Myths and monster’s stem from aspects of reality, trying to make sense of things that aren’t understood. The most distinctive and iconic of myths is that of the Vampire. A monster who dates back hundreds of years and crops up across continents, popularised by Bram Stocker and embedded into our culture almost as firmly as beliefs in the afterlife. The cross-cultural appearance of Nos Feratu has a lot to do with word of mouth certainly, but the variations in the legend stem from the possibility that these tales of ‘the dead becoming un-dead’ existed in their own right in each place, before they were embellished into a vampire through the sharing of tales. Before post-mortem knowledge had been developed the sight of a body after death would have shocked many. The receded gums, the bloated stomach, and the trickles of blood that came from the mouth would have easily have been misinterpreted. It is therefore no surprise that tales of the recently departed roaming the night and drinking the blood of others soon developed after these corpses were seen; and thus the Vampire was born.
With the recent surge of popularity in vampires, werewolves and the like I thought it would be fitting to have a little ponder about possible explanations that might be given if for example if these cases were looked at from a psychological view point. It is not difficult to come up with a couple of Freudian reasons as to why women in particular are fascinated with the myths, particularly the biting part, but what would a psychologist living in the world of Sookie Stackhouse make of Eric Northman the Viking Vampire, if they were unwilling to accept the existence of the mythological creatures in this fiction?
I’m going to ponder the possible hypothetical diagnosis that might crop up in such a situation, to do so I shall be mostly focusing on the characters in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse Novels, which the popular TV show True Blood is based on. *Warning* There will probably be accidental spoilers, because I’ll integrate bits from the novels and from the show. So, if you’ve not read the books and are a fan of the TV show I wouldn’t recommend you read on. However, if you’ve never seen either then I wouldn’t worry as I’ll be very clear and unassuming. I’ll probably throw about the odd reference to Dracula cause he deserves a mention, plus anything else that pops into my head.
Without further ado let’s introduce our fictional shrink, Dr. Whitby PhD, Msc, Bsc, CATC, LCP, LMHC, etc. His report is as follows:
“We shall start with the protagonist, Sookie Stackhouse. A girl who claims to hear the thoughts of others, calling herself a telepath. She used to be quite religious, and had difficultly socialising, she’s poorly educated and somewhat naive. She suffered the loss of her parents at a young age and her closest living relative, her Gran, was brutally murdered by someone she had thought of as a friend. All these traumas only add to her mental instability, making her condition worse. On the basis of the evidence it wouldn’t be too far a stretch to suggest that Miss Stackhouse displays signs of schizophrenia. These auditory hallucinations have led her into dangerous situations, putting her life in great peril often. Sookie often willingly puts herself into dangerous situations, and has a history of dating dangerous men, some of whom are known murderers. A tendency to be attracted to violent men is not unheard of, Shelia Isenberg has written a book titled, Women Who Love Men Who Kill. In which she conducted in depth psychological analysis of women who are drawn to men who had committed violent acts. From her research it was clear that these women are not all outcasts of society. These women were often teachers, nurses, social workers, waitresses, office workers, and housewives. (*Ahem Sookie*). Also it was noted by Isenberg that many of the women had been victims of abuse and violence themselves, as Sookie was. The signs of schizophrenia are limited in this case mostly to her auditory hallucinations but the fact that her young nephew Hunter is displaying the same symptoms is evidence that a degree of psychological disruption is present in both which is likely to be linked genetically. Due to the persistence of this delusion and the danger it poses for Miss Stackhouse Dr. Whitby advises that she is referred to specialists in the area of schizophrenia.
Her closest living relative Jason is a far simpler case, despite having an un-disrupted education and being a keen football player Mr. Stackhouse displays signs of mental retardation as well as symptoms of sexual addiction. None of which are so severe that they disrupt his day to day living but the latter would be advisable to monitor, and the combination of the two means that it is likely he has retained little information about sex education and thus he regularly puts not only himself but others at high risk for infections and serious illness.
Of those who call themselves ‘supes’ or ‘supernatural beings’ much can be discussed. There are two main classes, those who are ‘not human’ or are no longer human, and those who are ‘human with special abilities’. Of the non-human category we have, so called ‘Vampires’, ‘Fae’ and ‘Deamons’. The human category consist of mostly ‘Weres’, not just wolves but those who are known as ‘shape-shifters’ also, the ‘telepaths’ can fit into this category also. It is clear that each of these types of claim are based on delusions, that probably stem from early childhood disruptions, fears and desires. To begin with lets tackle the Were’s. This group of individuals claim that they turn into wolves, or other living creatures. Whilst this might be a version of multiple personality disorder it seems unlikely, non claim to feel as though they are ‘another entity’ during the ‘transformations’. They maintain their own minds, just in different bodies. Again types of schizophrenia might be able to shed some light on these delusions although they are very complex and long lasting to be simple hallucinations. There has also been noted a strong genetic link between these symptoms. Usually the first born child of those with the disorder also inherits it, and it is likely to be genetic and not an environmental influence as some ‘weres’, such as Sam Merlotte, have been separated from their birth parents since very early childhood and yet still develop the symptoms in adolescence. For the female ‘weres’ it should be noted that the change at the time of a full moon could be a psychological exaggeration of the emotional, hormonal and bodily changes during the menstrual cycle manifesting itself in this illusion of becoming a fierce animal. However, this does not explain the symptoms amongst the male population however. This illness is persistent and complex and if properly outlined would fit well in the DSM-VI in the future, in order for it to be fully identified amongst the population.
The ‘non-human’ class of ‘supes’, are all very similar in that they claim immortality or at least extended life into the hundreds of years. This first claim is a clear indication of an exaggerated super ego. One so powerful that it is convincing enough to the individual that they are beyond even death. Such delusions of grandeur are rarely seen in individuals who have no signs of severe depression or other mental instabilities. Often people who claim immortality will go on to try to prove this point by attempting suicide and unfortunately they are quite often proved wrong. These individuals do not attempt to prove their claims in the same way, in fact they spend a lot of effort trying to ignore them, and blend in with other human beings socially. Many of the vampires are prone to sexually deviant behaviour that is so frequent it would be classifiable in the DSM-IV. Often these acts can lead to the death of a partner, in the most extreme cases. The most disturbing feature of these so called vampires is their tendency to drink blood. This is not unheard of amongst particular rituals for example, and in some other forms of ceremony, however the main difference being that in these rituals it is rarely human blood that is consumed. Popular culture has been blamed for some incidences of murder where the victims blood was then drunk, a famous case was that of Allen Menzies, who claimed that watching the film ‘Queen of the Damned’ over 100 times drove him to murder and drink the blood of his friend. Such individuals pose a significant risk to others in society and it is recommended that they be further investigated until their condition can be fully understood and controlled.
End of report”
By no means a definitive account of all possible explanations but a small hypothetical summary of what someone from the outside might come up with if they were thrown into Bon Temps!
I best get back to some proper science now. 🙂