he would not survive.
Without this fear reaction he might welcome certain mistakes
as an opportunity to learn from them.
The reason for many undesired emotions you experience
today was the perception that your survival was being threat-
ened as a child. Without this perceived threat, the same events
would not have produced this emotion.
Let us now focus on the first step of the inner-movie chain
reaction, the effect of undesired inner movies on our beliefs.
How do the inner movies in our mind create negative beliefs?
The inner movie is determined by the mentioned movie inputs.
With E-Motion Picture Magic we do not focus on the first two
personal factors, innate traits or physical state but on the
remaining three psychological factors emotional state,
habits, and values.
These three factors function under the following basic
Events have no inherent meaning.
All meaning is in our minds, illustrated by our
inner movies.
For example, our inner movie might include many scenes
from our old home movie, recorded in our unconscious as well
as in our memory, during our childhood when our parents were
critical of us. For many of us there might be only a few scenes in
this film in which they acknowledged us for our achievements.
Like most children we may have concluded, Theres some-
thing wrong with me. Those conclusions then take form as fixed
beliefs. We experience them as the truth about ourselves, even if
our friends may think that these beliefs are silly and illogical.
Sometimes, when we feel happy and at peace with ourselves, we
might even share our friends opinion and experience moments
during which we do not buy into these negative beliefs.
I am larger and better
than I thought.
I did not think I held so
much goodness.
Walt Whitman
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With this step in the process we dont make your parents
wrong for what they did. Most parents love their children and
do the best they can. Nonetheless, their own traumatic history
might adversely affect how they treat their children. You dont
betray your parents when you identify what actually happened
in your childhood. The same applies to other caretakers, such
as older siblings, babysitters or teachers.
Movies Inside and Out
Our intent with E-Motion Picture Magic is to change the inner
movie chain reaction. Recall that the original process is as follows:
negative chain reaction
We aim to change it to:
positive chain reaction
ired Feelin
ndesired Feelin
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In order to begin the process, complete all four steps in the
following exercise:
Exercise 1: Identifying an Old Home Movie
Choose one negative belief to work with. If you
cannot think of one, check the list of beliefs at the
beginning of the Negative Belief Index in Chapter 5
on page 75.
My negative belief about myself is:
When I believe this I feel:
A presumed original cause of this belief is:
Now, close your eyes. In your minds eye imagine
sitting in front of your television at home and
watching a film on a video. You are watching an old
home movie, a scene or a sequence of scenes that
you remember from earlier in your life. This is the
event or the sequence of events that might have
been an important part of causing your negative
belief. You imagine that you can see what you
assume is the possible original cause of your nega-
tive belief.
Suppose your negative belief is Theres some-
thing wrong with me though your belief, which you
wrote might be different. The idea here is to
re-view one specific or typical childhood experi-
ence as if it were playing on a television screen.
When you watch the scenes in which your
parents are critical of you, does it seem as if you are
also seeing evidence that there is, in fact,
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something wrong with me? Perhaps it seems so
real that, if someone else were watching, they too
would agree that theres something wrong with you.
Apply this example to your own negative belief.
Exercise 2: Examining Your Old Home Movie
Now imagine that you take your remote control
and rewind your old home movie and play it again.
This time, look specifically at the events that led to
your negative belief. Is it possible there could be a
second interpretation? Try to watch as an objective
observer. Perhaps, instead of the cause being
Theres something wrong with me, is it possible
that your parents behavior might need further
questioning? Is it possible that these childhood
events could have a number of different meanings,
each as valid as your original interpretation? For
1. My parents thought that being critical would
motivate me to excel.
2. My parents had inadequate parenting skills.
3. My parents may have thought there was
something wrong with me, but they were
4. Maybe there was something wrong with me
when I was a child, but that does not mean
there always has been something wrong with
5. Maybe my parents were dissatisfied with my
behavior, but didnt think there was anything
wrong with me.
Write the possible alternative meanings for your
belief. Each of these meanings is as valid as the one
you chose as a child.
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Having seen that there are other possible
interpretations, does your first interpretation still
feel like the most valid one? Are you still as certain
of it as you were after the first screening? Is it
possible that all you actually saw were your parents
criticizing you? And if that behavior could have a
number of valid meanings, does it not seem logical
that no one meaning is inherently right? And if this
is the case, is it not also logical to conclude that the
only place that meaning ever existed was as a belief
in your mind. Allowing for other possible inter-
pretations can open a door to a different story
about yourself and your parents, and thus a different
inner movie.
This process can be used to look at any negative
belief you hold about yourself and your life circum-
stances. If you do the following exercises, you will
discover that these principles hold true. Review any
event in your life. You may discover that there are a
number of possible meanings, perhaps indicating
that your belief has no definite or inherent meaning.
Exercise 3: Playing a Different Inner Movie
Even if it seems that you were already able to let
go of your undesired inner movie (your negative
belief and the undesired feeling and behavior
associated with it after the first two steps), make
sure you do not skip this third step. Here you are
asked to select a real movie in which one or several
characters model the behavior or attitude you want
to internalize. Focus specifically on this aspect of
the film. Watch it with an open mind and with
conscious awareness. Compare the way the characters
behave and the beliefs those actions imply to the
one you identified in Exercise 1. By watching these
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positive role models, you will copy them into your
inner movie screen and at the same time erase the
old undesired inner film. The newly superimposed
wholesome movie will start the healthy chain reaction
and help break the negative one.
As we learned earlier, the lessons we gain from
motion pictures can deepen and strengthen our
efforts to change ourselves because movies speak
directly to the heart and spirit, avoiding the resistance
we put up in our conscious mind. We achieve
unconscious learning, which is a state wherein we
intuitively understand the meaning that is inherent
in the story of a film.
See whether the negative belief about yourself
that you identified in Exercise 1 corresponds to a
movie from the Negative Belief Index in Chapter 5.
If the beliefs in the index do not match yours,
choose the belief from the list that sounds the closest
to your own. If none is even close, you might recall a
film you have seen in the past that can be helpful in
this process. Watch it with conscious awareness and
use the movies message to restructure your negative
beliefs by copying over undesired inner movies in
the way I just explained.
Now describe your healthy belief that replaced
the one you had. Describe how you feel about
yourself when you think of it.
Exercise 4: Recording Your Healthy Belief
Write your healthy belief on several pieces of
paper or cards. Place these notes at prominent
places in your house so that you see them frequently
throughout the day. This way the new copy of your
healthier inner movie can sink more deeply into
your unconscious.
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Negative Belief Index
There are many possible variations of negative beliefs. This
index is an attempt to give typical examples of the undesired
beliefs of my clients during my years as a therapist. Perhaps
your negative beliefs are related to one of these in the index.
Once you have located a negative belief that fits, watch one
of the suggested films. The movie plot will not match your
story exactly and needs to be understood on a metaphorical
level. Focus on the aspect that is relevant to you. Just prior to
watching the film remind yourself of the Viewing Suggestion
that you will find after a short description of the plot. After the
movie, do the exercise listed at the end of that section.
Negative beliefs that keep you from
developing healthy self-esteem:
1. I cannot accept myself because I am too different.
2. I am stuck and do not have the capacity to change my
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 75
3. I am too challenged by (fill in the blank) to live a happy
4. I am not capable of coping with the hard choices in my life.
5. I will never be able to heal.
6. My situation is too overwhelming; I will never get a han-
dle on it.
7. I cannot let go of my guilt.
Negative beliefs that keep you from
feeling fulfilled in your life:
8. I cannot stand up for what I believe.
9. I am not capable of feeling my fear and doing it anyway.
10. I am not capable of pursuing my dreams.
11. I will never be able to realize my passion in life.
12. I will never be able to redeem myself of a major mistake I
13. My life is worthless.
Negative beliefs that keep you from
developing healthy relationships:
14. I will be devastated and unable to recover if my
partner/spouse and I separate.
15. I will never be able to overcome my anger at (fill in the
16. I could never forgive if my partner/spouse cheated on me.
17. I cannot make my relationship work because we are too
18. My relationships will never change for the better.
19. Something is wrong with me as long as I am single.
20. I am not capable of confronting or getting away from
people who treated me badly.
Developing Healthy Self-Esteem
1. I cannot accept myself because I am too different.
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The Other Sister (1999)
Clara is a mentally retarded woman of considerable spirit.
Instead of succumbing to the well-meant, protective urgings of
family and friends, she shrugs off their limited view of her
potential and signs up for a vocational training class where she
meets and falls in love with a retarded man. They want to live
a normal life together as a couple, but find that her family
resists the idea, especially when it comes to sex. But rather than
give in to the pressure, they hold fast to their dream. The film
illustrates how tenacious determination to fight off prejudice
sometimes can win the world over.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how Carla accepts who she is
and focuses on creating the life she wants for herself instead of
being concerned about what other people think about her.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973)
Sometimes, you just have to acknowledge that you are differ-
ent from the rest of the flock. Jonathan, an irrepressible seag-
ull, decides to follow that instinct, and it leads him to discover
powers within himself that amaze his friends and set him apart
from the crowd. But he quickly learns that independence from
social norms can carry a high price. His newfound powers
excite fear and jealousy in the others. Eventually he is cast out
of the flock. But trusting his inner voice, he learns that even his
ostracism has its hidden blessings. Jonathan learns that being
true to your inner nature leads one to a fuller understanding and
love of others.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how Jonathan gains his own
identity and a new perspective on life when he differentiates
himself from his flock and takes flight into the unknown.
Nell (1994)
Isolated from the world her entire life deep in the Carolina
backwoods, Nell is a wild child. With only her stroke-
afflicted mother as an example of spoken English and with no
other human contact, she inhabits a world few others could
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ever hope to enter. After her mothers death, a country doctor
attempts to bridge the gap and gradually ease her into the wider
world, but a psychology student and her boss have plans that
cannot wait. Nells extreme cultural isolation and her odd
speech threaten to land her in an institution. But despite those
seemingly insurmountable obstacles, her indomitable spirit
refuses to buckle.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how Nell faces the challenges
of being different and yet still stays true to herself.
Exercise: Remember a situation in which you
actually liked being different or received positive
feedback for it? How would increased self-
acceptance serve you?
2. I am stuck and do not have the capacity to change my
Groundhog Day (1993)
The word stuck somehow does not even come close to this
mans situation. Phil, a nasty, self-centered weather forecaster
who is bored with the same old assignment and same old co-
workers, wakes one day to find he is condemned to live the
same exact day over and over, seemingly forever. Upon first
discovering his plight, he allows his selfish nature to take
advantage of the situation, using his foreknowledge of what
others will do to get the upper hand. But in the end, life on a
perpetual unchanging merry-go-round shows him how to
convert himself into a much more pleasant fellow.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch for the transformation Phil
goes through after he moves beyond denial and resentment
over the conditions of his life. When he becomes authentic and
compassionate, his life circumstances change too.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
A New England banker, Andy Dufresne, is convicted of mur-
dering his wife and her lover and is sent to Shawshank State
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Prison where he meets Red Redding, a seasoned lifer and
prison entrepreneur. Despite many years on the inside, the
prison bars fail to contain their spirits. The pair forges an
unlikely friendship, one that overcomes much pain and suffer-
ing. And despite the rigidity of the prison system, Andy uses
his guile and intelligence to outwit it.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how Andy frees himself out of
a seemingly hopeless situation with much patience, determina-
tion and endurance.
Exercise: Imagine waking up one morning and
noticing that miraculously you have the
capacity to change your situation. What would you
do first?
3. I am too challenged by (fill in the blank) to live a happy
My Left Foot (1989)
In this true story, Christy Brown is physically disabled and has
great difficulty speaking. Born with cerebral palsy into a large
working-class Irish family, the only limb he can adequately
control is his left foot. For the first ten years of his life he is
mistakenly thought by most to be retarded. But with the sup-
port of his determined mother, he overcomes tremendous phys-
ical and social obstacles. Learning to use his foot to do what
many cannot do with their hands, he gradually develops into a
brilliant painter, poet, and author.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how Christy learned amazing
skills with his left foot and created a happy, lasting love rela-
tionship for himself despite his physical challenges.
A Thousand Acres (1997)
In this update of Shakespeares King Lear, Iowa patriarch Larry
is one of the most powerful farmers in the region. Announcing
his retirement, he tells his three daughters he will divide his
1,000 acres between them. Favored youngest daughter
Of all the trails in this
life, there is one that
matters more than others.
It is the trail of a true
human being. I think you
are on this trail and it is
good to see.
Kicking Bird
(Graham Green in
Dances with
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Caroline wonders aloud whether that is a good idea and is
immediately rewarded by having her share axed. As the two
older daughters and their husbands begin assuming control of
their respective halves of the farm, Larry becomes angry and
abusive, prompting the two women to grapple with long-hid-
den family secrets.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how the sisters, Rose and
Ginny, are starting to confront, work through, and resolve their
past in a dysfunctional family with issues of alcoholism, emo-
tional abuse, and molestation. Recovery is possible.
Shine (1996)
Marvel at the way the human spirit tries to heal itself. This
story, based on the life of Australian pianist David Helfgott,
traces his youth as a child chess and piano prodigy under the
savagely domineering hand of his father who berates him with
stories of his familys slaughter in German concentration
camps. As an adolescent, David wins a coveted position to
study at the Royal College of Music in London, but his father
demands he refuse it because by leaving, he will destroy his
family. David enters the school anyway, but then has a nervous
breakdown during a crucial concert. Years later, as a largely
forgotten, broken man, David wanders the streets babbling
nonsense, then stumbles into restaurants where he astounds the
guests by playing rapturously on the piano. Eventually, he falls
in love with a woman who helps to heal his emotional and
mental troubles.
Viewing Suggestion: Though David has to face many
immense challenges, he is finally able to find peace with help
from his wife.
Exercise: Remember a time in your life, even if it
was very short, when you were contented or happy
despite your challenges. If it happened once, you are
capable of experiencing it again.
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4. I am not capable of coping with the hard choices in my
Cider House Rules (1999)
Homer is an orphan informally adopted by benevolent
orphanage director Dr. Larch who trains him to someday take
over his duties, which include the occasional illegal abortion.
Having learned everything his mentor wanted for him, Homer
decides to leave the orphanage to follow his own destiny. He
travels with acquaintances to an apple farm where he works
hard, falls in love with the wife of a soldier who is off fighting
the war, and despite his own beliefs against abortion, performs
one for a victim of incest and rape. Later, he returns to the
orphanage where, following the doctors death, Homer finally
decides to take on the role envisioned for him.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how Homer has to make very
difficult moral choices about performing abortions early in his
Exercise: Remember one situation in your life
when you were confronted with a difficult choice
and were able to face it as Homer did. If you were
able to cope then, it may be possible again, when
the need arises.
5. I will never be able to heal.
The Horse Whisperer (1998)
A young girl, Grace, and her beloved, prized horse are seri-
ously injured in a bad accident that leaves them both psychi-
cally scarred. Believing that the best hope for healing her
daughter is to heal the horse, the mother, Annie, travels to
Montana with Grace and her horse to seek the aid of master
trainer, Tom. His technique involves almost mystical efforts to
understand the horse and slowly gain its trust. Toms unortho-
dox ways not only heal horse and daughter, they also unearth
Annies long-repressed pains and passions, forcing her to
We can, and probably
most of us unconsciously
already do, use film to
incubate fresh ideas to
current dilemmas.
Marsha Sinetar
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confront her own complicity in the creation of her lifeless
Viewing Suggestion: Watch the slow but steady, gradual
healing process for the horse, daughter, and mother. They do
not give up and eventually go through a transformation.
Exercise: Remember a time in your life when you
were able to make at least a small change that you
desired? If this was possible, you have the capacity
to heal and change.
6. My situation is too overwhelming. I will never get a
handle on it.
Where the Heart Is (2000)
Novalee is seventeen and pregnant. She has never had a real
home. When her musician boyfriend dumps her at an
Oklahoma Wal-Mart with nothing but a camera and $5.55, she
hides in the store, keeping track of all the items she steals in
case she ever gets the chance to pay it back. She is discovered
in her hideout just as she is giving birth, and awakes in a hos-
pital bed to find that she has gained instant celebrity status in
the small town as the mother of The Wal-Mart Baby. Over
the next few years she creates a makeshift family from a group
of eccentric friends and realizes her own strength.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch as Novalee hopes against
hope, does what she can, then finally discovers the gift of
friendship and belonging she longed for.
Places in the Heart (1984)
Set in 1935 Waxahachie, Texas, this story shows how determi-
nation and hard work can overcome overwhelming odds. Alone
and broke on a small farm during the Great Depression, the
recently widowed Edna must rent a room to a blind boarder and
hire a wandering African-American man in order to stave off
the bank and feed her children. The African-American man
knows how to grow cotton, but when the bottom falls out of the
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market, their only hope is to win a bonus by beating all the
other farms in a race to see who will be able to bring in their
crop first. Meanwhile, storms, exhaustion and the KKK stand
in their way.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how Edna faces many over-
whelming challenges after her husband died. With strength,
courage, and determination she is able to master these chal-
lenges successfully.
Exercise: Make a list of the influences in your life
that seem overwhelming to you. Do you have some
control over simplifying your life? Perhaps by
exercising some of this control you can make things
less overwhelming. Or do you have to face these
challenges as did Novalee and Edna? Take her as a
model and find the strength, courage, and
determination inside yourself.
7. I cannot let go of my guilt.
By using the word guilt here, I am referring to feelings
of guilt that are not based on being guilty of a serious misbe-
havior. You may know the difference rationally, intuitively, or
after you have heard at least one well-meaning friend tell you:
You should not feel guilty about this.
Ordinary People (1980)
Teenaged Conrad is plagued with guilt for having survived a
boating accident that killed his older brother. Worse yet, his
mother is seething with anger over the loss, which she conceals
beneath a cold, placid exterior. She struggles to hide the fact
that she feels the wrong son lived. Meanwhile, Conrads dad
loves him and his mother, but is paralyzed by fear and is use-
less in intervening. Following a suicide attempt, with the help
of a psychiatrist, Conrad begins the slow and painful process of
healing. But his progress also forces his parents to face the
unspoken feelings that divide them.
For us to release the
shame of wanting, its
important we understand
the benefits which accrue
to others not just
ourselves when wants
are fulfilled, and how to
walk out of the ill-placed
guilt of putting ourselves
before others.
Lynn Grabhorn
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Viewing Suggestion: Watch Conrad struggling with his
survivor guilt after his brother died in their boating accident.
He finally overcomes his guilt when he is able to truly feel his
grief and despair and to acknowledge that he might have been
stronger than his brother.
Bounce (2000)
Adman Buddy thinks hes doing Greg a favor by swapping
tickets with him during a long weather delay at the airport.
Greg needs to get home so he can be with his son; meanwhile,
Buddy has a lovely and available woman to keep him occupied
while waiting for the next flight. But Gregs plane crashes, all
aboard are killed, and Buddys agency is charged with smooth-
ing over the airlines public relations fiasco. In trying to make
up for his guilt, he hunts down Gregs wife and son and tries to
help them, but fails to tell them who he is. Meanwhile, he falls
in love with both of them. Torn between his love and his
increasing guilt, he is working up the courage to tell them who
he is when they find out on their own and send him packing.
After succumbing to alcoholism, losing his job, and working
through rehab, he begins life with a fresh outlook.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch as Buddys guilt grows and
threatens to ruin his life but is finally overcome by his humility
and willingness to heal.
Courage Under Fire (1996)
Army Colonel Nathaniel Serling is racked by guilt over a Gulf
War incident in which he directed a tank to destroy what later
turned out to be another American tank. An investigation
excused him, but his guilt is driving him to drink too much and
to push away his wife and family. Meanwhile, hes charged
with investigating a proposed Medal of Honor award the
first to be given to a woman. But as he proceeds with his inves-
tigation into the battlefield conduct of the female helicopter
captain, he begins to suspect that the story has been fabricated,
possibly for political purposes. Meanwhile, he comes under
heavy pressure from the White House to ignore his doubts.
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Viewing Suggestion: Watch as Serling heals himself by
daring to face the truth about the captains story and his own
Exercise: Remember a time in your life when you
were able to let go of feelings of guilt. Imagine how
you would feel, if you were free of this guilt now.
Feeling Unfulfilled
8. I cannot stand up for what I believe.
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
Idgie Threadgoode goes her own way. She wears pants, a tie,
cuts her hair short, and has a crush on Ruth all in the deep
south town of Whistle Stop, Georgia, sometime in the early
post-WWII era. Ruth is married to a violent, drunken lout, a
racist redneck. The two women open the Whistle Stop Caf,
and insist on serving Big George, a black man whose mother
raised Idgie. When Ruths abusive husband disappears, the
local KKK decides to blame the uppity Big George.
Meanwhile, a Ms. Threadgoode is retelling all this, plus the
story of the trial, in flashback mode from the present day. She
lives in a nursing home and is visited regularly by Evelyn,
dowdy, unhappy, and dripping with low self-esteem. The story,
and its telling, has powerful curative affects on Evelyn, who
learns to stand up for herself.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how Ruth and Idgie stand up
for what they believe and Evelyn learns from them how to fol-
low suit, thereby gaining the courage to deal with her lifes
Erin Brockovich (2000)
Sometimes, the world gets rough and you have to fight back.
Based on a true story, divorced, single mother-of-three Erin
will not take no for an answer when, desperate for a job, she
insists her affable but ineffectual personal injury lawyer give
Men are not free when
they are doing just what
they like. Men are only
free when they are doing
what the deepest self likes.
And there is getting down
to the deepest self. It
takes some diving.
D. H. Lawrence
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her one. Erins unabashedly risqu clothes and rough language,
earns her the disdain of fellow employees, but she does not let
that or her complete lack of formal legal experience and higher
education stop her from launching a mammoth class action
lawsuit against a seemingly omnipotent energy corporation
that covered up a toxic waste spill and knowingly damaged the
health of an entire town.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how Erin stands up for her
convictions and uses her god-given gifts despite all the obvious
cards being stacked against her.
The Insider (1999)
Ethics and personal courage take center stage in this highly
acclaimed (and controversial) cutting edge drama about a
tobacco company doctor-turned-reluctant-whistle-blower,
Jeffery Wigand. Jeffery has crucial evidence that tobacco com-
pany executives knowingly doctored their product with a car-
cinogenic additive to make it more addictive, then lied to con-
gress. Constructed like a jigsaw puzzle in which crucial pieces
keep disappearing, the twisted plot follows investigative journal-
ist and 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman as he manipulates
behind the scenes to get the highly damaging story on the air.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how Jeffrey, after hesitating
for a while, stands up for his convictions and blows the whistle
on big tobacco.
Exercise: Imagine yourself feeling your fear of
standing up for your convictions, accepting this fear
and consequently following through. What would
you expect to change in your life if you did?
9. I am not capable of feeling my fear and doing it any-
Defending your Life (1991)
Daniel is a yuppie who died in a car accident and is awaiting
the determination of his fate in Judgment City, a sort-of waiting
Fear is an anticipation of
future pain.
Tara Bach
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room resort for the afterlife. While having the minutest details
of his life examined courtroom style to see whether he over-
came his fears and made the most of his life, he falls in love
with the only other young person in the city, Julie. While she
looks certain to move up to Citizen of the Universe status,
Daniels apparently pitiful life appears to spell another trip
back to life on earth for him.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch Daniel who, after a lifetime of
giving in to his fears and at the end of the film, faces his fear
and pursues what he really wants his newfound love, Julie.
Exercise: Remember a situation in your life when
you faced a fear and pursued something of which
you were afraid. You might want to try it again,
starting with something small and manageable.
10. I am not capable of pursuing my dreams.
Gattaca (1997)
Vincent longs to be an astronaut. He has all the right qualities,
save one: he was born the natural way. In this sci-fi thriller set
in the not so distant future only genetically engineered
humans get a chance to fulfill their destinies. Those born natu-
rally are considered imperfect and therefore are relegated to
menial tasks. But Vincent cheats the system, using a DNA bro-
ker to set him up with the fake identity of a genetically engi-
neered man. Armed with that false self, he earns a coveted
slot in the astronaut corps at giant space corporation, Gattaca.
But Vincents opportunity to launch on a mission to Saturn is
threatened when a flight director who opposes a corporate
scheme is murdered. Vincent finds he must use his naturally-
endowed wits to avoid being fingered and to achieve his dream.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how Vincent first puts much
attention and energy into pretending to be a genetically perfect
person because he wants to be an astronaut. Later he achieves
his dream, applying genuine capacities and his authentic self
with determination.
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Exercise: Start with a small goal that seems
achievable. Imagine the steps that need to be taken
and how you would feel if you had reached it. Now
go for it just as Vincent did. After achieving this
goal, go for a bigger one in the same way.
11. I will never be able to realize my passion in life.
The Piano (1993)
Sometimes help comes from unexpected places. Set in the
nineteenth century frontier forests of New Zealand, Ada arrives
on the shore with her young daughter and a crated piano, hav-
ing agreed to an arranged marriage to Stewart, a bachelor
farmer. Ada hasnt spoken since she was six. We are not told
why. Her daughter, who translates Adas sign language, and
playing her piano are her only means of communication.
Stewart, who cares little for communicating with Ada, consid-
ers the piano of little use in carving a life from the rain-soaked
forest and instructs his Maori tribesmen to leave it on the
beach. But when Ada uncrates it there and plays it, neighbor
Baines hears the music and offers to trade Stewart land in
exchange for the instrument. Baines then uses the piano to
seduce Ada, trading her the opportunity to play for intimate
favors. But the seduction turns out to be more complicated than
either of them thought.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how Ada stays true to her pas-
sion, which is playing her piano. Her determination helps her
overcome many severe challenges.
Exercise: Contemplate whether you have a passion
that you have not fully realized yet. Have you
pursued anything in your life with determination?
Imagine that you apply this determination to
pursuing your passion as Ada does.
Were good he had Gods
patience, for silence
affects everyone in the
end. The strange thing is
I dont think myself silent,
that is, because of my
Ada (Holly
Hunter in The
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12. I will never be able to redeem myself of a major mistake
I made.
Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (2001)
Assistant District Attorney Troy is on a roll. He has just won a
big case, and during the celebration he spots Gene, a very sad
insurance manager at the bar. Troy wants Gene to be happy
he wants everyone to be happy. Troy buys Gene drinks and gets
drunk in the process. Gene, on the other hand, thinks the world
is unfair and wants retaliation, so he decides to fire the happi-
est guy in his department. Troys happiness, however, is short-
lived, as driving home drunk he hits a woman and, thinking he
has killed her, flees the scene. His guilt consumes him, causing
him to continually reinjure himself where he cut his forehead.
In such fashion, the movie traces the lives of several characters
in thirteen vignettes, each of which illustrates how absurd life
can be. Bad things happen to good people; good things happen
to bad ones.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how Troy struggles over time
to achieve redemption for his crime and eventually succeeds.
Exercise: If you can feel compassion for Troys
inner struggle, you might be able to direct your
compassion toward yourself too. Keep watching the
movie with you in the role of the one who tries to
redeem him/herself of a mistake in the past and fill
in what you are going to do in order to succeed.
13. My life is worthless.
Its a Wonderful Life (1946)
Few people actually achieve the goals they set when they are
young, and yet their lives turn out to have meaning, though it
is sometimes difficult to see. Caught in a scandal brought about
by the evil machinations of his nemesis, George wonders if his
life of sacrifice and hard work has been worthwhile. Standing
on a bridge, he considers suicide. But an angel intervenes and
If you build it they will
Voice (in Field
of Dreams)
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shows him how many lives in his town would have been
impoverished without the subtle influence of his sterling
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how George overcomes his
belief that his life is worthless when an angel grants his wish
that he was never born. He sees what life in his town would
have been like without him.
