Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in dating, relationships, success, and fulfillment, and explore the psychology of masculinity. Now, here's your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.
David: Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast. I’m David Tian, your host.
In this episode, we'll be looking at the psychology displayed in the latest Doctor Strange movie, Doctor Strange 2, The Multiverse of Madness. This is the first time I thought I would be devoting an episode to a movie before I even saw the movie, so I was kind of nervous going into it.
The first half, two or two thirds of the movie, I was thinking, I probably won't be doing an episode on this because, even though it was a lot of fun, I didn't see a lot of deep psychology in it. But then the ending brought it home and there were so many great themes looking back on the whole movie, but especially as they tied it up in the end of the movie. [01:02.5]
The usual spoiler alerts. I’ve got three points to share. The first point is going to spoil the ending right away, so if you haven't watched the movie yet, pause this right now and wait until you can see the movie. I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone. But I know, it turns out, many of you will still listen to this anyway, but I do recommend that you do go ahead and enjoy the movie first.
Also, the usual caveats. This is not a breakdown. This is not like Easter eggs analysis. It is not a review of the movie. I will be choosing three and maybe you could say four themes from the movie to explore here in relation to masculine psychology, and this is not a breakdown or comprehensive review.
Okay, so I've got three points here and I will start with the broadest theme and it's a continuation of what I saw in the original or the first Doctor Strange for which I did a podcast episode a couple weeks ago. I'm recording these about two weeks ahead, so I watched this movie on the Thursday of the opening weekend here in Taiwan and I'm hoping that a couple weeks is enough time for people to go and see it. [02:11.8]
In the meantime, I'd made a podcast episode on the first Doctor Strange to set it up and, hopefully, you've listened to that. If you haven't, go catch that after you listen to this, but I'm continuing themes here from that podcast episode because it was Doctor Strange 1 and it's interesting to see how some of the open loops pay off, or am I mixing metaphors now? How some of this continues in Dr. Strange two and some of them don't get picked up.
But one of the main themes that does get picked up, though I don't think that most people have recognized it, is the issue about rules and flexibility and chaos. Earlier, in that earlier episode, I cashed it out in terms of Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundations theory and you can see it again here very strongly in Doctor Strange 2. On the one hand, there is a kind of lawful good or lawful evil, and then on the other extreme, there's a chaotic good or a chaotic evil, so it's not just good versus evil; there's also lawfulness versus chaos. [03:15.8]
Ironically, the best formulation of this that I have seen is actually from my childhood in the advanced Dungeons and Dragons moral field, where you're supposed to fill in for your character, what its moral or ethical stance is. You’ve got, on the one extreme, lawful good, and then on the diametric other extreme is chaotic evil, but it was interesting to consider chaotic good and lawful evil as a middle schooler.
In the first movie, it becomes very explicit at the end and then in the post-credit scene. In the first movie, you have the Ancient One using dark magic in order to extend her life or drawing from the dark to extend her life and she's explaining it or justifying it in terms of the ends. Right? So, the ends justify the means. [04:06.8]
Then, Dr. Strange does the same thing by using the time stone. He's broken some rules, but he's saved the universe, and Baron Mordo takes issue with that at the end of the movie, walking away from the sorcerers, and then in the post-credit scene where he starts to right the wrongs and take magic away from those who shouldn't have been using it, or actually he says, the problem is that there are those who have this power, that they can bend the rules and there are no consequences to them personally, and that was a major theme in the whole movie.
Now, in Doctor Strange, it gets reversed and this is something that was really bugging me at the beginning of the movie where it turns out Scarlet Witch—and big-time spoilers from here on out—Scarlet Witch just wanted to spend time with her kids. That’s something that everyone can understand, right?
It's like, if you are Doctor Strange and you're hearing this, why can't we just find some way for Scarlet Witch to visit her damn kids in this other universe? Maybe she can sit down with America Chavez and they can all figure out some way where Scarlet Witch can go hang out with her kids more often, or if she just wants to go over there, just go over there permanently. [05:17.1]
Then the problem only became clearer towards the end of the movie, when Wong asked the Scarlet Witch what she was going to do to the other Wanda in the other universe where her kids are. She didn't give an answer, but the obvious thing was she'd kill her, right? She'd take over that position or that spot where the other Wanda was and the kids aren't supposed to know this.
