Jane Fonda makes connections between her mother’s history of neglect and her own struggles with parenting and attachment as a mother.
This week watching the hearings in Washington, D.C., I thought about just how gut wrenching and viscerally painful it can be to find the inner access to our own traumas and in turn our own capacity to hear other’s trauma and tolerate discussions about it. It is plainly and profoundly really hard work. However, I also feel strongly that it is essential to create communities and a culture that can talk about and listen to others’ traumas if we want to evolve and change. These issues are complicated, but some recent films have shone lights on journeys out of shame, the need for support and unconditional acceptance that might form the backbone of this collective resiliency.
1. (SEE AND) BE SEEN: At the end of Jane Fonda in Five Acts, Jane Fonda, after having reflected very openly about her own journey through intergenerational neglect, abuse and relational trauma, lays bare that she too created significant attachment ruptures with her first biological daughter. It becomes clear in these closing moments of the film that though the documentary is organized in chapters around the men in her life, it was really a way to see clearly the full story of her own mother, who killed herself when Jane was a teenager, and how that impacted her own difficulties to be present for and connect with her children. Ms. Fonda concedes that there has been positive change and some healing between she and her eldest daughter in her adult life, but that it is a work in progress. It is so common, yet typically unacceptable for mothers to share their experiences of emotionally abandoning their children. I appreciate Ms. Fonda’s openness and clarity to see that her own experiences of neglect, set up the conditions for her own emotional unavailability as a mother, which is still an unresolved rupture that needs light shone on it to be seen and healed.
Men participating in the 4 day intensive group therapy at Folsom State Prison in The Work documentary…”For four days, let’s be what we COULD be…” Watch trailer by clicking HERE.
Sometimes it feels that we are being held captive in this country by people, men in particular, who have not worked through their own experiences with abuse and violence, and the toxic sequelae of shame and magnetic draws towards the aggressor that can follow. By contrast, The Work is a documentary about a week-long group therapy intensive program at Folsom State Prison for inmates and non-incarcerated volunteers. I think what makes it so compelling is the openness with which the men help each other take ownership of their histories of perpetration and victimization. The men support each other through unresolved grief, suicidal despair about their future, the impact of the violence they’ve wrought and that has been waged against them, and their inadvertent embodiment of critical, narcissistic, belittling fathers that block them from connection to one another. The men work through their struggles with their entire body, gaze, soul, and heart, arm in arm, as a tribe holding each other together.
Mr. Rogers talking about feeling blue and feeling happy with a child in Won’t You Be My Neighbor? “The greatest thing we can do is to let people know they are loved and are capable of loving.” I’ve heard from many people who have been moved by the documentary about Mr. Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. In some part, I think the film’s magic comes from the accelerated experience akin to seeing your own parents as mortal human beings as you come into adulthood, through the lens of a TV figure we knew mostly in our toddler years. I also sense that the profundity of absorbing the love being expressed and unconditional respect for all people, ingested like a balm for our nervous systems at this turbulent moment in our history. What has lingered for me weeks later is also considering the emotional toil of being Mr. Rogers, of being a grown man who talks about love, who enacts unconditional acceptance and who does the hard work of explaining trauma, war and loss to children. It highlights again that the work of loving and connecting to others is a far more painful at times, yet profound course of life.