"They told me there was nothing out there, nothing to fear. But the night my parents were murdered I caught a glimpse of something. I've looked for it ever since. I went around the world, searched in all the shadows. And there is something out there in the darkness, something terrifying, something that will not stop until it gets revenge... Me. " - Bruce Wayne
"They told me there was nothing out there, nothing to fear. But the night my parents were murdered I caught a glimpse of something. I've looked for it ever since. I went around the world, searched in all the shadows. And there is something out there in the darkness, something terrifying, something that will not stop until it gets revenge... Me. " - Bruce Wayne



By Daniel Sucholet

Biography

Bruce Wayne and his alter ego of Batman started as a D.C. Comic book in the mid 20th century. Bruce Wayne was born to Thomas and Marsha Wayne. Bruce’s father was a billionaire industrialist and philanthropist who was a key figure in Gotham City. Bruce is a billionaire businessman and playboy, who is of genius level intellect and is trained in many different types of martial arts. When Bruce was a young boy he fell into a well and was attacked by bats. Since this moment he had a paralyzing fear of bats, despite the fact his father told him the only reason the bats attacked him was because they were afraid of him (Nolan 2005). Some time later, Bruce is attending a play with his mother and father and is extremely afraid of the bats portrayed on stage. As young Bruce begins to have an anxiety attack he asks his father if they can leave, and he obliges. Upon leaving, Bruce’s family is confronted in an alleyway outside the theater by a mugger named Joe Chill. Chill murders Bruce’s parents right in front of him. Due to the fact that his family left the play due to his fear, Bruce personalizes their murder and blames himself for his parents’ death (Nolan 2005). Years later Bruce returns home to Gotham, after studying at Princeton, to the murder trial of Joe Chill. Bruce brings a gun with him to the trial in an attempt to revenge his parent’s death, however he decides that revenge is not what he wants. Instead, he embarks on a quest to harness fear, and use it to avenge the death of his parents, and make sure that no one else has to go through what he did. Bruce travels to the far corners of the world and masters the techniques and disciplines of martial arts, deception and investigation. After returning to Gotham and conquering his fear of bats, he creates the persona of The Batman, to avenge the ones he lost, and to prevent future tragedies.

Humanistic Perspective

The Humanistic Perspective is and approach in psychology that values the personal worth of the individual, and the importance of human values. In this perspective, there is emphasis placed on the creative, spontaneous, and active nature of human beings (Huntington 2011). Usually the Humanistic approach is optimistic, and focuses mainly on the ability of humans to not only overcome hardship and despair, but to also channel it into something useful (Friedman 297).

Carl Rogers saw responsibility as a major factor in the Humanistic approach. Rogers though that people are inclined to follow a path in life of growth and maturation (Huntington 2011). He also believed that people define issues in their lives that are important to himself or herself. These issues stem from the experiences in one’s life (Friedman 302). In the case of Bruce Wayne/Batman, Bruce is faced with some major trauma in his life, that Roger’s would say he not only defines, but harnesses and uses to grow and mature. Wayne defines a major issue as his fear of bats. In order to overcome this issue, he uses exposure therapy to quell his fear of bats. In a planned and purposeful manner Bruce rediscovers the well/cave that he fell into as a child. He reopens the well and lowers himself down. Once in the cave, he stands up and turns on a light, and is immediately surrounded by hundreds of bats. He immediately crouches, but then stands tall and realizes that he no longer needs to be afraid (Nolan 2005). The second major issue for Bruce is overcoming his issues of security. After the death of his parents, not only did he blame himself, but since that moment he has never felt secure. In order to use that fear in a positive manner, he combines the symbol of the bat, with the techniques he gained from studying martial arts across the world. Thus turning himself into a crime fighting vigilante, who’s ultimate purpose is to protect others, and make sure they don’t experience tragedy like he did.

Another Humanistic psychologist who would have agreed with Jung was Rollo May. May was extremely interested in anxiety and dread, and believed that when we are anxious, we are searching for meaning with our lives (Friedman 305). Like previously mentioned, instead of succumbing to his anxiety, Bruce finds a way to harness it, and use it in a constructive way to help make the world a better place.

Victor Frankl also studied anxiety greatly, and believed that personal choice had a major factor in our lives. Frankl believed that we could use tragedy and anxiety as motivation to lead us to personal triumph and self-fulfillment (Friedman 306). Wayne used his personal tragedy as a motivation to do good, and batman is the perfect example of what happens when one uses personal choice to consistently do the right thing. He begins on this path when he decides to not murder the man who murdered his parents. Instead he creates one rule for Batman, to never kill, and thus he becomes a powerful figure who only helps, and never harms (The Psychology of…).

Neo-Analytic/Ego Perspective

The Neo-Analytics/Ego perspective approaches to psychology were modified and developed primarily by Carl Jung. In Jungian theory the mind is divided into three parts: the Ego, the conscious part of personality that embodies sense of self, the Personal Unconscious, which contains thoughts that are not part of conscious awareness, and the Collective Unconscious, which contains archetypes and is a deeper level of unconscious which is shared with the rest of humanity (Huntington 2011).

