The film Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie, tells the remarkable story of Louis Zamperini, a prisoner of war during World War II who survived numerous traumas, including a plane crash, 47 days on a raft at sea, and systematic torture for 27 months. It would seem unimaginable, for most of us, to put ourselves in Zamperini's shoes for even 1/10 of these traumas.
In his review of the film, psychologist and author Paul T. P. Wong discusses how Zamperini's resilience/perseverance emerges through a combination of many factors, such as finding meaning in suffering, having faith in an ultimate rescuer, and channeling personal willpower and passion throughout his lifetime (including pretrauma).
Many psychologists use films such as Unbroken for clients to exemplify resilience and to provide role models of figures who have overcome problems. Do you and your clients find characterizations of figures like Zamperini to be helpful role models for rallying your own or your clients' resilience? Or are such portrayals too challenging to relate to and thus not as helpful as, say, a family member or friend who has overcome a personal challenge? Feel free to share an example in your response.
Either way, perhaps such examples create additional pathways for viewers to reflect on how they relate to their suffering, how they tap into the power of the human condition, and how they make meaning out of adversity. From this perspective, are films like Unbroken always helpful?
By Paul T. P. Wong
PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(25)