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He didnâ€™t yearn for adventure. What Sam was hoping for was an apple pie life, a touch of normality, thereby losing the idea of being a freak which had accompanied him all of his young life. He had a shot at that. He got accepted to one of Americaâ€™s best colleges, Stanford, and would surely bag that interview that was going to decide whether he would enter law school or not.
But after losing Jessica he embarked on the mission to find dad and kill a hell of a lot of demons on the way not with enthusiasm but with a matter-of-fact attitude â€“ it had to be done to execute revenge, that is: to kill the demon responsible for Maryâ€™s and Jessicaâ€™s deaths. He had not expected, by far, where this assignment would lead him to. It was not over when they finally eliminated Yellow Eyes. Suddenly angels were there, and the Winchesters were told of a bigger scheme involving their young lives and for Sam it meant another ghastly ordeal â€“ losing his brother, succumbing to the temptation of drinking blood to strengthen his powers, for revenge at first. It he wasnâ€™t able to strike a deal to free Dean from hell, he would at least kill the demon he thought to be accountable, Lilith. Too late he realized that his actions were the last part the devil needed to rise.
That left another wound that took the whole fifth season to somewhat close â€“ with the redemption he fought for in the end. His mind changed over his experiences. He grew as a person and as a brother and changed his mind. Not revenge was the way, he finally found out, but seeking redemption that would hopefully bring some peace. Even if the price was death. The huge amount of anger that had been cooking up within him did not destroy the young man, as I often feared it would â€“ eventually the love for his brother reached him, even while being taken over by Lucifer, and perhaps the combination of that pent up rage (serving as energy) and the unfathomable love for his family enabled Sam to do what had to be done.
Cheer up! The worst is yet to come! â€“ Philander Chase Johnson
The psychological term of resilience refers to a personâ€™s capacity to cope with stress. That also includes a personâ€™s ability to adapt to adversity, tragedy, disruptive circumstances, trauma and the like, and continue functioning and built resistance to future negative events. It involves physical and psychological strength.
If we look at Sam and Dean Winchester, we can see, immediately, that their lives consisted of one traumatic event following another. Even one of those would be hard to handle, yet alone all of them. It changed the brothers significantly.
There have been voices within the fandom demanding that Sam stopped moping and Dean got back to his wise-cracking attitudes he was known for in the earlier seasons, etc. Now, from a therapistâ€™s point of view, that would have been highly illogical. People donâ€™t just get over events like that unscathed. It might be that Rambo dusted himself off after being tortured in the jungle and just went on, but then again that franchise was never famed for its psychological continuity.
With Supernatural there has always been a guarantee about that. The characters would act according to their state of mind that always involved development through pain and suffering. They evolved as human beings, according to what we know today about the human psyche. Their characters changed â€“ not at its core, but they could not stay the same. They became more than they were in the beginning. More mature, stronger, grown-up in many ways. And perhaps cleansed in a way through fire.
A reason for that is to be found in the factors that made the brothers resilient. Or else they would have ended up dead or worse.
The primary factor related to resilience is considered to lie in relationships that provide care and support, hope, love, reassurance, within or without a personâ€™s family. John Winchester served as that factor in a way for Dean, but Sam didnâ€™t feel that way. He didnâ€™t feel support from dad; only in the end did he understand it better.
The strongest factor in both their lives was the other brother â€“ for Dean it was Sam, for Sam it was Dean (though he also experienced another close relationship with Jessica who believed in him, but who remained in the dark about Samâ€™s past, and it is questionable whether she would have supported him nevertheless. Itâ€™s mere speculation, but we canâ€™t know for sure).
They know each other like no one else does. One exchange of glances is enough to know what the other is thinking.
So, through their childhood and later, being orphaned, their relationship was one to count on, even when things got rough. They managed to get back together.
There were other relationships that added to their resilience: with Bobby, Ellen, Jo, Castiel â€“ the brothers formed strong bonds with them, a vital circumstance to survive.
