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August 23, 2013
by Sheila Hutchinson, M.Ed.

Forgiveness: Reflections on the movie “The Abyss”

August 23, 2013 16:57 by Sheila Hutchinson, M.Ed.


Directed by Canadian Film Maker Mr.James Cameron


Like all great artists and masters of language, Mr. Cameron's genius opens up the deeper and sometimes hidden collective themes and truths of life. On the surface, "The Abyss" presents a good story filled with elements of mission, danger and risk. Basically the story is about a team of people on an undersea drilling rig who are asked by the military to salvage a wrecked submarine in the depths of the ocean. The incentive for the team's acceptance is money. They are beset by numerous catastrophes; however, in the midst of these they encounter an advanced non human race of aquatic beings living in the deeper abyss. These translucent beautiful aliens can only be compared to the angelic.

The hero is played by Ed Harris and he is married to the heroine Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. In the midst of their heightened marital discord and disharmony, they must join forces for the sake of the mission. It seems an impossible task for them to transcend their anger and bitterness toward one another.

The Armour We Wear

I was reminded of many underlying truths presented in and through this story. The personas we choose to develop at the early stages of our lives are usually quite strategic. These masks, or coverings, are usually linked with our basic needs to belong, to be loved, to be included and to feel a sense of self worth.

Appearances and what one displays to the world, may hide that which is hidden in the depths of one’s being. In the abyss of one’s heart and soul there may be such caged pain, bitterness, resentment and anger.

If the basic needs to feel a sense of self confidence and self worth have been compromised during the developmental stages of one’s life, then pain sets in. This affect may be too difficult to handle and a primal reaction is released. Skins or walls are grown around the pain so one does not have to feel insignificant. As I watched the heroine, I was reminded how we, as humans, all have a common ground. However unique we are, we all share this truth: the basic need to be regarded with dignity and respect.

The challenge of true growth is often thrown at us in unexpected and vicarious ways. It is very often that in the midst of a crisis, loss and earth shattering experience that our walls crumble, armour falls and skins are shed.

We are enthralled...

as the story becomes more complicated with the uncovering of an evil plot brought aboard by two of the military members.

The heroine is shunned by the team. Although she is clever and can run a ship, they see her as an arrogant and dominating woman who is far too self serving. She wears her intelligence and superior position as a threat to others. However, it is to this woman that the angelic beings first appear in the depths of her despair and helplessness.

The story takes us through chaos, the struggle between good and evil, the threat of nuclear war, the limits of humanity, pride and humility which finally lead to redemption.

The essential and core threads that create this marvellous tapestry are the moral choices made by the hero and heroine: the husband and wife. Initially we see the enraged husband take off his wedding band and throw it into the toilet only to turn back and retrieve what he has thrown away. As the story unfolds, he is the one who looks upon his unconscious apparently drowned wife and with determined passion brings her back to life.

It is the crisis that returns them to their original love through choices of forgiveness and sacrifice. We witness the vulnerability and tears of the real heroine underneath her armour after her encounter with death and her rescue by her husband. When at the crescendo of the film the hero is as well at death's door, he is saved by the gentle graceful alien of the seas.

She communicates to him an eternal truth which he embraces and which indeed makes him a hero. It is in the simple acts of forgiveness to our spouse and as well the moral choices that we make for the good of the other that set us free.

Each time we forgive the other and each time we look to others before ourselves, we become heroes of our own lives.

"Only the weak hang on to hatred and bitterness ... the strong ones forgive."                                                    - Mahatma Gandhi


About the Author

Sheila Hutchinson Sheila Hutchinson, M.Ed. ( psych ), member of OACCPP

My purpose as a therapist is to help my clients to break free from debilitating and dysfunctional behaviour patterns in order for them to make healthy and life-giving choices

Sheila Hutchinson has a clinical practice in Hamilton, ON

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