Friday, September 30, 2011

The Ego's Need to Punish

If you’re drawn to captivating movies, rent The Painted Veil, starring Ed Norton and Naomi Watts. Based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham and filmed in China with breathtaking scenery, the movie beautifully exemplifies the tangled dynamics of the ego and the miracle of forgiveness.

Ed Norton is Walter, an English doctor specializing in epidemiology and heading to China, while Naomi Watts plays Kitty, a British socialite, eager to escape her stifling family. Walter asks Kitty to marry him, knowing full well she only accepts to get away from home. Walter has the ego expectation of getting her to eventually fall in love with him, epitomizing the ego’s need to “get” love rather than to “be” love.

While in China, Kitty has an affair with a British diplomat, and Walter, enraged, lets loose with the full force of ego vengeance. She asks him to let her quietly divorce him, but he refuses, giving her a choice between two options: he will divorce her on the grounds of adultery (this is 1925 and a woman would be ruined); or she can follow him to a cholera-infested area of China. When Walter’s ego does not get what it wants, he has a compelling need to punish and persecute Kitty, in spite of her apology and appeal for mercy.

Kitty, feeling trapped in the typical ego scenario of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” follows Walter to the cholera-stricken region, where he proceeds to ignore her, refusing to exchange even common pleasantries. Kitty eventually confronts him and says he can’t go on punishing her forever, and asks if he hates her. In a moment of truth, Walter admits that he doesn’t hate her; he hates himself for ever loving her and wishing she’d love him.

Walter’s admission that it’s his own self-hatred begins the process of dismantling his ego and illustrates this line from A Course in Miracles: Any concept of punishment involves the projection of blame, and reinforces the idea that blame is justified (T-6.I.16:5). While Walter blames Kitty, he can justify punishing her, but when he quits projecting his guilt, he starts softening toward her, and she responds in kind. This leads to a profound and inspiring forgiveness lesson as they face the dreaded cholera.

Whom in your life are you projecting blame onto? What would happen if you took that blame back and forgave both that person and yourself? You might just experience a miracle, as Walter and Kitty did.

Love and Light, Lorri Coburn

No comments:

Post a Comment