The American Psychological Association suggests these ways to build resilience:
- Maintaining good relationships with close family members, friends, and others
- Avoid seeing crises or stressful evens as unbearable problems
- Accept circumstances that cannot be changed
- Develop realistic goals and move towards them
- Take decisive actions in adverse situations
- Look for opportunities of self-discovery after struggle with loss
- Develop self-confidence
- Keep a long-term perspective and consider the stressful even in a broader context
- Maintain a hopeful outlook
- Take care of your mind and body (exercise, pay attention to your needs and feelings, relax)
- Learn from the past
- Maintain flexibility in life
The US Army, by the way, has developed a â€˜roadmap for warrior resilienceâ€™ based on those points, to train her soldiers (to be found at e.g. realwarriors.net)
Maybe the Winchesters are keen readers of psychological literature, since â€“ for an important part â€“ they followed the points listed above.
Both have begun to develop more self-confidence, too. In the beginning, Sam appeared to be the one who was more secure about himself while Deanâ€™s self-concept was lacking. He thought low of himself, and in the course of the show that changed significantly. Sam became the one, crushed under a pile of guilt, who felt like â€˜the least of all of youâ€™, and Dean gained the confidence necessary to trust his brother. While at the very end, Sam regained some of the lost self-reliance in order to take on Lucifer.
Both brothers also found protection through their emotions. They were capable of dealing with them instead of shoving them away â€“ and maintaining hope which was the fuel to their actions in the end. Sam made up his ridiculous, yet brilliant plan because he hoped to succeed. Dean got on board, because he hoped they would somehow manage to do it right. Even when all seemed lost, it was hope (and love) that made Dean go to that cemetery to stand by his brother in the end.
In studies conducted after September 11th scientists found that positive emotion, no matter how meagre it might seem, helps resilient people to build psychological resources required for handling disasters successfully. Such emotions moderate the enormousness of hardship to individuals, serving as a protective factor, and also shielding people from too deep depression. (Tugade et al, 2004)
I can't help but feel sorry that the brothers I met in season one have changed so much. I loved those guys. Loved Dean's cheeky smartass horny ways and Sam's sense of morality and protectiveness towards the victims they encountered and the snark, bitch, jerk exchanges between them signifying the love that was front and centre even though a no-no to be expressed.
I still love them though and will continue to no matter what changes them, as I'm sure something will next season.
No matter the monsters, demons or angels, it is always the brothers that hold me hostage to this series and will till the bitter end. (hope it won't really end bitter though).
From late season 3 Iâ€™ve been thinking â€˜How have these guys not just given up yet?â€™ Buttloads of crap have been flung at them, day in day out, since they were kids, crap that lesser men would have gladly succumbed to years ago.
Before I read your professional diagnosis, I'd have always thought Sam and Dean were poster boys for depression. No self esteem, no say in their own futures, one traumatic event after another, not caring if they lived or died. In â€˜The Curious Case of Dean Winchesterâ€™, we learnt just how nonchalant they are towards their own demise when they freely accepted they wonâ€™t make it to old age, â€˜...like either of us is going to live that longâ€™. It wasnâ€™t said to get a laugh; it was a statement of fact, a long accepted truth between them. Anticipating that each day could be your last, that would send even the most well adjusted person into a funk.
The Song Remains the Same shows another hugely poignant moment which highlights just how low the boys consider themselves; when Sam and Dean accepted, and were even excited about, the thought of not being born. â€˜Weâ€™re okay with that, believe meâ€™. Acknowledging that the world would have been a better place had they (especially Sam) never existed?? It would take some man to take strength from that!
The facade of the boys (Dean especially) is Oscar worthy. Which is the true Dean? The confident, cocky guy with the devil may care attitude or the guy in Croatoan where his mask crumbled and we learned he would willingly die with Sam, because he was â€˜tired of it allâ€™. Having to show a consistently confident face to give others strength has got to be crippling.
I guess the main problem with destiny is that it strips you of hope. Best intentions count for nothing. Whatâ€™s the point in having hope when every decision you make is negated by the stars (or the angels/demons). Think of Cold Oak; Sam knew the stakes if he 'won' so he choose not to (knowing it would probably mean his death) because he hoped to escape his destiny. However, despite the fact he died, he was still the last man standing. What was the point in even trying, it didn't change anything.