So, that sucks, but is that a necessary outcome? It doesn't seem to me like that's the only way this could work, but it's interesting that right off the bat, we're just supposed to accept that none of these otherwise highly intelligent, very wise, experienced-- I mean, we're supposed to also accept that Dr. Strange lived through or saw out 14 million ways that the Thanos fight could go and one of those ways took over five years, so I don't really know how that worked. [06:10.3]
There's this episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Picard, ironically, the same actor playing Professor X, but anyway, Picard lived through an entire lifetime on another planet and then popped back in his body in the real world, so to speak. But he's walking around now after that episode with a whole other, almost an entire lifetime's worth of living experience, and love and relationships and intimacy and all that, and coming to terms with death and grieving and everything else, and his own life in the current world and that's a pretty powerful thing.
If you could be so wise that you've lived another lifetime, think about all that you've learned. I know for some of you young guys in your twenties, this probably isn't going to be that profitable an exercise, but me in my mid-forties, I’ve experienced, it feels like since my twenties I’ve experienced, what it feels like, an entire lifetime's worth of experience in three to five years and reinventing myself in many ways because of these breakthroughs. Imagine an entire other lifetime, another 100 years. [07:14.1]
Apparently, Dr. Strange has gone through 14 million of these of about … I don't know, one of them might have just been one second long, but maybe some of them were or, definitely, some of them were over five years long, and yet he's still so full of fear about being flexible with the rules. I get it and this is the major theme, right? They had to kill off the other Doctor Strange in that other universe because he had used the Darkhold and they were so afraid of him. They couldn't trust him, even though he did save the universe, but they went ahead and killed him. He submitted to their authority.
Notice that rubric, that Haidt’s moral foundations is very useful here, if you didn't listen to the episode or if you don't know his theory, that liberals have only two foundations, harm and fairness, whereas conservatives have four other foundations of morality, including authority and purity. [08:08.0]
This you'll see in ancient Japan, ancient civilizations, especially in Asia, where purity is not just like a cleanliness thing or sanitation thing. It's a moral thing. It's an ethical thing. It's the difference between inside the home and outside the home, bringing dirt from outside into the home is immoral. It's unethical. In some ways, it's not just bad sanitation; it's just actually morally bad in some way. It's the same thing you see here with the moral foundations, authority and purity versus, for instance, rebellion and dirtiness.
For those guys who come to this podcast because you think it's about getting women or something like that and you stick around for the psychology, which I love, which is part of what I'm doing here, the bait and switch—that baits you in with the stuff that's not so healthy for you and then switches you out with the stuff that will actually give you lasting happiness and fulfillment, and love and connection, and calm and so forth—notice that this is the same thing going on, in many cases, when it comes to figuring out your dating life. [09:06.8]
A lot of guys who have trouble with women also have trouble tapping into their rebellious parts or their dirty parts, so to speak, and they are overly anxious and rigid around authority and rules, and being seen to be obedient or a good boy, and as a result, they lack the flexibility that is a necessary part of the seductive process of romance.
I mean, just thinking about a romantic date or time. It can't be rigid. It’s part of romance. It’s part of what makes it exciting, the unknown, the spontaneous, and then, of course, romance leading into sex has this kind of subversive taboo nature to it that's part of the sexiness of it. If you remove all that, then it's just boring and dry, and predictable. [10:05.6]
But this is what a lot of guys [have], a lot of nice guys who have trouble with women, they also have trouble with being bad, being a bad boy, rebelling. They also have trouble with being dirty and naughty. As a result, the women that they date don't feel free to be themselves and they don't have a lot of fun, and it's definitely not romantic. It's not a sexual time.
