On This Day … 29 October

People (Deaths)

  • 1949 – George Gurdjieff, Armenian-French monk, psychologist, and philosopher (b. 1872).

George Gurdjieff

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff[ (31 March 1866 to 29 October 1949) was a Russian philosopher, mystic, spiritual teacher, and composer of Armenian and Greek descent, born in Alexandropol, Russian Empire (now Gyumri, Armenia).

Gurdjieff taught that most humans do not possess a unified consciousness and thus live their lives in a state of hypnotic “waking sleep”, but that it is possible to awaken to a higher state of consciousness and achieve full human potential. Gurdjieff described a method attempting to do so, calling the discipline “The Work” or “the System”.

According to his principles and instructions, Gurdjieff’s method for awakening one’s consciousness unites the methods of the fakir, monk and yogi, and thus he referred to it as the “Fourth Way”.

Palliative/End of Life Care & Lung Cancer: With & Without Schizophrenia

Research Paper Title

Palliative and high-intensity end-of-life care in schizophrenia patients with lung cancer: results from a French national population-based study.

Background

Schizophrenia is marked by inequities in cancer treatment and associated with high smoking rates.

Lung cancer patients with schizophrenia may thus be at risk of receiving poorer end-of-life care compared to those without mental disorder.

The objective was to compare end-of-life care delivered to patients with schizophrenia and lung cancer with patients without severe mental disorder.

Methods

This population-based cohort study included all patients aged 15 and older who died from their terminal lung cancer in hospital in France (2014-2016).

Schizophrenia patients and controls without severe mental disorder were selected and indicators of palliative care and high-intensity end-of-life care were compared.

Multivariable generalised log-linear models were performed, adjusted for sex, age, year of death, social deprivation, time between cancer diagnosis and death, metastases, comorbidity, smoking addiction and hospital category.

Results

The analysis included 633 schizophrenia patients and 66,469 controls.

The schizophrenia patients died 6 years earlier, had almost twice more frequently smoking addiction (38.1%), had more frequently chronic pulmonary disease (32.5%) and a shorter duration from cancer diagnosis to death.

In multivariate analysis, they were found to have more and earlier palliative care (adjusted Odds Ratio 1.27 [1.03;1.56]; p = 0.04), and less high-intensity end-of-life care (e.g., chemotherapy 0.53 [0.41;0.70]; p < 0.0001; surgery 0.73 [0.59;0.90]; p < 0.01) than controls.

Conclusions

Although the use and/or continuation of high-intensity end-of-life care is less important in schizophrenia patients with lung cancer, some findings suggest a loss of chance.

Future studies should explore the expectations of patients with schizophrenia and lung cancer to define the optimal end-of-life care.

Reference

Viprey, M., Pauly, V., Salas, S., Baumstarck, K., Orleans, V., Llorca, P-M., Lancon, C., Auquier, P., Boyer, L. & Fond, G. (2020) Palliative and high-intensity end-of-life care in schizophrenia patients with lung cancer: results from a French national population-based study. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience. doi: 10.1007/s00406-020-01186-z. Online ahead of print.

On This Day … 28 October

People (Births)

  • 1943 – Karalyn Patterson, English psychologist and academic.

Karalyn Patterson

Karalyn Eve Patterson, FRS, FBA, FMedSci (née Friedman; born 28 October 1943) is a British psychologist in Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Cambridge and MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit.

She is a specialist in cognitive neuropsychology and an Emeritus Fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge.

Education

Patterson attended South Shore High School, Chicago, from which she graduated in 1961. She completed her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at the University of California, San Diego, in 1971.

Career and Research

In 1975, Patterson moved to England to take a position at the Applied Psychology Unit of the Medical Research Council (MRC) in Cambridge.

Awards and Honours

Patterson is one of a select group of academics that are fellows of both the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy for science, and the British Academy, the UK’s national academy for humanities and social sciences.

In 2020, she was awarded the Suffrage Science Life Sciences Award.

A Bipolar Expedition (2010)

Introduction

Midland’s businessman Paul Downes hires a castle in Jamaica and invites 12 young Ukrainian women to join him in the hope one will marry him. Paul suffers bi-polar disorder and has a manic episode – his plans turn bizarre and troubling.

