What would have happened if Julie, the leading character in the award-winning movie “The Worst Person in the World”, had learned Acem meditation?
She will soon be 30 and is on the threshold of established adult life, but hesitates. After switching studies twice, from medicine to psychology and then to photography, she works in a bookstore and has not yet fully figured out what she wants in life. “What are you waiting for, specifically?” asks Aksel, who wants children. “I don’t know!” she answers.
This is Julie in the Oscar-nominated film “The Worst Person in the World “. A thoroughly modern human being, one many enough can recognize themselves in, who has all the possibilities in the world, but is not quite able to seize them. Instead, she becomes fleeting. It is as if she is searching for something she cannot find.
“I love you, but I do not love you”, she says when she is about to leave Aksel. “You deserve someone who is more in place in life, someone who is more stable and secure and who does not “flake out” every six months. I feel like I am standing on the side of my life, that I am merely performing a supporting role in my own life.”
Julie drifts. Loses touch with her own life. “Standing a bit to the side.”
I perceive her as searching, distant and hesitant. One also senses a vulnerability, there may be a fear that things will not go well if she makes clear choices and commits herself, that she feels powerless in the face of the challenges of a long-term relationship and the role of a mother. Then she falls back on herself and who she is.
Maybe it’s better to be numb than to be disappointed?
Connecting with yourself
Might meditation be something for Julie? Let’s play around a bit with the idea.
Julie breaks off, escapes, and leaves – her studies, where she lives, people to whom she is connected.
“This is not me”, she thinks and breaks off her medical studies. Her passion has always been the soul. She starts to study psychology instead but feels that she is stuck in her achievement mode and wonders when her life will really begin. Actually, she is a visual person. “I have realized that I want to become a photographer”, she says to her mother. The choice is hardly random. Relationships are not very easy for Julie, and as a photographer, she can assume a more passive spectator role.
Acem Meditation is an interplay between a volitional activity, i.e. the repetition of the meditation sound, and the spontaneous activity of the mind. We perform an action that sets the flow of thoughts in motion. We repeat the sound as easily and effortlessly as we can while encountering whatever plays itself out in our minds. Practicing Acem Meditation releases, relaxes, and opens up.
Might meditation help Julie get more in place?
Yes, perhaps. Many people who meditate feel it improves their contact inwards – that it becomes easier to know who they really are, what they want, and to make better choices.
Julie moves in with Aksel and accompanies him to a publishing party. There she feels like an outsider. We see her standing alone outside smoking, and after a while, she chooses to leave. On the way home, she sneaks into another party and meets Eivind.
Why shouldn’t she, some might say? In doing so, she is already failing Aksel, others will argue. “We have something unique”, he says, “Are you aware of this, do you understand what you are about to destroy?” “We are in different places in life and want different things”, she says. “This is difficult, but at the same time it feels right.”
The free mental attitude is practicing being present in your own life, and the lives of others.
To repeat the meditation sound effortlessly and sensitively is to be close. In doing so, you are not passive, nor so active that this disturbs the process and your contact inwards. You do something in a way that provides relaxation and creates an inner opening.
Relationships can then become somewhat easier. It can be easier to be closer, without becoming dependent or distant, to find more freedom when you are with others.
Julie and Eivind are doing fine. For a while. Until he reads something she has written and does not fully understand. She gets angry and starts an argument. “It seems like everything is wrong right now”, he says, “You can’t just relax”. “I want something more than just to relax and sell coffee until I turn 50”, she answers; he works in a bakery.
Julie gets pregnant and agonizes. She does not know whether she wants the baby. She feels that she is not able to accomplish anything, she says, that she starts doing something new all the time. She has to think through the relationship with Eivind. It ends, and she loses the baby.
By repeating the meditation sound, we connect with ourselves. I think this connection would do something for Julie. By repeating the sound in dialogue with the thoughts, feelings, and impulses that make her drift, not being able to get close and prevent her from staying with what she is doing, she will gradually be able to add something that enables her to participate more in her own life, play a major role.
