From a psychotherapeutic point of view, one could interpret how psychiatrists are instituting a novel approach by letting Laeddis act out his delusional role while at the same time bring maintained on a tranquillizing drug. The latter is to prevent him from tangentially going off on his delusions and to have a degree of control over his behaviour. The frequent migraines can thus also be read as acclimatization to this drug. From a Fairbairnian perspective
“his wife is a projection of an internalized libidinal bad object and the scarred and horrible man is a projection of himself as an internalized anti-libidinal bad object. The psychiatrist’s aim, described in Fairbairnian terms, is to effect a cure by releasing the internalized bad objects, which are cathected by libidinal and anti-libidinal parts of himself.” (Clarke, 2012)
In this context, the role of the drug and the simulation is for Laeddis to discover for himself his own split condition. He would thus be able to see clearly that he had murdered his wife, who had earlier drowned their three children. From a Fairbairnian angle, this is to “set the punitively moral part of himself, as Federal Marshall, to uncover the identity of the unconditionally bad part of himself and to realize they are parts of the same person.” (Gilbey, 2010, p. 44)
Hence, in conclusion, one can see why a nursing student will benefit enormously by watching the film. It introduces her to some of the perennial debates in the field of psychiatry, as well as offering new theoretical understandings. The Fairbairnian analysis of Daniels/Laeddis’ psychopathology is of particular import. The nursing student will also be exposed to the possibility of politicization of psychiatric profession. Hereby, she’ll learn that patients could be abused for government experiments on mind control. The student also learns how complex diagnosis and prognosis of psychopathology can be, especially those involving delusional states.
Alleva, R. (2010, April 23). Twists, Turns & Bedlam; ‘Shutter Island’ & ‘The Ghost Writer’Commonweal, 137(8), 19+.
Clarke, G. (2012). Failures of the ‘Moral Defence’ in the Films Shutter Island, Inception and Memento: Narcissism or Schizoid Personality Disorder? International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 93(1), 203+.
Gilbey, R. (2010, March 15). Asylum Seekers: Scorsese Serves Up a Trashy Yet Diverting Thriller, Writes Ryan Gilbey. New Statesman (1996), 139(4992), 44.
Scorsese Saved Me from Going Crazy in Asylum; LEO TELLS HOW MAKING MOVIE BEHIND BARS DROVE HIM CLOSE TO EDGE. (2010, February 16). Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland).