The Psychology of Shutdown. You'll be put in touch with your Shadow!

Are you a parasite? Are there bits of you that are parasitic? Do you leech off other people? Do you like in the secret dank dark recesses of society, or your mind? Or do you live in the lofty, parasite attic of your mind, free from any compromising involvements?

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Parasite is a wonderful film about squalor and sewage. It certainly gives a completely new angle to the "basement conversion" ideal of mega-affluent Londoners!  However, instead of digging into the guts of the house, its very foundations, in order to create a lavish must-have pool, or an opulent cinema den, the basement in the film Parasite serves an altogether alternative function.  It's a place of hiding and parallel living. It's a secret warren of adjoining spaces and rooms that provide living quarters for the maid's bankrupt and mentally impaired husband.  It's a place for parasitic infestation.  A place of no light or air, but one that still supports life.  It seems that the maid's husband, who has been living undetected in the basement for four years, is the parasite.  But, it also seems that he repays his keep by serving the house as a secret servant. Hiding in the basement switches on lights for the "Master" of the houeshold, and showers him with praise and respect.  He sees himself as one of the staff, earning his keep through loyal devotion.  He does all this unseen and unbidden, but nevertheless, he gives back.  The rich family are blind to their infestation.  It's only their son, the young boy, who notices what is going on.  But his parents are unable to communicate properly with him, or to decipher his signals, and remain oblivious, although ill at ease. 

Alongside the maid and her husband, there is also a further parasitic infestation, as a whole family gradually invades the house, under the pretence of providing home education and domestic service.  The upper class family have all their defences compromised.  

But in the end, the film asks the question, who is really the parasite?  Is it the wealthy tech family, in thrall to all things from "Illinois", who are kind, but can't abide the smell of the underclass?  The "parasitic" driver-servant, certainly seems to think so, as he turns on his master, and fells him with a savage blow, unable to contain himself.  He finally crosses the line.  

Psychologically speaking, we all have dominant ways of being and functioning.  A lot of our psychic processes are relegated to the basement of our minds.  They are kept out of sight, and little thought about.  However, sometimes, as in the film, the "unconscious" or "basement", or "underground" aspects of our mind, burst forth.  Often this leads to a terrible conflict, and the conscious mind resists and attempts to suppress the unconscious.  In the film "Parasite" there are fatalities on both sides, before a new order is born.  In the end it is the "Parasites" who outlive the "Masters."  The masters move on, and a new family move in.  Every know and then, it's worth having a look at what's in the basement.  But be ready for a surprise, and don't be too alarmed if you don't find sunday supplement infinity pool down there.  The ego, which lives on the top floors of the psychological house, often assumes it is the master.  But it's often at the margins and the underground where the most vigorous and resilient forms of life can be found.

  • What's in your basement?
  • Who is the Parasite - The conscious or the unsconscious?
  • What are the areas of conflicts between these areas?

Ajay Khandelwal PhD

Ajay Khandelwal is an experienced psychotherapist and consultant. He welcomes contact and enquiries and is accepting new clients via zoom during the shut down.