As a result of the banning or the exiling of parts of themselves, which could be called the shadow, the exiled parts of themselves that they've repressed, the naughty, rebellious, dirty parts, then all you're left with is this very rigid, strict, anal-retentive kind of dynamic. It's interesting that Dr. Strange represented more of the flexibility and the chaos, the chaotic good, the flexible good, in the first movie, and Baron Mordo represented the inflexible, rigid, rule-following authority, obedient purity, and kind of the sanctimonious side of things. [11:07.7]
Then here, right off the bat, they don't have a confab with Wanda and say, Look, let's have a meeting. Come up to Kamar-Taj. We'll sit down with America Chavez. We'll find a way that you don't have to kill her in order for you to meet your kids, and maybe we can talk to the Wanda in that other universe. They haven't even thought about that.
These are worth thinking about. This is what you do as a therapist. There are parts that come in and say, We have to kill him, right? Suicide is the only way or alcohol is the only way, or this is the only way. They're very rigid and inflexible, and triggered, so they're in their fear and they're not thinking clearly, and they're not creative and flexible in the way they're thinking, and then rebellion is taboo, being dirty as taboo, so those aren't even possibilities that you think about. [11:51.0]
Instead of just blindly following rules, you might want to move back from your fear and be able to consider why those rules are there in the first place, and then if you understand the principles, maybe you didn't think of all of the permutations possible, especially making an exception for the most powerful character that you know, Scarlet Witch here, in this case. It just boggled my mind. She just wants to see her kids. She wants to do that in a way that's consistent. She doesn't want to live in this universe anymore because there's nothing here left for her, her husband.
There basically was an interesting point there that they skirted over, which is an incredible amount of grief that I don't think they even fully addressed in the WandaVision TV series, which was where she had to go through the intense trauma of killing her husband by ripping his head open, and then the next second, I mean, in less a minute, Thanos shows up, reconstitutes him, and then he goes through the same pain again, so it was like she killed her husband for nothing and, literally, that's the case. It's not completely for nothing, but in terms of the result, it was nothing, and no one is helping her with their trauma. What they really need is a superhero therapist, which I guess Professor X could be, but, anyway. That was an awesome cameo, by the way. I'm sure we all loved that. [13:11.0]
Going back to the point, right, rules, unending rigid, adherence to rules, born out of fear, and all these dudes are like, Of course, there's fear, of course, there is a place in you, where even despite the danger, you don't need to feel the fear of it. The fear, and I’ve done a lot of episodes on this, the fear is extra.
If you think that fear is required for action, you're wrong. You can still do the action. You can still put the safeguards in place and all of that without having to feel the fear. It's just simply you're aware of the danger and you don't want it, the outcome, and so you put in the safeguards. The safeguards are effective at whatever percent and you just calculate whatever needs to be calculated and you institute whatever needs to be instituted. The fear is extra. The fear is what causes all of the suffering. [14:03.0]
So, just noticing that the fear isn't necessary for clear action or clear thinking, but the fear causes the reactive formation, where it blocks off creativity and flexibility, and calm, of course, and just noticing now Dr. Strange and the other sorcerers or whatever, and especially that other universe, the Illuminati in that other universe were acting out of fear, and lo and behold, they ended up creating or being not flexible enough to be creative and realizing what they're dealing with, except for Professor X, but perhaps too late. [14:43.2]
So, just notice that the rules and over-obedience to authority and over-adherence to purity as ethical or moral issues versus having that creativity and flexibility and embracing chaos; and noticing that fear when you add that as an ingredient, fear of chaos or fear of the rebellious or the dirty is what causes you to exile, repress, and not be able to heal and not be able to grow, and not be able to find creative solutions that make all of your parts happy, and instead, exiling, banishing, punishing, disowning, repressing parts of yourself out of fear, and that can only hold for so long.
While it's holding, while you're repressing, you have this toxic energy eating away at you from the inside, and all of this is incredibly un-seductive, right? Anti-seductive equals rules and over-adherence to authority and purity and so on. That's just anti-seductive. That type of dynamic, you want it in your law enforcement, that sort of thing. That's not great for a date or romance, or intimacy or parenting even. [15:59.5]
You want to be able to consider the individual as an individual, not just as someone who's breaking some rule whose principles you've forgotten already, were the reasons why those rules are there that you've forgotten already. It's just a blind adherence to these rules because, oh, no, fear, if they get broken.
