In George R.R. Martin’s acclaimed hit series A Song of Ice and Fire, many characters are plagued by problems of their own caused by the game of thrones that each major character has a part in. In the center of game is Cersei Lannister, a woman with more power than most noble men, and she isn’t afraid of abusing it as she feels necessary. Behind this power though is one of the most psychologically complex and distraught characters in the book series. Through point of view chapters and her actions as seen by other characters, this paper will identify, characterize, and diagnose many of the psychological disorders and traumas Cersei Lannister has faced .
Cersei Lannister was born a fraternal twin with her brother Jamie Lannister. Their father Tywin Lannister is one of the most powerful men in Westros , having just as much wealth in gold as in power as a commander in the battlefield. For the first 15 years of Cersei’s life, her father Tywin was Hand of the King, acting as the enforcer for the real king and often said to have been more influential than the true king of the time. This power meant that Cersei and her bother Jamie had the opportunity to grow up around and be involved with some of the most influential people in all of Westros, but also had to deal with the pressure to learn the proper etiquette and roles of their distinctive gender, such as wearing dresses and understanding that she would be married off to a prince one day. Though up to this point in her life, Cersei was relatively normal and lived a luxurious life, but the death of her mother Joanna was the first trauma that she faced.
The death of Cersei’s mother Joanna was particularly scarring to her nine year old psyche, as Joanna died giving birth to her youngest brother Tyrion. The death of Joanna was taken particularly harshly by her father Tywin, who was said to have lost any happiness in his life after her passing. The reason why this death was so traumatizing to both Cersei and Tywin was due to the fact the Tyrion was born a dwarf, a trait that often would result in the immediate killing of the child, but due to their family status they kept him alive. Cersei and Tywin both blamed Tyrion for the death for the death of Joanna. Cersei’s hate for her little brother grew after her mother’s death, and from this time on she began to torture baby Tyrion in private by “pinching him until he cried” and even going so far as “twisting his little penis”. This irrational hate and torture for her little brother was only stopped by her twin brother Jamie, who was the only one in the family who cared about Tyrion. This sadistic behavior at such an early age could be indications of psychopathic tendencies later on in life for Cersei and with the combination of her powerful family name would have particularly dangerous consequences for other persons who upset her. This is not the only childhood trauma that Cersei faced that would have lasting effects, as an encounter with a witch would be the root of many of her problems later on in life.
At the age of ten, Cersei had been filled with the idea from her father that she would be married off to Prince Rhaegar, a prince of house Targaryen whose family was in charge of Westros at the time. Wanting to know the future for her and to prove to her two adolescent friend that “a lioness fears nothing” (Pg. 361, A Feast for Crows), Cersei visited Maggy the Frog to consult the witch about the future. When asked if she would marry Prince Rhaegar, she was told “Never. You will wed the king.” (Pg.540, A Feast for Crows). When asked if she will become queen, Maggy told responded “Queen you shall be…until there comes another younger, and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.” (Pg.541, A Feast for Crows). Finally she asks if she and the king will have children, and results in one of the more paranoia inducing prophecies from Maggy the Frog. “Oh, aye. Six-and-ten for him, and three for you. Gold shall be their crowns and gold their crowns, and when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” (Pg.541, A Feast for Crows). This prophecy would have a lasting traumatic effect on Cersei’s life, leading to her further hatred and mistrust of Tyrion her newly born little brother, as well as develop severe paranoia to any woman that was thought to be beautiful and challenged her power. This paranoia of other powerful women becomes unavoidable when a rival queen, Queen Margaery begins to threaten her control over Westros when she is betrothed to Prince Tommen her son, and now is in line to become the true queen once they are married. Each part of Maggi’s prophecy so far has resulted in a trauma in her life as well, compounding the many issues that are already beginning to develop. We see the first prophecy about her marriage and overall, her abnormal relationship with her brother that begins to shape her psychology for the worse.
