By now, many of you have either seen or heard about the new movie on Netflix, Bird Box, which stars Sandra Bullock and is a compelling story about fear. This movie has even spawned a viral social trend called the “Bird Box Challenge”, in which live human beings attempt to engage in “challenges”. Blindfolded. To understand what a ridiculous and dangerous idea this is, you’ll have to watch the movie.
(Spoiler alert: if you plan to watch this movie, you might want to stop reading here, go watch the movie, then come back to this article!!! If you continue reading, you will learn what this movie is about!)
Although I am not usually one for watching violence and cruelty on the screen, I’d heard about this movie enough, that when my partner came home recently and said that she’d like to watch this, I surprisingly agreed. Her words were something like this: “um…there’s this new movie, Bird Box, that everyone is talking about and I’d like to see, but…um…I’m not sure you should watch this”. She was referring to my reluctance and conscious choice to avoid these kinds of movies because of their impact energetically and emotionally.
Despite all this, I sat down recently, armed with my hoodie (in which I spent a large part of the movie hiding) because something compelled me to watch this. You know, that niggling little voice inside that moves you towards something you don’t typically gravitate towards. I was curious. I guess you could say that I had enough internal support inside to take a look.
Bird Box is an intriguing story about how fear can kill. It follows the premise that what is most likely going to end your life is your greatest fear. In this manner, death has a very personal agenda and comes “looking for you” so to speak. It’s unavoidable and once you see this invisible, feared object/thing/experience, you let it in through your eyes, it’s all over for you. It becomes not if, but when and how will your death happen. An interesting premise for a storyline.
Although I thought that the acting and the story were fairly average (yes, I wasn’t quite as swept away by this as most people), what I was struck by, were the parallels between this movie’s storyline and what I like to refer to as what happens in therapy, i.e., a person’s healing process.
The story focused on the relationship between an inner world of marginalized safety (inside of the house) and an outer world (outside of the house) where once you left the relative safety of the house, you immediately became fair game for the invisible entity that would show up to end your life. You were hunted. For this reason, leaving the house happened only as an act of desperation, only as a necessity to gather more supplies.
What struck me most in this story was the parallel between the characters’ greatest fears coming to kill them if they looked at it (sometimes it snuck up or tricked people into looking at it) and the only way to avoid seeing this greatest fear, which was to either cover up the windows or blindfold yourself if you had to go out into the world.
As such, there were scenes in which the main character drove a car blindfolded through the streets of town, using the GPS to guide him to the closest grocery story for supplies. I encourage you to watch the movie to see how this turns out.
What was fascinating as I watched the movie was to what lengths the characters went in order to avoid looking at their fear. The thing that they feared most was the thing they put all of their life energy into avoiding interacting with. I see this same parallel every day in my therapy practice with clients.
The lengths to which people will go to avoid having to feel fear are incredible. And yet, without moving into and through the fear, there is really no hope of having a life reflective of anything beyond survival. This paradox was reflected in the movie.
Eventually, Sandra Bullock had no other choice but to launch out on the river for two days with two children and only a backpack of supplies, putting herself squarely in front of not only her own fear, but the two children’s greatest fears as well, all the while merely trying to keep herself and the children a “step ahead” of their fear. Merely surviving. Working really hard to stay alive.
I see this all the time in my work with clients. Until someone has enough internal emotional supports to begin to feel more of the fear stuck in their bodies (this is one of the things that therapy is about, building more supports to feel more) they remain stuck in place in life, just trying to stay a step ahead of their fear or any feeling they don’t
want to deal with actually. Merely surviving. Going through the paces.
In the meantime, the fear (or whatever feeling they’re avoiding inside) gets projected out every which way in the world, onto other people, situations, experiences that really many not have any connection to the intensity of fear that they are feeling.
I like to remind clients in my therapy practice (and often remind myself of this too) that if they are feeling threatened in any way and look around and there is not a life or death situation happening in that moment (there is no big bear or shark about to eat them, no bus about to flatten them) then the threat that they are feeling and all the associated feelings that come along with this experience are likely old unresolved feelings from childhood. Basically, old trauma that never got processed and healed.
In the movie, this idea was illustrated by an invisible “blowing wind/energy” that came for everyone. Inside this invisible tormentor were the molecules of each person’s worst fear. These molecules of fear were unique to each person and were relentless. And nobody could see them, neither the person holding the fear as well as anyone around them. The fear was invisible.
