Professional-Personal Sea Change

Every so many years, I go through some intense period of professional growth which inevitably intertwines with my personal growth. The last time I felt this kind of sea change happening in my life was when I trained in Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy from Sept., 2012 (starting on my birthday) to May, 2014. Now, it’s occurring again for me while embarking on wholeheartedly learning Brainspotting (BSP) therapy. This time, the growth feels faster, while learning IFS, also intense at times, was comparatively more gradual. In between was getting taught EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) in 2017, which felt like a great augmentation to IFS yet its own powerful, technical tool. I did not feel a sense of collective enthusiasm and community around EMDR like there is with IFS and BSP.

It is awakening and buoying to my spirit to join another wave of something so transformative, a form of healing art that truly exists for the greater good. While I’m admittedly very tired from all this learning and application of something new, it’s a good tired.

Making Amends and Getting a Lukewarm Response

Last night, I was feeling a little vulnerable. After three decades of no contact with someone I’d met in college and coming across him on Facebook fairly recently, I just made amends for my problematic, hot/cold treatment of him when I was a lot younger and comparatively less wise and compassionate than I am now. Some days later (yesterday), he accepted my apologies but drew a boundary with fully resuming the friendship we once had, which had faded off through time and distance. However, he did leave a slight opening by indicating his current intention to maintain a very limited connection with me on Facebook may change, won’t necessarily remain “never” with having more contact. I certainly respect his wishes and told him so. Still, I felt a bit disappointed and vulnerable/exposed after reaching out and making amends, which I solidly feel was the right thing to do. Clearly, a part of me was hoping for a more open-hearted response, even though the reply I did get was ultimately fair, reasonable, and one that perhaps hints at trust of me by this other party needing to be rebuilt over time.

Why I Cherish Having a Home

I just completed an interesting memory and writing exercise, which was to list all the places I’ve lived in my lifetime. The total number is forty-five. This does not include a few months-long periods of homelessness (by my parents’ choice, never out of forced necessity) during my childhood while we traveled about, staying in friends’ homes, youth hostels, camp grounds, inns, a thatched roof hut, and even one overnight on the front door area to a priest’s house/rectory in Central America. It is no wonder I especially value the stability of hearth and home so so much.

Movie Review (SPENCER)

The movie SPENCER, starring Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana about five years before her tragic death, is purposefully claustrophobic, ponderous, and angst-ridden. The sound track underscores this overarching mood theme as the music creatively transitions in and out of being melodious classical to gentle jazz to cacophonous, irritating jazz before looping back to classical and so on. This effectively brought me the viewer into Diana’s troubled state of mind. Frequent closeups emphasize a sense of the heroine’s longing for intimacy and understanding from people in a family who largely have no clue about either. In this frigid relational desert, she finds an oasis of genuine connection with her two young sons and her favorite dresser (movingly played by Sally Hawkins from THE SHAPE OF WATER), a woman carrying a secret of her own. The result is a somewhat uneven, occasionally forced, narrative that takes place from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day at Sandringham House with the British Royal Family.

The Princess is clearly an outsider experiencing life with her in-laws as imprisoning and invalidating so much so that she feels driven to the edge of madness. Ms. Stewart performs excellently with what she is given to work with here, which sometimes is over-the-top melodrama and histrionics, while other times is compelling melancholy and sympathetic frustration and rage. The interiors of wherever this was filmed, which may actually have been Sandringham House, are exquisite. The physical coldness of the place, which Diana and her sons often make reference to, is an extension of the Royal family’s perpetual emotional iciness as well as that of a scowling, skulking old servant (an equerry, powerfully played by Timothy Spall) who is charged with keeping Diana on schedule and generally in line.

The acting by all the supporting players is superb, as British casts so often are. I felt proud of dear Ms. Stewart holding her own with all the talent around her. She clearly continues to hone her craft, and most certainly so with playing the tragic heroine trope.

This is a movie one needs to be in the right mood/head space for, especially for viewers who are used to constant on-screen action and/or rom com light fare. This is art house (or tries to be) psychological (melo)drama, and some of us like that sort of thing now and then.

