ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY – REMEMBERING WHO WE AREhttps://mathewmicheletti.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/accepting-responsibility-remembering-who-we-are/
Insight from Revolver
One of my absolute favorite psychology movies showing the relationship of the ego to the Self is in Guy Ritchie’s, Revolver. While the movie is violent and vulgar at times and is based on a classic Guy Ritchie plot of gangsters and con men, the deeper message is astounding and spot on. The movie gives a perfect example of the ego’s interaction in our mind and throughout the film we get to watch the main character Jake Green (Jason Statham) battle and transcend his ego with the help of his liberators, Avi (Andre Benjamin) and Zack (Vincet Pastore). The film gives perfect examples of all the common thoughts and belief systems the ego uses to maintain control. Also, in an effort to transcend the ego it shows how desperate the ego can become.
I have reviewed it several times and always gain so much from it’s underlying wisdom. I decided to write up an extensive review of the film based on the psychological teachings it provides since I haven’t seen too many on the internet. (Most people it seems either haven’t seen it or didn’t understand it) I don’t want to get too much into the plot and drama aspect of it, so sorry if you might seem lost if you haven’t seen it. My focus is on the psychological lessons we can learn. I’ll do my best to give a context of what’s going on so anyone can gain from the analysis of the key scenes.
Here’s a summary of the plot for reference, “After seven years in solitary, Jake Green is released from prison. In the next two years, he amasses a fortune by gambling. He’s ready to seek his revenge on Dorothy (Mr. D) Macha, a violence-prone casino owner who sent Jake to prison. He humiliates Macha in front of Macha’s lieutenants, leaves, and keels over. Doctors tell him he has a rare disease and will die in three days; Macha also puts a hit out on him. Loan sharks, Zack and Avi, demand Jake’s cash and complete fealty in return for protection. Jake complies, and through narration and flashbacks, we watch him through at least three days of schemes, danger, and redemption. Who is his greatest enemy?” -imdb
Throughout the film there are clever quotes that come from various sources but all essentially speak of ego qualities or ideals. Here’s a few from the beginning that should get you thinking.
The greatest enemy will hide in the last place you would ever look. – Julius Caesar, 75BC
The only way to get smarter is by playing a smarter opponent. – Fundamentals of Chess
First rule of business, protect your investment.
There is no avoiding war, it can only be postponed to the advantage of your enemy. -Niccolo Machiavelli 1502
“Every game or con there is always an opponent and always a victim. The trick is to know when you’re the latter so you can become the former.”
Process of breaking Jake’s ego…
First Jake is told that he has only 3 days to live due to a rare blood disease by multiple doctors. This is of course the first and most intense engagement with the ego since the ego is the basically the false sense of self (the body). Thus the ego from this point on is surfaced at all times because everyday and every instant it is intensely fighting to maintain control. Also, Jake’s enemy who is responsible for the 7 years he spent in solitary confinement is out to kill him after he embarrassed him by losing a few hundred thousand dollars to a bet.
Next Jake is told he can be protected by Zack and Avi (loan sharks) for the next three days but it’s only under certain conditions:
No questions or negotiations.
They will take every penny he owns.
Taking his investment slowly as to make it harder for the ego to watch it be taken away piece by piece. By inflicting so much pain on the ego, the opponent(ego) surfaces and is made readily observable.
“Do as we tell you with no argument, answer any question that is asked.”
Jake is being stripped of all choice and independence as well as the ego’s entitlement to always being ‘right’. This process is demeaning/humbling Jake, stripping him of all pride(ego) and attachment. All of this is compounded by the fact that Jake is supposed to die within the next couple days which begs the question, ‘why would I spent my last few days a slave to these two men?’ This fact is crucial in surfacing the ego since it doesn’t technically matter what happens to his money seeing how he can’t take it with him. Jake asks himself why it still hurts to give it away… this of course is his ego’s investment being identified and taken from it which creates suffering through the ego’s projection of importance of the investment(i.e. money).
Jake’s thoughts to himself about losing his money:
“A part of me dies every time I think about it.”
“These sick bastards are making me pay, pay for my own pain.”
“Why are they dragging this on…Why don’t they just clean me out in one hit”
“They want me to suffer.”
Clearly we see how Jake’s ego has invested itself in money and losing it causes him physical and psychological torment. While Jake was in prison he spent time locked up in between two convicts, one a chess master, the other a master con man. Basically the three of them passed along notes to each other through books that would get handed out each day. The two had come up with the ultimate formula to the con(ego), the formula. Jake intercepted this formula and used it when he got out of prison which is how he amassed a fortune in a very short time. However, the formula is much deeper than what he thinks, the formula is the formula of the ego, the original and ultimate con, which means it also is the formula to transcendence. Once we understand how the ego works and its formula for survival so to speak, we can then defeat/transcend it by using that knowledge against it. Jake discusses the rules as follows, pay attention to how each rule is referring to ego manipulation or ego ideals. Essentially all cons are just forms of manipulating a mark’s ego. That’s why the number one rule to being a con artist is you can not con an honest man. In other words a person who’s aware/conscious enough to not fall for a trick being played on their ego. Ultimately the ego is the master con artist because even con artists are being conned by their egos telling them they need to steal.