It just became a process of repressing or containing the Scarlet Witch instead of working with her because—moving on to the second point, we're transitioning into the second point about Scarlet Witch—we understand her as a good character through most of or through all of the [phases], whatever the phase, the earlier phases of the MCU, and in the WandaVision, you see this kind of both sides of it, where for the first part of the TV series, you're sucked into her perspective, and then you slowly start to see what's happening to others. This is a woman who's consumed by her pain, and when she's consumed by her pain, she doesn't see anyone else. She doesn't even see her own kids. They're literally an outgrowth of her or her focus on herself. [16:59.1]
Now we moved to the second point, which is I'm going to put this in an IFS way, IFS therapy way in a bit, but, first, just the bullet point that suffering is always attended by an excessive focus on yourself. Suffering, not pain. Pain is just the sensations. The suffering is extra on top of that.
When you go into the doctor's office and get a needle into your arm, there's some pain. For that to be suffering, the needle going into your arm, you're saying to yourself some interpretation about the pain, what the pain means. “Ah, this can't be” or “this means that I'm going to die”, or something like that. That creates the suffering. The pain is there, but the suffering is the psychological torturing or the interpretation that leads to a psychological torture on top of the pain, and suffering always comes from this focus on yourself. In fact, focusing on yourself doesn't always lead to suffering. Right? Sometimes it leads to triumphalism or pride. But wherever you find suffering, you will also find an excessive focus on yourself. [18:06.7]
If you can take your focus off yourself and onto some other object of love or of well-wishes, or of compassion, then, remarkably, the suffering goes away. There might still be pain if you were to just notice it, but the suffering would go away, or at least it would lessen.
This point is depicted so beautifully in that scene where America Chavez portals Scarlet Witch, who was torturing her at that moment, into that universe that Scarlet Witch wants to go to, and right in front of her two sons. They see her torturing America Chavez and they get really scared, and they just see a witch and they scream, “Witch, witch, witch,” and then the Wanda from that universe comes out and tries to get in between, and then Scarlet Witch hurts Wanda and she goes flying against the wall. [18:59.8]
Then the kids are very afraid of her, the Scarlet Witch, and she's finally able to take the focus off herself and notice what's actually happening for her kids, because if she really loved her sons, if she was actually focused on their wellbeing, what they want, not what she wants and what will alleviate her pain, but what they would want, she would know that they wouldn't want their own mother to die.
That comes up in the movie where the other character asks her whether they would know, that the kids would know, and then Scarlet Witch responds that they wouldn't know. But then the other character says, “But you would know.” That ought to do it, because if Scarlet Witch actually loved her sons, if she loved them unconditionally, self-sacrificially, which is what real love actually is, if what's good for her love objects, which is her sons, what's good for her sons is actually their mother, what they really want is their mother, then if you love them, you wouldn't take their mother away. You wouldn't kill her, their mother, at the very least and take her place. But she wasn't focused on them. She was actually not really even seeing them. She was just focused on herself. [20:12.5]
Now, a lot of dudes do this to women and it’s so hard for them to get, so maybe if they get this movie, they might be able to swap these characters out and see themselves in this way and a kind of analogy, though I found that a lot of guys who are rigid also have troubles with analogical thinking, but it's worth a shot.
What they're doing is, and there are two ways in which this happens commonly: one is where a guy who sees a woman is interacting with her and is treating her basically like a video game. She's not like a real human being in the sense that she has her own aims and all that, like her own desires. He doesn't consider that. He's considering her only as a non-playing character. There's a whole movie with Ryan Reynolds around this, right? They exist in the game and they're kind of governed by A.I. in a way, but they're not actual people being played. [21:06.8]
That's how a lot of dudes who are immature and trying to get their dating lives together [see women]. That's how they actually see women, but they don't even know that yet until they can stop and reflect and realize that they're dehumanizing women in that way. But they’re just seeing them as ways of gauging whether he's any good with women, like it's a video game and the score is determined by these non-player characters, right?