Outline

Midland’s businessman Paul Downes hires a castle in Jamaica and invites 12 young Ukrainian women to join him in the hope one will marry him. Unfortunately Paul suffers bi-polar disorder and has a manic episode for most of the two week holiday. He quickly loses interest in the women and what at first looked like a distorted reality TV show transforms into a bizarre spin on James Bond as Paul plots to take over the world.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Mark James.
  • Producer(s): martin Herring and Mike Lerner.
  • Writer(s):
  • Music: Amlak Tafari.
  • Cinematography: Mark James.
  • Editor(s): Mark James.
  • Production: Roast Beef Productions and Widestream Films.
  • Distributor(s): TVF International.
  • Release Date: 25 may 2010.
  • Running Time: 65 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

Can We Use Gamification in Mobile Mental Health Interventions?

Research Paper Title

Gamification as an approach to improve resilience and reduce attrition in mobile mental health interventions: A randomized controlled trial.

Background

40% of all general practitioner (GP) appointments are related to mental illness, although less than 35% of individuals have access to therapy and psychological care, indicating a pressing need for accessible and affordable therapy tools.

The ubiquity of smartphones offers a delivery platform for such tools. Previous research suggests that gamification-turning intervention content into a game format-could increase engagement with prevention and early-stage mobile interventions.

This study aimed to explore the effects of a gamified mobile mental health intervention on improvements in resilience, in comparison with active and inactive control conditions. Differences between conditions on changes in personal growth, anxiety and psychological wellbeing, as well as differences in attrition rates, were also assessed.

Methods

The eQuoo app was developed and published on all leading mobile platforms.

The app educates users about psychological concepts including emotional bids, generalisation, and reciprocity through psychoeducation, storytelling, and gamification.

In total, 358 participants completed in a 5-week, 3-armed (eQuoo, “treatment as usual” cognitive behavioural therapy journal app, no-intervention waitlist) randomized controlled trial. Relevant scales were administered to all participants on days 1, 17, and 35.

Results

Repeated-measures ANOVA revealed statistically significant increases in resilience in the test group compared with both control groups over 5 weeks.

The app also significantly increased personal growth, positive relations with others, and anxiety. With 90% adherence, eQuoo retained 21% more participants than the control or waitlist groups.

Intervention delivered via eQuoo significantly raised mental well-being and decreased self-reported anxiety while enhancing adherence in comparison with the control conditions.

Conclusions

Mobile apps using gamification can be a valuable and effective platform for well-being and mental health interventions and may enhance motivation and reduce attrition.

Future research should measure eQuoo’s effect on anxiety with a more sensitive tool and examine the impact of eQuoo on a clinical population.

Reference

Litvin, S., Saunders, R., Maier, M.A. & Luttke, S. (2020) Gamification as an approach to improve resilience and reduce attrition in mobile mental health interventions: A randomized controlled trial. PLoS One. 15(9), pp.e0237220. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0237220. eCollection 2020.

On This Day … 27 October

People (Deaths)

  • 2011 – James Hillman, American psychologist and author (b. 1926).

James Hillman

James Hillman (12 April 1926 to 27 October 2011) was an American psychologist. He studied at, and then guided studies for, the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich. He founded a movement toward archetypal psychology and retired into private practice, writing and traveling to lecture, until his death at his home in Connecticut.

Early Life and Education

Hillman was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1926. He was the third child of four born to Madeleine and Julian Hillman. James was born in Breakers Hotel, one of the hotels his father owned. His maternal grandfather was Joseph Krauskopf, a rabbi in the Reform Judaism movement, who emigrated to the United States from Prussia. After high school, he studied at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service for two years. He served in the US Navy Hospital Corps from 1944 to 1946, after which he attended the University of Paris, studying English Literature, and Trinity College, Dublin, graduating with a degree in mental and moral science in 1950. He began his career as associate editor for the Irish literary review, Envoy. In 1959, he received his PhD from the University of Zurich, as well as his analyst’s diploma from the C.G. Jung Institute and was then appointed as Director of Studies at the institute, a position he held until 1969.

Career

In 1970, Hillman became editor of Spring Publications, a publishing company devoted to advancing Archetypal Psychology as well as publishing books on mythology, philosophy and art. His magnum opus, Re-visioning Psychology, was written in 1975 and nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Hillman then helped co-found the Dallas Institute for Humanities and Culture in 1978. His 1997 book, The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling, was on The New York Times Best Seller List that year. His works and ideas about philosophy and psychology have also been popularized by other authors such as the psychotherapist Thomas Moore. His published works, essays, manuscripts, research notes, and correspondence (through 1999) reside at OPUS Archives and Research Centre, located on the campuses of Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, California.