Once Cersei began to enter puberty, her close relationship with her twin brother became less of a friendship and more of a loving relationship in the wrong ways. This relationship began with “play” that when her mother caught her and her bother Jaime, he was moved to the other side of the castle and told to “never do what they did ever again” (Pg. 236, A Storm of Swords). This effort to separate the two only made Cersei desire her brother even more, which led to the development of an incestuous relationship between the twins. Cersei and her brother also went to great lengths to hide their relationship later on in life and even went so far as to allow Jamie to push another character out of a ruined castle window after they were caught in the middle of having sex. This incestuous relationship may stem from many issues, acceptance of incestuous relationships in the old times with the Targaryen family in order to preserve bloodline, separation issues from her twin brother, or simply having a misconception of what a relationship is. This last reason may be associated with her failed marriage to Prince Rhaegar, whom she had been brought up believing she would marry until he chose another woman over Cersei. Cersei was then left alone and eventually married off to a King Robert who had taken the throne in a rebellion and Jamie was offered to another woman whom he did not end up marrying. Cersei was more thrilled with the power of being queen, but was sexually traumatized when on their wedding night; King Robert called out the name of another woman while drunk. King Robert also only used Cersei for sexual reasons, and often sought out local prostitutes to satisfy his urges and often beat Cersei when he felt she was out line. This abusive relationship leads many sexual traumas developing in her life and eventually leads to the development of some power fantasies that are realized when she begins a sexual relationship with her female friend (Pg. 480, A Feast for Crows). With the combination of the incestuous relationship and the sexual abuse from King Robert, some type of therapy should be required to help discuss her relationship issues and overcome any trauma that she encountered when she was with Robert.
Cersei is incredibly proud of one thing, and that is her children but she faces traumatic experiences with two of her three children which would be hard for any mother to face. The most traumatizing even for Cersei in the series is the death of her son Joffery. Joffery was originally meant to marry Margery, but on his wedding day choked to death on a pigeon pie. Cersei had to watch as Joffery clawed at his throat gasping for air, not being able to do anything to save her own son. Due to Cersei’s paranoia and hatred for her brother, she immediately blamed Tyrion and his arranged wife Sansa for poisoning the boy, resulting the arrest of Tyrion. This was not the only event that happened to Cersei involving one of her children. Earlier before the death of Joffery, her brother Tyrion had arranged for Cersei’s only daughter Myrcella to be married to another powerful family behind her back. On top of this betrayal, Myrcella had to be sent to the other side of Westros, separated from her mother for the next several years. This action by Tyrion further fueled the fire of hatred for her little brother, as well cause her to deal with the trauma of being separated from one of the few people she loved in life in a completely normal way.
After all this trauma, psychological issues, and potentially even biological issues that may be present with her, the best way to help Cersei would be simply one step at a time. The use of unstructured therapy with a psychologist would be a good start to try and figure out her hatred for her younger brother and possible try and reason with her to an understanding that Tyrion is not directly to blame for the death of her mother and let Cersei relieve any past tension that has been built up. To help aid in this process of the tension between both Cersei and Tyrion, a structured group therapy session could lessen or even potentially fix any ill blood between the siblings over a long course of time due to the amount of issues that both Cersei and Tyrion have both had to deal with in their lives. Cersei also has serious paranoia and anxiety issues that are well beyond the point of therapy, so some chemical therapy to help curb the paranoid thoughts and anxiety issues that come with it would be a good start for recovery. If she begins to see improvement in her psychological symptoms than dosage could be progressively lowered to a point where she is no longer dependent on these medications. To deal with the issue of the loss of her children, she could receive treatment similar to people who experience PTSD. This type of treatment, specifically exposure therapy, could help Cersei come to terms with the loss of Joffery and the separation of her from Myrcella. Dealing with the incestuous relationship with her twin brother Jamie is a much more difficult issue as both Jamie and Cersei were the instigators that initiated the sexual contact with one another. There is no set type of therapy that has specifically been developed for persons with incestuous relationships aside from individual therapy and helping the person come to the realization that relationships like that are wrong and against the law.
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