Sunday, September 27, 2015

Film: Away From Her

The Tampa Bay Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies, Inc and the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society, Inc kicked off their co-sponsored 2015-16 Film Series “On Aging” with writer/director Sarah Polley’s 2006 Away From Her based on a short story (The Bear Came Over the Mountain) by Alice Monro. Film critic Roger Ebert described it as “the story of a marriage that drifts out of the memory of the wife [Fiona Anderson played by Julie Christie], and of the husband’s [Gordon Pinsent as Grant] efforts to deal with that fact.”  Of Polley he wrote that she, unlike Bergman’s merciless ‘winter light,’ “bathes the film in the mercy of simple truth.”

Discussant USF Film Professor Scott Ferguson, PhD called Away From Her a tour de force by Polley who made this beautiful film more “capacious, ambiguous, and interesting” then its contemporary Still Alice (which is based on a true story and which more narrowly focuses on the disease process of Alzheimer’s and how to combat its loss of identity). Away From Her is about being and time and difference, and about the “deliciousness of oblivion” in all its “passions, horrors, surprises, melancholy, and potential.”

The clinical discussant Kathryn Lamson, LMHC reminded us that “as we age, we move toward resolution, separating the essential from the non essential.” Grant suffer the inescapable loss of his wife and of her as co-witness to their shared lives.

Erickson (1950) extended Freud’s developmental stages beyond young adulthood to include love, care (generativity v. stagnation), and, over 65, wisdom (ego integration v. despair). Hildebrand (1987) noted “the creative power of continually changing relationships.” Aging can bring increased acceptance of the self (Wild Strawberries on Nov 22nd), new discoveries, time for latent talents and for luxuriating in new found pleasures and for creative, social and spiritual endeavors (Quartet on May 17th, 2016). Enthusiasm and curiosity can keep us young (Cherry Blossoms on Feb 28th). The risk for despair comes, too, with age.  Loss of family (Amour on Mar 27th, and, of course, Away  From Her) and friends (through death and empty nest), decline in sexual function, possible physical and mental infirmity (as in Away  From Her), isolation, childhood fears of abandonment, and proximity to our own death. Economic security may improve for some, but decline for others (Grey Gardens on Jan 24th, 2016). It takes courage, and adaptability to face losses (Trip to Bountiful on Oct 18th) and accept changes in function and the narcissistic injuries that ensue. Hopefully, we will be in good company as we age.

The sensitive and moving topic of aging will be discussed next on October 18th at 2:00pm in Trip to Bountiful (written by Horton Foote) by USF Professor Adriana Novoa, PhD and clinician Linda Berkowitz, LMHC. Hope you join in.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Who is responsible?

A precocious ten year old asked me yesterday what I plan to do to help the Syrian refugee children. An only child, she wishes to “adopt” at least one child. Her question shook me deeply. As Hungary struggles with an overwhelming influx of refugees fleeing the war in Syria-- many who will never reach the Euro Zone but instead die at the hands of ruthless traffickers by suffocation in vans, or drowning, as 3 year old Ilan Kurdi did, as they attempt to make their way from Turkey to Greece-- one German reporter characterized Hungary’s change of heart to bus refugees to the Austrian border as “not finding a clear line” and ”a confused policy” to explain the doubt of frightened refugees for Hungarian authorities’ intentions. Volunteers along the lengthy march through Hungary to Austria hand out food and water and offer a place to sleep.

Pundits are asked “Who is responsible?” and I am reminded that ‘Few are guilty, all are responsible’ [Heschel]. Yes, the world-- not solely the USA, who did create a power vacuum for so called ISIS in Iraq-- has insufficiently turned its attention to the tragedy that is destroying Syria.  My ten year old patient said to me hopefully, “When I adopt a child, you can talk to her like you talk to me.”