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Freud and the "bad girl" of Hollywood

Actualizado: 6 dic 2022

In 2001, a camcorder with a low-resolution image records a woman in a luxurious store. In her hands she carries about $3,000 worth of items, but she has no intention of checking out. After a brief pause to accommodate in her arms everything she plans to take, she heads for the exit. Seconds later, two security guards and a store employee stop her and she is taking away for questioning.


The scene is not unusual, but the surprise of the employees was great when the identity of the offender was revealed. She happens to be a major Hollywood star in her prime. Winona Ryder had been the muse of grunge and alternative cinema for the best part of the 90s. Her delicate appearance and something androgynous about her made of Winona one of the most popular and desired actresses. Yet despite all of her success, fame, and money, she knew something was wrong. She felt an irrepressible desire to steal. It wasn't out of necessity, it was an impulse too strong to control. She knew full well that what she was doing was forbidden and she could be punished for it, but that didn't stop her. In fact, she was sentenced to two years of probation, 480 hours of community service, a $3,000 fine, and an obligation to attend therapy.


Winona Ryder

Public opinion wondered why. Winona had a problem, she was a kleptomaniac and couldn't control her impulse.


The case of Winona Ryder is a textbook example to apply the psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud. In it, Freud explained that the human psyche is divided into three parts:


1. "It" - It is an impulsive instinct that seeks the immediate satisfaction of the most primal instincts. It is oriented to get pleasure without caring about the consequences, moral norms or laws. It has an animal character that sometimes becomes destructive.


2. "Super-ego" - It is the counterpoint of the "it", its opposite in moral terms. It is what is accepted as good, correct and in good taste in a certain society. It is something cultural and that changes depending on the time or the country. However, it always has a punitive and restrictive character. The "super-ego" threatens to punish and condemns the thoughtless attitude of the "it".


3. "Ego" - This is the conscious side of the individual. One has to constantly struggle to balance the persistent demands of the "it" and the moral (and legal) constraints of the "super-ego." It is an exercise in balance and rationality. It is very reminiscent of the Platonic image of the coachman trying to control two horses that want to go in opposite directions.


When the "ego" of an individual cannot control the "it" (the primary and destructive instincts) it is most likely that this person will end up having problems with justice and the society in which they live. That was the same thing that happened to Winona Ryder, not only she had to serve a sentence but it affected her career as an actress because she did not offer a good example. It is this inability to control the "it" what makes many people end up in jail.


However, when the "super-ego" is extremely dominant in a person's life, there is also a repression that will generate some kind of illness or mental condition (neurosis, self-harm, phobias, mania, tics, paraphilias, etc.)


The "ego" has to be constantly navigating between these two forces and walking a tightrope between the instinctive and the repressive. It is "reality" versus desire.


The truth is that most people manage to find a middle ground that is tolerable, but our personality will always be influenced by this dynamic and how well we handle it.


For psychoanalysis, all mental problems and behavioral deviations can be explained in this way. Therefore, the circumstances in which we grow and form our values ​​are extremely important. Freud thought that it is in childhood when these patterns of behavior are established as a result of our direct relationship with parents and authority figures.

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