Mind
“Once upon a time …” Tarantino’s rescripting and cinema

“Once upon a time …” Tarantino’s rescripting and cinema

 Warning! The article may contain spoilers

When a painful scenario is modified through imagery rescripting, the body reorganizes itself and the same happens to me as I see that after so much pain, suffering and injustice, the protagonists of Tarantino’s films finally get their ransom.

Listening to Son of a Preacher Man (Dusty Springfield, 1969) during reading is suggested.

 

Advertising message Recently I saw “Once upon a time in … Hollywood”, the last work of Quentin Tarantino. It tells, albeit indirectly, of the Manson Family tragedy of Cielo Drive in 1969. Sharon Tate (in the eighth month of pregnancy) plus 4 other people were brutally murdered in her home by 3 members of the sect led by Charles Manson. In the film, things are different than in reality (spoiler alert). When the film ended, thanks to the different ending, I felt better, even in the following days when I thought about it. Then I noticed that similar sensations I also felt with other Tarantino films. In his films, beyond the directing, technical and scripting aspects, a theme that often recurs is that of revenge, understood as revenge or redemption. In “Pulp Fiction” there is the story of a missed boxer, victim of a difficult childhood because of his father who died in the war. In “Kill Bill” we have the redemption of the bride, in “Grindhouse” the revenge of 4 girls victims of a psychopathic fetishist serial killer. Again, in “Inglourious Basterds”, it is about the redemption of humanity against Hitler and the Nazis, in “Django” it is the black population that, thanks to the protagonist, obtains its consolation and finally, in “There was once in… Hollywood ”, the relatives and friends of the victims of the Cielo Drive massacre find their justice. Even if the story does not change, because in reality the Nazis have not been incinerated in a cinema, no black slave (perhaps) has ever done the deeds of Django,

My mind went to what often happens in session with patients, when they tell very painful narrative episodes and still inscribed in the body. In the session we try to alleviate this pain, sometimes simply by offering our warm and attentive presence, by tuning in and empathizing. Other times we act on the bodily aspect, on the embodied “body self” (Ferri et al., 2012), modifying the automatisms maintained by the implicit procedural memories, we try to change the bodily patterns (Dimaggio, Popolo, Ottavi, Salvatore, 2019). We can use bottom-up activations or act on relational sequences of the various situations with role playing or dramaturgical techniques.

In particular, in watching films like “Once upon a time in … Hollywood” I was enthusiastic about the exploits of Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt): how he acts when he visits the ranch where the Manson Family lives, how he manages the situation with a bratty Bruce Lee and above all how he heroically resolves (thanks to the help of the highly trained pit bull Brandy) the final tragedy.

I also associated my pleasant feelings with the therapeutic procedure of rescripting. Imagery Rescripting was useful for social anxiety (Norton & Abbott, 2016; Romano et al., 2020), disease anxiety (Nilsson et al., 2019), DOC (Maloney et al., 2019), PTSD from abuse childhood (Raabe et al., 2015), depression (Moritz et al., 2018), post traumatic intrusive memories (Rijkeboer et al., 2020), nightmares (Kunze et al., 2019), personality disorders (Arntz, 2011; Dimaggio, Popolo, Ottavi, Salvatore, 2019). During rescripting a painful experience changes in imagination to satisfy the subject’s active needs in the real difficult situation. The procedure can concern episodes that occurred in the past but also feared events of the future (Arntz, Jacob, 2013). Internal experiences: images, smells, sounds, colors and flavors are recalled and integrated into new narratives (Damasio, 1994). Relieving states of suffering means changing states of body and mind. Becoming aware of it or trying to modify cognitions is not enough, it is necessary to experience new bodily states, acting on the body directly or in imagination. While remembering an event and reliving an emotionally intense scene, the premotor areas are activated preparing the body for action. The action has often been blocked for years (e.g. a child who was looking for contact or attention never received, who would have liked to protect himself or run away from a violent adult, or move sustained in play and free exploration), what he did not at the time, the interrupted movement was carried out in the present in the session. We try to help patients complete the gesture repressed for years, the “acts of triumph” called them Janet. Even just by moving the body differently or by imagining it. New narratives of themselves and of what happened are constructed, changing their physical sensations (Dimaggio, Popolo, Ottavi, Salvatore, 2019). Rewriting a scene allows the creation of new mental and bodily patterns that help the patient to face life experiences in a more adaptive and satisfying way. The rescripting in Imagery is not the simple re-enactment of an event that raises the patient’s mood. The patient finds himself reliving what he has gone through, with all the sensations, as if it were happening in the present moment, as if it were real. Rescripting does not aim to change the past, this is not possible, however it allows to give rise to a different scheme to face the relational world (Centonze, Inchausti, MacBeth, Dimaggio, 2020). When a painful scenario changes in imagination, the patient’s body behaves differently, it reorganizes itself to satisfy the patient’s needs in a more adaptive way. The same happens to me, on the cinema chair or on the sofa in my house, while I see that after so much pain, suffering and injustice, the bride finally settles the whole gang of Bill, Django wins a war alone, Brad Pitt chastises the colonel Landa, Hitler and the Nazis and, always he, does justice to the victims of Cielo Drive. My body changes in front of the film, it activates itself and it cannot stay still, I enter a state of beneficial hyperarousal, I feel more loose, happy, satisfied.

