The Psychology of Peter Parker (AKA The Spider-Man)

“I’m gonna lie close to the ground and continue being a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Keep helping the little guy.”          ―Peter Parker

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: Peter Benjamin Parker
Date of Birth:  March 10
Education: Some high school, still enrolled
Employment: Stark Internship (former)
Date of Initial Interview: 7/7/2017
Date of Report: 7/24/2017
Therapists: Brandon Saxton, M.S., Katie Gordon, Ph.D.

Presenting Problems
Peter Parker was referred for services by his aunt, May Parker. May reported having concerns because he was struggling at school, missing class, quitting extra-curricular activities, sneaking out at night, and losing his belongings. He was also fired from his internship and was being bullied at school. May claimed that she was worried that the combination of typical stress involved in being an adolescent, the loss of her husband and Peter’s other guardian, Ben Parker, and the loss of his Tony Stark internship were taking a toll on Peter.

Individuals Present
Peter felt that he did not need to come in for discuss his challenges today. May reported that she felt Peter was probably nervous, and suggested he bring along his best friend Ned Leeds who might be able to support Peter and help shed some light on what has been going on at school. May was in the session for the beginning of the interview. The remainder of the interview was conducted with Peter and Ned.

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History of Presenting Problem
Peter denied any history of struggling in school or missing class. He reported that he has traditionally done well in school and his extra-curricular activities, but that recently he has had less time to keep up. Peter had been involved as an intern for Tony Stark (local entrepreneur, owner of Stark Industries, and Iron Man). Peter said that he had done his best, but it was not good enough, and he was consequently fired. Peter reports that this has impacted his mood and behavior, but prior to the internship, these behaviors were not present. Regarding the bully, Peter and Ned both reported that their fellow student, Flash Thompson, has always bullied them. Peter denied that it bothered him much.

Family History
Peter’s parents passed away when he was younger; his Aunt May and Uncle Ben were his guardians growing up. Peter then lost his Uncle Ben. Peter said he felt very close to his Aunt and that she is a wonderful role model for him. Peter describes his aunt as doing the best she can for him and he regrets causing her any additional stress with what he has been going through.

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Educational/Employment History
Peter is still enrolled in high school at the Midtown School of Science and Technology and does not know what he wants to do after high scho… OH WAIT! Peter’s friend Ned just reported that Mr. Parker is the SPIDER-MAN and his plan is to someday join THE AVENGERS (videos of the Spider-Man are present on YouTube). Note: We just reminded Mr. Parker about the rules of the office (no hitting, he attempted to hit Mr. Leeds after reporting that he is the Spider-Man) and the rules of confidentiality. After doing so, Mr. Parker confirmed that he is, in fact, the vigilante known as the Spider-Man. In fact, the Stark Internship was him being Spider-Man!

Psychiatric/Medical History
Peter denied any past emotional struggles aside from the expected grief he experienced following the death of his parents as well as his Uncle Ben. Beyond that, Peter stated that the only significant medical event in his life was a spider bite. The symptoms of the bite, which remain, include an almost spider-like physiology. This includes Peter being able to walk on walls, move very quickly, and be physically stronger and more durable than other people. He also possesses enhanced senses including keener eye sight and faster reflexes. And, irrelevant of the spider bite symptoms, Peter is also a gifted person. He is intelligent, quick-thinking, trilingual, and thoughtful.

Diagnostic Impressions
Although Peter is experiencing some social and school impairment, the cause is not related to any mental health concerns. However, we recommend that Peter is monitored to ensure that these kinds of symptoms to not develop in response to the experiences he will have as a superhero.

Treatment Recommendations
We strongly encouraged Peter against a life of vigilantism (even though we think superheroes are awesome, we can’t advocate an adolescent fighting crime illegally!) However, he insisted that he would continue. We used the remainder of the session brainstorming ideas ghat Peter could try to reduce the risk of being hurt or hurting others, falling behind on home, social, and school obligations while still maintaining his role as Spider-Man. We also insisted that Peter return for occasional check-up sessions to monitor the impact of crime-fighting stress.