Hillman was married three times, lastly to Margot McLean-Hillman, who survived him. He has four children from his first marriage. He died at his home in Thompson, Connecticut, in 2011, from bone cancer.

Archetypal Psychology

Archetypal psychology is a polytheistic psychology, in that it attempts to recognize the myriad fantasies and myths that shape and are shaped by our psychological lives. The ego is but one psychological fantasy within an assemblage of fantasies. To illustrate the multiple personifications of psyche Hillman made reference to gods, goddesses, demigods and other imaginal figures which he referred to as sounding boards “for echoing life today or as bass chords giving resonance to the little melodies of daily life”[4] although he insisted that these figures should not be used as a ‘master matrix’ against which we should measure today and thereby decry modern loss of richness. Archetypal psychology is part of the Jungian psychology tradition and related to Jung’s original Analytical psychology but is also a radical departure from it in some respects.

Whereas Jung’s psychology focused on the Self, its dynamics and its constellations (ego, anima, animus, shadow), Hillman’s Archetypal psychology relativises and deliteralises the ego and focuses on psyche, or soul, and the archai, the deepest patterns of psychic functioning, “the fundamental fantasies that animate all life” (Moore, in Hillman, 1991).

In Re-Visioning Psychology (1975) Hillman sketches a brief lineage of archetypal psychology:

By calling upon Jung to begin with, I am partly acknowledging the fundamental debt that archetypal psychology owes him. He is the immediate ancestor in a long line that stretches back through Freud, Dilthey, Coleridge, Schelling, Vico, Ficino, Plotinus, and Plato to Heraclitus – and with even more branches yet to be traced” (p. xvii).

The development of archetypal psychology is influenced by Carl Jung’s analytical psychology and Classical Greek, Renaissance, and Romantic ideas and thought. Hillman’s influences include Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Henry Corbin, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Petrarch, and Paracelsus, who share a common concern for psyche.

Psyche or Soul

Hillman has been critical of the 20th century’s psychologies (e.g., biological psychology, behaviorism, cognitive psychology) that have adopted a natural scientific philosophy and praxis. The main criticisms include that they are reductive, materialistic, and literal; they are psychologies without psyche, without soul. Accordingly, Hillman’s work has been an attempt to restore psyche to what he believes to be “its proper place” in psychology. Hillman sees the soul at work in imagination, fantasy, myth and metaphor. He also sees soul revealed in psychopathology, in the symptoms of psychological disorders. Psyche-pathos-logos is the “speech of the suffering soul” or the soul’s suffering of meaning. A great portion of Hillman’s thought attempts to attend to the speech of the soul as it is revealed via images and fantasies.

Archetypal Psychology: A Brief Account (2006) was written in 1981 as a chapter in the Enciclopedia del Novecento in Italy and published by Hillman in 1983 as a basic introduction to his mythic psychology. It summarizes the major themes set out in his earlier, more comprehensive work, Re-Visioning Psychology (1975). The poetic basis of mind places psychological activities in the realm of images. It seeks to explore images rather than explain them. Within this is the idea that by re-working images, that is giving them attention and shaping and forming them until they are clear as possible then a therapeutic process which Hillman calls “soul making” takes place. Hillman equates the psyche with the soul and seeks to set out a psychology based without shame in art and culture. The goal is to draw soul into the world via the creative acts of the individual, not to exclude it in the name of social order. The potential for soulmaking is revealed by psychic images to which a person is drawn and apprehends in a meaningful way. Indeed, the act of being drawn to and looking deeper at the images presented creates meaning – that is, soul. Further to Hillman’s project is a sense of the dream as the basic model of the psyche. This is set out more fully in The Dream and the Underworld (1979). In this text Hillman suggests that dreams show us as we are; diverse, taking very different roles, experiencing fragments of meaning that are always on the tip of consciousness. They also place us inside images, rather than placing images inside us. This move turns traditional epistemology on its head. The source of knowing is not Descartes’ “I” but, rather, there is a world full of images that this ‘I’ inhabits. Hillman further suggests a new understanding of psychopathology. He stresses the importance of psychopathology to the human experience and replaces a medical understanding with a poetic one. In this idea, sickness is a vital part of the way the soul of a person, that illusive and subjective phenomenon, becomes known.

