Marilyn Monroe as Deliberate Creator?

August 25, 2012 | 11 Comments »

Marilyn Monroe as Deliberate CreatorDid Marilyn Monroe practice deliberate creation to create her success as a movie star?

And if she did, how did things go so wrong at the end of her life?

That’s what I started wondering after delving into  J. Randy Taraborrelli’s The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.

I picked it up out of curiosity about what really happened between her and JFK, but was surprised to learn that Marilyn had strong “positive thinking” influences in her early life.

Was Marilyn a deliberate creator??

Well, here’s what I picked up from the book …

Marilyn got passed around a lot of different homes as a child.  One of those homes was with her Aunt Ana.

Ana Lower was an active practitioner of Christian Science (founded by Mary Baker Eddy at the turn of the 20th century).  Most people know Christian Science as the controversial sect that doesn’t believe in medical treatment for illness, and relies on the power of prayer as cure for ailments.  I didn’t know much more than that, so I looked it up:

Mary Baker Eddy was on her deathbed when she had a realization that healing does not come from the body or mind, but rather from the “Divine Mind” (God).  Supposedly when Mary realized this she was instantly cured from a life-threatening injury.  (Kind of reminds me of Anita Moorjani’s experience – how once she saw the truth in her near death experience, she was cured of cancer.)

Mary went on to teach that “sickness, death, and even our physical bodies do not exist, but are only imagined.”  She believed that Jesus demonstrated these principles of healing in his life, but that they were not carried on by the church through the ages.  (I’m down with believing Jesus was here to show us what we can do ourselves, and that that message got buried in church teachings.)

So Aunt Ana was a big fan of Christian Science.  She turned Marilyn’s mom, Gladys, onto it and Gladys shared it with her best friend Grace (whom Marilyn knew as “Aunt Grace”).   These three women were all about the principles of  “mind over matter” and the power of positive thinking.

Which meant the key influencers in Marilyn’s teenage and young adult years were practitioners of positive thought.

When she was 12 Marilyn went to live with Aunt Ana, who worked consistently to build Marilyn’s lagging self-esteem by reminding her that “she shouldn’t care what others thought of her; that she was a beautiful young girl not only outside but inside as well; and that she had no reason to feel like anything less.”  They would sometimes stay up all night reading from Mary Eddy’s book Science and Health.

As a result, Marilyn’s self-confidence grew and her self-identity became more positive.  Soon other students saw her differently as well and she became more popular at school.  Marilyn says of this time in her life, “The world became friendly.”

In the time that she lived with her Aunt Grace, Marilyn was repeatedly reminded that she was worthy and capable.  Grace remembers telling Marilyn when she was 26 and making the bumpy transition from Norma Jean to Marilyn that, “You already have everything in you that you need.  As you see yourself, so will others.  Believe in yourself and others will follow.

And so it unfolded.  Marilyn’s early work as a model began to take off, and she became known as an up and coming star.  Slowly but surely, her dreams of stardom and success were coming true.

In the back of her mind, though, she worried about what was happening with her mom’s growing mental illness, and whether she could expect the same fate.

At 28, with intentions to grow her acting skills and be taken more seriously in the movie industry, Marilyn started studying with acting coach Lee Strasberg.  His version of the “The Method”  required self-examination and reflection upon one’s past.  Marilyn was taught to draw from her past experiences to create more depth and interest in her characters.

At the same time she started psychotherapy in an attempt to get a handle on her mental state to escape the fate of her mother’s (and grandmother’s) mental deterioration.  She didn’t want to lose her mind, and she thought doing this therapy would help her gain control over it.

Suffice it to say, between the therapy and the particular type of acting coaching she was doing, Marilyn spent a lot of time reliving negative past experiences.

People around her started noticing changes in her personality: “She was becoming darker and more morose.  In the months and years to come, she would become more depressed than ever as the misery of her past weighed heavily on her mind.”  This was when Marilyn started relying on sleeping pills to put her anxious mind to rest.