Exercise: After watching this movie, imagine what
life would be like without you and notice how your
contribution would be missing.
Healthy Relationships
14. I will be devastated and not be able to recover if my
partner/spouse and I separate.
Sliding Doors (1998)
See Movie Preview on page 51
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how the blonde haired Helen
develops the capacity to start a new life with a new career and
a new boyfriend after her old boyfriend cheated on her and she
went through a phase of anger, depression, and grief.
Exercise: Recall a time when you have gone
through a breakup and recovery from your loss.
What helped you to heal again? Is there any reason
why you would not be able to recover as Helen and,
possibly, you did once before?
15. I will never be able to overcome my anger at (fill in the
Changing Lanes (2002)
See Movie Preview on page 38
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how the main characters
Gavin and Doyle are first caught in their intense rage, act out
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violently, hit bottom, are finally able to let go of their anger,
and eventually empathize with each other. This allows them to
find peace within themselves at the end.
Exercise: Evaluate whether your anger serves you
or hurts you. It does not matter if your anger has
different reasons than portrayed in the movie. What
would need to happen for you to let go of it as
Gavin and Doyle did? Do you need to hit bottom
as they had to? Notice what happens to your anger
as you watch the movie and contemplate these
16. I could never forgive my partner/spouse if they cheated
on me.
A Walk On The Moon (1999)
Marty got Pearl pregnant and married young. Now it is 1969
and Pearl spends the summers at a cabin in the Catskills with
her mother, daughter, and son. Marty works as a television
repairman in New York and visits on weekends. Pearl feels
caught in the passionless domesticity of their marriage and eas-
ily succumbs to the seduction of a handsome stranger. Her
mother warns Marty, who confronts his wife with his own dis-
appointments. Because of their early marriage he had to give
up college for a life of a television repairman.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how Marty struggles with his
anger and disappointment at Pearls affair. Notice how both
are able to stay with their feelings and communicate well at the
end of the movie, which allows them to come back together.
Exercise: Contemplate whether you are able to stay
with your difficult emotions without acting out
while you communicate with your partner like
Marty and Pearl at the end of the film. If not, how
could you improve your communication?
Communicating well helps you to step into the
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other persons shoes and therefore understand and
empathize with him or her. Empathy helps to
overcome anger and allows us to forgive mistakes.
17. I cannot make my relationship work because we are too
The Story of Us (1999)
A man and woman meet, say their vows, have children, then
slowly grow apart. Now comes the hard part: staving off a
divorce. Rather than tell the children, they send them off to
summer camp and then begin a trial separation. Their attempts
at making a fresh start are interspersed with flashbacks to their
happier days. Eventually, with time apart, they learn how to
repair their life together.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how Katie and Ben struggle
but eventually find a way to make their relationship work.
Notice especially their poor communication skills and their dif-
ferences in temperaments.
Exercise: Ask yourself whether you are able to
communicate better than Katie and Ben. If not, how
could you improve your communication?
Communicating well helps you to step into your
partners shoes and therefore understand and
empathize with him or her. Empathy helps to bridge
many difference in your personalities.
18. My relationships will never change for the better.
When Harry met Sally (1989)
Harry and Sally first meet on a cross-country road trip as both
are leaving school for New York to begin their careers. Both are
single, but clearly these two are not meant for each other
they are as different as black and white. But they meet again at
the airport a few years later when shes with a new boyfriend.
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And again, years later, when theyre both in relationships, and
again when hes in mid-divorce and she has just been dumped.
They keep bumping into each other until finally, they realize
they like each other and become close friends. And after a long
friendship, they finally realize that, despite the differences
between them, they love each other.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch the constant transformation
that Sally and Harry go through in their relationship over a
long period of time. They go through many ups and downs dur-
ing which their relationship improves. Notice how they experi-
ence many different kinds of emotions during this time and are
able to forgive each other for their mistakes.
Kolya (1996)
Making the best of bad circumstances, confirmed bachelor
musician, Frantisek Louka, finds he is suddenly left in charge
of a five-year-old boy, Kolya, when his Soviet mother aban-
dons him to join her boyfriend. His initial eagerness for the boy
to be shipped off to a state-sponsored foster family slowly
changes during the months he is forced into the role of care-
giver. By the time the boys mother returns to reclaim him, and
despite that Kolya speaks only Russian and Louka speaks lit-
tle, the two have grown to love one another. But their sadness
at having to separate is offset by Loukas understanding that he
has learned he is capable of feeling real love.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how Loukas and Kolyas
hearts grow together over time even though they do not under-
stand each others native language.
Exercise: Remember whether some of your
relationships change over time. The changes in the
relationships between Sally and Harrys as well as
Louka and Kolya may be similar or different from
the changes in yours. Are you willing to tolerate the
different kinds of emotions that often change
relationships? Do you sense what could help you to
Stories heal. Their teach-
ings can awaken inner
strengths, nobility, and
self-value. Our favorite
movies are emblematic of
ideas we need and value
for this enrichment to
Marsha Sinetar
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move toward forgiveness if your friend or partner
made a mistake? Have you experienced getting
emotionally closer to somebody, child or adult,
when you got to know him or her as shown in
Kolya? Perhaps you may have first rejected this
person. Keep an open mind for these changes to
happen again in your relationships.
19. Something is wrong with me as long as I am single.
Waiting to Exhale (1995)
Feisty, independent and fiercely protective of one another, four
African-American women form a communal safety net as they
cope with the various untrustworthy men moving into and out
of their lives. All four of them are waiting for a relationship
with a mate on whom they can rely. But while they are thus
waiting to exhale, they find they can lead fulfilling lives
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how the four women learn to
accept themselves after they first used relationships to feel
Exercise: Experiment with activities, projects, or
hobbies that make you feel good as a single person
just as some of the characters did in the movie.
20. I am not capable of confronting or getting away from
people who treated me badly.
The Accused (1988)
Sarah is no angel. After a fight with her boyfriend drug dealer,
she goes to a bar, gets drunk, and dances provocatively with a
young man. But when the man tries to take it further, she
attempts to stop him and is then gang raped as bystanders
cheer. Wanting justice, she struggles with her low self-esteem
but finally faces the brutality of a trial that judges her as much
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as it does the three men accused. And when they get off with
light sentences, she and her female prosecutor decide to go
after the bystanders as well.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how Sarah learns to find jus-
tice by confronting her rapists in court. She has to face many
challenges until she reaches her goal. (If you have experienced
traumatic abuse, check with a therapist before watching this
Ruby in Paradise (1993)
Real freedom comes from finding out what you love to do and
then doing it. Ruby, a twenty-year-old Tennessee woman
escapes what was probably an abusive life and drives to Florida
where she insists on work at a beachwear shop until the owner
finally relents. And she gradually learns to love her work, not
so much because retail is thrilling but because she finds she is
good at dealing with people and money. When the owners son
makes advances and is eventually spurned, he takes his revenge
by getting her fired. Hitting a low point during which she con-
siders, then refuses work at a strip joint, she eventually grows
in her knowledge of what she wants from life and learns to go
after it.
Viewing Suggestion: Watch how Ruby, after many chal-
lenging ordeals, finally becomes an independent woman, in
charge of her work and herself. She had escaped from what
was probably an abusive relationship.
Exercise: Remember a situation in your life when
you faced a fear of conflict and confronted
somebody who had treated you badly. If you find
yourself in similar situations now, you might want to
try it again, starting with someone who presents
only a small challenge. If you are in an abusive
relationship, take Ruby as a model and get out. You
may be frightened and unsure, but do it anyway.
Like Ruby look for a mentor to give you guidance.
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Building Self-Esteem
The previous two chapters may already have helped you to
gain more self-esteem. Now you will have an opportunity to
improve it further.
A teaching story from the Sufi tradition about the Mullah
Nasruddin, a combination wise person, fall guy, saint and fool
goes as follows. There was a couple in his village having trou-
bles and they came to him for help. The man got up and told
his story, and when he was finished, the Mullah looked at him
and said, You are right! Then the wife stood up and said her
part and what she wanted, and the Mullah looked at her and
said, You are right! One of their friends who had come along
sat there scratching his head and said to Nasruddin, But they
cannot both be right. The Mullah replied, You are right!
If only we could be as accepting as this Mullah. Instead,
we have automatic negative thoughts toward others and ourself
that are often inconsistent with reality. We have a harsh, judg-
mental inner critic that affects our self-esteem. This inner judge
makes us feel inadequate or worthless.
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 96
Step 1: Understanding the Inner Critic
Do you sometimes notice a tense, dull, or queasy feeling in
your stomach and only after a while you remember that it
started when you made a mistake several hours or even days
ago? You might feel guilt, maybe shame, and depressed.
Perhaps an inner voice says, How could I have done some-
thing that stupid? This voice drains your energy. It takes away
your joy and passion in life. You do not want to engage in any-
thing anymore because you are doing it wrong anyway.
Do you sometimes feel better when you notice or remem-
ber that others make these kinds of mistakes too? You might
criticize another person secretly or openly for their shortcom-
ings. Doing so may give you momentary relief because you
feel superior and therefore less inadequate. Unfortunately, this
critical attitude might lead to a conflict, which could under-
mine your self-esteem again.
Exercise 1: Checking What Is True For You
Some- Most of
Rarely times the time
I feel negative about myself
I feel guilt and shame
arising from my actions
I find fault with myself
I cannot trust my own perceptions
I feel different from others
I fail at most things
I cannot reach my goals
I feel as if people know
that there is something
wrong with me no matter
what I do
I feel like I am not as good
as others
I am afraid of interacting
with others
Out beyond ideas of
wrongdoing and rightdo-
ing, there is a field. Ill
meet you there.
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The more marks you found yourself making under most
of the time or sometimes the more likely it is that you strug-
gle with low self-esteem and possibly depression.
It is important to understand whether low self-esteem is a
result of a subjective negative view of yourself, which is not
based on reality. If this is the case, your harsh inner critic, inap-
propriately and in a distorted fashion, affects your view of
The following exercises help you become aware of dis-
torted negative thinking about yourself. Through your first step
toward self-awareness in Exercise 1, your critical perspective
might have already started losing its power. Watching movies
in which the characters experience similar struggles can help
you think even more realistically, and therefore positively,
about yourself.
In order to distinguish between negative beliefs that are
based on subjective distortions and those which result from
objective mistakes or shortcomings, imagine yourself sitting in
a restaurant and overhearing a person at the next table talking
negatively to a friend about a third person. But instead of it
being a conversation about someone else, the conversation you
hear is the same one that goes on in your head when you are
hypercritical of yourself. If they sound too harsh and unrealis-
tic, it is very likely that your negative thoughts about yourself
and your low self-esteem are based on unhealthy thought pat-
The following are explorations of the origins of your neg-
ative thinking. They will help you understand the specific rea-
sons why you might have developed such thinking patterns and
the consequent low self-esteem. They will also direct you to the
films that serve you best.
High Standards
Negative thinking and guilt can be seen as the price paid when-
ever our behavior violates some standard or belief we hold.
All you need is already
within you, only you must
approach yourself with
reverence and love.
Self-condemnation and
self-distrust are grievous
Sri Nisargadatta
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Often our standards are not very clear in our consciousness,
and we question our behavior only in response to feelings of
guilt and shame. You might not be aware that your expectations
of yourself are unrealistically high. If you pretend to look at
yourself through the eyes of a compassionate friend, you might
not apply the same high standards. Perhaps you come from a
family or school experience that encouraged you to feel overly
responsible through blaming or finding fault whenever things
went wrong. Being super-responsible may have been seen as
an asset as you grew up. But the down side is that throughout
your life, even minor infractions, especially if noticed by some
authority figure (parents, teachers, employers, etc.), probably
instilled in you a sense of failure and diminished self-worth.
If the above scenario fits, then the reason you initially
developed an inner critic was to protect yourself from external
criticism. Now, however, whenever your behavior violates a
certain standard, you sink into a low state and feel guilty and
Exercise 2: High Standards
Does the above description come close to your
experience? If so, write about your struggle with
high expectations of yourself.
Negative Self-Image
Even in the most loving, supportive, and undemanding of fam-
ilies, parents and other relatives, like older siblings, are not per-
fect. Caretakers cannot be there for children all the time or give
them all their attention. With a newborn infant, for example,
the mother sometimes becomes overwhelmed, depressed, or
frustrated. The babys survival depends upon accommodation
to external circumstances, but at this stage it cannot distinguish
itself from its mother. Therefore, it internalizes its mothers
emotional state and starts believing that there is something
wrong inside.
Our most habitual and
compelling feelings and
thoughts define the core of
who we think we are.
If we are caught in the
trance of unworthiness,
we experience that core as
Tara Bach
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Our self-judgments continue to grow as we develop. When
our mom told us Do not touch that knife, we were not able to
distinguish the message, You need to learn to function in the
world from You are a bad person for exploring how a knife
feels. As we grew older and interacted with peers, they might
have teased us, which increased our sense of unworthiness.
Exercise 3: Negative Self-Image
Does this come close to your experience? If so,
write about how these thoughts relate your to own
history and to your struggle with your negative
Illusion of Control
Another cause of low self-esteem through hypercritical think-
ing seems to have its origin in magical thinking and the illu-
sion of control of early childhood. As infants, we learn that
when we have a need (for clean diapers, food, etc.), all we have
to do is make a sound, and someone comes to fill our need.
Therefore, we learn to believe in our own power growing out
of the seeming reality that we are the center of the universe.
This belief continues until our intellectual level (age six to
nine) allows us to start understanding other cause and effect
relationships in the world. We learn that we are not the cause,
and therefore not responsible, for everything that happens.
But some part of our psyche may have kept a certain rem-
nant of magical thinking, such as: to expect anything good
will only bring bad, or vice versa. The psychological payoff
for maintaining this belief is that it might allow us to retain our
illusion of control. Perhaps we would rather believe that certain
events in our life are a result of our wrongdoing than that they
are caused by inevitable circumstances.
Even under the best conditions most of us retain a bit of
magical thinking and the illusion of control, and that in turn
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contributes to our sense of guilt, especially in response to a cri-
sis in our life. What did I do to cause this? I should have
done something to prevent this. These are reasonable ques-
tions for adults to be asking. Whether or not they torment us
and undermine our sense of worth may depend upon how hon-
est we are with ourselves about the amount of control we really
Exercise 4: Illusion of Control
Does this come close to your experience? If so,
write about how these thoughts relate to your own
history and struggle with trying to hold on to an
illusion of control or magical thinking.
Other Influences
Parental neglect, rejection, alcoholism or drug abuse, as well as
physical and sexual abuse during childhood are some other rea-
sons for low self-esteem. In families plagued with such prob-
lems, children grow up feeling insecure, worthless, and lonely.
They develop a tendency toward self-rejection and self-sabo-
tage. Other factors that might lead to difficulties in developing
a basic sense of trust or security and confidence include
parental overprotectiveness and the experience of traumatic
loss. Even parental overindulgence can undermine the devel-
opment of healthy self-esteem. In such cases parents do not
provide enough exposure to deferred gratification, so the child
never learns to develop such capacities as initiating and sus-
taining effort or taking personal responsibility. As adults these
people experience insecurities because they feel weak in com-
parison to others, and life does not continue to provide what
they learned to expect during childhood. If we experienced one
or more of these influences, it is very likely that we can have
difficulties with intimate relationships in our adult life, which
interferes even more with a positive sense of ourselves.
Self-esteem can be as
crucial to your physical
and mental well being as
nutrition, exercise, and
preventive medicine.
Matthew McKay
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Exercise 5: Other Influences
Does this come close to your experiences? If so,
write about how these thoughts relate to your own
history and struggle with low self-esteem.
Step 2: Letting Go of Negative Views
If you had something to write in at least one of the previous
exercises, it is very likely that your low self-esteem is based on
one or several of the unhealthy thought patterns listed below. I
suggest you explore, with the support of movies, how some of
them might affect you.
List of Unhealthy Thought Patterns:
1. Self-blame: You blame yourself for something for
which you are not responsible.
2. Negative Self-image: You underestimate your
3. Victim perspective: You blame other people or
circumstances for almost everything that happens
to you.
4. Should perspective: You feel frequently
obligated to do or say things that you resist deep
5. Over-all negative perspective: You perceive your
life as if the glass were half empty instead of
half full.
6. Black-and-white thinking: You perceive most
experiences as either right or wrong, good or bad.
7. Overgeneralization: You perceive one negative
experience as a never-ending predicament.
To clarify how movies can be used to build self-esteem,
lets use the example of My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
where the main character Toula goes through a transformation
of her self-image and builds her self-esteem.
Most bad feelings come
from illogical thoughts. . .
When you put the lie to
these distorted thoughts,
you can change the way
you feel.
David Burns
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Movie Analysis:
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
Toula Portokalos arrives at work with her father, who
tells his daughter how old she appears. Toula appears
accustomed to this negativity and feels badly about
herself. She is a waitress at a Greek restaurant, owned
by her family. We learn that Toula has not married, and
this is the talk of the town. She allows herself to be
walked on by her family and friends who make most of
her choices. Her family promotes three traditional
values marry a Greek boy, have Greek babies, and
feed everyone until you die. From an early age, she is
distressed by their over-the-top ways. Her strict father
does not believe a woman should be smart. Most mem-
bers of her family, excepting her father, believes she is
capable of doing more with her life. Toula looks dreary
and old for her age. One day at work she sees Ian
whom she finds attractive. She hides behind the
counter to peer at him.
This is a turning point for Toula. When she begins
taking classes at a local college, her confidence
improves, she puts on a little makeup, and is trans-
formed into a beautiful person oozing happiness.
She becomes a successful travel agent. She reinvents
herself, creates a new appearance, and gains self-esteem
in the process. As she overcomes her insecurities, she
bucks tradition and becomes engaged to Ian, who is not
Greek, and eventually wins the family over to him and
their wedding plans.
Since this movie is a comedy and not a character
study, it is up to us to imagine where Toulas newfound
self-image came from, and what were her resources for
her transformation. This is an invitation to fill in the
holes with our imagination and look inward at the same
time, finding our own resources.
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My client Terry had an interesting experience with this
film. For quite some time she kept telling me about her low
self-esteem. Even though Terry is an attractive woman, she
often complained about her appearance. Besides working in
a law firm, she took some college classes but didnt think
that she was smart enough to make it through school. Terry
would have loved to become a teacher. When I asked her
about her upbringing, she told me that she had very critical
parents. She was the oldest and her parents had extremely
high expectations of her. Almost nothing she did was good
I explained to Terry my thoughts about the inner critic and
showed her the list of unhealthy thought patterns. After listen-
ing carefully she told me, I am sorry, but I do not think that
how I see myself is based upon an unhealthy thought pattern.
Unfortunately, how I see myself looks very true to me. She
could not imagine a different perspective.
Because Terry had such a negative self-image, she
appeared insecure at work, which made her less successful than
she could be. She told me that she did not want to date because
that would be too scary. Her few friends also suffered from low
self-esteem. I suggested she watch the movie My Big Fat Greek
Wedding and encouraged her especially to watch how Toula
transforms herself from an ugly duckling into an attractive,
successful woman.
When we saw each other again, I asked Terry, Do you
think that Toulas view of herself could have been distorted at
the beginning of the movie? What might have been her
unhealthy thought patterns? How, do you think, was this char-
acter able to let go of her self-doubts? Imagine yourself as
Toula when she lets go of her negative beliefs. What negative
thoughts about yourself are dropping away? How does this
feel? How do you perceive yourself now?
Since Terry was very tired of her low self-esteem, she was
open to these questions and thought about them. She didnt
know all the answers right away but kept remembering my
I have discovered that
one of the most important
keys to recovery, regard-
less of your age, sex, or
race, is the willingness to
help yourself.
David Burns
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questions throughout the next month. After a while she started
looking much more confident. Terry thought now that Toula
may have struggled with most of the unhealthy thought pat-
terns on the list. Toula views herself as ugly and incapable,
Terry said. It was obvious that she takes on the shoulds of
her family who seem to keep Toula in a box. When Terry
saw this, she had to admit to herself that she struggled with this
thought pattern herself. She understood also that she frequently
had a negative perspective by dwelling on the negative and
ignoring the positive.
As soon as she admitted to herself that her self-image
might be distorted like Toulas in the first part of the film, Terry
started questioning her thinking. What if it werent completely
true? If her thinking was distorted, could she change like Toula
did? Terry came more and more to the conclusion: What
Toula can do, I can do too. Whenever she caught herself
dwelling on her weaknesses, she started questioning it. When
she noticed some real shortcomings, such as her weakness in
math, she acknowledged it and studied harder until she com-
pleted her class successfully. Before Terry would have given up
because she believed she was too stupid to get it anyway
(black-and-white thinking). Terry began to enjoy her classes
and became a good student. After a while and with her newly
gained confidence, she started dating too.
To improve your self-esteem, watch My Big Fat Greek
Wedding now or choose a movie in which a character goes
through a similar transformation. If you prefer a different film
and cannot remember one with this theme, choose from the
Self-Esteem category, under Personal Questions in the Film
Index or pick from the following list. Each of these movies
shows one or more characters that are able to let go of self-
doubt and start believing in their strengths. They develop
their self-esteem. Focus specifically on the turning point in
the film when these characters start feeling positive about
themselves as well as the internal and external changes they
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Movie Previews:
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Prep school student Todd Anderson suffers in the
shadow of his roommate and his older brother who was
the valedictorian of his class. But inspired by an English
teacher who urges his charges to break with the status
quo by introducing them to the ancient tradition of the
Dead Poets Society, Todd learns to see himself in a new
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Will is a mathematical genius with low self-esteem.
After he solves a difficult math problem, the discovery
of his immense talent propels him into therapy. But in
the end it is the love of a woman that finally compels
him to throw out his distorted self-image and to adapt
to his reality in a healthier way.
Mr. Hollands Opus (1995)
Composer Glenn Holland is forced to take a job
teaching music to pay the rent. Meanwhile, in his spare
time, he strives to achieve the one goal he thinks will
justify his life: writing one memorable piece of music.
But as the years slip by with his main goal unfulfilled, he
finds that teaching itself has surprisingly become the
life fulfillment he never suspected it could be. Through
his teaching he helps many students to change their
negative views of themselves into healthy self-esteem.
This helps Holland to increasingly value himself.
Muriels Wedding (1994)
Life in Muriels small Australian town is dull. She
hides in her room obsessing over Abba music and
fantasizing about her wedding day, which will not come
because she has never had a date. But after daring to
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borrow some money, she moves to the city, alters her
name, and reinvents her life, thus learning to value
Exercise 6: Finding Unhealthy Thought Patterns
Focusing on the movie you choose to watch, ask
yourself about the characters who thought
negatively about themselves. Can you recognize any
of the unhealthy thought patterns listed above? How
was this character able to let go of self-doubts?
Imagine yourself as the characters when they let go
of their unhealthy thought patterns. What distorted
thoughts about yourself are diminishing as you
become them? How does this feel? How do you
see yourself and your environment now? Take some
slow breaths and listen inwardly. Describe your
thoughts about yourself on the issue of jettisoning
Exercise 7: Gaining Self-Esteem
What happened when the movie character you have
watched gained self-esteem? Try to imagine the
positive, realistic thoughts about herself that likely
replaced her harsh inner critic. What positive,
realistic thoughts arise for you as you question and
let go of negative thinking? How does this make you
feel? What impact could this new perspective have
on your life? Listen inwardly. Describe your
experience and your thoughts about yourself around
positive beliefs and increased self-esteem.
Step 3: Acknowledging Weaknesses and
Learning from Mistakes
You feel bad about yourself because you made a mistake. In
this case your inner critic serves as an inner voice that makes
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you aware of your undesired behavior or attitudes. It serves as
a messenger, encouraging you to correct your mistake, to apol-
ogize, or to learn from your mistake for the future. Even though
you made a mistake, it is important that you do not fall into the
trap of viewing yourself as a bad person. Tapping yourself in
this way can make it harder to learn from your mistake because
it might make you feel defensive or tempt you to deny it. Note
the following films in which characters demonstrate the
courage of recognizing their mistakes or weaknesses, either
explicitly or implicitly, and learning from them.
About Schmidt (2002)
Warren Schmidt is a self-centered man. He has an
awkward relationship with his wife and his estranged
daughter Jeannie. Inevitably, his retirement produces
plenty of time for reflection. After his wife suddenly
dies and his daughter plans marriage, feelings of
abandonment and remorse emerge. He acknowledges
his mistakes in letters to Ngudu, an African boy whom
he adopts in a long-distance relationship.
Parenthood (1990)
Gil Buckman is determined to be a good pop,
something his father never was. Yet his father, who
appears distant and cold, still has a soft heart when it
comes to his other son who is younger, childless, and
with a gambling problem. Without providing easy
answers, this movie explores the complexities of a
multigenerational clan as they work to overcome their
past by examining the mistakes that were made while
raising children in a typical American suburb.
Malcom X (1992)
Malcom experiences adventures on city streets and
in dance halls with booze, drugs, and easy women. He
Mistakes are inevitable.
Since you cant avoid
them entirely, you need to
learn how to handle them,
as this greatly determines
their effect on your self-
Matthew McKay
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falls under the influence of a street hustler, becomes a
numbers runner, and ends up in prison for petty
burglary. There he reflects about his life, joins with a
Black Muslim leader, and starts his spiritual journey as
a minister and activist for racial justice. After his
pilgrimage to Mecca he learns to work with other civil
rights leaders and even whites to create a better life for
his people.
Exercise 8: Acknowledging Your Weaknesses and
Learning From Mistakes
Describe how you felt when you observed the
characters acknowledging their weaknesses and
mistakes. How and where in your life could you
adopt this thinking and behavior to be able to learn
from your mistakes? How would this make you feel?
How would it affect your self-esteem?
Step 4: Determination and Endurance
You might experience low self-esteem because you have some
real deficiencies or shortcomings. For example, you compare
yourself with others and feel bad about yourself because it is
not easy for you to make small talk, learn to play the piano, or
to speak a second language. If you want to increase your self-
esteem by overcoming these weaknesses, watching one of the
following films and then by completing Exercise 9 can help
you develop and increase your motivation, determination, and
endurance to improve the desired behavior patterns or skills.
Focus specifically on the character that seems to use endurance
for growth and improvement.
Seabiscuit (2003)
Seabiscuit was wrongly perceived as being a misfit
racehorse, but he overcame great odds to become a folk
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hero at the height of the Great Depression. In addition
to telling this true-life story of a champion horse, this
film also tells the tale of three men who were broken
by life but saw their lives gain new meaning when
Seabiscuit showed them how to rise above over-
whelming obstacles with steadfastness and
A Beautiful Mind (2002)
Based on the life of Nobel prize-winning
mathematician John Nash, this film shows Nash slowly
slipping into a schizophrenic fantasy world and losing
his grip on reality. When his illness finally comes to
light, the medical treatments threaten to wipe out his
intellectual gifts. He opts instead for the risky path of
using mental discipline alone to ward off his disease and
ultimately triumphs after years of struggle.
Billy Elliot (2000)
An Irish boy pursues his dream of learning to
become a ballet dancer despite fierce opposition from
his macho father and brother who insist he learn to box
and work in the local mine. Billy does not give up
dancing. The buried pain in both father/son relation-
ships is healed when the boy wins a chance to audition
for the National Ballet.
