Ordinary People Psychological Analysis

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has been almost three decades since the release of Ordinary people and it still remains one of the most well-written movies not only from an entertaining but also from a psychological perspective. Ordinary People is a 1980 American drama film that marked the directorial debut of actor Robert Redford. The movie won several Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay), Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Timothy Hutton). The film has also attracted much critical acclaim. Ordinary People is the story of an upper middle-class family living in Illinois dealing with the loss of their oldest son, Buck. The movie is adapted from the novel of the same name by Judith Guest. It realistically depicts family dynamics, posttraumatic…show more content…
He shows signs of survivor's guilt along with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Survivor’s guilt (survivor syndrome) is a mental condition that occurs when a person believes they have done something wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not. The experience and manifestation of survivor's guilt will depend on an individual's psychological profile. When the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV) was published, survivor’s guilt was removed as a recognized specific diagnosis and redefined as a significant symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder. Conrad shows signs of PTSD, as listed in DSM V, like direct exposure to the traumatic event, persistent nightmares and flashbacks of the event, loss of appetite, inability to concentrate in class, disinterest in regular activities, and a feeling of isolation (American Psychiatric Association,…show more content…
He also begins to date a girl he met at band practice (Elizabeth McGovern), who is upbeat yet understanding and helps bring Conrad out of his shell. As the movie develops we learn that Conrad had made a close friend, Karen, when he was in the hospital. Over the course of the movie, he meets her for a coffee and together they decide to have a great Christmas. In the climax of the movie Conrad learns that Karen has committed suicide. This news breaks him down emotionally. He has suicidal urges all over again, but this time he fights them and frantically makes an emergency appointment with Dr. Berger. He shows up at his office in a broken state in the middle of the night. Conrad sobs uncontrollably and everything comes pouring out: the whole story of the night Buck died and how he blamed himself, his mother’s hatred for him, and how he was never good enough. Dr. Berger listens and holds him like a parent would hold a child and finally, Conrad begins to calm down. Through psychotherapy, Berger has allowed his client to work through his guilt, anger, and grief successfully in a painful and moving emotional battle. Conrad has a significant breakthrough on his path toward recovery.
Thus, Conrad confronts his survivor’s guilt and allows himself to begin to enjoy life. He also forgives his mother. There’s a heart-wrenching scene at the end of the movie where Conrad tries to give his mother a hug. Beth’s face stays cold
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