May 25, 2017: An Urging for Emergence
To commemorate the home stretch of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’ve been posting a few lines from the Whisper Rapture script on my Facebook timeline each day from May 22 to May 31. Some of the more provocative quotes have elicited comments that I in turn replied to with as much clarity and compassion as I could muster. I’d like to share some of the more insightful exchanges over the next few blog posts. Here’s the first:
I came to believe that suicide is a deep, deep urging for emergence. We want to be mid-wifed, we want to become another us, another possibility. So maybe it’s not just wanting to die, it’s wanting to be transformed. – Bonfire Madigan Shive
Comment: Madigan, is there some context that slightly changes the punch of this? I mean…I get it, but maybe I don’t get it coming from you. I understand pushing the natural tendency for self destruction that is a part of so many of us to be something that is not a flaw, but a function…maybe it just doesn’t jive with past conversations we’ve had. Maybe I need to ponder on it and write you later to integrate this statement into those in the past. – N.
Reply: Hello N. As the director of the film, I hope you don’t mind my responding to your concerns. I am aware that this is a very provocative statement. And even more so, when isolated from the broader context of the chapter in which Madigan further extemporizes on these reflections. In fact, during our interviews, I asked Madigan to readdress and temper her initial way of articulating suicide as a means of “wanting to change your identity as you’re living it in this moment” into a more accessible and expansive expression–to change the ‘punch’ as you aptly worded it. And she did so beautifully by including the words, ‘mid-wifed’, ‘possibility’, and ‘transformed’. The focus is on the path, not the end. I’m very conscious of language and my invitation into the progressive mental health movement, as exemplified by The Icarus Project, was to develop fresh language and metaphors to discuss extreme emotional states that were otherwise defined by the pathologizing constraints of mainstream psychiatry.
Radical mental health is not about romanticizing psychological distress in any shape or form! What we do is find authentic and inclusive ways to discuss experiences in a mad society that has traditionally not offered the tools and community to heal ourselves. My films are a conscious attempt to create compassionate, community based antidotes to the conventions of mainstream mental health care as well as the standard documentary form. In no manner whatsoever do I wish to deny the distress from anyone’s lived experience or the friends and families of those who suffer. This is intense stuff and it’s triggering for me even to make the films. So I really do respect your concerns and anyone who is sensitive to suicide, be it in the form of ideation or ending a life. Just as there may be many polarities of experience within a bi-polar diagnosis and hearing voices isn’t always about hearing an actual voice, one’s relationship to suicide can manifest in various forms and feelings apart from dying.
Upon reviewing all ten of Madigan’s quotes from the in-progress film, I hope you will recognize that our mission is to offer an alternative way to think, feel, and talk about our mental health so that all of our complexities are valued. – Ken