In honor of Halloween weekend, let’s take a (humorous!) look at what might happen if notorious 80s slasher Freddy Krueger came to therapy. Let’s be clear: Freddy has so many problems, they’re (ahem) well beyond the scope of any therapist to solve, though Freud or Jung could probably have a field day with the dream aspects. But I thought that, for this post, I would focus on one aspect that leads to success in psychotherapy, which is goal setting. Setting a concrete, attainable goal is an important part of success. This is a lesson that can easily be applied to goals in your personal life as well.
Therapy Goes POP!: Thanks for being here today, Freddy. I understand you want to discuss your dream murder spree in which you've killed off several generations of Elm Street kids.
Freddy Krueger: That’s right. It’s been going on so long… I almost feel bad. Almost. But it’s complicated. I have my reasons for doing it.
TGP!: Yes, you mentioned that during our scheduling phone call. Was that the burning you alive after you victimized all those children and escaped prosecution on a technicality?
Freddy: That’s right. I mean, I did some bad stuff but…
TGP!: Yes, that must have been terrible, although you did some horrible, horrible things. But in the interest of helping you move forward, let’s set that aside for the time being.
Freddy: OK. Yeah. I've been having nightmares about all of this…
TGP!: I’m not surprised! A bit ironic, considering.
Freddy: Ha ha! I love a good one liner!
TGP!: Indeed. Where do you think you got that from?
Freddy: When I was a kid, I loved The Wizard of Oz. That scene where the Wicked Witch says “how about a little fire, Scarecrow?” I always try to tap into that spirit whenever I brutally off someone.
TGP!: Yes, I’ve noticed that. That seemed to really get going around Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
Freddy: It was the third movie. We needed fresh blood.
TGP!: I see. So, is it fair to say that in addition to achieving bloodthirsty, sadistic revenge, you also like to entertain people?
Freddy: Yes. I also try to bring a little “pizzazz” (makes air quotes gesture) to my kills.
TGP!: OK. So there’s a whole body of research that suggests that it’s easier to increase positive habits than it is to decrease negative habits. So, you want to completely stop killing, or at least greatly reduce the number of victims, correct?
Freddy: That’s it. It’s all become, just, too much. I’m not even sure why I’m still doing it, honestly. Half the time I don’t even know what the victims have to do with anything. It’s like, are these even Elm Street kids?
TGP!: OK. Here’s what I’m wondering. What if you tried to focus more on the aspect that is working for you, which seems to be the humor. Is that fair?
Freddy: That’s true, actually. I never regret the one liners.
TGP!: OK. What could you do with your razor-sharp wit that doesn’t involve senseless dream slaughters?
Freddy: Hmmmmmm. That’s a tough one. I do like to be the center of attention. Standup comedy maybe?
TGP!: That’s a great idea! I bet you’d be good at that. You seem to have an endless supply of material.
Freddy: Well, truthfully, I come up with some of those lines in advance. I kinda store them up and then when there’s an opportunity…bam! I've got something good.
TGP!: You store them up, like in a notebook?
TGP!: Maybe you could write some material for a comedy routine there. How often do you think you could write some new jokes?
Freddy: Well, maybe not every day. Five times a week?
TGP!: That’s great. And what about the standup part? I think there’s classes, right? Where you do a routine at the end?
Freddy: Yeah, that’s right. I could definitely look into those.
TGP!: And I need you to promise that you won’t kill the other comedians in their dreams.
Freddy: Well, let’s not go overboard. Some of those amateur comedians are painfully unfunny.
Freddy: But, I’ll do my best.
TGP!: That’s reasonable.
Freddy: But what about the killings?
TGP!: Like I said before, let’s try to focus on the positive for right now. Maybe keep a record of the number of kills in your notebook. And see how it goes. You’ve been doing the insane murderer stuff for quite a while, so it may take a bit to dial that down. Let’s see what happens once you start doing the comedy. So, to be clear, you’re going to write five jokes a week and start the comedy class. As you achieve that goal, maybe we can discuss setting more ambitious goals? It’s good to start with something achievable, as I want you to succeed.
Freddy: I think I can do that!
TGP!: Great, great. Before you go, I did want to ask you: Were you aware of the totally homoerotic subtext of Nightmare 2 at the time you made it?
Freddy: (scowls, lapses into stunned silence)
Therapy Goes POP
Perspectives on therapy and mental health as viewed through the lens of popular culture