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Diagnosis Paper

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Submitted By toniwhite
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Fight Club the movie, 1999, is based upon the book with the same title. It is a unique look into the mind of an individual, the narrator, played by Edward Norton, who throughout the movie is not named. He is referred to as Jack, but it is not clear if that is really his name. The other main character in the movie, Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt, is the opposite of the Narrator/Jack, in personality, demeanor, charm, and attraction. We find out that they are two personalities, within the same body.
I had never seen Fight Club before, assuming it was just another movie about an underground fight club. Despite being such a huge fan of both Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, I avoided the movie. I was way off the mark! Per the advice of his doctor, the narrator/Jack goes to a cancer support group for men with testicular cancer, where he meets Bob. Bob, aka Robert Pulson, once a body builder, but since developing cancer, has become bankrupt, divorced, and now has female looking breast; double D’s by the size of them. He and Jack find comfort with each other, and Jack cuddles into Bob’s breast. Jack considers the therapy sessions as vacation. Jack also finds relief of his insomnia; or so we think. While at one of these sessions, Jack meets Marla Singer, who is like him, for she too attends various group therapies for comfort and they agree to alternate between sessions as neither of them are cancer victims. When asked why she does it, she says “when people think you are dying, they really listen to you”. (Fight Club, 1999) That statement speaks volumes for both of their characters and helps to explain why Tyler (Jack’s other personality) was so verbose. Jack needs to be heard. Someone needs to pay attention to him. He is socially isolated. We are introduced to Tyler when Jack is on a flight returning home. Tyler tells Jack that he makes and sells soap for a living. Further, Tyler shares that he also can make explosives since the ingredients for soap making is similar. Tyler has several other jobs as well. He is a waiter¸ and works at a movie theatre where he replaces the film on the reel. Once they land, Jack goes to his condo, to find that it has exploded, and seems to be genuinely upset. (You would think at this point I would have realized they were one in the same, but no, I had not figured it out yet.) Jack calls Tyler, and after having a drink, and a fist fight outside the bar, Jack asks Tyler if he could crash at his place. The fist fight is witnessed by several other men, and they in turn want to join in. The fight moves from outside the bar to the basement of the bar, and fight club begins. (There is a great scene where Jack and Taylor really go at it and fight each other. It is as if one personality is trying to destroy the other permanently.)
They have rules for the fight club with rule number one and two being to not discuss or talk about Fight Club. They discuss who they would want to fight if they could pick anyone, and Tyler says his dad, while Jack states he never really knew his dad, as he left when he was six. This is a great example of how the characteristics can differ among the personalities. DSM-IV indicates that sub personalities can differ in age, sex, race, and have varying abilities like the languages they speak, or their family history. (Morrison, 2006) As the movie progresses, Jack becomes more and more like Tyler. He at one point tells Marla, “sooner or later, we all become what Tyler wants us to be”. (Fight Club, 1999) This also is indicative of the diagnosis of DID wherein Jack and Tyler have the relationship of being one-way amnesic, i.e., Jack does not know about Tyler, but Tyler knows about Jack. One of my favorite conversations between Tyler speaking to Jack says it best: “All the ways you wish you could be, that’s me. I look like you wanna look, I f--- like you wanna f---, I am smart, capable, and most importantly, I am free in all the ways that you are not. (Fight Club, 1999)
Jack and Tyler begin opening up fight clubs all over the country, and become very anti- establishment in nature. Fight Club evolves and becomes “Project Mayhem”. When one of their members (Bob) is killed during one of the attack missions, Tyler disappears. Jack goes searching for Tyler and is greeted by others as Tyler. Everyone thinks he is Tyler; everyone except himself. He confronts Marla, and she knows him as Tyler as well. It is then that he realizes Tyler is him, and that Tyler becomes him while he is sleeping. There is a cat and mouse type finale, where they confront each other and Jack shoots himself in the mouth, killing Tyler. Marla is brought to Jack by members of Project Mayhem, and together they watch all the buildings explode that Tyler had targeted.
Jack/Tyler is suffering from Dissociative Disorder; specifically, Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) 300.14. The criteria for DID is: “… having two distinct identities or personality states. Each of these has its own, relatively lasting pattern or sensing, thinking about and relating to self and the environment.” (DSM-IV, Morrison, 2006) Further, there are several scenes from the movie (one mentioned above regarding their fight) that makes it clear that while the identities are separate, Tyler is very aware of Jack even though initially, Jack is not aware of Tyler. For example, they are in a car and Tyler is driving with two passengers in the back. Tyler and Jack engage in an argument and upon crashing the car, Tyler state, “Wow! That was a near life experience”. (Fight Club, 1999) This indicates that Tyler wants to live, but in his mind, could only do so if Jack was dead. Also, another conversation between them indicating Tyler is fully aware of the other identity; “People do it every day, they talk to themselves…they see themselves as they’d like to be, they don’t have the courage you have to just run with it”. (Fight Club, 1999)
Treatment for DID is a slow process. Patients with DID do not usually recover without treatment unlike Dissociative Amnesia and Dissociative Fugue. To help Jack regain those memories that were lost would include hypnosis or video so as to introduce Tyler to Jack. As a therapist, helping the client reorganize the disorder is another goal of therapy for DID patients. Other treatment methods are available to include psychodynamic therapy and drug therapy. With psychodynamic therapy, Jack would be taught to search his unconscious and bring forgotten memories and experiences into consciousness. If drug therapy is used, Jack would be intravenously injected with a “truth serum” to calm help him and allow him to be free from fear so as to regain lost memories. The final goal would be to merge Tyler with Jack as a single identity and to maintain some type of therapy with Jack once the fusion took place; possibly group therapy.
The message received from the movie for me personally was that we all have various personalities or identities within us, it is just a matter of how much control we allow them to have. Women especially can identify with this for we play a variety of roles through-out our lives; daughter, wife, mother, lover, friend, employee, and more. Also, the message speaks to that inner conscious, that part of my brain that I argue with, that part that seeks to do that which is right and good. But yet that other part of me, that part that wants to take risk, try hard things, do that which is out of character; be that person that goes against who my mother taught me to be. I cower under the thought of my mother’s look, her stare, and shut my ID down every time, unless my EGO agrees. Jack didn’t do that until it was too late. The message says that we all may need help at one point or another in our lives and we should not let things get out of control so that we are beyond redemption. REFERENCES
Corey, Gerald, Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy, Brooks/Cole (Cengage Learning) California, 2009
Gorenstein, Ethan E, and Comer, Ronald J, Case Studies in Abnormal Psychology, Worth Publishers, New York, 2002
Morrison, James, DSM-IV Made Easy, The Clinician’s Guide to Diagnosis, Guilford Press, New York, 2006
Palahniuk, Chuck, Fight Club, 20th Century Fox, California, 1996/1999

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