A key concept of Jung’s approach was that of archetypes, two specific archetypes, persona and shadow, and hero and demon are completely fitting to the world of Bruce Wayne. Persona and Shadow is described as; the socially acceptable front vs. the dark and unacceptable side of one’s personality (Huntington 2011). Batman is absolutely Bruce’s Shadow; Batman attempts to look like evil with horns, wings and an all black outfit. He also operates outside of society and the law and is willing to do anything but kill to bring criminals to justice. Bruce Wayne’s persona is far more complex than his shadow however. It can be argued that there are two personas of Bruce Wayne. The billionaire playboy, who drives luxurious cars and is always dating the most beautiful and popular women while getting involved in all kind of tabloid antics. And the other Bruce, who is a good friend, businessman and who is in love with Rachel Dawes. These many personas bring up the question of who exactly is the real Bruce Wayne? Some argue that Batman is the real persona, and the mask put on is that of Bruce Wayne, playboy and businessman. Rachel Dawes acknowledges this in a scene in which she sees Bruce swimming in a fountain in public with a model. Bruce confronts her and swears that he is more than his outward façade of a playboy, to which Rachel replies, “It’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.” (Nolan 2005). However, it should be obvious that the real Bruce Wayne is the non-playboy Bruce. This is the man who experienced tragedy as a young man, who is in love with Rachel Dawes, and forms his own core identity. All of Bruce’s experiences are expressed in his other personas, using Batman to express and overcome the trauma of feeling responsible for his parent’s death, and using playboy Bruce to protect his secret identity, and to protect his loved ones.

Another archetype that is absolutely fitting for Bruce Wayne is that of the Hero and Demon. The Hero archetype is described as representing a strong and good force that does battle with the enemy in order to rescue another from harm (Friedman 115). However, more specifically its is most likely that Bruce Wayne has a hero complex. Wayne has an obsessive compulsion to help others and right wrongs. He’s also obsessed with keeping things under control, and making sure the law is obeyed and the innocent do not get hurt. This obsession leads him to cut out anything from his life that doesn’t help his time spent as Batman. He denies himself lasting romantic relationships, because falling in love could put the person he loves in harm’s way just by being affiliated with him (The Psychology of …). Alfred once told Bruce “Your getting lost inside this monster of yours” in which Bruce replied “I’m using this monster to help other people just like my father did.” (Nolan 2008). Bruce begins this obsession because he blames himself for his parents death, why also being afraid of losing Rachel, so he refuses to let himself love her openly.

Discussion

All of this begs to have the question asked, why is Batman such a popular character, and how is he anything like us? Batman’s greatest struggles are the same as every human’s, fear, love, overcoming tragedy, and finding a purpose in life. The character could also be any one of us, a normal man, doing extraordinary things. According to director Christopher Nolan, “The key to understanding the character, is that Bruce Wayne is Teddy Roosevelt” (The Psychology of…) Roosevelt’s father was a great philanthropist, especially to New York City. He founded the museum of natural history, and the children’s aid society. Thomas Wayne was a philanthropist, specifically in Gotham where he implemented a cheap public transportation system. Teddy’s mother and wife died on same day, whereas Bruce Wayne lost both his mother and father on the same day. Teddy decided to travel to the Dakota badlands and ended up reinventing himself to then return and become a police commissioner who rides through New York City at night fighting crime. Bruce Wayne travels to the corners of the earth to exile himself and learns martial arts. Only to return to Gotham to become the caped crusader, fighting crime in the dark of night (The Psychology of …). Like all of us batman has three personas, ours may be who we are at work, who we are with our friends and family, and who we are with our spouses. Batman’s three personas are who he is with the love of his life Rachel and with his friends, who is he to the public, and who he is as batman. This level of relatedness offers us insights into our own fears, and helps us find the motivations behind evil (The Psychology of …). Bruce Wayne is what we all aspire to be, powerful, wealthy and with a high level of self-discipline and control. Despite all of this, he struggles just like us with his everyday life, creating a character who we can all relate to. Some may say Bruce Wayne is a damaged individual who is still playing out his childhood wounds, however this is a lie. For he is a man who used tragedy to improve himself and the world, and thus he is a hero (The Psychology of…).

References


Friedman, H. S. & Schustack, M. W. (2009). Personality: Classic theories and modern research (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson

Huntington, A. (2011). Chapter 4: Neo-Analytic and Ego Aspects of Personality: Identity [1, 2, 3, 4,5]. Retrieved from http://lms.uconn.edu/webct/

Huntington, A. (2011). Chapter 9: Humanistic and Existential Aspects of Personality [1, 2, 3,]. Retrieved from http://lms.uconn.edu/webct/

Nolan, C. (Producer), Roven, C. (Producer), Thomas, E. (Producer), Melniker, B. (Producer), Uslan, M (Producer), & Nolan, C (Director) (2008). The Dark Knight [Motion Picture]. United States: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Steven Smith (Writer) (2009) [Television Special], Kevin Burns (Executive producer), The Psychology of The Dark Knight. New York, NY: History and Warner Home Video

Thomas, E. (Producer), Franco, L. (Producer), Roven, C. (Producer), Uslan, M. (Producer), & Nolan, C (Director) (2005). Batman Begins [Motion Picture]. United States: Warner Bros. Pictures.