Exercise 9: Getting in Touch with Your
Determination and Endurance
Describe how you felt when you observed the
characters determination and endurance. How and
where in your life could you adopt this attitude?
How would this make you feel? How would it affect
your self-esteem?
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Step 5: Accepting Weaknesses to
Focus on True Capacities
If you find limitations as you try to improve, watching differ-
ent kinds of movies can help you learn to become more com-
passionate with yourself as you learn to accept your shortcom-
ings. Accepting your weaknesses allows you to focus more on
expanding your true capacities and strengths.
Watch one of the following films and focus specifically on
the character who demonstrates self-acceptance.
The Other Sister (1999)
Carla is mentally retarded but functional. She fully
accepts her condition. After graduating from occu-
pational therapy school, she is determined to live
in her own apartment, but her wealthy family has a
limited view of her capabilities forcing her to struggle
for her independence, which finally culminates in a
romantic relationship.
Real Women Have Curves (2002)
Curvy Ana Garcia is the daughter of Mexican
immigrants living in Los Angeles. Focusing on her
academic skills, she is so successful that one of her
teachers thinks she has a good chance of acceptance
into Columbia University. Societys standards of beauty
and that her family does not want Ana to attempt such
lofty goals, undermine her positive self-image. When
she has to work in her sisters dingy little seamstress
shop, Ana stands proudly in the middle of her cohorts
and proclaims her independence of societys vision.
I Am Sam (2001)
Sam has the mental capacity of a seven-year-old but
the heart of a giant. His retardation does not deter him
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from his goal: He is determined to raise his small
daughter, Lucy, himself. But as she turns seven and
becomes smarter than Sam, she holds herself back. That
prompts the state to put her in a foster home forcing
Sam into court where he must convince the judge and
even his own lawyer that he is capable of parenting a
Exercise 10: Accepting Yourself and Focusing on
Your Capacities
Describe how you felt when you observed the
characters accepting themselves. How and where in
your life could you adopt this behavior to focus on
your true capacities? How would this make you feel?
How would it affect your self-esteem?
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Grief and Transformation
A Sufi master once said: If you think your work in life is fin-
ished and you are still alive, it isnt. What this simple statement
acknowledges is that no matter how we manage our lives they
will always be beset by challenges that can often be difficult and
painful. The trick is learning how to avoid becoming unbearably
burdened and wounded by them and to transform these chal-
lenges into an opportunity to become more fully our true selves.
Though life may feel precarious at times, it is also made up
of a series of wonderful events. We are hired for the job weve
always wanted; the man or woman of our dreams falls head
over heels in love with us; a child is born. Life is good. Finally
we find ourselves just where we want to be. Things seem per-
fect and settled. For a while we are convinced that they will
remain this way forever.
But life is a constant series of changes. Change is
inevitable; permanence, an illusion. If our secret desire for
permanence ever were fulfilled, the result would be akin to
death. Happily, life refuses to let us forget this fact for long.
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 113
Crises often seem to happen to us just when things are
going their best. The thing we thought would never happen to
us happens, and in the aftermath our future seems not only
unclear and uncertain, it looks completely unacceptable. Be it
the death of a parent, a divorce, the loss of an important job, a
serious illness or disability, the change can be a psychological
cataclysm. Suddenly, nothing seems fixed or stable anymore.
We feel deeply hurt and disoriented, as if our emotional sur-
vival is at stake. It seems there is no way we can possibly bear
the pain. At such times its easy to wonder whether we will ever
find the hope necessary to continue on and heal our wounds or
will instead be emotionally crippled for the rest of our life.
Even small, everyday disappointments can arouse much
pain: someone rear-ends our car, we miss a plane, critical com-
puter data is lost. No one is able to avoid learning the harsh les-
son of what it means to lose in the game of life. As a result, we
can easily become sad or angry. Our future can seem bleak and
dark. If a string of such losses continues, we might despair of
ever seeing a brighter future. At such times the important ques-
tion to ask is how do we take each death of these individual
expectations without giving in to the death of our spirit?
Surprisingly, the crux of our healing lies in the very act of ask-
ing ourselves this crucial question.
The first step to healing our grief is to look closely at the
stories we tell ourselves about our situation.
Step 1: Changing Distorted Beliefs
What explanation do we hold for our seemingly unending
struggle with loss and disappointment? Becoming conscious of
the distorted thought patterns about ourselves can guide us to
new ways of responding to our challenges.
These distorted beliefs can take many forms, but typically
they fall into one of the following three categories:
I am suffering because Im a victim
If it hurts, it must be good for me
When you are sorrowful
look again in your heart,
and you shall see that in
truth you are weeping for
that which has been your
Kalhil Gibran,
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I deserve this pain because I made mistakes
Such thoughts can actually injure us emotionally if we
accept them. They can make us deeply depressed or anxious.
Therefore, we need to examine them, and if we find we hold
some version of these thought patterns, we must correct them.
But sometimes such distorted beliefs can be so deeply ingrained
in our worldview that we do not even know they are there. The
first step to changing them is to become fully aware of them.
One way to accomplish this is to look at the feedback you
are probably already receiving. Think back through your life
carefully. Perhaps friends have talked to you about this kind of
belief and told you it is distorted or simply untrue. Perhaps
your own intuition has given you similar messages.
The following is an exercise I sometimes give my clients to
assist them in examining ingrained negative beliefs about
Exercise 1: Distorted Belief Cost-Benefit Analysis
If you find you hold a distorted, self-defeating belief
about yourself around your loss and would like to
learn how to let go of it, start by investigating its
advantages and disadvantages. Use this form to
guide you. If you find you have more than one
distorted belief, start with the most obvious, then
repeat the process for the others.
Name the distorted belief you want to change:
Advantages of Disadvantages of
believing this: believing this:
If you could have a healthy belief, it would be:
The soul is a perfect
judge of her own motions,
if your mind does not dic-
tate to her. . . The souls
deepest will is to preserve
its own integrity, against
the mind and the whole
mass of disintegrating
D. H. Lawrence
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You may discover that there are some important
reasons why you have held on to your distorted
belief(s). Perhaps they have served you earlier in
your life. But those reasons, no matter how right
they may still feel, do not make these beliefs true.
Whenever one of them pops up in your mind again,
remember why it is there and gently let it go. Try
weighing it against the healthy belief you entered
in the bottom box. Open your mind to the possi-
bility that this alternate view may be a truer repre-
sentation of your reality. Be patient. By continually
questioning yourself about your distorted beliefs
and weighing them against more realistic explana-
tions for your lot in life, change is possible. But
change will not take place overnight. Like moving
into a new house or city, changing your beliefs may
take some getting used to.
Step 2: Processing Grief
After examining how your rational mind reacts to loss and dis-
appointment, an important second step is to examine how your
emotional body reacts as well. You need to understand how you
grieve. First, open your mind to the idea that grief is a neces-
sary part of any healthy human life. Consider the following
facts that are well summarized by Howard J. Lunche in
Understanding Grief:
Because we love and get attached, grief is an inevitable
part of living.
Grief is also a natural consequence of small or large
losses and disappointments.
Though we share common grief reactions, each per-
sons experience of loss and grief is unique.
Grief can appear in different kinds of emotional expe-
riences, such as sadness, depression, despair, anger,
Dont turn away,
Keep your eye on the
Bandaged place.
Thats where the light
enters you.
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irritability, frustration and more. Underneath these
feelings usually lies a hurt about someone or some-
thing we need to let go of, to detach from.
Grief whether its about small or large losses is
a process that unfolds naturally when we become
aware of this underlying pain. Grieving is a healing
process and can become a transformative process when
we experience, acknowledge, and express this pain
with a compassionate heart.
For some, grieving comes naturally. But for others, grief is
like a strange and frightening landscape, seldom if ever visited.
If grief is difficult for you, there are many ways to support this
process, such as counseling with a therapist, joining a support
group, talking to a good friend, reading a book about your spe-
cific struggle, sitting in meditation, or taking a walk in nature.
Another method you may not have considered is to watch a
specific motion picture with conscious intent. You may be sur-
prised at how a simple movie-viewing experience, combined
with the following exercises, can help dissolve blocked up emo-
tions and aid you in exploring your grief with compassion.
Exercise 2: Learning to Be With Your Pain in a
Compassionate Way
Watching a sad movie can be a powerful catalyst.
Choose a film that touched you deeply and helped
you cry when you watched it previously. If none
comes to mind, use the Film Index (especially the
section Crying For Emotional Catharsis under
Personal Questions) for suggestions.
Make yourself very comfortable at home and let
yourself cry as much as you like. Allow your heart to
open up. By feeling compassion with the characters
pain, you might develop compassion with your own
struggle. As you watch the film, keep in mind the
Your pain is the
breaking of the shell
That encloses your
Kalhil Gibran
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guidelines for conscious movie viewing (see
Chapter 3).
If you do not want to be by yourself, invite a
trusted friend to watch the movie with you and
talk about your feelings afterwards.
Immediately following the film, write about your
feelings. The movie plot and your reaction to it may
seem important, but focus your writing as much as
possible on how these feelings relate to a loss or
disappointment you suffered in real life and your
reaction to it.
This process is an important step toward owning our pain
and deeply understanding its dimensions and demands.
Grieving is necessary so that we eventually come to find the
deeper meaning of what might otherwise destroy us. By open-
ing to our pain we learn that we can grieve and live at the same
Step 3: Moving Toward Health and Wholeness
An ancient people tell the story about an elder who was talking
to his disciples about tragedy. The elder said, I feel as if I have
two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful,
angry, despairing one. The other wolf is the strong and hopeful
one. And the disciples asked, Which one will win the fight in
your heart, the despairing one or the hopeful one? The wise
elder answered, It depends on which wolf I feed.
We need to feed the wisdom, strength, and hope that can
come out of despair. At the same time, we need to stay in the
struggle, whatever our situation, until it is transformed into
new life.
No one comes out of deep suffering the same kind of per-
son they were when they went into it. Of course, it is possible
that we come out of it worse than when we went in. Lifes chal-
lenges can sour us. But it is equally possible if we reflect on our
We have to face the pain
we have been running
from. In fact, we need to
learn to rest in it and let
its searing power trans-
form us.
Charlotte Joko
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pain to come out stronger and wiser than when our suffering
began. Our pain can be a call to conversion, a spur for us to
grow up. Our struggle with loss can be the springboard for a
healing transformation. What is not possible, however, is to
stay the same. One way or the other, struggle is guaranteed to
change us.
We usually think about hope as being grounded in the
future, something I call wishful hope. But there is another kind
of hope one fulfilled in the future but born from fully
remembering our past. I call this kind of hope transformative.
Unlike wishful hope, this other kind of hope depends on
our ability to remember that we have survived everything in
this life so far, and because of that, odds are we will be able to
master this latest challenge too. Transformative hope is not a
denial of reality; it is not a matter of waiting for things outside
of us to get better. Instead, it relies on our own inner wisdom,
strength, and courage to take a series of small actions that
transform darkness into light. No longer is hope a hedge
against suffering; now suffering is the foundation for our hope.
Many movies have been made that begin in despair and
end in triumph. These films can help you get in touch with
transformative hope. If you can identify with characters trapped
in their circumstances and share their disappointments along
with their unsteady steps toward liberation, you may find rea-
son for optimism in your own situation. It may help you gain
the courage to do what is necessary to change your reactions to
loss. Let yourself be inspired to learn how to survive loss and
disappointment without succumbing to it, how to bear struggle
without being defeated but rather to be transformed by it.
Below is a series of four exercises aimed at awakening this
sense of transformative hope. Perform the exercises after
watching a film you chose specifically for its modeling of
transformative qualities. Look for and focus on strength,
courage, endurance, and determination in the main characters.
A good example of one such film is Frida (2002), based on
the 1983 book by Hayden Herrera, a biography of the iconic,
Maybe I finally find it,
way down here in the
mud. Maybe from down
here I can start up again,
be something I can be
proud of without having
to fake it. Be a fake
human being. Maybe I
can see something I dont
yet see, learn something I
dont yet know.
Chris Taylor
(Charlie Sheen
in Platoon)
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passionate, communist, bisexual Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo.
As with many films and stories, the values and beliefs of the
main characters in Frida may differ from yours, but try to view
it as an opportunity to step inside another persons shoes.
However your lifestyle may deviate from Fridas, her story
serves as an example of how pain and disappointment can
transform a life for the better.
Movie Analysis: Frida (2002)
The movie shows the many major challenges Frida
faces with strength and courage throughout her life of
forty-seven years. She grows up in Mexico City, at a
time when it was teeming with famous exiles. She
experienced much difficulty earning a livelihood, and
her parents relationship was filled with conflict.
Despite financial constraints, she demonstrated what in
her time and culture, was an unusual determination by
going to school to become a doctor.
Fridas studies are cut short by a trolley crash that
almost kills her. Bones are shattered in her back, and
her body pierced with a steel rod. While recovering, her
young lover leaves her. Frida goes through anguish and
despair. Isolated in a cast and bedridden, she begins to
paint. Throughout her life she has multiple surgeries
and is never free of pain.
Frida paints with the same bold courage that helps
her to survive. Eventually her strength and determination
in the midst of her struggle transforms her into a fine
Feeling better, Frida falls in love and marries her
mentor, the muralist Diego Rivera who is already a
legend. Frida, who had been such a serious student and
confident young woman, is suddenly completely
dependent on her husband, painting almost exclusively
for him. And this, once again, causes her pain that is
reflected in her art. His work dwarfs the scale of her
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paintings. But slowly, with much endurance, she rises
out of that shadow as her own work begins to garner
Both Frida and Diego eventually demonstrate
emotional endurance and a willingness to discover
whom the other person is as well as discovering their
own true identity. When the film ends with Fridas
death, the impression remains that despite the many
crises in her life, she never lost her passion, remained
full of courage to be who she was, and to take life as it
came, even the suffering.
Watch Frida (or choose an appropriate film youve already
seen), or select one from the Film Index (especially the cate-
gories Overcoming Challenges and Gaining Hope and
Encouragement both found under Inspiration). Select one
whose characters demonstrate determination, steadfastness,
and courage, which leads them to transformative changes. It is
not crucial that the plot matches your situation exactly. More
important is that you get a sense of the strength that the char-
acters find in themselves that helps them prevail. Some experi-
ence a profound inner change in the process. Focus on these
aspects of the films.
The following list might refresh your memory or give you
some more specific ideas about a movie to choose:
Whale Rider (2003)
In present-day New Zealand the twelve-year-old
Maori girl, Pai believes that she could serve as the chief
of her tribe. Her grandfather loves her but fiercely
opposes this idea. He doubts Pai, questioning her
achievements, insists, despite everything she achieves,
that she is only a girl. This causes her much pain, but
she perseveres, demonstrating amazing strength and
determination to reach her goal.
And ever has it been that
love knows not its own
depth until the hour of
Kalhil Gibran
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Groundhog Day (1993)
A cynical TV reporter is transformed by his
experiences after he is caught in a demoralizing time
Ordinary People (1980)
A suicidal teen struggles to overcome his survivors
guilt. As he finds emotional healing, he forces his
suburban family to come to grips with their stifling roles.
Life is Beautiful (1997)
A Jewish class clown uses humor to overcome a
desperate situation and tries to protect his young son
from the brutal truths of life in an Italian concentration
camp under fascist rule.
Out of Rosenheim (Baghdad Caf) (1988)
A down-and-out desert caf owner and her family
are transformed by the magic of an overweight and
irrepressible German tourist suddenly stranded in their
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Two divorcs find that the custody battle over their
child brings them much pain but eventually leads to
healing understanding of themselves and each other.
A Town Like Alice (1981)
A young Australian man falls in love with a British
nurse when both are POWs in Japanese-occupied
Malaysia. The man is tortured for aiding the nurse.
Their strength and determination help them to reunite
in the Australian outback only to face new hardships as
they rekindle their love and accept their very different
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Norma Rae (1979)
With much endurance a young widow rises above her
impoverished circumstances and against stiff opposition
to lead fellow textile factory workers in efforts to
On Golden Pond (1981)
A patriarch and his family heal ancient hurts when a
lifetime of stifled emotions erupts during a traditional
summer holiday.
My Left Foot (1989)
A marvelously gifted but horribly handicapped
Irishman must struggle with cerebral palsy. With much
courage and determination he learns to write with the
only part of his body left unscathed by his wasting
disease, his left foot.
After you have finished watching one of the movies, take
some deep breaths and let the impressions of the film help you
with the following exercises.
Exercise 3: Acceptance
In order to heal and transform we need to first
accept ourselves, to admit that we are wounded.
We need to take powerlessness and reclaim it as
surrender. We need to take vulnerability and draw
out of it the freedom that comes with self-acceptance.
Our strength and hope lie in the acceptance of our
limitations. In the acceptance of our limitations we
become, ironically, a fuller self.
Write about how these thoughts relate to you and
your own struggles.
Exercise 4: Small Acts of Courage Despite Fear
Though fear can paralyze the spirit, it also calls us to
When we focus and iden-
tify with our fractured-
ness, we become afraid of
ourselves. But as we allow
ourselves to penetrate
deeper, working to
acknowledge these things,
to let go of our partialness
and hiding, the fractures
no longer obscure the
whole picture.
Stephen Levine
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access one tiny act of courage to keep hope alive.
These small acts can start to put us back in control
of our lives.
Did you see a character in the film you watched
that showed some small act of courage despite his or
her fear? Have you yourself done this in the past?
Describe how you felt when you did this and how
it helped you prevail.
Exercise 5: Determination and Endurance
Ironically, it is the very process of responding with
determination to each element in our struggle that
nourishes hope. We need to face the exhaustion
struggle brings and endure to the end.
We should not give in to the thing that defeated us.
Endurance eventually will kindle a glimmer of hope
in the darkness and make transformation imperative.
Did you see examples in the film that show how
determination and endurance helped certain
characters become stronger? Have you experienced
this in the past?
Describe your experience and how it could apply
to your current situation and potential future.
Exercise 6: Transformation
Struggle with loss and disappointment can scar us,
but it can revitalize us too. An emptiness we feel
inside us, created by the loss, needs to be filled with
something valuable. Out of all this can come new
strength, a new sense of self, new compassion, and a
new sense of purpose in our life. There are some
parts of the human character that are best honed
under tension.
Struggle can transform us from our small, puny,
self-centered selves into people with compassion.
Not only can it heal us, it can make us healers as
Our suffering is caused
by holding to how things
might have been, should
have been, could have
been. Grief is part of our
daily existence.
Stephen Levine
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well. For this to happen we need to learn to listen
better. We cannot walk quickly, so we learn to wait.
Did you see examples in the film you watched that
illustrate this kind of transformation? Have you
experienced this yourself in the past? Take some
slow breaths and listen inwardly.
Describe your experience and how it could apply
to your current situation and potential future.
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How Film Characters
Affect Us
The Film Matrix
Our reactions to the characters in films can teach us much
about who we are and what we can do to further our personal
growth. Have you ever left a movie theater feeling that you
sometimes behave and think exactly like a character in the
film? Did you remember situations in your life that reminded
you of the scenes in which this character seemed to feel the
way you did? You may have enjoyed reflecting on the similar-
ities you shared with the character because they were qualities
that you like in yourself. Or perhaps it was just the opposite:
You felt uncomfortable because the character that resembled
you embodied traits that you dislike in yourself.
Do you remember having watched a character that seemed
very much different or opposite in nature from you? Perhaps
you admired certain qualities in this character and wished that
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 126
they were yours but cannot imagine ever being like this hero.
Or perhaps you strongly disliked everything about a certain
character that seemed very different from you. In fact, you
were glad to be a better person.
How we respond to different movie characters can show us
who we are. We learn most from characters who touched us
with their charisma, attitude, looks, demeanor, or actions.
When they move us, something inside resonates with what we
perceive. Our understanding of our emotional reaction to what
we see and hear in the film is like looking into a mirror of our
internal world. The more intense our emotional response to a
character or their behavior, the more clear and direct is the
reflection of our own psyche.
Usually we identify with characters when we recognize
ourselves in them. They remind us of how we see ourselves.
Whatever we like or dislike in a character is usually what we
like or dislike in ourselves. This understanding can be of great
assistance with our efforts to expand positive qualities and to
successfully work with our shortcomings as well as with our
negative view of who we are.
Why We Learn from our Projections on
Film Characters
Projection is an interesting concept in this context. According
to the Merriam Webster Dictionary the verb project stems
etymologically from Middle and Old French, as well as Greek
and Latin for throwing forward. Among others, the diction-
ary lists the following meanings for projection:
The display of motion pictures by projecting an image
from them upon a screen and
a) The act of perceiving a mental object as spatially and
sensibly objective; also something so perceived or
b) The attribution of ones own ideas, feelings, or attitudes
to other people or to objects.
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All three meanings are relevant here. First, the movie is
projected on a white screen; then, everyone who watches these
images projects a different meaning on what he or she sees.
How and what we project depends on our view of the world,
our history, and our personality.
Psychology uses the concept of projection in different
ways. In the more orthodox texts it is seen as a mechanism
of projecting our own unconscious or undesirable character-
istics onto others. In psychoanalytic theory, for example,
projection is seen as a defense mechanism in which various
forbidden thoughts and impulses are attributed to another
person rather than the self, thus warding off anxiety (e.g., I
hate you becomes You hate me). This way we project our
unpleasant feelings onto somebody else and blame them for
thoughts that we really have. I call this the narrow defini-
tion of projection.
Getting to know our disowned parts prevents us from act-
ing out in an involuntary and undesired way. Becoming con-
scious and accepting these shadow qualities can help us
become more authentic and whole human beings and even
access our hidden potential. Understanding our projections
guides us to more emotional healing and inner freedom.
If we strongly dislike certain movie characters or their
behavior, we need to consider that we might be projecting our
own not yet fully conscious shortcomings onto them. These
characters seem different from how we see ourselves.
Becoming consciously aware of them can help us start access-
ing parts of our psyche that we werent aware of. We learn that
the negative traits we see in the characters or their behavior
could be part of our own repressed shadow self.
For our further exploration in this context I find a more
general definition of projection useful. We may also proj-
ect our disowned positive qualities onto a film character, as
we admire or idealize them. Admiring a character and his or
her actions may point to qualities that are hidden from our
full awareness. Therefore, I also find it useful to explore the
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projection on movie characters of desirable characteristics
that do not fit into our self-image. Understanding this kind
of projection helps us recognize these admirable qualities in
ourselves. Gaining recognition of our positive character
traits in this indirect way helps us in the process of learning
to own these previously hidden qualities. In order for us to
realize our full potential, they need to be discovered and
An even more general definition of projection includes the
process of assuming that others feel, perceive, and act similarly
to the way we feel, perceive, or act. Here projection refers to
all conscious or unconscious interpretations of our life experi-
ence. According to this definition it is not necessary for a pro-
jected trait to be unconscious. We are already conscious of pos-
itive or negative traits that we project on a movie character. We
learn to remember these traits and to fully recognize and
acknowledge them in ourselves as we see them in the charac-
ters. This way our positive qualities can be strengthened. As we
deepen our understanding of how we see ourselves in a nega-
tive way, we become better able to either improve our short-
comings or let go of our negative perspective. It helps to know
that other people, who are like the film characters, struggle
with similar deficiencies.
To clarify the process of projection the following are steps
that we go through as we watch a movie.
Stages of projection when we identify with
characters or their actions:
1. Watching a character outside ourselves in a movie.
2. Beginning to identify with a character, scene, etc. I feel
like a character, or I hate what he is doing.
3. Starting to develop a sense of ownership of what was felt
through a character or scene. This feels exactly like my
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4. Examining and working with positive or negative qualities,
which first were outside of ourselves but on the screen
and now are recognized as our own.
Stages of projection of our disowned parts:
1. Watching a character outside ourselves in a movie.
2. Beginning to like or dislike a character, their behavior, or
certain attributes that we do not recognize in ourselves.
3. Examining whether a character, their behavior, or attributes
might be part of our not-yet-fully-recognized positive qual-
ities or repressed shadow self.
4. Exploring ways to become more whole by embracing the
projected positive qualities in order to realize our full
potential as well as acknowledging our repressed shadow
self to move toward emotional healing and inner freedom.
Using Film Characters to Understand Ourselves
To illustrate how our projections onto movie characters can be
used for self-discovery, meet Evelyn and Eric, individuals in
one of my cinema therapy groups. When I assigned the movie
Grand Canyon (1991), they came back to our next meeting
excited about the film and the characters. First, I explained to
the group the idea of projection and what we can learn about
ourselves through our awareness of our projections. Everyone
was curious to learn how to use the movie characters for self-
understanding and growth. Evelyn remembered that the film
had already moved her deeply years ago when she saw it for
the first time.
All group members agreed that one important aspect of the
movie was how chance happenings could fundamentally alter
our lives forever. Grand Canyon is full of characters and events
that made the group think of their real life. They saw the film
as confronting them with the big question of why we are all
here and showing us that we never know what tomorrow has in
store for us.
No form of art goes
beyond ordinary conscious-
ness as film does, straight
to our emotions, deep into
the twilight room of the
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Movie Preview: Grand Canyon
A white and wealthy accountant, Mack, is stranded
in the ghetto when his car breaks down. A black gang
sets upon him. But at the last minute, Simon, a black
tow truck driver arrives to rescue him. This brush with
possible death or serious injury causes the otherwise
happy Mack to reexamine his values. Thus awakened to
lifes richer possibilities, he decides to repay Simons
kindness by getting involved in his life, helping him
locate a better apartment, and setting him up on a blind
date. Thus begins an unlikely friendship between these
two men, which serves as the centerpiece in a web of
interconnected stories, many of which illustrate the
possibilities when people allow themselves to go beyond
societys barriers.
Both Evelyn and Eric liked Mack. Of all characters, both
saw themselves most in him. They perceived Mack as grateful,
openhearted, and caring. Both remembered incidents in which
they themselves had expressed their gratitude for somebody
by playing fate for that person. Both liked the openness
and humanity in Mack that they appreciated in others and
Simon is a divorced, hardworking tow-truck driver.
He is a caring soul who keeps in constant touch with his
deaf daughter in Washington, D.C. and looks after his
sister, who lives in a violence-ridden ghetto. Her teenage
son is convinced that he will not live to be twenty-five.
Evelyn and Eric enjoyed watching Simon because they had
warm feelings for him. Both admired him for his courage, his
street smarts, and his generosity. They especially liked how
committed he was to his family. At the same time both thought
they were very different from Simon because they could never
imagine being so courageous.
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At the same time as regard develops between Mack
and Simon, Macks wife Claire has an extraordinary
experience that opens her heart too. Their son is about
to leave for college, and as the empty nest looms, a
miracle falls into her life: She hears crying in the bushes
along her daily jogging route and finds an abandoned
baby. She brings it home, falls in love with it, and wants
to keep it.
Evelyn and Eric could also relate to Claires thinking and
behavior. At the same time, both disliked several aspects of her
character, but for different reasons. Evelyn enjoyed the softness
of Claires character but thought she was nave. She said she
too had had fantasies that she might find a baby in a park.
Evelyn often hates herself for being such a dreamer.
Eric identified with Claire, and he strongly disliked that
she seemed to cling to her son so much. Often he hated himself
because he had problems accepting that his teenage daughter
was growing up and going her own ways.
Macks best friend Davis is a producer of violent
movies. Early in the movie, he complains because an
editor has left out the money shot (a bus driver
graphically shot in the head). Then a mugger shoots
Davis in the leg. He feels real pain and has a strong
awakening, vowing to not make any more violent
movies. After his recovery, however, Davis goes back
to his old ways.
