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Back to the Future.

Counselling — admin @ 12:54 pm

Here at Counselling Connections this week we’ve been at the movies. As regular readers will know, our weekly meetings here can take a turn and we can end up talking about all kinds of things. We allow ourselves this luxury as we find we can get in touch with all kinds of interesting things. In psychoanalysis it is called Free Association, allowing yourself to flow freely from one idea to the next without censoring what you say. Anyway, this week’s digressions lead us to talking about the movies. This year’s Oscar nominations are due to be announced this afternoon and we got to talking about what movies would rank in an awards ceremony for films which were judged to have relevance to therapy. And a clear front runner is the movie that became a series: Back to the Future.

The plot of Back to the Future involves the hero, Marty McFly being transported back in time to when his parents were not yet dating. The ability to return to the past means that significant events that happen will shape the future and involve a ‘new’ future which differs from the one from which Marty has just returned. If you follow. This concept is represented well in the movie plot and poses all kinds of dilemmas for the hero as he takes steps to ensure that his parents do begin to date and fall in love. In this way he ensures his own future existence. An additional point of interest for those of us in the field of psychotherapy involves Marty’s father standing up to a bully. In asserting himself with this bullying figure the father changes the future and when Marty returns to 1985 where the film begins there is a new relationship between his father and his former tormentor. In the amended version of history the father is confident and assertive.

All of these themes are played out in the drama of the film’s story line. In real life we cannot return to the past and change things so as to return to the present and enjoy a different reality. The film, it could be said, represents our wish to be able to achieve this impossible feat. In reality we often struggle in the present with the leftover effects of past events. These can be in the form of significant, traumatic events or more mundane frustrations at the path our lives have taken. Sometimes, it is said of therapy, that although we cannot change past events we can change how we view them. This is certainly true and it can take up a good deal of our therapeutic work.

Sometimes a therapy involves a kind of Back to the Future of sorts in that we look at our life’s narrative to date and consider the effects of decisions we made and options we took or didn’t take. The best we can do in terms of aiming to achieve the wish expressed in the film is to make now the time to make some sort of stand or take some sort of action to bring about a changed future. And this doesn’t have to involve punching a bully and knocking him unconscious. It more usually involves a sort of taking stock; making a decision and finding the determination to begin working on some sort of project. This project can be a college course, a change in diet or exercise or something more abstract involving a clearer vision of a future version of our own self that we would like to aim for.

Sometimes a therapy can involve reviewing the timeline and the narrative of our life to date. Often this means that our patterns become clearer, facilitating an awareness of what we have been trying to achieve in life. This applies as much to our love lives as it does to work; lieben und arbeiten as Freud put it, to love and to work. The punch that Marty’s father threw in the film represents a single dramatic event that changed his future self. Real life it is not quite as simple as that and it is not possible to achieve lasting change in one single act. It will take time and awareness and conscious work. This is what therapy involves and we are pleased to be able to facilitate our clients in this process as they review their own pasts and dream up and try to put onto action a future of their own choosing.

Counselling Connections, Dundalk.

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