Psychiatrists: Gotham's Bruce Wayne Is More Well-Adjusted Than Gordon

Tuesday, 18 November 2014 - 12:44PM
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Batman
Gotham
Tuesday, 18 November 2014 - 12:44PM
Psychiatrists: Gotham's Bruce Wayne Is More Well-Adjusted Than Gordon

Batman is often the subject of psychoanalysis, as he famously lost his parents when he was young, he's motivated by a phobia of bats, and he is generally the most psychologically dark mainstream superhero (depending on whether you consider the Punisher to be mainstream or not). And one would think that baby Batman on Gotham would be the most psychologically damaged of all, considering that we're following his life directly after his parents' death, and his late parents have posthumously forbidden the poor child from getting therapy. But when psychiatrists analyzed the most recent television version of Batman, they found him to be relatively well-adjusted, in direct contrast to Gotham's "white knight," Jim Gordon.

 

In their piece in Wired, psychoanalysts Dr. Vasilis K. Pozios and Dr. Praveen R. Kambam stated that while Bruce is undoubtedly traumatized by his parents' death, he does not exhibit most of the symptoms of PTSD, which include flashbacks, avoidance behaviors, emotional numbness, and hypervigilance. "Although most people who experience psychological trauma don't develop PTSD, it's almost miraculous Bruce hasn't, given that as many as 100 percent of children who witness the killing of a parent develop the disorder, according to the National Center for PTSD. So why doesn't everyone who experiences psychological trauma develop PTSD?"

 

They cite research which states that people who are at risk for PTSD who ultimately don't develop it often have close relationships that serve as a support system, such as Bruce's relationships with Alfred and Gordon, and also show signs of psychological resilience. According to the psychiatrists, people with high levels of psychological resilience exhibit traits such as "empathy, problem-solving, self-confidence, and help-seeking." They go on to show exactly how the Gotham version of Bruce Wayne exhibits all of these traits: "In understanding the inner workings of Gotham, Bruce utilizes good problem-solving and communication skills-after all, he will become the world's greatest detective. He feels up to the challenge... and sees himself as resilient, not a victim. He seeks Alfred's help not only in his amateur detective work, but also in teaching him to defend himself from bullies. Bruce's caring nature is seen in his concern for the patients affected by the eighty-sixing of his parents' plan for an Arkham mental-health facility and in his helping Gotham's runaways through generous donations."

 

They then contrast these relatively healthy coping mechanisms with Gordon's, which they summarize as: "James Gordon is a hammer, and every problem is a nail." "Much like Batman's utility belt, psychological resilience means using the proper tools to adapt to difficult situations and appropriately deal with adversity. But when the only tool is a hammer, you tend to see all problems as nails. Case in point: James Gordon. Being rigid may give a certain sense of control and predictability when faced with the overwhelming task of cleaning up Gotham, but it doesn't always fit the situation." They cite his "lack of flexibility" and "idealistic over-adherence to the rules" as qualities that decrease his levels of psychological resilience, especially in comparison to little Bruce Wayne.

 

They also commented on Bruce's father's decision to forbid his son from getting psychological treatment, so as to allow him to "choose his own course." "It seems a bit unusual for an esteemed physician such as Dr. Wayne to hold extreme an opinion-particularly given his comprehensive plan to overhaul Arkham and improve mental health care in Gotham. But whatever the reason, Alfred's blanket denial of medical treatment for Bruce seems neglectful." There is hopefully more to the story than we've been privy to thus far. Not only is it somewhat hypocritical to place an inflexible mandate on your son so he can "choose his own path" (what if that path included therapy and anti-depressants?), but it would border on offensive if the show was asserting that therapy is somehow weakening, and would prevent a person from realizing their true potential and becoming Batman.

 

"Yet despite the lack of psychiatric care, Bruce eventually rebounds from the tragic loss of his parents. For this, we can credit his psychological resilience."

 

Finally, they discussed this quality of "resilience" and how it impacts Bruce's evolution into Batman: "Because of resilience factors, Bruce shows the psychological grit to endure his hardships and one day don the Batman cowl. But the birth of the Dark Knight isn't about simply enduring-it's about becoming something more. It's about the psychological phenomenon known as post-traumatic growth. In the struggle to cope with trauma, some people exhibit personal growth and realize positive changes in their lives. Post-traumatic growth means gaining a greater sense of personal strength, discovering new possibilities, and finding a higher purpose and meaning to life. For Bruce, that means dressing like a bat and declaring a one-man war on crime."

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