I see this every day in my work with clients. In my therapy practice, I like to refer to these tormenting energies as ‘victimizers’ or ‘assaults’. These internalized ‘tormentors/victimizers/assaults’ are introjected negative energy that came at an individual during their childhood and never got a chance to be processed or resolved.
If we remember that perspective is reality (as evidenced in the movie as the tormentor being each person’s own worst fear coming for them specifically) we can begin to understand how this internalized negativity can be different for each person. And for each child.
What might hurt one child might not bother another and vice versa. All it takes for a victimizer to be created inside is an energetic assault on someone’s aliveness, especially at the vulnerable age of a young child. The younger the assault, the more it will feel like it could kill you.
If you have ever experienced a negative energy or a critical voice inside that likes to shame you, give you a hard time about something or pressure you into being different or doing more, then you have experienced what a victimizer feels like. If there’s a victimizer lurking inside, it is evidence of some energetic assault against your aliveness in your childhood.
To try to explain and get connection for this experience from someone different than yourself is often a difficult experience and rarely brings ultimate relief. Victimizer energy is invisible, elusive and irrational. It makes us feel isolated and disconnected from ourselves and the world around us. It can sometimes make us feel crazy too.
I found myself delighted at times during Bird Box by how perfect this storyline was for understanding how the process of emotional assaults happen inside of someone. The story is a perfect narrative for how we get emotionally terrorized inside, how this intolerable internal experience can often feel irrational even to ourselves, and yet compels us to go to great lengths in order to avoid having to deal with this internal and irrational fear.
Another delightful part to this movie was how the tiniest and seemingly most fragile characters in the story (three birds) were actually the signal call that one’s fear was present. The proverbial ‘canary in the coal mine’. How wonderful is this??? What it took to save these human beings from a lifetime of fear were tiny, vulnerable creatures. Whenever someone’s ‘greatest fear’ was present, these birds would take to whistling and calling.
Fortunately, Sandra Bullock figured this out relatively quickly in the story, which was likely in large part why she managed to survive when everyone else around her didn’t. She opened herself up to the most unlikely guide towards safety and relief. She paid attention to the signs.
What a wonderful parallel for life! It’s often the most vulnerable and fragile part of our self that leads us back to our life. It’s the intolerable experiences, the unfelt feelings that are stuck inside of our bodies, along with our inner child that alert us when it’s time to grow. Unless we are willing to become vulnerable, and get outside of the box, we will not be able to experience more of our life.
What a beautiful parallel for the therapy process. It is our vulnerability that will heal us, take us beyond mere emotional survival. How delightful is this? This is definitely counterintuitive to what most people believe is the way towards more aliveness and feeling relief. Three small birds can save our life. What a plot twist! What a turn of events!
I finished the movie actually feeling very centered and grounded and quite delighted by the story that I had just watched. I felt a fondness towards the writers and excitement about how this story could be a wonderful tool for helping clients learn about what happens emotionally inside of us that keeps us stuck in our lives.
My reaction is likely far different than many people’s reaction to the movie and is because of the decades of emotional healing I have committed myself to and the emotional healing work that I have done and continue to do on a personal level to break fusion with my own internal ‘tormentors’.
I wouldn’t expect most people to have this same reaction to the movie. Without a lot of internal emotional supports, Bird Box will likely be intense, perhaps even upsetting for most. It’s a powerful experience to begin to gauge where we are at in terms of fear and internal supports.
When a person commits to building more internal emotional supports, intolerable fears will become just experiences, they lose their emotional charge and hold over your life. It is at this point that a person will begin to feel more freedom and aliveness in life.
This experience is much like the last scene in the movie when Sandra Bullock and the two children make it to the safety of the compound and can take their first, un-blindfolded breaths. You, too, will be able to fully look around, take your own first deep breath and finally relax into the world.
Check the movie out. Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your thoughts and reactions to both the movie and my review. And for those of you who are interested in learning more about the work that I do or would like to take a first step in dealing with and clearing out old childhood fear, join me in my Visual Journaling community on Facebook.
Go gently forward.
Kate Schroeder is a psychotherapist and coach who utilizes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ® and the Enneagram, as well as experiential body-mind-spirit healing practices to work with and heal fear, anxiety and other mental health issues. To learn how to communicate more effectively and start changing your life download her guided imagery program, Soul Meditations: Building A Relationship That Lasts, or join Kate’s Visual Journaling Group on Facebook for more support in finding your true self. To sign up for her newsletter click here.