Most of us have seen the critically acclaimed 1997 film “Good Will Hunting”, which was directed by Gus Van Sant, starring Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver and Stellan Skarsgard.
Damon, who plays the main character, Will Hunting, for which the film is named does a stunning job in portraying a 20 year old troubled youth who have never left South Boston, a.k.a. “Southie”.
While Will’s physical circumference appears to be limited and tumultuous, his intellectual space is strikingly different, as he has an aptitude for solving some of the most complex mathematical equations in existence.
It could even be said that he possesses the capacity of a genius. Working as a janitor at M.I.T., Will finds his way into classrooms to “ghost-solve” these problems which are too difficult for other students to handle.
Early on in the film, it appears as if Will has gotten in his own way, as he’s being forced to make a series of difficult decisions as a result of a series of anger fueled actions. Namely, assaulting a man who bullied him as a child.
In order to avoid jail time, he must decide if he’s going to accept the offer proposed by Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Sharsgard). The deal is this: in exchange for no incarceration, Will has to see a therapist and study math with the professor.
Eventually agreeing to the deal, Will goes on to perplex, frustrate and irritate the first few practitioners with whom he has contact.
Then, he meets Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams). therapist who is the former college roommate of Dr. Lambeau and now a community college professor.
Let’s pause with the plot for a minute and bring the Moon and Pluto in….
Astrologically, the Moon symbolizes the contents of our emotional life. It’s what nourishes our hearts and ultimately brings us a deep sense on inner contentment and fulfillment. As one of the “lights” (along with the Astrological Sun), the Moon’s energy is connected to taking care of ourselves and others. It’s the Archetypal Mother, a.k.a. all of the instincts that we would universally associate with a Mother’s presence: our comfort, safety and general sense of well being.
Pluto symbolizes a myriad of processes. These processes are usually surrounded by upheaval of some kind in service of deep change, healing and eventual empowerment.
While “death” is frequently associated with Plutonian energy, and it CAN be on the physical plane, Pluto also has a powerful connection to metaphorical death. In order for us to grow, we must eliminate the old and the outworn. We must “kill of” the obsolete and useless parts of ourselves in order to create room for something new to be born (rebirth is also a Plutonian theme) which is more compatible with our current state of being.
There are many forms of individual Psychotherapy that are associated with Pluto, as the main focus is to bring hidden, buried or repressed (unconscious) material of the psyche to light. Making it conscious so that we’ll be able to direct our lives with a greater degree of awareness and responsibility. ultimately leading to a more authentic and satisfying existence.
Back to the plot…..
Will meets Sean and the first sessions are entirely unmemorable. Both Men are sitting in relative silence, waiting for time to elapse so they can get on with their lives. Very little information is shared.
Then…. something happens.
Typical of Pluto’s method of operation, it’s energy penetrates more than one sector of our lives, working on multiple fronts. When connected with the Moon, it can exhibit a purging quality which assists in attacking toxicity which is the result of deeply established and habitual emotional patterns.
One day, while in a session with Sean, Will listens to a story about giving up his ticket to game 6 of the 1975 World Series to “go see about a girl” who eventually became his wife. Unfortunately, she died of cancer at a later time and the way Sean speaks about her, it’s easy to tell that both the beauty of the relationship and the grief associated from her death are still very much alive in his psyche.
Around the same time as the story is being told, Will has met Skylar (Minnie Driver), a British student who’s graduating from Harvard and planning on attending Graduate school at Stanford. Sean’s story encouraged Will to get to know Skylar and attempt to form what seems to be the semblance of a relationship.
As therapy moves on, both Will and Sean begin to slowly, but surely reveal more about themselves, both pushing back at one another. Sean refers to Will as a ” cocky,scared shitless kid”. He believes that Will’s genius has essentially come at the expense of being blocked from genuinely experiencing life on more than just a cerebral level. Conversely, Will accuses Sean, because of his wife’s death, of finding a “hiding place” from life, in a strikingly similar fear and shame based orientation, which won’t allow him to move on from being emotionally paralyzed from her memory.
