Lesson #14 Self-love VS Self-destruction, The Middle of Act Two

Updated: Nov 6, 2019

#deathdrive #libido #jung #storytelling Intuitive Screenwriting Wheel suggests that there are 12 archetypal stages to every story, actually 24 steps, and we can basically use every stage as a guide to structurally understand approximately every 10 minutes/pages of a script for a 120-minute long film.

As you know, every step is dual/oppositional, and you would want to use the step as a ‘coin’ that presents itself to you with one side, but you know there is another hidden side to it as well. According to the law of storytelling, every positive archetype is going to transform into its negative or rather subconscious opposite. These 12 coins jump from one side to another all the time. We won’t know if it’s heads or tails until the very end of the film. This is an essential dramaturgical dance of suspense until the ultimate positive or shadow quality eventually wins. For the first half of the wheel journey, it would be best to consider the whole right side of the wheel as the subconscious part of the hero’s psyche or the story – and work your way towards integration - so once you reach the midpoint and go to the second half, the hero is now going through the oppositions of what he already went through. The archetypes are not unknown to him anymore – they are mirrors so the hero has the information he needs to finish the story. I’ll speak about this more as we progress on the wheel. “Everything psychic has a lower and a higher meaning, as in the profound saying of late classical mysticism: “Heaven above, Heaven below, stars above, stars below, all that is above also is below, know this and rejoice.” Symbols of Transformation, C.G.Jung

So, here we are at the second stage of act two, or the middle of act two and I have to say that I strongly disagree with the Save The Cat outline, also known as ‘Blake Snyder beat sheet,’ that this stage in the film is ‘Fun and games.’ I think ‘Fun and games’ come right after the midpoint. At this point it’s all about the:

Sage --> Destroyer (Healing is possible, let’s make it better, let’s make it pure, let’s make it a reality / The fear of bliss is manifested in the form of the death drive or self-destruction. The hero does not realize his own power, the destroyer is perceived as an outside force!)

Sunset Boulevard Sage (Healing is possible): Joe Gillis escapes Norma’s New Year’s Eve party and ends up at another party with his friends Artie Green and Betty, where he can finally breathe some fresh air. Life can be fun, stories can have a soul. Betty is a real healer here for Joe. (45.00)Destroyer Shadow (Death drive): Joe calls Norma from the party and he finds out that she just tried to commit suicide; she has slit her wrists. If she can’t have him (also sexually) she doesn’t want to live anymore. Norma is a Destroyer – in film noir, this energy is always represented by femme fatale. (50.00) The Birds Sage (Healing is possible): Melanie and Annie are analyzing Mitch’s mother, Lydia. Mitch calls Melanie to apologize and invites her to his sister’s birthday party the next day. Melanie accepts.Destroyer Shadow: A bird hits Annie’s door and dies.Sage: Melanie is opening herself up to Mitch at the party. She is risking a lot by being honest about her mother “ditching her.” She tells the truth (which always has healing properties) about how she keeps herself busy in order not to slip into an old self-destructive pattern again. Her monologue is the textbook example of addressing self-destructiveness. Definitely go and see it if you haven’t already. (48.00) Also, note that Annie, herself, represents the Destroyer archetype - the one who sacrificed herself for Mitch’s love that she’ll never be able to have. You can see it in the next frame (51.50) just before the attack.Destroyer Shadow: Since Mitch and Melanie have gotten closer by this point, a huge amount of fear is to come: the massive bird attack – kids are screaming, running around in terror. Force Majeure(But first let’s go one stage back for a moment. Lover stage on the wheel you can find here. ) Lover (love introduced): Their friends, a couple in love is coming to join them.***Caregiver (Shadow): After what happened, Ebba is having some ‘me time’ on the slopes, later she is shocked that a woman, a friend who they met at the ski resort, is having an affair while Ebba is stuck in the role of the family nurturer. At the same time, their son is afraid they are going to get divorced – a textbook example of the shadow caregiver, a broken family. Ebba is processing her position as a woman in the family, she gets emotional, she is crying. (39.00- 43.00)Sage (Healing is possible): Dinner with friends, it seems that everything is fine, that the situation can be healed by others, while Ebba is questioning her position – she doesn’t have free sex like her friend, but she is not safe in the family environment either (‘what have I done wrong?’). She is about to explode. (46.00)Destroyer (Shadow): Ebba’s sudden monologue about what actually happened. The real avalanche of her emotions comes out. Even though she is aware that telling the truth at this point could destroy her relationship with her husband, she just can’t pretend anymore. “So, now I have a problem. I am in this fancy hotel and I am not happy. I don’t feel like it here.” Thomas can’t stand the situation. (50.00)Later on, that evening, while Thomas is with his son, friends want to help Ebba, they play the role of a couple’s therapist. Their relationship is obviously ruined by what has happened and most of all by Thomas’s attitude.

