Both statements are true.
But there is more to it.
From the beginning of Supernatural, and even more as we have been taken further into the Winchester story, I couldnâ€™t help but wonder: How do they survive? How do they manage to keep their sanity? As insane as some of their actions might seem, considering their psychophysical state within clinical standards, they do not show signs of â€“ what a layman might call â€“ insanity.
However â€“ Sam and Dean Winchester experience one traumatic event after another, from early childhood on and even more these days as we follow their footsteps on a weekly basis to a more than ever uncertain future. The black and white days of the first episodes are long over, which adds to the fascination of the show, but also makes their journey a more intricate one. By the end of the fifth season the fate of the whole planet rested on their shoulders.
With what we know about their lives itâ€™s been a sustained source of amazement to me how they didnâ€™t end up with any mental condition leading straight to a rubber room (well, of course, as we have seen in Sam, Interrupted, all they would have to do is tell a shrink the truth â€“ hello, cuckooâ€™s nest). You see, I watch the show with a fanâ€™s enthusiasm, but every once in a while I canâ€™t help it: the academic part of my persona wants to take a look, too, and Iâ€™d like to find out what makes the Winchesters tick, and even more so â€“ what helps them survive?
Are they simply heroes that are able to hold out no matter what? Of course not. They are human to their core. They are insecure, they succeed, they fail big time and carry experiences with them some people might not even tell their therapist. Now, how is it possible that they are still standing, after all weâ€™ve seen them go through?
Clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists speak of traumatic or posttraumatic growth. What does this term denote? Posttraumatic growth happens with the attempt to adapt to highly negative circumstances that might most likely engender high level psychological distress, such as fighting demons, ghosts and other supernatural riff-raff on a daily basis, learning of your father or your brother selling their souls for your benefit, losing your girlfriend, losing your mother, finding out that you are some super-demonâ€™s favourite kid to bring on the Apocalypse (with â€“ supposedly – Heavenly consent, and, furthermore, Luciferâ€™s preferred ride), torturing souls in hell and then finding out you actually jumpstarted the end of the world, because you were not the man your dad was, and that you are intended to be some archangelâ€™s condomâ€¦ And so on.
And that, I believe, is one possible answer.
When you see them in a fight, their moves are instinctive, their bodies react to danger in a way you almost want to call precognitive, as they are fast, precise and imaginative. They are a unique team, formed in endless hours of sparring and weapons training â€“ and experience in the paranormal field. Even after months apart and under the influence of anger, sadness or desperation the routines kick in.
That gave him satisfaction. He needed that â€“ because apart from that his life was one-dimensional and, in terms of emotional attachment, rather lonely.
He never had a relationship with a girl that would have outlasted a few weeks. He hardly ever had any relationship outside of his family, that is: his younger brother and his father. His whole universe focused on the one job he considered the most important, taking care of his baby brother: â€˜I always tried to protect you, keep you safe. â€¦ This was always my responsibility, you know. Itâ€™s like I had one job.â€™
After losing his mother, in the years after Dean found a way to strengthen the most important asset in his young life: the close relationship with his brother. Without that, Iâ€™m sure, Dean would have not survived this long. He would not have endured decades of infernal torture and not mustered up defiance against the angelsâ€™ plan for him. Had he not been able to hold on to the strongest resource in his life, his brother and the love he had for him, Dean probably would have said yes and, for sure, would not have gone along with Samâ€™s reckless plan to overcome Lucifer, and in fact, he almost failed before he reminded himself of not wanting to let Sam down.