Both Sean and Will are struggling to connect, but their fears and shame in regard to the situations from which they’ve come are posing both a challenge and a threat. Therapist John Bradshaw says:
“Perhaps the greatest wound a shame-based person carries is the inability to be intimate in a relationship. This inability flows directly from out of the fundamental dishonesty at the core of toxic shame. To be a false self, always hiding and filled with secrets precludes the possibility of honesty in relationships. And as I’ve suggested elsewhere, shame- based people always seek out relationships with shame-based people. Hockey players don’t usually hang out with professional bridge players. They don’t know each other’s rules. We tend to find those who play by the same rules.”
When I think about the combination of the Moon and Pluto in any aspect, but especially the “hard” ones (Square, Opposition, Conjunction), two words come to mind:
As we rewind back to Will’s relationship to Skylar, we realize that, at this point, he’s not only unwilling (and possibly unable) to be vulnerable with Sean, his therapist, but also with her. Will has been less than forthcoming about about his past, his friends and the environment he’s been immersed in. As it stands at this point in the film, Skylar is unable to convince Will that she loves him for the person he is. He makes mention that the truth, as he sees it, is that she really knows so little about him, and that he may just be some “experiment” or charity case that she can mention in a passing story to her “educated” friends sometime down the line.
Moon-Pluto contacts offer a wonderful opportunity for us to come into contact with the deeper parts of our emotional body. That which lies beneath the surface. However, there’s a price for admission into those realms.
The cost is usually related to allowing ourselves to be vulnerable enough to put our fears, guilt, shame and insecurities on display. While this can most certainly be done in a safe, intimate space, finding the space isn’t easy. Also, finding those that we TRUST enough to share in an experience of emotional release with can prove to be an even more daunting task. After all, there’s no guarantee of any “reward” in the sense of something being “given” to us because of our self-disclosure.
However, there’s a sense of self-affirmation that can be experienced. The feeling that we didn’t hold anything back, which most certainly contributes to our storehouse of wholeness.
One of the lessons here is: In order to heal, and deeply connect to another human being, it’s essential that we locate the root causes of our pain. If we want to be deeply known, we will have to place our depths on the line.
Our depths are not only what makes us feel afraid or uneasy, but also what brings a richness and intensity to our lives. They are gifts.
The ultimate questions center around how willing we are to explore the nether regions of our psyches and the extent of our courage when we find something that doesn’t sit well with our image that we would like to maintain of ourselves. We must resist disowning parts of ourselves that don’t live up to “ideal’ standards.
” As forms of energy, the disowned parts of us exert considerable influence on us. Shame-based people tend to be exhausted a lot of the time. They spend a lot of energy holding on to their false self-masks and hiding their disowned parts. I have compared it to keeping guard on hungry dogs. The repressed parts exert lots of pressure by forcing us to keep their opposites going.”
The work of Hal Stone and Sidra Winkleman suggests an approach to dealing with all of our “selves”. The underlying premise is:
ALL OF OUR PARTS ARE OKAY.
“Nothing could be more affirming and less shaming. Every aspect of every person is crucial for wholeness and completeness. There is no law which says that one part is better than another part. Our consciousness with its many selves needs to operate on principles of social equality and democracy.”
Not all stories have a happy ending. Fortunately, this film does. Sean and Will both share with each other that they were the victims of physical abuse as a child. Much of Will’s angst centered around internalized guilt and shame from thinking that HE was the problem, and that what what transpired was somehow HIS fault. Having traveled down the same path, Sean lovingly and repeatedly assured him: “IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.”
Through moments like these, Sean and Will are set on the Moon-Pluto path to healing from the shame that once bound them exclusively to the chains of anger and pain.
The film concludes with Sean deciding to take a sabbatical and travel the world and Will driving to California to “see about a girl”.
What’s your story going to be? How would you like it to end?
References: [ Various “Good Will Hunting” info from Wikipedia]
Quotes from: “Healing The Shame That Binds You.” by John Bradshaw