Friday 17. January 2020

Befriending your Shadow

Shadow integration is an important concept in psychology but also for SCREENWRITING. 

A good script can be understood as a shredded microcosmos, like a person who isn't aware of their fragmented parts. There is the friend, the lover, the villain, etc. usually portrayed by one-dimensional characters. Only the hero, the one we identify with, is multi-layered. We see him struggle for change. For self-integration. The hero is the one who comes in touch with the simple characters and is transformed by the encounter. 

I find that in order to write a good script, or even to distinguish a good script from a bad one, it's crucial to do shadow work within oneself. I've found this simple technique by David Richo useful, as a guide for personal life AND for writing. Good writing is basically founded on a thorough examined personal life. 

Life is obviously more layered then "positive/good and negative/bad", but our immediate perception mostly divides people, situations, expiriences, food and ourselves as either good or bad. Our instincts, based on upbringing and expirience, also tell us right away how we stand towards as new situation. In other words, most of the times we're biased as fuck. It's helpful, because it saves us a lot of work in everyday life. But in terms of maturation, and character development in writing, its counter-productive. 
Steven Pressfield made a fantastic comment about the necessity of keeping the villian in a story unchanged. "Because if the villain changed, he’d be the hero."

Our psyche has an amazing mechanism called "projection". The best tool for recognizing projection in play are our emotions. The more intense emotions like anger, joy, sadness, sexual desire, rage, sense of justice, need for validation, fear of rejection, camaraderie, etc. are, the more they give note of a lack of acknowledgement in oneself (or the main character in a script).

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((I mean the lower "more")) 

Affirmations to free ourselves from the grip of fear

It's funny how anxiety and fear became something that I started to deal with around 35. Before that, sure I had shy moments and some stuff I just didn't dare to do, but I've never considered myself a fearful person. But when some of my projects fell through and I was left wondering when the next pay check will arrive, that's when anxiety attacks hit me hard. 
I must mentioned that in my student years I was faced with times of no income, sleeping on couches and stuff like that, but back then it was youth that kept me going. Facing a break-up and a loss of projects at the same time, in the middle of the 30ies... that was a different cup of tea. 

During that time a lot of past-processing and soul work helped me through. Most notably "David Richo" and his book "How to be an Adult".

His affirmations sum up all the fears that I've encountered throughout that difficult phase. It's a gold mine for every neurotic person and soothing to hear that all of those thought-patterns are common and most importantly irrational.

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((I mean the lower "more"))

It's not them, it's how I'm handling the situation

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly… None of them can hurt me. Don’t waste the rest of your time here worrying about other people… It will keep you from doing anything useful. Why do you not rather act than complain?   – Marcus Aurelius


A time for everything

There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Foto by: Josef Koudelka 

The moths and the flame

by Farid ud-Din Attar

Moths gathered in a fluttering throng one night
To learn the truth about the candle light,
And they decided one of them should go
To gather news of the elusive glow.

One flew till in the distance he discerned
A palace window where a candle burned —
And went no nearer: back again he flew
To tell the others what he thought he knew.

The mentor of the moths dismissed his claim,
Remarking: “He knows nothing of the flame.”
A moth more eager than the one before
Set out and passed beyond the palace door.

He hovered in the aura of the fire,
A trembling blur of timorous desire,
Then headed back to say how far he’d been,
And how much he had undergone and seen.

The mentor said: “You do not bear the signs
Of one who’s fathomed how the candle shines.”
Another moth flew out — his dizzy flight
Turned to an ardent wooing of the light;

He dipped and soared, and in his frenzied trance
Both self and fire were mingled by his dance —
The flame engulfed his wing-tips, body, head,
His being glowed a fierce translucent red;

And when the mentor saw that sudden blaze,
The moth’s form lost within the glowing rays,
He said: “He knows, he knows the truth we seek,
That hidden truth of which we cannot speak.”

To go beyond all knowledge is to find
That comprehension which eludes the mind,
And you can never gain the longed-for goal
Until you first outsoar both flesh and soul;
But should one part remain, a single hair
Will drag you back and plunge you in despair —
No creature’s self can be admitted here,
Where all identity must disappear.