Rules of the Con/Ego:
The art is for me to feed pieces to you, and make you think you took those pieces, because you’re smarter and I’m dumber.(ego inflation)
In every game or con there is always an opponent(ego) and there is always a victim(self).
The more control the victim thinks he has, the less control he actually has.
Gradually he will hang himself, I as the opponent just help him along.
Rule one of any game or con, you can only get smarter by playing a smarter opponent.
Rule number 2, the more sophisticated the game, the more sophisticated the opponent.
If the opponent is very good, he will place his victim in an environment he can control. The bigger the environment, the easier the control. Gradually the victim will play by the rules he is taught to play by and he will be controlled by those rules. Toss the dog a bone. Find their weakness, give them just a little of what they think they want. (basis for all cons)
So the opponent simply distracts their victim by getting them consumed with their own consumption.(‘what’s in it for me?’, ego desire, pride, and narcissism)
However, if this doesn’t work, he (ego) will smother, humiliate, ridicule, or utterly destroy the threat.
The bigger the trick and older the trick, the easier it is to pull, based on two principles. They think it can’t be that old and it can’t be that big for so many people to have fallen for it.
The more the victim invests, the less chance they will turn back. (More the ego invests the harder it is to transcend it)
Eventually when the opponent is challenged or questioned, it means the victim’s investment and thus his intelligence is questioned, no one can accept that, not even to themselves.(identifying the ego for what it is can be extremely difficult for the mind to accept, it also implies that the majority of the person’s life has been controlled and chasing an illusion.)
You will always find a good opponent in the very last place you’d ever look.(within)
If we pay attention to these rules of the con you will see that they are basically an outline of how the ego operates and controls us(the victim) that is if we choose to let it.
One of Jake’s realizations about the ego:
“There is something about yourself that you don’t know. Something that you will deny even exists until it’s too late to do anything about it. It’s the only reason you get up in the morning. The only reason you suffer the shitty boss. The blood, sweat, and the tears. This is because you want people to know how good, attractive, generous, funny, wild, and clever you really are. Fear or revere me, but please think I’m special. We share an addiction. We’re approval junkies. We’re all in it for the slap on the back and the gold watch, the hip, hip, hoo-fucking-rah. Look at the clever boy with the badge, polishing his trophy. Shine on, you crazy diamond, because we’re just monkeys wrapped in suits, begging for the approval of others. If we knew this, we wouldn’t do this. Someone is hiding it from us, and if you had a second chance you would ask, why?”
Jake just outlined how the ego is completely concerned with specialness and its need for external approval.
Ego’s self-destruction through process of greed (pure ego desire):
“Nice and slowly, beauty is a destructive angel. How could anything that looks so good be so bad? But there is no angel as destructive as their greed. In the end, she gets them all. They think they can handle her… but greed is the only snake that cannot be tamed.”
“Greed gets them all in the end.”
Here we get to see the wisdom pertaining to the fact that the ego will inevitably destroy itself based on its own greed to the point that it destroys itself. This ultimately manifests as absolute selfishness such as suicide or self-destruction through arrogance/pride.
Avi and Zack test Jake on the formula: Jake quotes rules 1 and 2 then Avi says,”the formula’s the same but where does it stop? Where does this game stop?
(It stops when you start to give me answers) – [Jake's ego mind talking to him]
You’ve heard that voice for so long, you believe it to be you. You believe it to be your best friend. (They should believe their opponent to be their best friend).
Where’s the best place an opponent should hide?
(in the very last place you’d ever look.)
There’s no such thing as an external opponent…
Do you know who Sam Gold[Ego] is?
It’s all up here [Avi pointing to his head], pretending to be you.
You’re in a game, Jake. You’re in the game(life). Everyone’s in this game, and nobody knows it, and all of this, this is his(ego) world, he owns it, he controls it.
(tell him I’ve had enough this is starting to do my head in)
Tells you what to do, (look that’s enough)
and when to do it.(tell him… that’s enough Avi!)
Play by his rules, and you are controlled by his rules.
Eventually you will lose.
If you change the rules on what controls you, you will change the rules on what you can control.
You only need credit in his world. The more he gets, the stronger he gets, the more control he has.
