Defense Mechanisms Articles

Exploring Authentic Yes and No in “Yes Man”

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

The film “Yes Man” invites exploration of our “default switches,” which serve as defensive strategies. Some of us tend to comply and accommodate by always saying yes. Others tend to rebel and shut down to new experiences by always saying no. Neither rebelling (by an automatic No) nor complying (by an automatic Yes) are real ways of establishing either independence in the first case or closeness in the second. Rebelling mimics autonomy and compliance mimics merging.


Emotional Ownership in Parenting in “Rachel Getting Married”

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

In Rachel Getting Married (2008), Anne Hathaway plays Kym, who is released from rehab in order to go to her sister Rachel’s wedding, which takes place at the home of her father, Paul and step-mother, Carol. The particular scene I’ve chosen illustrates what happens when a parent doesn’t or won’t acknowledge his or her proper share of accountability and responsibility; the child is then left holding all of the guilt, until such point that as an adult, the child comes to her own inner understanding as to how things really were.


‘The Book of Mormon': How to Practice Denial

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

I’ve been laughing myself silly all week, listening to the soundtrack (and watching YouTube videos) of the Tony Award-winning musical, The Book of Mormon. Its book, music and lyrics were written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of South Park fame) in collaboration with Robert Lopez, co-author and director of another successful Broadway musical, Avenue Q.

While the melodies may be a bit generic, they’re catchy and memorable; it’s the lyrics that truly stand out, however. Profane and irreverent, they shed light on some of the more absurd aspects of Mormon theology. They also expose the type of guidance offered by the Church of the Latter Day Saints to members struggling with cognitive dissonance, as well as feelings they find unacceptable.


Exploring Mother & Daughter in “Postcards from the Edge”

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Further exploring various dynamics of the mother and daughter relationship, we’ll have a look at a scene from Postcards from the Edge (1990). This film is based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Carrie Fisher (daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds). Suzanne Vale (Meryl Streep) plays the addiction-prone actress daughter of movie star Doris Mann (Shirley Maclaine). Doris is portrayed as overbearing, controlling, manipulative, competitive and self-absorbed; Suzanne is very much in her shadow.


Mel Gibson in ‘The Beaver': The Uses of Splitting

Friday, September 16th, 2011

I’d heard so much negative buzz about The Beaver (starring Mel Gibson and directed by Jodie Foster) that I stayed away from my local movie theater despite the film’s interesting psychological subject matter. This past week, I finally saw it on DVD and was surprised to find myself appreciating it much more than I’d expected.

While there’s some truth to the criticism I’ve heard, The Beaver tackles a difficult subject — suicidal depression — with psychological insight and emotional honesty. It scorns the simplistic answers offered by pop psychology and rejects the widely propagated medical lie that depression results from a chemical imbalance in the brain. The film doesn’t really try to explain depression (although it offers some interesting hints as to its origins), or offer a solution that leads to the happy ending. Instead, it explores a peculiar form of splitting, a desperate attempt to “cure” depression when all else fails.


Wholeness vs. Goodness: Pleasantville (Part II)

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

BW or color?

In Part I, we saw big changes in Pleasantville, now: the Mayor tries to regain control of the situation by organizing a town hall meeting. He represents the fascistic part of our Super-Ego clinging on to old value systems for dear life by rallying defense mechanisms.

This part rejects, banishes, and excludes those aspects of ourselves that bring up unwanted painful and shameful emotions in order to keep things comfortable and “pleasant.”


Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ Music Video and Her Triumph Over Shame

Monday, June 27th, 2011

In her “Born This Way” music video, Lady Gaga models a kind of refusal to let shame and self-doubt debilitate her, triumphing over those feelings through her enormous artistic gifts.


Exploring the Ghostly Lover: “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” (Part II)

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

The film “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” (1951) gives us the opportunity to question some of our most cherished notions about romantic love.


Robert Duval in ‘Get Low': The Lasting Power of Guilt and Shame

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

‘Get Low’ (2009) starring Robert Duval, Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray, offers powerful lessons about the lasting effects of guilt and shame.


Charlie Sheen and the Allure of Manic Flight

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

A discussion of Charlie Sheen’s recent interviews and how his manic behavior reflect defenses against intolerable shame.


 

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Recent Comments
  • best free streaming: A sweet soft drama and lots of writers name.
  • aria fox: This is a good film. I have watched and enjoyed it.
  • Marla Estes: I must say that the book was better. I can’t really remember but there may have been several...
  • becky: Thought-provoking critique of a film I’ve never seen tho i adore Alan Arkin and it sounds like the...
  • Marla Estes, MA: Thanks for your comment, Michael. I agree. Journeying together indeed, Marla
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