Dream Analysis

Because archetypal psychology is concerned with fantasy, myth, and image, dreams are considered to be significant in relation to soul and soul-making. Hillman does not believe that dreams are simply random residue or flotsam from waking life (as advanced by physiologists), but neither does he believe that dreams are compensatory for the struggles of waking life, or are invested with “secret” meanings of how one should live, as did Jung. Rather, “dreams tell us where we are, not what to do” (1979). Therefore, Hillman is against the traditional interpretive methods of dream analysis. Hillman’s approach is phenomenological rather than analytic (which breaks the dream down into its constituent parts) and interpretive/hermeneutic (which may make a dream image “something other” than what it appears to be in the dream). His famous dictum with regard to dream content and process is “Stick with the image.”

For example, Hillman (1983a) discusses a patient’s dream about a huge black snake. The dream work would include “keeping the snake” and describing it rather than making it something other than a snake. Hillman notes:

The moment you’ve defined the snake, interpreted it, you’ve lost the snake, you’ve stopped it and the person leaves the hour with a concept about my repressed sexuality or my cold black passions … and you’ve lost the snake. The task of analysis is to keep the snake there, the black snake…see, the black snake’s no longer necessary the moment it’s been interpreted, and you don’t need your dreams any more because they’ve been interpreted.

One would inquire more about the snake as it is presented in the dream by the psyche so to draw it forth from its lair in the unconscious. The snake is huge and black, but what else? Is it molting or shedding its skin? Is it sunning itself on a rock? Is it digesting its prey? This descriptive strategy keeps the image alive, in Hillman’s opinion, and offers the possibility for understanding the psyche.

The Soul’s Code

Hillman’s 1997 book, The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling, outlines what he calls the “acorn theory” of the soul. This theory states that all people already hold the potential for the unique possibilities inside themselves, much as an acorn holds the pattern for an oak tree. The book describes how a unique, individual energy of the soul is contained within each human being, displayed throughout their lifetime and shown in their calling and life’s work when it is fully actualised.

Hillman argues against the “nature and nurture” explanations of individual growth, suggesting a third kind of energy, the individual soul which is responsible for much of individual character, aspiration and achievement. He also argues against other environmental and external factors as being the sole determinants of individual growth, including the parental fallacy, dominant in psychoanalysis, whereby our parents are seen as crucial in determining who we are by supplying us with genetic material, conditioning, and behavioural patterns. While acknowledging the importance of external factors in the blossoming of the seed, he argues against attributing all of human individuality, character and achievement to these factors. The book suggests reconnection with the third, superior factor, in discovering our individual nature and in determining who we are and our life’s calling.

Hillman suggests a reappraisal for each individual of their own childhood and present life to try to find their particular calling, the seed of their own acorn. He has written that he is to help precipitate a re-souling of the world in the space between rationality and psychology. He complements the notion of growing up, with the notion of growing down, or ‘rooting in the earth’ and becoming grounded, in order for the individual to further grow. Hillman incorporates logic and rational thought, as well as reference to case histories of well known people in society, whose daimons are considered to be clearly displayed and actualized, in the discussion of the daimon. His arguments are also considered to be in line with the puer aeternus or eternal youth whose brief burning existence could be seen in the work of romantic poets like Keats and Byron and in recently deceased young rock stars like Jeff Buckley or Kurt Cobain. Hillman also rejects causality as a defining framework and suggests in its place a shifting form of fate whereby events are not inevitable but bound to be expressed in some way dependent on the character of the soul of the individual. He also talked about the bad seed using Hitler, Charles Manson and other serial killers as examples.

Criticism

From a classical Jungian perspective, Hillman’s Archetypal Psychology is a contrarian school of thought, since he has discarded the essentials of Jungian psychology. The term ‘archetypal’ gives the impression that his school is based on Jung’s understanding of the archetype. Yet, Walter Odajnyk argues that Hillman should have called his school ‘imaginal’ psychology, since it is really based on Hillman’s understanding of the imagination. Hillman has also rejected individuation, central to Jungian psychology. Wolfgang Giegerich argues that Hillman’s work exists in a ‘bubble of irreality’ outside time. It’s a form of ‘static Platonism’ impervious to developmental change. In Hillman’s psychology, the “immunisation of the imaginal from the historical process has become inherent in its very form.”

Hillman considers his work as an expression of the ‘puer aeternus’, the eternal youth of fairy tale who lives in an eternal dream-state, resistant to growing up. Yet, David Tacey maintains that denial of the maturational impulse will only lead to it happening anyway but in a negative form. He holds that Hillman’s model was ‘unmade’ by the missing developmental element of his thought: “By throwing out the heroic pattern of consciousness, and the idea of individuation, Hillman no longer appealed to most psychologists or therapists. By transgressing professional ethics, he no longer appealed to training institutes.”

