Attachment Theory Applied to "Good Will Hunting"
Will Hunting has a classic attachment disorder. Abused as a child, he has trouble developing meaningful and appropriate relationships with adults and women. His only friends are among a group of young men his own age who cannot begin to compete with his intelligence. He has no empathy for people outside his close group of friends. He cannot manage his basic emotions, such as anger. If he has a disagreement with someone or if he dislikes them, he will assault them either verbally or physically. Will 's anger is one of many defenses that mask his inner feelings and guard his inner self. Will 's subconscious is determined that no one will be able penetrate these defenses and hurt him again.
Will does not integrate his intelligence and his interest in reading with relationships, either socially or in the work place. The reading gives him a sense of mastery and a way to distance himself from people. He uses intellectual tasks to self-soothe. (Had Will been emotionally secure he would have shared his intellectual interests with people who could have appreciated them. When Sean asks Will to name the people with whom he has strong relationships other than Chuckie, Will names Shakespeare, Nietzsche and several other dead intellectual giants. These "friends" could not rise from the grave and hurt him.)
Will does have strengths. His intelligence is a strength, and his choice of Chuckie Sullivan as his best friend is a strength. Chuckie is nurturing, loving, and respectful of Will 's promise. Will has the good instinct to be attracted to Skylar, portrayed as a loving and genuine person. But she is smart and requires an empathic and loving relatio...
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...love offered by Skylar and to take a chance on the relationship by venturing out of the Boston area to live with her in California.
The treatment process outlined in the movie stretches the limits of traditional therapy in which the therapist strictly recognizes a boundary between the therapist 's life and that of the patient. The untraditional nature of the work is justified by Will 's stony resistance and clever defensiveness. Sean bent the rules to reach Will and without these modifications the treatment would not have been successful. Examples of these unusual interactions include Sean 's confrontational approach and his physical touching/bullying of Will, the meeting at the lake, ending sessions early and Sean 's sharing of his own past experience. In working with adolescents and resistant clients, these variations from standard practices are often necessary.
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