The predator emerges often in unlikely places. Sometimes it emerges in people we least suspected and we may ask ourselves why we didn’t catch that or ask, “How could I have missed that?” We always seem shocked and we try to put the blame on someone or something, our mental health care system or, dare we say it, the mother. Taking a stance that the fault, dear reader, lies in ourselves is a very Jungian stance and one we will use in our exploration of this very shadowy, very dangerous yet necessary journey into the wilderness. We, of course, must make this journey alone. Writing about the patient but about us all, Jung wrote,
“The patient must be alone if he is to find out what it is that supports him when he can no longer support himself. Only this experience can give him an indestructible foundation.” (Jung from Psychology and Alchemy)
Two films that we will discuss in the seminar,” Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin” seem more than coincidental that they were released the same year. At first glance they are about very different subjects. The former is about the psychological impact a cult has on the fragile psyche of a young woman after her escape. The latter is based on a cathartic novel by Lionel Shriver —– about a mother, played by Tilda Swinton, who could not bond with her psychopathic son and whose fateful and prophetic mass murder would become the initiation for Eva to cleanse herself of this intrapsychic predator turned flesh and blood. It represents the cultural complex that every child’s health is the result of the success of failure of maternal bonding.
The predator in film has been morphed into characters like Jason, Michael Myers, Leatherface, Freddy Krueger and the intergalactic Alien and Predator. They are always vanquished even if we know they will return. In our two films there is no convenient vanquishing, no resolution. We are left wondering the fate of Martha and her sister as the predator stalks them. Even as Eva in the film “Kevin” comes to terms with her psychopathic son, the psychic stain remains and the question lingers, “How can this happen?”
The intrapsychic predator has intruded itself into my life by way of my clients in psychotherapy and coming face to face with it in a dark forest one quickly realizes we know it all too well as it seems to intrude our lives at key moments. We will explore how and when the predator emerges. We will explore Kalsched’s Jungian approach to the world of inner trauma by climbing Rapunzel’s tower and greeting the enchantress face to face, Kalsched’s symbol of the Protector/Persecutor that emerges in times of trauma to save us from irreparable psychosis and even death. We will we accompany Clarissa Pinkola Estѐs into Blackbeard’s castle and unlock the door to the forbidden room. We will confront this predator and some of his/her many iterations to discover why the two films we will discuss leave us disturbed, shaken and our world turned upside down, if only for a moment. The predator emerges in the dreams of patients often when approaching an important transition in their lives or when they reach a point when their stance with the world no longer serves them and it is at this time our psyche demands a drastic change. Confronting the predator and putting it in a place where it can be contained is necessary according to Estѐs to become fully human. In her work, Women Who Run with the Wolves Pinkola Estѐs provides wise guidance for women (or men) seeking to discover her wild nature and in the process realize that one’s senses have been honed and the predator no longer has power center.
In the seminar we will explore this archetypal predator from three different perspectives. We discuss it from the perspective of Donald Kalsched and the self-care system that results from trauma in order to protect the psyche from annihilation and from the perspective of Clarissa Pinkola Estes in which the individuation process requires a successful journey to and from the realm of the predator, to learn his secrets. For the predator lurks inside and outside. The news is filled with the search for, capture of and trials of these predators. It stalks the innocent and naïve of any age and somehow we don’t have an eye for it, don’t recognize it for what it is. It is as if as a culture we are naïve. We are shocked when a child walks into a school and cuts down his peers and mentors with an assault rifle. A well respected philanthropist is discovered have been a sexual predator of children for decades. We look to blame people,” Someone must have known”, we say. Without recognizing the predator within ourselves we are less likely to see it in others despite all the evidence to support it.
The final perspective will draw on the field of neuropsychoanalysis and the work of Allan Schore. We will discuss the tyrannical role of the amygdala which remembers trauma and is activated when we begin the process of mending the damaged self. We will discuss how consciousness is left brain to right brain movement and this movement into the right brain is a journey through the emotional memories we thought we left behind but must be reactivated and reworked in the process of individuation. It is in that wilderness, that bombed out building, the deep dark forest we will likely find the predator.
In “Martha Marcy May Marlene” we are left at the end of the film with the disturbing thought the predator is still out there waiting to pounce on us, somehow more comfortable in his predator hide than we are, being able to smell our weakness, sense the shiver that ripples over our muscles and knowing he has us. In this case it is a cult with a cult leader, Patrick, played by John Hawkes who starts out as charming and charismatic and whose menacing nature comes out slowly and Martha does not want to believe it and neither do we but by then it is too late, we are caught in the web and escape is dangerous.
For preparation you should view the two films we will discuss and at least read the Grimm’s fairytales Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird. Hope you can join us for the seminar.