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Status at Termination
At the end of the session, Peter seemed to understand the importance of balancing his life as Peter Parker and his life as Spider-Man. He also agreed to return to we could monitor he mental health and process any difficult experiences he faces as the Spider-Man. Ned seems like a good source of social support. In addition, Peter feels confident that he would have the support of Tony Stark if he truly needed it. This case will be updated as needed (i.e., check back after Infinity War!)

 THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?
There was very little, if any, mental illness portrayed in Spider-Man: Homecoming. One character, at one point, uses the term “psychopath” to describe The Vulture. The character is not a therapist and is not using the term in the psychological sense.

Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?As stated above, as the movie does not portray any specific mental illness, but we feel that Peter is generally depicted with compassion. He is a resilient and good-hearted adolescent trying his best to make the world more positive.

Overall rating:
As the film does not portray any mental illness, we are instead going to simply rate it in terms of enjoyment. On a scale of Andrew Garfield (our least favorite) to Tom Holland (our most favorite), we rate this depiction of Spider-Man as Tom Holland! That is, we loved it! The film truly is a lot of fun. It is light-hearted, does not get bogged down in the details of an origin, and overall is just a solid action-comedy. We can’t recommend it enough!!

 

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The Psychology of Wonder Woman & Hippolyta

SPOILER WARNING: This post is mostly based on the movie, Wonder Woman, and it contains lots of spoilers.

Part I

Name: Diana
Age: 6ish
Occupation: Princess of Themiscyra (Paradise Island)
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Ph.D., Brandon Saxton, M.S.

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Presenting Concern:
Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, sought therapy for her daughter, Princess Diana. She was concerned that Diana was disobeying her wishes. As an immortal goddess, she was unaccustomed to having her authority defied. Yet, she often caught Diana watching the Amazons’ warrior training and asking her aunt, Antiope, to begin secretly training her in the arts of war. Hippolyta’s goal in seeking therapy was to learn effective parenting strategies to protect her daughter from the harm she feared would befall her if she began training as a fighter. She also wanted Diana evaluated for oppositional defiant disorder.

History:
Diana reported that her mother wanted a child more than anything, so she made her out of clay.  Zeus then brought her to life. Hippolyta motioned to us that she wanted to speak to us without Diana. We brought Diana out to the waiting room and returned to speaking with Hippolyta, who explained that Diana was actually Zeus’ child and given to the Amazons to protect them from Ares, the god of war. Hippolyta explained that she did not tell Diana the real story because she feared it would put her in more danger.

Hippolyta’s love for Diana was so strong that she couldn’t fathom the possibility of Ares taking her away. She said she would never recover from that kind of pain. She believed that sheltering Diana would keep her safe.

Assessment & Diagnostic Impressions
After interviewing Hippolyta alone, it became clear that Diana did not have oppositional defiant disorder. Her behavior was not causing her any distress, impairment, and was typical for her age. To the contrary, she was already highly educated (though her behavior did appear to lead to some of her teachers resigning) and fluent in numerous languages, and full of energy, bravery, and kindness. It was our impression that Hippolyta was a loving, concerned mother acting out of protection for her child and her fear of losing her.

Treatment Recommendations:
Hippolyta’s worries were founded in the reality of her situation and Diana’s destiny. We did not find that she or Diana met diagnostic criteria for any clinically significant mental health problems. However, we offered Hippolyta support with her concerns. In addition, we recommended strategies for increasing openness and reducing secrecy between she and Diana (e.g., by displaying acceptance and listening, even if her impulse was to shut down any conversations about warrior training). We provided feedback that it was evident that their mother-daughter bond had a strong foundation. They enjoyed many activities together (Diana listed bedtime stories and exploring the island as personal favorites). We encouraged Hippolyta to continue building on that relationship and that therapy was available if she wanted extra support as she navigated the healthy balance of protecting her daughter while accepting her autonomy.

Part II

Name: Princess Diana of Themiscyra (via Hippolyta)
Age: 20s-ish
Occupation: It is her sacred duty to defend the world.
Therapists: The Jedi Counsel again

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Presenting Concern:
Hippolyta returned to us to ask for guidance with Diana. A pilot’s plane crash-landed into the ocean near Themiscyra, and Diana saved his life. The pilot, Steve Trevor, explained that he was a soldier in the fight to end “the war to end all wars.” Diana told her mom that she wished to leave the island with Steve and stop the war by killing Ares and his poisonous influence on man.

