The Snake Pit Essay

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The Snake Pit Ronee A. LaFrance November 17, 2009 In 1948 people's understanding of mental illness hovered at the level of unfathomable. The Snake Pit bravely suggested that healthy, respectable people could suffer severe depression and nervous breakdowns, and that emotional and mental illness were treatable, and even curable. The film's representation of Virginia Cunningham and her troubles may seem elementary by today's standards, and the worries about her ability to remain a good wife may feel archaically sexist. A grim portrait of the mental hospital and its residents remain strong and startling, Mental illness is usually defined based on an individual's theoretical approach. The psychodynamic theory maintains that abnormal behavior patterns are symptomatic of some underlying mental disorder or illness. In the psychodynamic hypothesis, the development of mental disorders involves sexual and/or aggressive fears that have been repressed because of intra-psychic conflict. Because these conflicts are too painful or terrifying to endure, they are kept from consciousness through various defense mechanisms. This happens because the ego displaces the true source of this suppressed danger by substituting an external threat that can easily be detected. According to Freud, the originally repressed fears may go back far into childhood. This notion is echoed by Glick and Spitz (1992) Common Approaches to Psychotherapy (p. 47, 48) when they state "a person's feelings and behavior are influenced by past experience as well as present circumstances. A large part of mental life exists outside awareness but nonetheless continually influences and motivates current experience." Virginia Stuart Cunningham, a twenty-four-year-old patient at Juniper Hill State Hospital, suffers from extreme anxiety, confusion and delusion. Virginia insists she has no husband and fails to
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