Actually, there are three ways in which this often plays out. That's the first common way guys look at viewing women as kind of non-player characters to determine how they're doing in the game of pickup or getting better with women or something like, or to determine their egos or whether they're alpha or something along those lines. [21:51.5]
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Here's the second, the girlfriend or wife as the sidekick, or maybe a trophy wife. It's more common that this would be in a kind of sidekick scenario where men see that their ideal woman as being somebody who contributes to his life, who fills a role in his life to make him look good or to be his ever-ready companion or partner, his Robin to his Batman, so to speak, or his partner in this mission of life that serves his narcissistic aims, because, in many cases, he hasn't even met this woman yet. In his mind, he's just fantasizing about the ideal relationship situation. [23:15.8]
Then, when he does get into a relationship, he ends up shoehorning her maybe in very indirect, unconscious ways, into a kind of sidekick role, and she's incredibly unfulfilled by this, of course, but he's not seeing her. He's seeing her as filling a position in his life that is currently vacant, and if he could just fill that position on his team or in his life, then he will be happy and things will go along smoothly, and he'll meet all of his ideals, his narcissistic ideals, and finally feeling enough and significant and so on. That's a second way in which you commonly see men not really seeing women as human, but as simply filling some kind of role, like a non-playing character or a sidekick, or trophy wife. [24:00.5]
The third, the third is where he doesn't even have a relationship yet, but he's already fantasizing about how happy and fulfilled and significant he will feel, how worthy he'll finally be, how he'd finally be enough, once he has her in his life and he hasn't even met her yet. This is kind of intimated in the way I explain the second option, the second option, the second way that you commonly find it is in a relationship.
This one is where the guy doesn't even know the woman yet and he's already thinking about this void in his life, this empty thing in his life, that once he finds that position to fill, then he'll finally be happy. Again, here, too, it's not a real human. He doesn't see her or the woman as a real human. He sees her as someone who fits a role in his life, like a non-playing character that's already pre-programed into the program of his life, his ideal program that he'll hopefully get to play out. [24:55.6]
That's how Scarlet Witch was seeing her two kids, not really seeing them until the end when she really finally woke up to it, because she saw them physically with her eyes and they were afraid, and then she saw them as human beings. In this universe, right? They're supposedly real. Anyway, with the whole idea of her birthing them, that's interesting, too. It doesn't mean that they're not real just because she created them. But, anyway, now we're really in comic book territory.
What made it easier to do an analysis on Batman, The Batman movie that came out recently, was because it was a lot more realistic. Now, this, especially this Doctor Strange movie, bends a lot of rules in terms of what's real or not, so I despaired for the first half of doing or drawing any kind of conclusions from it for the podcast.
But it really came home at the end when you can see in a way that you would analyze literature to draw lessons for life. You can do that here and notice that beautiful depiction of Scarlet Witch waking up. Then once she woke up to the reality of seeing her loved ones and realizing what her loved ones, her two sons, what they really would want, and that would be their mother, she breaks down. [26:07.3]
This is, in many ways, like IFS therapy. When you finally are able to be with the firefighter part or the extreme protector who is just reacting out of pain, and finally able to be with it long enough that you discover why the pain was there and you're able to help her grieve. Because now when she's able to finally realize that no matter how hard she works, no matter how powerful she gets, she's not going to--
I guess she could brainwash her sons into loving her, but that wouldn't be rewarding because then it wouldn't be them, and she didn't realize it wasn't them because she actually wasn't seeing them then, because she was consumed by her own pain and fear, fear of being alone, fear of not having them, and those are all fears around her and herself. That was because of an excessive focus on herself.
She was able to take that excessive focus off herself and see her sons for the way that they are in that universe. She would quickly have realized what she did at the end of the movie, which was what they really wanted, and as a result, she was out of ideas. She just had nothing left, so she collapsed and was able, finally, to move into the grieving stage, right? [27:12.0]
This is what grief work will look like. Of course, a lot less dramatic in terms of the clothing you'll wear in this situation, but in terms of the emotions that you're feeling, that's grief work where you grieve what was lost and the beauty of what was there.
