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Collaboration Versus Isolation: Ideas Provoked by the Documentary ‘Room 237’

Keep doors open in your relationships with communication, collaboration, and compassion

I became fascinated by the documentary Room 237 a few years ago. It is a collection of interpretive perspectives on the Stanley Kubrick film, The Shining, narrated by cinephiles who are obsessed with it.

Now, I hesitated on this post…  The family in The Shining are snowed into a remote hotel and bad things begin to happen. Maybe not a great thing to think of these days. But that is only the surface. I do see an important and helpful takeaway from it and the documentary Room 237:

If you are going to be isolated, be psychologically together.

In an anxious isolation, imagination becomes a liability if there is no social connection and feedback. (That is, unless you are an enlightened master, a status I increasingly think is usually a fiction.) Use your ‘short-wave radios’ as needed and don’t disable them (as in The Shining) but otherwise, focus on each other. Allowing for some needed  space at times, do not be mentally and emotionally separate and alone.

Now, if you want to know more detail, read on: About Room 237

The narrators basically free-associate and present their theories about The Shining. Some have critiqued the cinephiles, stating that their theories are wild or they just project their psyches onto the film. The projection aspect is, I’m thinking, quite right. Yet, as a psychologist and therapist I have great respect for the efforts of the narrators, even when some theories are kind of ‘out there’.

Some are onto some things, and all are grappling to understand and know. It is important to remember that projection, introjection, and identification work almost like a set of mental-emotional antennae (concept from Dr. Joseph Malancharuvil). Ideally, we then test such impressions against real data. That informs more such processes, and so on.

Why Is Room 237 Relevant?

With The Shining, Kubrick presented us with an atypical film—even for him. He was known to be meticulous but either made serious mistakes in the film (not likely) or messes with us on purpose. However, as to meaning, I take a wider perspective, while admitting I could be wrong.

I agree with others that he was using his intellect and sense of humor to unsettle us in the subtext below the story line. My twist is that Kubrick was—consciously or not—giving us the feeling that he was no longer the authoritative filmmaker, even as his incredible technical ability still shows.

I think with The Shining, Kubrick shifts directions and forces us to work, instead of giving us easy answers. We confront uncertainty and the un-explainable (e.g., the strangely flawed, out-of-order, near-subliminal movie). In my view, he either did this with full awareness or was going mostly on intuition.

How Kubrick’s Movie Affects Us

To me, the theories of Room 237 and other sources show that Kubrick did the job quite well. To deal with such a movie, we often decide we know things (and know Kubrick) when we don’t. Another way of putting this is that, knowingly or not, Kubrick induced us to ‘shine’ by provoking us. (That idea was partly inspired by the writer of the following blog: ).

The main point

As some have noticed, people in the film have nightmare visions only when they are alone (unless I have missed an instance). When two or more of the real movie characters are together, even when they are together in a scary way, the ‘otherworldly scary’ visions are not present. Those characters are left with:

  1. Real, concrete situations that are sometimes dangerous but can be confronted
  2. Strength through necessity and working the situations through

Final Message: Collaboration, Reassurance, and Sharing Is Key

When you are isolated together with your loved ones, let your minds and hearts interact. Be near-certain that you understand one another. Once you’re adequately informed, don’t stay glued to TV or social media news. Share your personal visions, good and bad. Reassure one another that you can work to enjoy or even manifest the good visions. Regarding bad ones, together you can separate terrible waking dreams from solid things that must be managed. With sensitivity, share your ‘selves’.

Psychological isolation is a subtle but deep harm in today’s world, and now even more so. Use any time on your hands to prevent and alleviate it.

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