In the movie A Beautiful Mind, the main character Nash suffers from schizophrenia. Over his life we see him trying to manage his illness in a number of ways. By the end of the movie, Nash is off medications and still experiencing visual hallucinations, however he has mastered how to manage them.
We see Nash go through his middle adulthood and older years neither battling nor being ruled by his hallucinations, but somehow living alongside them. In the movie this duality is portrayed rather harmoniously; in fact appearing more and more so over time – with Nash’s increased practice, tolerance and patience of his illness and how it manifests.
In the last few scenes of the movie, Nash goes through his life, teaching at the university he is a professor at, wandering the streets of the city, being among his beloved family members, just like anyone else in his position would. Throughout these interactions and situations, however, Nash is continually followed around and confronted by 3 characters, which are all figments of his schizophrenic brain.
We see these 3 characters taking ahold of Nash in the earlier scenes of the movie, befriending him, dictating his life, threatening him and leading him to act in ways he otherwise would not. However, by the end of the movie, Nash has learnt how to be amongst these hallucinations in a way that is conducive to living and functioning in society – in a total 180.
We see the characters emerge through a number of scenes and situations. We see Nash acknowledge their presence, with a subtle nod or gesture or stare. We see him thanking them for their contributions, and letting them know that these contributions are no longer necessary or helpful. We see him bidding farewell to the characters. And when they linger or return, we see him noticing them once again, before repeating the process.
As Nash talks to fellows, goes on walks around campus or meanders through the university corridors, the 3 characters appear in new corners, summoning him into their clutches, trying to reign him in.
But by the end of the movie, the 3 characters remain under Nash’s control, often in his eyesight or hearing, but far enough into the background of the scene that they do not overwhelm his senses or take over his life.
We now see Nash living alongside his distortions, aware of what they are and what they represent, and able to manage their presence despite the hold they once had over him. As Nash continues to turn his mind and accept the illness he has, he goes from being powerless and delusional – a victim of his hallucinations – to being empowered and very much aware of the reality he finds himself in, and how to handle it skilfully.
Today I have been experiencing a bombardment of suicidal thoughts. I have been pushing myself to act as though I am Nash. I am Nash and my distortions are the intrusive suicidal thoughts and images I am experiencing. I have been trying to see these thoughts and images as mental events; which are not facts and which do not need to dictate my actions, in much the same way Nash was able to master doing with his visual hallucinations – with his arguably Beautiful Mind.