What about when everything is over, will there be reason for hope then? What will Sam and Deans life be like should they survive THIS mission? Long term relationships, jobs, families, a white picket fence life, is any of this on the cards? I canâ€™t see either guy having kids for fear of THEM being possible future vessels. I especially canâ€™t see Sam having kids for fear of passing on the demon blood. Sam and Dean are too honourable to consider passing on the Winchester family â€˜curseâ€™. (And if Ben, by some scriptwriting brain freeze, turns out to be Deanâ€™s biological son, then I kid you not SPN writers, there is nothing on earth that will protect you from the Tim!)
If every man has a breaking point, the Winchester boys must be some men to have not reached theirs yet. What enabled them to carry on? What prevented them from just saying â€˜Thatâ€™s it, Iâ€™m done, itâ€™s overâ€™ and ending it all. God knows, theyâ€™ve had ample reasons to over the years. Inner fortitude, resilience, growth, definitely but how long before it gets to be too much? What happens when their inner strength isnâ€™t enough, what keeps them going?
Maybe because they faced death so often they knew that life, no matter how hard or insignificant it was, was still LIFE. Possibly the fact that they knew what they would face in the afterlife was a factor but for the most part I think it was the fear of letting each other down. Itâ€™s the reason why Dean didnâ€™t say yes to Michael, and why Sam did say yes to Lucifer.
After Sam fell, all Dean wanted was to lie down and die (a prophet said it, it must be true) but he didnâ€™t and now he is now merely existing from day to day, not truly living. Dean is a walking shadow of the man he could, and should be but he won't give up because that would mean letting his brother down. Ditto for Sam when Dean died.
Like Jasminka said, Sam and Dean are each otherâ€™s weak spots; but they are also each others hope and thatâ€™s more than enough reason for these wayward sons to carry on.
Sablegreen, I was working some time on this one, and I am happy that you liked it (and the others). Thanks so much, dear!
Darun Zahn, yes, indeed, I also always found Rambo quite ridiculous. But with Supernatural we find an utterly different quality, and we have every right to be proud of that show for it...
Mary, how great to hear your Bardicvoice again, it is always highly appreciated! Yes, John did a lot for the boys, and I felt the need to stress that here, too, even though I still want to slap him...
Bevie, when you love someone, be it a real person or a fictional character (and the ones here are so brilliantly depicted that we might think of them as real), you love all about them, don't you? Their flaws and their bright halos. And I am sure, we will continue to do so from now on - I'm right there with you, I hope the end will not be too bitter... but a happy ending would also not fit, to my mind, ah, dang, we'll just have to leave it to the writers, sniff...
Enchanting Tim, thank you for your thoughts! Just as you I have seen depression written all over their faces, and I believe both have been depressed to some degree (indeed, who wouldn't), and they somehow still managed functioning (not always in favour of themselves...).
I think what keeps them going is in part their own aspiration and claim to do good, to save others, even at the highest price, not only hope (because they lost that a considerable amount of times, before regaining it). That became an internalized order at a very early age in their lives. But they have changed in some ways.
Perhaps we will experience their breaking point in the season to come. Hopefully not. Personally, I have thought I had reached my own breaking point a few times in my life, but had kept going for various reasons only to discover that it had not been actually a breaking point.
It might just be a very subjective thing altogether. Sometimes, if we just go on, we find our strength. The Winchesters have been doing so for a long time.
I haven't delved into the guys' psyche for a while now and I am happy that you liked this (If you're interested, Tim, check out some other article I wrote about that).
Folks, thank you so much for commenting! It always moves me to hear what you think and when you like it - ha, happy dance.. :-). Jas
LOVE this site, the writing team, the people who comment, Alice......Ever yone.
1. Maintaining good relationships with close family members, friends, and others â€“ Ok, that one they have down, apart from the choosing demons, promising to hunt each other down and beating the crap out of each other aspect of their relationship
2. Avoid seeing crises or stressful events as unbearable problems â€“ Would the apocalypse be considered a stressful or unbearable problem? Bet they wish they could avoid that one...
3. Accept circumstances that cannot be changed â€“ Dean, accept his destiny?? No way, Jose. The Dean doesnâ€™t DO destiny.
4. Develop realistic goals and move towards them â€“ Ok, goals. Um.... Stop apocalypse. Put Lucifer back in cage. Defeat archangel. Yeah, thatâ€™s realistic.
