Today I caught the Brian Wilson bio pick “Love and Mercy”. Armed with a bag of maltesers, I settled in to my cushy cinema chair to enjoy the wonderful two hour tribute to a life of agony and ecstasy. The world of a supreme genius – the Beethoven of our times, complete with ear deafness issues like the original maestro. From the opening beach scenes to the musical finale, it was a beautiful, and at times incredibly frustrating, experience of the highs and lows of having a creative mind and a gentle soul.
I am no musical virtuoso, and Brian Wilson has more talent in his baby finger than I possess in my whole body, but I was struck by some interesting similarities to myself in the film. I think a truly good film encourages you to identify with the humanity of the story – and “Love and Mercy’ certainly did that.
Without giving away too much, Brian Wilsons life was coloured by some maddeningly controlling and dominating individuals. We’ve all seen people like them…. The passive aggressive, the narcissists, the semi-sociopaths who inflict themselves on the gentle souls who - through their own lack of life experience or gentleness of disposition - do not possess the skills to ‘fight back’. People who seek peace, beauty and creativity in the world, railroaded by the self serving, controlling and manipulative. It happens all the time – on a personal level all the way up to a political one. Look at third world countries dominated by patriarchal religions for a global example.
Classic left brained people kept subservient in a right brained world.
But I digress……
Brian Wilson was a man so accustomed to being dominated and controlled from the earliest days of childhood that he (and his brothers) had not developed the skills needed to protect himself. To stand his ground when he needed to. Yet, I wonder if his life had not begun in the pressure cooker of needing to please the unpleasable narcissistic parent, would he have become such a prestigious talent? A creative – absolutely….creativity is a gift – but a complete genius? I guess we may never know…..
Ancient texts oftentimes equate a person’s development to a refining by fire. There are so many fictional and non fictional stories of people with tremendous odds against them – victimised, bullied, outcast or poverty stricken - who become the true successes of our time. The Elvis Presleys (poverty). The Susan Boyles (bullied and outcast). Marilyn Monroes (poverty). Vincent Van Goughs (outcast). Joseph son of Jacob’s (victimised). Stephen Speilbergs (bullied). Kate Winslets (bullied). I wonder if the struggles experienced in their stories refined the ‘gold’ of who they eventually became?
So, I mentioned that Brian Wilson’s story ‘struck a chord’ (pardon the pun) with me. Not so long ago I was told that one of the biggest challenges of my lifetime would be learning to stand up for myself. That my life would be peppered with controlling people and situations that would force me to learn this lesson. And they are so right. My life has been riddled with dominating people and passive aggressives. And I too am like Brian Wilson – in the past I have not possessed the skills to stand up (when required) to people that I hoped to please. People that I longed for approval from, approval I never received, not because I was unworthy, but because they were unable to give it. A gentle, creative soul who wanted the unhappy controlling people to both delight in me, and find happiness themselves.
It’s obvious to me now in hindsight that they were never going to delight in me, or very little else. I drew these people to me – just like Brian seemed to. In some instances I even chose them myself. Ever noticed how we crazily seem to go after exactly what we don’t need in our lives?
However, the ‘standing up for myself’ prediction is proving 100% correct. These people are actually teaching self kindness, forcing me to get tough about unacceptable behaviour. It is proving a pivotal part of this lifetime’s lessons. Treatment I once tolerated from others, I no longer do. Criticism I once grieved over, now slides off my ducks back. Frozen silences from passive aggressives don’t cause me to bat an eyelid in guilt.
I easily walk away from dates who express criticism of the way I style my hair. I choose to seek advice from friends who want to empower me and offer an objective view, rather than chasing validation unpleasable people. I surround myself with people who know how to respect and show curiosity in my point of view, even while not always agreeing. I am making choices that reflect my values, overflowing from my growing self-confidence - I have stepped out of the shade and into the sunshine of who I really am.
And I have those difficult people to thank.
Sometimes we are rescued, like Brian. Sometimes we are refined through fire and learn how to rescue ourselves, like me.
There is great power within YOU too, if you find yourself trapped in the torment of control, exploited by the callous and self obsessed. You are not alone and you don’t have to stay trapped. Seek support where ever you can – the authorities, a psychologist or councillor, the salvation army or a similar organisation group. Whatever your particular circumstance, you need to know that within you lies all the bravery you need to change your situation. After all,
“There is no triumph without courage”
And deep down everyone has courage – a grain of it is all that it takes to turn your life around.
When what they have done to you begins to overwhelm you with sadness, look at the many people of the world who have overcome and gone onto greatness because of their refining by fire experience…..that same greatness exists in you waiting for freedom and expression.
God only knows what you’d be without them.