In the film “Good Will Hunting” a young 20 year old boy, Will Hunting, faces the struggle of who he is and what he is capable of in light of his traumatic past and economical class. Will started out as a janitor at MIT in Boston. He thought that he was just there for the job, but subconsciously he was there because he had so much more to offer the world. He had an intellectual gift and was a self taught genius. But, because of his traumatic childhood in the economically challenged area of south Boston, he didn’t think he deserved anything better than what he had. When a MIT mathematics professor, Gerry, discovers Will’s hidden secret, Will begins the journey of finding out his past doesn’t have to define his future. Gerry introduces Will to his long time friend Sean. Sean is a therapist with past issues of his own. Sean and Will challenge and teach each other to move forward with their lives and explore what they can offer the world.
I chose this film because Will’s character gives insight into intellect and psychological abnormality. The film also depicts different aspects of psychotherapy.In the film, Will Hunting was a self taught genius. He especially excelled in mathematics. Complex problems that professors had been trying to solve for years were easy for Will. He could also casually discuss historical facts and economic theories as if he was discussing the menu at a fast food restaurant. One scene shows Will flipping through a book in minutes and then remembering its contents, indicating he had a photographic memory. This type of memory and intelligence is extremely rare and poorly understood. Intelligence is difficult to define, and if individuals like Will do exist, they would challenge the attempts that have been made to understand the concept.
However, based on how Will is depicted in the film, Charles Spearman’s model of intelligence would best fit the character. In this model, the g factor is a general ability that underlies all kinds of intelligence. He also thought there is an s factor that corresponded with specific abilities such as music, math, or logic. This can be seen in Will because he obviously has general abilities such as mental speed and working memory that aid him to be intelligent in many different areas, such as history, economics, and even sports. However, he excelled at mathematics and there is no indication in the film that he was gifted in music. Will was not only a self taught genius, but he was a physically and emotionally abused orphan in an impoverished area of Boston with under educated peers. All this combined, made Will a mess psychologically and socially. No labels were ever given to Will in the film, but several issues could be inferred from his actions, relationships, and cognitive thinking. Will had an issue with how he dealt with and experienced emotions. If angry, he became excessively aggressive. This was demonstrated when he sees a guy that bullied him in kindergarten. He deals with the emotion by attacking the man uncontrollably and even assaults a police officer in the process.
It is also seen when he starts to feel the emotion of love with a girl he met in a bar. He pushes her away and denies the feeling. Will was taught at a young age that the response to anger was violence. He also never experienced love in a healthy and nurturing way so he didn’t trust the emotion. He didn’t know how to properly deal with it. Much of Will’s personality could be explained by the learning approach. His personality was developed by his past situations. Socially Will was a conformist. Even though he was a genius, he altered his behavior to match those around him. He didn’t think he deserved more than those around him. This was seen in the scene with his best friend Chucky. Will tells Chucky that in 20 years they both would still be
in south Boston taking their kids to little league together. Chucky tells Will he’ll kill him if he is still in south Boston in 20 years. Chucky knew of Will’s potential and that he had the “winning lottery ticket”.Due to Will’s criminal activity he was destined to spend time behind bars. But when his gift is revealed to the professor at MIT, the professor intervenes and forces Will into therapy. Psychotherapy is a treatment for psychological abnormalities by an interaction between a trained therapist and the client. The professor introduces Will to several therapists before introducing him to Sean. These therapist’s techniques did not work for Will.
Mainly because the therapists didn’t take into consideration one very important requirement for effective psychotherapy. Will was involuntarily going to therapy. He didn’t think he had a problem and had well established defense mechanisms in place. When Will felt threatened he would use his intelligence to get the upper hand. He would attack the person threatening him by making him feel inferior. This was seen at the bar when a Harvard student was belittling his best friend Chucky. Will stepped in and used all his knowledge to embarrass and make the guy feel inferior. He also used this with Sean at their first session. He carefully looked around the office until he found something that he could use to attack Sean. He found a painting that Sean had done and analyzed it until he found the button that pushed Sean into a rage.
The session was then over and Will had accomplished what he had set out to do. Sean knew he had to break down Will’s defenses. He did this by taking him to a park where there would be nothing for Will to use against him and then he proceeded to tell Will all the things he didn’t know. Will lost the upper hand. At the next session, Sean patiently waiting in silence for the entire hour session. He knew Will could not be coerced into opening up. He let Will know he still had control on the situation. Next Sean established a commonality with Will. He became trustworthy to Will and then the real work of therapy began. Sean used several types of psychotherapy. He used a psychodynamic approach in an attempt to make Will consciously realize his conflicting impulses. He did this when Sean asked him “ You could have been a janitor anywhere. Why did you choose MIT?”. Sean also used cognitive therapy by changing Will’s interpretation of events. He did this when he told Will repeatedly “It’s not your fault” until Will broke down into Sean’s arms. Sean accomplished three things required for therapy to work. There must be a willingness for the therapy, and there must be trust and relatability with the therapist. Will’s therapy worked because the film concluded with Will leaving south Boston in pursuit of the girl he loved and of the future his gift destined him to have.
In conclusion, “Good Will Hunting” is an excellent film. Not only for its entertainment value, but because it offers much insight into intelligence, and the effects of one’s environment on personality development, and the social and emotional quality of one’s life. I highly recommend this film and there is no wonder why this film has become one of the great classics of all time.