Saturday, January 12, 2019


In an episode of Wanderlust we see Joy in a session with her therapist where she is eventually confronted about a "pattern" that her therapist has identified. When something awful happens to Joy in her life (for example, the funeral of her mother when her father said to her in the car on the way to the church that 'nobody wanted her to make a fuss today'; or the time her client rang Joy (who is also a therapist), she didn't answer the call and he promptly decided to suicide off a bridge), she goes into a non-feeling state and subconsciously enacts various other crises in her life so that she doesn't have to feel the really awful thing.

Joy may be unaware of her own patterns but she is smart enough and educated enough to see the truth of what she is told in this session. This new awareness of her behaviors throughout her life shocks Joy into a deeply felt feeling state which then leads to a complete breakdown of emotion where she cries intensely. 'It feels good to feel, doesn't it, Joy?'

I was entranced throughout this episode by the brilliant writing and the even more brilliant acting abilities of Toni Collette who I have always admired for her courage to lose herself in a role. How clever to have the audience watch all her missteps, baffled by how dumb a therapist could actually be, only to be discover that her mind was, in all its deceptions, protecting her from discovering the deep emotional pain hidden inside.

In the more immediate experience in Joy's life, where she didn't answer the call from her client and it was the last call he ever made, she was later told by the police, a sense of betrayal, a sense of letting down this man, of possibly being able to save him, was too much for her mind to take in. It was a deeply sensed feeling of guilt. She felt responsible, when, as we know, his choice to take his life was his responsibility and his alone. Still, responsible types, empathic types, are always going to feel strongly, almost unbearably, responsible for the other.

So, the episode, as all good drama does, pointed out a fundamental truth; that some of us hold ourselves responsible for the behavior of others, so completely sometimes that we are prepared to make a good old mess of our own lives.

Will does a similar thing in his life. Beaten and battered by his father, Will hides his deeply troubled emotions behind a veneer. He lets the girl he loves, and who adores him, head off across the country and seems powerless to change, until his therapist, the much missed Robin Williams, manages to get through to him finally that "it is not your fault".

I am personally familiar with this dynamic; with this feeling of responsibility, at the same time as I register the irrationality of the thought. The mind twists and turns trying to make sense of things. I remember someone saying this to me, "It is not your fault. You did nothing wrong." 'I know, I know," I said, almost in the exact way as did Will. So she repeated it, much like Will's therapist, until it finally sunk in.

Guilt. Responsibility. What powerful words they are for humans!

At this juncture in my life I do better with simply letting go; with accepting that there are some things over which I have influence, but I can't, nor should I, change what cannot be changed.

It is what it is. It will always be thus. Who I am to think I can alter the grand scheme?