"You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams."
Memento, Abre Los Ojos, Vanilla Sky, The Others, The Sixth Sense, Just Like Heaven
The Moral of the Story: Integration
by Susan Lien Whigham
Some films illustrate the power that romantic love has to bring two people back from dissociated states.
Just Like Heaven, directed by Mark Waters and loosely based on the book If Only It Were True by Mark Levy, tells the story of Elizabeth Masterson, a hard-working young doctor who sets her emotional and physical needs aside in favor of advancing her career. After doggedly working a 26-hour stretch, she gets the promotion she was hoping for, and on the way to her sister Abby's house to have dinner with her sister's family and a blind date, she meets with a semi-truck in a head-on collision which leaves her in a coma. Abby puts Elizabeth's furnished apartment up for rent on a month-to-month lease, hoping that Elizabeth will eventually wake from her coma. The apartment is then rented by David Abbott, a landscape architect who is drowning in grief and booze over the loss of his wife two years before. Elizabeth returns to the apartment in spirit form, initially convinced that David is a mentally ill homeless person who has taken up living in her place, and totally ignorant of the fact that she is no longer connected to her physical body. Once they discover that David is the only one who can see or hear Elizabeth, they set off together in search of answers about her unusual condition and in the process, end up falling in love.
Elizabeth's coma is symbolic for a kind of dissociation many people experience as a result of putting their work first, above all else. Rest, romance and leisurely activities are not a consideration in the workaholic's mindset. People who dissociate themselves from their bodies' needs in this manner are basically functioning in a spiritually comatose state, and like Elizabeth, may be driven by a simple and natural need for acceptance.
David comes to the story in a dissociated state as well. His dissociation, on the other hand, is driven by emotional pain in connection with his wife's death. He uses alcohol to distance himself from his pain, and at the opposite end of the work spectrum from Elizabeth, has lost all interest in engaging himself in meaningful work. In this way, he and Elizabeth represent two extremes which seek balance through the relationship. By virtue of their love for each other, they're able to integrate the pain which has separated them from their dissociated spirits, and begin lives together as whole individuals.
Susan Lien Whigham © 2006 All Rights Reserved
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