Antwone Fisher was a young black man with a disruptive family history. His emotional development was severely affected as he matured, which created situations and difficult choices for the first 25 years of his life. The middle child in a family of foster children, Antwone never knew his father, and was abandoned by his mother into the foster care system at the age of two. At the time he was given to the 'system' his mother was a prostitute, or at least a bar made who rarely stayed in an employed status for a long period of time. It could be assumed that she never returned for her first born son, to retrieve him from the foster care system because of her own unstable living conditions. As a result, Antwone became part of a religious, but abusive foster family where he endured the degradation of beatings, threats, and sexual molestations from his older foster aunt. Those who carried the responsibility for nurturing Antwone became his attackers, leaving deep emotional insecurity bordering on psychological instability.
Antwone was a very brilliant young boy, but in the face of his dysfunctional home life, did not develop his educational talents during elementary school, neither did he learn the study habits which could have made secondary school a positive experience. As a young black man in the inner city of Cleveland, he dreamed of having a family, and a purpose, but only found abuse and rejection.
The presenting problem of this young man is his aggressive and hostile interaction with other navy shipmates on his first tour. Antwone had no connections to his family, and from initial interview, he related that he had no connections whatsoever. After watching his closest childhood friend killed in an attempted robbery, he immediately enlisted in the armed services as a last option to turn his life around, and find a stable existence. Why he chose the navy as a career can only be guessed at, and will be discusses further on this case study. However, in an environment which men speaks their minds, and often interacts with each other with racial jabs, Antwone was soon to find trouble
The immediate, surface level problem... And the reason he was assigned to a psychiatric evaluation was Antwone's assault on another sailor. He was placed on probation after fighting in the bath and shower area, and required to visit the company psychologist. He was placed on restriction, and given additional duties in order to give him a tighter framework within which to sort out his emotional conflict. The commanding officer asked that he be given 3 consultations, and on the basis of information collected during that process, the counselor was to make a recommendation as to whether or not Mr. Fisher would be allowed to stay in the navy, or given discharge papers.
Mr. Fisher's living situation should be evaluated in three distinct phases in order to understand his emotional state, and the psychodynamics of his assessment. As a child, Antwone lived in a foster home with two brothers. His foster parents were demanding, and abusive. Antwone was raised in foster care from the time he was two because his mother chose to use the foster care system rather than raise Antwone herself. His stay in a single foster home, while a better options than bounding from home to home like many children his age, was filled with abuse, and neglect. The consequences of this behavioral pattern carried over into his young adult life.
In his late teens, when his foster mother attempted to take money that he had earned, and administer more physical abuse during the incident, Antwone disarmed his foster mother. He demanded that she treat him with respect, and stop hitting him. At this time, Antwone was ejected from the home, and force to live in the street, and with friends who might take him in for short periods. Antwone stayed on the street, in parks, and in homeless shelters until joining the Navy.
The Navy provided Antwone a stable housing and social environment. As an unruly young man, the navy served to structure Antwone's out of control life. During boot camp, basic training, and until he was assigned to a ship, Antwone's life was highly structured. The rigors of basic training prepare the man to be physically and psychologically ready for the armed services, however, it does not build emotional stability into a life which is complete out of balance. When Antwone was stationed on his first ship, he discovered the close quarters and lack of individual 'space' exacerbated his angry tendencies. Antwone repeatedly engaged his fellow shipmates in altercations.
His relevant history has been touched upon in the previous paragraphs. Developmentally, the elements which would have provided positive internalized emotional structure for Antwone were turned in to destructive forces. Having never known his parents, during his first evaluation, Antwone replied that he didn't have any parents; he just crawled into life from under a rock. His depth of loss, and surrounding grief from the loss of any parental nurturing turned inward, and Antwone identified that he was a person without worth, identity, or purpose. His self-evaluation of appearing from under a rock was an accurate picture of his feelings of himself, even though he was unable to identify those feelings.
While many children who follow a path similar to Antwone's walk headlong into crime, drug or alcohol use, for some reason Antwone did not. It is not until the end of the movie that a possible motive appears for his ability to stay on a path which ultimately led to positive changes. When Antwone met his mother, and then confronted his foster family, his deepest desires of "being a good boy, becoming a good man" surfaced. Rather than turn his destructive emotions on himself, and take his life into a pathway of crime or addiction, Antwone focused his emotional energy on moving forward, and becoming a person whom his absent parents might someday be proud of. He also internalized a desire to defeat his foster family's efforts to 'break him.' In the final scenes of the movie, Antwone confronts his foster family, and states that although they tried to break him, and destroy his well being, he was still standing; he was still strong.
If the spiritual element of his foster family left any positive influence on his life, it was accidental. Antwone and his foster brothers learned early that they could use their participation in religion as a means to get what they wanted from their foster mother. But as for religious experiences in the home which could have reinforced lessons heard in church services, this type of follow through was completely absent. In summary, as a man Antwone was a broken individual who had done remarkably well considering the background from which he escaped. Antwone was on his way forward with only two options. Upon the encounter with the navy counselor, he was in the process of building a life which would repeat the hostility which he had experienced. The other course, and ultimately a successful life direction, he was able to make for himself with the help of the counselor who refused to give up on him and with the courage to make difficult choices.
Antwone's determination to not give up, on himself or life represents the positive nature of his personality. His presentation of himself to others was that of a combative person who refused to back down to insults, challenges, or confrontations. He chose to attack others in order to defend himself when challenged. The roots of his behavior, again, were planted deeply in the residual self-image he carried forward from his childhood. He used many personality defenses in order to facilitate the ongoing combative stature. His responses to regular daily challenges typically were a variation of 4 different ego function / defenses. Antwone would:
Attack a challenging, or emotionally threatening situation or person.
Deny the existence of any problem, or need to make personal adjustments.
Isolate himself from others in order to isolate himself from dealing with his own emotional deficiencies.
Fantasize about his future or his life direction in order to distance himself from his past.
In summary, Antwone's emotional well-being does not exist. While his step mother called him a "retarded nigger" in his elementary school years, her abuse and neglect produced an emotionally retarded grown man with many struggles to overcome on his way to becoming a whole person who was able to function in normal society.
In terms of evaluating Antwone by the DSM-IV assessment, he would rate highly on Axis I, although his difficulties are not associated with ADHD, or similar brain function disorders. His conduct and relational difficulties would not be rated on Axis II or III, as they are not associated with retardation, or general medical conditions. His score on Axis IV would likely be off the chart, as all of his conduct disorders have their basis in psychosocial…