Written By: Mark Smith
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We went old school music last week, now we're going old school movies - the classic 80's film The Big Chill. If you are so young that you missed it, you missed a funny, stirring movie with great stars - Glenn Close, Kevin Kline, Jeff Goldblum, Tom Berenger, JoBeth Williams, Meg Tilly and one of my all time favorites, William Hurt. The movie is about a reunion of thirty-something University of Michigan baby boomers on the occasion of the funeral by suicide of one of their own - Alex (played by a young Kevin Cosner whose scenes ended up on the cutting floor).
There is a KILLER quote from the movie about denial and rationalizations that intrigued me. Jeff Goldblum (Michael): "Don't knock rationalization. Where would be be without it? I don't know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They're more important than sex." Tom Berenger (Sam Weber): "Ah, come on. Nothing's more important than sex." Jeff Goldblum (Michael): "Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?" What are your really juicy rationalizations? It is amazing to me that we can walk around in our skins twenty four hours a day and not know the truth about ourselves. Really effective therapy is very simple - it is all about getting as much truth about the folks coming in asking for help to choke down as much raw truth about their childhoods, their addictions, their wounds, their marriages, their children, their quirks and especially their juiciest rationalizations.
Last week I had to crop of the photo of Harville Hendrix and I included in the my blog post. It seems that the camera malfunctioned. It made me look extraordinarily and embarrassingly fat. Then it hit me. I really was that fat. The camera was telling the truth, but it was news to me. I've hit the weight room and cut out sweets in an effort to deal with my unpleasant reality. Finally knowing the truth about ourselves and developing a disgust for the behavior (not ourselves) is what engenders a genuine desire to change. During the last several months of stress caused by our office move I told myself that I would deal with healthy eating habits and weight loss later as I tossed down cookies, ice cream, pasta, chips, pizza and anything else that wasn't nailed down. I blocked out reality when I put my extremely snug pants on every day.
So what is the truth about you? What are your juiciest rationalizations? Are you telling yourself that your marriage is fine when you know that has been dying a slow and boring death for years? Are you telling yourself that your attachment to an attractive co-worker is just an innocent friendship when it has already blossomed into an emotional affair that very well could end up in a hotel room soon? Are you telling yourself that the five hours a week that you surf the internet for porn is you just being a normal guy? I am not wanting to sound preachy here. I do not mean it that way. I'm just trying to get you to have a radar detector for your own BS. How is your losing your temper with your kids effecting them? Is your work life crowding out enough time for sleep, dates with your spouse, hobbies or quality time with your kids? Do you tell yourself that your wife clearly has sexual repression issues to not want a stud like you when the truth is that she just isn't all that interested in sleeping with you because you are oblivious, controlling and critical of her? Are you telling yourself that you are just a little sad some days when you actually are battling full blown depression? Do you tell yourself that you are actually saving money at the big sale when you are really covering up low self-esteem and depression with a spending addiction?
Do this - grab a piece of paper and write down three difficult truths about yourself that you sort of have a clue about but never really wanted to know. Be honest. Tear down your walls. Be gentle but scathing at the same time. Don't pull any punches. What has your spouse been trying to tell you? What has your boss been trying to tell you? In the end, knowing the stone cold, ugly truths about yourself is much more of a life affirming, life changing gift then even the juiciest of your juicy rationalizations because only then you can get to work fixing things! For all of us the full truth about us is priceless. Are your juicy rationalizations more important than sex to you? I loved the character William Hurt played in the movie because he had no illusions - he knew who he was and he was brilliant at also cutting through the rationalizations of his compromising, high minded friends. His character pulled absolutely no punches with himself.
If you have never seen The Big Chill it is something that you MUST do before you die. To dismiss it as an irrelevant 80's buddy film is a not a juicy rationalization but a weak rationalization of the very worst sort! It is a great movie and you'll enjoy it even if you aren't a baby boomer.
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