Psychoanalysis and Television

One of my favorite types of television shows are crime series. Especially the crime shows that have to do with sexual assault and serial killing. That may seem a bit gruesome, but I have a good reason.

On these shows, such as Criminal Minds, Law and Order:SVU, and NCIS; the crimes that are taking place all have something in common. In Criminal Minds especially, these crimes are what really catches my interest because of the way the detectives go about finding their suspects. They use Psychoanalysis on their suspects, and usually every single time, find exactly what they are looking for.

Psychoanalysis is a particular theory that psychological problems originate from repressed impulses and conflicts in childhood. This being said, the aim of psychoanalysis is to bring repressed feelings into conscious awareness. In these specific crime shows, the detectives in the Behavioral Science Unit in the FBI do not use psychoanalysis as a therapy, but as an advantage for them. By analyzing the way the suspects have gone about their crimes in the past, help them to find a pattern for their crimes and lead them to the suspect’s next crime spree.

When I watch these shows I almost feel like they are teaching me something. I know that these crimes are fictional, and the suspects are as well, but being able to put the methods of psychoanalysis to an actual instance is really helpful. Although the criticisms for psychoanalysis include; being very expensive and taking a lot of time, the detectives in the FBI really have an advantage over the suspects, because the suspects don’t have to be anywhere close to the detectives in order for them to analyze them.

12 thoughts on “Psychoanalysis and Television

  1. acj5097

    I agree with your post. I think some of the most memorable movies and television shows of all time have stemmed from the creator’s ability to recreate psychological illnesses. Shows like Law and Order and Criminal Minds do a great job at this. Another movie that I have seen a few times that does a good job at this is the original Psycho. In Psycho, the main character Norman Bates has a uncomfortable romantic relationship with his mother. He even kept her corpse around in the house. The original movie came out in 1960, but a series based on the show called Bates Motel is all about the childhood of Norman Bates. In this series, the viewer gets to clearly see how the events of your childhood can lead to psychological problems in your adulthood. The creator of the show is clearly putting the theory of psychoanalysis to work.

  2. Min Sup Lee

    I really enjoyed your post! I too always enjoyed these kinds of television program. Your post explained psychoanalysis very well. I never thought I would compare psychoanalysis with TV programs like CSI and Criminal mind. This was different than other post I read because people wrote about how psychoanalysis lead to change in behavior through violence rather than programs that solve violence. But on like the others, you showed how FBI’s and detective utilize psychoanalysis to find their suspects and etc. You showed me a new way of understanding psychoanalysis because I always thought psychoanalysis will be a negative effect on the individuals rather than positive effects like the example you gave. Again your post was very beneficial!

  3. Min Sup Lee

    I really enjoyed your post! I too always enjoyed these kinds of television program. Your post explained psychoanalysis very well. I never thought I would compare psychoanalysis with TV programs like CSI and Criminal mind. This was different than other post I read because people wrote about how psychoanalysis lead to change in behavior through violence rather than programs that solve violence. But on like the others, you showed how detectives use psychoanalysis to find their suspects and etc. You showed me a new way of understanding psychoanalysis because I always thought psychoanalysis will be a negative effect on the individuals rather than positive effects like the example you gave. Again your post was very beneficial!

  4. Daniel E Fisher

    I too enjoy shows like criminal minds and NCIS from time to time. The way to find criminals using psychoanalysis is very interesting. I feel like in a non television setting though, the detectives would not be finding their suspects every time. This show does give good examples of the successful use of psychoanalysis even though it is just a tv show. Usually all of the criminals can be found using psychoanalysis because most of them had repressed feelings that they gained from possible traumatic childhood experiences. These repressed feelings are what are used in psycho analysis. As you stated it can be expensive to use psychoanalysis the FBI and other groups use it efficiently enough to make it worth and they are also trying to catch very dangerous people and need to use it. Psychoanalysis can be a very useful tool in the criminal world. Law enforcement makes good use of it to catch criminals.

  5. Sarah Ann Sullivan

    I have always loved watching NCIS and was always so fascinated on how they solved the crimes. I really like how you related psychoanalysis in psychology and the way they use it as a method for their advantage in solving crimes. I have never really looked at it that way but I completely understand what you are saying and make a good point. It is really helpful when you are able to relate the concept to something else besides therapy.

  6. dxd5185

    I love crime tv shows! That is all I ever watch and I have noticed the use of psychoanalysis in finding the motive behind the crimes. I like to watch tv shows about crimes that occurred in real life and I found that majority of the criminals have had issues in their past that somewhat causes them to resort to crime. They have experienced abuse or something traumatic in their childhood that changes them for life. For example I watched an episode about a woman who was a serial killer. It all started when she her got into an argument with first husband. He lost his temper and attacked her so she fought back and ended up killing him in defense. After the situation she was a little depressed but quickly moved on. She married another man and when they got into a big argument those repressed feelings came back and she killed him. Then she got married again and the same thing happened. This went on for a while and she killed a total of 7 men. I thought it was really crazy.

  7. Antonio Giovanni Pagano

    This is a cool post! I also enjoy watching the crime shows such as criminal minds and NCIS. It was very unique how you said the FBI uses psychoanalysis, I had never really thought that the FBI would use a psychological perspective to help solve crimes. Obviously the FBI analyzes the crime scene after a crime, like you stated, but I never thought that through psychoanalysis they would be able to find patterns in behavior and possible motives.

  8. Jacqueline Rose Harpe

    Criminal Minds is my favorite TV show! Although parts of the show are inaccurate, some of the cases are based off of true cases provided by the FBI. I have a family member who has met the cast and given them some old cases so that they can construct stories around it. I like how you wrote that psychoanalysis is an advantage for them, not a therapy. That statement is entirely true because they are using these techniques to be a step ahead to prevent more crimes from happening, not aiming to aid or cure the criminal. Ever since I decided I wanted to become a forensic scientist and work for the FBI, the types of shows you mentioned have fascinated me.

  9. Garrett Swope

    Great post! You explained and showed well how psychoanalysis can be easily discovered in our modern crime shows on television. It was interesting to read this because I never really connected the psychology concept of psychoanalysis with today’s crime series like CSI and Criminal Minds. So it was very refreshing to learn how both aspects are put together, and effectively as well because those shows utilize this psychology concept very well and are favorites of many TV watchers. I myself fell in love with HBO’s True Detective and with that falling under the crime category as well, it was very evident how the detectives also used psychoanalysis to track down their suspect, even though it took many years to do so.

  10. Kelsey Eagan

    I have always been fascinated with crime shows too. I’ve always wanted to know how a serial killers mind works and what causes them to want to do something like that to another person. I love how they incorporate psychoanalysis into these shows and actually teach me something.

  11. Daniel Kozuch

    It is interesting that so many shows take a psychoanalytic approach to crime solving. It particularly intrigues me because psychoanalysis is, as you said, a method to self discovery and enlightenment that can be encouraged by a psychotherapist. To use it as a profiling mechanism really places it in a new environment. It always seemed to be a rather non-specific, conjecture method, but I’m sure it would be extremely useful in particular situations where the suspect pool is limited and access to personal information (background) is available.

  12. Muzi Li

    I like crime series too, like CSI!! and yes, there are tons of violence and sexual scene. Then, you use the Psychology concept “psychoanalysis”. you combine the example and the concept is perfect and I totally agree with you. But I think watch too much this kind of TV shoes and movies may cause some kind of crazy mind…I think. Yes, it is true that watching that kind of series may learn something like the way the detective/FBI think.

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