Mini Book Review and Rant (DUNE by Frank Herbert)

I never could get into Frank Herbert’s modern classic sci-fi novel DUNE, though I sure tried. I find his writing to be overly-earnest and lacking a focused elegance that, say, J.R.R. Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy conveys. And Tolkien’s work often expresses a lyrical levity, balanced with all that narrative’s seriousness. Yes, LoTR, like DUNE, is indeed heterosexist but not then also grossly homophobic like Herbert’s novel and its sequels so endemically are. Regardless of this “apples vs. oranges” comparison some may feel I am unfairly making here, I have come to accept that it’s not a reflection on me somehow “missing something” over not being able to fully appreciate DUNE, including all of the movie and TV adaptations. It is simply a cumbersome, tedious writing style and universe with some sensibilities that are not at all simpatico with who I am, but, rather, actually crassly insult who I am.

Mini Movie Review (ETERNALS)

I just saw ETERNALS. Now, there’s recycled story and characters, which I think can sometimes result in something interesting, even good. But, then there’s overly-recycled to the point of vapid inanity, which this movie largely is. The big ensemble cast is filled with too many glamorous chiefs and not enough Indians, making for unwieldy, tedious watching of poorly thought out characters lifted and twisted from Greek and Sumerian/Babylonian mythologies (and maybe from one or two other ones as well). The Avengers have these comparatively after thoughts of demigods/super heroes beat in every sense, including with costumes and the villains they fight on screen. The lackluster Eternals have schlocky, uninteresting, unoriginal Deviants (CGI effects seemingly whipped up by a mind-numbed video gamer) to fight. I felt briefly embarrassed for the starring actors. But, then I remembered they’re each likely laughing all the way to the bank. I can just imagine this production’s swollen, often plodding script coming out of a brainstorming session of Disney brass, the goal being to simply make more money as safely, predictably as possible, no other reason.

The one colorful moment that stands out for me is a splashy Bollywood dance scene, which lasts for maybe all of two to three minutes. Now, if this movie had been made into, say, a steady stream of Bollywood and Kabuki dance numbers, that would have been a fun spectacle to see. But, no, this overly long, dull drivel of a film about trying to save planet Earth from total destruction by some all-powerful patriarchal force (yet again) lacked both spectacle and fun, not to mention intrigue.

I look forward to seeing the movie SPENCER (as in Princess Diana) next week, which will be a refreshing change of pace from these latest bloated and cumbersome sci-fi/fantasy blockbusters, which also includes DUNE: PART ONE, that seem to go nowhere.

Movie Review (VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE)

VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE was quite fun. I enjoyed the banter between the alien symbiote Venom and his host Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy). More than what I remember in the 2018 prequel (VENOM), Eddie’s symbiote endearingly expresses vulnerability and warmth next to his usual savagery. I laughed out loud fairly often, such as when Venom enters a night club where all the patrons are in costumes. There, he grabs the mic from the singer onstage and encourages everyone to be who they truly are. For once, he fits right in and is a big hit with the crowd.

The special effects are decent and playfully fantastical. The age-old concept of a person coming to better terms with an inner voice and energy that’s more impulsive, wild, and uninhibited than how they outwardly identify as being is humorously played out here. We all have our shadow sides.

The villains are competent enough, but barely worth mentioning. Ultimately, fighting fire with fire is the premise here, for Venom has to battle a red symbiote, Carnage, arising from his own blood. Darkness, like light, exists on a spectrum of intensity. Carnage, inhabiting a serial killer (Woody Harrelson), embodies pure chaotic evil while Venom is, well, like an intelligent wild carnivore steadily evolving with the help of his sympathetic human host.

I would rate this production a close second in quality to the first VENOM movie. It helps that the running time is just a little over 90 minutes, short and intense like a roller coaster ride. These two films are dark, guilty pleasure fun, the violence appearing quite theatrical, quick, and unrealistic. Some people, such as myself, enjoy this twisted fantasy cinema that cleverly balances gritty yet colorful darkness with much levity, including a good dose of camp. You fellow aficionados/appreciators of this high trash know who you are.

