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Charlie Fineman who is played by actor Adam Sandler in the 2007 movie Reign Over Me, is a man who, following the 9/11 attacks, has lost his wife and daughters. Unable to confront the trauma consciously, he develops an unusual behavior, choosing to cut himself off from the life he used to know before the tragic events occurred. He becomes withdrawn and non-communicative, his behavior reflecting a vegetative state. He feels unable to let go of the past and develops an obsessive, non-dangerous attachment that determines him to remodel his kitchen regularly. Because of the last words he had said to his wife, remodeling the kitchen became Fineman's response to the guilt he was feeling. He thus developed a survivor's guilt to which he responded. He also cannot respond positively to social interactions because he has implanted himself with the belief that people would only remind him of the loss and suffering which is why he does not let anyone into his life and is reluctant at engaging in conversations.
In the movie, Alan, Charlie's old friend and roommate, considers that the latter's behavior is abnormal because he refuses to recognize him and chooses to deny that his family had ever existed. From a societal perspective, this is considered an altered state of mind related to abnormal behavior and maladaptive ability. While most people would choose to confide in friends and family, Charlie's unwillingness to do so also leads his parents-in-law to believe that he is mentally disturbed. Furthermore, the latter feel that the normal attitude would be for Charlie to remain close to them while reminiscing over happy moments they had shared altogether before the tragic event. However, their son-in-law is less than willing to dwell in memories of his wife and daughters with other people which is why he avoids them. This is considered abnormal by Jonathan and Ginger who have a different idea over what grieving should be like. The pair believes that Charlie is mentally disturbed not merely on account of him not wanting to look over family albums with them but indeed because of how he chooses to deal with the grieving process: isolation, denial and attempting suicide. Thus, although Jonathan and Ginger express grief in a commemorating manner and their reaction toward Charlie can indeed have subjective basis, their position is understandable insomuch as they have witnessed Charlie's transformation first hand. When Charlie is arrested and taken to court after having pointed a gun at a police officer, he is assessed by a group of mental health professionals appointed by the court. They believe that Charlie's grieving process is also abnormal which is why they recommend his hospitalization into a psychiatric clinic. This as well could be interpreted as subjective experience, this time attached to the experience that mental health professionals acquire and because of which they may rush to conclusions in forming a diagnosis and recommending an appropriate treatment. Charlie's incapacity to start the healing process is gradually revealed as a result of his mistrust. Once he is able to confide and speak to Alan about his family to, Charlie's attitude begins to change and he gradually returns to constructing a normal life for himself.
While in Reign Over Me, Charlie could be targeted for manifesting indeed the most obvious of defense mechanisms that the human psyche resorts to in an attempt to either ignore or alleviate pain, some of which have already been mentioned in this paper, it is also Alan Johnson, his friend, who we can relate to in addressing the issue. Here is a successful dentist with a beautiful wife and healthy children who cannot help but feel that he has lost control over his life and that it has all become a routine circle. When he first meets Charlie, Alan is looking for nothing more than to escape his home environment. Thus, his defense mechanism is actually Charlie whom he hopes will share some adventures with. Alan sees his old roommate as an anchor that will change something about his life and that will bring about new experiences. While the movie focuses on Charlie's trauma and psychological recovery, Alan is as well subject to a more insightful problematic perspective. Considering that a defense mechanism concerns the attitude and actions that drive one's behavior, it would not be…[continue]
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