History:
Hippolyta explained that, since our last appointment, she had decided to allow Diana to begin openly training with Antiope in the arts of war (rather than continuing to push her to secrecy). Hippolyta continued to protect her child, but recognized the limits of her control. She decided to prioritize trust and a close relationship by supporting Diana’s independence at a developmentally-appropriate level. Hippolyta found that talking through concerns with her sister, Antiope, helped her to clarify the line between being overprotective and protective. As a result, her relationship with her daughter had grown stronger than ever….which is why Hippolyta felt so distressed at the thought of Diana leaving Paradise Island to fight with Steve (though Hippolyta did note that he seemed like an egalitarian, intelligent man pursuing a noble mission well-suited for Diana’s abilities).

Session Notes:
Hippolyta came to us with her own wisdom about how to best handle the difficult situation. She knew that she could not control Diana, who had already decided to join Steve and help all those suffering due to the war. She recognized that her choice was to try to stop Diana, which would ultimately be unsuccessful, or to support her and have an opportunity to say good-bye. We listened to Hippolyta as she processed her feelings and thoughts about the situation and came to her own conclusion about the right decision for her family and herself.

Follow-Up:
Hippolyta reported that she was able to say good-bye to Diana, “You have been my greatest love. Today, you are my greatest sorrow.” She knew she had taken the right course of action and was grateful for the time she had with her child. We told Hippolyta that she was welcome to come back and meet with us if she wanted any support from us as she dealt with her separation from Diana. We encouraged her to seek support from others, to take good care of herself, and to feel pride in the wonderful daughter she raised with love, empathy, a commitment to peace, education, understanding, and undeniably badass warrior skills.

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Part III

Name: Princess Diana AKA Diana Prince AKA Wonder Woman
Age: 20s-ish
Occupation: Superhero
Therapists: Same ones, in our Man’s World office location

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Presenting Concern:
Diana’s friend, Etta Candy, referred her to meet with us to discuss her transition from Princess of Paradise Island to Superhero in Man’s World and the recent loss of the person she was in love with, Steve Trevor. Etta felt that her friend might benefit from speaking to professionals while coping with these drastic changes and significant stressors.

Session Notes:
Diana presented as open and willing to meet with us. She became tearful as she described losing Steve, but said that their love remained powerful. She recognized that his death meant preventing others’ suffering and that it was his way of doing his part to defend the world. She would remember him fondly and draw inspiration from the honor he exhibited. It was that type of goodness that helped her to cope with the realization that humans could sometimes do terrible, evil acts, even when they were not directly under the influence of Ares.

She described missing her mother, loved ones, and the beauty of Themiscyra. However, Diana said that she had made the right decision to leave and fulfill her sacred duty. She would not have felt okay with herself if she didn’t try to stop the war. Having recently learned that she was a goddess, Diana also contemplated what it would mean to be immortal while those around her age and die. Fortunately, in the context of her strong relationship with her mother, they had many discussions about how Hippolyta had coped with the blessings and curses of immortality. Diana felt she could draw on her mother’s wisdom as she navigated the associated privileges and pains.

Diana expressed frustration and bewilderment at the societal status of women and people of color in Man’s World. From clothes that constrain optimal battle movement to expectations to be in subordinate positions to rules about women not speaking up or being in leadership positions, Diana said she intended to fight alongside all those with a mission of equality until it was achieved. She also expressed zero intent to conform to unjust societal norms that would have her reduce her strength, powers, or peace efforts. That alone would empower countless people to follow her lead and embrace their true selves. Amazons wore their bracelets as a reminder of their past subjugation, and as a symbol to resist any return to that state. Diana also wore them to connect her to her home and Themiscyran values (they handily deflect bullets and wield energy too).

In conclusion, Diana did not feel she needed ongoing therapy to cope with her various concerns at the time. However, after having a positive experience with therapy at an earlier age, she said that she would not hesitate to return for help as-needed and left us with the wisdom that “only love could truly save the world.”

