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Psychological analysis of film character Essay

Good Will Hunting received critical and commercial acclaim as well as being credited for a renaissance among young American playwrights (Tatara, 1997). Recognized for the portrayal and development of the characters, the story has been utilized in psychological and sociological studies. The story revolves around Will Hunting, a janitor working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who secretly solves the math problems that Professor Gerald Lambeau, a Fields Medalist, his applied theories class.

After being revealed to Lambeau as the “Mystery Math Magician”, the professor sought to prevents Hunting’s incarceration after attacking a police officer during a brawl by volunteering to supervise Hunting’s probation and psychotherapy. After the failure of Hunting early therapists to connect with him, Lambeau seeks the help of Sean Maguire, a former colleague who seemed to withdraw from society after the death of his wife (Van Sant & Bender, 1997). DSM Diagnosis Hunting’s actual condition is not definitive in the movie.

He displayed violent tendencies, difficulty in controlling emotions and developing relationships. An assessment of the character of the movie suggests that Hunting’s condition can be classified as Attachment Disorder (AD). Based on the DSM-IV-TR, there is a distinction between inhibited and disinhibited attachment forms, both are considered to be classified as reactive attachment disorder (RAD). There is greater distinction between forms in the ICD-10 where the latter is classified separately as disinhibited attachment disorder (DAD), however this categorization remains debated.

For the purpose of this exercise, Huntington’s case will be considered as RAD, based on the DSM-IV-TR nomenclature. Hunting exhibits significant difficulty in trusting other people and deliberately distances himself from others except for his immediate circle of friends. Unlike other conditions that undermine socialization unthinkingly, it is apparent that Huntington’s state of relationships is something he deliberately does.

Though he has been able to maintain close knit group of friends, represented by his relationship with his fellow Southie friends Chuckie, Morgan and Billie, he never invites them to his home and though they are aware of Hunting’s exceptional intellect, he never full reveals its full extent. Moreover, Hunting is often blocked in scenes apart from the group and becomes only fully engaged when prompted to do so primarily by Chuckie. Lambeau also repeatedly expresses his concern over Hunting’s unwillingness to apply himself to the full extent of his skills.

Maguire would raise a similar sentiment using Hunting’s devotion to his personal reading instead of developing relationships or improving his life. It should be noted that in contrast to oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), Hunting’s resistance or interaction with Maguire, Lambeau as well the first five therapists was not against their authority but rather what he perceived as a fallacy or insufficiency of their methods or arguments with him. Furthermore, Hunting’s ability to maintain his job and because he has no apparent problem with Terry, his supervisor is further evidence for AD (Boris, 2003; O’Connor & Zeanah, 2003).

Hunting’s condition is being attributed at most to his childhood being reared in foster homes, three from which he had to be removed due to serious physical abuse (Damon & Affleck, 1997). Subsequent delinquency indicates continuity of aggressive behavior indicates that interventions where not effective as well. Consider the final argument between Skylar and Hunting: despite Skylar’s acceptance of Hunting’s past and her request for him to go with her to California, Hunting remains unwilling to believe the former’s devotion or risk leaving Southie or think about establishing a life with Skylar.

Maguire points out that the challenge for Hunting is not being able to control his behavior or to utilize his skills but rather becoming willing to risk being emotionally dependent on other people and trusting them not to abandon him. Thus, the denouement of the movie is Hunting’s trip to California to follow Skylark which meant that he would leave Southie, his friends and without the assurance of a job. Characterization The symptoms displayed by Hunting deliberately delineated his identity from his friends and immediate environment.

At the start of the movie, there is not suggestion of Hunting’s exceptionality and his background and personality had little difference from that of Chuckie’s, Billy’s or Morgan’s. In creating this baseline, the discovery of Hunting’s subsequent math skills as well as the revelation of the abuse he suffered, builds him as the primary protagonist of the movie (Caron, 2005). Furthermore, the process also created the premise of the interaction of other characters in the story, particularly Hunting’s relationship with both Maguire and Skylar.

However, it should be noted that Hunting’s AD was the crux of the story. Without it, the attack on the police officer who subdued Hunting that led to Lambeau’s intervention would not be possible. Moreover there is also a suggestion that without the development of the condition, Hunting would not have been able to accumulate his repertoire of knowledge. There was also a critique regarding the quality of education, illustrated by the confrontation with the graduate student named Clark, Hunting’s style of educating himself was superior if not, more cost-effective.

This was the first hint of Hunting’s mind as well as his noteworthiness considering his social status and personal background. It should be noted that Hunting’s character is not representative or even typical of those suffering from AD (Livingston, 2004). In general, there is no variance in the level of sociability whereas in the movie, there is indication that Hunting’s relationship with his friends was not dominated as much by his AD. In particular, his relationship with Chuckie indicates not only significant closeness but also dependence.