The technique is proposed to the patient by explaining the methods and the purposes: there is a preliminary preparation phase with sensorial focus on the breath, the body or a grounding exercise. Then comes the central phase, the actual execution, we go on some still painful episode in which in the past one or more needs (of care, safety, autonomy, appreciation or other) were not met (Dimaggio, Popolo, Ottavi , Salvatore, 2019). It is in this phase that, depending on what emerges, we can act with rescripting. The patient must move in the scene recalled in a different way than what happened in reality, act, speak, experience mental and bodily states in the direction of his needs or desires, understood as interpersonal motivational systems (Liotti, Monticelli, 2014) active at the precise moment of the recalled narrative event. The scene is first relived and then rewritten, the therapist does not say what the patient has to do but creatively proposes alternatives, suggests phrases, actions or behaviors different from the dysfunctional pattern, proactive in meeting his needs (Dimaggio , Popolo, Ottavi, Salvatore, 2019). Often it is the patient himself who decides what to say to the invalidating father or how to behave in the painful situation in which he has been found to be deficient, excluded, guilty or otherwise. When the eyes reopen, we have the shared reflection phase. The patient acquires greater awareness of their own experiences and patterns, has greater agency on their mental states. He understands that the core of the problem is located more in its internal world than in the external world (Centonze, Inchausti, MacBeth, Dimaggio, 2020). On the basis of this new awareness, behavioral and relational exposures can be negotiated, the therapeutic contract reviewed, the objectives and tasks reformulated (Dimaggio, Popolo, Ottavi, Salvatore, 2019).

