What do Jim Jarmusch’s movies and self-esteem have to do with one another? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything! I cant stop re-watching all his movies this holiday during my down time, and the topic of self-esteem (as it is one of the 5 core issues, along with boundaries, authenticity, self-care and moderation), of course keeps coming up as people navigate the reflective and evocative holiday season.
I have always loved Jarmusch’s films and something in the stillness of them, the heart felt and direct dialogue and the spaciousness they capture feels like medicine. During this season – when the third dimension (presents, scheduling and family of origin issues) seem so loud, the magic of the in-between and dreamlike places feels significant to me and crucial in terms of connecting with myself and my loved ones.
In an interview I watched recently, Jarmusch talks about how interesting “making a movie about the insignificant moments rather than the significant ones” can be. Revisiting his films, I am reveling in their existential orientation toward the seemingly meaningless or insignificant. This sensory exploration of the spaces “in-between” opens me up to simply being and also to spontaneous moments of wonder. Jim Jarmusch’s movies are filled with moments of wonder in response to beholding – just to name a few: amanita muscaria, a piece of music, a woman’s walk, a Detroit skyline, a bird in flight.
It is in these in-between moments that I find a sense of what is commonly or popularly known as “self -esteem.” Unfortunately I think this term has been mishandled and rather than explored from the inside out, has been seen as something to “get” or “build.” Sadly, this self-esteem consumerism often occurs at the expense of others. The idea that we can raise or lower our value as human beings is as problematic as it is erroneous.
The value of a human being cannot be raised or lowered. My value does not go up or down based on approval, accomplishment, or any other third dimensional fluctuation. My value, much like a sunset, a skunk or a colorful Moroccan alleyway (beautifully captured in one of Jarmusch’s films) simply…..is.
As crushing as it may be to my goal-oriented ego, I don’t have to be altered or improved upon in order to be valuable. This is why I think existentialism is a useful lens for psychotherapy – because the emphasis on “being” allows us to drop the self-esteem game and simply experience ourselves and the world around us.
It is in savoring and revering this sensory experience that inherent worth and value comes naturally into consciousness. The statement that embodies this experience for me is “I am valuable because I am breathing.” The moment I am raising or lowering my self worth I am off the beam. It can’t raised or lowered – it simply… is. My value can not be found in the past or in the future, but only available through a felt sense in the present moment. As Bill Murray remarks in Broken Flowers, “Well, the past is gone, I know that. The future, isn’t here yet, whatever it’s going to be. So, all there is, is, is this. The present. That’s it.”
It is my experience in doing my own work and walking along side others as they heal the core issues that “self esteem” is the natural byproduct of presence. Jim Jarmusch’s films have been a wonderful reminder to indulge and savor the mundane and seemingly insignificant. I encourage you this season to take time for these in-between moments and see what you find! Check out Limits of Control, Ghostdog, Dead Man and Only Lovers Left Behind all written and directed by Jim Jarmusch for inspiration.