Marie-Louise von Franz regards identification with the ‘puer aeternus’ as a neurosis belonging to the narcissistic spectrum. Against this, Hillman has argued that the puer is not under the sway of a mother complex but that it is best seen in relation to the senex or father archetype. However, Tacey says that the puer cannot be dissociated from the mother by intellectual reconfiguration. “If these figures are archetypally bound, why would intellectual trickery separate them?” The wrenching of the puer from the mother to the father is “a display of intellectual deceit, for a self-serving purpose.”

What is the Association between PTSD & Cancer?

Research Paper Title

Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms among Lithuanian Parents Raising Children with Cancer.

Background

The study aims to evaluate post-traumatic stress symptom expression among Lithuanian parents raising children with cancer, including social, demographic, and medical factors, and to determine their significance for the risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder.

Methods

The study was carried out in two major Lithuanian hospitals treating children with oncologic diseases. The cross-sectional study included 195 parents, out of which 151 were mothers (77.4%) and 44 were fathers (22.6%). Post-traumatic stress symptoms were assessed using the Impact of Event Scale-Revised. To collect the sociodemographic, childhood cancer, and treatment data, we developed a questionnaire that was completed by the parents. Main study results were obtained using multiple linear regression.

Results

A total of 75.4% of parents caring for children with cancer had pronounced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The female gender (β = 0.83, p < 0.001) was associated with an increased manifestation of symptoms, whilst higher parental education (β = -0.21, p = 0.034) and the absence of relapse (β = -0.48, p < 0.001) of the child’s disease reduced post-traumatic stress symptom expression.

Conclusions

Obtained results confirmed that experiencing a child’s cancer diagnosis and treatment is extremely stressful for many parents. This event may lead to impaired mental health and increased post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) risk; hence, it is necessary to provide better support and assistance to parents of children with cancer.

Reference

Baniene, I. & Zemaitiene, N. (2020) Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms among Lithuanian Parents Raising Children with Cancer. Children (Basel, Switzerland). 7(9), pp.116. doi: 10.3390/children7090116.

On This Day … 26 October

People (Births)

  • 1909 – Ignace Lepp, French psychologist and author (d. 1966).

Ignace Lepp

Ignace Lepp (born John Robert Lepp; 26 October 1909 in Orajõe, Pärnu County, Livonia, Russian Empire to 29 May 1966 near Paris, France), was a French writer of Estonian origin.

Despite his claim to have been the son of a naval captain, born aboard a ship in the Baltic Sea where he was brought up by his mother together with his brother until he was five years old, this is not true. He was in fact the son of Tõnis Lepp and Anna Jürgenson, born in Orajõe village, in Häädemeeste Parish. He was given the names John Robert which were the first names of his godfather John Robert Birk. His godfather’s father was indeed a ship’s captain, and John Robert Lepp simply claimed his godfather’s occupation as that of his father. His parents were farmers, not seagoing people. He gave an incorrect date of birth. He was born on 11 October 1909 and not 26 October that year. The difference in dates was probably due to the fact that many countries did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until early 20th century, e.g., Russia after the October Revolution, Bulgaria in 1916, Greece in 1922. At the age of 15, he joined the French Communist Party after reading Maxim Gorki’s The Mother, a novel which made a lasting impression on him and led him to abandon individualism as he himself recalls in the nearest we have to an autobiography From Karl Marx to Jesus Christ.

According to his book Atheism in Our Time, Lepp was an atheist and Marxist for many years and claimed to have occupied important positions in the communist party with whom he later became very disillusioned. He then converted to Roman Catholicism and was ordained a priest in 1941. He wrote many non-fiction books including some about atheism, religion, and later psychiatry, as he was a psychologist and psychoanalyst.

He wrote among other books: The Ways of Friendship, The Psychology of Loving, The Authentic Existence, The Communication of Existences. He also wrote The faith of men; meditations inspired by Teilhard de Chardin (Teilhard et la foi des homme), about the French thinker Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Introduction

A Beautiful Mind is a 2001 American biographical drama film based on the life of the American mathematician John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics and Abel Prize winner. The film was directed by Ron Howard, from a screenplay written by Akiva Goldsman. It was inspired by the bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-nominated 1998 book of the same name by Sylvia Nasar.