5. Take decisive actions in adverse situations â€“ Jump. Pit. Eternity. Torture. Hell. Thatâ€™s both decisive AND adverse. Good stuff, boys.
6. Look for opportunities of self-discovery after struggle with loss â€“ Um, yeah, I got nothinâ€™.....
7. Develop self-confidence â€“ Ha ha haaaaaa. The Winchesters! Self confident! Man, thatâ€™s funny (wipes away tears of laughter).
8. Keep a long-term perspective and consider the stressful even in a broader context â€“ Long term perspective as in which is worse, demon army leader or Apocalypse starter? Plus, itâ€™s the freaking Apocalypse; it doesnâ€™t GET any broader than that!!
9. Maintain a hopeful outlook â€“ See point 7. Add extra ha.
10. Take care of your mind and body (exercise, pay attention to your needs and feelings, relax) â€“ Ah yes, the rarely mentioned food group; burgers, beer and M&Ms. Also, you wonâ€™t find sex listed as a cardio workout on ANY gym programme so itâ€™s NOT exercise (Dean, take note). However, with the magic fingers bed, he does seem to be relaxing plenty.
11. Learn from the past â€“Well, drinking demon blood, selling your soul, becoming an angel condom and jumpstarting the Apocalypse ARE mistakes you make only once....
12. Maintain flexibility in life â€“ The boys. Flexible?!? Tim, get your mind out of the gutter!! Damn, too late...
Dr. Tims professional (titter!) diagnosis: these boys are about as resilient as a chocolate fireguard...
(by the way - just thought of one of my fave quotes by an Irishman made in the series 'Sharpe' - perhaps you have watched it? When Sharpe, Yorkshire officer and his trusty Irish adjutant Pat visit his home, Sharpe asks: 'Well, Pat, what do you think about Yorkshire?' Pat goes in his lovely Irish tongue:'ah, they have an awful way of massacring the English language' Love that!
Sorry, back to your post - not agreeing in all points (you knew that, eh? :-))
So here's my thought on those points:
1.maintaining good relationships et al:
agree, of course. They managed to find those good relations again, despite the differences that occured. forgiveness.
2.Avoid seeing crises of stressful events as unbearable problems:
to my mind this means not to avoid events, but to change perspective - see a perhaps unbearable problem as something that can be mastered. The guys did that numerous times, don#t you think?
3.Accept circumstances that cannot be changed
Agree that Dean 'don't do destiny', but both accepted that soome circumstances couldn't be changed - like the death of John, Sam drinking blood to contain the devil, Dean going to hell because he made a deal, etc.
4. Develop realistic goals and move towards them:
Well, dear, in the world of Supernatural, I guess that was realistic...
5.Take decisive actions in adverse situations:
no further comment necessary.
6.Look for opportunities of self-discovery after struggle with loss:
after losing Dean, Sam probably discovered about himself how far he actually was willing to go (even after denying it to Dean in NoRestForTheWic ked); Dean learned about himself that he actually could trust Sam enough to follow his plan after not trusting him for almost the whole fifth season, etc
tough, but some they found some - Dean 'grew up' and followed Sam's lead, Sam trusted his instincts enough to let Dean leave Bobby's panic room, that is at least some palpable confidence.
8.Keep a long-term perspective and consider the stressful in a broader context:
as in 'we need to do this for the greater good', paying the price for that has somehow always been the Winchester way, eh?
9:Maintain a hopeful outlook:
okay, I admit, this one is twisted, indeed. But would they have got into that fight at all without even a hint of hope? Sam had a lot of that during season 5 before nearly losing it again, Dean didn't want to let Sam down with saying yes to Michael - if he hadn't had any hope, he probably wouldn't have gone that way...
10:Take care of your mind and body:
Well, the guys need to heed that one more, of course. I do assume, however, to remain as fit and ready as they are, that they do some training off-screen. They fight like people who do that every day. You need exercise for that.
They should work on their diet, though. A bit more meat for Sam, I guess, and a bit less bacon cheeseburgers for Dean.