The remedy to credit is… humiliation.(Nothing hurts more than humiliation and a little money loss.)
He’s behind all the pain there ever was. Behind every crime ever committed.
(How can I be behind all the pain, all the crime, if I don’t even exist?)
And right now he’s telling you that, he doesn’t even exist.
We just put you to war with the only enemy that ever existed. And you, you think he’s your best friend.(and they will protect their best friend with everything they’ve got)
He’s hiding behind your pain Jake. Embrace the pain, and you will win this game…
How radical are you prepared to be Mr. Green?”
This conversation is an entire breakdown of the ego and its rules of control as well as simultaneously its own transcendence. One must master the ego/con before one can transcend it. Thus Avi and Zack are testing Jake to prove his mastery of the concept and then they turn it back on him to make him realize the bigger message of the con. Jake at this point is starting to realize what’s going on and his mind is getting twisted by the paradox that is being presented. This scene is a representation of Jake’s first direct confrontation with the ego at which point it finally ends with Jake a bit lost and confused because he’s starting to see what Avi and Zack are really trying to do… Set him free.
“The more power you think you have in Gold’s(ego’s) world, the less you have in the real world. You are still in prison Jake, in fact you never left.
He’s got all the tricks and all the right answers.” (don’t let them do this to you Jake, don’t let them turn you against you.)
“What is the very last thing you want to do Jake?” (Love/forgive his enemy)
Jake starts another step of transcendence by donating money in Macha’s (his ego’s enemy) name.
After which Avi says:
“You don’t give because it’s good, you give because it hurts him (ego).”
If one is not careful the ego actually uses this trick of charity to inflate itself. True giving/service is anonymous since no others know it makes it easier to control and monitor the ego’s tendency to inflate itself through praise. However, this is still a danger since the ego could inflate itself without the aid of others knowing in the form of inner pride. That is why Jake donates millions of dollars but says that it was from his enemy. By doing this Jake is deflating his ego by purposefully inflating his enemy’s ego. This is unacceptable to the ego thus an excellent source of transcendence. Whenever we do the opposite of the ego’s desires it loses power and control over the mind and we reach a new level of inner peace and calm.
More ego references:
“Your friends are close, but your enemy is closer.” (ego is within, hiding behind its own thoughts/illusory creations)
“The only enemy to have ever existed is an eternal one.” (ego of the mind) -Road to Suicide
The context of Jake’s final transcendence is asking for forgiveness from his perceived enemy, ‘Macha’. This is significant because it shows a complete disinvestment in the ego’s beliefs and opinions thus officially separating oneself from it and being free of its control. Furthermore, Jake is accepting inferiority to the enemy and loving him instead of resisting him. Therefore it is a letting go of all pride. Radical humility taken to the absolute is transcendence/enlightenment.
“Wherever you don’t want to go is where you will find him. What is it that you’re afraid of Mr. Green?” (fear is the ego, therefore transcendence can only come from confronting and overcoming all fear.)
“Use your perceived enemy to destroy the real enemy.” (The ego is the only real enemy to have ever existed, all else is only a projection of it)
Jake battles his ego while trying to forgive his enemy and subject himself to being possibly seen as inferior. He asks for forgiveness for his stupidity, in other words openly admitting humiliation to his perceived enemy. This is a major transcendence of ego by releasing the idea of an enemy in the first place. Jake’s ego throughout the plea for forgiveness is begging Jake to kill his enemy (Macha) and take control and establish pride, vengeance, and dominance. Also, the ego uses all past information as its supporting reasoning. Jake’s ego in this situation is using everything Macha’s ever done to wrong him as justification to seek revenge.
This is also characteristic of ego thinking, living in the past and never staying in the present moment thus holding grudges. Furthermore, the ego uses the argument that “he’d do it to you.” This of course is erroneous to assume the enemies/or any others’ position and in fact is the very process of creating an ‘enemy’ since there is no specification as to what the other will do and even if there was it doesn’t mean that the Self can’t choose whatever it feels appropriate for its own development and evolution. Every time one chooses love and forgiveness one is overcoming ego tendencies.
The downfall of the ego is love and radical humility and gratitude.
After apologizing and asking for forgiveness from Macha, Jake leaves to go down the elevator which is Jake’s greatest fear (claustrophobia). Yet another ‘enemy’ that was created by his ego. As Jake leaves one major battle with the ego he heads to his next by entering the elevator and getting stuck between the 14th and 12th floor. This of course is Jake’s greatest fear coming to life. Jake’s ego even asks him… “are you doing this to yourself Jake?”
