Am still a bit heartbroken after seeing Elvis the other night, knowing that financial exploitation in music and film (and so many other industries) is so ingrained. That he wasn’t the first or last to be manipulated and even drugged in order to be controlled. That we humans have SO far to go in terms of reparations and increased social justice, equality, peace and freedom for EVERYONE. Here are some self care lessons from the gorgeous new film…
There be spoiler alerts within this here blog post…
Let yourself dream big
I loved interviewing the fantabulous Dr Dina Glouberman and writing this piece for Psychologies (August 2022 issue) on ImageWork and some of my own history with visualisation.
I’m no Elvis, obviously, but many of the things I’ve done initially felt impossible. Self loathing was so much my default, the idea of learning to care more about myself and to genuinely adore being alive on this wondrous planet used to feel as outlandish as the idea of becoming a world famous rock star.
The idea of WRITING for (part of) my living… Having a book published (and making space in my life to write more for myself as well as for work)… training in all these trauma informed therapies, supervision and coaching and being able to use my past pain to help support clients and groups with their own, KNOWING that they’ve got this and that they can recover and thrive… My move to wondrous Westport, Co Mayo, Ireland and being able to cycle to the sea and swim, looking up at the Reek (aka Croagh Patrick).
There are so many dreams that I’ve made (and am making) a reality. Life obviously has many challenges but dreams are energising. I know that I’m more likely to get what I want when I work towards them rather than by shrugging inwardly, pretending to not care and telling myself whatever is never going to work out.
What do YOU dream of? Something you struggle to believe you deserve in any aspect of your life? How do you feel when you give yourself permission to want it?
Untangle your dreams from others’
Elvis’s talent and love of music was electric. The way the new film showed his life, his mother’s loss of his twin brother and the pressure he felt to live for both of them was excrutiating. Little Elvis wanted to save his mother (who should have been looking after him but was obviously limited by the fact that she was essentially a single mother and the times would have made it hard for her, as a woman, to fulfil her own potential) and father.
Had they had access to 2022 style therapy (including systemic Family Constellation work. Holy Macaroni, I wish they’d been able to work with the lost twin more so Elvis could have flown more freely), they could potentially have worked through all the grief and loss and shame and been less vulnerable to exploitation as a family.
Know that you deserve to follow your dreams without having to put up with exploitation
Elvis’s love of music and talent shouldn’t have been used against him. I know that these glamourous lives can seem so hard to relate to but what happened to Judy Garland, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Brendan Fraser, Terry Crews and so many others is the fault of the abusers and perpetrators. Not ‘dues’ they had to pay to perform / act / be elite athletes.
If you haven’t already listened to the beautiful Reese Witherspoon episode of the We Can Do Hard Things podcast with Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach I think you’ll love it.
When Reese described the sense of purpose she felt as part of the #TimesUp movement, and the things she shouldn’t have had to endure as a young actor, she was very clear: The fact that she was getting roles she loved and being paid to DO what she loved didn’t mean that she and others should have been being paid less. And that she and others should have had more protection.
Whatever you dream of doing, you don’t have to sacrifice yourself to get it. HELP IS AVAILABLE. And ALL the shame belongs with exploitive predators. Not you.
Do what makes you happy. Play
It might be music. Art. Writing. Building things. Whatever… Make time for the things that energise you. The things that help you express your soul. Don’t tell yourself you have to be GOOD at whatever in order to make time and space for it in your life.
I’m no Beyonce / Lizzo / Miley Cyrus / Patsy Cline / Ella Fitzgerald / Belinda Carlyle / Michael Stipe / The Beach Boys / Queen Latifah / Stevie Wonder etc (and that’s just today!) but apart from caterwalling along making me SMILE, singing, like chanting, elongates the exhalation and helps us tone the vagus nerve and activate the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system’s rest/digest response.
When Priscilla encouraged Elvis to play what HE wanted to play, whatever the consequences, he went back to his joyful musical roots.
Listen to your body and know that your body is YOURS
It was horrifying to watch the choice he ultimately made to betray himself and dose up and endure what was killing his soul instead of flying free. Maybe because of the physical pain in my 20s and being forced to pay attention to what my body needed from me (being forced to quit alcohol etc), I’m far quicker to pay attention now. To know that the sooner I listen, the less pain I experience.
Shocking to see ‘Elvis the Pelvis’ being criminalised for (threatened and actually arrested) for moving his body in a way in which he felt moved to move it! Wow. I’ve never seen a white man’s body being policed in that way!
And when he was young and free (although 42. SO young), he seemed to have the energy to honour what felt good for him, what he enjoyed. But when his family and friends were threatened (and he might have found it too painful to face that they hadn’t been protecting him), he betrayed himself for their continued comfort.
Use your voice
My favourite scene was him harnessing his grief and writing a protest song because, as Elvis said, ‘When you can’t say it, sing it.’
Your voice might show up as a cartoon, or a meal. Maybe your ‘voice’ means flagging the cv of someone who might otherwise be overlooked within your corporation or industry.
Whatever you do, whoever you are, you have more power than you realise.
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how you get on and any questions or comments you might have.
And feel free to share this post on your social media etc so others who may find it helpful can read it.