Follow-Up:
100 years later, Wonder Woman was working at the Louvre, saving people from suffering, and teaming up with Batman and Superman to defeat evil. She remains a symbol of courage, knowledge, acceptance, justice, compassion, and overall awesomeness. We look forward to seeing more of her when she teams up with the Justice League in November!

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The Gordon/Saxton Test

Was the portrayal of mental health accurate?
Wonder Woman and Hippolyta were not portrayed as exhibiting mental health issues. Despite the fictional world the characters were set in, the authenticity of their relationship and related issues was moving and made it relatable to nonfictional people too.

Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?
Wonder Woman is the epitome of compassion. You see it throughout the movie as a primary motivation for her actions, and that is one of many things that makes Wonder Woman so incredibly special and inspirational. Hippolyta is also portrayed in a way that elicits compassion.

Overall Rating: On a scale of Ares, god of war to Athena, goddess of wisdom, we Aphrodite, goddess of LOVED this movie!

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So many thanks to the creator of Wonder Woman, psychologist William Moulton Marston!

Also thanks to the many amazing artists, comic writers, letterers, colorists, actresses, actors, and others who have contributed to Wonder Woman’s story. Some of our favorites include Gail Simone, Renae De Liz, Ray Dillon, Susan Eisenberg, Gal Gadot, Patty Jenkins, Chris Pine, Nikola Scott, Greg Rucka, Liam Sharp, and Laura Martin!

Check out our podcast episode on our initial reactions to the movie here!

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13 Thoughts on 13 Reasons Why

**WARNING: SPOILERS APPEAR IN THIS POST.**

I watched the new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why (based on a book with the same title). This post sums up my reactions, and I am also in the process of recording detailed Jedi Counsel podcast episodes on the series with my co-host. Some people say this is art and entertainment, and therefore, exempt from social responsibility. Nonetheless, many people will watch this series, and that makes it important to view it critically and to consider its implications. My thoughts aren’t fully formed yet, but I wanted to post something as the series came out without waiting until I had it all sorted out. My feelings and opinions may develop more as I process the material for a longer period of time. I’m open and curious about other perspectives.