With all this coaching to conjure up bad memories, Marilyn was not a happy camper.  Marilyn’s half sister Berniece blamed “all that therapy” as the reason Marilyn was so miserable.  Taraborrelli writes that on her quest for self-improvement, Marilyn “always found herself in a terribly dark place, never moving past it.”

One person who was close to Marilyn said:

Every single day she would sit in that office and lament her childhood or her marriage.  Afterward she would be upset for hours.  Then, just as she was regaining her equilibrium, she would be back on that damn couch.  Some thought she was on a question to learn more about herself, but I thought it was a form of self-abuse.  .. It’s no wonder she was not an emotionally well woman.

Several people close to her believed that it wasn’t Marilyn’s mental state that was her undoing, it was her therapy.

As a Christian Scientist, Marilyn’s mother Gladys didn’t believe in medication for healing.  She believed in prayers and faith.  But Marilyn didn’t see that working so well for her mom, so she relied on different approaches, including therapy and a wide variety of prescriptions.  (Some prescriptions were for sleep, some for anxiety, some to quiet the voices she was beginning to hear.)

And we know how the rest of her story turned out.  (Taraborrelli concludes that while we’ll never know for sure, it’s more likely Marilyn overdosed, perhaps accidentally, and less likely that she was murdered.)

So, while I wouldn’t call Marilyn a deliberate creator, it does seem that positive thinking had a strong role in her ability to find her inner strength and build her early success.

Who knows how differently her life would have turned out if she hadn’t spent so much time conjuring up painful memories.

My personal takeaway from Marilyn’s experience?  It’s another example of what we often hear from Abraham, about how our true desire isn’t so much a thing or an accomplishment or experience – it’s a feeling.  Here Marilyn was on top of the world – a professional success, financially secure, quickly becoming an icon in her own time – and yet her life seemed to be filled with pain.

Despite that, for me Marilyn continues to be an inspiring example of what a determined woman can accomplish when she sets her mind to it.  I, for one, an setting my mind on happiness.  🙂

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11 Responses to “ Marilyn Monroe as Deliberate Creator? ”

  1. Jesann says:

    That sounds like an excellent book.

    What you quoted about her therapy reminds me of a piece on Monroe that might have been written by Gloria Steinem (I can’t quite remember and no longer have the book) in which she (Steinem/writer) noted how low Monroe’s self-esteem seemed when working with Strasberg. When I started reading your post, I kept wondering about this happy, confident girl and which writer was correct, but now I see how her life could have taken a nosedive by the time she started working with Strasberg.

    It also reminds me of something Christine Kane wrote about healing eating disorders like bulimia — it might not be the exact thing Monroe was in therapy over, but the point is the same:

    “The reason I don’t often recommend therapy is this: Most women with eating issues or bulimia are very smart. They know what it’s about. They know their past. They know their emotions. What they don’t know is how to stop obsessing and thinking about it all the time. This is why therapy often keeps them stuck.

    What you focus on persists. If you consistently focus on your past, your parents, your old patterns, then you may be spinning your wheels.”

    (http://christinekane.com/healing-bulimia-and-addictive-eating-part-2/)

    Kane does go on to note people should get additional (in addition to therapy, etc.) alternative healing to ensure they actually heal and don’t just relive their past over and over; the question of therapy is a personal one, so no one can say it’s good or it’s bad.

    But it does look like if anyone enters therapy that looks at their past, they need to take steps to actively heal the past, rather than wallowing in it. The consequences of not doing that are dire, if Marilyn Monroe is an example!

  2. Jesann, you know what else your post reminds me of? How important it is for us to find answers within, rather than blindly relying on outside counsel. Marilyn was known for being extremely dependent on a couple of key people in her life. And whether they served her well is up for debate.

    Thanks for the links to Christine’s work. I didn’t know she’d addressed that topic before. I’ve passed it along to interested others already.
    🙂

  3. Annette says:

    Interesting! I’ve always been drawn to Marilyn too.
    It certainly seems that all the reliving had a negative influence.
    It also seems that Marilyn had conflicting beliefs: those that her mother and aunts taught her; and the inability of her mother to put those beliefs into practice with her mental health.

