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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

A Psychological Perspective of Group Psychotherapy Films, precisely because they depict the richness of human reality, can be framed using a number of differing lenses. Put in other words, any person watching a movie possesses, in a manner of speaking, the liberty of construing the message of the film according to his or her own aesthetic taste, personal background, particular situation and reasoned purposes. To such end, A.

Hanjalic, movie analyst and author of the book Content-Based Analysis of Digital Video, believes that it is imperative for filmmakers to ensure that their movies, on account of the need to elicit certain level of “intensity and affect (emotion and mood) from viewers”, must be able to engage both their cognitive and affective aspects (Hanjalic 14). This is because films can act as potent storytellers of the message that they wish to recount only by being able resonate the self-same experiences which their audiences encounter in real life.

In view of the foregoing, this paper seeks to briefly evaluate the film One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest under the lenses of Psychology. Specifically, this paper is takes a keen interest on unraveling the many psychological underpinnings which are palpable in the film’s employment of group therapy sessions as a way to treat – or, to manhandle – people who are either diagnosed to be suffering from mental illnesses or merely suspected to possess the same. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest: A Backgrounder

Briefly, and for purposes of providing a succinct background, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, released in 1975, is dubbed as one of the most successful, if not greatest American films in recent history (Tim Dirks). The movie was directed by Milos Forman. It garnered numerous accolades including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay during the 1975 Oscar. Jack Nicholson’s (as Mr. Randle Patrick McMurphy) Best Actor trophy also merits attention, in that the award commenced the actor’s remarkable rise to stardom.

The movie follows the interesting life of Mr. McMurphy – an otherwise care-free individual, whose life was put into a temporary halt after he was turned in to a mental health facility for reasons involving behavioral belligerency, public misconduct and statutory rape. While having consented to cooperate to the programs of the facility, Mr. McMurphy contested the idea that he was suffering from mental illness, after the directives of those who turned him in laid specific instructions to look at whether or not he was in fact mentally ill.

Therein, McMurphy was to put up living with the idiosyncrasies of other mentally-deranged patients (with whom he would find company later on) as well as the imposing authority of the facility’s workers, notably, Nurse Ratched’s. A large portion of the film brings into play a kind of juxtaposition between McMurphy’s incurable spontaneity and the rest of the patient’s highly predictive adherence to long-observed routines. This juxtaposition could not have been more accentuated in their frequent sessions involving group therapy.

The Reasoned Use or Unfortunate Misuse of Group Therapy to Address Illness In many incidences, the film depicted a gathering of patients, resembling in essence what modern-day group therapy sessions look like, to address patient’s concerns, issues, needs and, most of all, behavioral idiosyncrasies. In the subsequent discussions, this paper would attempt to argue that such therapeutic approach has both pros and cons not only for the individual patient’s health, but also for the group’s dynamics as a whole.

On the one hand, when seen under the lenses of Psychology, it would appear that the employment of group therapy sessions was meant to help patients articulate their concerns and needs; an act which, in itself, is quite liberating to say the least. This of course assumes that, despite palpable lack of normal psychological capacity, the patients still possess a respectable level of autonomy (i. e. , the capacity to decide for oneself) and self-determination (i. e. , the capacity to choose one’s actions consciously) to begin the sessions with.

Under normal circumstances, group therapy is done to address fundamental issues of patients suffering from addition and mania. In essence, any group-involved approach akin to addressing addiction issues is called the “disease concept of group psychotherapy” (Flores 13). In a similar fashion, it seems that the nature of group therapy sessions employed in the movie One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest resembles the “disease” psychotherapy approach; for the plain reason that mental illness can be regarded as pathological in nature – i. e. , it can be termed as a disease gripping the mind of a person (The World Book Encyclopedia 351).

And like other forms of group psychotherapies, that which was used in the film was primarily aimed at “arresting” the patients’ progressive denigration towards complete mental meltdown. In order to do this, the patients were made to articulate their feelings, confront misgivings of peers, develop group cohesiveness by resolving conflicts and emphasize the limits of norms to help maintain smooth inter-personal interaction (Flores 12-13). On the other hand, there are identifiable risks which are involved in the employment of “disease”- oriented group psychotherapy to patients who are not really as mentally challenged as they first meet the eye.

Chief to these lies in the unfortunate manner in which this psychotherapeutic approach limits rather than promotes recovery of patients from their previous problematic state. Such drawback is what Mr. McMurphy’s personality, in quintessence, represented in the movie. According to Henry Kariel, author of the book The Desperate Politics of Postmodernism, the movie One Flew over the Cuckoos’ Nest provides a telling picture of the grim consequences of depriving persons the right to live under normal circumstances by placing them in, say, an environment fit for psychotics (Kariel 15).

Far more critical, the film best captured the ill-ramifications of ambiguously defining the contours which separates outright psychosis and acceptable normalcy. Instead of endeavoring to usher patients back on track, there are times when group psychotherapy restricts itself at instilling the supreme importance of adherence to structures – at the expense of personal determination – rather than empowerment in any given circumstances. This is exactly what happened to Mr. McMurphy.

Instead of determining whether or not he was suffering from mental illness, the group therapy sessions did little to circumscribe the problem as “to force (his) internal soul to fit someone else’s idea of ideal external environment” (Kariel xi). Conclusion By way of conclusion, it is therefore not without good reasons to suppose that group psychotherapy is a two-thronged approach to addressing complex human issues. On the one side of the spectrum, group psychotherapy can lead patients towards a liberating articulation of their problematic situations.

On the other side of the spectrum, it could likewise pose serious threats to a person’s appreciation of his or her fundamental capacity to determine the course of his or her life. In ways more than one, the film One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest perfectly captured these two-thronged consequences. In the final analysis, the tragic tone which marked the end of the movie should remind us, more than anything else, of the necessity of properly handling mentally-challenged persons, by seeking to integrate the value of obeying external structures with the importance of using relative personal freedom.

References Dirks, T. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). 15 December 2008 <http://www. filmsite. org/wiza. html> Flores, P. Group Psychotherapy with Addicted Populations: An Integration of Twelve-step and Psychodynamic Theory. Binghamton, New York: Haworth Press, 1996. Hanjalic, A. Content-Based Analysis of Digital Video. Boston: Springer, 2004. The World Book Encyclopedia. “Mental Illness”. Chicago: World Book International, Inc. , 1995. Kariel, H. The Desperate Politics of Postmodernism. Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 1989.

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