Dissociative Effect and the Butterfly Effect Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Butterfly Effect


Evan Treborn, the main character of the movie, lived a life of severe traumas (Bress & Gruber, 2004). These experiences resurface in adulthood in the form of blackouts, especially during times of extreme stress. His early life traumas include being compelled to participate in child pornography by their neighbor George Miller; nearly dying from strangulation by his own institutionalized mentally ill father Jason; his father's getting killed right before him by guards; a mother and her infant daughter dying from the dynamite he and his friends were playing with; and witnessing his dog die by burning by Tommy, son of their neighbor George Miller (Bress & Gruber).

It was seven years later when he discovered that he could travel into the past and redo parts of it (Bress & Gruber, 2004). It turned out that his travels to the past coincide with his blackouts as a child. But he also discovered that the changes he made on early actions had consequences in his present life. Altering his personal timeline, for example created alternate futures, such as when he became a college student fraternity member. At that time, he also got imprisoned for killing Tommy and an amputee. These mirages are clear indications of the unconscious desire to stomp out those painful events, which his unconscious mind rejects by blacking out. As he proceeded to struggle, he realized that even his good intentions could lead to unforeseen or unfortunate consequences.

New memories that collect in his alternate times through the years likewise damage his brain and give him a nosebleed (Bress & Gruber, 2004). When these adversities escalate and reach a peak, he determines that his struggles to correct the errors of his past only bring harm to those whom he cares about. He also concludes that the cause of every person's suffering in whatever timeline he may have is really himself.


One more time, he travels back into that time he met Kayleigh when they were children (Bress & Gruber, 2004). He irked her so she would choose to live with her mother and in a different place rather than with her father when her parents divorced. She and her brother Tommy were fortunate that their parents raised in an accepting environment. The result of that acceptance was their success in life. It is now the present time and eight years from the time of Evan's last travel into the past. He crosses path with Kayleigh who only briefly looks at him and walks away without bothering to speak with him (Bress & Gruber).

Dissociative Amnesia

DSM-5 describes this condition as a person's inability to recall important personal information (Granacher, 2014). This information is usually traumatic or stressful and not consistent with normal forgetting. It is selective of specific experiences or events to the person. An attempt to recall is accompanied by clinically significant agony or malfunction in some important body functioning. This dysfunction or disturbance is not connected to or explainable by physical effects of a substance or a neurological or medical condition. Neither can it be explained as dissociative identity disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, somatic symptom disorder o any neuro-cognitive disorder. It is simply not measurable or verifiable in the laboratory as dissociative amnesia, according to DSM-f (Granacher).

A Case of Repression

Evan in this film exhibits a defense mechanism called repression (Robichaud, 2011). He represses certain memories, which he cannot cope with emotionally. These repressed


memories are dissociative. As a boy, he would black out whenever he experienced something traumatic. His psychologist asked him to make a daily record of his life to trace the cause of the blackouts.

As an adult, he discovers his capability to alter his past by traveling back to it Robichaud, 2011). This happeed when he was re-reading
Parts of this Document are Hidden
Click Here to View Entire Document
his daily entries into his journal. In the process of altering his past, he also alters his future. Eventually, these alterations bring about an unforeseen misfortune of depriving him existence itself. The film has scientific inaccuracies but is still valuable in providing insights about the workings of the human brain (Robichaud).

The movie also explains how the brain functions in certain ways (Robichaud, 2011). It demonstrates the fragility of human emotions and the damage caused by repressed memory. This kind of memory is developed by stressful situations from which a person wants to escape and which he or she refuses to store in memory. Unbearable experiences, such as extreme violence or rejection, are difficult to accept and usually repressed or shut out of accessible memory. Otherwise, the brain itself makes it difficult for the unacceptable memory from access or retrieval. The brain's defense mechanism is a protective measure meant to shield the person from extreme pain (Robichaud).

The movie uses the concept of repressed memory only half correctly (Robichaud, 2011). An accurate part consists of Evan's confronting extremely painful and depressing experiences, such as participating in child pornography and in the killing of a woman and her daughter, his father's attempt to kill him and the seeing Tom actually kill his dog. A child's brain will naturally repress these unbearable experiences. The brain will protect


him by locking these memories beyond his conscious reach and without his knowledge or volition. It is also accurate information that some of these repressed memories can be retrieved and recalled through therapy, such as hypnosis. As an adult, Evan is able to recall some of these repressed events when he reviews his records in the journal.

The biggest inaccuracy, however, is Evan's ability to alter his past by simply recalling events in it (Robichaud, 2011). It is likely a tool for the fiction. But spectators will perceive Evan as a lunatic or mentally imbalanced. They will judge Evan's capability to alter his past experiences as mere imagination or wish.

Another flaw, although not as serious as the earlier one is the absence of blackouts when Evans is not subjected to extreme stress (Robichaud, 2011). Yet he blacked out in two occasions when he was not experiencing severe stress. One was when he was in school and the other was when he was at home with his mother. The movie tries to explain these flaws away by stating that the blackouts were the results of his future mind's returning to the present or a failed attempt at changing in his past.

The movie offers some cognitive and emotional insights into the mechanism of memory loss (Robichaud, 2011). It is assuring that the brain protects us when it enables the repression of memories the person cannot tackle without his conscious knowledge or permission. This tells us that the unconscious mind is actually more powerful than the conscious mind. It is to the benefit of the person that he does not temper with his past. It is what shapes him into what he becomes. Evan's past is largely unfortunate and so he endeavors to modify his past and that of his friends. But when he did this, someone else


would suffer. What Evan overlooks is that, although his past was unfortunate, that of his friends is just fine.

The movie is an experiment at illustrating dissociative amnesia, but it presents serious inaccuracies (Robichaud, 2011). It is accurate in presenting Evan's unconscious mind's blacking out repressed memories. As a child, he was unable to consciously recall them. But in reviewing his own records of daily experiences, he eventually begins to believe that he has the gift of going back to his past to correct wrong decisions he made. While the movie is entertaining and somewhat intriguing, these details are serious obstacles. It teaches its audience that the mind protects the person from what the brain perceives as harmful to the entire person. This movie serves to inform…

Sources Used in Documents:


Bress, E. And Gruber, J.M. (2004). The butterfly effect. New Line Cinema

Granacher, R.P., Jr. (2014). Commentary: dissociative amnesia and the future of forensic psychiatric assessment. Vol. 42, The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry

and the Law: American Academy of Psychiatry. Retrieved on September 30, 2014 from http://www.jaapl.org/content/42/2/214/full.pdf+html

Robichaud, G. (2011). Dissociative amnesia in "The Butterfly Effect." AP Psychology.

Cite This Research Paper:

"Dissociative Effect And The Butterfly Effect" (2014, September 30) Retrieved November 26, 2020, from

"Dissociative Effect And The Butterfly Effect" 30 September 2014. Web.26 November. 2020. <

"Dissociative Effect And The Butterfly Effect", 30 September 2014, Accessed.26 November. 2020,