Evelyn disliked almost everything about Davis. She could
not relate to this character and thought him selfish, rude, heart-
less, ruthless, and abusive. She doubted that he would stick to
his intention to change following the mugging, and she was
right. She reacted strongly and believed that she is very differ-
ent from Davis.
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Macks secretary, Dee, is romantically interested in
Mack. When he does not respond, she seems
heartbroken and depressed.
Eric had his strongest negative emotional reaction to Dee.
He didnt like her and could not identify with her at all because
she seemed needy and immoral. He was appalled that Dee
approached Mack romantically, fully knowing that he had a
wife and children.
The following two Film Matrices reflect Evelyns and
Erics reactions to the film characters:
Evelyns Film Matrix
Character you like most like least
identify with I II
strongly or in Mack: because Claire: because
some ways he was grateful, she seemed
openhearted, nave
and caring
identify with less III IV
or not at all Simon: because he Davis: because he
was street smart, was selfish, rude,
courageous, and heartless, ruthless,
very generous and abused his
Erics Film Matrix
Character you like most like least
identify with I II
strongly or in Mack: because Claire: because
some ways he was grateful, she struggled
openhearted, letting go
and caring of son
identify with less III IV
or not at all Simon: because he Dee: because
was street smart, she was needy
courageous, and and immoral
very generous
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Exercise: Creating Your Film Matrix
Fill out your own Film Matrix. Select film characters
that touched you most, in a positive or negative way.
You can choose Grand Canyon or any other movie.
It is usually easier and equally beneficial to choose
characters from different films because not every
movie is so full of diverse characters as Grand
Canyon. If you choose to start with only one movie,
you may be able to fill out certain parts of the
matrix first. As you keep watching films, and
observe your responses to more characters, you will
be able to complete the matrix eventually. I suggest
using films that affect you emotionally or in which
one or several characters touched you.
Your Film Matrix:
Character you like most like least
identify with I II
strongly or in
some ways
identify with III IV
less or not at all
Guidelines for your Film Matrix:
These guidelines can be used right after watching one spe-
cific movie or while reflecting on all the films you can remem-
Quadrant I: Has there been one character that you especially
liked and with whom you especially identified? Was there a
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character who sometimes acted, felt, or viewed the world in a
similar way as you do? This character may also have shown
some behaviors that are different from yours, but focus only on
the similarities you liked. Write their name into Quadrant I. If
you can think of several characters, choose the one you identi-
fied with most.
Quadrant II: Write down the name of a different character in
which you saw yourself, but for this quadrant choose a charac-
ter you disliked overall. He should have aspects of his person-
ality or should have behaved and expressed himself in ways of
which you do not approve. And again, if you can think of sev-
eral characters, choose the one you identified with most.
For Quadrant III: Choose a character that strikes you as
being different from yourself but whom you liked or admired,
either for their innate qualities or possibly for the way they
related to others. If you can think of several characters, choose
the one about whom you feel most positively.
In Quadrant IV: Write the name of a character you could not
identify with, or could only identify with very little and about
whom you had negative feelings perhaps because of their
demeanor, expressions, or actions. If in doubt, choose the one
you identify with the least and toward whom you felt most neg-
After you have completed your Film Matrix, use it in the
exercises that follow in chapters 9 and 10.
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Self-Discovery Through
Film Characters
The Self Matrix
Step 1: Acknowledging Positive Qualities
With the next four steps you will be guided to create your Self
Matrix. In building this new matrix, you are asked to identify
attitudes and traits in your own personality that match those of
the characters in your Film Matrix, which you created in
Chapter 8. We will begin in Quadrant I, which contains quali-
ties that you like about yourself.
When Evelyn and Eric filled out their Self Matrix, they
remembered that they tended to care a lot for others and their
well-being, as did Mack. They often express their appreciation
when somebody helps or supports them. They see themselves
as friendly and likable people who value their families and
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friends. Therefore, each of them wrote into the first quadrant of
their Self Matrix something similar to this:
Evelyn and Erics Quadrant I
Qualities or capacities you like in yourself
are aware of I
friendly, likable, openhearted,
grateful, value and are committed
to friends and family
You might be uncomfortable acknowledging your positive
attributes or accomplishments. It may strike you as immodest
to praise yourself. But to unfold our full potential, we need to
fully respect and appreciate our special attributes. Good par-
enting means praising a childs accomplishments. Acting as
our own internal parent, we need to give our subconscious
reinforcing positive inputs that encourage our qualities to grow
and strengthen.
Our projections on film characters help us in this process.
It is often easier to appreciate others than it is to appreciate our-
selves. When we become aware that we value these attributes
in the characters, it will be obvious that it is permissible to do
the same for ourselves too.
For Eric and Evelyn it is easy to respect and appreciate oth-
ers. When they thought about their first quadrant of the Self
Matrix, they learned to appreciate themselves more fully for
their friendliness, openheartedness, ability to commit, and so
on. Both recalled that they are known in their circle of friends
as especially likable people. When they shared these reflec-
tions in our group, the other group members agreed with this
perspective of the two. It became obvious to everyone that this
sharing process made Evelyn and Eric feel very good about
themselves; their eyes sparkled brightly.
Exercise 1: Acknowledging Your Positive Qualities
Revisit your own Film Matrix. Look at Quadrant I
Through our intense,
sometimes inexplicable
feelings or reactions to a
character or plot, we can
recover our own powers
for both good and evil.
Marsha Sinetar
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and the positive qualities you saw in the character
you most identify with and like. Take some slow,
deep breaths and listen inwardly. Describe how
these attributes or capacities remind you of yourself.
Write down situations you remember when perhaps
you were especially in touch with these qualities or
skills. Do this for every quality you mentioned.
Take the most important points of your
exploration and write them into Quadrant I of your
Self Matrix below.
Your Self Matrix:
Qualities or like in dislike
capacities you yourself in yourself
are aware of I II
are not always III IV
fully aware of
Step 2: Acknowledging Perceived and
Real Shortcomings
In Step 2 we will be exploring how our projections on movie
characters can help us learn more about, and therefore cope
better with, the shortcomings of which we are aware.
Confronting these deficiencies may feel uncomfortable at first,
but such a confrontation is inevitable on our path toward heal-
ing and wholeness.
I am using the expression perceived shortcoming for
imperfections we see in ourselves because of an overly critical
perspective we may have of ourselves. Such a view can result
from many causes, perhaps from unreasonably high standards
or because somebody has criticized us for a certain behavior or
All the arts we practice
are apprenticeship.
The big art is our life.
Dick Richards
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attitude in the past. A compassionate and benevolent friend
would not respond critically to us about our perceived short-
comings. Real shortcomings, on the other hand, refer to defi-
ciencies we, and most of the people we trust, see in us.
Quadrant II of the Self Matrix contains the results of this
inquiry. Evelyn and Erics Quadrant II looked something like
Evelyns Quadrant II
Qualities or
capacities you dislike in yourself
are aware of II
dreamy, not in touch with reality
Erics Quadrant II
Qualities or
capacities you dislike in yourself
are aware of II
struggles to accept that daughter is
growing up
Evelyn identified with the navet that she saw in Claire
concerning the baby. Even though she didnt consider it totally
impossible that Claire could have kept the child, Evelyn recog-
nized in herself her own dreamy ways of relating to the world.
She believed that she should be more down to earth. When
she shared this analysis with the group, several other group
members responded with surprise. They didnt see Evelyn as
not in touch with reality. They saw her as idealistic but in a pos-
itive way and even admired her for it. When she heard this,
Evelyn remembered that honest friends had given her equally
positive feedback in the past. She tended to forget those kinds
of responses.
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Evelyn also remembered that she had been much dreamier
as a child and received much criticism from her mother. In the
meantime, she had become significantly more balanced.
Suddenly it all made sense to her. Evelyn had held on to a neg-
ative view of herself that no longer applied to her. This is an
example of a perceived shortcoming, as opposed to a real
Her response to the character Claire and the following
process made her aware that she needed to work on this nega-
tive perspective of herself, her inner critic.
Eric identified and was critical of the character Claire for a
different reason. He understood that it was important for the
healthy development of his teenage daughter that he support
this young woman in her need for independence. Eric struggled
within himself. He did not want to let go of his little girl.
Sometimes he was unnecessarily rigid with curfews and other
rules around the house. Even though he felt that this was com-
ing from his love for his daughter, he also acknowledged that
he was struggling with a real shortcoming. After discussing
this with the group, Eric understood that his love made him so
overly attached that it stifled his daughter. His response to
Claire and the succeeding group process made him aware that
he needed to work on this.
Exercise 2: Acknowledging Your Perceived and
Real Shortcomings
Again, revisit your own Film Matrix. This time look
at Quadrant II and the negative qualities you saw in
a character with whom you identified. Take some
slow deep breaths and listen inwardly. Describe how
these attributes remind you of yourself. Write down
situations you remember when you experienced
these shortcomings. Do this for every shortcoming
you mentioned.
Once more, go back over what you wrote. Which
of the problem areas you just described seem to be
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the result of an overly critical view of yourself? If
you are not sure, remember honest feedback from
well-meaning friends. You might also seek a reality
check from others right now. Be sure you ask several
people who have your best interest in mind and
whom you trust to be honest with you. This will
help you to distinguish between perceived and real
Take the most important points of your exploration
and write them into Quadrant II of your Self Matrix
on page 138.
Step 3: Recognizing Projected Positive Qualities
Quadrant III of the Self Matrix shows the qualities we admire
in film characters and do not recognize easily in ourselves.
When we are not fully aware of our own capacities and
strengths, we might project these positive qualities onto others.
Exploring our positive projection on film characters can help
us discover and further develop these characteristics in our-
selves. This does not mean that we always possess all the pos-
itive attributes that we see in others. But our ability to recog-
nize them in others can be an indication that we might at least
carry a trace of these qualities, or the potential to develop these
traits, in ourselves. Admiring them in others could indicate that
we have the energy and motivation to tap into this potential that
we have not yet fully developed.
Sometimes this becomes obvious in romantic relation-
ships. We feel attracted and fall in love with the type of person
who has the qualities that we believe we lack. But our partner
cannot make us complete. In order to become whole beings we
need to look inside, find and eventually develop these admired
I believe that, in general, learning to understand our psy-
chological projections on movie characters serves better for
Existence will remain
meaningless for you if you
yourself do not penetrate
into it with active love,
and if you do not in this
way discover its meaning
for yourself. Everything is
waiting to be hallowed by
Martin Buber
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this exploration than our projections on real people because
unrelated aspects of our relationships with them can distort the
Evelyn and Eric saw several strengths in Simon, which at
first they could not recognize in themselves. They admired him
as street smart, courageous, and very generous. I encouraged
them during a group meeting to remember a time even if it
were long ago or under unusual circumstances when they
were in touch with at least part of these qualities.
Evelyn was surprised to find that, many years ago, she had
been quite courageous when she confronted her older brother
because he had lied to her. He was so much bigger than she.
She was afraid of him but confronted him anyway because it
seemed the right thing to do.
Eric recalled that he had recently asked his boss for a pro-
motion, which seemed scary and required courage.
Both Eric and Evelyn at first could not recognize much
generosity in their own characters. But other group members
reminded them that each had told about gifts they had given to
friends that the group had considered generous. Evelyn and
Eric were a little surprised to hear this but saw that it was true.
Both felt that they wanted to become even more courageous
and generous.
They also thought about the street smarts they had seen in
Simon. They did not believe that they had even a trace of this
quality in themselves, and neither thought he or she would be
able to develop it more as adults.
Evelyns and Erics Quadrant III looked something like this:
Evelyn and Erics Quadrant III
Qualities or
capacities you like in yourself
are not fully always III
aware of courage, generosity
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Exercise 3: Recognizing Projected Positive Qualities
Again, visit your Film Matrix. This time look at
Quadrant III. Since it can be difficult to recognize a
quality or capacity you saw in a movie character but
you are not fully conscious of in yourself, you may
need to use a couple of tricks.
1. Remember a time in your life when you
experienced the exception to the rule. At
that time you actually experienced in yourself
the same positive quality or skill that you
admire in the film character.
2. Ask supportive friends whether they see at
least traces of these characteristics in you. You
might be surprised about what you find out.
3. Ignore the qualities or capacities that you see
in the movie character, which seem absolutely
foreign to your own.
Take some slow deep breaths and listen inwardly.
Describe how the movie characters attributes or
skills remind you of yourself, even if you just
experienced them only in exceptional situations.
Note the situations you remember in which you
were in touch with these qualities to some degree.
Do this for every quality and capacity you
Did you discover that the attributes or skills you
admired are absolutely different from yours? Can
you accept this? If it is hard to accept, what might
help you learn to accept yourself as the person you
Take the most important points of your exploration
and write them into Quadrant III of your Self
Matrix on page 138 at the beginning of this
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Step 4: Recognizing Projected Shortcomings
Please note that in this following section, I use the word pro-
jection in the narrow sense as explained in Chapter 8: projec-
tion of not fully conscious and undesirable qualities.
If we strongly dislike certain behaviors or traits of movie
characters that we do not recognize in ourselves, different con-
clusions are possible. Maybe we were hurt, angry, or sad when
we encountered similar behaviors or personality traits in family
members, friends, or colleagues. Or perhaps people we cared
about were negatively affected in this way. In these cases we
might not have projected our disowned self on the movie char-
acter, but we are feeling old emotional wounds. Healing of these
wounds needs to happen, because our response to the film char-
acter showed that we are still hurting from our past experience.
Quadrant IV of the Self Matrix includes shortcomings that
we project onto movie characters with which we do not iden-
tify and to which we are at least partially blind. Since we dis-
like these traits in the film characters but do not recognize them
easily in ourselves, this kind of self-exploration might be a lit-
tle tricky at first.
To make it easier, I will first explain how the shadow self
or the dark side develops in us. Later, I will also explain the
process and the consequences of projecting our not fully con-
scious, undesired parts on others.
In discussing this shadow self, the poet Robert Bly in his A
Little Book on the Human Shadow develops the metaphor of a
long bag that we drag behind us throughout our lives into
which we put our disowned and repressed parts.
Bly says that as children, we are born with 100 percent of
our energy, vitality, joy and creativity. We are in touch with our
native instinct and wisdom. He visualizes it as a 360-degree
personality, a round globe of energy.
But quickly, this whole and complete child-self learns that
its parents do not accept or love all of its many parts. Growing
up we receive messages like: Do not daydream idle hands
When an inner situation
is not made conscious, it
appears outside as fate.
Carl Gustav
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are the devils workshop! and Good girls do not roughhouse
with boys. In order to win or keep our parents love, we try to
rid ourselves of these unwanted instincts and energies. But
those discarded parts of us never completely cease to exist.
Instead, we hide them in our long bag of unconscious material,
which we then drag along behind us throughout our lives.
Those disowned parts become our shadow self.
At each successive new stage in life, we learn to put more
and more parts of ourselves into this bag. In kindergarten
teachers tell us: Stop crying, Be tough, and Its not nice to
get angry. So into our bags go our uncried tears and anger.
Later, perhaps in high school, we learn from our friends that
certain things, like perhaps helping the weak or disabled, are
simply not cool and so our compassion may go in the bag as
well. Soon our shadow bag grows larger and larger.
Of course not all of us receive the same messages as we
grow. Those particular parts of ourselves that get stuffed into
our shadow bags vary depending on the culture in which we
were raised. For example, Christian cultures tend to repress
sexuality and spontaneity.
By the time were in our twenties, much of our original
wholeness has been stuffed into this bag. The complete and
whole being we once were as a child with all its varied and
sometimes mysterious facets has now shrunk to a mere sliver
of itself. And life has myriad ways of letting us know how
shrunken weve become. Consequently, we often find our-
selves wondering, Whats wrong with me?
Having spent the first quarter of our life stuffing much of
ourselves into a bag, we often spend the majority of the rest of
our lives searching for those lost parts. And many people
never learn where those parts went or how to retrieve them.
Not surprisingly, having parts of our personality that we
know little or nothing about can cause us all kinds of trouble
until we become reacquainted with them.
As with many aspects of psychological wisdom, the exis-
tence of this shadow self has been known for a long time. But
The cure of the shadow is
on one hand a moral prob-
lem. That is, recognition
of what we have sup-
pressed. . . On the other
hand the cure of the
shadow is a problem of
James Hilman
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prior to the development of psychology, the only way to talk
about such things was through the use of metaphors. Hence,
our myths and stories are full of thinly veiled references to this
shadow self. Perhaps the clearest example of this is Robert
Louis Stevensons Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The Jekyll and Hyde story uses the split-persona of the
good doctor to illustrate how the contents of the shadow bag
refuse to stay hidden. The highly refined and cultured doctor is
a very moral man. He puts aside his own human needs to pur-
sue medical knowledge for the good of others. Yet all the while,
somewhere else in the city, his other self pursues its instincts
without regard for the niceties of cultured society or the needs
of other people. The lesson here is clear: The contents of our
shadow bags may appear to be locked away from sight, but if
those disowned parts are not dealt with, one day they will reap-
pear somewhere else as a monster.
A more traditional folktale makes the same observation: A
man became so frightened of his own shadow that he tried to
run away from it. He tells himself, If only I could escape from
this thing that constantly follows me, then I could finally be
happy and at peace. But no matter how fast he runs, his
shadow is always right there, one step behind him. He grows
increasingly distressed, runs faster and faster, until finally he
drops dead from exhaustion. The irony of the story is that if he
had only stopped a moment to rest in the shade of a tree, his
shadow would have vanished immediately.
The more deeply we feel unloved, unwanted, and unac-
ceptable the harder we try to escape those feelings. But by
running away from those perceptions of ourselves we
strengthen our belief in them; we strengthen our fears. And
like the poor traveler stuck in quicksand, the harder we try
to escape, the worse our predicament becomes. Only by
accepting the exiled or buried parts of our psyche can we
end their haunting pursuit of us. When we stop rejecting a
part of our being, we cease confirming to ourselves our
sense of worthlessness.
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Many movies reflect this theme of the shadow self.
Watching one of them might help clarify your thoughts as you
prepare to bring yours into the light of consciousness. I suggest
Mary Reilly (1996), a modern take on the Jekyll and Hyde
story. If you have experienced trauma through violence, this
might not be an appropriate film.
Movie Preview: Mary Reilly (1996)
Jekyll, the good doctor, has never married. But he is
attracted to the comely Mary, his live-in maid. One
evening, he spies several scars on Marys arms and neck.
He wants to examine her, but she declines, saying there
is nothing to worry about. Her real reason, however, is
that she does not want him to discover the shameful
truth: they are teeth scars caused by a rat. As a child her
father abused her, locking her into a dark closet with a
rat so he could listen to her screams.
One morning as she is changing the doctors sheets,
she finds them stained with blood. Sneaking down to
the laundry to secretly expunge the stains, she
experiences a vision of a creature that is covered in
blood and yet is clearly alive. As she emerges from her
trance, she realizes how safe she feels in the doctors
house. Nevertheless, she begins having regular
nightmares about her childhood.
Jekyll warns the staff that he has hired a new assistant,
Edward Hyde, who will be coming and going at odd
hours. No one is to be alarmed.
Mary and the doctor gradually grow closer, and finally,
much to his joy, she confides to him stories of her
abusive childhood. Jekyll is finally allowed to examine
her scars, and after doing so he says nothing.
The doctor then has Mary deliver a sealed note to the
madam of the local bordello. The madam reads the note
then tells her the answer is yes. As Mary is returning
with the mysterious answer, she spies Hyde limping
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down the laboratory stairs. That night she has
nightmares of her father beating her on a street corner.
Curious about the assistant, she sneaks down to the
lab while Jekyll is out and almost gets caught. Later,
sent with another message to the bordello, the madam
takes Mary up to Hydes room where she finds a pool of
blood and a dead rat. That night, during Marys
recurring nightmare of rats and beatings, Hyde invites
her to town with him. In her dream, she instead flees
to Jekylls lab hoping to find him but hes not there.
Instead, she suddenly finds herself in bed with Hyde
who tries to rape her. She escorts Hyde to a
slaughterhouse where he proceeds to operate
doctor-style on hanging sides of bloody beef.
The next day, Mary sees the doctor and the madam
arguing, and then spies Hyde in the lab holding the
madams severed head. Later, Mary returns to the lab
only to be confronted by Hyde who smears her face
with his own blood. By now she has figured out that
Mr. Hyde is actually Dr. Jekyll, whom she loves so
she is not afraid. Her lack of fear transforms Hyde into
a two-headed Jekyll and Hyde. The Hyde-head poisons
itself so that only Jekyll remains.
Through its complicated symbolism, this film illustrates
how those parts of ourselves that lie trapped in our shadow bag
do not simply sit there. Over time they can regress toward very
undesirable feelings and possibly actions. If it takes us many
years to finally discover and open our shadow bags, we are
likely to find that the emotions we hid there have sadly become
quite hard to deal with. Sometimes, they will also be hostile to
being dragged out into the light. Every part of ourselves that
we do not love will become hostile to us.
Meanwhile, there is the danger that we may be projecting
these hidden emotions onto others. Borrowing another of Blys
metaphors, imagine that these rejected parts of ourselves have
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been miniaturized, flattened, rolled up tight and shut in the
darkness inside a steel can, much the same way movies are
At night, when darkness rules the world, often in
dreams, these stored parts of ourselves suddenly appear before
us, huge and bright, as if splashed upon a screen. They are
powerful; they captivate our attention; we cannot look away.
In the daylight of rational examination, these same fig-
ures appear as pale, tiny things on thin connecting strips. But
as soon as we sink into the dark of our unconscious and
something ignites a particular light in the rear of our head,
our psyches become natural projection machines, and these
same figures loom before us wherever we look, even on the
faces of those closest to us.
A mans anger, rolled up inside the can for twenty years,
he may see one night on his wifes face. A wife might see a
hero every night on her husbands face and then one night sees
a tyrant. Nora in A Dolls House saw the two images in turn.
Of the numerous movies Henrik Ibsens play A Dolls
House inspired, perhaps the best is the 1973 version. Watching
it may help you to better understand the dynamics of projection
as you prepare to bring elements of your shadow bag into the
light of consciousness.
Movie Preview: A Dolls House (1973)
Noras life is as close to perfect as she could possibly
want. Her home, her clothes, her social life, and her
marriage to Torvald, her banker husband. Everything
seems perfect. But suddenly, a loan she took out
secretly years ago in order to save Torvalds life returns
to haunt her. When finally she realizes there is no way
to prevent Torvald from finding out about it, she is
confident his love for her will cause him to stand by her
despite his implacable moral principles which her
borrowing violates. But with his harsh reaction to the
news, Nora learns that her supposed perfect marriage
was an empty charade. Previously, she had simply seen
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what she wanted to see rather than what really was.
Following the revelation of Torvalds true feelings, she
switches and projects her disowned dark side onto
her husband.
In addition to the danger of projecting our disowned parts
onto others, those parts represent vital energy that is unavail-
able to us as long as it is locked up inside our shadow bags. The
larger our bag, the less energy we have for living our lives.
When a woman puts her masculinity into her bag, she loses
energy. When a child stuffs his exuberance into the bag, his
decreased vitality is obvious. If we bag our creativity, we pay
for it by having less power to solve problems or add meaning
to our life. It is critically important to our psychological and
spiritual well-being that we reclaim this discarded portion of
our soul. Fortunately, though in most cases these facets of our
personality are hidden, they are not truly lost. We have
numerous clues with which to track them down. The Self
Matrix is designed to help us find those clues. Quadrant IV
shows the qualities we dislike in film characters with whom we
do not identify. Such traits are difficult to recognize in us.
Evelyn disliked the character Davis in Grand Canyon
(1991) very much because she saw him as selfish, rude, heart-
less, ruthless, and abusing his power. Her strong negative reac-
tion made me wonder whether the Davis character might be
forcing her to confront disowned parts of herself. I asked
Evelyn how aggression was handled in her family when she
was a child. She remembered that no one ever yelled. Most of
the time everyone was nice to everyone else. When Evelyn
tried to express disagreement, her mom told her, Do not say
anything if you cannot say something nice.
After some probing Evelyn told us that usually, when her
husband starts a fight, she does not express anger or frustration.
Evelyn hates conflict and believes that she would lose an argu-
ment anyway. Once in a while, however, when her husband
goes too far, much to her surprise, intense anger suddenly
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breaks out of her. Her husband usually is shocked by her out-
burst and suddenly starts listening to her.
Evelyn also told us that she has very good relationships
with her colleagues and her boss at work. She is not completely
happy at work though, because several times she has been
passed by for promotion. This puzzles her because she always
completes her tasks diligently. Pushier colleagues, who have
also taken more initiative in certain projects, have been pro-
moted instead of her.
At first it was hard for Evelyn to allow for the possibility
that some of the characteristics she saw in Davis could be part
of her disowned and repressed shadow self. But reflecting on
her family history helped her to open to the possibility.
Evelyn also remembered that she sometimes has a secret
desire to demonstrate stronger boundaries with people who
take advantage of her at work. This desire makes her feel self-
ish she dislikes it strongly. Evelyn had been aware of her
fear of conflict all along. Now she started to consider that she
might have repressed her anger and aggression as well as her
selfishness. She also surmised that her assertiveness, strength,
and creativity might have also ended up in her shadow bag.
Eric disliked Dee strongly because she seemed needy and
immoral. He was appalled when he saw Dee approaching
Mack romantically while knowing that Mack had a wife and
children. Listening to Evelyns discoveries about herself, Eric
already had some ideas about his possible disowned parts. In
his family, independence was encouraged because both parents
were often gone for work. He was very proud of the fact that,
since childhood, he was never needy.
Eric does not see much wrong with this, except that previ-
ous girlfriends as well as his wife sometimes have said he was
aloof. In return, he sometimes found them too needy and did
not always understand what they wanted from him emotion-
ally. Reflecting on this, Eric wondered now whether he might
be afraid of emotional intimacy. He expressed hope that by
gaining a deeper awareness of how he put neediness into his
Then may come the
joyful acceptance of the
rejected and inferior, a
going with it and even a
partial living of it.
James Hillman
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shadow bag, he might open a door to more emotional closeness
in his relationships. It made sense to him that being emotion-
ally vulnerable and available is different from being needy. If
he could become more aware of how he repressed neediness,
he might be able to let go a bit, open up emotionally in his rela-
tionships and experience true intimacy.
Eric also looked at his strong reaction to the scenes where
Dee approached Mack romantically. Even after a long period
of soul-searching, he did not think that this had to do with
repressed and undesirable parts in him. He thought his emo-
tional response to these scenes had more to do with his first
girlfriend who left him for another man after having conducted
an affair in secret. He still felt angry and hurt by it. Erics emo-
tional wound from the betrayal was touched when he saw Dee
flirting with Mack.
Evelyns and Erics Quadrant IV looked something like
Evelyns Quadrant IV:
Qualities or
capacities you dislike in yourself
are not always IV
fully aware aggression, and selfishness
Erics Quadrant IV:
Qualities or
capacities you dislike in yourself
are not always IV
fully aware neediness
Exercise 4: Recognizing Projected Shortcomings
Now, revisit your Film Matrix. This time look at
Quadrant IV.
The most unconscious
thing we do all day long is
what actually creates and
molds every moment of
every day of our lives.
Lynn Grabhorn
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Since it can be difficult to recognize the film
characters deficiency in yourself, you again might
want to use a couple of tricks.
1. Remember a time in your life when a
well-meaning person told you that he noticed
the same negative attitude or trait as that
displayed by the movie character.