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  1. The series is set up as a mystery that quickly pulled me into the story. I finished the whole series within a few days. The framework for the series is that an adolescent, Hannah Baker, has died by suicide and left behind audio tapes detailing every component that she believes led up to her death. In addition, she has a methodical plan for the specific people who should listen to the tapes, how they should be listened to, and the order in which people hear them. While this is a compelling way to reveal a mystery, I believe that it contributes to stigma by painting the picture of a woman who ended her life for the purposes of getting attention from the individuals she believed ruined her life. The tone of her delivery is blaming and feels vengeful. I worry this perpetuates the myth that suicide is typically driven by desire for attention, selfishness, or revenge…which it most certainly is not.
  2. There is a scene that is explicitly blaming of one of the few kind (though not perfect) people in the series (Hannah’s friend and love interest, Clay). Hannah’s friend, Tony, tells Clay that Hannah would have been alive if he had acted differently. He later softens his tone, saying it is not Clay’s fault and Hannah is responsible for the choice that she made. Still, the blame message is there in a scene where Hannah tells Clay repeatedly to leave her alone. He reluctantly leaves the room. The show then depicts a parallel universe where the “right” things happened: Clay insists on staying despite Hannah clearly asking him to leave her alone, he turns the conversation around through persistence, Hannah feels loved, and suicide is prevented. In light of the violations of consent elsewhere in the series (including two rape scenes), I was bothered by Clay being painted as having done the wrong thing when he honored Hannah’s wishes to leave her alone.
  3.  Hannah decides, as her last attempt at help-seeking, to reach out to her school counselor about her suicidal thoughts and being the victim of rape. The counselor, insensitively and against best practice guidelines, implies she may be partially to blame (e.g., asking if she verbally said no to the perpetrator, asking if she had been drinking) and jumps right into telling her that her only choices are to: 1) report the assault or 2) to move on. She leaves the office, and he doesn’t follow-up with her in any way. He doesn’t ask for more details or conduct a suicide risk assessment, and he does not try to reach out to her parents to prevent her from harming herself. Of course, there are some counselors out there who might act in this irresponsible way. However, the vast majority would not. In a show that is viewed by a lot of young people, the depiction of the counselor matters a lot. People are already reluctant to reach out to mental health professionals. I worry people would feel even more discouraged from seeking help after seeing this terrible, judgmental, unethical interaction.
  4. The series accurately portrays some of the risk factors for suicide: social isolation, loneliness, and disconnection from others (including in the painful forms of bullying), perceiving herself as a burden (e.g., she describes herself as a “problem” for her parents and especially feels burdensome after accidentally losing some of their money), family conflict (her parents argue about issues including finances), witnessing and then being a victim of sexual assault, and hopelessness about her future (e.g., with regard to college and other plans).
  5. I appreciated the series emphasizing how crucial social connections are for health and talking about different types of loneliness – including individuals truly isolated and those who feel “lonely in a crowd.” It seemed to make the point that even apparently popular people (like Zack) can feel lonely. I believe this sends the message that anyone is vulnerable to loneliness, and we shouldn’t assume people are doing well just because they appear that way on the outside.
  6. One of the themes of the series is that – at any point – one person listening, reaching out, or doing something differently could have prevented Hannah’s suicide. Ultimately, this is a positive message. Unfortunately, I think it’s lost and distorted because it is used to blame people for their failures to save Hannah rather than demonstrating that one person could have made a difference and changed the story to a hopeful one. If the counselor or one of her parents had connected with Hannah and supported her in seeking help for her struggles, this point would have been much more persuasive. Instead, the story feels more demoralizing than inspiring to me.
  7. Hannah’s death scene is a graphic depiction of her cutting her wrists with razorblades in a bathtub. In a documentary-type episode made about the series, they said that it was to show the painful and hard-to-look-at nature of suicide. To me, it feels like a choice to make a dramatic, visually startling conclusion to the story rather than to deliver a lesson. It makes sense – this is a series meant to be watched and to get people glued to their screens- not a PSA. It’s possible that an individual who feels suicidal might see that and be afraid; however, it’s also quite plausible that an individual feeling suicidal might mistakenly view it as an end to all of Hannah’s emotional pain and problems. Anecdotally, there are cases of suicidal individuals watching scenes of suicide building up to taking their own life.
  8. There are warnings in the beginnings of episodes where there are graphic scenes (e.g., sexual assault, suicidal behavior). It would have been helpful if the episodes had information about resources, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, embedded in them too. It would be a simple way to reach a lot of people. Again, the series created a separate short documentary-like episode with mental health professionals and resources in it. However, it appears completely separately from the series (rather than as the 14th episode, for example). It would reach more people if it was connected to the full series.
  9. The pain Hannah’s parents experience after her death is excruciating. I feel this is one of the most realistic aspects of the series. It shows their horror, their confusion, their regret, and their desire to prevent other suicides from occurring. In the documentary afterwards, they suggest that this might show individuals who feel suicidal about the pain that others would experience if they died. I think this may be the case for some, but for certain individuals, tragically, they might imagine that people wouldn’t feel the same way about their death. That’s the cruelty of perceiving oneself as a burden – people struggling with mental health problems may not see how the world is better with them in it.
  10. Related to the second point, several characters clearly violate Hannah. Marcus and Bruce grab her, Tyler and Justin take and share revealing pictures without permission, and Bryce rapes her. When Hannah and Clay are starting to kiss, Clay asks, “Is this okay?” I really liked this scene because it shows how asking about consent is natural and enhances, rather than ruins, the moment. It also shows a welcome contrast in that Clay genuinely respects and cares about her feelings and perspective. Sadly, this positive point gets diminished when the scene turns into Hannah yelling for him to “get the hell out” and the suggestion that if he had only ignored her wishes, he would have saved her life (as described above).
  11. From one perspective, it seems like a point of the series is to teach bullies that their actions can lead to someone dying by suicide. However, most people who are bullied do not die by suicide – people are often remarkably resilent in the face of great adversity. It’s important that people who are on the receiving end of bullying know that. Secondly, most of the people on Hannah’s tapes are more concerned about protecting their own secrets (e.g., that Courtney is attracted to women, that Justin allowed Bryce to rape Jessica, that Ryan published Hannah’s poem without her permission) than how they hurt Hannah. If the message is supposed to be an anti-bullying one, I don’t think it really connects with bullying people in the audience. I guess that it would resonate more with people on the receiving end of bullying who feel a sense of hopelessness about the bullies having any potential for empathy and a sense that there is no help available to them.
  12. On two occasions, two adults (the counselor and the communications teacher) state that the warning signs for suicide include withdrawing from friends and family, changes in appearance, and trouble in group projects. This was a great opportunity to share the real warning signs for suicide, but unfortunately, only the first one really maps onto the list.
  13. A lighthearted, sweet aspect of the series is that Clay is different from his peers in that he cares relatively less about what other people think of him. He still cares what people, including Hannah, think of him to some extent, but he doesn’t try as hard as his peers to be something he’s not. He feels nervous around Hannah, but doesn’t ever really pretend to be someone else. He doesn’t let other people’s opinions make him feel bad about himself. Again, Clay’s not perfect (he says some mean things to Hannah and looks at a revealing picture that Tyler took without consent). But, overall, he’s smart, sensitive, caring, a good student, interested in the world beyond the walls of his school, helps others, takes reasonable caution in his decision-making, and likes geek stuff like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. During one exchange, Hannah says to Clay, “Wow. You’re an actual nerd. There’s courage in that.” Most of the other characters in the series view themselves and their worth in terms of what their peers think of them. This generally rings true with regard to this developmental period in adolescence. It’s refreshing to see someone who has some self-acceptance and a sense of what’s right in the midst of all of the tragedy.