There's a great book that I haven't finished yet, so I'm a little bit hesitant about recommending it, but I'm going to go for it and the book is called Bittersweet by Susan Cain. You see it all over the place because it's been on the New York Times bestseller list, and it's great because it's rare to find a book that's well-written like this that appeals to a broader audience and is about the beauty of sadness.
This is something that psychotherapists say and one bone I have to pick with her book, as with many pop psychology type of books, is they’ve got psychotherapy all wrong, but it's understandable because a lot of psychotherapy is not great. There are plenty of bad therapists, as I’ve mentioned in other episodes and podcasts. [28:09.1]
But the good psychotherapy, for instance, another New York Times bestselling book that's been on the list for years, Bessel van der Kolk’s, The Body Keeps the Score, and IFS therapy, of course, will point to, or as you're going through the experiential aspect of it, will lead you into being with that sadness.
That beautiful scene where Wanda is approaching the Scarlet Witch and can feel and know her pain, but also knows that this must stop, and unfortunately, they didn't get to go much further, which is really why they need a superhero therapist. Let me know if there is such a one. I don't read the comic books, unfortunately. If I had more time, I would. Let me know. Is there a superhero who is also like a therapist and that's his or her great power. There are therapy-like ones, like Mantis perhaps, I don't know. It doesn't seem like she's that mature, but maybe Professor X is the closest. But someone to help her with her pain. [29:05.6]
It was interesting that the scene where Professor X is going to Wanda in her mind and how resonant visually that whole scene was on many levels, and I loved the little bit of horror bits in the movie. Anyway, it's sort of like that when you're trying to make early contact with a part that's been repressed or hidden away. You get little glimpses of it and it's saying, “Help me.” But then it gets taken away by what? By a fearful extreme protector, which in this case is Scarlet Witch.
It's interesting that Scarlet Witch and Wanda, if you look at them as parts of oneself or one system, it is right in line with what happens in therapy when you're working with parts like in IFS with an extreme protector and then a part that has more self-energy and is able to be with it in its pain, to be with that part in its pain. It's a beautiful thing when that happens and there's a beautiful sadness. [30:02.2]
Sadness, if you have grown enough, is an amazingly beautiful feeling and it's one that when you experience it, and Susan Cain does a really nice job. I haven't finished the book, of course, like I mentioned, but, so far, she does a really nice job explaining or describing the beauty of the bittersweet, of the bittersweet of the sadness and the pain there.
This movie does a nice job with that towards the end that allows Scarlet Witch finally to let go, and that's the second point, the suffering coming from or attended always by an excessive focus on the self. If you take that focus off the self and onto the ones that you love, you'll discover a completely different universe in that you've been under a spell, kind of in a trance, not seeing what's really there. The same for the guys who are in maybe one of those three scenarios I charted out when it comes to the success of focusing on yourself and not seeing the humanity or the autonomy of the other, of the woman. [31:07.7]
When you are able to take your mind off the idealized fantasy image or the fantasy role or position that you're trying to force the woman into, and instead seeing that these women themselves have all of these issues, which is a really big shift for a lot of guys. Women aren't human, too, and they're also flawed, all of them, just as we all are in that sense that no other human can fulfill you. They cannot complete you. Only you can do that for yourself.
As long as you are under the illusion that women or a woman can make you whole, complete, and finally fulfilled, whether that's a romantic relationship or a marriage, or just lots of casual dating to make yourself feel like you're man enough, whichever scenario it is, none of those will actually fill that hole, that void in your soul, that lack of completeness. [32:04.7]
That can only come from you, and as long as you're focused on them doing it and trying to get them to do it, you're not going to be able to see what really needs to be healed and to grow in the right direction. So, in a way, there is this irony, right, where excessive focus on yourself can lead to suffering and is always attended with suffering, but a proper focus on your system, that is all of your parts, including the parts that you repress, like your shadow parts, that is the way to growth, the therapeutic work. I’ve done other episodes on what that means, but one of them will be grief work, which you see Scarlet Witch [experience], that sort of thing, where it looks like she might be beginning in that scene, and if only she had a therapist.