2. Perhaps you briefly regretted having behaved
like that movie character but did not think
about it afterwards. Reconsider this initial
thought again.
3. Ignore shortcomings in this movie character
that seem absolutely foreign to your own.
Take some slow deep breaths and listen
inwardly. Describe how the movie characters
deficiencies remind you of yourself, even if you have
experienced such shortcomings only in exceptional
situations. Note the moments you remember when
you were most in touch with these normally
unconscious parts. Do this for every shortcoming
in the film character that you identified.
Did you dislike a film character that seemed
absolutely different from you and with whom you
believe you shared no common traits? Are you
certain you are not projecting previously disowned
shortcomings on them? What do you believe is the
reason for your emotional response? Have you, or
somebody you care about, been emotionally hurt or
disappointed by someone of whom this character
reminds you? Contemplate how you could find
emotional healing.
Take the most important points of your exploration
about your projected shortcomings and write them
into Quadrant IV of your Self Matrix on page 138.
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Powerful Tools for
Healing and Growth
The Growth Matrix
With help of the Self Matrix you were able to identify aspects
in yourself of which the movie characters reminded you. Now
we are exploring how you can make use of this new under-
standing for healing and growth. The Growth Matrix provides
a structure for this process.
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 154
Your Growth Matrix:
How can you learn
How can you to have compassion
enhance and with your real or
strengthen your perceived short-
positive qualities comings and grow
and capacities? beyond them?
Qualities I II
you are fully
aware of
Qualities you III IV
are not
always fully
aware of
Fill out this matrix as you work through the exercises later
in this chapter. Bear in mind that you are not necessarily
expected to do all the exercises. The only exercises I consider
essential are: Access Your Inner Wisdom; List the Evidence;
Review and Edit the Evidence. I strongly urge you not to skip
Since we all have different personalities and personal his-
tories, we have different needs and preferences. Therefore, this
chapter introduces you to and reminds you of a variety of tools
for healing and growth. The exercises help you to strengthen
the positive qualities that you noted in the Self Matrix, and to
work constructively with the shortcomings you explored. The
Growth Matrix is designed to help you as a tool box when-
ever you want to work on the parts of yourself that you dis-
covered through your identification or projection on movie
You might feel drawn to certain exercises more than to oth-
ers. When you believe that a suggestion might be useful, write
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it into the respective quadrant. The more exercises you choose
the better. Of course you are not limited to the tools that are
suggested in this book.
Though you might have discovered different aspects of
yourself in all four quadrants of your Self Matrix, the sug-
gested tools for Quadrants I and III in the Growth Matrix are
very similar in that they help you enhance positive qualities
and capacities. The exercises for Quadrant II and IV are simi-
lar as well since they help you work with shortcomings.
Exercises for Quadrant I
Quadrant I was the most fun part of the Growth Matrix for
Evelyn and Eric. They learned new ways to enhance their pos-
itive qualities, of which both were already aware: being
friendly, openhearted, and often grateful.
When you start with these exercises, you might feel as if
you are praising yourself, a feeling that is uncomfortable for
some. Remember this is simply a technique to help you
enhance and strengthen your inner capacities by giving positive
messages to your subconscious mind.
Review Quadrant II of your Self Matrix. These are your
qualities that, when you discovered them through identification
with a film character you liked. You might feel drawn to certain
exercises more than to others. When you believe a suggestion
might be useful, write it into Quadrant I in the form at the
beginning of this chapter. The more exercises you choose the
Exercise 1: List of Positive Effects on Others
As you look at your list in Quadrant I in your Self
Matrix, contemplate how people in your life benefit
from these positive qualities. Write down the name
of every one you can think of for each quality and
note next to it how they probably are affected or
Its kind of fun to do the
Walt Disney
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influenced. If you are not sure about these effects,
use your intuition.
People who How they
Quality are affected are affected
After you finish this list, notice how you feel about
Exercise 2: Guided Meditation
Shakti Gawains guided visualization in Creative
Visualization is designed to enhance self-appreciation
and can be very powerful.
I recommend speaking the text of the meditation
on a tape and listening to it later.
Imagine yourself in some everyday situation, and
picture someone . . . you know looking at you with
great love and admiration and telling you one of
your positive qualities or capacities they really like
about you. Now picture a few more people coming
up and agreeing that you are a very wonderful
person. (If this embarrasses you, stick with it.
Remember that it is in your imagination.) Imagine
more and more people arriving and gazing at you
with tremendous love and respect in their eyes.
Picture yourself in a parade or on a stage, with
throngs of cheering, applauding people, all loving
and appreciating you. Hear their applause ringing in
your ears. Stand up and take a bow, and thank them
for their support and appreciation.
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Exercise 3: Self-Appreciation
At night, after you lie down in bed, before you fall
asleep, let your mind wander, thinking about the
day. Do you remember moments in which you
experienced one of your positive qualities? If you do
not remember anything for that day, think back as
far as necessary to come up with a memory
regarding this positive part of yourself. Let your
memory carry you fully back into the scene of
your experience. Remember your surroundings and
what you did when you experienced the positive
quality. Maybe you remember what you felt
emotionally and what you sensed in your body. If it
is hard to remember details, you can make these up
as you stay in touch with your overall impression of
the scene.
Now, put your attention into your heart or chest
and allow yourself to feel appreciation for yourself.
Notice your joy and maybe a sense of fullness or
expansion. Yes but . . . thoughts may arise. You
cannot control their appearance but you can choose
not to keep focusing on them. You could tell your
critical mind, your Inner critic: Thanks for sharing
and come back to your sense of appreciation. Bring
your attention back to your gratitude.
If you enjoy this, move to another quality and
follow the same process. When you feel really good,
let yourself fall asleep.
Exercise 4: Mutual Appreciation
The previous exercise can be done in the form of a
dialogue with a partner, friend, or family member.
Suggest to them that, in the evening, the two of you
tell each other what each one appreciated about the
other person during the day. You can ask the other
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person to specifically focus on the qualities you
mentioned in Quadrant I of your Self Matrix.
Exercise 5: Letter Writing
Write a letter to yourself then seal it in an envelope
with your address and a stamp on it. Now, give it to
a person you trust and instruct them to mail it at a
time that you determine.
In this letter express how you appreciate yourself
for your positive qualities and capacities. Imagine
yourself in the future at the time when the letter
will be mailed to you. Describe how these qualities
will have grown and expanded by this time.
Exercise 6: Writing Affirmations
On separate sheets of paper or cards write your
positive qualities and capacities as you fill in the
blanks of the following sentences:
1. I appreciate and enjoy (fill in the blank with a
positive quality or capacity).
2. (Fill in the blank with a positive quality or
capacity) makes me feel content and happy.
Place these notes at prominent places in your
home so that you see them frequently throughout
the day.
Exercise 7: Drawing, Painting, or Sculpting
If you enjoy drawing, painting, or sculpting,
express how you see yourself through these media
emphasizing the qualities you like about yourself.
Do not worry about perfect artistic style. Just
express what is inside of you about these qualities as
best you can. Your art can be completely abstract.
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Place the picture or sculpture at a prominent place
in your house so that you see it frequently throughout
the day.
Exercises for Quadrant II
In Quadrant II of the Growth Matrix you are noting exercises
that help you learn to have compassion with your real and per-
ceived shortcomings and grow beyond them. Review Quadrant
II of your Self Matrix. These are your qualities that, when you
discovered them through identification with a film character,
you did not like.
Exercise 1: Forgiveness
Part I and II of the following exercise is a meditation
based on traditional Buddhist practice. Tara Bach in
Radical Acceptance describes it beautifully.
If you
cannot forgive yourself for a mistake or shortcoming
that has affected others negatively, practice all three
parts. If it did not impact another person, focus only
on Part II.
I recommend speaking the text of the meditation
on a tape and listening to it later.
Part I Meditating on Asking for Forgiveness
Sitting comfortably, close your eyes and allow
yourself to become present and still. Rest your
attention on the breath for a few moments, relaxing
as you inhale and relaxing as you exhale.
Bring to mind a situation in which your
shortcomings have caused harm to another person.
Take some moments to remember the circumstances
that highlight how you have caused harm to another,
and sense the feelings of hurt or disappointment
that person might have felt. Did you act out of hurt
and insecurity, out of the need to feel power or safety?
Mankind is waking up to
its own divinity, a process
that is both stupendously
thrilling and horrifically
painful, for the wake-up
process demands
uncompromising change.
Lynn Grabhorn
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Now, holding this person in your awareness, begin
asking for forgiveness. Mentally whisper his or her
name and say, I understand the hurt you have felt
and I ask you for forgiveness now. Please forgive
me. With a sincere heart, repeat several times your
request for forgiveness. Then take some moments of
silence and let yourself open to the possibility of
being forgiven.
Part II Forgiving Yourself
Bring to mind the shortcoming that feels
unforgivable. Sense what feels so bad about your
unforgivable behavior, emotion, or way of thinking.
How does it make you feel about yourself? How
does it prevent you from being happy? Allow
yourself to feel the pain that makes you want to
push away the undesired part of yourself.
Now explore more deeply what is driving this
unacceptable part of your being. What need are you
trying to satisfy? What fear are you trying to soothe?
As you become aware of underlying wants and fears,
allow yourself to feel them directly in your body,
heart, and mind.
Begin to offer a sincere message of forgiveness to
whatever feelings, thoughts, or behaviors you are
rejecting. You might mentally whisper the words: I
see how Ive caused myself suffering and I forgive
myself now. Or you might simply offer yourself the
words Forgiven, forgiven. Meet whatever arises
fear or judgment, shame or grief with the message
of forgiveness. Allow the hurt to untangle in the
openness of a forgiving heart.
Part III Asking for Forgiveness
If you have hurt another person and if it is possible
and appropriate, ask this person for forgiveness now.
For in the dew of little
things the heart finds its
meaning and is refreshed.
Kalhil Gibran
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It might be difficult but most likely very rewarding.
The meditation will have prepared you for making
First you may feel as if you are simply going
through the motions and believe that you are not
actually capable of forgiving yourself. You might
believe you dont deserve to be forgiven. You might
be afraid that if you forgave yourself, you would just
do the same thing again. If these doubts and fears
arise, acknowledge and accept them with compassion.
Then say to yourself, It is my intention to forgive
myself when I am able. Your intention to forgive is
the seed of forgiveness. This willingness will gradually
open your heart.
Exercise 2: Releasing Your Inner Critic
We sometimes judge ourselves harshly instead of
adjusting our high standards or forgiving ourselves
for a mistake and subsequently learning from it. In
this process, we activate the inner critic. This part of
our psyche attacks us for behaviors, thoughts, and
feelings of which we do not approve. Everyone
experiences his or her inner critic in different ways.
Your inner critic may sound like a real, possibly
obsessive, voice in your head. Or you might experience
its attacks as a dull or aching feeling in your stomach,
increased tiredness, numbness, tension, guilt, shame,
hopelessness, fear, or a loss of energy. Byron Brown
in Soul without Shame describes the following
powerful ways to become fully aware and
consequently release the Inner Judge.
In order to become fully conscious of your inner
critic, try an experiment. Think back while
remembering what you wrote in Quadrant II of
your Self Matrix.
For something to change,
it first has to be
Carl Gustav
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Do you remember a situation recently when
you felt harshly critical about yourself regarding
one of the issues that you have noted there?
How did it make you feel?
Notice how you responded to this attack of
your inner critic. Did you try to make yourself
feel better by justifying or distracting yourself?
What image do you have of yourself as a result
How does this image of yourself limit who you
are and who you could be?
What standards did your inner critic measure
you against?
Do you agree with these standards now?
Notice your feelings and write down some of your
thoughts in response to these questions.
Close your eyes now, and in your minds eye allow
an image to arise that fits the feeling you have when
your inner critic gets activated and attacks you.
Choose any image that comes to mind, like a wicked
witch, a grim monster, a demon, or a dangerous bird
on your shoulder.
Now choose from the following different ways of
releasing the inner critic by responding to its image
when you notice an attack. Try out several responses
until you find the most appropriate one for the
nature of the attack and for your personality. Once
you find one or two that work for you, it is best to
stick with those unless they stop being effective. If
that happens, try some of the others again. It is best
to speak these responses out loud. If this is not
possible, just think the words.
Assertion: Shut up! or Stop! or Let go! or Leave me
alone! or just No! Reclaiming assertive strength is
vital, especially if you experience the attacks of your
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inner critic as aggressive acts. You may make a
matching hand gesture.
Indignation: How dare you speak to me that way!
Its all right to let yourself feel indignation and
outrage at the inner critics lack of respect for your
dignity or anyone elses.
Truth: That hurts me! or It scares me when you talk
that way! Stop it! Simply speaking your own truth in
the moment can break your engagement with your
inner critic. The point here is that your awareness
becomes focused on your feelings in response to the
attack rather than on its content.
Humor: I only let bullies say that to me. This
approach is to refuse to accept the seriousness of
the judgments. The power of humor lies in its ability
to break through the mental nature of your inner
critic. It cannot maintain its established destructive
pattern when aliveness is activated through the
experience of spontaneous laughter.
Agreement: Youre right and I want to learn from
my mistake. You defuse the attack by acknowledging
the content without accepting the negative valuation.
Acceptance of your inner critics observations
without taking on any blame may help you mine
the gold in its message and transform your
Exaggeration: Yes, Im the worst (use an adjective
appropriate to the attack) person in the whole
country. Exaggeration is a more energetic, but
similar form of agreement and humor, claiming the
negative quality as something you are strange
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enough to enjoy. The exaggeration ends up giving
you energy that you need because the attacks get
most of their power from causing you to reject and
deplete yourself.
Exposing the Inner Critic: Who cares what you think?
or Who are you to judge me? This is basically calling
a spade a spade and not accepting the authority of
the judge or its right to make any kind of pronounce-
ment against you.
Surrender: Now youve made me feel guilty. This
response is an acknowledgment that your inner
critic has made you feel exactly what it wanted to.
You are surrendering any effort to change. At the
same time you are describing the activity of the
inner critic rather than believing that it means there
is something wrong with you.
Disinterest: Thanks for the advice. Ill have to think
about it. Here, as in the response agreement, you do
not fight the content. Instead, you consciously stay
neutral and actively end the interaction.
Changing the Subject: Have you ever seen such a
wonderful landscape? With this response, you are
not engaging with your inner critic but actively
placing your attention elsewhere. By shifting your
attention away from the attack, this defense refuses
to allow your awareness to be controlled.
Compassion: If Im really acting in that bad way, it
must be painful for you. This is focusing on
empathizing with the perspective of your inner
critic in order to stop the attack. To act from
compassion can bring healing to the inner
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Breathe and Sense: Breathe but do not support the
attack. Practice sensing your arms, legs, and belly to
keep yourself grounded as you experience the
Active Visualization: Picture in your mind taking
some action that halts the attack. For this to work,
you must let yourself feel the attack as an imaginary
action such as an explosion, destruction, or gun
blast. The object is to reclaim your sense of power
and control over your process. Anything goes, but
dont let the inner critic make you feel guilty for
seemingly violent behavior. You are only destroying
images! The goal is not to get caught up in revenge
but to free your own energy and feel the freedom.
Exercise 3: Revisiting Exercises in Chapter 6
In Chapter 6: Building Self-Esteem you were
introduced to exercises that helped you build
self-esteem. Since the Inner critic is a major factor
for low self-esteem, they are very useful here too.
You can choose any one or all of the six exercises in
Chapter 6 as you keep the specific shortcomings in
mind with which you are working. It might be
especially helpful to watch one of the mentioned
movies in the suggested way.
Exercise 4: Distinguishing between Real and
Perceived Shortcomings
After you feel freer from your heavy burdens of guilt
and inner judgment, it might become easier for you
to distinguish between real and perceived short-
comings. A real shortcoming might be that you
cannot sing well. Only extensive voice training
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could help you overcome this deficiency. Maybe
even these efforts would not make you sing especially
well. A perceived shortcoming could be your belief
that you do not deserve to be loved. You might have
developed this belief early in your life because you
were rarely treated with loving attention. An honest
compassionate friend would tell you, though, that
you deserve to be loved.
If you are not sure whether your shortcomings are
real or perceived, take the Honest-Compassionate-
Friend-Test. In your imagination ask an honest and
compassionate fantasy friend who knows everything
about you whether a specific shortcoming is real or
if you just perceive it as such. This way you access
your deep inner knowing about the distinction you
are trying to make.
You might also ask a real friend who knows you
intimately. If you ask a real person, be aware that
nobody understands you as well as you do when you
are really in touch with your deep inner wisdom.
Besides, a friend might have his or her own, possibly
unconscious though well-meaning, agenda that
might interfere with an honest response. Now list
your real and perceived shortcomings separately.
Perceived shortcomings: Real shortcomings:
Exercise 5: Releasing Negative Beliefs
Perceived shortcomings are based on negative
beliefs about yourself like I do not deserve to be
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loved. Use the exercises in Chapter 4 in combination
with the Negative Belief Index in Chapter 5 to
release your negative beliefs. Once these beliefs are
released, your perceived shortcomings will
disappear. They only existed as a belief in your
mind in the first place.
Through her identification with the film character Claire in
Grand Canyon and with the help of the group process, Eveyln
learned that she perceives herself as too dreamy but that in fact
this was not really true about her. Evelyn felt very self-critical
when she thought of herself this way. After she practiced some
of these exercises, she was finally able to let go of this distorted
perspective of herself.
Exercise 6: Overcoming Real Shortcomings
Through watching the film characters and learning
about yourself you might have discovered real
shortcomings that you want to overcome. If you do
not like certain behaviors or negative qualities that
impact your relationships or your goals in life, it
might be worthwhile to make some changes. For
example, you might burst out in anger easily. This
could ruin your relationships and lead to negative
evaluations at work. The following suggestions have
helped many of my clients.
a) Practicing exercises 1, 2, or 3 on pages 156
158: If you judge yourself harshly for your
shortcomings and you have not yet done these
exercises, practice one of them now. This suggestion
may sound counterintuitive if you believe that you
need a critical inner voice to motivate you to take
action. But harsh inner criticism of you as a person
most likely does the opposite. It demoralizes you.
When you release self-hatred, you free up emotional
Learn to get in touch
with the silence within
yourself and know that
everything in this life has
a purpose.
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energy that can be used to transform your
b) Finding help: If you have not yet contemplated
how to overcome your shortcomings, do so now. For
example, you might find a voice teacher if you want
to improve your singing, join an anger management
group to work with your rage, or buy a book that
gives you guidance on how to improve your marriage.
c) Accessing your inner determination: In this next
step you learn to access the determination inside
yourself that helps you to work on overcoming your
undesirable qualities. First remember a time in your
life when you pursued a goal with strong
determination. Let yourself relive internally how it
felt. Then watch a movie, using conscious awareness,
in which a character was able to accomplish
something that was important to him after facing
major obstacles. The focus of this movie does not
need to be about overcoming shortcomings
specifically. Pay attention to the determination,
strength, and courage the character displays and
what you feel as you imagine that you are exactly
like him. Preferably you should choose a film that is
familiar to you, in which a character impressed you
with these qualities.
If no movie comes to mind, choose from the
following list:
The Accused (1988), A.I. (2001), Babettes Feast
(1987), Billy Elliot (2000), Dances with Wolves
(1990), Gattaca (1997), Gone with the Wind (1939),
Frida (2002), I am Sam (2001), Il Postino (The
Postman) (1994), The Insider (1999), The King and
I (1956 and 1999), L.A. Confidential (1997), Like
Water for Chocolate (1992), Local Hero (1983),
My Left Foot (1989), My Big Fat Greek Wedding
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(2002), The Patriot (2000), Places of the Heart
(1984), Real Women Have Curves (2002), The
Straight Story (1999), Thelma and Louise (1991),
Tootsie (1982), Whale Rider (2003), Whats Eating
Gilbert Grape? (1993).
More film titles can be found in the Film Index in
the categories Overcoming Challenges and Gaining
Hope and Encouragement under Inspirational.
Eric had struggled with accepting his teenage daughters
increasing need for independence. He wished he could over-
come this difficulty. Eric used all three parts of this exercise
successfully. After releasing his harsh Inner critic he decided to
learn more about parenting a teenager by buying a book. He
also decided to keep talking to his daughter in order to under-
stand her better.
Along the way he encountered some setbacks, but Eric
started feeling stronger when he recalled how, years ago, he
had successfully improved his communication with his wife
once he really tried. Watching one of the movies I had sug-
gested while consciously focusing on the determination the
characters demonstrated helped him to stay on track with his
Exercise 7: Accepting Real Shortcomings That You
Cannot or Do Not Want to Overcome
You may be aware of certain shortcomings but find
that you do not want to work on them because they
are not a priority for you. Or you might have tried
several times unsuccessfully to overcome them.
My friend Connie, for example, felt incompetent
with anything that had to do with her computer. She
would have loved to have taken classes and gained
those skills, but her training to become a nurse was
more important to her. Therefore she decided to
To the degree we
continue to seek approval
outside ourselves, to put
greater stock in what
others think of us, we
deny our divinity and
view ourselves as limited
human beings.
Lynn Grabhorn
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sacrifice her desire to increase her computer skills
in favor of her career.
Another friend, Max, would have loved to be able
to play an instrument, but after trying for a long
time he noticed that he did not have much talent for
it. He had to bury his dream.
If you become aware of your real shortcomings
after you recognize them in a film character, and
you criticize yourself for them, do not skip exercises
1, 2 and 3. These tools can help you make a first
step toward acceptance and compassion for these
undesirable qualities.
Full acceptance might only be possible if you allow
yourself to grieve that you are not able to overcome
your real shortcomings, at least for right now. In
Chapter 7, Grief and Transformation, I introduced
six exercises designed to help you with this grief.
Revisit them and make sure that you watch one of
the mentioned movies in the suggested way.
Exercises for Quadrant III
In Quadrant III of your Self Matrix you noted your posi-
tive qualities and capacities of which you are not always com-
pletely aware. Admiring these qualities in a movie character
helped you discover that you have at least traces of these qual-
ities or you carry the potential to develop these attributes in
yourself. You might have learned through feedback from oth-
ers, like Evelyn and Eric in the group, or discovered that
somewhere inside you, possibly a little hidden away, that you
possess some of these positive qualities. Increasing awareness
about these attributes or their potential is an important first
step. The following guided meditation can help you reach into
the deeper layers of your soul in order to gain increased
Films, because they often
reframe fictional crisis,
are ideal vehicles for
reframing the problems of
clients and for causing
clients to entertain
productive doubts.
John W. Hesley
& Jan G. Hesley
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Exercise 1: Accessing Your Inner Wisdom
I recommend speaking the text of the following
guided meditation on a tape, then listening to it
First, close your eyes and relax by taking three
deep, slow breaths, quietly saying, I am relaxing as
you breathe in and I am letting go as you breathe
out. Let your thoughts move through your mind like
clouds through the sky without paying attention to
Visualize a safe, comfortable, and quiet place.
Look around at your safe place, listen to the sounds
around you, smell the air, and bring your attention
to your feelings and body sensations. Find an
especially nice spot at your safe place to make
yourself very comfortable, and relax even more.
Now invite to your safe place a wise, intuitive,
loving, and compassionate being. This is your Inner
Advisor (you can also call this being your Higher
Self), who will guide you to success. Imagine that
your Inner Advisor knows you very deeply, even
though you may or may not know each other in real
life. This process connects you with your inner
wisdom and intuition. Ask your Inner Advisor for
support in the following process and wait until
he/she agrees to support you. The response may
come in words or in other ways. Just be open to
receive the answer.
If several advisors appear, choose the one who seems most
helpful right now.
If you cannot perceive an Inner Advisor right away, keep
visualizing your safe place once a day for one week and try
Whenever you might feel stuck during the following exer-
cises, close your eyes, imagine your Inner Advisor, and listen
I live myself in widening
That reach out across the
I may not ever complete
the last one,
But I give myself to it.
Rainer Maria
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to his or her guidance until you find the answer you are look-
ing for.
Exercise 2: Listing the Evidence
Make a list of situations in your life when you have
received feedback or discovered the qualities,
capacities, or the potential to develop them that you
listed in Quadrant III of your Self Matrix.
Lets say, for example, that you admired Ednas
strength and courage to face and master her
overwhelming challenges in the movie Places of the
Heart and recognized some signs of this quality
inside yourself. Go back as far as you remember and
note the evidence for your own strength and
courage. A long time ago you may have faced
successfully and with much courage a scary bully in
school. Or a younger sibling might have admired
you for not giving up but fighting even harder when
your sports team looked as if it were losing.
You may be surprised what you discover as you include
many life experiences in this search for evidence.
Exercise 3: Reviewing and Editing the Evidence
Now look again at the first situation on your list that
you described, imagine it like the scene of a movie,
and follow these steps:
In your minds eye step into this scene. If you only
remember it vaguely, you can make up the details.
Notice what you see, hear, sense, and feel as you
are reexperiencing this situation through your
memory. If the colors you see and the sounds,
feelings, and sensations you notice seem weak, you
can edit the movie of your experience. As an editor
The knower and the
known are one. God and I,
we are one in knowledge.
Meister Eckhart
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you can make the colors brighter, sounds more full,
and your feelings, and sensations more intense.
Focus on the appreciation or joy arising in
response to your success in the scene. Let yourself
feel these as much as you can.
See whether you can get in touch with the same
respect and admiration for your accomplishment as
you felt for the movie character and his/her
In the example I mentioned earlier you might have
sensed (or imagined if your memory is dim) feeling
slightly happy and proud when you mastered the
challenge of a difficult sports game and received
positive feedback for it. See whether this exercise
can help you start experiencing real self-admiration
for your accomplishment.
Go through all the accomplishments and positive
qualities on your list in the same way. Allow your
awareness of these positive qualities and capacities
to grow. Go through this process until your
achievements start to appear very real and you sense
clearly that you carry the corresponding positive
qualities inside you.
Exercise 4: Choosing From the Exercises That
Were Suggested for Quadrant I
Now that you are more aware of your positive
qualities and capacities, you are ready to use the
exercises that can help you enhance and strengthen
them. Your previous experience with the tools that
were described for Quadrant I of the Growth Matrix
might help you with your choice of exercises for
Quadrant III also.
From the urgent ways
lovers want each other to
seekers search for the
truth, all moving is from
the mover. Every pull
draws us to the ocean.
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These exercises were:
List of Positive Effects on Others
Guided Meditation
Mutual Appreciation
Letter Writing
Writing Affirmations
Drawing, Painting, or Sculpting
Exercises for Quadrant IV
This was the most challenging Quadrant with which to work in
the Self Matrix. With your discoveries of your shadow qualities
that you wrote into Quadrant IV of your Self Matrix, you have
already done the bulk of the work. Now you just have to choose
from the exercises that were suggested for Quadrant II in the
same way as you did for this Quadrant before.
Just as with Quadrant II, reaching acceptance and compas-
sion with these shortcomings is the first step here too. Carl
Gustav Jung said: For something to change it first has to be
accepted. Our resistance and criticism of something that we
do not like about ourselves can steal energy and motivation
away from making a change. Therefore, letting go of self-
hatred or self-rejection provides support for working with these
undesired qualities. I recommend starting with the exercises,
which are designed to help you move toward acceptance (1, 2,
or 3 for Quadrant II).
Powerful Tools for Healing and Growth The Growth Matrix 175
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Creating a
Cinema Therapy Group
Over the years I have facilitated and taken part in many differ-
ent groups for healing and personal development. I continue to
be amazed at the transformative power that group members
experience because others witness their process of sharing with
listening presence and empathy.