You can check out our first podcast episode on this series here and our second episode here.

If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out. There is hope and help is available here.

Analyzing Oliver Queen (Arrow, Season 1)

PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Name: Oliver Jonas Queen
Date of Birth: May 16, 1985
Ethnicity/Race: White
Occupation: Billionaire
Date of Initial Interview: October 10, 2012
Date of Report: April 4, 2017
Therapists: Brandon Saxton, M.S., Katie Gordon, Ph.D.

Presenting Problem:
Oliver was referred by his mother, Moira Queen, for a diagnostic assessment following his return from a deserted island. Oliver was previously presumed dead. In actuality, he was the sole survivor of the sinking of his family yacht, The Queen’s Gambit. He reported living alone on the island for five years before being rescued.

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Family History:
Oliver has one remaining parent and one sister. His father, Robert Queen, was on the yacht when it sunk. Oliver reported that he did not see his father die, but solemnly stated that he, Oliver, had to have been the only one to survive. His mother, Moira, took over the operations of Queen Consolidated after his father passed away. Oliver reported that he is very close to his sister, Thea (or Speedy, as he likes to call her). He reported having some regrets about the type of role model he was to her before the island and wanted to do better for her now.

Educational/Employment History:
Oliver reported never having a job, instead relying on his family’s fortune to make his way. He attended some college. He said that he only went because he was expected to. Beyond that, he reported that his primary goal had been making friends and partying to the extent that the only book he read during all of college was The Odyssey. It was not clear whether he actually completed his studies and received a degree.

Psychiatric/Medical History:
Oliver has no documented psychiatric or serious medical history. However, it should be noted that medical reports indicate that his body is covered with scar tissue following his return from the island. At this time, it is unclear how this scar tissue was obtained. Oliver’s primary care physician indicated that Oliver claimed the injuries happened while attempting to survive. However, the report indicates the injuries are more consistent with weapon or combat trauma. Further assessment may reveal further events that happened on the island.

Assessment & Diagnostic Impressions
All assessment and diagnostic information was collected with Oliver one month after his return from the island (i.e., at the beginning of season one of Arrow). It should be noted that we felt Mr. Queen was not being completely forthright with us during the diagnostic interview. We offer this assessment based on the information we have. As treatment continues, we suspect that what Oliver is willing to report about his time on the island may change (What we are subtly saying is, if you like this post, let us know! We will turn it into a series covering each season!).

