Mental wars

Movies, a creative part of the media and an inseparable part of our lives, not only entertain us by being windows to an alien world, but also act like the mirrors of society. “Secret Window” , a psychological thriller based on Stephen King’s novella ”Secret Window, Secret Garden”, which left many puzzled started a chain of mixed reactions. Review after review trickled in. Like a sinner in church, each critic sweated trying to give a fitting explanation as questions and controversy arose. Why does each and every human being have the urge to create a fictive figure in order to escape reality every now and then? Is it in our DNA to have double or more personalities? If so, is it a bad thing? One thing for sure, as dependent as life is to water, so is our nature to escapism- A result of a conflict between social constructs (reality defined by society) and personal construct psychology (individual meaning making process of reality) , catalyzed by emotional aspects such as disappointment , trauma and suffering with the aim of creating a shield against fragmentation.

Mort Rainy is a successful writer, who up until now has been living in sloth and despond in a deserted lake cabin and has been suffering from a writer’s block caused by a tumultuous break-up of his marriage and the protracted divorce proceedings. A thunderous knock on the door one day startles him out of his bitter thoughts, forcefully rousing him from a sofa almost as lived in as his bathrobe. He encounters John Shooter, a tall ominously dressed man who menacingly accuses him of plagiarism. Enraged and somewhat relived after slamming the door on Shooter’s face, he went back to his couch. How dare a strange man belittle his creative talent like that? It was simply atrocious. Little did he know that he would get out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Shooter would then keep on turning up at the deserted cabin demanding his ‘stolen’ story back. Rainy would then desperately find ways to find the original copy of the story “Secret window”, which would help label him as the original writer and prove that he is above stealing Shooter’s story. He didn’t know that this would be a price he would pay dearly through his nose. Indeed, mysterious and tragic events followed. Rainey’s city house, which sheltered his ex-wife, went up in flames. His dog, his ex-wife to be and her new lover were among people who were mysteriously brutally murdered. Shooter was doing anything he could to get Rainy to give him back his story. Shooter, guilty as charged of these crimes, and the pandemonium in Rainey’s life would be unstoppable until the inevitable happens.

Surprise, fear and confusion cannot even begin to describe the revelation; it came to dawn that Rainy and Shooter shared more than a story. They shared a DNA, a birth certificate and a brain!

Alloy, Jacobson, and Acocella (1999) define split personality or dissociative identity disorder ( DID) as “the personality that breaks up into two or more distinct identities, and each is integrated and well developed, in which then takes turn in controlling the person’s behavior.” (p. 182) Thus creating a psychological defense against trauma. The personalities formed are usually opposing each other and could possess complete identities i.e. Behavior, tone of voice and physical gestures. The process of dissociation in DID sufferers is through repression and then continues with compartmentalization.

As we all know, life has ups and downs. It is especially during the downs that the mind becomes like a hungry wolf that is fixed to no place and will wonder until it finds even the smallest amount of food. Should his hunger be blunted even for a split of a second, he will most certainly be sure to come back to the same spot again and again.

The Split Personality that Mort Rainey experiences is started by a traumatic experience. He has to make the horrible encounter of catching his wife, Amy, red handed in bed with another man in a motel. His natural instinct kicks in persuading him to take a gun with the intention of killing his wife as punishment for the pain she has caused him. However, his actions rebel against his wishes. A form of self-control mechanism expected from the society, the self-proclaimed master of life and the keeper of the canon of humanity. Rainey is not ready to pay the price for biting the hand that he is made to believe feeds him.

The jealousy and anger overwhelms Rainey that even the repression does not serve its course to satisfy his personal psychology construct – his true identity as others might argue. He has to find another way to please the latter and simultaneously avoid any kind of judgment from the keeper of the canon of humanity. Thus the creation of John Shooter, who single handedly brings Amy’s existence to an end together with anyone who stood in the way while relieving Rainey of his accountability by the use of distraction. A distraction that was created as Rainey spends his time looking for the disputed story and repeatedly goes to the authorities to report the alleged terror attacks from Shooter, giving way to a ‘hunt’ for this horrible perpetrator.

With all these facts, we are compelled to take note that the formation of John Shooter is a form of psychological defense in Rainey’s attempt to accomplish his desire and to deal with his trauma, thus helping him do the things, (forbidden by society), he would normally not dare to think of. His trauma highlights the competition between his allegiance to the society and to himself. In this case the latter won. A move that has been harshly scorned by critics as an abomination and a selfish act due to the innocent lives that had to pay the price for a little happiness. A half-baked solution has been put in the thoughts of many, which is to increase the visits to our beloved shrinks and to always share our problems by talking about them. The truth is, not even these solutions can completely stop the conflict between social constructs and personal psychology from taking place.

The human mind has no choice but to bite the bullet and watch the constant battles between reality and illusion take place in its own space. Both giving no quarter to the other. Like a chameleon, the victor is inconsistent depending on the conditions of the war. The loser beats a hasty retreat leaving the decision for the mind to either join the colors of the victor, which is easy and mostly the case, or swallow the bitter pill and attempt to revive the loser. This decision highly depends on the relationship between personal construct psychology and the social constructs and to what degree they mutually influence each other. Whether the outcome of the decision made is positive or negative , whether it will be accepted or scorned is determined by a power deemed more powerful than man himself, the society.

Author: Philly Yambo Makora


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