The film stars Russell Crowe, along with Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg, Judd Hirsch, Josh Lucas, Anthony Rapp, and Christopher Plummer in supporting roles. The story begins in Nash’s days as a graduate student at Princeton University. Early in the film, Nash begins to develop paranoid schizophrenia and endures delusional episodes while watching the burden his condition brings on his wife Alicia and friends.

The film opened in the United States cinemas on 21 December 2001. It went on to gross over $313 million worldwide and won four Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress. It was also nominated for Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup, and Best Original Score.

It was well received by critics, but has been criticised for its inaccurate portrayal of some aspects of Nash’s life, especially his other family and a son born out of wedlock. However, the filmmakers have stated that the film was not meant to be a literal representation of Nash’s life (see A Brilliant Madness (2002)).

Outline

In 1947, John Nash arrives at Princeton University as co-recipient, with Martin Hansen, of the prestigious Carnegie Scholarship for mathematics. He meets fellow math and science graduate students Sol, Ainsley, and Bender, as well as his roommate Charles Herman, a literature student. Determined to publish his own original idea, Nash is inspired when he and his classmates discuss how to approach a group of women at a bar. Hansen quotes Adam Smith and advocates “every man for himself,” but Nash argues that a cooperative approach would lead to better chances of success, and develops a new concept of governing dynamics. He publishes an article on his theory, earning him an appointment at MIT where Sol and Bender join him.

In 1953, Nash is invited to the Pentagon to crack encrypted enemy telecommunications, which he manages to decipher mentally. Bored with his regular duties at MIT, including teaching, he is recruited by the mysterious William Parcher of the United States Department of Defence with a classified assignment: to look for hidden patterns in magazines and newspapers in order to thwart a Soviet plot. Nash becomes increasingly obsessive in his search for these patterns, delivering his results to a secret mailbox, and comes to believe he is being followed.

One of his students, Alicia Larde, asks him to dinner, and they fall in love. On a return visit to Princeton, Nash runs into Charles and his niece, Marcee. With Charles’ encouragement, he proposes to Alicia and they marry. Nash fears for his life after surviving a shootout between Parcher and Soviet agents, and learns Alicia is pregnant, but Parcher blackmails him into continuing his assignment. While delivering a guest lecture at Harvard University, Nash tries to flee from people he thinks are Soviet agents, led by psychiatrist Dr. Rosen, but is forcibly sedated and committed to a psychiatric facility.

Dr. Rosen tells Alicia that Nash has paranoid schizophrenia and that Charles, Marcee, and Parcher exist only in his imagination. Alicia informs Nash that the Department of Defense does not employ a “William Parcher” and reveals the unopened documents he delivered to the secret mailbox. Nash is given a course of insulin shock therapy and eventually released. Frustrated with the depressive side effects of his antipsychotic medication, he secretly stops taking it and relapses, “meeting” Parcher again.

In 1956, Alicia discovers Nash has resumed his “assignment” in an abandoned shed near their home. Realizing he has relapsed, Alicia rushes to the house to find Nash had left their infant son in the running bathtub, believing Charles was watching the baby. Alicia calls Dr. Rosen, but Nash believes Parcher is trying to kill her and accidentally knocks her and the baby to the ground. As Alicia flees with their baby, Nash jumps in front of her car and affirms: “Marcee can’t be real! She never gets old!”, finally accepting that Parcher and other figures are hallucinations. Against Dr. Rosen’s advice, Nash chooses not to restart his medication, believing he can deal with his symptoms himself, and Alicia decides to stay and support him.

Nash returns to Princeton and approaches his old rival Hansen, now head of the mathematics department, who allows him to work out of the library and audit classes. Over the next two decades, Nash learns to ignore his hallucinations and, by the late 1970s, is allowed to teach again. In 1994, Nash wins the Nobel Prize for his revolutionary work on game theory, and is honoured by his fellow professors. At the Nobel ceremony, he dedicates his prize to his wife. As Nash, Alicia, and their son leave the auditorium in Stockholm, Nash sees Charles, Marcee, and Parcher watching him, but looks at them only briefly before departing.

