A good review of a new French film, “J’enrage de son absence” (Maddened by his Absence) reminded me that living through painful emotions through fictional characters can help, especially if the emotions are complicated and confusing. Of course, jumping into a film about grief-stricken, lonely people when you’re feeling much the same can lead to a sense of drowning in it, so it doesn’t always work… But if, like me, you don’t quite know what you’re feeling and can’t quite sort out why and what and how and when, watching a drama play out through fictional characters can help get things a bit straighter and – bonus – make us realise again that we’re far from being alone in feeling this way.
When my sister rang to tell me she had cancer, it was just as I and a friend were going in to a cinema to watch ‘Love Actually’. Disaster. The upbeat, sweet romantic comedy was so much at odds with my feelings that it meant me crying silently through most of the film, especially at the end, with the images of happy people greeting each other at the airport. Hundreds of them, all ecstatic at seeing their families and friends. Instead of thinking positively about what I could do for Ginny, and being able to talk it through with my friend, I was stuck in the dark cinema with my imaginings and all this happy sweetness. In contrast to the feelings on screen, I was picturing the worst and starting to grieve for what was in danger of being lost. Not good.
Have you had an experience of fiction affecting your emotional state for good or ill?
- Positive Dissociation, and its Importance: “Losing Yourself” in a Fictional Character Can Affect Your Real Life (sott.net)