31 days project: The Truman Show, Pain & The Transcendent Self

The film The Truman Show is a fascinating journey into the life of Truman Burbank, who, over the course of the movie, realizes that his entire life has been one big reality TV show. A psychological comedy, the concept of The Truman Show is based upon a psychological condition called Truman delusion. People living with this condition believe that their life is a staged reality show or that they are being watched by cameras. Ironically, this is how we, in the present day, live our lives through the many current social media platforms.

This mini-blog isn’t intended on exploring the Truman delusion. I want to draw your attention to a moment in the movie where Truman begins to transcend from a constructed reality, which throughout his life he has had no awareness of, to a transcendent self.

The transcendent self is a term used in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Relational Frame Theory to describe the “I” that we have the ability to become aware of. This “I” is the noticing part of you, the observer, that is always there, wherever you are, who you are with and what the condition of your life is. At the same time, we become aware of our “I” we also construct a conceptualized reality, made up of beliefs, thoughts, ideas, opinions, and our experiences. In the pain world, this might mean that beliefs about harming our body further or being useless because we can’t play a game of cricket with our kids, because of pain, start to dominate how we construct our lives.

I want to bring your attention to a moment in the film when Truman, on his way to work, starts to notice strange occurrences. Remember, Truman has never had his own constructed reality of how he views his world. His has been constructed for him, manipulated by a megalomaniac director, narcissistic for TV ratings. However, it serves as a metaphor for those of us that live with our pain, be that from a physical injury and/or related to a mental health state.

Pain begins to construct our reality, we follow routes dictated to us over our internal radio, we identify odd unfamiliar environments and it feels like pain is watching us, watching our every move. To quote from A Liberated Mind (2019) by Steve Hayes: ‘As you emerge behind your eyes, you begin to see behind the eyes of others. You notice people noticing you; you notice people noticing you noticing them’ (see if you can spot that moment in the movie clip). You also notice environments, and movements, you notice that you are noticing environments and movements, and your interaction with those environments and movements.

This ability to engage with the transcendent self, the “I” in you creates a space between you and the bus of beliefs and the car of criticism that you stop on your road. It gives you a moment of pause, an opportunity to notice the pause, notice the space and notice the “I” within you.

Thanks for having a read and enjoy the clip.





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