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Analysis of Psychological Concepts Presented in The Movie Good Will Hunting

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The Award-winning movie Good Will Hunting is about Will Hunting (Matt Damon) has a genius-level IQ but chooses to work as a janitor at MIT. When he solves a difficult graduate-level math problem, his talents are discovered by Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard), who decides to help the misguided youth reach his potential. When Will is arrested for attacking a police officer, Professor Lambeau makes a deal to get leniency for him if he will get treatment from therapist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams)”. This movie opened my eyes on how to recognize behavior disorders that Will faces. Will emphasizes emotions of anger, violence and post-traumatic stress disorder known as PTSD which many people struggle with daily. Not only does he show his personality disorders, he shows other developmental problems from his childhood to present.

One psychosocial development I noticed throughout the movie was Erikson’s theory on human development. This theory went over 8 periods of human life span based on stages of life. In each stage of a human’s life they must complete a task that they may face socially and emotionally. Kalat stated “According to Erikson, failure to master the task of any stage leaves unfortunate consequences that carry over to later stages”. Throughout the movie you can see how Will fails to master some of these tasks that relate to him later in life. Will’s overreactive and defensive personality is a result of the abuse that was inflicted upon him while in a foster home as a child. Will grew up never being loved and appreciated, which affects his preadolescent stage of industry versus inferiority (am I successful or worthless?). Due to so much of his life being abused and not feeling worthy it became acceptable for abuse or violence. Another psychosocial development that determines Will’s damaged personality is nature and nurture. Nature and nurture “how do differences in behavior relate to differences in heredity and environment?”.

Will really didn’t have anything that was heredity or have any known genetic predisposition, but his environment influenced his upbringing. Throughout this movie, Will showed helpfulness by always using violence as a means of coping. Will may have shown this because he felt that there wasn’t a way to controlling his life. The scene where Will got out of the car to beat up his kindergarten bully showed he had no problem becoming violent with something that happened in his past. This behavior shows that the abusive childhood he had growing up taught him that violence is okay which contributes to nurture. According to Reidy “Results indicated that abused children exhibited significantly more aggression than the non-abused‐neglected and normal children on TAT stories and in a free play environment. ”

Not only does Will show aggression he shows defense mechanism in many scenes throughout the movie. Due to Will being abused and jumping from one house to another he built up a defense mechanism. The scene where Will and his Girlfriend showed a prime example of this when he got offended that she wanted to help him, and he got offensive over someone being there. Will uses defense mechanism against his girlfriend so that he can avoid what happened to him throughout his childhood by reversing the thought of someone loving him. Another example that I saw with defense mechanism was when Will and his therapist Sean, were talking about his past. In this scene Will acted negatively towards Sean by trying to offend him. Wills defense mechanism could tie into another disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “Victims of violent assault experience diverse post-event emotional problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and they may have multiple emotional problems. ”

Unfortunately, because of Wills childhood he suffered with PTSD and many other emotion disorders listed above. In Wills childhood he jumped from one place to another as a foster child and his father stabbed, burned and beat him. Due to such a rough life he showed symptoms of feeling ashamed, difficult controlling his emotions, defense mechanism, not being able to hold a healthy relationship and becoming violent and aggressive. After Will got arrested and was about to face jail time, professor Lambeau makes a deal with Will. He stated that if Will helps him with math problems, he would bail him out but in exchange Will needed to see a therapist. There were two types of therapy that was used in this movie which are hypnosis, and psychotherapy. Due to Will’s unwillingness in participation in hypnosis it wasn’t very effective, instead he did take it seriously. Will went through 8 sessions of psychotherapy that seemed to help him with important decisions throughout his progression. One progression that was shown in the movie was where he started to drive to California to chase his girlfriend. This was progress for him because he was afraid to up and leave what he finally knew as home and take a scary chance within his relationship. These therapeutic interventions could be very affective to many who struggle with PTSD or any emotional disorders.

In conclusion there were many psychological concepts seen in the movie Good Will Hunting. The first concept represented within the movie was Erikson’s theory of human development. Will seemed to be most effected in the preadolescent stage of industry versus inferiority. In addition, nurture with aggressive and violent behavior was portrayed throughout this film. Will was seen to have violent and aggressive tendencies because of his environmental up-bringing. The third concept represented in this movie is defense mechanisms and PTSD. Due to Will’s symptomology of PTSD likely from childhood there were many situations where Will felt the need to use defense mechanisms with his friends. The finial concept observed are therapeutic interventions that were used with Will. Out of the two interventions used with Will, only one seemed effective however many other therapeutic interventions could have been applied.

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Analysis of Psychological Concepts Presented in the Movie Good Will Hunting. (2020, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from
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