Friday, 10 July 2015

After the avalanche, the meltdown!- A film review of Force Majeure

Hi all

Just had another review published in this month's Therapy Today -yeah! So here is it below! (as an ironic touch to the hot Summer weather, this film is set amid the snow on a ski resort)!

Enjoy! :)

Suzie

xxx

Force Majeure is an uncomfortable yet darkly funny film about a picture-perfect Swedish family on a five-day skiing trip.

 The family is caught up in an avalanche as they dine at a mountaintop restaurant. Gasps of delight at the scenery soon turn to shrieks of fear as the rumbling snow gathers pace and heads for the restaurant. Our Swedish family scrambles for safety: Ebba grabs the two children and calls out for her husband, Tomas, to help. But Tomas has already run for cover, taking his gloves and mobile phone with him and leaving his family to face the onslaught alone.

As the snow hits, it soon becomes apparent that the avalanche has been controlled and that there is little danger. Somewhat dazed, Ebba and the children settle back to their seats, quickly joined by Tomas, to finish their food in the most awkward of silences.

The happy family
The rest of the film depicts the emotional fallout from Tomas’ abandonment of his family in their time of need. We see Tomas try unsuccessfully to reassert his masculine status through various macho activities, including raucous, heavy drinking and mild flirtation. Traditional family roles are reversed as Ebba, cold and withholding, watches her husband sink into an emotional and hysterical crisis. The children rush to comfort a tearful Tomas, taking the parental role to their infantilised father.

Ebba, in a reflective mood
The end of the film sees the family suffer another ordeal when Ebba gets lost in a snowstorm. Tomas finds her, and (rather unnecessarily) carries her back in his arms to their children, thereby restoring his identity as the family’s protector. It seems the family collude in restoring Tomas’ role as they find it preferable to the current confusion.

Male meltdown ensues

Force Majeure raised a number of issues for me relating to my practice. Our sense of identity is enmeshed with gendered roles; cultural stereotypes, as the film demonstrates, are immensely powerful and tenacious. We psychotherapists need to be aware of the gendered roles that we and our clients embrace. The process of therapy may well challenge assumptions about gender roles but our ability to alter these fundamental beliefs is often limited. It is important that we do not underestimate their power and influence, as change can cause an imbalance in the family dynamics, which may be unconsciously reversed in order to preserve the status quo. And, of course, we have to apply the same searching questions to ourselves as therapists, and watch out for those moments when we too have been pushed out of our comfort zone and are struggling as hard as we can to get back there.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Frontiers Summer 2015 issue has arrived!

Hi all

As some of you may know,  the second issue of Frontiers (an online magazine written by trainee psychotherapists (including little old me)) has just been published. Follow the link to have a read and I've also included below my book review piece on a must read for trainees and qualifieds "The Myth of the Untroubled Therapist Therapist" by Marie Adams.

Frontiers Summer 2015

Hope you enjoy! 

Take care

Suzie

Book review- The Myth of the Untroubled Therapist Therapist by Marie Adams

When my supervisor recommended this book, I was immediately struck by the title. In my short time as a trainee therapist, I have certainly experienced the projection of my clients that I must live a faultless and perfect existence in comparison to their own. Not only have such projections caused a power imbalance in the room but also I have at times internalised the message that “I’m a therapist, I can’t have problems of my own, and I must be sorted”.
So before even opening this book, I was certainly a reader with lots of vested interest in the subject.
untroubled therapist
Marie Adams, a tutor at Metonia College, has essentially conducted a research project into this topic and her book is the collection of her findings. Adams interviewed 40 therapists from across the globe and different disciplines about how they handled times of personal strife when it came to their work as therapists.