    Marilyn’s attachment to & belief of sharing her mother’s fate is another huge factor.

    Community and support. I bet if she hadn’t been so exposed to the Hollywood crowd, she would have had the support she needed. Questions and doubts may have been addressed by her aunt to relieve her of walking her mother’s path.

  4. Brenda says:

    I share Annette’s thoughts that “Marilyn’s attachment to & belief of sharing her mother’s fate is another huge factor.”

    Which leads me to wonder how things might have turned out differently for Marilyn if at some point during her spiritual teachings, she’d encountered the concept of her emotional guidance system. I suspect that if she had, she wouldn’t have bought into the notion that reliving past negative experiences would solve anything…and that it comes with the potential to create more of the same energetic experiences.

    You did an awesome job of that book review/summary, Jeannette, bringing a hearty feast for the pondering of deliberate creators.

    For me, it served to strengthen my resolve to stay mindful of what I’m feeling in relation to what I’m thinking – to be more aware moment to moment….and to find happiness NOW!

    What’s inspiring about this story is that Marilyn self-created the life she “wanted” through the power of focus. Maybe the part she didn’t want would have played out differently if happiness and joy had topped her list. …or, if she’d had the awareness and access to the teachings that we have access to. …back to echoing Annette again, “community and support.”

    Who knows??? Anywhooo, Marilyn’s life has always seemed like a lovely and spicy mystery to me. And this blog has been a delicious, inspiring read. Thank you!

  5. I was thinking, Annette, that if she’d known “what we resist, persists” – that might have changed some of her approaches, too.

    And Brenda, you’re so right! Knowing about (and using) the emotional guidance system is a boon to anyone no matter their circumstances.

    You know what Marilyn was really good at? Managing “crises” that threatened her public image, and not getting upset about spilt milk. Like when the nude calendar came out, she handled that SO well. And when she got busted lying about her dead mother who wasn’t dead – she handled it beautifully. Owned right up to it, explained herself, and didn’t much care what anyone else made of it. Her attitude seemed to be, “It is what it is, now let’s move on.”

    Thanks for posting, you two!

  6. MissyB says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this GVG – as I always do when you take ordinary things you happen across and place the LOA “spin” to it.
    What resonated for me was that the quest for self-improvement made her unhappy. This has happened to me (luckily not to this extreme though). In the search to understand what happiness is, I have compared myself to those who appear to know, and actually missed feeling happy at my natural set point.
    You’ve opened my eyes – I needed this and I’m off to enjoy the sun on this sunny day with my new puppy Kofi.

  7. That’s a powerful insight, MissyB! I hadn’t seen that one myself in her story, but it seems pretty obvious after you pointed it out.

    Thanks for posting it. 🙂

  8. Berta Bauer says:

    So interesting. I’ve done marriage counseling and it just seems that it makes things worse rehashing past frustrations and aggravations. It would be silly to not realize the importance of the negative things in my marriage, but how I choose to frame them is what is important. Using those unwanted feelings to discover what I do want has been difficult because I wasn’t brought up to do that. So I’ve had to un-train myself and re-train myself to use the not so good to get the great. I sometimes get down on myself when I’m in a negative place, but that is again my old training. The good news is that it gets easier every time I find myself pivoting, and when I have strong negative emotion the quickest way is for me to honor it by thanking it for rearing its ugly head, and using its truth to discover my greatest desires. Its great to know that we LOA savy people are helping others to see this too. Can you imagine what life and career Marilyn may have had if she’d known this, and how she could have impacted the world?

  9. Steve says:

    In looking through some their literature Christian Science seems to be in alignment with LOA. I’m not sure but I think they down play the part about not consulting physicians.

    Science of Mind is another group which I would say has alignment with LOA.

  10. melanie says:

    there is something in that book i’ve read at the very bottom…that said that as a child in the orphanage, marilyn monroe would just shut herself out from her surroundings and think that one day she would be loved by all men and women and that she was a star…i dont know if anyone has read that before, but i thought that someone would write that.:)

  11. Now that you mention that, I remember that in the book, Melanie. Really good point to add here!!!

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