let’s get to work
I’ve always respected and done my best to practice the childhood lesson “if you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything at all”. But I have come to believe that “not saying anything at all” is a mistake. Instead, I focus daily on speaking my mind responsibly and respectfully with the true intention of engaging in productive dialogue, dialogue that I hope enriches and moves the relationship forward.
I’ve had some very intense practice with this in my professional life, only to run into such confounding obstacles that I am rendered silent and turn inward because I’m just not sure how to proceed. My head spins as I try to figure out where I’ve gone wrong, and I research and accumulate information about the situation. I learn about the other, how their brain might work differently than mine, how their situation and point of view is anchored and I discover new ways in which to approach on common ground. I try again, to clarify my intention, to discuss differing opinions, to listen and to be heard, to approach difficult situations with respect and rationality. But it does not always work, does not fulfill my own hope of personal growth and connection, and my continued disappointment and frustration often keeps me silent.
I believe it’s harder than ever to establish that positive, honest, generous give-and-take that all healthy relationships, personal and professional, require. Narcissism is rampant in today’s culture, it is celebrated and has contributed to splits in relationships and now a profound division in our country. It destroys empathy, causes individuals to defy boundaries and often results in pushing positive human connections into toxic territory. Narcissistic people fuel themselves by sucking the logic out of situations and dragging the person engaged with them into self-doubt and confusion, fueling a terrible cycle. The problem is always out there or “the other”. There is a quote, “You stabbed me a thousand times and then you acted as if you were the one that was bleeding.” I’d love to know its author.
I’ve witnessed narcissism first hand (sadly an overwhelming number of us have) and have learned a lot when working alongside the afflicted. I am getting better at recognizing it today, and learning to adjust my expectations and actions. Logical words do little as they end up in never-ending circular conversations, and returning stunned silence equals suppression which protects the narcissist; secrecy is their ally. I’ve found that action (not words), however, can make a difference. Disconnecting from any narcissistic & manipulative individual is profoundly empowering. Not engaging in their need for control often works. Giving yourself permission to feel your own anger, sorrow, confusion, doubt and injustice of it all is important and takes time. But, ultimately this leads to moving on, and is the path to freedom. Sending love and kindness their way while moving forward is perhaps the most difficult part, but holding on to your own empathy is what will set you apart, keep you honest, and the most human thing you can do.
This election is a reminder of my own experiences of agonizing turmoil and disappointments with narcissistic and manipulative situations. And, today I am again at a point where I am at a loss for words, but I’m ready to speak as I process. Here’s what I know: I will not disconnect by moving to another country or be stunned into silence, I will speak up as productively and honestly as I am able.
And I will concentrate on my craft. I will continue to collaborate with filmmakers and with even more focus and fervor for inclusivity and equality. I believe film has a way of seeping into the cracks of those whose minds are misaligned or underexposed. Art changes minds and hearts. I have seen this in action over the past week as Loving, a film I was lucky enough to work on, shines the message of love and hope to the world.
We, as film artists, have important work ahead. Our ability to connect with each other artistically and with a broad audience is our superpower. Yes, our superpower. We can rise above a divided nation and continue to spark conversations by sharing important stories that illuminate, inspire and include.
Thinking and speaking from the heart today. I trust that all will be well.
Let’s get to work.