Treatment Recommendations
In light of the limited information revealed by Oliver Queen, it is difficulty to conclusively identify the source of his problems. Further assessment should be conducted in order to understand the impact that his time on the island and loss of his father had on him. We recommend that a patient approach is taken, such that the therapists can build a sense of trust and rapport with Oliver over time. Perhaps once Oliver feels more trust in the therapists, we can gain a more precise understanding of the issues he is facing and plan treatment accordingly.

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THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST


1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?
At this point, there is not enough information to determine whether there is a mental illness, accurate or not.

2. Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?
Oliver Queen is an intriguing character because he is depicted as pretty despicable prior to his time on the island. However, when he returns, he has changed so significantly that it’s hard to not feel compassion for the struggles he’s suffered through.
We are also thrilled that the actor who plays Oliver Queen, Stephen Amell, has raised funds and awareness for mental health issues.

Overall rating:
On a scale of what’s a quiver? to master archer, we rate this depiction as……to be determined as the evaluation of Oliver Queen continues in future seasons!

Dueling Personalities: The Psychology of the Hamilton-Burr Conflict

Note: Most of the words in this post are direct or slightly modified excerpts from the brilliant lyrics written by Lin-Manuel Miranda for the musical, Hamilton. This analysis is based on the portrayals of Burr and Hamilton in the musical.

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PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORT

Names: Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton
Ages: 48 (Burr), 47 (Hamilton)
Education: Bachelor’s degree from College of New Jersey/Princeton; theological, military, and legal training (Burr), Bachelor’s degree from King’s College/Columbia; military & legal training (Hamilton)
Date of Session: July 10, 1804
Therapists: Katie Gordon, Ph.D., Brandon Saxton, M.S.

Presenting Problem
Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, grew concerned when he said that he “had an early meeting out of town.” Hamilton’s disagreement with his long-time frenemy, Aaron Burr, had recently escalated, and she was suspicious that this meeting might actually be a duel. She insisted that Hamilton and Burr attend a therapy session to resolve their conflict peacefully. Eliza told him that she felt helpless after losing their son in a duel and that he owed it to her after burning her with the whole Reynolds Pamphlet ordeal. Hamilton couldn’t say no to this.

We started the session by walking up to the two men in the waiting room and asking one of them, “Pardon me, are you Aaron Burr, sir?” To which he responded, “Alexander Hamilton. My name is Alexander Hamilton.” After getting clarity on who was who, we introduced ourselves and invited them back to our office to further assess the problem. During the interview, we did not find Burr to be forthcoming on any particular stance. He’d glance off, obfuscate, and dance. Meanwhile, Hamilton did not equivocate on his opinion; he wore it on his sleeve.

Apparently, the heart of the conflict was that Burr wanted desperately to be in “the room where it happens” and blamed Hamilton for his losses in the Presidential election of 1800 and the New York Governor election in 1804. Specifically, Burr believed that Hamilton’s public attacks on his character swayed these elections. Hamilton’s criticisms of Burr included saying that he had no principles and acted in an opportunistic, self-interested fashion. He called him “amoral” and a “dangerous disgrace.”

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History
Burr’s grandfather was a fire and brimstone preacher; his mother was a genius; his father commanded respect. Tragically, both of his parents died when he was a young boy. When asked how he managed without them, he replied, “I’m a trust fund baby, you can trust me.” He was raised by relatives and reaped the benefits of their wealth, including access to an excellent education and connections with powerful people. After graduating in two years from college, he fought in the Revolutionary War. He was romantically involved with a married woman named Theodosia, whose husband was fighting on the British side in Georgia. Ultimately, he and Theodosia married (after her husband died) and had a daughter, who he referred to as “Dear Theodosia.” Burr practiced law and was active in politics as a Senator and Attorney General. The highest office he held was the Vice President of the United States from 1801-1805. The fact that Burr was born into financial and societal privilege may have influenced his life philosophy to wait patiently for opportunities to arise before acting on them. By working hard and avoiding huge public errors, he believed he could maintain the status and wealth he was born into and use them as a foundation to achieve even greater political power.