Advertising message Davide is 25 years old, has a non-serious borderline core and narcissistic functioning. It reports an episode in which while walking with his girlfriend, he feels the desire to embrace her but he cannot, he stiffens, inhibits himself and feels sad. I invite Davide to explore what happened together. I invite him to focus on all the details, the place where they are, the girl’s face, what they say, how he feels. He wants to embrace the girl, but he feels anxiety and fear. He feels stuck in his shoulders and arms, I invite him to stand on these sensations, to breathe on it. He tells me that he sees himself weak and unworthy. As he says it, his face changes, darkens, the body sags and is moved a little. I invite him to stay on these internal states by anchoring himself to the breath and doing nothing, I kindly ask him if other memories, scenes, images or sensations come that are in some way associated with what he is feeling now. It recalls a single image, I propose to see it in imaginative, with your eyes closed. He is small, in kindergarten, his mother has just left and he cries for this, a teacher yells at him to stay in his place. During the therapy many traumatic narrative episodes related to kindergarten emerged. We relive this small fragment by talking about it in the present, as if it were happening live. Davide sees himself small, impotent and crushed, the body is immobilized, he feels terror and there is no one to console him for detachment from his mother. After a few moments of focusing on these emotions and sensations I invite him to slowly open his eyes. We do some small revitalizing body activation, this allows him to modify the related body state in which he finds himself, to acquire mastery on the sensations and to get in touch with a more vital part of himself. Let’s do some small activation and discharge exercises borrowed from Lowen’s bioenergetics. After a few minutes a healthy part of Davide emerges, the one who has been practicing martial arts for 10 years, he feels calm, energetic, strong, vital, athletic. I invite him to sit down and close his eyes again. At this point we attempt a rescripting. Let’s go back to kindergarten, in front of the teacher. I invite Davide to recall that fragment, that image of the teacher who yells at him, while maintaining the image of strength and vitality acquired first through the exercises. I ask him what could be useful to that child to manage that situation, if there is something that child can say or do, albeit very small, but stronger than before. He tells me that he would like to shout at her against bad words but that perhaps it would be better to go and play with the other children looking for their company. I invite him to do it in imagination. Imagine himself with other children playing with constructions and robots, he feels their closeness and also their protection. Imagine also resorting to Taekwondo’s moves against the teacher if the need arises. This possibility makes him feel strong, as if he had a chance, he feels the upper part of the chest wider, airy and dilated. I invite him to stay in these sensations for a few moments and to recognize how this David is made, he sees him as competent, brave, worthy of consideration and recognition. After this we gradually return to reality and briefly discuss what we have done. The next session, we try to recall this mental and bodily structure, always in Imagery, I invite him to return to the course, to walk with the girl. Let’s go back to the desire to embrace her, imagine doing it, visualize the gesture she makes, her hand and her arm behind her shoulders and her neck, her face smiling as she looks at him and gives in to his embrace, she lets herself be guided as in a dance with his movements and they kiss quickly. Davide feels the contact and the warmth of her body, perceives his closeness, is moved and happy. After feedback and a comparison on what has been done, together we reconstruct the scheme according to the model of Interpersonal Metacognitive Therapy. His need is that of closeness, sentimental and affective intimacy, the idea is that if he tries to get closer the other does not satisfy that need causing him a state of suffering and the reactivation of an unloving self-image. This leads him to immediately shift to another negative image of himself, that of a deficient, unsuitable person, not up to par. Automatically, to protect itself, it puts in place a coping of avoidance and emotional inhibition (Dimaggio, Popolo, Ottavi, Salvatore, 2019). I invite him to expose himself to all this, to really try to get closer to the girl, first perhaps even through a message, later also physically, recalling the vital and positive part of himself and the associated sensations. His need is that of closeness, sentimental and affective intimacy, the idea is that if he tries to get closer the other does not satisfy that need causing him a state of suffering and the reactivation of an unloving self-image. This leads him to immediately shift to another negative image of himself, that of a deficient, unsuitable person, not up to par. Automatically, to protect itself, it puts in place a coping of avoidance and emotional inhibition (Dimaggio, Popolo, Ottavi, Salvatore, 2019). I invite him to expose himself to all this, to really try to get closer to the girl, first perhaps even through a message, later also physically, recalling the vital and positive part of himself and the associated sensations. His need is that of closeness, sentimental and affective intimacy, the idea is that if he tries to get closer the other does not satisfy that need causing him a state of suffering and the reactivation of an unloving self-image. This leads him to immediately shift to another negative image of himself, that of a deficient, unsuitable person, not up to par. Automatically, to protect itself, it puts in place a coping of avoidance and emotional inhibition (Dimaggio, Popolo, Ottavi, Salvatore, 2019). I invite him to expose himself to all this, to really try to get closer to the girl, first perhaps even through a message, later also physically, recalling the vital and positive part of himself and the associated sensations. the idea is that if he tries to get closer the other does not satisfy that need causing him a state of suffering and the reactivation of an unloving self-image. This leads him to immediately shift to another negative image of himself, that of a deficient, unsuitable person, not up to par. Automatically, to protect itself, it puts in place a coping of avoidance and emotional inhibition (Dimaggio, Popolo, Ottavi, Salvatore, 2019). I invite him to expose himself to all this, to really try to get closer to the girl, first perhaps even through a message, later also physically, recalling the vital and positive part of himself and the associated sensations. the idea is that if he tries to get closer the other does not satisfy that need causing him a state of suffering and the reactivation of an unloving self-image. This leads him to immediately shift to another negative image of himself, that of a deficient, unsuitable person, not up to par. Automatically, to protect itself, it puts in place a coping of avoidance and emotional inhibition (Dimaggio, Popolo, Ottavi, Salvatore, 2019). I invite him to expose himself to all this, to really try to get closer to the girl, first perhaps even through a message, later also physically, recalling the vital and positive part of himself and the associated sensations. that of a deficient person, unsuitable, not up to par. Automatically, to protect itself, it puts in place a coping of avoidance and emotional inhibition (Dimaggio, Popolo, Ottavi, Salvatore, 2019). I invite him to expose himself to all this, to really try to get closer to the girl, first perhaps even through a message, later also physically, recalling the vital and positive part of himself and the associated sensations. that of a deficient person, unsuitable, not up to par. Automatically, to protect itself, it puts in place a coping of avoidance and emotional inhibition (Dimaggio, Popolo, Ottavi, Salvatore, 2019). I invite him to expose himself to all this, to really try to get closer to the girl, first perhaps even through a message, later also physically, recalling the vital and positive part of himself and the associated sensations.

Rescripting is therefore a very powerful procedure if implemented at the moment, in the context and with the appropriate purposes. Beyond how we therapists live it or how patients live it, it is surprising to find these forms of rewriting beneficial also in daily life. It happened to me with the ending of the film that gives the title to this article. The massacre of Cielo Drive is one of those news stories wrapped in a sort of cultural myth. He brings the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate, Hollywood, the Hippie culture and a banal serial killer (a living bluff) close to each other that has plagued dozens of teenagers thanks to philosophical and spiritual platitudes read in prison, thanks to rituals orgiastic sexual drugs under constant drug and alcohol effects. When family members enter Rick Dalton’s home in the film’s finale, convinced that they are at the Polanski’s house, but Cliff and Brandy find you there, a smile already appears on my face and I think: “Poor you where you happened”. My anguish turns into sarcastic contempt, into amused mockery. Then when Cliff sends the attack signal to Brandy everything becomes very fast and predictable. The family is in a sea of ​​trouble. From that moment on I begin to really enjoy myself. I am curious, I taste surprise, I have a slight tachycardia and my body is tense. Despite the bloody scene I am cheered, satisfied, satisfied and proud of Cliff. Justice is done for Ms. Polanski and the other victims, the right end for the family. In short, the act of reliving, with the imagination, with the body and with the senses, a painful episode, modifying the outcome or the way we stay in it,