Cast

  • Russell Crowe as John Nash.
  • Ed Harris as William Parcher.
  • Jennifer Connelly as Alicia Nash.
  • Christopher Plummer as Dr. Rosen.
  • Paul Bettany as Charles Herman.
  • Adam Goldberg as Richard Sol.
  • Josh Lucas as Martin Hansen.
  • Anthony Rapp as Bender.
  • Jason Gray-Stanford as Ainsley Neilson.
  • Judd Hirsch as Helinger.
  • Austin Pendleton as Thomas King.
  • Vivien Cardone as Marcee Herman.
  • Killian, Christian, and Daniel Coffinet-Crean as Baby.

Production

Development

After producer Brian Grazer first read an excerpt of Sylvia Nasar’s book A Beautiful Mind in Vanity Fair magazine, he immediately purchased the rights to the film. He eventually brought the project to director Ron Howard, who had scheduling conflicts and was forced to pass. Grazer later said that many A-list directors were calling with their point of view on the project. He eventually focused on a particular director, who coincidentally was available only when Howard was also available. Grazer chose Howard.

Grazer met with a number of screenwriters, mostly consisting of “serious dramatists”, but he chose Akiva Goldsman because of his strong passion and desire for the project. Goldsman’s creative take on the project was to avoid having viewers understand they are viewing an alternative reality until a specific point in the film. This was done to rob the viewers of their understanding, to mimic how Nash comprehended his experiences. Howard agreed to direct the film based on the first draft. He asked Goldsman to emphasize the love story of Nash and his wife; she was critical to his being able to continue living at home.

Dave Bayer, a professor of Mathematics at Barnard College, Columbia University, was consulted on the mathematical equations that appear in the film. For the scene where Nash has to teach a calculus class and gives them a complicated problem to keep them busy, Bayer chose a problem physically unrealistic but mathematically very rich, in keeping with Nash as “someone who really doesn’t want to teach the mundane details, who will home in on what’s really interesting”. Bayer received a cameo role in the film as a professor who lays his pen down for Nash in the pen ceremony near the end of the film.

Greg Cannom was chosen to create the makeup effects for A Beautiful Mind, specifically the age progression of the characters. Crowe had previously worked with Cannom on The Insider. Howard had also worked with Cannom on Cocoon. Each character’s stages of makeup were broken down by the number of years that would pass between levels. Cannom stressed subtlety between the stages, but worked toward the ultimate stage of “Older Nash”. The production team originally decided that the makeup department would age Russell Crowe throughout the film; however, at Crowe’s request, the makeup was used to push his look to resemble the facial features of John Nash. Cannom developed a new silicone-type makeup that could simulate skin and be used for overlapping applications; this shortened make-up application time from eight to four hours. Crowe was also fitted with a number of dentures to give him a slight overbite in the film.

Howard and Grazer chose frequent collaborator James Horner to score the film because they knew of his ability to communicate. Howard said, regarding Horner, “It’s like having a conversation with a writer or an actor or another director.” A running discussion between the director and the composer was the concept of high-level mathematics being less about numbers and solutions, and more akin to a kaleidoscope, in that the ideas evolve and change. After the first screening of the film, Horner told Howard: “I see changes occurring like fast-moving weather systems.” He chose it as another theme to connect to Nash’s ever-changing character. Horner chose Welsh singer Charlotte Church to sing the soprano vocals after deciding that he needed a balance between a child and adult singing voice. He wanted a “purity, clarity and brightness of an instrument” but also a vibrato to maintain the humanity of the voice.

The film was shot 90% chronologically. Three separate trips were made to the Princeton University campus. During filming, Howard decided that Nash’s delusions should always be introduced first audibly and then visually. This provides a clue for the audience and establishes the delusions from Nash’s point of view. The historic John Nash had only auditory delusions. The filmmakers developed a technique to represent Nash’s mental epiphanies. Mathematicians described to them such moments as a sense of “the smoke clearing”, “flashes of light” and “everything coming together”, so the filmmakers used a flash of light appearing over an object or person to signify Nash’s creativity at work. Two night shots were done at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s campus in Florham Park, New Jersey, in the Vanderbilt Mansion ballroom. Portions of the film set at Harvard were filmed at Manhattan College.

Many actors were considered for the role of John Nash, including Bruce Willis, Kevin Costner, John Travolta, Tom Cruise. Howard ultimately cast Russell Crowe.

Writing

The narrative of the film differs considerably from the events of Nash’s life, as filmmakers made choices for the sense of the story. The film has been criticised for this aspect, but the filmmakers said they never intended a literal representation of his life.

