AVOIDANT ATTACHMENT IN FILM

Avoidants are everywhere in popular culture - it makes for great storyline tension! So our culture often glamourises avoidants and shows them enacting sudden magical transformations for their love interest.

 

But don't be fooled: ultimately change will come from inside, potentially with a partner's support but not from them. And true strength lies not in isolation, but in being brave enough to be vulnerable, fully acknowledge our need for human connection and stable attachment, and to work through its complexities.

"It's Not Your Fault"

"Why does hearing "it's not your fault" make Will so uncomfortable in this famous scene? Will is telling the truth when he says he knows it's not his fault. So why does his psychiatrist Sean keep repeating it? Because he's not saying, "it's not your fault," so much as he's saying, "there was nothing you could've done to stop it."

 

Why is this important? Will is constantly trying to avoid pain by taking action that stays "one step ahead" of a potential bad thing happening to him. He breaks up with Skylar when she asks him to come to California, telling her he doesn't love her, because in his own words, what if he goes there and it doesn't work? He doesn't want to expose himself to risk and change to find out she's not perfect, and vice-versa. He sabotages interviews for the jobs his professor gives him the opportunity for. He decides it's safer to stay with his friends, thinking he's making the right people happy, only for them to get angry at him because they feel he is wasting his life: "you know what any of us would give to have what you have?" He even makes a fool of himself in front of many psychiatrists because he's afraid they're going to dig up his dark past and force him to relive it (but he has to meet with them or go to jail, so he stays "one step ahead," and instead of just outright skipping the meetings acts like such an ass that they quit, so he can say, "hey, I met with them. They quit. You can't put that on me"). 

 

In other words, he does blame himself for all the bad things that happened to him. Specifically, he thinks if he had been smarter, if he had been one step ahead, he could've prevented them. Sean is telling him, and forcing him to internalise, that that thought is false! That nothing he could have done would've prevented those things (or at least, if he prevented that particular bad thing another one would've happened, because it was never about his mistakes)!

 

Why does this make him cry? Simply put, everything Will did to try to stay a step ahead hurt a lot of people. Not just random people either, but the very people who cared about him, supported him, and believed in him the most. Skylar loved him despite all his problems. The professor took a huge chance on him and got him out of jail and setting up work meetings because he believed in him. He even hurt his therapist Sean by trying to get rid of him at first, like he did all the other therapists. He did all that not caring if they got hurt, because he thought ultimately it was important to stay a step ahead to prevent further pain - for both himself and others.

 

At that moment, he's realizing he hasn't helped anyone. All he's done is hurt the people who cared about him the most! That's why he cries. That's why he hugs Sean and says, "Oh my God! I'm so sorry!" He's not only apologising to Sean. He's apologising to everyone he's ever hurt. And that is why, for the rest of the film, he's basically going back and trying to mend the bridges he burned. He goes back, commits to an interview, and accepts a position. He decides to go to California to make up with Skylar. He fully commits to following Sean's advice - he now fully trusts Sean and is putting himself at risk because he finally believes Sean truly has his best interests at heart."

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