Ophelia Syndrome Commentary Essay

Karl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and called the founder of analytical psychology1; he described “individuation” as “the process of learning to differentiate oneself from others…. It means to discover those aspects of the self that distinguish one person from another. (p. 2)” Essentially, he states that individuation is the metaphorical DNA of one’s personality; without individuation, we would all be the same—drones, rendered unnecessary.

As described by Plummer, Ophelia Syndrome is the inability to think or act for ourselves.Those suffering from Ophelia Syndrome are incapable of producing original thought or coping with the unknown. They would rather be safely misled than creatively uncertain. Plummer stated that Ophelia Syndrome was most commonly manifested in university students and “middle managers in American corporations” (p. 3). He attributes this to lack of individuation—or rather, the inability to learn to think for ourselves. It comes from being too reliant- on our boss, on our professor, on our parents, etc. Plummer described a great teacher as “[having] a reputation among students”, as “challenging, fair and tough”.

He says that they must be a “partner in learning” and that “they refuse to do your thinking for you” (p. 3). I find his appraisal accurate due mainly to the very title “teacher”. A teacher must to exactly that- teach.

A teacher guides and supervises and corrects when necessary, but a student cannot become a scholar without Hamlet stated, “…there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so” (II. ii. 254-255) and follows that with “What a piece of work is man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty!… in apprehension how like a god! ” (II.

ii. 14-317). I thought that this was the best illustration of nihilism in the play and connected with it due to the weight given to the power of thought- a power given exclusively to man to do with as he wished. Through ‘the power of positive thinking’ or through negativism, we govern our lives.

Really, if we were to master our emotions, there would be no such thing as a bad day. If we learned to exclude the negativism of others and embrace positivity, there is nothing to keep us from having a full, happy life, unreliant on and independent of our surroundings.This was the power given to us- the ‘superpower’ given to us by God that allows us to be godlike.

The eloquence with which he stated it (before he disregarded it) emphasized the enormity and the exaltedness of our capabilities. When Plummer said, “It means tolerating confusion about insoluble problems rather than finding ‘safety’ in the arms of a Polonius who offers you a security blanket”, I believe that he meant that it is better to be open-minded and uncertain than it is to be ignorant, dependent and submissive.To truly think and be means to be uncertain, because uncertainty is what allows for progress, while acceptance without some level of disputation is ignorance, which could reasonably be called one of the more deadly social plagues. Having been given the divine power of thought that we have, I think that it would be shameful and wasteful not to use it. Really, we have no right not to cultivate the power of thought, because without it we are not a blessing, but a burden on society.