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Ruining Your Favorite Movies: Good Will Hunting

Hello friends! I hope you are taking time to rest these upcoming weeks this winter. Here in Oklahoma, we are expecting an "artic blast" of cold air that quite frankly, can take a hike as far as I'm concerned. If it could be Spring and Summer year round, I would be a happy girl.


Anyways, you're not here to talk about the weather, are you? You're here to see what movie I "ruin" with the therapist perspective. Next up, 'Good Will Hunting' with Matt Damon and Robin Williams. I can honestly say that the first time I saw this movie was when my husband said, "Let's watch this. You've never seen it." And I think I remember rolling my eyes and agreeing reluctantly. But, wow! Talk about a movie with both heart and tons of interesting themes for us to pick apart in this blog post.



For the sake of time, we'll stick with three themes I noticed, and I'll give a very brief synopsis. In 'Good Will Hunting,' we follow the story of Will Hunting, a young mathematical genius, who has just been paroled and is working as a janitor at MIT. A professor there, Dr. Lambeau, poses a difficult equation on the board outside his classroom for his students to solve. Will solves it, but is chased off by Lambeau who thinks he is vandalizing the board. Will gets into a gang fight, and in order to avoid further jail time, agrees to study mathematics with Lambeau and attend psychotherapy sessions. He proceeds to mock every therapist that Lambeau throws his way. Thus enters Dr. Sean Maguire, played by Robin Williams. Will attempts to do what he has always done, push Sean away, and Sean eventually gradually gets him to open up slowly. There's a love story sprinkled in there, and a tale of growing up. It's worth the watch, seriously.


Theme #1: Your therapist is human, with real emotions and real reactions to the things you say. If you've ever wondered what your therapist really thinks of you, you're not alone. Will, in his first real appointment with Sean, does everything he can to push him away. He even insults the painting Sean has completed, saying, "It's a real piece of shit." Sean takes most of this in stride, but when Will goes too far, insinuating that Sean "married the wrong woman," and says, "She leave you? Was she bangin' somebody else?" Now, this is where it gets interesting, Sean loses his temper, grabs Will by the throat and says, "If you ever disrespect my wife like that again, I will end you." Safe to say, that probably wouldn't happen, or shouldn't happen, in today's therapy room. But here's the thing, your therapist does have thoughts and feelings and they do feel things in reaction to what you say. We aren't perfect, and while I would hope your therapist never reacts this way to something you say, it is good to recognize that we are all acting out our own 'stuff' within the therapeutic relationship. In Will's case, he is acting out his feelings of anger towards men/father figures. In Sean's case, he is seeing the boy from Southie that he could have become, and he is being asked to confront his own grief and loss through this relationship. Therapy is a two-way street. Any therapist who tells you they are able to remain completely objective all the time is lying to you. (Sorry if I just told some therapists' dirty little secrets by sharing that!)


Theme #2: You don't have to like your therapist all the time to see results. However, you do have to show up and have some level of vulnerability. You don't have to share every horrible thought, Doesn't have to be all at once, but eventually, if you want things to work, you have to let someone in. Here's the thing though: you can try different therapists, but soon, you will realize that you don't have to like your therapist all the time to get better. You just need a therapist who is willing to call you out on your shit and wade with you through the tough stuff. Sean calls out Will in a later scene after the throat grab and basically says to him, "You're a scared little boy, and I don't want to quote books with you, or hypnotize you or battle with you (which is what all the other therapists did in the beginning of the movie). I just want to get to know you, the real you. I'm all in then." Sean's monologue in this scene is a perfect example of what the other therapists missed: the opportunity to 'level' with your client. Sean tells Will like it is, and then posits a challenge for him. He eloquently says, "Shit or get off the pot. Be here with me, vulnerable and real, or don't bother." I bet Will didn't like him in that moment too much. I bet you've had moments where you didn't like your therapist too much, but hey, that's the price of a real relationship. Sometimes you don't like someone and you can still see the value in your time spent with them. In fact, I would argue that's when therapy gets real, that's when you get better, that's when you make moves: when you and your therapist encounter truth together.


Theme #3: It's not your fault. What happened to you isn't your fault. Arguably the most poignant moment of the movie is when Sean is looking over Will's file, detailing all the abuse he suffered at the hands of a past foster father. Sean shares some of his own past history of abuse with Will, because Will asks the question, "Have you experienced that?" Sean, in a moment of self-disclosure, tells the truth about his story of abuse at the hands of his father. Then he repeats to Will over and over again, "It's not your fault." Will attempts to brush this aside, play it off; at one point, he even pushes Sean and says, "Don't fuck with me, not you." Then the cathartic release of tears cascade down his face. They embrace. How many of us have longed for someone, anyone, to tell us that bad things that happened to us in childhood (abandonment, neglect, abuse, divorce, seeing violence, etc.) are not and were not our fault? Well, I'm here to tell you that right now: "It's not your fault. Fuck them." Just like Sean and Will. Your value and worth did not diminish because someone else hurt you, beat you, violated your boundaries, or ignored you. It's not your fault, and you deserve(d) better. Going to therapy is part of "getting better" now. You can't change what happened to you, but you can change the message those events keep echoing in your heart and soul. Transforming "It's my fault" and "I'm not enough" and "I'm too much" to "It's not my fault; I was little; I did the best I could; I'm enough; I deserve good things; I am just right for the right people and relationships."


So... short story long, like my dad always says, go watch 'Good Will Hunting' with renewed eyes and see if you notice any other themes popping up for you. If you need help finding a therapist or want to talk further, send me an email at info@giftofgritcounseling.com. I'd love to connect!

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