Then the third point I wanted to make, going to Doctor Strange now—I guess we’ve been talking a lot about Scarlet Witch—Dr. Strange and finally revealing to the MCU, and I know this is well-known among comic book fans, is his sister drowning when he was a child and that he couldn't save her, and then this leading to a kind of rescuer achiever and help leading him into being or becoming a great doctor. [33:14.8]
One of the most important lessons was Christine, Christine's role, Christine Palmer played by Rachel McAdams, and it's a theme that you see in Dr. Strange's character up to this point where he is kind of playing a white knight character who is rescuing others, and in so doing, not trusting that they can handle themselves.
Again, part of the story arc of seeing Tony Stark's Iron Man slightly ahead of Dr. Strange's position, more maturity or experience as a superhero where Iron Man is sort of forced to but then also chooses to give Spider-Man, finally, more trust and autonomy, and allowing him to grow up. As well, part of the deal is making the mistakes necessary to grow up instead of taking kind of a protectionist style of mentorship or parenting. [34:06.6]
In the first movie, Dr. Strange is largely shielding Christine from the realities. That's part of his role. The way he sees his role is the sorcerers are supposed to protect Earth from all of these dangers that the regular Earth people can't know about, so there's already a kind of white knighting in that sense of rescue or a protector fixer as a role for Dr. Strange built into what he's assumed or the position he's assumed now as one of the sorcerers or the Sorcerer Supreme, or something along those lines, and taking that same approach to Christine Palmer.
At the beginning of the movie, they're at this wedding, right? Christine is getting married and he says to her, again, like he's doing this to protect her for her protection, but she never asked for it, and over and over, this is a kind of protectionism. This is a common thing among white knights. [34:57.0]
I’ve done a lot of other videos and content around the white knight syndrome, which I explain a lot differently from how I think the manosphere understands it. I'm doing it from a psychotherapeutic perspective of an achiever or a pleaser who needs to fix or rescue others in order to feel worthy or like he's got his rightful place, or to earn affection or to earn attention even. That's the relationship dynamic that a lot of these pleaser-achiever men enter into with the women that they end up dating or in relationships with. They’re taking this kind of paternalistic approach.
In this movie, you see that Christine, despite not having any superpowers per se in that other universe, she's incredibly effective and skillful and brave, right? The way they wrote her, she picks up that bell-like magical thing and actually knows how to use it and uses it against these, I don't know what they're called, the undead or something like that. [35:59.8]
It's a call-back to the first movie where Dr. Strange didn't know what that was or how to use it, but in this universe, Christine Palmer not only was not shielded from the realities of what was happening, but she was on the cutting edge of it and had a ton of responsibility, and was very effective and skillful in stepping up to her roles and her responsibilities with great courage.
I think a big part of Dr. Strange's journey or his story arc, or his character arc, is recognizing that maybe if he had trusted Christine more and didn't shield her or protect her or rescue, feel like he needed to rescue her, instead had seen her potential, that she would've stepped up perhaps in the MCU universe. Anyway, he sees that in this other universe where she is a very powerful character there, despite not having any superpowers as far as I know.
You see this in a very explicit way with his relationship with America Chavez, where he's tempted at the beginning to-- At the very beginning of the movie, the other Dr. Strange makes decisions for her, and so she's basically a kind of NPC for him, like you don't want to hurt her, but then again, she's a non-playing character, so you’ve got to take measures. [37:13.4]
He saw that in his dream and he realized he wasn't going to do that, so he made the conscious choice over and over in the movie not to sacrifice her and to allow her the room, basically to trust her to grow on her own. This is a big lesson for us, rescuer, fixer, white knight guys, who are otherwise well-meaning. Right, so I speak to the white knights because I was one and suffered from it all the way up until mid to late-thirties, entering unconsciously into relationships with women who tragically needed saving, right? The kind of Marilyn Monroe type of person.