When I started to include the movie experience in my work
with individual clients, I also decided to use it in groups, rea-
soning that the impact of films as catalysts for psychological
processes dovetailed well with the heightened therapeutic
effects often added by the group dynamics. Group members
reflections about their emotional response to a movie are an
added component that enriches group therapy. By understand-
ing and sharing what moved them about certain movie scenes
or characters, participants acquire an effective tool to get to
know themselves and others. After leaving the group they are
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 176
able to continue using what they have learned about self-dis-
covery when watching films.
Although group members usually are empathic witnesses,
working with ones psychological issues in any kind of thera-
peutic environment requires a certain amount of courage, emo-
tional honesty, and trust. I frequently hear from people that
they are playing with the idea of joining my cinema therapy
group, but they fear sharing their inner truths openly. When
some of them eventually come to our meetings, they gradually
discover that they are not as fragile as they thought, and their
participation is very rewarding for them. They recognize that
many of their pains and joys are not unique and gain new per-
spectives by listening to others. Talking about the movie expe-
rience first serves as a bridge to dare riskier reflections about
their inner world. Eventually, creative emotional openness
Group versus Individual Cinema Therapy Work
It can be very beneficial to use the movie experience and work
with the exercises in this book in solitude. Group interactions
add an important component because they are helpful in over-
coming our inherent tendency toward selective blindness and
Other group members observations can be invaluable,
especially if you want to learn from your projections on movie
characters about those parts of yourself of which you are at
least partially unaware (Chapters 8 and 9). The greatest temp-
tation in the process of self-discovery is to keep focusing on
those items of which you are already aware, whereas the great-
est progress is often made by unearthing new discoveries.
Other group members can help you extend your boundaries of
self-knowledge beyond your blind spots. When the group func-
tions well, others can help you to move past the layers of obvi-
ous understanding to more challenging areas of growth the
very areas that are easiest to miss, ignore, and undervalue when
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working alone. In this respect a cinema therapy group works
similar to a dream group. Therefore my suggestions for these
groups are similar to Jeremy Taylors guidelines for dream
groups in Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill.
I observed that the general mood of a film often reappears
as a feeling among members in the group. There frequently is
a joyful atmosphere during the meeting after a humorous or
uplifting film. A heavier mood is usually felt after darker
movies with content that addresses problematic lives and
interactions. When they become aware of this, members learn
how susceptible we all are to outside influences. Since a
movie is not even a real outside influence but just light pro-
jected on a screen, it becomes even more obvious to everyone
how our inner experience is shaped by projections on our
Becoming consciously aware of the atmosphere during
the subsequent group interactions, which are affected by the
general mood of the film, helps members acknowledge their
projections. This is usually easier when a lighthearted mood
is observed than when tension appears. Group participants
often recognize the darker projection in other members first,
which can help as a bridge to becoming more aware of their
own unconscious responses. As group members apply these
insights to their everyday life, they learn to understand them-
selves better, which helps them become more authentic and
A cinema therapy group is not the best approach for every-
one, however. First of all, a group might not always be easily
available where you live. Or perhaps you already know from
experience that you are more successful with inner work on
your own or with a therapist one-on-one. It is also possible that
you want to explore very specific issues, such as building self-
esteem, overcoming grief or that you want to work on releas-
ing certain negative beliefs. If you cannot find or create a group
that matches your interest, you will want to follow the sugges-
tions in this book for working on your own.
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Organizing and Conducting a
Cinema Therapy Group
Therapy and support groups that use movies are becoming
increasingly popular, and no wonder, given the popularity of
cinema in general. Probably the best way to start a group is to
invite four or five friends or acquaintances who like watching
movies and are interested in personal growth. If you do not
have interested friends or if you prefer to meet with people who
do not know you outside the group, advertise the formation of
your group on a community bulletin board, in a local paper, or
perhaps through the Internet.
Cinema therapy groups can work well without facilitation
by a professional therapist if the guidelines I am suggesting are
followed. Depending on the group members preference, either
a leader is chosen among the participants or the group remains
leaderless. Both formats can be very successful, as long as
everyone agrees and sticks with the decision until the group
agrees to change it.
Discuss how frequently you want to meet and whether
you want to make a commitment to a certain number of
group meetings. I found it most beneficial to meet weekly
and to make an initial twelve-week commitment. In my
groups participants can extend their commitment every
twelve weeks.
Discuss the structure of your meetings. You can be very
creative with this. You will inevitably develop your own
rhythm and pattern of work over time. Here is just one
possibility: To mark a starting point and help everyone to
become centered and present, one group member might
lead everyone in a short, guided meditation. A general
check-in by each group member can follow before every-
one talks about his or her movie experience. The exer-
cises that are suggested in this book can be integrated in
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the sharing process. At the end of the meeting each par-
ticipant might briefly mention how he or she are feeling
about the group process.
Group members usually form close bonds. Everyones
presence is important to develop and maintain trust. Let
the group know ahead of time if you cannot make it to a
meeting or when you are planning to leave the group.
Make an agreement about confidentiality. It is recom-
mended to keep confidential what other group members
say about themselves. You can share your own newly
gained insights about yourself with a spouse or friend
outside the group. But avoid telling them information
about the other participants processes, even if the group
consists of your friends.
Avoid getting stuck in critiquing the movie: instead, come
back to your experience.
Because personalities are different, group members will
respond differently to mood, meaning, symbolism, and
characters of films. Respecting these differences helps
everyone learn from others and creates emotional safety in
the group.
Do not interrupt another group members sharing.
Be careful with giving advice. Even if you have no inten-
tion of adopting a holier-than-thou position, advice giv-
ing can be perceived as such. Supportive listening is usu-
ally more helpful.
Be considerate of the time. Extroverts need to avoid
monopolizing the meeting. Overall, everyone should have
approximately equal time available.
Respect introverted members as they might need to take
their time before they open up in front of everyone else.
Ideally, the group watches a video or DVD together while
everyone applies the guiding suggestions about watching
with conscious awareness (see the last section of Chapter 3).
After the movie, the group should share their experience. But
Like a caring mother
Holding and guarding the
Of her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Hold yourself and all
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this format can lead to long meeting times that are not always
The next best thing is for each group member to watch the
movie at home prior to the meeting, using the same suggestions.
Depending on the size of the group and whether you prefer to
spend one or more meetings on processing a specific film, a meet-
ing time between one-and-a-half and two-and-a-half hours seems
best. My groups work well meeting for an hour-and-a-half. We
view a different movie every other week at home and talk during
the two following meetings about everyones learning and heal-
ing experiences as well as any feelings that it brought up.
Though the collective viewing experience in a theater can
enhance the emotional impact of a movie in a powerful way, it
is not always practical. It limits the film choice to the new
releases and does not allow the viewer to watch certain scenes
over again. For some it is easier to get in touch with their emo-
tional responses in the safety of their home.
In either case, after watching the movie and before interact-
ing with others, group participants benefit from writing down
their answers to the questions that can be found at the end of
Chapter 3 and filling out the matrices in Chapters 8 through 10.
Movie Selection
Taking turns, group members choose a movie for everyone to
watch. It helps to check with video stores about availability
prior to announcing the choice.
A film could be selected for different reasons. Here are
three of them:
Watching the movie serves to elicit a group exchange
focused on specific issues such as addictions, overcoming
and growing from lifes challenges, pursuing ones pas-
sion, strength in vulnerability, anger and forgiveness,
finding meaning in life, etc.
The movies allegoric message supports healing and
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growth in areas on which the choosing member is cur-
rently working. A participant might therefore choose a
certain movie because a film character models how a cer-
tain goal on this group members inner journey can be
achieved. Equally possible, the film might be chosen for
a characters demonstration of failure. In the latter case
learning happens through the characters mistakes, by
proxy. Other group participants usually discover that the
selected film serves them in a similar way even though
originally they would not have considered it as helpful.
The movie, or parts of it, touched the chooser deeply. The
subsequent group process helps this member in their self-
discovery, especially if the matrices in Chapters 8 and 9
are used. It also provides an opportunity for the others to
get to know this participant better because she shows her-
self through their choice, as well as through sharing her
responses to the movie. As other members talk about their
reactions to the film, the whole group starts to know each
other better. Often their responses are surprisingly
diverse. The subsequent group processes serve as a prac-
ticing ground for tolerance and acceptance.
It is best to choose a movie from memory. If no movie
comes to mind, let the Film Index at the end of this book
remind and inspire you.
The group decides whether foreign movies with subtitles
can be selected. In my groups I found them equally as benefi-
cial as any other film.
Avoiding Pitfalls
Getting stuck in critiquing the movie is usually an indicator that
group participants do not feel safe enough emotionally to reveal
their personal truths. This insecurity is not always conscious. If
you become aware that it is happening in your group, it means
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everyone needs to take a bigger emotional risk. Members might
want to try returning their focus to questions like:
Did the movie touch me, positively or negatively?
If the film had a unique message for me, what was it?
What new ideas for new behaviors did the movies intro-
Did I experience something that connected me with
health and wholeness, my inner wisdom, or higher self as
I watched the film?
Because the general mood of the film often reappears as a
feeling among members in the group, the problematic parts in
movies can potentially also surface during the group meeting.
Understanding this influence can be critical for the group.
When members are conscious enough, this offers a wonderful
opportunity to work through the arising difficult group dynam-
ics. Sometimes this process takes some time.
For example, after a group I facilitated had watched
Changing Lanes (2002), a movie about much conflict and rage
(see Movie Preview on page 38), conflict dynamics appeared
in the group as well. Similar to the way the movie characters
projected negativity onto each other, some group members also
were caught in their projections on other participants. For a
while everyone felt uncomfortable. Consciously stepping back
and understanding their projections helped the group to navi-
gate successfully through the crisis. They emerged from this
challenging experience with a sense of increased closeness and
with new insights about themselves.
A group that is not facilitated by a professional therapist
should not include members with severe mental disturbances.
No one would benefit from his or her participation. If the group
organizers are open to all comers, they should have a list of
mental health professionals handy for referrals.
Sometimes people with similar patterns of repression,
denial, and self-deception join together in a group and end up
You give but little when
you give of your posses-
sions. It is when you give
of yourself that you truly
Kalhil Gibran
Creating a Cinema Therapy Group 183
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colluding to avoid the more challenging messages that lie in
their responses to movie characters. In such situations, mem-
bers go easy on each other, but fear dominates their behavior,
and certain shadow qualities do not come to light through
group interaction. When such a pattern of repressive subcon-
scious group collusion occurs, it can be difficult to overcome.
If you believe that this might happen in your group, address the
possibilities of denial based on fear, and watch a movie in
which the allegoric message is courage to overcome chal-
lenges. Check the Film Index for appropriate films.
You might also consider adding a new member to the
group. Sometimes new participants, who do not share the same
history and experience, will enliven the group and help break
down collusion aimed at avoiding particular issues. Be aware
that, at least initially, some old group members might not feel
open and welcoming toward new participants unless they show
willingness to go along with the groups established patterns. If
this response persists, the group needs to discuss those dynam-
ics before talking about movies again.
184 E-Motion Picture Magic
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Film Index
Use this index to identify films that deal with your questions or issues. Using
Part 1: The Category Finder, choose a heading from the list of meta cate-
gories then turn to the page number indicated to find a list of related sub-
headings. From there, follow the page reference to the corresponding list of
related film titles located in Part 2: The Film Lists.
Part 1: The Category Finder
Personal Questions .............................................................................186
Social Questions .................................................................................186
Children ..............................................................................................186
Families ..............................................................................................186
Couples ...............................................................................................186
Symptoms of Mental Illness and Addiction.......................................186
Physical Illness/Medical Issues .........................................................187
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 185
Challenges: Overcoming
Them 188
Following the Call 188
Gaining Hope and
Laughter Works as Medicine
Personal Courage 190
Role Models 190
Searching for Meaning 190
Spirituality 191
Support Groups 191
Transformation and Renewal
Uplifting/Feel Good 191
Personal Questions
Abandonment 191
Abuse: Children 192
Abuse: Emotional and
Physical 192
After Life 193
Aging 193
Anger and Forgiveness 194
Bereavement/Loss and Grief
Choosing a Life Partner 194
Codependency 194
Crying for Emotional
Catharsis 195
Death and Dying 195
Denial 196
Developing Inner Resources
Food 198
Friends 198
Homosexuality: male 199
Homosexuality: female 199
Isolation 200
Legal Issues 200
Life Stage Transitions 200
Mens Issues 200
Personal Goals and Values
Philosophical Questions:
Alternate Reality 200
Philosophical Questions:
Reality as Illusion 201
Philosophical Questions:
Magic is Real 201
Self-Esteem: Questioning
Negative Beliefs About
Yourself and Rediscovering
Your Strengths 201
Single Adults 201
Stress Type A Personality
Stuttering 201
Vocation/Career/Success 202
Womens Issues 202
Social Questions
Bureaucracy 202
Community: The Search for
Orientation/Culture 202
Ethics 203
Teamwork 203
Childhood Fears 203
Fantasies and Fears 203
Friends, Bullies and Social
Life 203
Gifted Children 203
Peer Relationships 204
Search for Identity 204
Transition to Adulthood 204
General 204
Adoption/Custody After
Divorce 206
Blended Families/Step-parent-
ing 206
Family Conflict 206
Incest 206
Letting Go 207
Relationships 207
Sibling Relationships 207
Single Parents 207
Affairs 207
Choosing a Life Partner 208
Commitment 208
Communication 208
Conflict and Negotiation 208
Divorce 209
Nontraditional Relationships
Renewed Intimacy 209
Romantic Love 209
Sex/Sexuality 209
Spousal Abuse 210
Widowhood 210
Symptoms of Mental
Illness and Addiction
Addiction: Alcohol 210
186 Film Index
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Addiction: Alcohol, Women
Addiction: Drugs 211
Addiction: Drugs, Women 212
Addiction: Gambling 212
Addiction: Multiple
Substances 212
Alzheimers Disease 213
Amnesia 213
Autism 213
Bipolar Disorder 213
Borderline Traits/Borderline
Personality Disorder 213
Conduct Disorders 213
Disorder 213
Dependent Traits/Dependent
Personality Disorder 213
Depression 213
Dissociative Disorders 214
Eating Disorders 214
Gender Identity Disorder 214
Histrionic Traits/Histrionic
Personality Disorder 214
Hypochondriasis 214
Kleptomania 214
Mania 214
Mental Institutions 214
Mental Retardation 214
Narcissistic Traits/Narcissistic
Personality Disorder 215
Narcolepsy 215
Compulsive Disorder 215
Personality Disorder 215
Pedophilia 215
Phobias 215
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Personality Disorder 216
Psychotic Disorders 216
Rehabilitation 217
Schizophrenia 217
Sexual Addictions 217
Suicide 217
Physical Illness/Medical
General 217
AIDS 218
Blindness 218
Cancer 218
Deafness 218
Disabilities 218
Disfigurement 218
Dwarfism 218
Limb & Spinal 218
Polio & Post-Polio 218
Severe Illness 218
Traumatic Brain Injury 218
Film Index 187
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 187
Overcoming Challenges
About a Boy (2002)
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Apollo 13 (1995)
The Bodyguard (1992)
Bounce (2000)
Cast Away (2000)
Chocolat (2000)
Cider House Rules (1999)
Courage Under Fire (1996)
Crimes of the Heart (1986)
Dances with Wolves (1990)
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
The Emperors Club (2002)
The English Patient (1996)
Footloose (1984)
Frida (2002) 120
Hearts of the West (1975)
The Joy Luck Club (1993)
The Lion King (1994)
Moscow on the Hudson
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Groundhog Day (1993) 122
The Fugitive (1993)
The Horse Whisperer (1998)
Pelican Brief (1993)
The Pianist (2003)
The Piano (1993)
Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)
Rocky (1976)
Rudy (1993)
The Shawshank Redemption
(1994) 78
Schindlers List (1993)
Shine (1996) 80
The Shipping News (2001)
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Stand and Deliver (1988)
The Sting (1973)
This Boys Life (1993)
Twister (1990)
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
Following the Call
Billy Elliot (2000) 110
Chariots of Fire (1981)
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Erin Brockovich (2000) 85
Fame (1980)
The Fisher King (1991)
Flashdance (1983)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
The Legend of Bagger Vance
October Sky (1999)
Pay it Forward (2000)
Ruby in Paradise (1993)
Shine (1996) 80
Whale Rider (2003) 121
Gaining Hope and
Bagdad Cafe (Out of
Rosenheim) (1988) 122
Beaches (1988)
The Big Chill (1983)
Born on the Fourth of July
Boys on the Side (1995)
Casablanca (1942)
Cemetery Club (1993)
Chances Are (1989)
Chariots of Fire (1981)
Cider House Rules (1999)
Claras Heart (1988)
Close Encounters of the Third
Kind (1977)
The Color Purple (1985)
Corrina, Corrina (1994)
Dances with Wolves (1990)
Do the Right Thing (1980)
Elephant Man (1980)
The Emerald Forrest (1985)
Enchanted April (1992)
Forever Young (1992)
The Four Seasons (1981)
Gandhi (1982)
Ghost (1990)
Gone with the Wind (1939)
The Great Santini (1979)
Groundhog Day (1993) 122
Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Joy Luck Club (1993)
188 Film Index
Part 2: The Film Lists
Films that have a corresponding Movie Preview or Movie Analysis in previous chapters are indicated by the
page number of the article.
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 188
Heart Like a Wheel (1983)
A Home of Our Own (1993)
The Lion King (1994)
Little Big Man (1970)
Local Hero (1983)
Lorenzos Oil (1992)
Marvins Room (1996)
Moonstruck (1987)
Mr. Mom (1983)
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Music Box (1989)
My Family (Mi Familia)
My Life (1993)
Nell (1994)
Norma Rae (1979) 123
Nothing in Common (1986)
On Golden Pond (1981) 123
One Trick Pony (1980)
Queen of Hearts (1989)
Resurrection (1980)
Ruthless People (1986)
The Searchers (1956)
Seabiscuit (2003) 109
The Secret of Roan Inish
Serving in Silence (1995)
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Stand By Me (1986)
Starting Over (1979)
Stealing Beauty (1996)
Steel Magnolias (1989)
A Thousand Acres (1997)
To Gillian on Her 37th
Birthday (1996)
A Town Like Alice (1981) 122
Trading Places (1983)
Three of Hearts (1993)
Truly, Madly, Deeply (1991)
Twins (1988)
Two for the Road (1967)
Ulees Gold (1997)
Unstrung Heroes (1995)
Untamed Heart (1993)
The Waterdance (1992)
The Way We Were (1973)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Zorba the Greek (1964)
Laughter Works as Medicine:
Annie Hall (1974)
Analyze This (1999)
Analyze That (2002)
The Associate (1996)
Babe (1995)
Best in Show (2000)
The Birdcage (1996)
The Brothers McMullen
Denise Calls up (1995)
The First Wives Club (1996)
A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Fried Green Tomatoes (1997)
The Full Monty (1997)
The Gods Must Be Crazy
Good Morning Vietnam
Home for the Holidays (1995)
Meet the Parents (2000)
Monty Python and the Holy
Grail (1975)
Mother (1996)
My Cousin Vinny (1992)
Patch Adams (1998)
One Flew Over the Cuckoos
Nest (1975)
Sister Act (1992)
Strictly Ballroom (1992)
Theres Something about
Mary (1998)
The Truth about Cats and
Dogs (1996)
Waking Ned Devine (1998)
What about Bob (1991)
Personal Courage
Babe (1995)
Braveheart (1995)
Chariots of Fire (1981)
Courage Under Fire (1996)
The English Patient (1996)
Door to Door (2002)
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Endurance (1999)
Field of Dreams (1989)
Forrest Gump (1984)
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
Gandhi (1982)
Gattaca (1997) 87
Gone With the Wind (1939)
Gorillas in the Mist (1988)
The Insider (1999)
Jonathan Livingston Seagull
(1973) 77
Julia (1977)
The Contender (2000)
The Diary of Anne Frank
The Gladiator (2000)
Life Is Beautiful (1989) 122
Little Big Man (1970)
Mask (1985)
Norma Rae (1979) 123
Out of Rosenheim (Baghdad
Caf) (1988) 122
Open Range (2003)
Ruby in Paradise (1993) 95
Film Index 189
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 189
Saving Private Ryan (emo-
tional challenging, 1998)
Serving in Silence (1995)
The Shawshank Redemption
(1994) 78
Silkwood (1983)
Thirteen Conversations About
One Thing (2001)
A Town Like Alice (1981) 122
The Untouchables (1987)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Role Models
Apollo 13 (1995)
Dead Poets Society (1989)
The Emperors Club (2002)
Erin Brockovich (2000) 85
Field of Dreams (1989)
Finding Forrester (2000)
Gandhi (1982)
Music of the Heart (1999)
Pay it Forward (2000)
Places in the Heart (1984) 82
Ruby in Paradise (1993) 95
Rudy (1993)
Searching for Meaning
About a Boy (2002)
American Beauty (1999)
The Apostle (1997)
Being There (1979)
Cider House Rules (1999) 81
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Field of Dreams (1989)
Grand Canyon (1991) 131
Groundhog Day (1993) 122
Its a Wonderful Life (1946)
Jonathan Livingston Seagull
(1973) 77
My Dinner with Andre (1981)
Short Cuts (1993)
Thirteen Conversations About
One Thing (2002)
The Truman Show (1998) 62
City of Angels (1998)
The Third Miracle (2000)
Malcom X (1992) 108
Powder (1995)
Resurrection (1991)
Wings of Desire (1988)
Support Groups
Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)
The Big Chill (1983)
Circle of Friends (1995)
City Slickers (1991)
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
Peters Friends (1992)
Star Wars (1977)
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Transformation and Renewal
The Full Monty (1997)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Groundhog Day (1993) 122
Lantana (2001)
Lost in Translation (2003)
Pieces of April (2003)
Schindlers List (1993)
Something Gotta Give (2003)
The Station Agent (2003)
Uplifting/Feel Good
Amelie (in French, 2001)
Cacoon (1985)
Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Erin Brockovich (2000) 85
Forest Gump (1994)
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Ghost (1990)
Good Morning Vietnam
Hope and Glory (1987)
Its a Wonderful Life (1946)
King of Hearts (1966)
Mr Deeds (2002)
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Mulan (1998)
My Fair Lady (1964)
Scrooge (1988)
Singin in the Rain (1952)
Sister Act (1992)
Theres Something About
Mary (1998)
The Waterboy (1998)
Zoolander (2001)
Personal Questions
The Accused (1988)
An Affair to Remember (1957)
Baby Boom (1987)
Beaches (1988)
Big (1988)
Boy With Green Hair (1948)
190 Film Index
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Rape of Richard Beck (1985,
Call Me Anna (1990, TV)
Closer (2004)
The Color Purple (1985)
Cries From the Heart (1994,
Darkness Before Dawn (1993,
Davids Mother (1994, TV)
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Doctor (1963)
Drop Dead Fred (1991)
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Eating (1990)
Falling Down (1993)
Family of Strangers (1993,
Field of Dreams (1989)
Fisher King (1991)
Forrest Gump (1994)
Four Seasons (1981)
Gathering (1977, TV)
Grand Canyon (1991) 131
Hot Spell (1958)
I Know My First Name Is
Steven (1989)
I Never Sang for My Father
Il Postino (The Postman)
(1994) 48
In the Best Interest of the
Child (1990, TV)
Its a Wonderful Life (1946)
Jasons Lyric (1994)
Jungle Fever (1991)
Karen Carpenter Story (1989,
Kramer v. Kramer (1979) 122
Life of the Party (1998, TV)
The Story of Beatrice (1969)
Long Way Home (1997)
Looking for Mister Goodbar
Memories of Me (1988)
Mr. Jones (1993)
My Breast (1994, TV)
Nuts (1987)
Ordinary People (1980) 122
Our Very Own (1950)
Philadelphia (1993)
Postcards From the Edge
Pretty in Pink (1986)
Prince of Tides (1991)
Radio Flyer (1992)
Rain Man (1988)
Regarding Henry (1991)