Hamilton presented as a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence impoverished and squalor who grew up to be a hero and a scholar. When he was 10, his father split, full of it, debt-ridden; two years later, he and his mother were bed-ridden, half-dead sittin’ in their own sick, the scent thick. Hamilton got better but his mother went quick. He moved in with a cousin, who died by suicide. Left to fend for himself, he got a job for his late mother’s landlord trading sugar cane and rum and all the things he couldn’t afford. By 14, he was in charge of a Trading Charter. Then, a hurricane came, and devastation reigned. He wrote a letter describing the hurricane’s impact, and it was so beautifully stated, that the people in his town took up a collection to send him to the mainland to get an education and nurture his talents. Like Burr, Hamilton graduated from college, fought in the Revolutionary War (Hamilton served as Washington’s right-hand man), practiced law, and was active in politics as the first Secretary of Treasury for the United States. He married Eliza Schuyler, after meeting her at a winter’s ball, and they had eight children together. Their oldest son, Philip, died at a young age in a duel. The fact that Hamilton was born into a stigmatized position at the time (i.e., being born out of wedlock) and into poverty may have influenced his life philosophy to persistently pursue his dreams without inhibition. By fervently seeking out chances to ascend in society and working non-stop, he believed he could attain status, wealth, and political power only by working a lot harder than others, by being a lot smarter than others, and by being more of a self-starter than others.

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Diagnostic Impressions
After an evaluation, we concluded that while Burr and Hamilton share many qualities, the areas where they differ led them to the point where they were considering a duel. An analysis of these overlapping and divergent qualities are depicted in the Venn diagram below:

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Treatment Recommendations
To our knowledge, there are not any evidence-based strategies for duel prevention. However, we intervened by explaining to Burr and Hamilton that participating in a duel would negatively impact them and interfere with their personal goals. We told Burr that killing Hamilton would hinder his ability to be in the room where it happens. We hoped that this would motivate him to find an alternative approach to handling the conflict. Similarly, we told Hamilton that duel participation would increase the likelihood that he would actually “run out of time” before establishing the legacy he desired, and we reminded him, “history has its eyes on you.”

We experienced resistance from Burr, who argued that he looked back on where he failed, and in every place he checked, the only common thread was Hamilton’s disrespect. His overwhelming blame of Hamilton for all of his thwarted plans formed a significant obstacle to duel dissuasion.

Similarly, Hamilton wasn’t willing to decline the duel invitation. Hamilton’s personality rarely involved backing down from positions or challenges. Indeed, when Burr asked him for an apology, Hamilton responded with, “Burr, your grievance is legitimate. I stand by what I said, every bit of it. You stand only for yourself. It’s what you do. I can’t apologize because it’s true.”

To this, Burr replied, “Then stand, Alexander. Weehawken. Dawn. Guns drawn.”

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Status at Follow-up
Burr shot Hamilton in a duel the day following our session, and Hamilton died the day after that. Hamilton’s legacy was planting seeds in a garden he’d never get to see. and he is remembered as a ten-dollar founding father, hero, and a scholar. Meanwhile, Burr became the villain in your history books. When Burr was asked if he had any regrets, he said that he now understood that “the world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.” We would have strongly preferred that Burr had that revelation before killing Hamilton.

THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST

  1. Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?

Lin-Manuel Miranda was not portraying characters with mental disorders. However, his depictions of Burr and Hamilton appear both psychologically and mostly historically accurate. Miranda went to great lengths to examine historical records and consult with historical experts when he created Hamilton. He took some artistic liberty for the sake of storytelling and this approach resulted in fascinating, relatable characters.

  1. Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?

Miranda depicted his characters with great compassion. Burr is generally remembered as a villain and Hamilton as a hero, but Miranda went beyond that simple dichotomy of good versus evil and presented two realistic characters with both redeeming and irritating qualities.

Overall rating: On a scale of Darwin Award to EGOT, we rate the Hamilton depictions of Burr and Hamilton as EGOT!

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The Room Where It’s Happening is an awesome Hamilton fan podcast! You can check it out here.

If you’d like to read 10 Hamilton Quotes for Therapists, you can click here.