Image: Thomas Cole - Prometheus Bound


by Alfred Lord Tennyson
It little profits that an idle king, 
By this still hearth, among these barren crags, 
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole 
Unequal laws unto a savage race, 
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me. 
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink 
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd 
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those 
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when 
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades 
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name; 
For always roaming with a hungry heart 
Much have I seen and known; cities of men 
And manners, climates, councils, governments, 
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all; 
And drunk delight of battle with my peers, 
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy. 
I am a part of all that I have met; 
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro' 
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades 
For ever and forever when I move. 
How dull it is to pause, to make an end, 
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use! 
As tho' to breathe were life! Life piled on life 
Were all too little, and of one to me 
Little remains: but every hour is saved 
From that eternal silence, something more, 
A bringer of new things; and vile it were 
For some three suns to store and hoard myself, 
And this gray spirit yearning in desire 
To follow knowledge like a sinking star, 
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought. 
        This is my son, mine own Telemachus, 
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,— 
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil 
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild 
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees 
Subdue them to the useful and the good. 
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere 
Of common duties, decent not to fail 
In offices of tenderness, and pay 
Meet adoration to my household gods,  
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
         There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail: 
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners, 
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me— 
That ever with a frolic welcome took 
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed 
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old; 
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil; 
Death closes all: but something ere the end, 
Some work of noble note, may yet be done, 
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods. 
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks: 
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep 
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends, 
'T is not too late to seek a newer world. 
Push off, and sitting well in order smite 
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds 
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths 
Of all the western stars, until I die. 
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down: 
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles, 
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew. 
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho' 
We are not now that strength which in old days 
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; 
One equal temper of heroic hearts, 
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will 
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

To Forgive

To forgive means to comprehend that we lost the one we were searching for,
long time before our journey started. We must let go „of the dreams about a past that we never had“. See and accept others for what they are and not for what we wish they were.
To forgive requires to admit owns delusional expectations of situation we're in. To understand why we invited hurt into our lifes, looked away and willfully ignored our conscience.
To forgive is to be kind, not necessarly to the other, but to oneself. It requires building healthy boundaries and self-respect. It means to leave attachment to places and people who aren’t able to respect themselves.
To forgive means to welcome every painful emotion, memory and wound. And giving them space, while listening patiently to their laments. Facing anxiety, rejection and finding peace through loneliness.
To forgive is a selfless act that can only happen by facing our homespun story, not by rationalizing or supressing anger, hate and rage. Through containing and transforming our emotions, while not seeking revenge or retaliation.

Without speaking and living our truth, we lack understanding. Without understanding our motives and longings, we can’t recognise our shadows. Without facing and integrating our shadows,

We can’t forgive
or recognise
Our Self.


Personal take on the 10 Commandments

1) The world is not here to make you happy, you’re here to mature. 

2) Fear and anxiety are constant companions, they won’t go away unless you have sex with them. (Marry and stay faithful to your insecurities.)

3) Be ruthlessly honest towards yourself, but considerate to strangers. Not because they deserve it, but it’s easier to sleep well with good conscience.

4) Drink and take drugs only in company, for celebration & inspiration;
not as a way to procrastinate or worse: to forget your past.

5) Grow plants and observe animals to get familiar with the vulnerability and forces of life.

6) Love yourself first, then carry for others. 

7) If you’re rational, pick a religion - If you’re religious, get real. 

8) Write a journal, burn it every seven years. (To get familiar with death.)

9) Integrate your shadow. (But first find out what that really means.)

10) You don’t get or own ideas, you’re a vessel for them.


Fear of Oblivion

Angst vor der Leere

"Wir wollen alle geliebt werden,

werden wir nicht geliebt,
wollen wir bewundert werden.

Werden wir nicht bewundert,
wollen wir gefürchtet werden.

Werden wir nicht gefürchtet,
wollen wir gehaßt und mißachtet werden.