Ryan White Story (1989, TV)
She Said No (1990, TV)
Shirley Valentine (1989)
Six Weeks (1982)
Sophies Choice (1982)
Stanley and Iris (1990)
Sybil (1976, TV)
Tales of Manhattan (1942)
This Boys Life (1993)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Under the Influence (2002)
War of the Roses (1989)
Whore (1991)
Wildflower (1991, TV)
Wizard of 0z (1939)
Women of Brewster Place
(1989, TV)
Women on the Verge of a
Nervous Breakdown (1988)
Working Girl (1988)
Abuse: Children
Bastard Out of Carolina
Best Little Girl in the World
(1981, TV)
Dolores Claiborne (1995)
Jane Eyre (1983)
Matilda (1996)
Mommy Dearest (1981)
Not My Kid (1985, TV)
The Prince of Tides (1991)
Radio Flyer (1992)
Ryan White Story (1995)
Sling Blade (1996)
Stand By Me (1986)
Sybil (1976, TV)
This Boys Life (1993)
A Thousand Acres (1997)
Abuse: Emotional and
Accused (1988)
All That Jazz Boost (1979)
Burning Bed (1984)
Call Me Anna (1990)
Christmas Carol (1978, TV)
Closet Land (1991)
Color Purple (1985)
Cry for Help The Tracey
Thurman Story (1989)
Damage (1974)
Days of Wine and Roses
Do you Know the Muffin
Man? (1989)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Enchantment 1948)
Extremities (1986)
Falling Down (1993)
Film Index 191
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Family of Strangers (1993,
Fear Inside (1992, TV)
Frances (1982, TV)
Great Santini (1979)
Hellraiser (1987)
Hot Spell (1958)
I Know My First Name Is
Steven (1989, TV)
Jasons Lyric (1994)
Jo Jo Dancer Your Life Is
Calling (1986)
Jungle Fever (1991)
Karen Carpenter Story (1989,
Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
Less Than Zero (1987)
Looking for Mister Goodbar
Men Dont Tell (1993, TV)
Mission (1986)
Morning After (1986)
Mr. Jones (1993)
Naked Lunch (1991)
9 1/2 Weeks (1986)
Nuts (1987)
On Golden Pond (1981) 123
One Flew Over the Cuckoos
Nest (1975)
Play Misty for Me (1971)
Rape and Marriage The
Rideout Case (1980, TV)
Rape of Richard Beck (1985,
She Said No (1990, TV)
Sid and Nancy (1986)
Silence of the Lambs (1981)
Sleeping With the Enemy
Something About Amelia
(1984, TV)
Sophies Choice (1982)
Summer of 42 (1971)
Taking Back My Lift The
Nancy Ziegenmeyer Story
(1991, TV)
Tales of Manhattan (1942)
Thelma and Louise (1991)
Ultimate Betrayal (1994, TV)
Under the Influence (2002)
Unspeakable Acts (1990, TV)
Victims for Victims: The
Theresa Saldana Story
(1984, TV)
Wall Street (1997)
War of the Roses (1989)
Whats Eating Gilbert Grape
Whore (1991)
Wildflower (1991, TV)
After Life
After Life (in Japanese, 2000)
Defending Your Life (1997)
Field of Dreams (1989)
Frequency (2000)
Ghost (1990)
Heaven Can Wait (1976)
Jacobs Ladder (1990)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
What Dreams May Come
About Schmidt (2002) 108
Cocoon (1985)
Dad (1989)
A Delicate Balance (1973)
Driving Miss Daisy (1992)
Folks (1989)
Grumpy Old Men (1993)
Ikiru (1952)
Lancaster in Boardwalk
The Last Angry Man (1959)
Madam Rosa (1977)
Mr. Hollands Opus (1995)
The Pawnbroker (1964)
On Golden Pond (1981) 123
Space Cowboys (2000)
Strangers in Good Company
A Thousand Acres (1997)
Tokyo Story (1953)
The Trip to Bountiful (1985)
Wild Strawberries (1957)
Wrestling Ernest Hemingway
Anger and Forgiveness
Bounce (2000)
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
Changing Lanes (2002) 38
In Country (1989)
High Tide (1988)
Life is Sweet (1991)
Loan Star (1996)
Ordinary People (1980) 122
Secrets and Lies (1995)
The Sweet Here After (1998)
Running on Empty (1988)
The Straight Story (1999)
A Walk On The Moon (1999)
Bereavement/Loss and Grief
Brians Song (1971, TV)
City of Angels (1998)
Corrina, Corrina (1994)
Dr. Zhivago (1965)
Gallipoli (1981)
Glory (1989)
192 Film Index
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Love Story (1970)
Message in a Bottle (1999)
Ordinary People (1980) 122
Ponette (1996)
A River Runs Through It
The Secret of Roan Inish
Shadowlands (1993)
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Steel Magnolias (1989)
The Sweet Hereafter (1997)
Terms of Endearment (1983)
Titanic (1997)
Truly, Madly, Deeply (1991)
What Dreams May Come
Choosing a Life Partner
Forget Paris (1995)
Me, Myself and I (1992)
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Accidental Tourist (1988)
All That Jazz (1979)
Barfly (1987)
Benny and Joon (1993)
The Boost (1988)
Bright Lights, Big City (1988)
Burning Bed (1984, TV)
Call Me Anna (1990, TV)
Carnal Knowledge (1971)
Clean and Sober (1988)
Closer (2000)
Cry for Help: The Tracey
Thurman Story (1989, TV)
Damage (1974)
Darkness Before Dawn (1993,
Days of Wine and Roses
Drop Dead Fred (1991)
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Eating (1990)
Family of Strangers (1993,
Fatal Attraction (1987)
Fisher King (1991)
For the Love of Nancy (1994)
Four Seasons (1981)
Frances (1982)
Gambler (1971)
Gathering (1998)
Grand Canyon (1991) 131
Great Santini (1979)
Great Sinner (1949)
Harvey (1950)
Hellraiser (1987)
Hot Spell (1958)
Jasons Lyric (1994)
Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is
Calling (1986)
Jungle Fever (1991)
Kates Secret (1986)
Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
Less Than Zero (1987)
Made in Heaven (1987)
Man With the Golden Arm
Men Dont Tell (1993)
Mens Club (1986)
Naked Lunch (1991)
Night, Mother (1996)
9 1/2 Weeks (1986)
Not My Kid (1985, TV)
Nuts (1987)
On Golden Pond (1981) 123
Ordinary People (1980) 122
Our Very Own
Parenthood (1990)
Play Misty for Me (1971)
Pretty in Pink (1986)
Prince of Tides (1991)
Rapture (1965)
Sarah T: Portrait of a Teenage
Alcoholic (1975, TV)
Sid and Nancy
Something About Amelia
(1984, TV)
St. Elmos Fire (1985)
Stanley and Iris (1990)
Stella (1990)
Thats Life (1998)
Toughlove (1985)
Ultimate Betrayal (1994, TV)
Under the Influence (2002)
War of the Roses (1989)
What About Bob? (1991)
Whats Eating Gilbert Grape
When a Man Loves a Woman
Wildflower (1999)
Wizard of Oz (1939)
Women of Brewster Place
(1989, TV)
Working Girl (1988)
Crying for emotional
An Affair to Remember (1957)
Bridges of Madison County
The Color Purple (1985)
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
The English Patient (1996)
Gorillas in the Mist (1988)
Joy Luck Club (1993)
The Last of His Tribe (1992,
Film Index 193
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Little Women (1994)
Lorenzos Oil (1992)
Love Story (1970)
Marvins Room (1996)
Ordinary People (1980) 122
Philadelphia (1980)
The Secret of Roan Inish
Roots (1977)
Shadowlands (1993)
Snow Falling on Cedars
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Terms of Endearment(1983)
Welcome to the Dollhouse
West Side Story (1961)
Death and Dying
Accidental Tourist (1988)
Adam (1991)
Alien (1979)
All That Jazz (1979)
Beaches (1988)
Big Chill (1983)
Blue Butterfly (2002)
Chantilly Lace (1993)
Closer (2000)
Color Purple (1980)
Crimes of the Heart (1986)
Dad (1989)
Damage (1974)
Dantes Inferno (1935)
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Death Becomes Her (1992)
Defending Your Life (1991)
Doctor (1963)
Dollmaker (1984)
Duet for One (1986)
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Dying Young (1991)
Family of Strangers (1993,
Field of Dreams (1989)
Flat Liners (1990)
Forrest Gump (1994)
Ghost (1990)
The Green Mile (1999)
Hot Spell (1958)
I Never Sang for My Father
Its a Wonderful Life (1946)
Jasons Lyric (1994)
Joy Luck Club (1993)
Jungle Fever (1991)
Karen Carpenter Story (1987)
Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
Long Way Home (1997)
Love Story (1972)
MADD: Mothers Against
Drunk Driving (1983, TV)
Made in Heaven (1987)
Magnolia (2000)
Marvins Room (1996)
The Mission (1986)
Monsters Ball (2002)
Moonlight Mile (2002)
My Life Without Me (2003)
Night, Mother (1986)
Nothing in Common (1986)
One True Thing (1998)
Ordinary People (1980) 122
Philadelphia (1993)
Rain Man (1988)
Rocket Gibraltar (1988)
Ryan White Story (1995)
Shadowlands (1993)
Sid and Nancy (1986)
Six Weeks (1982)
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Sophies Choice (1982)
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Summer of 42 (1971)
Tales of Manhattan (1942)
Terms of Endearment (1983)
Thats Life (1986)
Three Faces of Eve (1957)
Titanic (1997)
Torch Song Trilogy (1988)
Trip to Bountiful (1985)
Tuesdays with Morrie (1999)
War of the Roses (1989)
Womans Tale (1991)
Women of Brewster Place
(1989, TV)
Y Tu Mama Tambien (2002)
About Last Night (1986)
Accidental Tourist (1988)
Alien (1979)
All That Jazz (1979)
Bright Lights, Big City (1988)
Broadcast News (1987)
Call Me Anna (1990, TV)
Carnal Knowledge (1971)
Clean and Sober (1988)
Closet Land (2000)
Color Purple (1985)
Come Fill the Cup (1951)
Cries From the Heart (1994,
Cry for Help: The Tracey
Thurman Story (1989, TV)
Damage (1974)
Darkness Before Dawn (1993
Days of Wine and Roses
194 Film Index
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 194
Defending Your Life (1991)
Do You Know the Muffin
Man? (1989, TV)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Drop Dead Fred (1991)
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Dying Young (1991)
Eating (1990)
Face to Face (2001)
Falling Down (1993)
Fatal Attraction (1987)
Fisher King (1991)
Flatliners (1990)
For the Love of Nancy (1994,
Four Seasons (1981)
Frances (1982)
Gambler (1971)
Gathering (1998)
Grand Canyon (1991) 131
Great Santini (1979)
Great Sinner (1949)
Guess Whos Coming to
Dinner (1967)
Harvey (1950)
Hellraiser (1987)
Hot Spell (1958)
I Know My First Name Is
Steven (1989, TV)
I Never Sang for My Father
Immediate Family (1989)
Jasons Lyric (1994)
Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is
Calling (1986)
Jungle Fever (1991)
Karen Carpenter Story (1987)
Kates Secret (1986)
Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
Less Than Zero (1987)
M.A.D.D.: Mothers Against
Drunk Driving (1983)
Made in Heaven (1987)
Man With the Golden Arm
Memories of Me (1988)
Men Dont Tell (1993)
Mens Club (1986)
Mission (1986)
Mommie Dearest (1981)
Mr. Jones (1983)
My Breast (1994, TV)
My Name Is Bill W. (1989,
Naked Lunch (1991)
Night, Mother (1996)
9 1/2 Weeks (1986)
Not My Kid (1985, TV)
Nuts (1987)
On Golden Pond (1981) 123
One Flew Over the Cuckoos
Nest (1975)
Ordinary People (1980) 122
Parenthood (1990)
Picture of Dorian Gray
Play Misty for Me (1971)
Postcards From the Edge
Pretty in Pink (1986)
Prince of Tides (1991)
Rain Man (1988)
Rape and Marriage: The
Rideout Case (1980, TV)
Rapture (1965)
Rashomon (in Japanese,
Sarah T: Portrait of a Teenage
Alcoholic (1975, TV)
Shirley Valentine (1989)
Something About Amelia
(1984, TV)
Sophies Choice (1982)
St. Elmos Fire (1985)
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Stella (1990)
Stranger in the Family (2002)
Tales of Manhattan (1942)
Terms of Endearment (1983)
Thats Life (1998)
This Boys Life (1993)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Toughlove (1985)
Ultimate Betrayal (1994, TV)
Under the Influence (2002)
Wall Street (1987)
War of the Roses (1989)
What About Bob? (1991)
Whats Eating Gilbert Grape
When a Man Loves a Woman
Whore (1991)
Wildflower (1999)
Wizard of Oz (1939)
Woman Under the Influence
Women of Brewster Place
(1989, TV)
Developing Inner Resources
Castaway (2000)
Empire of the Sun (1987)
First Wives Club (1996)
Norma Rae (1979) 203
Places in the Heart (1984) 82
Rain Man (1988)
Silkwood (1983)
Eating (1990)
Film Index 195
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 195
For the Love of Nancy (1994,
Hot Spell (1958)
Karen Carpenter Story (1987)
Kates Secret (1986)
Ultimate Betrayal (1994, TV)
Whats Eating Gilbert Grape
About Last Night (1986)
Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)
Barfly (1987)
Beaches (1988)
Big (1988)
Big Chill (1983)
Boy With Green Hair (1948)
Boys in the Band (1970)
Breakfast Club (1985)
Bright Lights, Big City (1988)
Chantilly Lace (1993, TV)
Christmas Carol (1978, TV)
Circle of Friends (1995)
City Slickers (1991)
Clean and Sober (1988)
Color Purple (1985)
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Doctor (1940)
Drop Dead Fred (1991)
Duet for One (1986)
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Eating (1990)
Face to Face (1976)
Family of Strangers (1993,
Ferris Buellers Day Off
Field of Dreams (1989)
Fisher King (1991)
Forrest Gump (1994)
Four Seasons (1981)
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
Friends (1994)
Good Mother (1988)
Grand Canyon (1991) 131
Great Sinner (1949)
He Said, She Said (1991)
Grumpy Old Men (1993)
Its a Wonderful Life (1946)
Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is
Calling (1986)
Less Than Zero (1987)
Julia (1968)
Life of the Party (1998, TV)
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Mr Destiny (1990)
My Name Is Bill W (1989)
One Flew Over the Cuckoos
Nest (1975)
Our Very Own (1950)
Paris Is Burning (1990)
Philadelphia (1993)
Peters Friends (1992)
Pretty in Pink (1986)
Prince of Tides (1991)
Regarding Henry (1991)
Romy and Micheles High
School Reunion (1997)
Ryan White Story (1995)
She Said No (1990, TV)
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Sophies Choice (1982)
St. Elmos Fire (1985)
Strangers in Good Company
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Stella (1990)
The Story of Beatrice (1982)
Summer of 42 (1971)
Tales of Manhattan (1942)
Thelma and Louise (1991)
Three Faces of Eve (1957)
Torch Song Trilogy (1988)
Waiting to Exhale (1995)
Way We Were (1973)
Wildflower (1991, TV)
Wizard of Oz (1939)
Womans Tale (1991)
Women of Brewster Place
(1989, TV)
Women on the Verge of a
Nervous Breakdown (1988)
Working Girl (1988)
Male Homosexuality
Adventures Of Priscilla,
Queen Of The Desert
Boogie Nights (1997)
The Boys In The Band (1970)
Compulsion (1959)
Crying Game (1992)
Cruising (1980)
The Detective (1968)
Hollow Reed (1996)
Jeffrey (1995)
Kiss Of The Spider Woman
La Cage Aux Folles / The
Birdcage (1996)
Last Exit To Brooklyn (1989)
Lianna (1983)
Longtime Companion (1990)
The L-Shaped Rom (1963)
The Lost Language Of Cranes
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
My Own Private Idaho (1991)
196 Film Index
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Outrageous (1977)
Philadelphia (1993)
Priest (1994)
Prick Up Your Ears (1987)
Rebel Without A Cause (1955)
Reflections In A Golden Eye
The Sergeant (1968)
The Strange One (1957)
Three Of Hearts (1993)
Tea & Sympathy (1956)
Torch Song Trilogy (1988)
To Wong Foo, Thanks For
Everything, Julie Newmar
Wilde (1997)
Female Homosexuality
Bound (1996)
Boys On The Side (1995)
Chasing Amy (1997)
The Childrens Hour (1961)
Claire Of The Moon (1994)
Desert Hearts (1985)
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
Go Fish (2001)
The Incredible True Adventure
Of Two Girls In Love
Personal Best (1982)
Every Man For Himself And
God Against All (1974)
Nell (1994)
The Wild Child (1969)
Legal Issues
Anatomy Of A Murder (1959)
Criminal Law (1988)
Dead Man Out (1989, TV)
A Fine Madness (1966)
Natural Born Killers (1994)
Nuts (1987)
Rampage (1988)
A Time To Kill (1954)
Life Stage Transition
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Breaking Away (1979)
Girl Interrupted (1999)
The Graduate (1967)
Shirley Valentine (1989)
The Shootist (1976)
The Unforgiven (1960)
Mens Issues
Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)
Beautiful Girls (1996)
The Big Chill (1983)
City Slickers (1991)
Da (1988)
I Never Sang for My Father
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Nothing in Common (1987)
Tootsie (1982)
Vertigo (1958)
Personal Goals and Values
Boys Dont Cry (1999)
Field of Dreams (1989)
Jonathan Livingston Seagull
(1973) 77
Patch Adams (1998)
Philosophical Questions:
Altered States (1980)
Back to the Future (1985)
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Big (1988)
Big Fish (2003)
The Butterfly Effect (2004)
Contact (1997)
The Family Man (1988)
Groundhog Day (1993) 122
The Kid (2000)
The Matrix (1999) 63
Meet Joe Black (1998)
Minority Report (2002)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Open Your Eyes (in Spanish,
Pleasantville (1998)
Run Lola Run (in German,
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Sliding Doors (1998) 51
Solaris (1972 and 2002)
Somewhere in Time (1980)
The Thirteenth Floor (1999)
The Truman Show (1998) 62
Total Recall (1990)
Vanilla Sky (2001)
Waking Life (2002)
Philosophical Questions:
Reality As Illusion
Brazil (1985)
Dark City (1998)
The Matrix (1999) 63
The Truman Show (1998) 62
Vanilla Sky (2001)
Philosophical Questions:
Magic is Real
Field of Dreams (1989)
Magnolia (1999)
Milagro Beanfield War (1988)
Film Index 197
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Self-Esteem: Questioning
Negative Beliefs About
Yourself and Rediscovering
your Strengths:
Billy Elliot (2000) 110
Children of a Lesser God
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Erin Brockovich(2000) 85
Field of Dreams (1989)
The Full Monty (1997)
Gattaca (1997) 87
Forrest Gump (1994)
Its a Wonderful Life (1946)
Little Women (1994)
Mr. Hollands Opus (1995)
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
(2002) 103
My Left Foot (1989) 79
Muriels Wedding (1994) 106
Nell (1994) 77
The Other Sister (1999) 77
The Paper (1994)
Parenthood (1989) 108
Places in the Heart (1984) 82
Rain Man (1988)
Real Women Have Curves
(2002) 111
Shawshank Redemption
(1994) 78
Secrets and Lies(1996)
Shine (1996) 80
Sliding Doors (1998) 51
The Turning Point (1977)
Where the Heart Is (2000)
Single Adults
About Last Night (1986)
Beautiful Girls (1996)
Me, Myself and I (1989)
Reality Bites (1994)
Singles (1992)
Waiting to Exhale (1995) 94
Stress/Type A Personality
Multiplicity (1996)
Augustin (1995)
Bandits (1986)
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
The Cowboys (1972)
Dead Again (1991)
Die Hard with a Vengeance
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Enjo (1958)
A Family Thing (1996)
First-Time Felony (1997)
A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
Flirting (1991)
Girl Shy (1924)
Glory (1989)
Harlem Nights (1989)
He Who Must Die (1957)
Hoodlum (1997)
Johnny Rocco (1958)
Johns (1996)
Life of Brian (1979)
Love! Valour! Compassion!
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Man Who Shot Liberty
Valence (1962)
Meet Wally Sparks (1997)
Mr. Jealousy (1997)
My Cousin Vinny (1992)
New Jack City (1991)
One Flew Over the Cuckoos
Nest (1977)
Oscar (1991)
Paulie (1998)
Primal Fear (1996)
Regeneration (1997)
The Right Stuff (1983)
Romy and Michelles High
School Reunion (1997)
Shaft (1971)
The Shawshank Redemption
(1994) 78
Sixth Sense, The (1999)
Smillas Feeling for Snow
Smokey and the Bandit II
Stalag 17 (1953)
Talk to Me (1982)
A Thin Line between Love and
Hate (1996)
Tin Pan Alley (1940)
The Tumbleweed Trail (1946)
Two Kourney Lemels (1966)
Zerkalo (1974)
Vocation, Career, Success
Baby Boom (1987)
Entrapment (1999)
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
High Fidelity (2000)
Jerry Maquire (1996)
Nine to Five (1980)
Salena (1997)
Swimming with Sharks (1994)
That Thing You Do! (1996)
The Turning Point (1977)
Uncommon Women and
Others (2002)
Working Girl (1988)
198 Film Index
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Womens Issues
Circle of Friends (1995)
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
How to Make an American
Quilt (1995)
A League of Their Own
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Thelma and Louise (1991)
The Turning Point (1977)
Working Girl (1988)
Social Questions
The Big Kahuna (1999)
Blue Collar (1978)
City Hall (1996)
Clockwatchers (1997)
The Coca Cola Kid (1985)
The Efficiency Expert (1992)
Le Mans (1971)
Local Hero (1983)
Network (1976)
The Paper (1994)
Office Space (1999)
Community: The Search for
American Graffiti (1973)
Babe (1995)
A Bugs Life (1998)
Chocolat (2000)
Places in the Heart (1984) 82
The Right Stuff (1983)
Tea with Mussolini (1999)
Diversity: Race/Gender/Sexual
A. I. (2001)
American History X (1998)
Bad Boy Bubby (1993)
The Balcony (1963)
A Beautiful Mind (2002) 110
Bicentennial Man (1999)
Blind Faith (1998)
Carrington (1995)
The Color Purple (1985)
Cry, the Beloved Country
The Defiant Ones (1958)
Eves Bayou (1997)
Guess Whos Coming To
Dinner (1967)
Happiness (1998)
Harvest of Fire (1996)
Heaven And Earth (1990)
The Human Stain (2003)
Joe The King (1999)
L.A. Confidential (emotional
challenging, 1999)
Lakota Woman Siege at
Wounded Knee (1994)
Little Big Man (1970)
Malcom X (1992) 108
Mississippi Masala (1991)
Monsters Ball (2001)
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
(2002) 103
My Family (1995)
Once Were Warriors (1994)
Philadelphia (1993)
Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)
Reflections Of The Golden
Eye (1948)
The Scarlet Letter ( 1979 and
Second Serve (1986)
Secrets And Lies (2003)
The Sheltering Sky (1990)
Smoke Signals (1998)
The Doctor (1991)
Glengarry Glen Ross (1999)
The Godfather ( 1972)
The Green Mile (1999)
Its a Wonderful Life (1942)
Life of David Gale (2003)
Other Peoples Money (1991)
Quiz Show (1994)
Road to Perdition (2002)
Scent of a Woman (1992)
Short Cuts (1993)
Working Girl (1988)
Apollo 13 (1995)
Chicken Run (2000)
The Dirty Dozen (1967)
Hoosiers (1986)
A League of Their Own
Lifeboat (1944)
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The Princess Bride (1987)
Remember the Titans (2000)
Space Cowboys (2000)
Childhood Fears
The Brave Little Toaster
The Lion King (1994)
Film Index 199
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Jonathan Livingston Seagull
(1973) 77
Fantasies and Fears
ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
The Boy Who Couldnt Fly
Matilda (1996)
A Miracle on 34th Street
My Girl (1991)
Friends, Bullies and Social
Ever After (1998)
My Bodyguard (1980)
Gifted Children
Amadeus (1984)
A Bugs Life (1998)
A Bronx Tale (1993)
Ever After (1998)
Fairy Tale: A True Story
Little Women (1994)
Searching for Bobby Fischer
Star Wars (1977)
Toy Story (1995)
Peer Relationships
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Hoop Dreams (1994)
Little Darlings (1980)
My Bodyguard (1980)
Powder (1995)
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Sixteen Candies (1984)
Stand and Deliver (1988)
Thirteen (2003)
Welcome to the Dollhouse
Search for Identity
East of Eden (1955)
Ferris Buellers Day Off
Fun (1994)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
The Graduate (1967)
Life as a House (2001)
The Lion King (1994)
October Sky (1999)
Ordinary People (1980) 122
Peppermint Soda (1977, in
Powder (1995)
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Rudy (1993)
Salaam Bombay (1988, in an
Indian dialect)
Say Anything (1989)
Stand By Me (1986)
Whatever (1998)
White Squall (1996)
Transition to Adulthood
Boyz N the Hood (1991)
Breaking Away (1979)
Dancer, Tx. Pop. 81 (1998)
Dirty Dancing (1987)
Father of the Bride (1991)
The Graduate (1967)
Little Women (1994)
Say Anything (1989)
Accidental Tourist (1988)
Adam (1991)
All That Jazz (1979)
Baby Boom (1987)
Baby M (1988)
Beaches (1988)
Benny and Joon (1993)
Boy With Green Hair (1948)
Broadcast News (1987)
The Burning Bed (1984)
Call Me Anna (1990)
Christmas Carol (1938)
Clean and Sober (1988)
Closer (2000)
The Color Purple (1985)
Cries From the Heart (1994,
Crimes of the Heart (1986)
Dad (1989)
Damage (1974)
Darkness Before Dawn (1993,
Davids Mother (1994, TV)
Days of Wine and Roses
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Do You Know the Muffin
Man? (1989, TV)
Doctor (1963)
Dollmaker (1984, TV)
Drop Dead Fred (1991)
Enchantment (1948)
Falling Down (1993)
Family of Strangers (1992,
Fatal Attraction (1987)
200 Film Index
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 200
For the Love of Nancy (1994)
Forrest Gump (1994)
Frances (1982)
Gathering (1977, TV)
Grand Canyon (1991) 131
Great Santini (1979)
Guess Whos Coming to
Dinner (1967)
Harvey (1950)
Hot Spell (1958)
I Know My First Name Is
Steven (1989, TV)
I Never Sang for My Father
Im Dancing as Fast as I Can
Immediate Family (1989)
In the Best Interest of the
Child (1990)
Its a Wonderful Life (1946)
Jasons Lyric (1994)
Joy Luck Club (1993)
Jungle Fever (1991)
Karen Carpenter Story (1987)
Kates Story (1966, TV)
Long Way Home (1997)
M.A.D.D.: Mothers Against
Drunk Driving (1983, TV)
Made in Heaven (1987)
Memories of Me (1988)
Memory of Us (1974)
Men Dont Tell (1993, TV)
Mens Club (1986)
Mission (1986)
Mommie Dearest (1981)
Mr. Destiny (1990)
My Name Is Bill W (1989)
Night, Mother (1986)
Not My Kid (1985)
Nuts (1987)
On Golden Pond (1981) 123
Our Very Own (1950)
Parenthood (1989) 108
Postcards From the Edge
Pretty in Pink (1986)
Prince of Tides (1991)
Rape and Marriage: The
Rideout Case (1980, TV)
Regarding Henry (1991)
Rocket Gibraltar (1988)
Ryan White Story (1989, TV)
Sarah T Portrait of a
Teenage Alcoholic (1975,
Sid and Nancy (1986)
Six Weeks (1982)
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Something About Amelia
The Son of the Bride (2001, in
Sophies Choice (1982)
St. Elmos Fire (1985)
Stanley and Iris (1990)
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Stella (1990)
Stranger in the Family (1991,
Sybil (1976, TV)
Taking Back My Life: The
Nancy Ziegenmeyer Story
(1992, TV)
Tales of Manhattan (1942)
Thats Life (1986)
This Boys Life (1993)
Tough Love (1985, TV)
Trip to Bountiful (1985)
Unspeakable Acts (1990, TV)
Ultimate Betrayal (1994, TV)
Under the Influence (2002)
What About Bob? (1991)
Whatever Happened to Baby
Jane? (1962)
When a Man Loves a Woman
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
When You Remember Me
(1990, TV)
Wildflower (1991, TV)
Wizard of Oz (1939)
Woman Under the Influence
A Womans Tale (1991)
Women of Brewster Place
(1989, TV)
Women on the Verge of a
Nervous Breakdown (1988)
Adoption/Custody after
Baby Boom (1987)
Color Purple (1985)
Family of Strangers (1993,
The Good Mother (1988)
Immediate Family (1989)
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Life as a House (2001)
Long Way Home (1981)
Losing Isaiah (1994)
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Our Very Own (1950)
The Parent Trap (1961 &
Secrets and Lies (1996)
Blended Families/
Fly Away Home (1996)
Stepmom (1998)
Unstrung Heroes (1995)
Film Index 201
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 201
Family Conflict
American Beauty (1999)
Author! Author! (1982)
Beautiful Girls
Before and After (1996)
Big Fish (2003)
Bye, Bye Love (1994)
The Brothers McMullen
Dancer, Tx Pop. 81 (1998)
Dancing at Lughnasa (1998)
Eating (1990)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Hannah and Her Sisters
Home for the Holidays (1995)
The House of Spirits (1994)
The In-Laws (1979 & 2003)
The Joy Luck Club
Laurel Canyon (2002)
Like Water for Chocolate
Little Voice (1998)
Long Days Journey into
Night (1962, 1998, &
Marvins Room (1996)
Matilda (1996)
The Myth of Fingerprints
On Golden Pond (1981) 123
Ordinary People (1980) 122
Pieces of April (2003)
The Quiet Room (1996)
Stuart Saves His Family
Terms of Endearment (1983)
A Thousand Acres (1997)
Angels & Insects (1995)
Chinatown (1974)
Close My Eyes (1991)
Damage (1992)
Eves Bayou (1997)
House Of Yes (1997)
La Luna (1979, in Italian /
Murmur Of The Heart (1971)
My Favorite Season (1973, in
Something About Amelia
(1984, TV)
Spanking The Monkey (1994)
This World, Then The
Fireworks (1997)
Thousand Acres (1997)
Tommy (1975)
Letting Go
Breaking Away (1979)
Catch Me If You Can (2003)
Dancer, Tx. - Pop. 81 (1998)
Father of the Bride (1991)
Little Women (1994)
A River Runs Through It
Pupil Relationships:
A Bronx Tale (1993)
Almost Famous (2000)
The Ledgend of Bagger Vance
E.T. (1982)
Finding Forrester (2000)
Freaky Friday (2003)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
The Great Santini (1980)
Karate Kid (1984)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Kolya (in Czech and Russian,
1996) 93
League of Their Own (1992)
Life as a House (2001)
Life Is Beautiful (1998) 122
The Man Without A Face
Mask (1985)
Ma Vie en Rose (in French,
The Miracle Worker (2000)
October Sky (1999)
Ordinary People (1980) 122
The Other Sister (1998) 77
Paper Moon (1976)
Parenthood (1989) 108
Searching for Bobby Fisher
Sibling Relationships
Hannah and Her Sisters
Marvins Room (1996)
The Myth of Fingerprints
Ordinary People (1980) 122
The Parent Trap (1961 &
Rain Man (1988)
Soul Food (1997)
A Thousand Acres (1997)
Whats Eating Gilbert Grape?