Her findings are divided into specific topics such as physical pain, depression and death in the family. For example Adam’s found that over half of the forty interviewees admitted suffering from depression since becoming therapists. I felt there could have been a whole other book on this specific topic alone (e.g. does being a therapist make us more susceptible to depression or vice versa)?
Adam’s found that most of the therapists continued to work with clients during their times of personal difficulties, some citing that their work helped as a good distraction. However upon reflection, some of the therapists did wonder how present they truly were in those sessions and some even received formal complaints or sudden client terminations during this time. This, for me, begs the question, are our clients’ inadvertently rescuing us when we use them to as a distraction? And are we really serving our client’s best interest by creating a temporary co- dependent relationship of sorts?
She also explores why we buy into the myth of the untroubled therapist, even though the term of the ‘wounded healer’ is regularly drilled into us during our training, through books etc. Adams research indicates that the fear of being vulnerable and feeling shame seem to be factors in us hiding our personal issues. The irony that these are two of the key qualities that can arise with our clients in our work with them is not lost on me. Adams explains that allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and to acknowledge our issues, is the best way to adhere to the doctrine of ‘do no harm’ for our clients and that shame is one of the greatest barriers to self-exploration and creativity.
Adam’s differentiates between the reasons why we chose a career in psychotherapy and the catalyst, which prompted us to head in this direction. Adams believes that therapists are created through our early life experiences and that we unconsciously self-medicate by helping others with their issues. Although I find this a harsh reality, upon reflection, I can also personally relate to it. I agree with Adams that there often exists an underlying reason for our motives, which are at the core of our being and our history.
I found this book really illuminating and enjoyed Adam’s honest and engaging style. She does well to contain her research findings on such a massive and sensitive topic. I feel this whole area needs far greater discussion and hopefully Adam’s book will act as a good starting point. I will certainly be returning to this book during my training and subsequent career as I found it a great comfort that, in Adams words, “ we may be therapists, but we are also humans.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Frontiers magazine is born!

Morning all

Am very excited to introduce you to the first issue of Frontiers- a new online psychotherapy magazine. Check it out and enjoy!

Frontiers Spring 2015

Take care

Suzie

xxx

Sunday, 22 February 2015

In time for the Oscars- A review of the film, Birdman

Hello all,

Been drafting away for other publications, so have neglected my blog slightly- sorry! So here's my review of the film Birdman as published in this month's Therapy Today magazine. Will have to see how many Oscars this film might fly away with after tonight's ceremony!

Till next time,

Suzie

xxxx

 Birdman is a dark, satirical black comedy that tells the story of a former action hero actor, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), as he prepares for the opening show of his Broadway play, which he hopes will rejuvenate his flagging career.


We experience the chaos of Riggan’s desperate existence while he frantically rushes back stage from one dysfunctional relationship to another. This includes his strained relationship with his wayward daughter, whom he has hired as his assistant (Emma Stone); his envied, younger, more famous co-star (Edward Norton), and his grounded, sensible agent (Zach Galifianakis). The film plays as one continuous scene, increasing the sense of disorientation. 


We discover, however, that there is a far more significant relationship in Riggan’s life – Birdman, the action hero character that brought Riggan fame many years earlier. Birdman speaks of his disappointment and anger at what has happened to Riggan’s career, taunting and trying to persuade him to become Birdman once more. Riggan appears to be on the verge of a breakdown as he battles with his inner Birdman and his fading public persona. 


From a Jungian perspective, Birdman represents Riggan’s shadow, the unacceptable and denied aspects of himself that acts out his evil thoughts and destructive tendencies. The shadow is an integral part of therapy as it is often the reason clients seek help in the first place, though this is normally unconscious. Through therapeutic exploration such as dream analysis or art therapy parts of a client’s shadow can be revealed and brought into the conscious so that it may be incorporated into their way of being, instead of being repressed and so causing distorted behaviour. 


As the play falters towards the opening night we see Riggan give in to Birdman and allow this denied part of himself to be assimilated and brought into his consciousness. This results in a kind of euphoric madness, where Riggan/Birdman flies amid the city’s skyscrapers, causing explosions on the streets with just a click of his fingers. 


He's behind you!! 
The film purposefully blurs the boundaries between reality and fantasy, forcing us to accept the bewildering happenings of Riggan’s life in their entirety. This reminded me of how, as therapists, we need to appreciate the narratives our clients bring as their particular experience of reality. Through suspending our own judgment, we too can fully experience our client’s way of being, which may include elements of their shadow, be they projected onto others (like the Birdman fantasy) or seeking acknowledgment as parts of themselves.