An antidote to that is recognizing when you need to step back and allow that person, the woman, to do her own thing and to give her enough room for her to go in ways that may not please you, but that are true to her, that her parts need, and to give her the patience, to allow the space to allow that to happen. [38:10.1]
Then, of course, it is your choice if she chooses, in having that free will that she had anyway, despite whatever efforts you might take to control her, that she chooses another man or to cheat on you or something like that, you also have the free choice to step away from that. As long as you are afraid of that, if there's a lot of fear around that, being cheated on or that lack of loyalty, you will do the wrong thing.
These decisions made out of fear are never the best ones, and that's one of the biggest themes and one of the biggest takeaways you can take from almost any superhero movie. The messes come when the characters are acting out of fear instead of stepping forward with courage and love, and compassion and an open heart.
Anyway, to get to the end of the movie, Dr. Strange with America Chavez, he allows her. He actually believes in her and says to her, You have the power. Jst believe in yourself. Look, I’ve seen you do this pattern, whatever, and she does it, of course. This is more of a cliché, right? Then she steps into her own, discovers her power, and at the end, she's still looking to him. [39:12.8]
This is a really beautiful thing. I don't know how many people picked it up. She's looking to him now to father her in a way, right? Tell me what to do next. Stick around and make sure I'm safe. He does the baller thing, which is actually the best thing for her growth as well.
This is different from how Scarlet Witch was being with her NPC boys up until the end of the movie, which is making decisions for them out of her own narcissism, out of her own desires for herself. Dr. Strange, in this case, was allowing her the room to make the mistakes that he knew were necessary for growth and having that individuation, allowing her to become her own individual and to grow into her own leadership roles, and we'll see where that takes her in the future movies. [39:56.3]
Okay, so the movie started off, lots of fun. Wasn't sure how deep psychologically it would be, and then the ending really brings it home. I really liked it. Hope you like it. It's just two hours. I thought it would be more epic, like one of the big Avengers: Endgame type of things or I'm used to a three-hour Marvel movie now with the big Spider-Man one, too, that just happened. But this was a nice, neat one that tied up a bunch of loose ends.
Just to recap, the first point being about the lawful versus the chaotic, and that if you approach that dichotomy without fear, that things will become a lot clearer and you'll be able to access a lot more creativity, that being rebellious or dirty or naughty doesn't have to be evil. It doesn't need to be something that you are afraid of so that you hew too closely or too rigidly to authority or purity or rules. It was interesting to see this interplay between the two movies on flip-flopping between those two sides for Dr. Strange’s character. [40:59.5]
Then this connection between the focus on the self and suffering, as well as a really beautiful depiction of what happens when you're able to finally be with a firefighter part or an extreme protector part in its pain, and it can finally drop all of its defenses and coping mechanisms and any kind of destructive behavior, and instead be with the grief and the sadness and the pain that's there, because that's the way to healing.
Then the subpoint about the NPCs, not seeing those that you love for who they are, but more of an extension of some role that they will play in your life, which is a kind of narcissism, which creates more suffering. But if you're able to enter or step out of that and see them for their own humanness and that they just have their minds that are just as free and neurotic as yours, then that changes everything. That's what woke up Scarlet Witch. [41:53.6]
Then, finally, this point about how achiever pleasers, which is Dr. Strange, and we understand a bit of his backstory. I mean, his sister drowned in kind of a clichéd way bringing that out of him, and that being his default self would naturally lead to a protectionism over Christine, just like he wanted to do for his sister, but that then preventing him from actually being with Christine because he wasn't allowing her to make her own choices.
When she makes her own choices in that other universe, he discovers how powerful she can be, and how effective and capable she can be, and then taking that lesson forward with America Chavez and his mentorship style with her there, and it was a really nice way to wrap things up.
I hope you like this. I hope you learn some things that will help you with your life, and I hope you go see Doctor Strange, if you haven't seen it already, and enjoy that. I’d love any feedback at all. I'm kind of going out on a limb here as a request in response to a request to do more superhero movies, and let me know if you'd like to see more of this.
In the meantime, I would love to get any comments about any of the episodes, any feedback you have at all, and please share this with anyone that you think would benefit. I look forward to welcoming you in the next episode. David Tian, signing out. [43:06.6]
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