Saturday, 4 April 2015

I Can't Cope with 'Disney' Films

There I am, a sodden heap on the sofa, sobbing uncontrollably. To any casual observer I must have received some devastating news about a loved one or something that devastates my life, but no, the trigger to my outburst of uncontrollable grief was a small sequence in the 30th anniversary programme made for Neighbours. The subject of the sequence was not even any of the human characters, but Bouncer, the Ramsay Street dog.

I tend to enjoy highly taut thrillers, crime drama with proper adult themes. I am unaffected by the most psychological of thrillers, particularly if there is intrigue to be worked through. However, present me with the highs and lows of family drama and I am reduced to incapability by virtue of the extreme emotional reactions evoked. I am sure there will be some professionals who might recognise the 'whys' of this situation, I am aware of the cathartic nature of some tv programmes and films.

The problem for me and those around me when watching anything is that I am fully immersed in the programme in front of me. As someone who is emotionally sensitive this means that if the main focus of a film is to evoke emotion, then my emotional response will be evoked - in buckets. One of the biggest challenges facing me due to my BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) is that I go to the heights or depths of emotion exceptionally quickly, but then it can take me hours or even days to come down.

Two weeks after watching the 30th anniversary Neighbours programme I am still experiencing echoes of the depths of grief I felt when contemplating the death of a pet I never knew personally who died well over 15 years ago. That is how powerfully my emotions can affect me.

I cannot watch 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' because of the panic evoked by the child catcher. I may laugh about it with friends, but I can experience the fear as if I were still a child watching it or as if the threat is real and immediate - yet I have managed to follow and be unaffected by series such as The Fall, and Hannibal. Perhaps, it is because I have survived real trauma and threat throughout my formative years, so constructed fear is nothing compared to what I have actually experienced. Or perhaps I naturally dissociate myself from these kind of threats as this is what protected me in the past?

Perhaps, my struggles with family focused stories is the identification with the pain and danger of animals or innocent children and an unacknowledged recognition of myself as a victim or as someone for whom sympathy or empathy is warranted. It is easier for me to feel pity or sympathy for the children or animals in 'Marley and Me', or 'Hachi', or 'My Girl', or 'The Bridge to Terrabitha' than it is for me to recognise the unshed tears for my own life.

I've studied the art of story arcs and such in film - I can divorce myself from most genres of film and focus on either the themes or intellectual properties of them. Even Beaches doesn't affect me in the same way that 'Homeward Bound' affected me. I can recognise the tricks which are designed to evoke the required amount of grief over the death of a friend. Today, however, I was unable to manage my emotional response to the story of a dog who waited outside a train station for over ten years for his deceased owner to return to him.

At Christmas I baffled my friends' children by becoming excessively distressed about the death of the lead character's father in 'How to Train your Dragon 2' and an injustice done to the 'lead' dragon. Actually, it was the fact that the little dragon was blamed unfairly which upset me more than the death of the father. An eleven year old assured me it would be okay.

Whatever the reasons behind my emotional responses, I need to either stop watching things which trigger uncontrollable emotions or practice the DBT Self Soothe skills I need to short circuit them. I guess the trick becomes being able to recognise when I need to be careful with my emotions and when I am able to emote along to a family film or programme without it interfering with the rest of my day or, even week.