Wir wollen ein Gefühl in unseren Mitmenschen auslösen,
ganz gleich um welches es sich dabei auch handeln mag. 
Die Seele zittert vor der Leere 
und sucht den Kontakt um jeden Preis." 

                                                                    - Hjalmar Söderberg

English Version below: 

Writing a Curriculum for a three month filmcourse

at "Lightbox Academy Vienna"

Teaching became a second path in my career. At first there was this panic that I might end up teaching and not making films, but to be honest, both complement each other. Also, when I teach I'm making sure that I know the stuff I'm talking about, which in turn helps me to internalize the subject matter.

When putting the material together for the course, I immediately had all the excersises and theory books, that I had fun with at film school, in my mind. That alone could easily fill up the space of months, but there was also stuff which I didn't learn at school. And this topic was actually one of the basics things in all of the creative jobs I did: motivation & creativity.

How to get ideas, what is a good idea? What is original? How am I creative? How do I make sure I'm not using something that I've seen already? And how to I sustain motivation while doing it? 

These questions are essential to the work of a filmmaker. All the technique on how to frame a shot, where to put a camera, how to break-down a script and block the scene with an actor,... are essential, but before that there is the moment of finding something to say. What this actually means in a world in which everything was said already, is a good starting point. 

All has been said, that's undeniable, but not from everybody! And to "have something to say" means to have an authentic voice. Is there a way to teach that? And what's an authentic voice to begin with?

It all starts with: being interested in the world, in expiriencing life to the fullest. Either actively or/and through imagination. ...I guess that's where I start. (I have still two months left to prepare.)  

Link to Lightbox

20 Qualities of a Professional

Steven Pressfield has written a fabulous book "The War of Art" - Winning the creative battle" regarding the creative process. As a morning routine I'm using this list to remind myself of why and how I'm getting up:

1. The professional shows up every day.

2. The professional stays on the job all day.


3. The professional is committed over the long haul.

4. For the professional the stakes are high and real.

5. The professional is patient.

6. The professional seeks order.

7. The professional demystifies.

8. The professional acts in the face of fear. 

9. The professional accepts no excuses.

10. The professional plays it as it lays.

Notes on the Tao Te Ching

“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures."

[It took me long to understand that, for example being in a hurry, is a sign of impatience, which is strongly related to fear. A type of fear that got internalized, by schooling, work or/and upbringing. I realized my constant hurry when I started to give a closer attention to my breathing patterns. I was shocked to find out, that I was rushing almost through the entire day. Noone would recognize this as being nervous or fearful in a outward or obvious sense, but the body nevertheless was giving me hints that there must be some sort of stress.
Just the other day, I was sitting next to a man at a Japanese Ramen place. The first thing he did after receiving his soup, was to pour the sweetened drink Calpis into the bowl. I was at first puzzled by this and in a way intrigued. "Oh, I never thought of that", was the first thing that crossed my mind. Was wondering how that might taste like. Out of curiosity I finally asked him if mixing Calpis gives the soup a good note. He looked at me in disbelief and said that he did that to cool down the heat of the soup. Clearly, he wasn't interested in how his food tastes like, he just wanted to be done with that unavoidable necessity called eating.
Being hurried while eating is a bad habit of mine too, but this guy just brought this to the next level. And that's my point, being rushed in everyday life is so normal that I hardly recognized it in myself. And the ironic thing about it, that eating slower or more consciously creates more effort and a weird form of anxiety. I couldn't find out what the actual motiv behind that anxiety is, but it helped me to slow down everyday tasks by simple recognizing that there is anxiety at all.]

There is no greater misfortune
than underestimating your enemy.
Underestimating your enemy
means thinking that he is evil.
Thus you destroy your three treasures
and become an enemy yourself.
When two great forces oppose each other,
the victory will go
to the one that knows how to yield.

[The simplicity and accuracy of that paragraph just blows my mind. I've been stubborn all my life. This was certainly helpful at times, but I'm recognizing how much more important it is to have a clear idea of another human beings behaivor then reacting to whatever is provoked within myself.  This is still a huge lifelesson I'm in, but I'm glad I've found one of the treasures "patience" when dealing with tough life situations.] 

