From Doctor Who to Bruno Bettelheim

standard September 13, 2012 Leave a response

You know how your children always go back to reading the same books over and over again? How they love to see the same tv shows even though they’ve already seen each episode a million times and can recite the plot to each and every one?

Well, there’s a reason for that.

Bruno Bettelheim, renowned child psychologist (sadly better known for his devastatingly erroneous work on children with autism, but brilliant nonetheless) did amazing work on the subject of fairy tales and how children, without being aware that they are doing so, see something in certain stories that address deep rooted issues they need to process. They read the story ad-nauseum until the issue has been processed and then they move on.

I’ve been wondering this week about what has caused me to become so utterly obsessed with Doctor Who (Why yes, this is another post about Doctor Who. I am a geek. Deal with it.) and I think I’ve finally figured it out. It’s very Bettelheim-ian in nature.

Not to oversimplify a brilliantly complex and entertaining show that has been running for almost 50 years, but, in short, Doctor Who is the story of a man, a Time Lord, who is essentially, more or less, immortal. (A million Whovian hearts just stopped over the gross over simplification of the actual situation. My sincere appologies.) He travels through space and time and usually takes along a human companion or two.

Here’s the important part. Human companions. Time Lord who doesn’t die or age. The two aren’t exactly a recipe for long lasting relationships. Add to that the fact that he’s the only Time Lord left, that every other one is gone and basically you have the makings for a lot of sad, painful goodbyes.

He’s a lonely traveler who wanders around, making friends, dropping them off, saying goodbye, and moving on. He’s currently around 913 years old. That’s a lot of friends who’ve come and gone.

OK. Are you seeing where I’m going here? Or do I need to draw a clearer picture?

Fine. Let me get my markers.

The Doctor keeps saying goodbye to friends. I keep saying goodbye to friends… Are we seeing the parallel yet? Are we seeing the Bettelheim-ian draw here?

I have, over the course of the last few weeks, watched almost 6 seasons of Doctor Who episodes. I have cried over and over again as he has to say goodbye and move on. I have struggled to appreciate the new companions, have fought to not get attached, because, much like the Doctor, I knew they were going to be short-lived.

And yet, time and time again, I’ve been unable to resist.

I think I kept watching because there was that last layer of turmoil that I needed to process.

The Doctor, he welcomes people into his life, he loves them, he embraces everything about them, then he lets them go and gets on with his life. He finds other companions, he finds other friends. Except for a few momentous times he doesn’t really mope or lament. He moves on.

I, on the other hand, have been feeling guilty about moving on with my life, about going out with other friends, about going to my Mother’s Group, about being happy. That guilt has been keeping me trapped.

I know that Doctor Who is nothing more than a great scifi fairy tale, but I’m rather grateful that it’s helping me process this latest loss of mine and helping me see that it’s ok to go on living my life without the friends who have moved away and that it’s ok to do so with a smile and my old bounce in my step.

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