Psychological Analysis of "The Butterfly Effect"

Topics: Psychological trauma, Posttraumatic stress disorder, Cognitive behavioral therapy Pages: 7 (2340 words) Published: October 23, 2013


Memory, Therapy, Depression and Therapy in the Butterfly Effect Psychology 155-22
Professor Perno
Hao Lam
November 20, 2012

Abstract
This paper revolves around the four main psychological aspects of the 2004 movie The Butterfly Effect which are memory retrieval in Evan, trauma in the characters, depression, and Evan's therapy. In memory we will look through the protagonist's, Evan, past and how he represses his memory and retrieves them back as adult. In trauma we will look at the different events Evan's friend Lenny experiences and how it affects his life and gives him traumatic disorders. Next, we will examine depressive symptoms in the character Kayleigh. Finally, we will look at the different treatments Evan's therapist uses on him and his reasons why. I will reveal each of the role these four aspects play and relate them to the characters and the movie.

Memory, Trauma, Depression and Therapy in The Butterfly Effect
In the movie The Butterfly Effect a boy named Evan develops a unknown hereditary disease where he blacks out during very traumatic events. These blackouts eventually fade away when we moves away and he never experiences them again. One day, in college he reads an old journal from his childhood and all the old memories hit him like a brick. Within days he discovers he is able to actually go back in time and change those past traumatic events, which results in a series altered realities. In these different realities, not only do the events change, but Evan and his friends develop totally new idenities This movie mainly revolves around Evan's memory, trauma and depression in some of the characters, and the therapy used to try to treat Evan's illness.

In that brief summary alone you are able to see that Evan's memory is a large part of this movie. Throughout the movies Evan goes through periods of memory repressions where he gets these uncontrollable blackouts, usually under times of heavy stress and trauma, and wakes up completely unaware of what happened. These blackouts occurred when he is participating in child pornography, killing a women and her baby, his father trying to kill him and watching his dog be burned alive. Repressed memories are “memories of actual events that were pushed into the unconscious because they are emotionally threatening (Kosslyn and Rosenberg 2011 p.183)”. That means although these events are emotionally charged they are forgotten not because they are pushed out of awareness but because the individual mentally put them into another place in their mind.

Evan eventually moves away from this town leaving Lenny, Tommy and Kayleigh. After that we notice that these sudden blackouts disappear and when he goes to college he is able to live a normal life. Until, he reads one of his old journals and all the old memories come back to him and he is able vividly experience them through a process known as memory retrieval. He is even able to go back in time and change his actions. Although this obviously is not possible in real life, it is an example of a study that shows that, “as we try to recall something our brain works to match the brain state we had during the event we are remembering (DeNoon 2005)”, so when your brain state matches the state in your memory you'll remember it a lot easier. This study is true in Evan's case, because has he read through his journal entries he, in a sense, put himself into his teenage shoes and is able to visualize that exact moment he is reading. Therefore, a person's emotion can affect a their memory retrieval. “(It is) much like when you try to remember where you put your keys last night, if you recall that you were washing dishes, that might trigger associated memories, leading you to remember that your keys are next to the sink (DeNoon 2005)”.

Evan also develops implicit memories during his frat boy lifestyle reality. Implicit memories are memories “that cannot be retrieved voluntarily but rather...
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