On Trust

Over the last few weeks I was keep coming back to find the thin line between trust and being naive. More so, I was trying to find a way how to become better in trusting. Without realizing that I was actually searching for ways to spot betrayal. 

After pondering some spiritual books I have found this good guideline:

"The difference between trust and being naive is recognized by the reaction. Both, the one who trusts and the one who is naive, will be deceived. The one who is being naive will get angry and will eventually start to distrust. The one who trusts will stay calm, will not take betrayal personally and will acquire more information about human weaknesses and will eventually trust more."




Rilke - From the Book of Hours

Wenn ich gewachsen wäre irgendwo,
wo leichtere Tage sind und schlanke Stunden, 

ich hätte dir ein großes Fest erfunden, 
und meine Hände hielten dich nicht so, 
wie sie dich manchmal halten, bang und hart. 

Dort hätte ich gewagt, dich zu vergeuden, 
du grenzenlose Gegenwart. 
Wie einen Ball 
hätt ich dich in alle wogenden Freuden 
hineingeschleudert, dass einer dich finge 
und deinem Fall 
mit hohen Händen entgegenspringe, 
du Ding der Dinge. 

Ich hätte dich wie eine Klinge 
blitzen lassen. 
Vom goldensten Ringe 
ließ ich dein Feuer umfassen, 

und er müsste mirs halten 
über die weißeste Hand. 

Gemalt hätt ich dich: nicht an die Wand, 
an den Himmel selber von Rand zu Rand, 
und hätt dich gebildet, wie ein Gigant 
dich bilden würde: als Berg, als Brand, 
als Samum, wachsend aus Wüstensand - 

es kann auch sein: ich fand 
dich einmal... 
      Meine Freunde sind weit, 

ich höre kaum noch ihr Lachen schallen; 
und du: du bist aus dem Nest gefallen, 
bist ein junger Vogel mit gelben Krallen 
und großen Augen und tust mir leid. 
(Meine Hand ist dir viel zu breit.) 
Und ich heb mit dem Finger vom Quell einen Tropfen 
und lausche, ob du ihn lechzend langst, 

und ich fühle dein Herz und meines klopfen 
und beide aus Angst. 

English version:

Blunt truth on purpose

"Out of the night that covers me, 

Black as the pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
For my unconquerable soul. 

In the fell clutch of circumstance 
I have not whined nor cried aloud; 
Under the bludgeoning of chance 
My head is bloody but unbowed. 
It matters not how strait the gate, 
How charged with punishment the scroll;

I am the master of my fate, 
I am the captain of my soul." 

The weak man, who grieves because he is misunderstood, will not greatly achieve; the vain man, who steps aside from his resolve in order to please others and gain their approbation, will not highly achieve; the double minded man, who thinks to compromise his purpose, will fail.

The man of fixed purpose who, whether misunderstandings and foul accusations, or flatteries and fair promises, rain upon him, does not yield a fraction of his resolve, is the man of excellence and achievement; of success, greatness, power.

After reading this I had an eureka moment:

There are four types of suffering. 

The first category is the unnecessary suffering. This is the kind of suffering that we incurred due to our attitudes and irrational expectations towards others, generated by our bad intentions, to be rejected by someone, hate, doubt, possessiveness, arrogance and self-pity. In other words, they are negative emotions or suffering which arises due to our personal importance.

The second type of suffering is suffering inevitable. This is the kind of suffering that comes to us by accident or by events beyond our control, such as war, natural disasters, illness or death of someone.

The third type of suffering is suffering volunteer. This is the suffering we impose on ourselves in order to achieve a personal goal of mine, like an athlete that self discipline to win a race, or a student who is working hard to get a diploma.

And we finally have the suffering intentional. This is the suffering we impose on ourselves in order to achieve a goal or altruistic impersonal, one that is directed towards the service to others or for work, and not for personal gain.    

