Rowena J Ronson draws parallels between the movie Cast Away (2000) and the lives of all of us
I see many patients who have been living out their own version of Cast Away; they are lost at sea, on an isolated island, with no hope of ever returning to anything close to their normal existence. That place is a lonely one, each day feeling very much like the last, with only the self to rely on for everything and in every way. Each day is solely about survival. But in that basic realisation lies the answer to seeing the light. By working just on surviving, we can take the first small and necessary steps to build the foundations that will enable us to move forward.
The film Cast Away offers us hope that despite the journey, and how challenging it is for us, finding coping mechanisms makes the process more manageable and even life-saving at times, when we can perceive no light at all, not even a flicker. And those coping mechanisms can actually give us the inner strength necessary, in time, to cast us off our own proverbial island, and on to our own individual journey back home, even if it is riding a rough sea for a while. But along with the dynamis of movement, comes hope and potential for healing.
One such coping tool that Tom Hanks’s character, ironically named Chuck Noland, used was to visualise the love of his life, creating his temporary ‘purpose’, to get off that island and reunite with her. And to facilitate this, he sketched her picture on the wall of his cave, to remind himself daily of where he wanted to be in the future, once the time was right for him to venture out. He also found a friend, where there was none, a face made of his own blood, imprinted on a Wilson volley ball. He used his friend as a reflection of himself, someone to whom he could express his fear, his longing, his desperation, someone to always be there for him unconditionally and whenever he needed. And here lies a good lesson for us all. To find that friendship and strength within ourselves is a courageous step but one that is worth the work, the leap of faith, the belief. When we can truly offer the strength we give to others, to ourselves, then we are the best friend, to ourselves, we can ever be, especially when we are feeling so alone that whatever support we are offered doesn’t seem to help.
And within the creation of that inner strength, there lies the potential for healing and coming out of the darkest recesses of out minds. We do not know what lies ahead on our journey to heal ourselves. We might find ourselves at a crossroads, much like Hanks did in the closing scenes of the film. But as he said, ‘I was sure I was never going to get off that island, I was going to die there, totally alone.’
He was so desperate that he even tried to take control of his life by planning its ending and he said ‘that is when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket, I knew somehow that I had to stay alive, somehow, I had to keep breathing, although there was no reason to hope, and all my logic said that I would never see this place again (home). So that is what I did, I stayed alive, I kept breathing, and one day that logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in and gave me a sail. And now here I am, I am back in Memphis talking to you, I have ice in my glass, and I have lost her all over again (his purpose for coming home). I am so sad that I don’t have Kelly, but I am so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I have to keep breathing because the sun will rise, and who knows what the tide could bring.’ There is always hope.