11: Learn from the past
well said, Tim. They actually learn from the past, but perhaps should invest more time in that (come to my couch, boys, I'd be ready to help :D)
12: Maintain flexibility in life
of course, flexible, Tim, and not only horizontally... is there anything more flexible than adjusting to a new environment almost every day, to a new kind of enemy all the time, to another slap in the face by fate and still remain standing... puh, I call that flexible...
So, dear, these boys are resilient, because they are not made of chocolate (though being as sweet).
I was only looking at it in a whimsical kind of way i.e. if SPN did spoofs or if The Simpsons got a hold of the show. I completely agree with you re. the boys resilience and growth since Season 1. Like I said, lesser men would have crumbled years ago but the boys keep bouncing back. Anyway, you couldn't be made of chocolate and survive in hell and both these guys did that so that pretty much negates my entire post!
Memo to self: Irish humour, like its Guinness, does not travel well. Seriously though, Jasminka, I was wrong (and pretty tactless) to make light of things (feels lower than that stupid maggot in the worms bum now). Iâ€™ll send you a basket of chocolate chip muffin by means of apology...
Another stellar piece from you, my friend!
SPN has shown an ability to deal with and have the characters deal with and yes, grow -- hopefully wiser --from what they've endured. That Dean dealt so openly with John's death (or dealt with it so badly, could go that way as well, easily ) makes sense as John was his focal point, his leader. That Sam spent most of Season 1 crushed by Jess' death shows that he was experiencing the loss of not only the woman he loved but what came with her...that apple pie life.
Over the seasons we've seen Dean almost reject John and I find that natural in that he's breaking out of that role he so rigidly kept himself in 'dutiful son' and sometimes in the breaking out of something it comes with some element of violence...or anger (Dead-beat dad)
For Sam his focus more and more on the hunt and being a hunter similarly makes sense to me as he sees (and in Season 5 really saw) how intertwined his life is in the supernatural and that perhaps the best way to get along is to embrace that life-long mission.
I also agree that I'm glad Dean didn't just pick himself up and go back to the Dean of S1 and even S2 after Hell...forty years in hell, he almost forgot about the Impala, makes sense that it would take him time (and frankly he handled it really, really well in Season 5).
For Sam, sure he spent most of Season 5 trying to refind his way but since he spent most of Season 4 losing his way it also makes sense that he doesn't just turn 180 and get back to basics, events take time to 'get over' and hopefully they do change a person.
This was a great article, I love it when you mix your profession with SPN. Gives insight into the show (as well as you) and makes me even more secure in the hands of the writers for what they do.
Thanks for writing
Tim, you most enchanting Irish lass, ha, I got you back, eh? Hey, I thought Iâ€™d play along and take on the role of advocatus diaboliâ€¦ I know from what youâ€™ve written before in other comments that you love the show, donâ€™t worry. Perhaps it was my intention that didnâ€™t carry that wellâ€¦ ahem (*cringes blushingly* note to self (taking your example): never mix British, Balkan and German humour, doesnâ€™t work)â€¦:o
No apology needed, you were not tactless at all, dear (I wouldnâ€™t mind the chocolate chip muffins, though â€“ you hardly get any good ones here), and Iâ€™ll drink a Guiness tonight when I get home in your honour (I love that beer, actually, and Kilkennyâ€¦ it does travel well, at least with me)â€¦
If we canâ€™t make light of these things, we are definitely taking the show too seriouslyâ€¦ letâ€™s seeâ€¦
The children of Israel wanted bread and the Lord sent them manna,
Dean wanted to save the world and the devil sent him Annaâ€¦.
There once was a young man named Sam
Who was not an innocent lamb
His thoughts got all bloody
Resentful and muddy
That pissed the fans off, oh damn!
:-)Joke on, Tim, no worries!
Elle2, too much praise, dear friend! Isnâ€™t it wonderful to be able to feel secure in regard to what the writers do? The storyline is so well developped and thought through that I have the highest respect for the continuity they manage to maintain.
I am very curious where the upcoming season will take the characters that have become such an integral part of our lives that we can discuss them, for the sake of debate, as it they were real peopleâ€¦
Thank you so much for commenting! Three cheers, Jas
I hope anyone who still does not like the fact that they are not the boys from Season one will read this and understand just how unrealistic it would be if they were. Yes, we loved those boys but do we not also love the men they have now grown into flaws and all, in fact now more so because of those flaws .
