"You are going to need therapy." Gwendoline Christie (who plays Brienne of Tarth) , After Game of Thrones Season 8
***WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD***
Like many fans of the HBO series, Game of Thrones, I am utterly stunned. The entire series ended last Sunday. And yet here I sit, transfixed and puzzled by the outcome. Overall, I feel that the last episode tied together what needed to be concluded, although I wouldn't say it was the most graceful or neatest of outcomes on the TV screen.
I have blogged several articles regarding narcissism and psychopathy and how these conditions manifest in the Game of Thrones series. I feel this epic drama demonstrates, like no other cinematic work of art, how narcissism and psychopathy exists in families, nations, politics, and interpersonal relationships. Although perhaps at times exaggerated and grossly graphic, no other drama has so skillfully demonstrated through superb acting and plot development what can happen when extreme hubris takes over families, countries, continents.
As a trauma-informed therapist, I took comfort in the observations that many characters evolved past trauma and actually survived what would be considered insurmountable obstacles to transcend adversity.
Specifically the characters of Sansa and Arya Stark represent what to the psychology world embodies post-traumatic growth and resilience in the face of adversity (Schneider, 2017). Prolific trauma-informed writer and author, Shahida Arabi, states that "as a result of her traumas, (Arya) gains wisdom and skill sets beyond her years which many adults in the show are still struggling to obtain" (Arabi, 2019).
Furthermore, Sansa evolves to ascend to the role of Queen of the North, despite profound obstacles, including sexual violence and abuse on all levels by more than two power-hungry, pathological men in positions of political power. Joffrey, Ramsey and Littlefinger could all be easily diagnosed with psychopathy, and they have all profoundly impacted Sansa as overt and covert abusers. Sansa is the epitome of transcendence in the face of debilitating trauma.
All that being said, it is with tremendous chagrin that many of we Daenerys Targaryen fans grieve the fall of this heavily lauded character. The Mother of Dragons, The Breaker of Chains. Khaleesi, etc....fell from grace as she succumbed to her darker side and incinerated not only her enemies but a good portion of innocents who inhabited King's Landing. For the longest time in the series, it appeared Dany would be the salvation of Westeros, freeing people from the tyranny of dictatorship and evil. Unfortunately, her character's arch rapidly descended into hubris, megalomania, and malignant narcissism, which bordered on paranoia and psychosis...and she fabricated a fantasy illusion of what freedom and safety meant to the people of Westeros, favoring a authoritarian, autocratic, fascist rule (Hurley, 2019).
Yes, women (and men) can be psychopaths and narcissists, dictators and actors masquerading with the facade of humanitarianism. Perhaps this twist stung particularly hard for survivors of abuse of any form. Daenerys Stormborn, for many, represented an omnipotent champion of resilience, post-traumatic growth, and assertion. She survived rape. an arranged marriage by a deranged brother, miscarriage, and many near misses of her death by various self-serving and pathological people and circumstances. Unfortunately, her character arch took her to a place of fantastical and delusional stolen power, greed, and grandiosity, resulting in the senseless immolation of many unknowing innocents.
Game of Thrones brilliantly shows us how pathological narcissism and psychopathy, an unbridled quest and unquenched thirst for power and control, precariously teeters on the brink of collapsing groups of people, families, countries, an entire continent, if not a world. Given the imbalance of our current circumstances on this planet, I believe George R. R. Martin (and HBO showrunners Benioff and Weiss) do a brilliant job of illuminating where our work remains as fellow human beings...to unite, collaborate, empathize, transcend, solve, evolve....our differences...that we may strive for and live in peace and harmony.
Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 (U.S.)
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 (RAINN.org)
Retrieved from: Schneider, Andrea (2017): https://blogs.psychcentral.com/savvy-shrink/2019/04/post-traumatic-growth-in-game-of-thrones-sansa/
Retrieved from: Arabi, Shahida (2019): https://blogs.psychcentral.com/recovering-narcissist/2019/04/5-powerful-lessons-arya-stark-from-game-of-thrones-teaches-us-about-complex-trauma-survivors/
Retrieved from: Hurley, L. (2019): https://www.cinemablend.com/television/2471884/the-game-of-thrones-writers-after-years-of-great-work-deserve-better-than-this-petition
Martin, George R. R. (2011), Game of thrones, Batham.
(This post was originally published in the author's blog, From Andrea's Couch)