Season I Psychology Episode Guide
by Mishka and Gabrielle Harbowy
(1x01) The X-Files (Pilot)
Issue: Mulder's psychology training
Scully to F.B.I. Bureau Chief Blevins, when she's first asked what she knows about Mulder: "He's an Oxford-educated Psychologist who wrote a monograph on serial killers and the occult that helped catch Monty Props in 1988. Generally thought of as the best analyst in the Violent Crimes section."
Issue: Mulder's interest in the occult/paranormal phenomena stemming from past experience that has been repressed in memory.
Mulder to Scully, explaining his obsession with UFO's, etc.: "I was fascinated. I read all the cases I could get my hands on, hundreds of them. I read everything...about paranormal phenomena, the occult... "In my research, I've worked very closely with a man named Dr. Heitz Verber, and he's taken me through deep regression hypnosis. I've been able to go into my repressed memories to the time my sister disappeared. I can recall a bright light outside and a presence in the room. I was paralyzed; unable to repond to my sister's calls for help."
(see links to Repressed Memories, Regression Hypnosis.)
(1x02) Deep Throat
Issue: Stress reactions
In this episode, U.S. Air Force test pilots are kidnapped and later returned with personality changes/selective amnesia. One has pulled his own hair out strand by strand, and is making fishing lures from it. Scully (to Mulder): "It's called stereoptophy -- a syndrome caused by extreme stress. POWs have been known to suffer from it. They've studied it in zoo animals."
Actually, milder forms of this disorder are quite common. Generally considered to be a reaction to emotional and psychological stress, it can include pulling one's own hair, eyebrows and/or eyelashes out, resulting in anything ranging from mildly noticeable to complete baldness. The stressors are often not as "extreme" as experiencing long captivity as a POW or similar examples; low-level but frequently pervasive/long-term anxiety can result in this "nervous habit".
Later, when another pilot (Col. Budehas, the pilot whose wife reported him kidnapped, resulting in the F.B.I. investigation) is returned and seems to have selective amnesia, Scully explains to Mulder: "It could just be that he had a nervous breakdown with a concomitant memory lapse." Mulder answers: "No, I think that men like Colonel Budehas are physiologically incapable of dealing with the stress of flying the aircraft we saw -- of doing those maneuvers at those speeds." Scully's explanation seems reasonable in Colonel Budehas' case. Loss of memory of certain events or of a certain time period can be part of a stress reaction or "nervous breakdown". Amnesia as a reaction to a stressful situation can be highly selective, even to the degree of Col. Budehas' memory loss, in which he seems to remember everything except memories related to his disappearance and the aircraft he flew.
Issue: "Seeing what you want to see"; wish fulfillment.
Paul the "reporter", when Mulder asks him if he's ever seen a UFO: "People see what they want to see. It's all a bunch of hooey if you ask me." Although we later discover that Paul is working with the air base security, and is only posing as a reporter to keep tabs on Mulder and Scully's investigation, his theory of why people see UFOs is a typical psychological explanation of "wish fulfillment", in which people who normally do not have psychotic symptoms may truly believe they have seen or otherwise experienced something they had greatly desired to see or experience.
In this episode, Victor Euegene Tooms is confined to a high- security mental hospital because of his attack on Scully. See entry on episode 1x21, Tooms, for further discussion.
Mulder looks at family pictures on the mantle in the Morris household, including several of Ruby, a teenage girl who had allegedly been abducted by aliens. The picture Mulder focuses on, however, is one of Ruby as a little girl at the side of a swimming pool, at about the age Samantha Mulder was when she was abducted. Later, when he is told to stop contacting the family, Mulder leaves Scully to go talk to Ruby's brother, who was the only direct witness to the abduction (as Mulder was with his sister). Scully calls out to him, accusing him of transfering his feelings about his sister's abduction onto the case.
Transference is a subconscious defense mechanism in which an individual applies his feelings or attitudes about a past experience onto another person or situation because of a vague (or sometimes very strong) similarity between the past experience and the current one. Transference often results in the person "working out" psychological conflicts/reacting to the object of transference (the other person or new situation) because facing the actual person or situation from their past may be more psychologically stressful. Transference, as in any other defense mechanism, can be healthy or unhealthy, largely depending upon whether or not the person realizes what he is doing and can use the transference in order to resolve the past issues.
(1x05) The Jersey Devil
Issue: Feral Child Syndrome
The wild woman that we see as the legendary "Jersey Devil" in this episode could possibly be a normal human who somehow survived living in the woods since infancy or early childhood. There have been a handful of documented cases of children found in such a "feral" state; efforts to civilize them had little effect.
Some researchers believe that the lack of success in teaching them language and basic social skills may not have been just because the children spent their formative years alone in the wild, but also because their parents may have abandoned them because they detected some form of mental disability. The question is, did growing up in the wild cause their uneducability, or did a congenital disability contribute to it?
Such children also seemed to have developed an almost superhuman resistance to cold, pain and discomfort, as well as becoming unusually strong and physically self-defensive, as the wild woman in this episode seemed to be.
(1x07) Ghost in the Machine
(1x10) Fallen Angel
Issue: Congenital sociopathic tendencies
Through a form of genetic engineering, the "Eve" clones in this episode have certain highly unusual traits, such as extremely high intelligence. Unfortunately, they also have a genetic predisposition to highly anti-social or psychopathic behavior and violence.
In this episode, Mulder confesses his extreme fear of fire to Scully, explaining that it stems from a childhood experience, when a friend's house burned down and he had to stay in the ruins all night to help keep looters away.
See link to Phobias .
(1x13) Beyond the Sea
Issue: Hallucinating in times of grief
In this episode, Scully repeatedly sees her father after his recent death. See entry on episode 1x01, "Deep Throat", for description of wish fulfillment.
(1x16) Young at Heart
(1x18) Miracle Man
(1x20) Darkness Falls
Issue: Committment to a mental hospital
This episode picks up months after "Squeeze", with Eugene Tooms having been committed to a mental institution due to his attack on Scully in that earlier episode. Usually, when someone is committed to a mental facility as the result of a crime, the individual does not simply serve a sentence of a certain amount of time, as in a regular prison sentence; they also must be determined to no longer be a danger to themselves or others. This is what Tooms' psychiatrist, Dr. Monte, managed to convince the review board of -- unfortunately for him.
(1x22) Born Again
Issue: Idiots savants
This phenomenon is found among a small percentage of developmentally disabled individuals: skills that would seem to be far beyond the ability of someone of their measured mental capacity, and even far beyond the abilities of most people of normal or high intelligence. Savantism is more frequently seen among autistic individuals, who sometimes are not actually below normal in intelligence; the nature of autism is greatly debated, but their disability is more of a problem of perception, communication, and connection with the outside world than of intelligence. However, in this episode, Roland shows no signs of autism; he seems to be a savant with an amazing facility with numbers who has a fairly moderate mental handicap.
Issue: Psychic connection between twins
Mulder's final explanation for Roland's gift with mathematics in this episode is that he has a psychic connection with his identical twin brother, whose brain has been cryogenically preserved. As Mulder points out, there have been longitudinal studies and other forms of research indicating that there might be some validity to psychic connections between twins; for example, twins separated by many miles who can somehow sense what is happening to the other twin at significant points in their lives.
The X-Files takes this concept a step further, suggesting that this link might even be strengthened when one of the twins is a disembodied brain with plenty of time on it's...uh...hands, and nothing better to do than plot revenge on his traitorous research partners.
(1x24) The Erlenmeyer Flask