A new paper by Jenny Hamilton, Programme Leader for Counselling and the MSc Mental Health, Wellbeing & Resilience at Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU), is exploring the relationship between monster imagery and post-traumatic stress.
Monsters are considered as symbol and metaphor for unspoken or unprocessed personal and cultural trauma, that may represent underlying, unacknowledged fears.
The paper develops Jenny’s academic and counselling work in the area of film therapy and discusses how encounters with the monster onscreen, in mental imagery, dreams or metaphor, may be allegorical to the individual’s internal struggle with post-traumatic stress. The paper particularly explores how monsters represent fears surrounding cancer and terminal illness in movies such as A Monster Calls and The Shallows. It is proposed that trauma experience confronts us with our mortality and fragility, bringing us into contact with the sense of ‘abject’ horror represented by monster imagery, when faced with existential threats that may render the everyday meaningless.
Speaking after publication Jenny discussed some of the papers themes:
“Our fascination with monsters may be linked to an adaptive evolutionary drive to symbolise experience into awareness for processing and meaning making. These initial imaged representations of fear states may begin a process of psychological integration of difficult experiences. In this way monsters may actually play a complex role in a human struggle to come to terms with overwhelming events. Onscreen monsters may allow us to face our fears and survive.”
The themes discussed in the paper are relevant to academics and students in different disciplines, from literature, film and media studies to counselling and psychology. It has been published online in the journal Humanities and Social Sciences Communications is available through open access as part of a wider journal collection of articles ‘Monsters: interdisciplinary explorations of monstrosity’.