Cant wait for Season Six but I do have a feeling they are going to again need your services and we will have to squeeze up to make room on the famous couch, Thanks for all the hard work (even if it is a labour of love ) Ju
I am one of those who loved the boys of season one and love to go back and watch them again but I wouldn't want those boys to show up in season 6 again. Since they are men now. They know a lot more than they did 5 years ago, went through a lot and in reality no person who went through some traumatic stuff will ever be like the person they were before that happened. I love it how the writters except that fact and make our guys look more real than the leads on so many other more popular shows.
Have to add I was utterly shocked at one point.
Jas you watched Rambo? Never thought you were up to something like that.
Keep up the good work and keep letting us see the psych explanitions behind it all. I just love that.
By the way let me know once those choclate chip muffins get here. I will organize the Kilkenny
Julie, there is always room on my couch for you and I'll be most happy to provide more room when the new season sends us into emotionals whirls again and again. Thanks so much for your recognition, dear friend.
Dany, I'm right there with you with what you say about love - you take the good with the bad, of course. I remember Peter Ustinov (whom I hugely admired, as you know) once saying: 'We admire people for their accomplishments , but we love them for their flaws' (or something like that). How true. Thanks for enjoying it so much when I venture into our 'boys' psyche, sweetie.
I say - oh, no, please, ye gods... not Cassie! Or at least another actress. Unfortunately that lady was not exactly the most competent actress...
Yirabah, the development we've seen the writers give to our beloved characters is indeed phenomenal.
Oh, I didn't mean to shock you, dear - yes, I watched Rambo years ago (actually on vacation once out of boredom, and those were the only films in the movie theatre) and I found it ridiculous, wanting and poorly acted, the first one did have some substance, but then, ah...I know there are people out there who love it. I could never muster that up.
And, don't worry, there'll be more articles like this coming in the future. I'm happy that you like them.
KIlkenny? Sounds good.
P.S. Rambo's gonna be coming for you.
This was a wonderful read.
I always wondered how these two ever got out of bed each day after everything they have gone through. I guess thatâ€™s what makes them heroâ€™s.
I have to agree that it would have been very unrealistic for them not to of had the brothers change over the years, not to of shown the impact of what their lives have done to them, not to of had them grow up to being men.
However I have to admit I miss the boys we met 5 years ago, the banter, the light heartedness and the Bitch/Jerk moments. I hope deep down that eventually some of this magic between them will return to them in season 6.
Thanks again Jas for sharing this.
Mmmmmmmm Guinnessâ€¦â€¦K ilkenny, suddenly Iâ€™m thirsty.
Randal, I am humbled, thank you! And - not afraid of that botoxed guy in jungle-wear
Karen, you know, truth be told, I do miss those bitch/jerk moments, too. And I believe that is still possible, even after the guys have changed. Humour is, after all, a great way of coping with difficulties. Even if it is a black, wry one.
Come on, Tim, get these choc muffins hither, let's break out some Irish beer and celebrate that we'll soon be able to watch the next exploits of our heroes! Yey!
Anyway, why am I celebrating? Season 6 hasn't even been announced for Ireland yet. ANNOUNCED!! Oh God, I bet they wonâ€™t show it!!. They'll put on another bloody procedural cop show or season 87 of Greyâ€™s Anatomy or some programme about farming. I wonâ€™t be able to see it until it comes out on DVD at the end of 2011. Oh God. Oh God....
Many people would not feel that way or even act that way. Many times we tend to whine about our lives and muddle in our pathetic situations and not think about helping others. This was never the Winchester way and indeed it is something to look up to.
Well written and insightful and all around enjoyable to read Jas. Thanks again!
enchanting Tim, I live just across some water in continental Europe, so if you sent it to the US the muffins won't be food anymore, but Darwinism... Don't worry, we'll provide you with links to watch it online..
Evelyn, I agree that many people would not think like Dean, but - and there is hope - some do, which proves that human beings can be heroes, sometimes at least, but mostly at a high price.
Yvonne, cheers to you!
THank you so much for raising your heads, Love Jas
Thank you so much, Dawn, for your sweet comment, love Jas