Film, Psychotherapy, and the Taming of Rage at the Mother

J Clin Psychol. 2020 Jun 25. doi: 10.1002/jclp.23003. Online ahead of print.


In this essay, I show how difficult emotions, like aggression and murderous rage, are grappled with in horror movies. Patients' reactions to viewing these films can take place in a safe, creative, therapeutic space that allows for even the darkest themes. I discuss three patients who related to intense rage at the mother when viewing the films Joker and Jurassic Park. One patient watched Jurassic Park 50 times and shared his thoughts about the significance this film, and films in general, held for him throughout his life. It is theorized that when patients bring films into the clinical arena, they create a third space that exists between therapist and patient, a safe transitional space within which to explore difficult and otherwise unacceptable feelings.

Keywords: film; horror; mother hatred; psychotherapy.

Publication types

  • Case Reports