“Playwriting has been compared to therapy, because playwrights are constantly trying to heal the psychological and social problems that plague them and society.” (Naked Playwriting…The Art, the Craft, and the Life Laid Bare, Downs & Russin)
Those of you who regularly read our Real Life Answers newspaper column, know that in addition to our standard question/answer columns, we enjoy writing about the psychological significance of theatre. This year was the 25th anniversary of Fantasy Playhouse’s (local children’s theatre) production of A Christmas Carol, which Margaret and the girls were in every year for a decade and about which I wrote some of our favorite columns. Margaret wanted to audition for this meaningful 25th anniversary show and Claire 19 and Anna 22 were busy with college and adult life activities, so I offered to audition with her for my first real part in a play. Elaine, the director, and the casting board were kind enough to give me the quite important role of Christmas Future. The role played to my strengths, I didn’t have to sing or talk, I’m tall and I point well.
However, in a more serious way, this role played to my professional strengths. The further we got into the 11 mostly sold out performances, the more impressed I became with how similar my role and the roles of Christmas Past and Christmas Present are to my chosen vocation as a psychologist. The many psychological techniques that facilitate healing and growth are complex and varied, according to the client’s needs and the psychologist’s orientation. However, the most foundational and powerful forces in human healing and growth come from fully confronting the price we and others pay, past, present and future, for our dysfunctional adaptation to life.
Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol decades before the formal practice of clinical psychology. However, his understanding of the human psyche and human behavior reflects a startling psychological insight. It is astonishing that he would understand that if a male child of that era was starved for loving and secure connection to parents and family, as Ebenezer Scrooge was, that his unresolved fears might translate into obsessively seeking power and wealth to provide the sense of security that he was deprived of in childhood.
Those unresolved fears drove Scrooge to cut himself off from the loving appeals of his gentle fiancé, Belle, his upbeat nephew Fred and his humble clerk Bob Cratchit. Rather, as is the case for all addictive practices, his loss of love simply turned him bitter and ever more committed to his obsession. He was completely unable to see the price he had paid, was paying or would pay, for his adaptation to life.
Then came the magic of Christmas, in the form of the three ghosts. It required an experiential immersion into the losses of his past and present to soften Scrooge to plead, as Christmas Present left him: “No, no Spirit, the error of my ways crowds too fast upon me.” Then the dark specter of Christmas Future floated in, to provide Scrooge the ultimate experiential perspective of the life and death which his unresolved fears of childhood created. His inability to share love would cause: the death of Tiny Tim, good men to joke about Scrooge’s death, thieves to steal Scrooge’s belongings from around his isolated corpse and Scrooge would be buried alone and un-mourned.
Morals: “Our fears create what we fear.” Or more accurately: “The unresolved fears of our childhood often cause us to unintentionally manifest what we fear in our adult lives.” Dr. Patrick Quirk and Dr. Margaret Bibb Quirk
However, through the magic of theatre, the visits of the spirits allowed Scrooge to change his ways and become a kind and generous man. Scrooge was able to donate to the poor, forgive his debtors, lovingly connect to his deceased sister’s son Fred, give his loyal employee Bob Cratchit a raise and save Tiny Tim.
Moral: “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Beatles 1969
If this show doesn’t make you cry and become more loving to those around you, then you truly are heartless. Hopefully, you would leave this show with a warmth and generosity of heart. And if your central life struggles are similar to Scrooge’s, then hopefully this play would allow you to awaken to a new way of thinking, feeling and behaving.
The central message of this show, the Christmas Season and the central purpose of this physical life is the Golden Rule “Love your neighbor as yourself.” However, in this complex real life, the struggle of how to actually implement the seemingly simple directive “Love your neighbor as yourself,” is one of the most difficult things we try to achieve. It is at the heart of almost every struggle we human beings experience, within ourselves, our marriages, our families, our communities, our countries and between countries.
It does not seem coincidental that Christmas, a time of joy, hope and brotherly love, is just a week from the New Year, a time of resolutions to become the person we’ve always known that we could be. However, whatever our own struggle is in the countless ways people struggle with loving themselves or others, we don’t want to let another New Year go by without committing to resolving our own personal struggles with creating love and joy in this life.
Many years ago, we very carefully chose the name Real Life Answers for our newspaper column, because it reflected the necessity that we all need to find real life answers to the complex nature of the human struggle. Our Real Life Collections e-books are devoted to providing the practical answers to the many struggles we all have in accomplishing the simple goal of “Loving your neighbor as yourself.” However, if our writings are not enough to help you resolve your own personal struggles, then please seek the psychological help you need to create the healing awakening to joy and love that we all crave in 2015.
“God Bless us everyone!”