The fourth in a series on the Psychology of Game of Thrones brings us to the character of Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen). Remember to read the disclaimer on this site and also remember that this series focusses on the current television series (Season 4) and as a result contains SPOILERS! With that out of the way, we can now move on. WIth GoT being the most pirated series ever, support the artists when you can and buy the DVDs..or don’t, I’m not your mother..
Theon Greyjoy is self important, brash and likeable to a degree. He is friendly with the Stark family, of whom he is a ward, however his relationship could be better with Jon Snow. Taking advantage of vulnerability Theon even tried to take his adoptive families Keep at Winterfell for his family, however this did not hold for long.
It is season 4 now and ‘Reek’ is the name that Theon now goes by, he has been imprisoned by the brutal Ramsay Snow (son of Roose Bolton – a Lannister associate) and tortured extensively. As far as we can tell, Reek no longer knows, or identifies with the name Theon, and seems to have lost all hope of escape or seeking vengeance for what has happened to him and the family that he lived with (given the chance he didn’t kill Ramsay on finding out about the Red Wedding). So why does he stay, why has he given up? Why does a proud man, who has weapons training just sit and do nothing when he is poked and prodded now?
One of the main reasons, that I can see, is that he has been severely beaten and traumatised to the extent that the idea of escape is no longer an option. He has become depersonalised and is suffering from apparent derealisation, and no longer sees reality as it is. If he is weighing up in his head, the pay-off of getting away is not greater than the pain that he will endure if he is caught, and therefore his desire to run is simply not worth it.
Does Theon deserve what he got from Ramsay Snow? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
This is the core of what is the psychological phenomena called Stockholm Syndrome, although that ‘diagnosis’ is a little erroneous, it has suggested that people start to empathise with their captors, however this is not usually the case, people tend to weigh their experience as mentioned above, so going along is better than fighting against the cause, which could lead to personal harm (which in the eyes of the individual being held or tortured, is more important and immediate than societal harms). For an example of this type of trauma see the story of Patty Hearst, who was taken hostage and did the bidding of the SLA, including a bank robbery. The concept also helps to explain why some people stay with abusive and violent partners, as they see that the alternative of leaving would be more dangerous that the
But why Theon?
Good question…me…So why did Theon crack? Why didn’t he do what a lot of other people in TV and film do when the going gets tough, spit in the eye of his attacker, not say a word, and eventually escape? This comes down to a complex interplay of variables during the life of an individual. For one, Theon, let’s assume, never had any specific training in terms of what to do if imprisoned, he is also isolated from both his adoptive and biological family at this time of the show, meaning a limited support network, and a limited chance of a supported escape.
Further from what we know, after the rebellion of Theon’s father, Balon was crushed, Theon was taken prisoner by the Starks. As a result, we could say that Theon is already a hostage for most of his life, and as a result, has a poor attachment to his family. Being held hostage and made ward, I can’t imagine would have done anything for his confidence and especially his self identity, so the psychological construct of others always having power over him is a strong one for Theon. In the show, Theon really has no place in the world, and that which is offered by Ramsay Snow, is somewhat acceptable to Theon’s own personal idea of him being subservient to others.
Very long term therapy would be required for Theon to even start to breach these concepts of identity, especially considering his current behaviour. Family therapy with his father Balon, would be particularly helpful to reinstate his concepts of familial identity and trust, however given that Theon/Reek can no longer provide an heir (how does he ever expect to get laid…), Balon may find it difficult to engage..
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