The Soloist – From My Perspective

One of my student in University (Widya Mandala Catholic University, Surabaya, Indonesia) suggested me to watch a movie, The Soloist. He said that the movie would be a benefit for our discussion in Social Intervention class. So, I gave myself a try.

He was right.

The Soloist is a story about a homeless man, named Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, Jr – well played by Jamie Foxx. Nathaniel used to be a very talented musician and entered one of the biggest music school in the US. But something happened in his previous years and let him wander along the streets of LA.

His story was unknown to public, until he met, Steve Lopez, a columnist in LA Times – well played by Robert Downey Jr. Lopez wrote many stories about Nathaniel and his columns gained appraisal from the community.

But what interest me the most from the movie is the fact that we live in a real world – with so many schizophrenics around us. The young and talented Nathaniel was showing symptoms of psychotic disorder – delusion, auditory hallucinations, distorted perception, but never had a chance of receiving any treatment. This condition was a big concern of Lopez, and he asked the social worker to bring Nathaniel to mental health professionals.

From a professional view, Lopez suggested the right thing – get medication to help Nathaniel. But from personal point of view, Lopez is not always right. Nathaniel has the right to keep living his life the way he want to, unless he holds potential danger for himself or others.

Even though the movie didn’t really capture the stress contributing factors of Nathaniel’s delusional beliefs, but it shows the vulnerability of himself. Since very young, Nathaniel used to lock himself for his musical practice and the world went without having him in it. This condition was worsen when he started to hear voices and telling him to do things. In this condition, Nathaniel believes that he has no power to resist or refuse the commands given by the voices.

Any delusional belief bears personal meaning to the individual. Sometimes the voice soothes their mind, therefore they choose to live in those voices. Like a scene in the movie, when a lady told the others about the effect of medication that she had. She said that the voice that soothe her suddenly disappeared whenever she took the medication. Not every voice that individual hears can do good, because sometimes it can do harm as well. Therefore, they are suggested to take medications.

The topic of schizophrenia is my new love story. Since mid 2009, I started to learn more about schizophrenia and the individuals who has been diagnosed as schizophrenics. The way they see the world is special – it’s like the title of one Lopez’s article: Life has its own mind. If you want to understand them, then you have to walk out from your stool and lay low. Be with them and understand what their minds try to tell you.

Writing is my way to share it to you.

4 thoughts on “The Soloist – From My Perspective

  1. It’s interesting to hear this romance with schizophrenia from an outside perspective. I kept telling myself I knew from an outside perspective, but I’ve been in denial. Not just a river in Egypt and all that? I guess that makes my perspective a bit skewed.

    It’s interesting that most outsiders talk about schizophrenia and medication, and your thoughts on whether or not it was right of Lopez to get Nathaniel help, to get him medicated. Most outsiders seem to think it’s best for the patient, but they don’t think that perhaps some are just as happy, if not happier unmedicated. They may not fit in with society as well, but perhaps they feel more comfortable in their own mind, less like they’ve lost a part of themselves. In the case of self-harm or harming others, I can totally understand it, but otherwise, what about their free will to choose what’s best for them, you know?

    1. Hi, Visionary. Thank your for dropping by and start an interesting discussion about schizophrenia. Well, the debate about medication for schizophrenics is not a new one. But still, there is no clear line drawn on this issue. As a psychologist, I have to put myself in the middle of the debate. I have been working with those schizophrenics who went through medication without psychological supports, and they went silent. They seemed calm and not showing any hysterical reactions, but they also seemed distant. We need to bring life back into them – by doing social skills training, psycho-education on their illness (also for the family) and focusing on their residual functions.
      Talking about free-will … It won’t be an easy topic to be brought up. I believe that by letting them live their lives, the way Nathaniel did, it can do good for them. As long as they can get away from self-harming and/or harm others, then I guess they still have the right to choose freely. It will be a long road for the professionals to settle this discussion. Meanwhile, we can do whatever needed to help them – and find themselves.

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