One difficulty was the portrayal of his mental illness and trying to find a visual film language for this. Sylvia Nasar said that the filmmakers “invented a narrative that, while far from a literal telling, is true to the spirit of Nash’s story”. Nash spent his years between Princeton and MIT as a consultant for the RAND Corporation in California, but in the film he is portrayed as having worked for the Department of Defense at the Pentagon instead. His handlers, both from faculty and administration, had to introduce him to assistants and strangers. The PBS documentary A Brilliant Madness (2002) tried to portray his life more accurately.

Few of the characters in the film, besides John and Alicia Nash, correspond directly to actual people. The discussion of the Nash equilibrium was criticized as over-simplified. In the film, Nash suffers schizophrenic hallucinations while he is in graduate school, but in his life he did not have this experience until some years later. No mention is made of Nash’s homosexual experiences at RAND, which are noted in the biography, though both Nash and his wife deny this occurred. Nash fathered a son, John David Stier (born 19 June 1953), by Eleanor Agnes Stier (1921-2005), a nurse whom he abandoned when she told him of her pregnancy. The film did not include Alicia’s divorce of John in 1963. It was not until after Nash won the Nobel Memorial Prize in 1994 that they renewed their relationship. Beginning in 1970, Alicia allowed him to live with her as a boarder. They remarried in 2001.

Nash is shown to join Wheeler Laboratory at MIT, but there is no such lab. Instead, he was appointed as C. L. E. Moore instructor at MIT, and later as a professor. The film furthermore does not touch on the revolutionary work of John Nash in differential geometry and partial differential equations, such as the Nash embedding theorem or his proof of Hilbert’s nineteenth problem, work which he did in his time at MIT and for which he was given the Abel Prize in 2015. The so-called pen ceremony tradition at Princeton shown in the film is completely fictitious. The film has Nash saying in 1994: “I take the newer medications”, but in fact, he did not take any medication from 1970 onwards, something highlighted in Nasar’s biography. Howard later stated that they added the line of dialogue because they worried that the film would be criticised for suggesting that all people with schizophrenia can overcome their illness without medication. In addition, Nash never gave an acceptance speech for his Nobel prize.

Release

A Beautiful Mind received a limited release on 21 December 2001, receiving positive reviews, with Crowe receiving wide acclaim for his performance. It was later released in the United States on 04 January 2002.

Box Office

During the five-day weekend of the limited release, A Beautiful Mind opened at the #12 spot at the box office, peaking at the #2 spot following the wide release. The film went on to gross $170,742,341 in the United States and Canada and $313,542,341 worldwide.

Home Media

A Beautiful Mind was released on VHS and DVD, in wide- and full-screen editions, in North America on 25 June 2002. The DVD set includes audio commentaries, deleted scenes and documentaries. The film was also released on Blu-ray in North America on 25 January 2011.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Ron Howard.
  • Producer(s): Brian Grazer and Ron Howard.
  • Writer(s): Akiva Goldsman.
  • Music: James Horner.
  • Cinematography: Roger Deakins.
  • Editor(s): Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill.
  • Production: Imagine Entertainment.
  • Distributor(s): Universal Pictures (North America) and DreamWorks Pictures (International).
  • Release Date: 13 December 2001 (Beverly Hills Premiere) and 01 December 2001 (US).
  • Running Time: 135 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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A Brilliant Madness (2002)

Introduction

A science documentary hosted by Liev Schreiber, published by PBS in 2002 with English narration.

Part of the American Experience series.

Outline

John Nash, often called one of the most remarkable mathematicians in history, tells his version of the strange, tragic and inspiring events that took him from genius to immobilising illness to the Nobel Prize.

Suffering a devastating breakdown at the age of 30 and later diagnosed with schizophrenia, Nash was the focus of the 2001 Oscar-winning film ‘A Beautiful Mind‘.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Marks Samuels.
  • Producer(s):
    • Margaret Drain … executive producer.
    • Sharon Grimberg … series editor.
    • Randall MacLowry … producer.
    • Melissa Martin … associate producer.
    • Susan Mottau … coordinating producer.
    • Mark Samels … senior producer.
    • Greg Shea … post production producer.
  • Writer(s): Marks Samuels and Randall MacLowery.
  • Music: Tom Philips.
  • Cinematography: Peter Donahue.
  • Editor(s): Karen Schmeer.
  • Production:
    • WGBH Educational Foundation.
    • WGBH.
    • Yellow Jersey Films (as A Yellow Jersey Films Production for American Experience).
  • Distributor(s): PBS.
  • Release Date: 28 April 2002.
  • Running Time:
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link