In addition, Chuckie’s insight to Hunting’s personality indicated by his respect of Hunting’s personal space and waiting for the latter for any disclosure. Another illustration contrasting to the AD symptoms is the story was in his conversation with Skylar when he was prompting her to forego studying he exerts significant effort to explain to her how he viewed his skills. The examples he provided displays a high degree of association and the effort itself is an indication of Hunting’s need to make Skylar understand him more.

However, these apparent contrasts to the symptoms of AD, presented after Maguire and Hunting were able to establish a working relationship for the latter’s therapy, may be to illustrate the effectiveness of the therapy. Considering this, especially in view of the impact of child abuse and neglect to Hunting, provides dramatic content as well as engages both sympathy and empathy of viewers. For Hunting himself, his history and psychological condition further highlight his brilliance and its value not only to himself but, as reiterated repeatedly by Lambeau, also the rest of the world.

One of the most poignant scenes in the movie is the presented in the session where Maguire repeatedly tells Hunting that it was not his fault that he suffered abuse until Hunting truly accepts it to the truth after which he breaks down. The epiphany highlights that though AD symptoms and indications can not be limited to behavioral modification but requires the treatment of non- visible and subconscious symptoms and indications of AD (O’Connor & Zeanah, 2003). Treatment Due to the broadness of AD, there are an extensive degree of variance in approaches and treatment.

In general, treatment is generally addresses emotional and behavioral problems. In younger clients, the major criteria are based on absence or distortion of age-appropriate social behaviors which then becomes the foundation of the intervention (Boris, 2003). In older clients, social indicators of the disorder become utilized more and intervention since the impact of AD becomes more social rather an issue of personal development. In either population, the most common interventions are developed to address trust and abandonment issues (Walsh et al, 2006).

However, Wedding (2007) that behavioral modification programs are the first to be implemented. In the movie, Maguire’s treatment became unorthodox primarily due to Hunting’s intellect. With his treatment with the first five therapists, he reads literature regarding counseling and therapy in effort to deliberately frustrate his psychotherapists. Maguire’s similar background growing up in Southie and Lambeau’s stories of what happened with other therapists surprised Hunting. Maguire challenges Hunting’s intellect and allows himself as a subject of Hunting’s scrutiny.

In essence, the sessions became therapy for both Maguire and Hunting: Maguire challenging Hunting to apply himself and his knowledge to the real world while Hunting prompts Maguire to deal with his grief over the loss of his wife. In context, such a method is effective. However, the reality is that there are regulations of what therapists can disclose to their clients in the interest of maintaining professionalism. At the same time, the challenge presented by Hunting’s exceptional intellect is neither a likely scenario. The practice of an intervention to address AD is based on the identification of the source of the conflict.

Eriksen and Kress (2004) and Williams and Garland (2002) both point out that there has to be a high degree of sensitivity in this assessment as variance in culture or background may increase the impact of one event or experience of the client. Similarly, Walsh and associates (2005) as well as Zolotor and Runyan (2006) point out that in cases were precursor events are due to childhood neglect or abuse, there has to be extensive consideration of the client’s history from as many perspectives as possible since the impact of neglect or abuse maybe not remembered by the client.

Boris (2003) points out that in many cases of AD, direct intervention is limited since behavioral, emotional or social problems often take precedence in treatment. However, he points out that such a strategy may also allow therapy or other interventions to streamlined and more effectively direct efforts to address AD. Finally, according to O’Connor and Zeanah (2003), the most critical for any intervention is to provide opportunities for clients to identify the issues prompting their AD and to develop individually the tools to address them.

Similar to the Maguire’s program for the Hunting in the movie, this can be seen in his constant challenges to Hunting and his prompting and support for the latter to pursue what he values most in life regardless of the risks of failure. Conclusion Maguire’s unorthodox approach to Hunting’s therapy created conflict not only between him and his client but also with Lambeau who was pressuring Hunting to use his mathematical gifts to their fullest extent.

However, Maguire’s insights to the background and personal tragedies of Hunting, being from South Boston and a victim of abuse himself, would eventually be the foundation of Hunting’s self-discovery and empowerment (Shulman, 2006). Hunting’s combative relationship with Maguire would motivate him to pursue not only his studies with Lambeau but also a relationship with Skylar, a young woman who was pursuing a career in medicine using an inheritance she gained when her father died.

Maguire would repeatedly challenge Hunting’s philosophical perspectives inductively and pushes him out of his comfort zone to realize his potentials. At the end of the movie, Hunting would follow Lambeau’s advice to explore possible employment opportunities for his math skills by pursuing interviews, leaving his friends and South Boston which he considered his haven and pursue Skylar by following her to California.


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