When you think of any stage, also have in mind that it is not built upon a chunk of emotional information vs. another chunk of information, but you can actually achieve that dance by juxtaposing archetypes back and forth scene by scene, like in The Birds. Also, of course, you can have just one scene per archetype like in Sunset Boulevard. And you can give one archetype to one character and another one to another character. That’s actually usually the case. The point of the Intuitive Screenwriting wheel is to play with those archetypal “coins” and be creative with them.

SAGE is the part of our consciousness that is able to analyze in order to first purify and then heal. It can perfect oneself into its better version. How it is done?

As I was explaining in the previous post, first we are in love, and then we realize the child within us is wounded. To experience mature love, we need to heal first. For that, we need a doctor or psychoanalyst or a shaman (most of the time, we play all of these roles for ourselves), who can go through the symptoms (the body is also very important here) and sort out what’s relevant and what’s not. The Sage has a razor-sharp eye with which to scan and spot the problem and give the right diagnosis. In the films I have chosen here, the hero is either analyzing himself or someone else, (but with analyzing someone else he is ultimately analyzing himself), or, someone else is analyzing our hero.

The important part is to speak out loud. In all three of the films I have chosen, characters are speaking up in the middle of act two, they are finally aware of what’s bothering them, and they want to be healed.

It’s maybe also a little bit of a cold-hearted and cool-headed part of the film, where the hero is owning who he is and especially who he is not but would like to be. It also interesting that the Sage is about helping others, it is actually a selfless servant in us, one that is going to be satisfied only if he is helpful. In both The Birds and Force Majeure, we witness exactly that. After we know what’s wrong with us, after we confront it – then we have to allow the body, the heart, and the psyche to heal itself. It is not an overnight process and the most important is to trust it – but how? First by living in integrity and then by loving oneself, which is actually one and the same. Seeing things how they truly are and owning them is actually part of the self-realization process. Maybe you’ve heard that behind every illness is a lie. That means that healing is only possible by recognizing the truth.

The hero simply has to be who he really is – to love himself so that he can admit what’s wrong with himself (which is the most important for the healing process to start) - and this is the positive Sage.

In its shadow version, it is an obsessive citric or a perfectionist, the suspicious one in us who is never satisfied because everything can always be better, cleaner, healthier, more in integrity or in alignment. But we’ll come to that.

After the Sage, we automatically transition into the shadow DESTROYER- and before I explain what that archetype is really all about, notice that again all three films I am analyzing are about the destruction that came directly or metaphorically because of the sex drive that was not addressed or being met – and that is not a coincidence.

Also, remember, this destructive force is subconscious and usually it is perceived as an outside force, the hero is still not owning the destroyer within him. The hero is not realizing his own power, and therefore he is projecting it as something that is out of his control.

