It is Possible to Be Better
An Archetypal character study by Rosângela Teixeira
*character played by Jack Nicholson in the movie “As Good As It Gets,” Columbia TriStar Pictures
Cinema is an excellent therapeutic resource and can have a great transforming power to the extent that it establishes a “dialogue” within our collective unconscious; cinema is full of myths and symbols which are part of humankind’s psyche. Fiction is capable of skillfully showing us the forces and weaknesses of the human soul and the disastrous consequences of an exalted imagination. As it has been said: art mirrors life...
Centered on these four characters, Markus Andrus’ and James Brooks’ screenplay develops in an involving and funny manner, despite the drama and the sensitive issues that the story portrays: Carol and her child’s disease, the relationship between Simon and his parents, and Melvin’s behavior and his prejudices.
However, the movie “As Good As It Gets” is much more than a well-written screenplay. It wasn’t necessarily a great effort on Nicholson’s part to establish the focus of the movie: Melvin’s Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, which makes the viewer enjoy each one of the details of his obsession.
Obsession means thoughts or ideas that invade conscience in a repetitive, persistent and stereotyped way, being followed by rituals or not. They are experienced as intrusive, inappropriate or strange. In an attempt to resist them, the person uses compulsions.
Compulsions may be considered as repetitive behaviors that the person performs with the goal of eliminating her/his thoughts or reducing the anxiety that they provoke. Without any real or direct connection with what they try to avoid, they become by this same reason, clearly excessive. They are popularly known as “manics.”
It is appropriate to point out that OCD is not a rare disorder, because it afflicts 2% to 4% of the world population. Additionally, research shows that there is a low level of recovery: just 30%, which makes the treatment a challenge for mental health professionals, causing demand for a more holistic type of treatment. WHO has placed this disorder among the ten medical conditions of all specialties as the most incapacitating for people. It has a progressive and chronic course, indicating that as time passes, the tendency toward aggravation of the condition increases. Heredity factors in these cases, because there is always more than one person with this disorder in the same family.
Filaree is a not a California native plant, but probably was introduced from Europe in 1700 by Spanish explorers. Its scientific name is Erodium cicutarium, a tiny member of the Geraniaceae family which appreciates the desert, but is not restricted to this environment because it is highly adaptable. The name Filaree refers to the long filament of rigid and strong structure that supports tiny flowers. With five petals that vary from pink to purple, each flower produces five seeds united to a long stem.
In case the seed lands on leveled ground, this spinning action will push the seed in a longitudinal way. If this does not occur and the seed lands on an obstructed place, Filaree will turn in another spiral, and try to penetrate the ground in the best way. Additionally, this flower shows great concern with temperature, that is, when it drops, the tail inverts the spiral, penetrating the seed more deeply. And, when the tail begins to dry, Filaree knows that it needs to squeeze the seed once more, to lay it in an adequate position for safe germination. The forces of nature and the fabulous projectile of these seeds lead it to plant itself in an obsessive, methodical, systematic way and only to the exact depth. But, all this ritual is performed in search of a great goal: germination happening adequately. Spinning and turning repetitively, time and time again to germinate. Is it magic? I don’t think so!
Filaree is the positive archetype of people who do their chores with details and perfection. The comparison which I consider the most impressive between Melvin and Filaree, is the repetitions of untiring and obsessive acts that both of them perform.
The flower performs a dramatic ritual even when it throws the seed to germinate, the same way Melvin does as he performs his ritual of washing hands, opening and closing the door, walking by avoiding the lines on the sidewalk, etc. It is as obsessive as Melvin when it searches for the adequate place and position for its seeds to germinate, just as Melvin is obsessive when he goes to the same restaurant, orders the same food and demands being served by the same waitress.
Filaree is untiring in its multiple spins until it feels safe to deposit its seeds, just as Melvin enjoys a feeling of satisfaction as he repeats his rituals exaggeratedly and exhaustively.
The difference is that in Filaree’s rituals there is no waste of energy, but the wish for fulfillment. The planning and organization of its actions substitute the need for systematic rituals. The repetition of its spins and turns shows the perseverance and firmness in reaching its goals.
Patricia Kaminski and Richard Katz objectively describe the drama experienced by OCD patients, when they refer to the Filaree flower essence: “There are times when the soul loses its proper perspective, becoming entirely too enmeshed and overly concerned with the mundane affairs of life. Such a person spends a great deal of time and psychic energy absorbed in small problems and compulsive concerns.
Such persons must marshal their psychic and physical energy for truly productive tasks; otherwise, the larger destiny goes unfulfilled or only partially addressed. They have tremendous inner strength and reserve, which can be of great value when it is properly channeled.”4 (Flower Essence Repertory, page 306.)
1 and 4 Kaminski, Patrícia e Katz, Richard (Flower Essense Repertory)– Repertório das Essências Florais: um guia abrangente das essências florais norte-americanas e inglesas para o bem estar emocional e espiritual.
2 Stern, Claudia – Remédios Florais da Califórnia.
3 Research from www.kaweahoaks.com/html/filaree.html
Rosângela Teixeira is a clinic psychologist specializing in psychosomatics medicine and has extensive clinical experience with flower essence therapy. She attended the Practitioner Training at Instituto Cosmos in 2005 and other trainings with Rosana Souto in regard to the FES essences and astrology.
Presently, Rosângela is the Teaching and Research Vice-Director of Rioflor – Rio de Janeiro’s flower essence therapist association. She writes a column for their monthly e-magazine – Mulheres Inteligentes (Intelligent Women). Under the coordination of Lizete de Paula, she is also a volunteer at Projeto Gotas de Bençãos (Drops of Blessings Project), a social service program attending to children and teenagers who live in special villages called Aldeias Infantis SOS (SOS Infant Villages). Rosângela also belongs to the board of teachers of Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro – Specialization in Flower Essence Therapy courses. She is now an authorized teacher of the Healingherbs education program in Brazil and recently she taught about her own clinical experience in a workshop about anxiety disorders, panic syndrome and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
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