Fight Club Psychological Analysis
How it works
In Fight Club, the unnamed main character goes by the title the Narrator. He is an unattached, young man who is bored with his job and unsatisfied with his life. Initially dealing with insomnia, the Narrator seeks different pathways to fixing his inability to sleep and interact normally with society on a daily basis. His first successful lifestyle change was incorporating attending support groups. His ability to cry gave him the ability to sleep. He likes sticking to schedules. So when a stranger infiltrates his support groups, he finds himself incapable of sleeping again. He seeks another way to compensate this disruption. Having met an eccentric soap maker by the name of Tyler Durden, the Narrator starts building a partnership with him when everything he had was stripped away in a freak accident. Tyler Durden seems to be the epitome of having everything figured out. He is knowledgeable, confident, satisfied, and motivated. Essentially, he is the antithesis of the Narrator. Together they form a fight club. Over time, what once started out as two guys fighting has now moved to dozens of men meeting to fight underground. Life seem to be going well until Tyler initiates a change in the function of fight club. From a boxing club to a boot-camp like organization, members of Fight Club begin engaging in small criminal activity. Again, as time progresses, this activity increases into large criminal acts. The Narrator feels more and more left out as Tyler makes more executive decisions for the club without conferring with the Narrator. Finally, when the Narrator’s friend is killed during an assignment, the Narrator decides to shut it down. Only then does he discover that he was Tyler Durden the entire time.
The Narrator is a 30 year old, single, white male. He works as a recall coordinator for a large automotive company. He resents his boss. For six months prior to when the Narrator first sought medical help, he struggled with insomnia. He would go multiple days without sleeping. Many times he would mindlessly sit in front of the TV as time passed. He feels like he is never full awake and never fully asleep. He lives alone in his condo and has no close friends or family. The insomnia made him perceive life as if nothing were real. Living alone, he spends most of him money on purchasing furniture from IKEA and filling up his condo with material items. No matter how much furniture he owns, he purchases more. Low energy throughout the day. Often will nods off, wakes up in places where he doesn’t know how he got there, especially when he gets into the rhythm of flying. The day in and day out repetitiveness blurs the days together.
How it works
Physical release of emotional pain through crying helps him sleep well at night. He is addicted to attending support groups. Although he has no diagnosed diseases such as testicular cancer or blood parasites, he acts as if he does so that he can be welcomed into the support groups. He sees himself as a “faker” who needs support so he can cry which allows him to sleep. However, when another person he perceives as a “faker” infiltrates his support groups, he is incapable to releasing his pain and emotions. If he cannot cry, he cannot sleep.
Possible suicidal thoughts (i.e: wanted his plane to crash or have mid-air collision) or simply has a decreased threshold of arousal and wants to increase it. His daily life consists of repetitive activity. When not working at his desk, he flies all over the country for his company, assessing damaged cars. Spending most of his time traveling via airplane, the Narrator has taken on the philosophy of “single-serving” items. Because of his constant traveling, he appears to detach himself from any long term relationships. He forms temporary cordial relationships during flights but then dismisses any potential permanent connection between people.
Over time, his temperament changes. He started out as a soft spoken, submissive employee who did as he was told. He was monotonous in his speech and would just go with the flow. Never looked for trouble. Now he is more willing to fight, will stand up against people who he perceives to be treating him unfairly. He has become more manipulative and physically violent. This is seen in his interaction with his boss when he threatens his boss and beats himself up before the security guards can get in there in order to make the situation look terrible for his manager. He begins to lose self control in his fights and just seeks to destroy things.
Given the symptoms shown by the Narrator, the most fitting diagnosis would be Dissociative Identity Disorder. According to the DSM-5 (2013), there are five criteria which must be fulfilled in order to diagnose a patient with DID. Criteria A is a “disruption of identity characterized by two or more distinct personality states” (DMS-V 2013) in which the individual’s affect, consciousness, behavior, perception, memory, cognition, and/or sensory-motor function are altered. There must be incoherence between the individual’s sense of self and sense of agency. Criteria B is repeated lapse of memory in every day things, important information, and/or traumatic events. Criteria C requires the symptoms experienced to cause substantial distress or impairment to the patient. The next criteria requires that these symptoms are not a part of acceptable cultural or religious behavior. The finally criteria is that these symptoms are not caused by substance use or other medical conditions.
The Narrator/Tyler Durden fulfills all of these criteria. This is seen in the stark difference between the Narrator and Tyler. While the Narrator is soft spoken, agreeable, and easily persuaded, his alter personality is confident, controlling, and stubborn. His behavior changes, his memory is affected, his sensory-motor functions are compromised, and his perception is altered when he changes from one personality to the other. The Narrator’s also shows a regular inability to recall how he got places or what was happening within the club he organized. These symptoms change how he interacts with his employer and the people around him. As his symptoms worsens, he becomes more erratic and violent in both his personal and business relationships. We know that these symptoms are not considered acceptable in his culture/ religion and we also know that he does not do drugs and has no known medical conditions which can be explained as the culprit for these symptoms.
“Other common symptoms include amnesia, hearing voices of other personality states, and depersonalization” (Dell, 2006). We see instances of amnesia and depersonalization throughout the film where the Narrator describes, “I nod off, I wake up in strange places. I have no idea how I got there” (Fight Club director). and frequently sees his alter personality, Tyler. Not only do we see instances od depersonalization, but there is also episodes of derealization where the Narrator describes feeling like nothing around him is real. That everything is just copies of copies of copies. Other concerns of people with DID is the individual’s safety. According to the DSM-5 (2013), there is a high risk of suicide and self-mutilation among outpatients with DID. The Narrator deals with both risks. We know this from his repetitive fixation on planes crashing or playing chicken with the cars on the road as well as the chemical burn his alter personality gives him.