Film, Girl Interrupted Is A Demonstration Of Essay

Length: 6 pages Sources: 3 Subject: Psychology Type: Essay Paper: #22251169 Related Topics: Engagement, Borderline Personality Disorder, Film Analysis, Multiple Personality Disorder
Excerpt from Essay :

¶ … film, Girl Interrupted is a demonstration of the development of an individual who may or may not have a psychological disorder but who struggles with acceptance and belonging and feels unable to control the outcome of her life or her success and/or failures. Suzanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder), the 18-year-old recent high school graduate demonstrates fragmented thoughts that manifest into outward disengagement in normal social situations. She feels trapped by the privileged that she is raised in and also feels trapped by the alternatives that exist for her in her life. She does not feel engaged in the "normal" desires and successes that offer themselves to her, does not desire to have plans, go to college or meet the expectations of her social circumstances. It is clear that she is clinically depressed and that her behaviors are disjointed, though still likely normal excluding the suicide attempt likely spurned on by her feelings of inadequacy and complications of her disconnect to emotional circumstances. The diagnosis offered is Borderline Personality Disorder but this diagnosis as an explanation for Suzanna's behavior is questioned throughout the film.

Primary Secondary or Tertiary Dysfunction

Initially the dysfunction of the main character Suzanna is primary in that she frequently deals with wandering thoughts, reliving moments from the past, internally, failing to interact appropriately in the present. Simultaneously, Suzanna deals with secondary dysfunction in that the internalized thoughts are often triggered by environmental cues, such as a barking dog, a view of a particular scene which reminds her of a past experience or even a song that draws her in to an internal visceral memory. There is a great deal of evidence that Suzanna's reactions to environmental cues are not abnormal and are especially representative of the developmental stage which she is in (Lijuan et al., 2011) Tertiary dysfunction plays itself out later in the film as her actions and feelings become dependent upon the feelings and actions of others, in this case those she is hospitalized with, who all exhibit outward behaviors of serious psychological disturbances but most of whom are likely very "normal" in most ways.

Identification of Resilience

Identify resilience or its potential in the child, young person and/or family member.

Resilience seems for Suzanna to be the actual root of her feelings, thoughts and behaviors, both positive and negative. Suzanna's "checking out" behaviors demonstrate her way of coping with the mundane and even the extreme environmental issues that either do not keep her attention or are demonstrative of possible harm to self or others. Suzanna's distraction by historical events and situations and inability to act engaged is a symptom of her dysfunction but it also serves to solidify her and allow her to cope with the feelings she has about not having engaged in socially expected behaviors. For example she seems only limitedly capable of socially appropriate interactions in scenes in the film, though when she does respond to the social settings it is outwardly calm and quiet.

Developmental Age of Character

This film is clearly demonstrative of the developmental age of young adulthood. Many of the situations that Suzanna faces are representative of normal social development when one is seeking to transition from the protection of the family/parents to becoming an independent adult. Suzanna is clearly challenged by her own feelings of listlessness and her feelings of gender inequality. This is demonstrated by the extreme outward rejection of the fulfillment of the standards of her expected roles. For example the scene with the school counselor at her high school (played out in a memory, while she is being admitted to the psychological hospital) demonstrates her attempt to reject the standard roles of her era and gender. The councilor tells Suzanna that she has the rare distinction of being the only graduating senior who has no plans to go on to college. To which Suzanne responds, "I am not going to burn my bra or march on Washington. I just don't want to turn out like my mother. " The counselor then states that women have far more opportunities today than her mother had to which Suzanna responds, "No they don't." Suzanna does not see a way clear to be herself, be a writer, live without


She is a disappointment to her parents and to those around her and because of this she simply checks out, falling asleep at her graduation ceremony and allowing her memory of past disappointing situations to overtake her present thoughts and behaviors. She explains this to the doctor that gives her a referral to Claymore (a colleague of her father, no longer practicing counseling) by stating that it is impossible to explain how she feels or why time seems to have no linear rules going forward and backward in her mind as if it were completely uncontrollable. "Explain to a doctor that the laws of physics can be suspended…that what goes up may not come down, explain that time can move backward and forward and now to then and back again and that you can't control it.."