Single Parents
The Accidental Tourist (1988)
As Good as It Gets (1997)
Erin Brockovich (2000) 85
Kolya (1996)
202 Film Index
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 202
Matchstick Man (2003)
Places in the Heart (1984) 82
Tender Mercies (1983)
Thirteen (2003)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Ulees Gold (1997)
About Adam (2000)
Afterglow (1997)
The Age of Innocence (1993)
Alice (1990)
The Bridges of Madison
County (1995)
The Brothers McMullen
Eating (1990)
Eves Bayou (1997)
Falling in Love (1984)
French Lieutenants Woman
Hannah and Her Sisters
Heartburn (1986)
Icestorm (1997)
Scenes from a Marriage
Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979)
Still of the Night (1982)
Something to Talk About
Two Family House (2000)
Unfaithful (2002)
Two Family House (2000)
Unfaithful (2002)
Terms of Endearment (1983)
A Walk on the Moon (1999)
Choosing a Life Partner
Forget Paris (1995)
Me, Myself and I (2000)
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
About Adam (2000)
About Last Night (1986)
The Age of Innocence (1993)
Beautiful Girls (1996)
The Brothers McMullen
Committed (1999)
Field of Dreams (1989)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Great Expectations (1998)
Groundhog Day (1993) 122
High Fidelity (2000)
Lost in Translation (2003)
The Horse Whisperer (1997)
Husbands and Wives (1992)
Nine Months (1995)
An Officer and a Gentleman
Out of Africa (1985)
Shallow Hal (2001)
The Story of Us (1999)
An Affair of Love (1999)
About Last Night (1986)
The Accidental Tourist (1988)
Bliss (1997)
Bridges of Madison County
Bridget Jones Diary (2001)
The Brothers McMullen
Committed (2000)
The Doctor (1991)
Erin Brockovich (2000) 85
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
The Family Man (2000)
The Four Seasons (1981)
Grand Canyon (1991) 131
Husbands and Wives (1992)
He Said, She Said (1991)
The Horse Whisperer (1998)
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Lantana (2001)
Moonstruck (1987)
Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990)
Mystery Alaska (1999)
Nine Months (1995)
The Opposite of Sex (1998)
Out of Africa (1985)
The Piano (1993)
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Scenes from a Marriage
Shirley Valentine (1989)
The Story of Us (1999)
Tender Mercies (1983)
Two Family House (2000)
Unbreakable (2000)
Waiting to Exhale (1995)
A Walk on the Moon (1999)
Whats Eating Gilbert Grape
When a Man Loves a Woman
When Harry met Sally (1989)
You Can Count on Me (2000)
The Accidental Tourist (1988)
Breaking Up (1997)
Groundhog Day (1993) 122
Film Index 203
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 203
He Said, She Said (1991)
Ordinary People (1980) 122
The Story of Us (1999)
The War of the Roses (1989)
Whats Love Got To Do With
It? (1993)
Whos Afraid of Virginia
Woolf? (1966)
The Accidental Tourist (1988)
Author! Author! (1982)
Bye Bye Love (1984)
Carnal Knowledge (1971)
Damage (1992)
Falling Down (1993)
First Wives Club (1996)
Good Mother (1988)
Husbands and Wives (1992)
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Mrs Doubtfire (1993)
Pay It Forward (2000)
Prince of Tides (1991)
Scenes from a Marriage
Shirley Valentine (1989)
Starting Over (1979)
Tales of Manhattan (1942)
An Unmarried Woman (1978)
The War of the Roses (1989)
Way We Were (1973)
Nontraditional Relationships
Bound (1996)
Far From Heaven (2002)
Harold and Maude (1971)
The Hours (2002)
Love! Valor! Compassion!
Monsters Ball (2002)
Philadelphia (1993)
Renewed Intimacy
The Accidental Tourist (1988)
Enchanted April (1992)
The Four Seasons (1981)
Pleasantville (1998)
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
The Story of Us (1999)
Tender Mercies (1983)
Romantic Love
About Last Night (1986)
An Affair to Remember (1957)
An Officer and a Gentleman
Beauty and the Beast (1983 &
Benny and Joon (1993)
Big Chill (1983)
Breakfast Club (1985)
Broadcast News (1987)
Carnal Knowledge (1971)
Chantilly Lace (1993)
Closer (1991)
Damage (1992)
Defending Your Life (1991)
Made in Heaven (1987)
Memory of Us (1974)
Monsoon Wedding (2002)
Moonstruck (1987)
Mr. Destiny (1990)
Mr. Jones (1993)
9 1/2 Weeks (1986)
Pretty in Pink (1986)
Pretty Woman (1990)
Prince of Tides (1991)
Room with a View (1986)
Same Time Next Year (1976)
Sarah, Plain And Tall (1991)
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Sid and Nancy (1986)
Six Weeks (1982)
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
About Last Night (1986)
Big Chill (1983)
Boys in the Band (1970)
Carnal Knowledge (1971)
Chantilly Lace (1993)
Damage (1992)
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Fatal Attraction (1980)
Four Seasons (1981)
Guess Whos Coming to
Dinner (1977)
He Said, She Said (1991)
Henry & June (1990)
Hot Spell (1958)
Jungle Fever, (1991
Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
Less Than Zero (1987)
Looking for Mister Goodbar
Mens Club (1986)
Morning After (1986)
9 1/2 Weeks (1986)
Paris Is Burning (1991)
Play Misty for Me (1971)
Prince of Tides (1991)
Rapture (1991)
Same Time Next Year (1978)
Sid and Nancy (1986)
Shirley Valentine (1989)
Summer of 42 (1971)
Tales of Manhattan (1942)
Torch Song Trilogy (1988)
Whore (1991)
204 Film Index
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 204
Women of Brewster Place
Working Girl (1988)
Spousal Abuse
The Apostle (1997)
Bastard out of Carolina
Color Purple (1985)
Dolores Claiborne (1995)
The Prince of Tides (1991)
Rape and Marriage (1980)
Sid and Nancy (1986)
Whats Love Got to Do With
It? (1993)
Whos Afraid of Virginia
Woolf? (1966)
Message in a Bottle (1998)
Places in the Heart (1984) 82
Shadowlands (1993)
Strangers in Good Company
Truly, Madly, Deeply (1991)
Symptoms of Mental
Illness and Addiction
Addiction: Alcohol
Accused (1996)
Affliction (1997)
The African Queen (1951)
All That Jazz (1979)
Arthur (1981)
A Star Is Born (1937, 1954, &
As You Desire Me (1932)
Barfly (1987)
The Boost (1988)
The Boxer (1997)
Bright Lights, Big City (1988)
Call Me Anna (1990)
Carnal Knowledge (1971)
Clean and Sober (1988)
The Color Purple (1985)
Come Back Little Sheba
Come Fill The Cup (1951)
The Country Girl (1954)
The Cracker Factory (1979,
Darkness Before Dawn (1993,
Days Of Wine & Roses (1962)
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Drunks (1997)
Family of Strangers (1993,
Fat City (1972)
Fisher King (1991)
Frances (1982)
Harvey (1950)
Henry Fool (1997)
Hoosiers (1986)
Hot Spell (1958)
The Ice Storm (1997)
In the Best Interest of the
Child (1990)
Ironweed (1987)
Jasons Lyric (1994)
Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is
Calling (1986)
Jungle Fever (1991)
The Lady Sings The Blues
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Less Than Zero (1987)
Life of the Party: The Pamela
Harriman Story (1998, TV)
Long Days Journey Into
Night (1962)
Looking for Mister Goodbar
The Lost Weekend (1945)
M.A.D.D.: Mothers Against
Drunk Driving (1983, TV)
The Magic Toy Maker (1915)
Man With the Golden Arm
Men Dont Tell (1993, TV)
Morning After (2003)
My Left Foot (1989) 123
My Name Is Bill W (1989, TV)
Naked Lunch (1991)
The Night Of The Iguana
Not My Kid (1985)
Once Were Warriors (1994)
One Too Many (1950)
Paris, Texas (1984)
Sarah T: Portrait of a Teenage
Alcoholic (1975, TV)
Postcards From the Edge
Prince of Tides (1991)
Rapture (1993, TV)
Shattered Spirits (1986)
Sid and Nancy (1986)
Smoke Signals (1998)
Sophies Choice (1982)
St. Elmos Fire (1985)
Stella (1990)
Sybil (1976, TV)
The Story of Beatrice (1982,
Tales of Manhattan (1942)
Tender Mercies (1983)
Terms of Endearment (1983)
Thelma and Louise (1991)
This Boys Life (1993)
Film Index 205
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 205
Toughlove (1985)
Trees Lounge - 1996
Ultimate Betrayal (1999, TV)
Under the Influence (2002)
Under The Volcano (1984)
The Verdict (1982)
When a Man Loves a Woman
Whore (1991)
Addiction: Alcohol, Women
Days Of Wine & Roses (1967)
Ill Cry Tomorrow (1955)
Key Largo (1948)
Lady Sings The Blues (1972)
Life Of The Party: The Story
Of Beatrice (1982)
The Lonely Passion Of Judith
Hearne (1987)
Morning After (1986)
Mrs. Parker And The Vicious
Circle (1994)
Only When I Laugh (1981)
Smash-Up, The Story Of A
Woman (1947)
Sweet Bird Of Youth (1962)
Under Capricorn (1949)
When A Man Loves A Woman
Addiction: Drugs
28 Days (2000)
All that Jazz (1979)
Bad Boys (1995)
Basketball Diaries (1995)
Basquiat (1996)
Bird (1988)
Blue Velvet (1986)
The Boost (1988)
Breakfast Club (1985)
Bright Lights, Big City (1988)
Call Me Anna (1990)
Clean and Sober (1988)
Closer (2000)
The Color Purple (1985)
Crumb (1994)
Darkness Before Dawn (1993,
The Days of Wine and Roses
Dream With The Fishes
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Ed Wood (1994)
Fisher King (1991)
Frances (1982)
Goodfellas (1990)
A Hatful Of Rain (1957)
The Ice Storm (1997)
Im Dancing as Fast as I Can
In the Best Interest of the
Child (1990)
Jasons Lyric (1994)
Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is
Calling (1986)
Jungle Fever (1991)
L.A. Confidential (1997)
Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
Less Than Zero (1987)
Life of the Party: The Story of
Beatrice (1982)
Looking for Mr. Goodbar
The Man With The Golden
Arm (1955)
Naked Lunch (1991)
Nico Icon (1995)
Not My Kid (1985)
Nutty Professor (1996)
Panic In Needle Park (1971)
Postcards from the Edge
Reefer Madness & The
Cocaine Fiends (1936)
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Sid And Nancy (1986)
Sweet Bird Of Youth (1962)
Sweet Nothing (1996)
Toughlove (1985)
Trainspotting (1996)
True Romance (1993)
Whats Love Got To Do With
It (1993)
Wholl Stop The Rain (1978)
Whore (1991)
Wizard of Oz (1939)
Yellow Contraband (1928)
Addiction: Drugs, Women
Christiane F. (1981)
Im Dancing As Fast As I Can
Lady Sings The Blues (1972)
Long Days Journey Into
Night (1962)
Teenage Devil Doll (1954)
Veronika Voss (1982)
Addiction: Gambling
The Gambler (1974)
Great Sinner (1949)
Hard Eight (1997)
Addiction: Multiple
Bad Lieutenant (1992)
The Betty Ford Story (1987)
Born On The Fourth Of July
Clean And Sober (1988)
206 Film Index
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 206
Citizen Ruth (1996)
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Georgia (1995)
Postcards From The Edge
The Rose (1979)
Vital Signs (1986)
Alzheimers Disease
Do You Remember Love?
Iris (2001)
My Girl (1991)
On Golden Pond (1981) 123
Dead Again (1991)
Identity Unknown (1945)
Married To a Stranger (1997,
Mister Buddwing (1966)
Murder in Mind (1997)
Possessed (2000)
The Seventh Veil (1946)
Singing in the Dark (1956)
The Snake Pit (1948)
Spellbound (1945)
Stranger in the Family (1991,
Suddenly, Last Summer
Virtual Stranger, A (1996, TV)
Backstreet Dreams (1990)
The Boy Who Could Fly
Cries From The Heart (1994,
Rain Man (1988)
Bipolar Disorder
Call Me Anna (1990, TV)
Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Mommie Dearest (1981)
Mr. Jones (1993)
Vincent & Theo (1900
Woman Under The Influence
Borderline Traits/Borderline
Personality Disorder
After Hours (1985)
Fatal Attraction (1980)
Frances (1982)
The Hand That Rocks The
Cradle (1992)
Looking For Mr. Goodbar
Play Misty For Me (1971)
Single White Female (1992)
Conduct Disorders
This Boys Life (1993)
Thirteen (2003)
Conversion Behavior/
Conversion Disorder
Captain Newman, M.D.
Freud, The Secret Passion
Home Of The Brave (1949)
Let There Be Light (1946)
The Piano (1993)
Persona (1966)
The Secret Of Dr. Kildare
Sorry, Wrong Number (1948
& 1989)
Tommy (1975)
Dependent Traits/Dependent
Personality Disorder
Blue Velvet (1986)
The Night Porter (1973)
Alone In The T-Shirt Zone
Death In Small Doses (1995)
Eraserhead (1976)
Harold And Maude (1971)
King Of Marvin Gardens
Ironweed (1987)
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Modern Times (1936)
Natural Enemies (1979)
Ordinary People (1980)
Repulsion (1965)
Seventh Veil (1946)
The Shrike (1999)
The Slender Thread (1965)
Unstrung Heroes (1995)
Whose Life Is It Anyway
The Wrong Man (1956)
Dissociative Disorders
Color Of Night (1994)
The Dark Mirror (1946)
Dressed To Kill (1980)
Lizzie (1957)
Loose Cannons (1990)
Norma Jean & Marilyn
Primal Fear (1996)
Raising Cain (1992)
Sisters (1973)
Sybil (1976)
Three Faces Of Eve (1957)
Film Index 207
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Voices Within The Lives Of
Truddi Chase (1990, TV)
Zelig (1983)
Eating Disorders
The Best Little Girl In The
World (1981)
Eating (1990)
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
Katies Secret (1886, TV)
Whats Eating Gilbert Gape?
Gender Identity Disorder
Ma Vie en Rose (in French,
Histrionic Traits/Histrionic
Personality Disorder
Gone With The Wind (1939)
Long Days Journey Into
Night (1988 & 1996)
Streetcar Named Desire
(1951, 1984 & 1995)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Hannah & Her Sisters (1986)
Send Me No Flowers (1964)
Up In Arms (1944)
Marnie (1964)
Blue Sky (1994)
Captain Newman, M.D.
Good Morning Vietnam
Horse Feathers (1932)
The Mosquito Coast (1986)
Mental Institutions
Awakenings (1990)
Beautiful Dreamers 19th
Century (1992)
Bedlam (1945)
The Butcher Boy (1997)
The Caretakers (1963)
Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Chattahoochee (1990)
Committed (1991)
Frances (19820
The Keepers (1976)
Lost Angels (1982)
One Flew Over The Cuckoos
Nest (1975)
Pressure Point (1962)
Shock Corridor (1963)
Shock Treatment (1964)
Snake Pit (1948)
Mental Retardation
Best Boy (1980)
Bill (1981, TV)
Bill, On His Own (1983, TV)
The Boys Next Door (1997)
Charly (1968)
Dominick And Eugene (1988)
I Am Sam (2001) 111
Of Mice And Men (1992)
The Other Sister (1999)
Sling Blade (1996)
To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
Whats Eating Gilbert Grape?
Narcissistic Traits/Narcissistic
Personality Disorder
Alfie (1966)
American Gigolo (1980)
Boogie Nights (1997)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)
Patton (1969)
Shampoo (1975)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
My Own Private Idaho (1992)
Obsessive Compulsive
Compulsive Personality
As Good As It Gets (1997)
Baby Boom (1987)
Breaking The Waves (1996)
Carrington (1995)
Copycat (1995)
Educating Rita (1983)
The End Of Innocence (1990)
Frances (1982)
Holy Smoke (1999)
House Of Games (1987)
Heaven And Earth (1993)
Joe The King (1999)
Matchstick Man (2003)
The Odd Couple (1968)
The Odd Couple II (1997)
Pelican Brief (1993)
The Sheltering Sky (1990)
Three Colors Blue (1993)
Paranoia/Paranoid Personality
The Caine Mutiny (1954)
208 Film Index
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 208
The Conservation (1974)
Conspiracy Theory (1997)
Toto Le Heros (1991)
The Treasure Of Sierra Madre
Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Butcher Boy (1997)
Happiness (1998)
Lolita (1968 & 1998)
The Mark (1961)
Pretty Baby (1978)
Short Eyes (1977)
Phobia: Arachnophobia
Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Phobia: Agoraphobia
Inside Out (1987)
Lunatics: A Love Story (2000)
In Person (1935)
Phobia: Vertigo
Vertigo (1958)
Phobia: Social
The Station Agent (2003)
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Accused (1988)
Affliction (1997)
Beloved (1998)
Birdy (1955)
Born On The Fourth Of July
Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
Cease Fire (1985)
Chattahoochee (1990)
Death and the Maiden (1995)
Deer Hunter (1978)
Distant Thunder (1988)
Dolores Claiborne (1995)
Down Came a Blackbird
Extremities (1986)
Fearless (1993)
Home Of The Brave (1949)
House Of Cards (1992)
Ill Be Seeing You (1944)
Last Exit To Brooklyn (1989)
The Manchurian Candidate
Mary Reilly (1996) 147
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Mystic River (2003)
Ordinary People (1980) 122
Pawnbroker (1965)
Saving Private Ryan (1999)
Slaughterhouse Five (1972)
Three Women (1977)
Twelve O Clock High (1949)
Wholl Stop The Rain (1978)
Personality Disorder
Albino Alligator (1996)
Apartment Zero (1988)
Badlands (1973)
The Boston Strangler (1968)
The Bad Seed (1956 & 1985)
Cape Fear (1962 & 1991)
The China Lake Murders
Clay Pigeons (1998)
Clockwork Orange (1971)
Cobra (1986)
Compulsion (1959)
Con Air (1997)
Copycat (1995)
Criminal Law (1989)
Cruising (1980)
The Deliberate Stranger
The Executioners Song
Face/Off (1997)
Frenzy (1972)
Five Corners (1987)
The Hand That Rocks The
Cradle (1992)
Henry: Portrait Of A Serial
Killer (1986)
In Cold Blood (1967)
In the Cut (2003)
Kalifornia (1993)
Kiss The Girls (1997)
Platoon (1986)
Leave Her To Heaven (1945)
M (1931)
Manhunter (1986)
Monster (2004)
Murder By Numbers (1989 &
Night Of The Hunter (1955)
Out Of The Darkness (1996)
Peeping Tom (1960)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Rampage (1992)
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Road to Perdition (2002)
Rope (1948)
The Sea Wolf (1941)
Seven (1995)
Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
Strangers On A Train (1951)
Swoon (1992)
White Heat (1949)
The Young Prisoners
Handbook (1995)
Film Index 209
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 209
Psychotic Disorders
Birdy (1955)
Camille Claudel (1989)
Housekeeping (1987)
Misery (1990)
Repulsion (1965)
The River Wild (1994)
Scissors (1991)
Shine (1996) 80
Taxi Driver (1976)
The Tenant (1976)
Through A Glass Darkly
(1961, in Swedish)
Whos Afraid Of Virginia
Woolf? (1966)
Nobodys Child (1979, TV)
Out On The Edge (1989)
Shes Been Away (1989)
Angel At My Table (1990)
Benny & Joon (1993)
A Beautiful Mind (2002) 110
Birdy (1955)
Clean, Shaven (1995)
David & Lisa (1962)
Don Juan de Marco (1995)
The Fisher King (1991)
I Never Promised You A Rose
Garden (1977)
Images (1972)
Lunatics: A Love Story (1991)
Lust For Life (1956)
Outrageous (1977)
Pi (1998)
Possessed (1947, 2000, TV)
Promise (1995)
The Ruling Class (1972)
Saint Of Fort Washington
Shine (1996) 80
Shock Corridor (1963)
Strange Voices (1987, TV)
Sweetie (1990)
Through A Glass Darkly
Wednesdays Child (1999, TV)
Sexual Addiction
Auto Focus (2002)
Basic Instinct (1992)
Disclosure (1994)
Fatal Attraction (1987)
The Man Who Loved Women
Unfaithful (2002)
9 1/2 Weeks (1986)
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Hannah And Her Sisters
The Locket (2002)
The Hours (2002)
The New Centurions (1972)
The Slender Thread (1965)
Whats Eating Gilbert Grape?
Whose Life Is It Anyway?
Physical Illness/Medical
All That Jazz (1979)
Beaches (1988)
Boy With Green Hair (1948)
Dad (1990)
Davids Mother (1994)
Duet for One (1986)
First Do No Harm (1997)
For the Love of Nancy (1994)
Ironweed (1987)
Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is
Calling (1986)
My Breast (1994, TV)
My Name Is Bill W (1989)
Rapture (1965)
Ryan White Story (1989, TV)
Six Weeks (1982)
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Stranger in the Family (1991)
Talk to Her (2002, in Spanish)
Thats Life (1986)
When You Remember Me
Wildflower (2002)
Womans Tale (1992)
Absolutely Positive (1990)
Alive and Kicking (1996)
An Early Frost (1995)
Peters Friends (1992)
Philadelphia (1993)
23 Paces to Baker Street
80 Steps to Jonah (1969)
The American Friend (1977)
Angel on My Shoulder (1997)
Dying Young (1991)
Life as a House (2001)
210 Film Index
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 210
Stepmom (1998)
Adada (1989 )
Abbott and Costello Meet Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953)
Children of a Lesser God
What the Deaf Man Heard
The Miracle Worker (1962)
My Left Foot (1989) 123
Passion Fish (1992)
The Waterdance (1992)
The Ballad of the Sad Caf
Beauty and the Beast (1946)
The Elephant Man (1980)
Mask (1994)
Stuck on You (2003)
The Adventures of Baron
Munchhausen (1988)
The Ballad of the Sad Caf
The Station Agent (2003)
Limb & Spinal
23 Paces to Baker Street
Polio and Post-Polio
The Affair (1973)
The Ape (1940)
Severe Illness
Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)
Lorenzos Oil (1993)
Terms of Endearment (1983)
Whose Life Is It Anyway?
Traumatic Brain Injury
Memento (2000)
Regarding Henry (1994)
Film Index 211
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 211
212 Film Index
I would like to acknowledge and thank all those whose work contributed
to this index. It draws from many sources, including the books Rent Two
Films and Lets Talk in the Morning by John W. Hesley & Jan G. Hesley, Reel
Therapy: How Movies Inspire You to Overcome Lifes Problems, and Motion
Picture Prescription: Watch this Movie and Call Me in the Morning by Gary
Solomon. It also incorporates workshop handouts from Movies and the
Mythic Imagination by Jonathan Young as well as certain film titles from the
Web sites Pathology and Cinema and Films Involving Disability. I also thank
members of the Movie Therapy online discussion group GATEM for their
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 212
1. James Hillman, Healing Fiction (Barrytown, NY: Station Hill,
2. Marsha Sinetar, Reel Power: Spiritual Growth Through Film
(Ligouri, MO: Triumph Books, 1993).
1. Basic Discoveries
1. Jeremy Taylor, Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill: Using
Dreams to Tap the Wisdom of the Unconscious (New York:
Warner Books, 1993).
2. Norman Cousin, Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the
Patient (New York: Norton, 1979), p. 39.
2. How Movies Support Healing and
1. Christopher Volger, The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for
Writers (Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions, 1998),
p. 13.
2. Cathie Glenn Sturdevant, The Laugh & Cry Movie Guide: Using
Movies to Help Yourself Through Lifes Changes (Larkspur, CA:
Lightspheres, 1998), pp. 33-44.
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 213
3. Charles Tart, States of Consciousness (New York: E. P. Dutton,
1977), pp. 14-16.
4. Carol A. Bush, Healing Imagery and Music: Pathways to the
Inner Self (Portland, OR: Rudra Press, 1995), p. 32.
5. Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple
Intelligences (New York: Basic Books, 1993) and Howard
Gardner, Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice (New
York: Basic Books, 1993).
6. Cathie Glenn Sturdevant, pp. 27-32.
3. Watching Movies With Conscious Awareness
1. Roger Walsh, Essential Spirituality: The 7 Central Practices to
Awaken Heart and Mind (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1999),
p. 178.
2. Daniel Goleman, (narrator) et al., Destructive Emotions: How Can
We Overcome Them?: A Scientific Collaboration With the Dalai
Lama (New York: Bantam Dell, 2003).
3. Roger Walsh, p. 214.
4. Marsha Sinetar, p. 133.
5. These suggestions are partially derived from Marsha Sinetar,
pp. 131-135.
4. Using Movies to Release Negative Beliefs
1. Mathew McKay; Patrick Fanning, Self-Esteem: A Proven
Program of Cognitive Techniques for Assessing, Improving and
Maintaining Your Self-Esteem (Oakland, CA: New Harbinger
Publications, 2000), pp. 152-158.
McKay and Fanning describe these personal factors and call
them screen inputs.
2. Morty Lefkoe, Re-create Your Life: Transforming Yourself and
Your World with the Decision Maker Process (Kansas City, MO:
Andrews and McMeel, a Universal Press Syndicate Company,
6. Building Self-esteem
1. Ernest Isaacs, Taming the Inner Critic, The Therapist
(September/October 1997): 57-59.
214 E-Motion Picture Magic
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 214
7. Grief and Transformation
1. Howard J. Lunche, Understanding Grief: A Guide for the
Bereaved (Berkeley, CA: SVL Press, 1999), p. 1.
9. Self-discovery Through Film Characters
The Self Matrix
1. Robert Bly, The Long Bag We Drag Behind Us, in Connie
Zweig, Meeting the Shadow: The Hidden Power of the Dark Side
of Human Nature (Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1991), pp. 6-
2. _______ A Little Book on the Human Shadow (San Francisco:
HarperSanFrancisco, 1992).
3. Robert Bly in Connie Zweig, p. 9.
10. Powerful Tools for Healing and Growth
The Growth Matrix
1. Shakti Gawain, Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your
Imagination to Create What You Want (Novato, CA: New World
Library, 2002), p. 52.
2. Tara Bach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the
Heart of a Buddha (New York: Bantam Dell, 2003), pp. 274-277.
3. Byron Brown, Soul Without Shame (Boston: Shambhala, 1999),
pp. 245-286.
11. Creating a Cinema Therapy Group
1. Jeremy Taylor, Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill: Using
Dreams to Tap the Wisdom of the Unconscious (New York:
Warner Books, 1993), pp. 263-283.
Endnotes 215
emotion book final 8/30/04 10:11 AM Page 215
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220 E-Motion Picture Magic
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