Words: J. Bennett
Image: Philosopher's Hand by Isaac Hollandus


The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'

(There is no commandment greater than these!)

From the 30.09 till 05.10.2016 I've visited a Krzystof Kieslowski retrospective in Vienna, Austria. His longtime co-author Krzysztof Piesiewicz was present. The new digital prints of Kieslowskis oeuvre are stunning. But the presence of Krzystof Piesiewicz was the actual special treat during the festival. It's pretty obvious to me now, after hearing him talk and watching interviews with Kieslowski, how similar their wavelength was. It was like hearing the characters from the Decalogue talk through one person. 

For me the event peaked in significance when Krzystof Piesiewicz said the following: "One of the most important commandants is: You should love your neighbor as yourself. [long Pause]  ...but not more than that. 

Notes on Story from "On Filmmaking" by Alexander Mackendrick

Below is a transcript of the most important paragraphs (chapter on STORY) from Alexander Mckendrick’s “On Filmmaking”. The content of this book is as valuable for the filmmaker as air, food and water is for each of us. The text below served me as a good reference when I got lost in the writing process, so I’m sharing it here too. This is a book that you should EAT!

“Whatever is said instead of being shown is lost on the viewer”  

What we say inside of our heads is private, and by putting it into words and addressing it to others we often rationalize and even distort our original impulses and intentions. The best lines of film dialogue are sometimes those in which the real meanings lie between the words, where the spoken lines mask the true and unadulterated feelings of the speaker. Such emotions are often visible to the camera, just as they are to an observant human being, because the spoken words frame those revealing and fleeting moments that take place just before the character speaks or as an impulsive non-verbal reaction to what has just been said, seen by the film editor, for example, in shots containing perhaps a barely visible shift of focus in the eyes, a speech. 

One of the tasks of the director as he transfers a screenplay to the medium of the moving-image-with-sound is almost to forget what the characters are saying and reimagine their behavior as being mute, so that all thoughts, feelings and impulses are conveyed to the audience through sound and vision – without speech.

Fall Twothousandandsixteen

A cycle is about to finish...

Have I taken care of all the changes that needed to be done? Do I understand all of the patterns that were reminding me to look consciously onto the past? Can I move beyond them? explore new patterns?

Do I have patience for every single thought, emotion 
and task that I'm experiencing? Have I said all the truths that I was too scared to stand up against? Am I still afraid to be abandoned, or have I found strength to give shelter for others? Do I care for opinions or do I trust my process?

Am I too comfortable and shifted off my responsibilities onto fate? Do I like the person who looks back at me from the mirror, or do I compare him with other reflections that pass me each day? Do I seek validation to mask my self-hatred, or is my art a way to express gratitude for who I am?

Do I enjoy my life, or do I exist because of being obliged by birth? Is each wakening moment a chance to evolve in awareness or a burden to carry?

Have I found myself, or am I about to change again?


The Root of Fear

...phiu, some tough dough in that cookie, Jiddu!

It's of great interest to me to understand the dynamics of thought & emotion and therefore action & reaction. Cinema (as I understand it) means to capture authenticity as accurate as nearly possible and to juxtapose those   photographed moments of time into an emotional experience. Jiddu helps me to get into the depth of the matter. I'm not always sure if I "get it" because, to really understand Jiddu's words one must experience his philosophy and not simply understand it.

Foreword to Wang Xu's paintings

Wang Xu was so kind to ask me for a foreword to his current art book. My text was translated and edited into Chinese. Below you'll find my (semi-)edited version in English:

“How is it possible for me as an European to look at a Chinese painting and say something of substance without ridiculing myself (and the artwork!) through my inherited western arrogance?” ...this question, not so in detail, but clouded in an uncomfortable feeling, haunted my mind when I was contemplating and preparing this few introductory words.
I’m not an art-illiterate, due to my masters degree at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, however my historical knowledge on especially Chinese Art History is limited. In order to sustain dignity and respect for Wang Xu’s vast oeuvre, the only way for me to write this introduction is through my personal experience. Justified by my interest in art and Chinese culture. 

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