Depression, anxiety, isolation and a lack of connection to the people in our lives are some of the ails in our society contributing to the high incidence of mental illness. These are some of the issues grappled with at the Sedona Film Festival this week that I attended.
What is exciting about this festival is the ability to watch the screenings of movies and also get an opportunity to hear the actors and directors talk about their films. One such film that I saw is Running from Crazy, which was recently released and produced by Oprah Winfrey, directed by Barbara Koppel and starring Mariel Hemingway.
The Hemingway story is a tragic American tale of a renowned celebrity in our modern society. Running from Crazy is a documentary addressing the life of model and performing artist Mariel Hemingway. She is the granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, and reflects her family history of suicide and depression.
Through footage of the three Hemingway sisters and interviews with Mariel herself, the film analyzes the momentous yet disastrous Hemingway legacy. As Mariel deals with the tragedies of her family's past that have formed the course of her life, profound disclosures are uncovered and truths about the family skeleton come forward.
Through everything, Mariel figures out how to defeat these ghosts for herself and her children. Mariel's courageous journey of acceptance and introspection allows her to view her family and turbulent upbringing through new eyes and accept them with a peaceful heart.
Her realization is that nothing is more important than feeling loved and accepted by your family. The title, "Running From Crazy," is a perfect description of her life running from the family heritage of suicide, depression and bipolar disorder.
Today, Mariel Hemmingway is actively involved with multiple organizations whose goal is to help people suffering from depression. What the documentary conveys is the power of family and tragedy of a family with a deep history of self-destruction.
This family has experienced more tragedy than most families. Mariel compares herself to the Kennedys at one point during the film. I think this is a fair parallel. The Hemingway family has had 7 suicides; Is there anything more tragic?
This is a heart-wrenching story of pervasive mental illness in the Hemingway family. All of us have tragedies in our lives; some of us are more fortunate than others to have families who are able to pull together in tragedies while some pull apart.
Mariel Hemingway commented on a real lack of connection with her siblings and parents. In my practice as a family therapist I specialize utilizing a model of emotionally focused therapy. I work with couples, families and individuals from this perspective utilizing attachment theory as a foundation.
With marriage and family counseling I can help families feel the loving bond everyone desires. There are many lessons to be learned from this film regarding ways to heal from these wounds. How families maintain connection or disconnect is an important concept. Clearly the Hemingway family was not a family that had the knowledge or experience about how to connect emotionally with one another.
While watching this movie I was filled with emotions. It brought up many things for me both personally and professionally. I kept thinking about all the missed opportunities they had. How sad this family did not have a way to connect with one another.
The parent's relationship was awful. The entire family felt alone and isolated. If only there had been some skilled professional that could have reached out to help them. Things might have been different for the entire family. All of us need someone in our lives so each of us feel special and significant.
If only Jack Hemingway, Mariel's father, could have effectively dealt with his past losses and the emptiness he felt in the relationship with his father, Earnest Hemingway who himself committed suicide. Things may have been different if he had some help. Jack felt disconnected from his wife and children. This is really sad to see unfold on the screen.
However, there is a positive perspective to this story. What also was clear is that Mariel of all the children has been able to prosper in her life and take a different path for herself and her children. The relationship that she has established in her life with her boyfriend Bobby Williams, a stuntman who she met on a hike trying to keep herself healthy offered her a place to get her emotional needs met.
They are a good example of how a connected relationship with a significant partner can allow us to feel secure and connected and be able to work through the wounds in our past. This is not dependency, its about love in the truest form.
My own decision to become a mental health counselor was based on a high school experience with friends in high school who had killed themselves in a suicide pact. This tragedy was one of the most profound experiences in my life.
These were two kids that I was jealous of. They appeared to have it all. The girls liked them, they came from a good family, and were straight A students. I remember asking myself what could have been so bad?
Yet the reality was just because it appeared they have it all doesn't mean we really know what is happening inside of them emotionally. This is a crisis for many celebrity families…look at Philip Seymour Hofmann and Cory Monteith two really sad stories.
Emotionally Focused Therapy is not just a model for couples; it may very well be a pathway to true connections families can have with one another, stopping tragedies such as the Hemingway family. The movie is about Mariel but truthfully the movie actually is about the void and emptiness that the entire Hemingway family experiences. The adults nor the children never discovered how to be close and connected to one another.
This documentary, although quite depressing, told me loud and clear I am where I belong. As a family counselor I help people realize they are not alone and can get the help that they need. It is really fulfilling. The more people know about Emotionally Focused therapy and how it can alter generations of loneliness and despair in families the better everyone's lives would be.
If there is someone you know that is hurting get them to a professional skilled in helping them understand that they are not alone. There are resources available to you so your can truly know how important you are and feel the connection with those in your life.
Stuart Fensterheim LCSW is a Marriage and Family counselor with a private practice in Scottsdale Arizona. Stuarts practice is exclusive to individuals, couples and families who are having relationship difficulties. Stuart has advanced training in Emotionally Focused Therapy helping families who are having difficulty feeling close and connected to one another.
He assists families in finding ways to deepen their relationship by understanding what each persons needs in the relationship. He helps families develop a pathway to establishing a closeness where everyone feels important and special. For more information on his practice go to www.thecouplesexpertscottsdale.com Signup to get his Newsletter, and you'll receive relationship tips, articles and suggestions that can help you today!
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