Note- Spoilers for Game of Thrones S08 E03 The Long Night.
Some readers may find some of the following disturbing to read as incidents of abuse are described. Please use your own discretion.
While watching battle for Winterfell I was struck by one of the character reactions. That of the Hound aka Sandor Clegane. During the battle when a trench of fire is lit Sandor freezes and seems unable to move. Is the Sandor suffering PTSD?
What is PTSD?
PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition brought on as a reaction to traumatic experiences. Traumatic experiences that may contribute to PTSD include warfare, abuse including violent, sexual, and psychological abuse, car crashes and natural disasters. In fact a traumatic event is any time we feel in danger. This can be real or perceived danger.
Some of the symptoms of PTSD are uncontrollable disturbing thoughts, feelings and/or dreams about the traumatic event.
Those with PTSD may also have intrusive memories (sometimes called flashbacks) caused by trauma related cues, often described as triggers, sometimes these may be obvious (such as fireworks and explosions for war veterans), at other times these triggers may be subtle and harder to recognise.
Other symptoms include avoidance. Avoidance of situations, people and places that remind us of the trauma. Avoidance of thinking about and/or talking about the trauma.
Negative thoughts about oneself and self criticism and negative thoughts about others and the world can also be a symptom of PTSD.
This list is by no means exhaustive.
How we react to danger…
As humans we have many responses to dangerous situations developed over time and we may react in different ways to different forms of danger. You may have heard of fight or flight as a reaction to a threatening situation. Theses are often described as the F responses. Here are five F responses-
F responses to danger or threatening situations-
This response is to fight when we encounter danger. Attack the aggressor(s) or the danger. This fight response can be physical or verbal or even functional, as in attacking a fire to try and put it out.
This means to get away from the danger, to run or flee from the dangerous situation. It is a means to protect ourselves by putting distance between ourselves and the threat in front of us.
This reaction is to become incredibly still, to freeze in one spot in the hopes that the danger will pass us by, that any aggressors or threats will with not notice us or become disinterested. This can also occur when a sudden threat appears and we freeze will we recover from the shock and take stock of the situation to figure out how best to react.
This means to become limp, to play dead, literally flop. Similar to the freeze response this is to hope that the threat becomes disinterested. This like all the responses can be seen in the animal kingdom. Have you ever seen a cat ‘playing’ with a mouse? One response the mouse utilises is to play dead, the cat then gets bored and wonders off. Once the cat is a safe distance away the mouse activates its flight response.
This reaction is to try and talk our way out of danger. To please the aggressor and neutralise the threat by fawning over the aggressor so that they like us and no longer see us as a threat and put us in the position of friend rather than foe.
All these reactions are natural responses and are seen across the animal kingdom as well as in humans but can become over used and occur at inappropriate times or situations.
The Hound, Sandor Clegane
In the episode of Game of Thrones we see Sandor react to the fire which activates his freeze response. This is clearly an inappropriate response as he is in the middle of a battle and freezing potentially puts him in more danger. We have seen his freeze response when faced with fire in pervious episodes. This can be traced back to the abuse he received from his older brother when he was a child. One of the ways his brother abused him was to hold his face in a fire scaring Sandor. This incident has traumatised Sandor and he now has a reaction to fire which causes is freeze response to activate.
When to seek help? If you have been in a traumatic event or series of events and are still feeling the effects more than a month later or are feel you are severely suffering or having suicidal thoughts contact your GP as soon as possible.
Counselling can offer support for those suffering PTSD and help to work through the trauma and understand what triggers flashbacks and how to cope and minimise these. Counselling can also help in understanding self criticism and self esteem and work towards minimising the inner critic and bolstering self esteem. Counselling can help you to understand why you react in certain ways to certain situations allowing you to take more control over your responses. Counselling also offers a place where you can talk openly and honestly, without judgement, about your experiences.