To achieve this, she has to meditate, preferably daily, at least several times a week. That may not be so easy for her. Meditation habits are difficult for many and a big part of Julie wants to go against taking on a commitment. If she nevertheless succeeds, she has broken a pattern and given herself a new opportunity.
Julie is not alone
It is difficult for Julie to develop an attachment to others. She struggles to keep all the doors open. It is as if there is something wrong with getting too close and staying there.
In order to develop a secure place in themselves, children need to feel close and safe in interaction with their mother, father, or other caregivers. They also need help with difficult emotions and support in exploration and play. Being close to safe adults is crucial for children’s psychological development.
Far from all parents have this sense of inner security. Around 40% of us have some form of insecure attachment style. So Julie is not alone. Among these, evasive attachment is the most frequent, where a prominent feature is problems in establishing close relationships.
Often, people with an evasive attachment personality style have an upbringing characterized by emotionally distant caregivers.
Those who have seen the film will easily think that Julie’s father may have been distant and self-absorbed even as a young and healthy person. The two have a strained and difficult relationship, and she ends up breaking up with him.
The worst human being in the world
We are all the worst human beings in the world, in the sense that we get caught up in our limitations, do not succeed in everything we want to achieve, and carry something inside us that both prevents us from flourishing in life and can make us self-absorbed.
In order to be the best version of ourselves, we need to be able to change course when we become caught up in our fleeting, anxious, or impulsive selves, or become too engrossed with ourselves. Meditation can provide such a change of course.
If we meditate regularly, deeper processes are set in motion, often without our realizing it. The movement inside can manifest itself as creativity, calm, and joy, but also as restlessness, dissatisfaction, bodily aches, discomfort or a desire to interrupt the meditation.
You may have felt it recently in meditation, a restlessness, thought or discomfort that you experienced as a disturbance. “Better had it not been there!”, it is easy to think. Then the meditation would have been good.
However, what if this particular uneasiness or pain is valuable? It might be a sign that you are getting closer to something fundamental in your personality. Perhaps it may be something that expresses itself in your attachment style, or is a result of other formative life experiences.
If you then become evasive by interrupting or not at all meditating, you let an opportunity pass you by and the pattern is preserved.
If you stay with it and meditate as freely as you can, you introduce a corrective element, a different attitude, and another way of dealing with what is difficult. You connect with yourself, with acceptance and generosity, and relate actively with your impulses and your way of understanding yourself and others.
If we continue doing so, through daily meditations, long meditations, and often retreats, something will change, on a deeper level as well. This requires time, patience, and confidence in the process, while many feel satisfied by meditating, enjoying the daily half-hours, a certainty that this is good.
A non-evasive method
You may have had reasonably good parents, but still find that you cope with discomfort and adversity less well than you would like. Children who are encouraged to believe that they are the center of the world and good at everything may have problems in facing adversity in the real world. The adversity may represent a frustration they are not trained to cope with. Volatile or avoidance behavior can then be the result, an attempt to get away from the discomfort they are not used to dealing with.
In any case, we are complex and influenced by our past and the life we have lived – and not lived: of joys, sorrows, progress, and adversity, in the past and present. Opening up to this in meditation necessarily involves some degree of resistance and discomfort. By meditating, we practice being present and finding meaning in what is. Acem Meditation is the opposite of avoidance.
In the epilogue, we see that Julie is working as a photographer on a film set. It is as if something has fallen into place. She smiles and shows some care for an actress she is going to take pictures of, who turns out to be in a relationship with Eivind, Julie’s ex-boyfriend. The actor and Eivind have a small child together.
Julie is alone, without children, it seems. Whether she wants it to be that way or wants something else instead is not said.
I would recommend Acem Meditation either way!
Translation by Eirik Jensen
Your mind will wander sometimes, and that’s OK. It’s normal for your brain to rehash things that happened in the past or worry about things that are coming up in the future. There’s a name for this tendency—it’s called “monkey mind.” Don’t scold yourself or tell yourself you aren’t meditating correctly. Gently let go of whatever thought was pulling your attention and refocus on your breath. If visualization helps, you can picture those thoughts drifting away like clouds or floating down a river. You’ll find it gets easier to focus as you meditate more (net-boss.org/mindfulness-by-julia-hanner)
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