A Beautiful Mind:
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Between the Unknown and the Real
Signs from John Nash:
The Nobel Laureate in Mathematics, John Nash, underwent a significant confusion in his mind – inspire of his innovative brilliance in numbers. Based on a book by Sylvia Nasar entitled “A Beautiful Mind”, John Nash’s bout with the unknown and the real was narrated. In a film that carried the same title of the book, John Nash’s debacle was dramatized.
It has been analyzed and debated that the film dramatization of the emotional and psychological episodes of John Nash carried some inaccuracies. Beginning from Nash being so-called “contracted” by the US Department of Defense to interpret a complex encryption of a communication intercepted from enemy countries – Nash’s seeming wariness began. But he did what he was told to do and the brilliance of the result of his work impressed the government. He then gets another assignment to search for patterns in magazines and newspapers that will connote a hidden message about any Soviet Plot. He was instructed to write a report and carefully and confidentially forward the report in a special mailbox.
Thus began the erratic behavior of John Nash. He expresses unfounded fears of someone following him; looking at him; watching him. And worst, wanting to kill him, because the film illustrated that Nash was caught in a gunfire amongst the Russians.
What John Nash was Suffering from:
The story of John Nash pinpointed paranoid schizophrenia as the episodes he was undergoing, heightened especially after the assignment from the Department of Defense. He was delusional. It was pointed out that the real occurrences in John Nash episodes are auditory delusions. The film elaborated the delusion further to be visual.
Because of the intensity of what he is hearing and feeling and seeing about “attempts on his life”, his wife interred Nash in a psychiatric facility. The more he believed that the Soviets were after him. More so, as the film eventually unfolded, the Department of Defense assignment was a hallucination.
It must be noted that the academic and intellectual burden on John Nash has been enormous. He is brilliantly gifted that he was awarded the Carnegie Prize for mathematics when he enrolled for graduate studies in Princeton University. He was so consumed and confounded from the very onset to create a most original, compelling idea for his thesis. Eventually, he successful developed governing dynamics as a theory in mathematical economics. What he went thru to achieve the brilliance of his paper was encompassing. After Princeton, John Nash embarked on a greater responsibility when he accepted a teaching stint in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the subject of Calculus.
The rigors of his responsibilities that John Nash really took to profound depth of his discipline, belief and being triggered an assumed intrusion into his life. There are indeed so many demands and expectations from him. He knows that so many people look up to him and awaits nothing but the best from him. And John Nash kept to himself a possible angst that he can or might make a mistake sometime and that it might not be understood or given an allowance.
After discharge, Nash still has episodes of “seeing things, seeing Russians, seeing people that watch him”. He has even endangered the life of his wife and son because of his hallucinations. His wife however stood by him and saw him thru the episodes. John Nash eventually carried on with his life, with the help of his forbearing wife, and he helped himself to free himself from “his demons”.
The Structure of the Mind According to Freud
It is the “id” (where the instinctual sexual drives is and the unconscious part); the “ego”, (the conscious part) and the “super-ego” (the conscience) – that compose the three structural parts of the human mind.
Control mechanisms are acquired and internalized by human being, as firstly imposed by parents, and they settle in the “super-ego”. The “ego” draws out from the interaction of the “id” and the “super-ego” the definition of that created self in the consciousness. The “ego” therefore reconciles the conflict between the “id” and the “super-ego.
Freud was taking this principle literally but actually it is a theoretical model – a frame of reference as to what transpires between childhood and adulthood, versus being an observable object per se. Inspired by Plato’s principles on the nature of mental health – Freud believed that the harmonious relationship of the three elements is very important and significant.
“If the external world offers no scope for the satisfaction of the id’s pleasure drives, or, more commonly, if the satisfaction of some or all of these drives would indeed transgress the moral sanctions laid down by the super-ego, then an inner conflict occurs in the mind between its constituent parts or elements – failure to resolve this can lead to later neurosis. A key concept introduced here by Freud is that the mind possesses a number of ‘defence mechanisms’ to attempt to prevent conflicts from becoming too acute, such as repression (pushing conflicts back into the unconscious), sublimation (channelling the sexual drives into the achievement socially acceptable goals, in art, science, poetry, etc.), fixation (the failure to progress beyond one of the developmental stages), and regression (a return to the behaviour characteristic of one of the stages).” (Thornton, 2006)
What resides in the unconscious must be unearthed and helped. Freud pointed out that the explanation to the myriad of man’s confusing, conflicting, confounding behavior are hidden mental processes. Unexplainable behaviors must be researched as to the cause and be approached with empathy.
The Post Freudian Evaluation of John Nash
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV established delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior, lack of emotion, lack of motivation, continuous signs of disturbance of at least 6 months, and social and/or occupational dysfunction or poor functioning – to be the criteria that embodies schizophrenia.
In brain studies, it revealed: “Brain biochemistry: The dopamine hypothesis suggests that schizophrenia results partly from excess levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain [Seidman, 1983; see PIP p.827] or that neurons in the brains of schizophrenics are oversensitive to dopamine. Brain structure: Andreasen et al. [1990; see PIP p.827] showed that the brain ventricles, especially the third one, are often enlarged in schizophrenics. Cannon et al. [1994; see PIP p.827] found enlarged ventricles in some children whose mothers were schizophrenics, indicating cause rather than effect.” (Eyesnck, 2004)
Schizophrenia was hypothetically defined by Freud as “caused by regression to a state of ‘primary narcissism’ [preoccupation with self], characteristic of the oral stage of development.” (Eyesnck, 2004). Thus, a cessation of connection with reality transpires. This postulation raises doubts because John Nash did not act like a child. He was not in want of “attention” or “praise”.
Neither can the labeling theory about abused childhood can come to fore as a point of analysis in the incidence in the life of John Nash. The labeling theory forwards that the schizophrenic transports to an inner world. John Nash did not retreat to “another world”.
“Schizophrenics exhibit a wide range of symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, disorganised speech and catatonic behaviour. Twin and adoption studies indicate that genetic factors are important in the development of schizophrenia. There may be biochemical abnormalities involving excessive levels of dopamine or an over-sensitivity to dopamine. Psychodynamic and behavioural models have contributed very little to our understanding of the causes of schizophrenia. Other factors, such as life events and expressed emotion within the family may play a part in the development of schizophrenia, as may the stressful environments faced by many members of the lowest social classes.” (Eyesnck, 2004)
Therefore, social and environmental factors should be considered – especially the most recurrent, the most pressing, the most present, the most imminent. There are stresses that demands from society, from a profession, or from the environment that put a toll on a human being. John Nash as a true intellectual does not complain much or say much. He was too engrossed with his commitments and responsibilities and his insouciant pursuit of excellence that “drained” him – knowingly or unknowingly. That is why the real life clarification that the cinematic dramatization of “A Beautiful Mind” sought is that the intervention of drugs can be avoided because all John Nash had was the commitment of his wife to stand by him and “his abnormalities”. There was not even the need for psychoanalysis as Freud expounded and espoused in dwelling on the “adventures of the unconscious mind”. Mrs. Alicia Nash just kept on loving Mr. John Nash.
“A Beautiful Mind”. The Movie. Released 4 January 2002
Universal Pictures. Ron Howard, Director
“Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)”. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2006
Eysenck, Michael W. “Psychology: An International Perspective”. 29 April 2004
Schizophrenia. Approaches to Abnormality. Chapter 22. Psychology Press