“I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples and bastards and broken things.” Tyrion Lannister
Survivor of Narcissistic Abuse in Family of Origin
Tyrion Lannister has won the hearts of many Game of Thrones fans (G.R. Martin, 2015) with his wit, resilience, diplomacy and cunning ability to survive seemingly insurmountable odds. Tyrion is an example of fortitude and perseverance in the face of adversity. Beginning with his abusive family of origin, Tyrion hails from House Lannister. His (now deceased) father, Tywin, repetitively psychologically abused Tyrion, ridiculed him for being deformed and a dwarf, and blamed him for the death of his mother (who died while giving birth to him). This spunky, redeeming character is the classic example of the scapegoat in a narcissistic family system.
The Role of Scapegoat in Emotionally Abusive Family
As psychologist Karyl McBride (2009) writes, the narcissistic family system assigns different roles to various family members, with the narcissistic parent being at the helm of power and control. Children are typically elevated to specific roles. Jaime and Cersei would occupy the status of “golden child(ren)” since they historically provided good narcissistic supply to fuel the Tywin’s ego (in the form of attention, compliance, praise, adulation good behavior/excelling in an avocation/war/leadership/status, thus reflecting well upon the narcissist, etc). However, Tyrion inherited the role of “scapegoat” whereby he absorbed the abusive and horrific projections of his father, was the object of ridicule and gaslighting, silent treatments, and blame-shaming, devaluing and discarding, all emotional abuse tactics in the narcissist’s sadistic arsenal.
Narcissistic Family Systems
As mentioned above, House Lannister is a prime example of a classic narcissistic family system. McBride (2009) discusses in her book how such families are known for obsession with image, secrets (incest runs rampant in this family), negative and abusive messages devaluing one’s worth, poor boundaries, stuffed emotions, and covert/overt toxic interactions with family members. Tyrion has somehow survived growing up with the message that he is “not good enough” and transformed such horrendous emotional abuse to enter a place of purpose and meaning as a result of his adversity. Many would also consider him to be very insightful and uniquely empathic, as a result of his Post Traumatic Growth.
Post Traumatic Growth
To Tyrion’s credit, much like Sansa Stark, Tyrion is a survivor of immense psychological trauma. He manifests a strong sense of fortitude and endurance in the face of horrifying circumstances that would level a less hearty character (remember Theon and his freezing response with PTSD). Tyrion broke rank in his family and severed ties with his siblings, aligning with Daenrys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons and Queen of Dragonstone. He sees that Daenerys is the better queen for all of Westeros, looking at the greatest good for all concerned, not just power for power’s sake. Tyrion is known for his humor, diplomacy skills, and “consigliere” status for Daenerys. He is capable of discernment, intuition, harnessing people’s strengths, unifying leaders and problem-solving from a peaceful vantage point. As Westeros moves towards solidifying the dominant house that will occupy the Iron Throne, Jon Snow, Daenerys, Varys, and others have leaned on Tyrion for his wise advise and wisdom. Tyrion is a keen observer of human nature and, like Sansa Stark, is an example of Post Traumatic Growth.
Therapy for Tyrion
Tyrion would benefit from trauma-informed psychotherapy, which could include EMDR, expressive arts interventions, narrative therapy and mindfulness based cognitive behavioral therapy. Rounding out his self-care strategies, hopefully Tyrion might explore some somatic based therapies, in addition to yoga and hiking to release any “held” trauma in the body (van der Kolk, 2015). Self-esteem work to reclaim a sense of body positivity might also be helpful, utilizing any of the above mentioned interventions.
Good. Tyrion is resilient, humorous, empathic, and connected with safe others. So long as he survives the winter that is coming, he should be in good shape to enjoy a peaceful retirement in Westeros, surrounded by his tribe of trusted friends and colleagues. Tyrion might even go on to become a sage healer and continue with this wise advise-giving strategies by serving in the role of a “wounded healer.” He may hang a shingle near the Inn at the Crossroads and become Westeros’ next amazing psychotherapist.
Martin, G. R. (2015). A Game of thrones: book one of A song of ice and fire. New York: Bantam Books.
McBride, K. (2008). Will I ever be good enough?: healing the daughters of narcissistic mothers. New York: Free Press.
Narcissism and Psychopathy in Game of Thrones (Part 4): Sansa. (n.d.). Retrieved August 22, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/savvy-shrink/2017/08/narcissism-and-psychopathy-in-game-of-thrones-part-4-sansa/
Narcissism and Psychopathy in Game of Thrones (Part 2): Theon. (n.d.). Retrieved August 22, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/savvy-shrink/2017/08/narcissism-and-psychopathy-in-game-of-thrones-part-2-theon/
I. (2015). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, MD | Key Takeaways, Analysis & Review. San Francisco: IDreamBooks Inc.