Conversations in the Film That Demonstrate Engagement and Creative Strategies

Suzanna's conversations with the other "crazy" characters, but especially her roommate Georgina Tuskan (Clea Duvall) and Lisa Rowe (Angelina Jolie) within the film as well as a few with the nurse Valerie (Whoopie Goldberg) are often full of engagement and represent creative coping strategies. The information and acceptance/confrontation that she receives from Lisa are representative of how she learns to reengage with people who like herself do not feel as if they "fit in" to the world they are offered. Lisa demonstrates the antagonist but she is the locus of the whole environment, bringing to life the situation of institutionalization. For example the conversation she has with Lisa where Lisa challenges Suzanna to face the fact that most of the people there are not crazy at all but just not following the rules of life, which occurs in the office of the head psychologist, at night when a group has broken out of the ward and gone on a bowling and chart reading expedition. Each girl in turn discusses their diagnosis, which Lisa clearly feels are all crap rewriting the labels to include telling Suzanna that her description of Borderline Personality Disorder would include everyone. Suzanna is fully engaged in the conversation, listening to Lisa and the others and taking into account the outward expression of their various disorders. Another interesting challenge that Lisa proposes that reflects her particular engaging view of all the girls is her relabeling of Cynthia Crowley (Jillian Armanante) as not a sociopath but a Dyke. The whole expedition and the comradery between the girls as well as all their interactions while free of the boring confines of the institution are examples of creative coping strategies.

The second conversation that is demonstrative of engagement is the conversation Suzanna has with Vivian when she returns from her escape with Lisa following Daisy's (Brittany Murphy) suicide. She discusses with Vivian how she did not feel like a good or worthy person because she could not stand up to Lisa when she was berating Daisy about her mental illness and it sources and development (Diehl & Ha, 2010). In the conversation Vivian gives Suzanna sage advice about letting go of rather than holding onto and wallowing in her feelings of inadequacy and sadness.

Critical Analysis of Conversation as they relate to Engagement, Case Management, Risk Management and Interventions

The conversation with Vivian showed Suzanna as capable of voicing her feelings about her diagnosis and her understanding of her disease. Vivian's advice to her was also important in that it demonstrated Vivian's relative knowledge of the need Suzanna had to stop curling up with her feelings of disjointedness and sadness and get them out, let them go. Vivian suggests to Suzanna that she needs to tell her therapist these things, voice her feelings, write down or draw her feelings in her journal as a way to let the feelings that are troubling her about her own sense of low self-efficacy out and away from her head. The conversation is clearly a demonstration of an epiphany for both Vivian and Suzanna, who obviously needs to reevaluate her purpose for being hospitalized and put her life on its own course, instead of on a course that is "expected" and yet adjacent to the one that her peers, parents and social environment have in mind for her. According to Diehl & Hay younger people are more outwardly affected by daily stress than older people and especially in periods of transition and/or increased environmental stress and most notably when they themselves felt less in control of the situation that other times;

Results indicated that younger individuals and individuals with a more incoherent self-concept showed higher average negative affect across the study. As well, individuals reported higher negative affect on days that they experienced more stress than usual and on…

Sources Used in Documents:


Diehl, M., & Hay, E.L. (2010). Risk and Resilience Factors in Coping With Daily Stress in Adulthood: The Role of Age, Self-Concept Incoherence, and Personal Control. Developmental Psychology, 46(5), 1132-1146. doi:10.1037/a0019937

Mangold, J. dir. (1999) Girl Interrupted (Motion Picture) Sony Entertainment Group, Written by Susanna Kaysen.

Lijuan, W., Altgassen, M., Wei, L., Weirui, X., Akgun, C., & Kliegel, M. (2011). Prospective Memory Across Adolescence: The Effects of Age and Cue Focality. Developmental Psychology, 47(1), 226-232. doi:10.1037/a0021306

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