16 Jun Data vs Story
As we have worked on and written about All The Rage, we have focused a great deal on the role of our emotions in regards to both pain and our over all health. However we often lose sight of how our emotions interact with our intellect, defining our response to a given situation. Our emotions exist in relation to the intellectual frame through which we see the world. Some of us depend on our emotions to make meaning while others pay attention to “data”. It’s important realize that neither of these are “best” way to go through life. As in most things, a balanced approach is useful. In terms of our film, we believe that a balanced approach will help us to reach the most people.
This evening I was talking to a Nicole Sachs about her work and her book “The Meaning of Truth”. Her book is all emotion; it’s all story with very little reliance on broad data sets. Instead her data is her own experience as a patient of Dr. Sarno, and as a dedicated therapist who uses Dr. Sarno’s work to help people heal. I told her that she needed to use her stories when she talks about her work but that she also needs to use data because a lot of people look askance at n of 1 stories. I was particularly focused on the different ways in which people process ideas and emotions because earlier today I got a very helpful email from a friend who is doctor. She had watched a rough cut of the first act of the film which is very heavy on story, and less focused data. Our plan was always to draw people into the story and deliver the data that supports it in Act 2. She was looking at the film like it was a scientific paper and wanted to know what our “cohort was”, who our audience is, pointing out that doctors like her were going to need data to be convinced that the emotions have as powerful effect on the body as the movie seems to be arguing. As I said, we don’t have much data in the first act, but there is kind of a throwaway line in an interview with Dr. Schecter in which he states that when he first met Dr Sarno he said, “I walked into John Sarno’s office one day in about 1981. He said to me, ‘95% of this chronic pain is psychosomatic, what do you think of that?’ And I was very surprised to hear that.” My doctor friend really zeroed in on that line in a way that made her extremely skeptical. I’ve always seen it as a kind of minor form of hazing of a young resident. To me it’s about the story and I never really paid attention to that number as data. This is one of the reasons we share the work with a lot of people; in order to see how a a variety of people react to it.
One of the toughest issues that we face in terms of constructing the movie is finding this balance between data and story. In some ways data is at the intellectual end of the spectrum and story is at the emotional en, which means that we are also trying to find the balance between intellect and emotion. Yesterday we filmed and interview with my brother, and he gave us a little bit of both. He has a compelling story of his 4 year struggle to get over hand pain when he was in graduate school. He’s also a social psychologist who was only able to fully embrace Dr. Sarno’s ideas when he went to his lecture and was moved by the data. The story drew him in, but it was the data about MRI’s and back pain that clearly showed that there was no causal correlation between the two, coupled with the data on whiplash having a cultural basis, combined with the data about there being lower oxygen content in the areas experiencing pain that painted a picture much more compelling and believable than anything else he had encountered in his 4 year quest for health. He had always understood that his pain had an emotional connection but it was that data that allowed him to access his intellect and change the way he related to the world around him.
Many of us believe that our personalities are carved in stone; that our reaction to our environment is often beyond our control. As I typed those words I was once again reminded of the speech that my father read at our wedding. I come back to it every few months and see it from a new perspective. It’s something of a guidepost for this project because it lays out in simple and open terms, a plan for engaging in the Human Comedy. I thought of it just now because it speaks directly to the idea of finding a balance between intellect and emotion.
I would like to share with you the secret of successful living — filmmaker’s version.
Central casting has assigned you a role in The Human Comedy. You have to accept the role, but view it as a continually changing and evolving part. Above all, do not hold to the false belief that you are audience, not actor, that you are a watcher of other’s foibles and pratfalls.
You are both actor, audience (i.e. observer of your own performance), script doctor, editor, and director. The script and performance are always being revised — this is a work in progress. The better you understand the comedy and your own behavior as an amusing player — the lighter your touch, the better you become at improving and enriching your performance. Those who deny they have been cast in parts become sterile, inflexible caricatures, while those who embrace their roles and keep working to improve their performances, grow, change, and expand their selves.
Above all, remember the script is not Long Day’s Journey into Night nor the tale of woe of Juliet and her Romeo, but it is The Human Comedy, a warm and endearing script. Play it well and your days will be mostly joyful.
Words Spoken by David Galinsky, 9/13/97
He talks about the idea that we are all both actor and audience in our own lives and that we need to understand that our role is always evolving. This is something that we have had to hold onto as we construct the film. The first act is an ever evolving story that seems to be constantly in flux. The next part is about not taking it all to seriously lest the work becomes a sterile and inflexible caricature of itself. One thing that our doctor friend pointed out was that the film felt like it was trying a little too hard to “sell” Dr. Sarno’s ideas. I agree. She saw a slightly older cut and we have been working to fix that. Even though it’s a film ABOUT Dr. Sarno, it certainly shouldn’t feel like it’s “selling”. He doesn’t want that and neither do we.