Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytic Approach And “The Grinch”

Posted on November 11, 2012 in Specials

By Waleed Tariq:

An Austrian neurologist, Sigmund Freud founded the discipline of Psychoanalysis and is best known for his theories of the unconscious mind, and for creating the clinical method of investigating the mind through dialogue between patient and a psychoanalyst. It is known as ‘free association’.

Based on his experiences, he learned that such a technique required a patient to relax and report everything that comes to mind, no matter how minor or how strange it might seem. Freud believed that the mind is like an iceberg, mostly hidden and that free association would ultimately let a patient retrieve its memories from the unconscious. It is the largest, deeply submerged portion of the iceberg which contains thoughts, feelings and memories of which the person either is unaware or many of which have been reserved or forcibly blocked from realization.

The Grinch’ is a fictional character created by Dr. Seus who first appeared in the 1957 children’s book, ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’. It was later adapted as a television series and then a theatrical film. The Grinch — a green ogre is a devious, anti-holiday character who lives on a mountain, seething while everyone else in the village celebrate Christmas. The happier they are, the angrier he gets, until finally he can’t take it anymore and hatches a plan to steal away their joy.

However, he learns in the end that despite his success in stealing all the Christmas presents and decorations from the Whos, Christmas comes just the same. He then realizes that Christmas is more than just gifts and presents. He comes back on track, returns all the presents and is warmly welcomed into the community of the Whos.

Given the psychoanalytical approach, the Grinch is easy to understand. He’s physically and socially isolated and feels no connection to the citizens of Whoville. He mistreats his dog, he is depressed and people don’t want to be around him. This is why he doesn’t want to be around people and is faced with a lack of love.

He even has a drive towards aggression and destruction. His desire is to destroy the Whos and their love of Christmas; perhaps indicative of an unconscious desire for his own death, but turned against the Whos.

Moreover, the Grinch’s tendency toward pessimism, hostility, and aggressiveness typifies this personality. He can also be seen biting his nails and eating on a toothpick.

Watching them surrounded with happy things like ornaments, gifts and food ticks him off and for this reason he decides to inject some trouble into the festivities and watch the fallout. This is what makes him happy. The thoughts and feelings deep inside his unconscious leave him dark and miserable while everyone else seems to be the joy.

What I learned after watching the movie and analyzing the character is that people with a sensitive sense of social isolation, who are not satisfied from within, appear to have a reduced response to things that make most people happy, and a heightened urge towards human conflict, manipulation and conspiracies. The Grinch is one such person. Do you find similar people around you?