This is the first question the ego asks to begin its onslaught of fear thoughts attacking and invading Jake’s mental peace. The ego incessantly and insistently screams in panic and fear that he has to get out or he’s going to die. However, there is no actual danger, Jake is simply standing in the middle of a stopped elevator, he’s in no real physical danger. However, the ego is trying to control Jake and make him extremely anxious and fearful. This is how all ego tactics work. The ego is always fear based and ultimately it is fear itself. All fear is inevitably based and stems from death of the body/mind. However, Jake is beginning to realize all fear is an illusion and is becoming aware of the ego at this point. After using the experience of loving his enemy, Jake understands the ego and is aware of its voice and has moved to the level of the observer. Jake even mentions directly to his ego, “I’m on to you, I’m coming to get you.”
Sensing that Jake’s Self is on to it, the ego battles with every possible argument it has that Jake is mistaken and that he is talking to himself. “The biggest con that he (ego) ever pulled is making you believe that he is you.” Basically, the ego wants Jake to think he’s just really arguing with himself and that it’s all very silly and he should just listen to it – that is his thoughts… or more accurately, his ego’s thoughts. Jake is aware of this paradoxical argument however and rejects all the egos attempts to regain control. After the battle has raged within Jake’s mind for a few minutes he reaches a level of transcendence through the realization that “You(ego) don’t control me, I(observer/consciousness/Self) control you(ego)!”
Upon this realization Jake is truly free and the ego is completely transcended in that moment. Jake is an enlightened state at this point and the elevator starts again and proceeds to the 1st floor. Jake is at peace finally since there is no ego keeping him in constant states of fear, anxiety, separation, inflation, investment, lack, need for approval, etc. Upon arriving at the 1st floor Macha is waiting with a gun pointed at Jake demanding an answer for Jake’s unusual(not ego) behavior and to fear for his life (ego’s greatest investment).
Macha’s ego is begging to be feared. And since Jake has no reason to fear anymore he is unaffected by Macha’s threats because he has transcended the ego’s illusion of threat being possible. Spiritual transcendence of the ego realizes that there is no ‘end’ of the Self thus there is no real fear in the traditional sense seeing how all fear eventually, when traced to the source thought, stem from fear of death of the self/ego/body. With this wisdom understood Jake is at peace and in a state of serenity. With a humble smile of inner peace he drops his gun and simply walks past Macha undaunted.
Afterwards, Jake reconvenes with Avi and Zack, Avi tells Jake:
“You know what’s so elegant about this little game? Nobody knows where the enemy is. They don’t even know he exists. He’s in every one of their heads and they trust him. Because they think they are him. It’s beautiful man, you have to admire the opponent’s elegance.”
“You can’t see what’s right in front of you.”
The ego, the only real enemy of life/love to have ever existed is within us and is never external. The ego is right in front of us and we don’t even see it…
At the conclusion of the film there is clips from interviews with psychologists and doctors on the concept.
Discussion on the Ego:
“The ego is the worst confidence trickster we could ever figure, we could ever imagine. Because you don’t see it…”
-Dr. Yoav Dattilo, Ph.D.
“And the single biggest con is that, ‘I am you.’”
-Dr. Steven C. Hayes, Ph.D.
“The problem, is that the ego hides in the last place you’d ever look, within itself.”
-Dr. Peter Fonagy, Ph.D., FBA
“It disguises it’s thoughts as your thoughts, it’s feelings with your feelings, you think it’s you.”
“People’s need to protect their own ego knows no bounds, they will lie, cheat, steal, kill, do whatever it takes to maintain what we call, ego boundaries.”
-Andrew Samuels, Ph.D.
“People have no clue that they’re in prison, they don’t know that there is an ego, they don’t know the distinction.”
“At first it’s difficult for the mind to accept that there’s something beyond itself, that there’s something of greater value and of greater capacity for discerning truth than itself.”
-Dr. David Hawkins M.D., Ph.D.
“In religion the ego manifests as the devil, and of course no one realizes how smart the ego is because it created the devil so you could blame someone else.”
-Dr. Deepak Chopra M.D.
“In creating this imaginary external enemy we usually made a real enemy for ourselves and that becomes a real danger to the ego but it’s also the ego’s creation.”
-Dr. Peter Fonagy, Ph.D., FBA
“There is no such thing as an external enemy, no matter what that voice in your head is telling you. All perception of an enemy is a projection of the ego as the enemy.”
-Dr. Deepak Chopra M.D.
“In that sense, you can say that 100% of our external enemies are of our own creation.”
-Dr. Peter Fonagy, Ph.D., FBA
“Your greatest enemy is your own inner perception, your own ignorance, is your own ego.”
-Dr. Obadiah S. Harris, Ph.D.
Hope this made sense for those who haven’t seen the movie and hope you could still gain from it. For those who have seen it I hope you enjoyed the analysis of it and found some insight. I really enjoy this movie and all the learning and inspiration it has given me.