Mental Health and Pop Culture Series
Game of Thrones Part 1 of 5
First, a disclaimer, a therapist cannot truly diagnose or treat a client unless he or she actually performs a clinical assessment. That said, what follows is my attempt to assess fictional characters from the widely popular HBO television series Game of Thrones, suggest practical interventions for them, and help us to understand why we may identify with the characters in the ways that we do.
When we are introduced to Robert Baratheon, he has been the king of Westeros for about fifteen years, since he took the crown after toppling the “Mad King,” Areys II Targaryen. King Robert is characterized as being jovial and fun-loving, though he is in a loveless marriage with Cersei Lannister, is an alcoholic, and is a womanizer. In fact, it’s not just that he is in a loveless marriage, he actually despises Cersei. He and his wife have three children with whom he cannot relate. Prior to our introduction to him, King Robert was a formidable warrior, but since he became king, he has gotten out of shape and fallen into a downward spiral.
King Robert presents with symptoms of depressive disorder, substance abuse disorder, personality disorder, and relationship distress with spouse. Additionally, King Robert is borderline delusional; he does not fully recognize that he is no longer the warrior that he once was, and while being king requires him to be superior to others, he also believes that he is superior in all ways. It seems to me as though King Robert’s various symptoms really come together as a result of general anxiety disorder that was brought about due to his shift in responsibility, once he became king, as well as resulting from the death of his betrothed love, Lyanna, before they got married.
I feel as though King Robert would be a good candidate for treatment with spiritually integrated treatments coupled with classic cognitive behavior therapy, which, incidentally is one of the areas that I personally practice. While it is unclear just how religious King Robert is, he makes references to religion, and he comes off as being a spiritual person, which I could positively impact his clinical treatment.
In therapy, we never directly ask a client “why” he or she does something, but we do try to find triggers. In the case of King Robert, his character history tells us that he was a warrior who lost what he loved, and this loss spurred him into a depression. His ascension to the throne of Westeros was predicated on the kidnapping and death of his betrothed, so, he lost his love. Once he became king, he had no more physical battles to fight, so he took to drinking to escape from the reality where he lost his favorite past-time. He married Cersei for political reasons, but it is evident that neither cared for the other; in fact, King Robert takes every opportunity to mourn the loss of Lyanna, much to Cersei’s distraction. So, King Robert self-medicates by drinking, hunting, and womanizing.
To treat King Robert, and help him to make positive changes, we would need to work on the individual symptoms. King Robert would likely benefit from a 12-Step style approach to his alcoholism, perhaps concurrently with CBT. I also believe that he would benefit from CBT to overcome his depression. A specific spiritually integrated treatment for King Robert might include gratitude exercises, where he would look at positive aspects of his life, to help him change some of his destructive behaviors.
While King Robert has a number of issue to work through, with the right therapist, and the right balance of traditional and spiritually-infused work, none of them need to be insurmountable.