Norma tries to kill herself because she can’t have Joe - means that the opponent is taking the role of the destroyer! Birds are attacking as soon as Melanie opens up to Mitch - means a harmful force is coming from the outside world but ultimately it is representing the character’s inner world. Ebba is going crazy when she realizes she is ignored in her marriage – but the point is she is still not aware of her own power, SHE is the Force majeure, which is going to become clear at the end of the film! EROS AND THANATOS“In Freudian psychoanalytic theory, the death drive is the human drive toward death and self-destruction. It was originally proposed by Sabina Spielrein in her paper "Destruction as the Cause of Coming Into Being" in 1912, which was then taken up by Sigmund Freud in 1920 in Beyond the Pleasure Principle. The essay describes humans as struggling between two opposing drives: Eros, which produces creativity, sexual connection, reproduction, and self-preservation; and Thanatos, which brings destruction, aggression, compulsion, and self-destruction.” LIBIDO For Jung, on the other hand, this destructive force is part of libido, who he understood as the totality of psychic energy, the biggest energy that exists, the very creative power of the soul, but also sexual drive, one that can give birth and destroy, in order to give birth again. For him, a representation of libido was the sun, while for Freud libido was the mere drive for sex. “The sun, as Renan has observed, is the only truly “rational” image of God, whether we adopt the standpoint of the primitive savage or of modern science. In either case, the sun is the father-god from whom all living things draw life; he is the fructifier and creator, the source of energy for our world. The discord into which the human soul has fallen can be harmoniously resolved through the sun as a natural object which knows no inner conflict. The sun is not only beneficial but also destructive; hence the zodiacal sign for August heat is the ravaging lion which Samson slew in order to rid the parched earth of its torment. Yet it is in the nature of the sun to scorch, and its scorching power seems natural to man. It shines equally on the just and the unjust and allows useful creatures to flourish as well as the harmful. Therefore, the sun is perfectly suited to represent the visible God of this world, i. e., the creative power of our own soul, which we call libido, and whose nature it is to bring forth the useful and the harmful, the good and the bad.”Symbols of Transformation, C.G.Jung And also:“The finest of all symbols of the libido is the human figure, conceived as a demon or hero. Here the symbolism leaves the objective, material realm of astral and meteorological images and takes on human form, changing into a figure who passes from joy to sorrow, from sorrow to joy, and, like the sun, now stands high at the zenith and now is plunged into darkest night, only to rise again in new splendor. “Symbols of Transformation, C.G.Jung So, for us to use the power of the wheel the best we can, I think it is important to use Jung’s interpretation of the libido when we speak of the Destroyer archetype, and since we need its shadow here, this is exactly the ‘If it can’t be for life, sexual pleasure and enjoyment, let it be for death and destruction’ part of the story.

In films, the Destroyer is usually, represented in the form of the fear of bliss, because sexual energy is transformation but also disintegration. Psychologically it is the fear of losing oneself for the sake of union, fear of the death of the self and therefore rather the destruction of the union…

Sabina Spielrein in her paper Destruction as the cause for coming into being is exploring exactly that “unknown fear lying within erotic activity’: “In young woman I find that a feeling of anxiety is normal and it moves to the forefront of repressed feelings when the possibility of fulfillment of the wish first appears.” She is also proposing biological facts in order to understand “what happens to the individual in the presence of sexual activity - a state of mind that can bring death images in correlation with sex images": During reproduction, a union of male and female cells occurs. The unity of each cell is destroyed, and from the product of this destruction, new life occurs. The individual must strongly hunger for this new creation in order to place its own destruction in creation’s service. ” She also quotes Jung: “This passionate longing has two sides: it is the power which beautifies everything, but, in a different set of circumstances, is quite as likely to destroy everything. Hence a violent desire is either accompanied by anxiety at the start or is remorselessly pursued by it. All passion is a challenge to fate, and what it does cannot be undone. Fear of fate is a very understandable phenomenon, for it is incalculable, immeasurable, full of unknown dangers. The perpetual hesitation of the neurotic to launch out into life is readily explained by his desire to stand aside so as not to get involved in the dangerous struggle for existence. But anyone who refuses to experience life must stifle his desire to live—in other words, he must commit partial suicide. This explains the death-fantasies that usually accompany the renunciation of desire.”Symbols of Transformation, C.G.Jung In the Destroyer stage, the hero can also face the fear that healing is not possible, that everything will turn out to be the same as before, which is actually his defense mechanism. The hero feels out of power and subconsciously he will go against the situation or himself. In order to create something better, he will have an urge to destroy first.

No matter what are the manifestations of the death drive, in this part in the story, the ‘devil’ is out of the box for the first time and for the hero, the actual possibility of death (Norma) or the end of a relationship like in Force majeure is real.

Once again, I think this really is not the ‘Fun and games’ part of the film at all, it is actually the first of two difficult parts (the next one is the stage widely known as ‘Dark Night of the soul’ – but actually when approaching the end of the film, the destructive powers are used in a different way. The hero will then own his power, which is ultimately by letting go, letting powers that are mightier than he to take over… because the only way to resurrect is actually to die. And what has to die is precisely this self-destructiveness. #deathdrive #libido #jung #storytelling


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