Mini Movie Review (NO TIME TO DIE)

I just watched the latest James Bond movie NO TIME TO DIE— because I watch them all— and enjoyed it enough. I’ve always found Daniel Craig too rough and brutish in the lead role, though I do appreciate him as an actor.

The one scene that stands out for me in this finale film for Craig as 007 is when Bond and a few other supporting characters show up at Q’s flat. MI6’s tech guru Q, played here by the lovely, adorable Ben Whishaw, is preparing an intimate dinner for his as-yet-to-arrive boyfriend. Yma Sumac sings in the background. I wanted to crash this gathering then and there and tell Bond et al to promptly leave. Clearly, Whishaw’s Q and I share some same tastes. Also, I imagine the red wine he was serving was delicious, like him.

Sensitivity to Possible Embarrassment

I was just listening to NPR in my car to a show about people’s real life experiences of being embarrassed, including the long-term repercussions from these incidents. I could relate. A central aspect of most, if not all, extremely embarrassing situations is humiliation. I believe actual mistakes that lead to feeling embarrassed are generally forgivable/reparable. But, even when, say, a group of witnesses or even the public has long moved on from judging a person’s perceived mistakes/errors in judgment, the physical/somatic sensations of feeling humiliated remain, triggered forth again by some subtle reminder(s) in one’s environment or even simply by a passing thought.

A lot of us have survived intense embarrassment, often repeated occurrences of this emotional state, including by someone(s) very close to us in childhood, which results in a betrayal of trust. The world can then seem like humiliation lurks around the corner. You never forget because, as trauma specialist Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk states in his well-titled book, “THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE.” Even small embarrassing moments can and often do trigger a mental and physical cascade response to past, old humiliations. Through helpful somatic-oriented psychotherapy, these embedded-in-the-brain and body reactions can be shortened and de-intensified, but I don’t think they ever completely go away. I believe this is evolutionarily important. It is good to hold some memory so one can retain helpful knowledge of these past painful experiences and avoid repeating them as best as possible. Also, empathy for others is deepened, or at least the opportunity for this to happen is presented.

I’ve done all I can to distance myself in proximity and time from those in my past who humiliated me. I know others have also accomplished this for themselves. I’ve created a wonderful, stable life filled with supportive and neutral (such as strangers in my neighborhood) people. I’ve worked on healing myself deeply, including developing a level of self confidence (such as in my competence as an effective psychotherapist) I wasn’t quite sure I’d ever know. But, there is admittedly an edge of caution I still retain. This translates into avoiding more potential embarrassment that could arise in, say, speaking before large groups of people, something I’ve hardly ever done in my life. I remain quite sensitive to the possibility of being humiliated, albeit significantly less so than I used to feel.

If you or someone you know is particularly concerned about being embarrassed and, likely, humiliated, which is not exactly the same as worrying about what others think of you (which I largely could care less about except with a small few who I know well and love), please hold patience and compassion for that individual, including yourself. Sensitivity to embarrassment, especially the sting of humiliation, is a scar on the psyche, a reminder of one’s tender humanity.

Mini Movie Review (BIT)

The lesbian teenage vampire movie BIT (2019) was, to sum it up in a word, dope. I mean that in both a good and trashy sense. This was fun, thoughtful escapism with excellent feminist and inclusion-oriented messaging. I enjoyed a lot of the music and the young women’s sexy outfits. The lead vampiress of the gang (Diana Hopper as “Duke”) was quite lovely and kick ass. I like how imaginative campy sensibilities can still come through in contemporary movies– albeit on rare occasion– and not just in productions made before, say, 1975 (though, especially, during the 1940s through the 1960s). I also appreciated the portrayal of teenaged angst by the lead character Laurel (Nicole Maines). I felt empathy and compassion for her and a few others in the movie, such as Laurel’s sweet older brother Mark (James Paxton) and her awkward gay best friend Andy (Matt Pierce). I only wish we viewers saw a bit more of Andy in the story.

I’m not a fan of vampire movies in general, but I like the occasional ones with a good twist or two. BIT delivered enough twists, including the feminist lesbian one, which kept it interesting for me and not overly-formulaic.