Mental Health and Pop Culture
Game Of Thrones Part 3 of 5
Robb Stark is the oldest legitimate son to Ned and Catelyn Stark. His character shares many of the same attributes of his father, especially the primacy of truth and honor. When Ned is taken to the capital to be the Hand of the King, Robb stays at Winterfell to act as Lord of Winterfell in his stead. Robb comes across as fairly level-headed, though with some tendency toward depressive thoughts.
Things, however, begin to unravel psychologically for Robb, however, following the trumped-up charges and execution of his father at the hand of newly minted king and sociopath, Joffrey. Initially, Robb becomes depressed, and attempts to overcome his depression by seeking revenge on Joffrey. As a result, Robb assembles an army with the intent of marching to the capital and taking down Joffrey and Lannister forces. At this point, had Robb sought-out therapy, he would likely have gone on to live a full and complete life. However, Robb’s army effectively crown him “King of the North,” and instead of merely seeking revenge, his depression devolves into delusions of grandeur.
Robb comes to believe himself to be invincible. He has a large army of supporters who continually are victorious in the battle field. Additionally, legend springs up about Robb that he rides into battle on his direwolf, who itself, is thought to be vicious and indestructible. While Robb surely knows, deep down, that the legends are not true, and he may realize that no one is truly invincible, he appears to have been caught up in his own cult of personality, built by his supporters (not least of whom is his mother). His delusions of grandeur appear justified after he and his army legitimately win battle after battle. Like any good leader, he listens to advice, though like any failed leader, he does not always take it - believing that his strategies are better than anyone else’s; after all, he has been unstoppable, against even greater armies.
As mentioned before, Robb would benefit from grief counseling for the death of his father. Robb appears to be suffering from what is known as “complicated grief,” which is, as the name suggests, more than just simple grief; it is prolonged and persistent, and it takes over the life of the person suffering from it so that he or she cannot function normally in society. People suffering from complicated grief typically go in one of two extreme directions: they become completely insular, or the become angry and allow their anger to drive them to some sort of a results-oriented action. Robb apparently, tends toward the action-oriented side to complicated grief. Grief counseling can come in the form of different approaches, notably CBT, narrative therapy, and person-centered therapy, among others. With any of approach, there are typically five basic stages that most people need to go through: Impact, Chaos, Adapting, Equilibrium, and Transformation.
Given what I can glean from Robb’s personality, I would probably utilize person-centered therapy to work through his grief. Person-centered therapy is based on the idea that individual personal experience guides each and every one of us; it involves three core conditions: a congruence/transparency between the client and the therapist, unconditional positive regard from the therapist, and empathy. I believe that if Robb’s grief was properly worked through, he would not have developed delusions of grandeur, at least not to the extent that he did.
To treat Robb’s delusions of grandeur, I would likely rely on a CBT-based approach. Using techniques including thought-linkage and inference-chaining, I would hope to show Robb a different perspective. I would also utilize a Dysfunctional Thought Record and role-play. As Robb has spiritual inclinations, I would include some spiritually integrated therapy with him as well; guiding him to understand or see the difference between the immortal and the mortal - the infallible and the fallible.
Even if Robb had developed delusions of grandeur, I believe that they would have been manageable had he taken a step-back, with the help of therapy, and realized how and where his personality changed, to stave off acting on his grandiose delusions. I think that with a little re- framing, Robb could well have succeeded on the battlefield, as well as his roles as Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North.