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Psychoanalysis of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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Citizen 08141996

on 17 October 2013

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Transcript of Psychoanalysis of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

At First Glance
Fantasies include such scenarios:
US Navy Pilot
High-prestige medical surgeon
Courtroom drama
Royal Air Force pilot
Facing a firing squad
Walter Mitty appears to be mentally unstable
Several incidents where he loses himself in a separate world
Unable to express emotions, will only reflect to self, has difficulty with social interaction
Poor memory
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be described as an anxiety disorder that is characterized by reliving a psychological traumatic situation through nightmares and flashbacks, even when there is no present harm to the individual.
Walter Mitty indeed suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and demonstrates that he undergoes cognitive dissonance to empower himself in an effort to curb the effects of PTSD

Background Info
The Story
The Question
Is Walter Mitty mentally stable or unstable?
Story published in 1939
Beginning of WWII
Twenty-one years after WWI
Walter Mitty is an American citizen, lives in Waterbury, Connecticut

During Walter's weekly trip to the town with his wife he has multiple "daydreams"
It is difficult for Walter to tell reality from fantasy
The Dividing Factor: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Walter Mitty is mentally stable, but suffers from PTSD
Believe that because of his PTSD, Walter Mitty is in a state of dissonance, or disequilibrium
To ratify this, he subconsciously alters his cognition (through fantasies) to reduce the dissonant elements of PTSD
What is it?
Role of Cognitive Dissonance
Altering of existing cognition (thought process)
Find cohesion between reality and expectations
Goal is to alter the dissonance to fit one's ideals
Application to Walter Mitty
Medical Diagnoses / Psychoanalysis
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
1. Driving a car > Flying a hydroplane
2. Putting on gloves > Medical surgeon
3. Struggle to remember > "Perhaps this will refresh your memory ..."
4. Newspaper article > RAF pilot on bombing run
5. Waiting against a wall > Firing squad
Usually brought upon through triggers
Reliving or having nightmares about a specific traumatizing event
Trouble remembering specific details of the initial event
Difficulty concentrating
Alienating themselves from loved ones
Difficulty communicating thoughts and emotions after relapse
Common theme:
So what?
Start of WWII
Critical Note:
Cognitive Dissonance
What does it look like?
"'You're tensed up again," said Mrs. Mitty. "It's one of your days. I wish you'd let Dr. Renshaw look you over.'" (Thurber 2).
Evidence that Walter Mitty is regularly visiting a a doctor
Cognitive Dissonance:
In an attempt to resist PTSD, Walter Mitty has fantasies that empower instead of weaken him
At the time this story was written, there was little to no medical research into PTSD. Perhaps, this was written to give insight onto an unknown psychological phenomena
Full transcript