Few weeks ago I watched the movie ‘Joker’ by Todd Phillips and I loved it. Music, acting, photography, storytelling — I think it was perfect from start to finish.
Beyond that, I think ‘Joker’ is a masterpiece because it forcefully invites us to have a conversation about mental health, a topic still quite taboo in our society. As humans we might have mapped and conquered the oceans and lands around us, but inside our minds we still stand on shaky ground.
The movie tells the story of Arthur, a relatively harmless man who becomes extremely violent and destructive. His transformation is the result of accumulated and unresolved emotional pain. Since he is a little boy, he suffers trauma after trauma, and — unable to deal with the pain — he internalizes it. When he engages with the outside world he encounters lack of compassion, lack of listening, lack of support or encouragement.
There is no place and time for him to process his pain. He is expected to suck it up and keep on going. Until eventually he explodes.
I think the movie resonates with many people because, although most of us enjoy better life circumstances than Arthur, we might share the same frustration of experiencing negative feelings and finding no room to express them safely.
We often feel depressed, overwhelmed, exhausted — and yet, we “put on a happy face” and go to work, attend a meeting, do a presentation. We put social expectations before our feelings, delaying the moment we’ll take care of them.
We think we can always deal with it later, but processing pain doesn’t work like that. It’s not something we can schedule on a Saturday morning. It’s an organic process that demands absolute priority, full attention and most likely some help.
Ultimately, I think ‘Joker’ is an invitation to take our feelings more seriously.
First by acknowledging our emotional struggles and learning how to work with them. Second by seeking help through relationships that nurture our wellbeing. Third by being more mindful and respectful of other people’s struggles, offering whenever possible the gift of listening.
Because ultimately other people’s pain is also, indirectly, our pain.