Rocky Balboa

Well rested, well-fed, and well, bored, after a two-day Jewish holiday, I settled back to blogging after the respite. So many things I wanted to write about, but all I could think of was the Rocky story and how it worked for me as a therapy doc last week.

You remember Rocky, right? He’s the fighter who ran through the streets of Philadelphia screaming Adrian! True Rocky cultists refer to more than his love for his woman. They talk about the things that come out of Rocky's mouth. He's an inspiration.

And Sylvester Stallone, a hero of mine since I caught a glimpse of him at the Paramount commissary a thousand years ago at lunch, has a way with words. He wrote the screenplay for the movie.

He's the creator of Rocky-isms.

It ain't over 'til it's over. (In divorce I refer to this as, it's not over until the ink is dry).

The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much can you take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!

I like that idea, how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.

If you're willing to go through all the battling you got to go through to get where you want to get, who's got the right to stop you?

Once I lived in Israel. The bureaucracy nearly killed me. Then someone told me the secret, and it's an element, you should know, of assertiveness training-- my version of assertiveness training that is:

NO is the beginning of the negotiations. You begin to negotiate when they say NO and you don't let up. You keep at it and you'll get what you want. It works; it really does.

I mean maybe some of you guys got something you never finished, something you really want to do, something you never said to someone,

Meaning, just because YOU haven't got the courage to backtrack and tie up loose ends, doesn't mean I haven't. That's the essence, by the way, of the 12-step programs, back-tracking, fixing the errors of the past, if possible. I love that.

So Rocky is more than a boxing movie, and true to the Rocky genre, Rocky Balboa is all about perseverance and courage. Don’t Give Up. It was a good call, asking me to review this one (was it you, Mi? I think so!)

But a real review of Rocky Balboa would be remiss if I didn't give the downside, right? You need to know, okay, that the beginning is so, so slow. If you have back problems, maybe don’t even rent it.

I was definitely half-way through the film when I turned to F.D. and said,

"If this doesn’t start very soon, if he doesn’t AT LEAST jump rope VERY SOON, it’s over, it’s over, it’s all over."

Then all of a sudden they were beating the blank out of one another in the ring. Did I mention that it's a boxing movie? FD, who outlasts me with blood and guts any day of the week, said, “This is disgusting. This sport is disgusting.” And he was right.

But I don’t know, it kind of made me feel good. All that sitting and waiting and then finally, finally, a fight. It’s very much like a united front couple before their first fight. Oh, I haven’t told you about united front couples, have I. No, not today. Suffice it to say, the first fight is the last. It’s a knock-down drag-out, take no prisoners argument, and it never happens again. That's it for fighting. That's it for problem resolution. Way too scary to go there again.

So sure, I got through Rocky Balboa relatively unscathed, a patsy for distraction any night of the week. And the very next day I happened to see a really sick patient. It’s not like every day I don’t see really sick patients. I do see really sick patients every single day, which is why it is good to take the Sabbath and these religious holidays seriously. Therapy docs are good for no one when they burn out. I believe there's a Rockyism about that.

Anyway, this particular individual that I'm talking about could be anyone of us with bi-polar disorder. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed and glamorized in our very caffeinated, manic and neurotically labile culture. The vicissitudes of depression and mania are many.

There is a normal range of sadness for the rest of us, but people with bi-polar disorder feel way beyond that range.

And it's not good. They really suffer. We can marry our depression, those of us who never feel that very dangerous pole, and most of us don't. Depression's actually very sensuous in some ways. But the depression of bi-polar disorder is exceedingly psychologically and physically painful (sheer exhaustion, battle fatigue, nasty side-effects from medication). It's difficult to predict and manage. One out of five people with this disorder do successfully complete a suicide. (Not on my watch. Don't get any big ideas.)

Yet by definition the disorder improves with dogged intervention. Sick today, well tomorrow. I've seen it so many times. The cloud lifts. The light switch goes on. It's magic. (With intervention, don't forget, meaning medicine).

Anyway, let's continue the story. My patient was feeling pretty low, as exhausted/bereft as ever as he's felt in his life with little hope for tomorrow. It can be difficult convincing people that this hopelessness will change, no matter how many times they've been through it. Their brains select out that wellness memory when they are in this particularly horrible place.

But I had just seen Rocky Balboa and I couldn’t help but take a stab at it.

"Have you ever seen the Rocky movies?" I asked.

"Every one of them, I think," he said.

"Then you’ve seen Rocky Balboa?"

"No, I missed that one."

"Rent Rocky Balboa. Maybe it will help."

Between you and me, and between me and him even, and I said that, I hedged my bets, in my heart I know the movie won’t change the way he feels very much, if at all. He may not be able to concentrate. I'm sure, in fact that it will be next to impossible to concentrate, although sitting through it is certainly possible. Sitting is something he can do very well. He hasn't much energy to go anywhere.

But you know something? If he rents it and he does hear the message? If he continues to work with his doctors and take his medication, watching a movie with a message can't hurt.

It's good to know that when you're down, when you're really down, there's a way to move forward, if only by marking time.

THAT can take courage.

Copyright 2007, therapydoc


Mark said…
Movies are a powerful medium. Being able to attach a story to a lesson is so important. Now when you meet with your paitent, you can simply say, "remember the Rocky Balboa movie" and the lesson will come right to the forefront of your paitents mind.
Organized religion has been using this technique for a long time and it works!
Chana said…
They talk about the things that come out of Rocky's mouth.

I thought you would say something about his teeth... (groooooan)
therapydoc said…
It's hard for me to see him so beat up, honest. I totally fall for Hollywood shtick.
Mimi said…
I just love Rocky movies. I even love Rambo movies. Can't take the blood & guts seriously. Just listen to the dialogue (or lack of). Great stuff.
Thanks for the review!
teebopop said…
With regards to backtracking and fixing the errors of the past:

You can't change the past. Period. How is it possible to do that? What's done is done. There is no going back. You just have to deal with the past and hopefully learn from the mistakes. And even if I could fix things, would I want to? Would I be at the same place I'm at right now, good or bad, if I was able to fix things?

This totally confuses me.
jen said…
I love messages in film - and thismesage is a good one - I think i will pass it on to my kids. You don't have to be sick to learn from them. school teachers use films all the time, in support of the study of themes in texts, ideas in curriculum, values in religion and for the films own sake. At least this we we can get lessons out to those who prefer to watch rahter than read!
therapydoc said…
Teebopop, SOMETIMES you can change the present by referring to the past, especially if there is something to learn from something that has happened in the past. Clearly you can't change what has happened.

But you can apologize to people for the things you have done to them in the past and that changes the present and the future. Also, if you have been hurt by someone in the past you can go to that person and demand an apology and/or reparations.

What are reparations? I'll post on it right now. It's about time I did.