The Game of Thrones Pathologies

Tywin (Oedipus Complex Compulsion)

Tywin grew up with a father who almost ruined the family fortune. His father was weak, which made Tywin feel weak himself. Early on, he decided that he must be strong and replace his father as head of the family. As a result, Tywin is compulsively determined never to allow things to slip into weakness again. No one can be seen for their individuality in the face of Tywin’s exacting demands. His children are treated as extensions of his basic conflict with his father. Tywin must run the family. Tywin must be in control. Everyone must be what he wants them to be. Cersei must marry whomever Tywin wants her to marry. Jamie is despised because he does not produce heirs. And Tyrion is an insult to the image of order and power that Tywin wants his family to project in the eyes of the world. To Tywin, everything that is not done according to exactly his values represents weakness and loss of control. Tywin is so consumed by his Oedipus Compulsion that he even gets into a reverse-Oedipal situation where he takes over his own son’s girlfriend, Shae, and sleeps with her, in order to personally make sure that even this is done as it “ought” to be done.

Daenerys (Narcissistic)

Daenerys grew up without her parents, with her brother being her primary caregiver. Her brother was abusive to her, treating her like an object that could be married off to further his own ends. He puts her down, makes her feel small and vulnerable, and then berates her for that vulnerability. But he also represents status and a front seat to privilege. This unhealthy mix of emotional abuse and high status prompted Daenerys to develop a grandiose façade to cover up the scared and neglected child beneath. She was never given an environment where she could develop a genuine sense of self. As a result, she wavers between the two modes: The grandiose, entitled façade and the small, neglected child underneath. It is always one or the other. The two have never been reconciled, which is why, even at the height of her power, Daenerys is vulnerable, confused, and ultimately unhinged. She treats others in an instrumental way, just like her brother treated her in an instrumental way. Either they are instruments to her, bolstering her grandiosity, or she must be instruments to them, where she feels forced to relive the abuse. When she falls in love with Jon, she falls for the first person who sees her as the complete human being she has never been allowed to be. But his love comes too late in life to heal her.

Ramsay (Sadistic)

Ramsay is struggling with feelings of inadequacy. As a bastard, he was not accepted as a true son by his father. But his father also toys with him, dropping hints that Ramsay might one day be accepted if he does everything his father says. Ramsay has been completely stripped of self-determination; his fate is entirely in the hands of someone else. To compensate, Ramsay recreates the same relation, but with someone else as the victim. Ramsay needs to feel that he can break and control someone else at his whim since that is what he feels his father can do to him. Just like Ramsay is degraded by his father, so Ramsay turns Theon into Reek; a dehumanized creation he has total control over. He projects his own unworthy sense of self onto Reek and then punishes that side of himself by punishing Reek. By doing so, he feels he has control over the devalued elements of himself. The sadistic compensation provides a vain hope that he can have some form of control over the hapless predicament he finds himself in and that he could one day finally be accepted.

Brienne (Codependent)

Raised by a woman who constantly pointed out her flaws, Brienne has internalized a deep sense of defectiveness. Already suffering from low self-esteem, her negative self-image only intensified as Brienne grew into an unfeminine, exceedingly tall and bulky woman who constantly garnered stares and unflattering comments from those around her. With several failed engagements behind her, Brienne was only too aware that she was less than the woman others thought she should be. Echoing these sentiments, Brienne once described herself as, “the only child the gods let my father keep. The freakish one, neither fit to be son nor daughter.”

In adulthood, Brienne copes with her shame by being too willing to serve and protect others, and clings to any whiff of kindness or acceptance that others throw her way. She idealizes those she serves and hopes to acquire their coveted qualities by merging her identity with their stronger sense of self.

In truth, Brienne is more competent than many of those she serves. But her sense of solace is found in being indispensable to the person whose service she is in. Even when she should be able to call out that her master’s plan is a bad one, she goes along with it so she can savor the positive feelings she associates with being needed. She sets herself up to be their savior while in reality enabling their bad behavior, thus forming a pathological pattern of enmeshment and codependence.

Theon (PTSD)

Theon suffers from intrusive and distressing thoughts, recurrent and vivid nightmares, flashbacks, and emotional distress when he is reminded of the abuse he suffered at Ramsay’s hands. He has intense physical reactions in the face of such reminders and cannot control his fear response when startled. No matter how badly he wants to rid himself of the suffering he has experienced, it always seems to return to him, leading to a basic mood of negative emotion, as if he is somehow not worthy of living a normal life or not really there in the world with others. This tendency to feel cut off or estranged from others, feeling despondent, guilty and that he is somehow “wrong,“ has become an integrated part of his character, predisposing him to submissive or masochistic roles where he has trouble feeling his own wants and needs and experiencing them as legitimate. The intensity of his symptoms suggests that he will not be capable of living a normal life until he has undergone substantial treatment for his condition.

Bran (Schizophrenia)

Bran believes he can control the minds of animals and has seizures during which he thinks he can see the past, present, and future. He likely has two distinct ego states: An ordinary one in the real world and a magical-psychotic one where he calls himself “the Three-Eyed Raven.” His excessive cognitive fluidity makes him susceptible to delusions and hallucinations that involve his seeing or hearing things that aren’t there. The different sensory impressions he claims to receive from various animals are in reality figments of his own imagination and fragments of his own personality, projected onto his surroundings. He claims to hear the voices of magical beings, even when alone, and has alterations in memory, consciousness, and perception. His unusual thought patterns are persistent and not bound to isolated incidents

Littlefinger (Sociopathic)

Littlefinger is characterized by extreme cunning and shrewdness. He knows what people want and is a master at bending social situations to suit his own ends. Raised among the members of a more noble house (the Tullys), Littlefinger was mocked as a child because of his lower status. As a youth, he fell in love with a woman of a much higher social stratum (Catelyn Stark), but the romance failed because of their difference in standing. Deprived of acceptance and affection, Littlefinger came to see the world as a loveless place. As an adult, he counters this neglect by keeping tabs on everyone around him. From an early age, he learned that he must be cynical to avoid getting hurt. Consequently, the adult Littlefinger is constantly scheming; constantly on the lookout for opportunities to manipulate events for his own gain. Hell-bent on climbing the social ladder until he has reached the rungs that were denied to him as a child, the master manipulator has learned to fake and weaponize empathy and to hide his true intentions so that he cannot be manipulated himself.


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