“I am Sansa Stark of Winterfell. This is my home. And you can’t frighten me.” -Sansa to Ramsey Bolton
**Warning: Spoilers Ahead**
Sansa Endures and Triumphs:
Sansa Stark has endured the horrors of witnessing the execution of her father, being raped and abused by a psychopathic husband ( Ramsey Bolton), and tormented by a psychopathic fiance (Joffrey Baratheon). Sansa harnessed the fortitude to survive the separation of her siblings when the Stark family was blasted to the four winds in a flight of survival during the War of the Five Kings (Martin, G.R., 2015). In essence, Sansa shows all the signs of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). However, as she moves through the HBO series with stamina, perseverance, and determined grit, Sansa emerges as a character who really epitomizes Post-Traumatic Growth.
Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG):
The term, Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG) is a recent addition to the psychological vernacular used to describe the state of transformation and positivity gleaned in the aftermath of traumatic or adverse circumstances. The silver lining in the dark cloud is an analogy that helps survivors of trauma to connect with the personal growth, life wisdom, and new found purpose and meaning making in one’s life after triumphing over horrendous and seemingly insurmountable challenges. Originally coined by scientists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun (2013), PTG has continued to surface as one of the buzz words describing a positive psychological metamorphosis available to survivors of unspeakable tragedy.
Therapy for Sansa:
Sansa would benefit tremendously by tackling any residual PTSD she may be experiencing, in the form of flashbacks, hypervigilance, and/or hyperarousal. She may be burdened by the aftermath of chronic stress, potentially impacting her sympathetic nervous system, in which trauma is “held” in the body in the form of muscle tension, anxiety, freezing and numbing responses, as well as an over-active amygdala (van der Kolk, 2015).
Paired with a skilled and compassionate trauma-informed and strengths-focused therapist, Sansa likely would show benefit with EMDR interventions, expressive arts modalities, somatic therapies and mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral interventions. Part of her self-care regimen will need to include restoring sleep cycles to maintain the serotonin levels in the brain(neurotransmitter than regulates mood health) (Kendall-Tackett, 2007), attend to her nutrition (make sure she’s taking an omega-3 fish oil supplement) (Peet, 2005), and exercise (particularly in the form of hiking (Wise, 2014), yoga, tai chi or other expressive release modalities) (van der Kolk, 2015).
In addition, Sansa will benefit from narrating her story in the presence of safe others (therapist, support group) and constructing meaning and purpose as a result of going through adversity. Expressive arts modalities are wonderful options for releasing held trauma and re-storying the traumatic series of events by reclaiming and owning one’s agency of the narrative (der Kolk, 2015 and Malchiodi, 2007). Working to restore a trusting and safe support network (SAMHSA, 2014) for Sansa will be key, as her trust has been betrayed repetitively over the course of years.
Sansa’s prognosis is pretty solid. She has, thus far, demonstrated she can anchor herself back in her home of Winterfell and hold court there, albeit with Machiavellian Petyr”Littlefinger”Baelish lurking in the shadows.
Sansa shows promise of being able to separate herself from the clutches of Littlefinger’s manipulative and calculating advances. Although, only time will tell if she is able to see through his psychological manipulations. One of her “super powers”, having endured horrific trauma from a range of narcissists and psychopaths, is the honed craft of insight and intuition that allows Sansa to build her discernment in detecting who is safe for her to interact with, and who is not. She will most definitely need to go No Contact from any abusive personality who has impacted her in Westeros. Let’s hope Sansa can situate herself in cozy Winterfell, pondering peace and tranquility by the godswood tree, embraced by her surviving family members, and enjoying some quiet contemplation and restoration…before winter arrives….
Calhoun, L. G., & Tedeschi, R. G. (2013). Posttraumatic growth in clinical practice. New York: Routledge.
Peet, M., & Stokes, C. (2005). Omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Drugs, 65, 1051-1059
Malchiodi, C. A. (2007). Expressive therapies. New York: Guilford.
Martin, G. R. (2015). A Game of thrones: book one of A song of ice and fire. New York: Bantam Books.
Narcissism and Psychopathy in Game of Thrones (Part 2): Theon. (n.d.). Retrieved August 18, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/savvy-shrink/2017/08/narcissism-and-psychopathy-in-game-of-thrones-part-2-theon/
I. (2015). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, MD | Key Takeaways, Analysis & Review. San Francisco: IDreamBooks Inc.
SAMHSA. (2014). Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP), Series No. 57. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.