I just read that the director of the Matrix, Lilly Wachowski, has expressed pleasure that the film’s original intention of being a trans-metaphor has become common place amongst fans.
Whoa. I had never considered that but I totally see it now. That’s amazing. It’s right there and I didn’t see it. I did see other things and it is a film that has had an affect on my life.
I originally connected with the film because of its effects, music, ideas and the sci-fi aspects. Later in life I reevaluated the film and saw it from a mental health aspect.
“You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind.”
I’ve been working on that for about 15 years. I used that quote in a discussion about social anxiety with a therapist. “How do you know what they other person is thinking?” They asked me. “Well, I don’t but you just know they think I’m silly.” … “How?” … “I…hmm.” I now go out wearing nail polish. Sparkly nail polish. I’m letting it all go but it’s taken a long time.
Even later in life I saw it as an autistic metaphor.
Morpheus: What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.
That “splinter” was autism. Nothing wrong with the world or even myself but an explanation of a feeling of something I couldn’t explain.
I understood and appreciated the aspect of dual identity in the film. By day Neo is Mr Anderson. A programmer working in a cubical in a suit. He’s generic but he know’s that something isn’t quite right with his world view. By night he is Neo. He lives two lives. One that allows him to fit in and another that allows him to be his true self. Neo is the real persona there. It’s the persona that is searching for answers and trying to become dominant. With help from Morpheus his mind is unplugged from the social construct of the Matrix and freed.
I got that instantly because that is how I had been living my life since getting online in the mid 1990s. I found a space free from judgement and social anxiety where I could be myself. I found like minded individuals. The online version of me was the real me. The offline was me unconsciously masking as an autistic person just trying to make it through the day without being laughed at. In 2020 with a better understanding of who I am I think maybe I have freed my mind. I am unplugged from the Matrix and able to see the world from a different perspective.
Neo: I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid… you’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.
Even down to the key moment in the film where Agent Smith has Neo in a headlock holding him down to get hit by a train and he says “Goodbye Mr Anderson.” Neo replied with “My name is Neo.” That moment of coming to terms with his identity empowers him to overcome adversity. I’m seeing that from a whole new perspective now.
For me this film had a bunch of quotable and interesting moments that resonated with me at various times in my life. Now I understand the real depth to the film as an exploration of identity and I can only imagine how powerful it has been for others, especially transgender people.
Do I know kung-fu? Unfortunately not.
Back in 2013 my wife and I spent 2 weeks in Bulgaria. One week in Sozopol and the other in Nessebar. Lovely places. We were fortunate enough to stay near a beach in Nessebar that was just that bit too far for the tourists to walk to so it was generally quiet. I thought a small photo essay on boat life might be quite interesting this week. We would walk the island of Nessebar each morning before settling down on the beach. You would see the fishermen selling their catches so you knew the fish you ate at the restaurants were fresh.
While watching the TV show ‘I May Destroy You’, an incredible show that deals with sexual assault (massive trigger warning there), I was introduced to the idea of Art Therapy. “How have I not heard of this before?” I wondered. Is it really a thing people do?
I started to read up on the topic. According to the charity Mind this is how Art Therapy helps;
- give you a safe time and place with someone who won’t judge you
- help you make sense of things and understand yourself better
- help you resolve complicated feelings, or find ways to live with them
- help you communicate and express yourself, which might include feelings or experiences you find hard to put into words.
“Interesting…” he pondered while tapping a beat out on they keyboard.
Over the course of writing this newsletter something occurred to me. I enjoy writing because it helps me organise and process complicated feelings and hopefully live with them. I don’t have all the answers so I put those thoughts out to you dear reader in the hope you can find some value to them. Have I unconsciously been doing Art Therapy all this time?
I’ve been a photographer for over 15 years and I’ve never found it a skill that helped in this way but writing has. Maybe my photography is too rigid in its editorial style. I’m trying my best to document the world around me. I haven’t a clue how to represent anxiety or depression in a photo. It is not someone sat with their head in their hands that’s for sure. But with words I can simply write how I feel and explore the events that lead to those feelings. That helps me.
During these wibbly wobbly exceptionaly unprecedented timey wimeys I’ve considered learning to draw. I’ve always wanted to. As a kid I borrowed a book from the library on how to draw stick figures and really enjoyed its simplicity. We’re n months in now and I haven’t got around to drawing anything, outside of playing with iOS 14’s new shape recognition system that turns your attempt at a square into an actual square. I’ve also wanted to play the keyboard again or learn guitar. However they both required me to buy something between £60-100. which isn’t an obscene amount of money but when I have none coming in it is a lot to spend on something that may end up as an ornament. I did play with GarageBand for a day or so. That was fun.
Have I accidentally done a form of art therapy with my writing? If so then maybe I have found something I’ve been looking for for a long time. A way of dealing with mental health / autism issues. I talk to my wife when I’m struggling but there are times when I hold back otherwise all I’m doing is constantly putting my issues on her. That’s not really fair on her. So I’m glad I have writing as another “person” to talk to.
This also makes me think how important something like art or music therapy can be. I enjoy sitting down at my desk and opening my writing app Bear to find a blank document. I enjoy the process of seeing where my mind takes me. Is that any different to sitting down with a blank sheet of paper and drawing or painting? I don’t think it is. Maybe I’ll never get around to being an amazing artist or even an awful one. Maybe I’ll never pickup a guitar and push past my dyspraxia issues to rawk out. That’s ok though as I may have found enough in writing and photography.
So here’s what I’d say. Try art therapy. Try music therapy. Try writing. Try photography. If one doesn’t work try another. Keep trying different ones. I see people talk about how various creative practices saved or helped them. There’s a lot of power to it.
I’m starting to come around to the idea that my creative practices hold more to my happiness than I ever knew and being happy makes me a better creative person. One of the biggest take aways from this year, outside of a giant bag of chips that’s long over due, is that I want to put more things into the world to make or help people be happier. That starts with me finding ways to deal with my mental health.
- About arts and creative therapies | Mind, the mental health charity - help for mental health problems | Mind, the mental health charity - help for mental health problems
- Art therapy saved my live | DPT
- 9 Ways to Use Art to Practice Self-Care
- 5 Ways to Use Art Journaling to Navigate Anxiety
- Art therapies to do at home
- Art Therapy Activity Benefits & How To Do It At Home
- 8 Great Art Therapy Ideas for Adults
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