Joanna Unemployment, failure of a romantic relationship,

Joanna DickinsonSecrets of the SoulFall 2017Little Miss Sunshine is a film about a family of six people who embark on road trip to California to help seven year old Olive attain her dream of winning the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. Frank, Olive’s gay uncle, makes his introduction in a hospital room where he sits on a wheel chair and stares morbidly outside the glow of a window. In a conversation between the doctor and Frank’s sister, it becomes immediately apparent that Frank suffers from depression. The bandages on his wrist suggest a recent suicide attempt. As the film progressively reveals Frank’s story, the viewers are granted an invitation into the life of a depressed patient.            Frank displayed five out of seven elements of abnormality such as suffering, maladaptiveness, social discomfort, dangerous, irrationality and unpredictability. The first element of abnormality, suffering, is the best explanation for Frank’s suicide attempt. Frank’s suffering is caused by external and internal factors. Unemployment, failure of a romantic relationship, and loss of a prestigious award put Frank in an emotional state of suffering characterized by a sense of ineptitude and failure. The second element of Frank’s abnormality is maladaptiveness. Frank’s conversations with his sister and her family are void of smiles or laughter; he displayed no emotional gratification from his interactions or other traditionally pleasurable aspects of life. The first sight of a smile appeared halfway through the film. Up until that point, Frank wore a mask of melancholy and spoke in a lethargic whisper. Furthermore, Frank’s depression interfered with his ability to work as he became dependent on his sister to take care of him. The third element of Frank’s abnormality is social discomfort. The quintessential example of Frank’s abnormality is shown in a family dinner where Frank recounted in full detail the events that preceded his suicide attempt to seven year old Olive despite uncomfortable looks from Frank’s sister. Olive was exposed to Frank’s homosexual relationship with his graduate student and the eventual loss of his boyfriend, house, occupation, intellectual status, and wellbeing. Before this conversation, Olive was unfamiliar with the concepts of homosexuality and suicide. Frank appeared oblivious to the extremely uncomfortable environment initiated by his conversation as he did not attempt to sensor himself.  Furthermore, the fourth element of Frank’s abnormality is irrationality and unpredictability. The doctor and Frank’s sister are dually aware of Frank’s irrational and unpredictable behavior. A mandate was communicated to the family to leave the door open whenever Frank was in the room. The family was constantly kept on edge to watch over Frank because they fear his irrationality and unpredictability might trigger a second suicide attempt. Frank has surrendered control of his emotions to the culmination of stressors in his life, which led to a behavioral loss of control. This state of irrationality and unpredictability made Frank a danger to himself, the fifth element of Frank’s abnormality. When Frank encountered his ex-boyfriend and Larry Sugarman at a gas station, he is reminded of his failures, which led to a slight relapse. Seeing the two people responsible for his distress and downfall, opened up old feelings of pain and jealousy that led up to Frank’s attempted suicide. The reappearance of these familiar emotions could’ve cascaded into another suicidal reaction, making Frank a serious danger to himself.Frank’s depression can best be explained by the psychological causal models of abnormality, however the biological is still relevant and considered. One facet of the biological causal model states that “sustained elevations in cortisol can result from increased CRH activation (for example, during sustained stress or threat” (Butcher, 2014, p. 223). The sustained elevations in cortisol can cause a failure in the feedback mechanism resulting in the release of excess cortisol. Frank’s consecutive experiences with persistent stress and threats paired with increased CRH activation produced elevated levels of cortisol. With heightened amounts of cortisol in his system, stressful life events were further exacerbated by neurological factors and appeared even more daunting. Frank encountered the first of three severely stressful events when one of his graduate students, whom he was very much in love with, fell in love with another man. The heartbreak frenzied into an emotional response and out lash at work subsequently led to Frank’s dismissal. Frank lost his house along with his job, shattering his financial stability. The event that pushed Frank off the edge was when the MacArthur Foundation awarded the Genius Grant Award to Larry Sugarman, the man who stole Frank’s boyfriend. From the beginning, Larry Sugarman was a sustained threat to Frank’s relationship and intellect. As Larry Sugarman slowly deprived Frank of his protective factors, cortisol levels incrementally accumulate as Frank fell deeper into a depressive state. Finally, Frank’s loss of emotional control was unleash in an attempt of suicide. Furthermore, despite living with a dysfunctional family, Frank’s sister is free from symptoms of depression which diminishes the genetic influence on Frank’s depression.The psychological causal model provides a stronger explanation for Frank’s depression than the biological causal mode. Frank’s onset of depression had many psychological attributions, especially since “the relationship between severely stressful life events and depression is much stronger in people having their first onset than in those undergoing recurrent episodes” (Butcher, 2014, p. 227). This heightened risk is paired with “a loss that involves an element of humiliation” (Butcher, 2014, p. 227), which is considered especially potent for the outbreak of depression. Frank underwent three consecutive events that were not only severely stressful but also extremely humiliating. The first of which was falling in love with a graduate student who ended up falling in love with Larry Sugarman, the second most highly regarded Proust scholar after Frank himself. Losing the graduate student to Larry Sugarman created a sense of uncertainty in Frank’s perceived supremacy over Larry, initiating the first of two defeats to his opponent. The second significant event is Frank’s social and economic descent from the position of a professor to a heartbroken, unemployed burnt-out living in a motel. The loss of his job and status further dislodged Frank’s authority, leading him to perceive himself as a failure. The last critical event happened when the MacArthur Foundation in all its infinite wisdom awarded the Genius Grant to Larry Sugarman. The award provided Frank with concrete evidence for Larry Sugarman’s intellectual superiority. At this point in time, a reversal of fortune has taken place and Frank has fallen off the ranks in his competition with Larry Sugarman. Failure fueled with jealousy caused a painful loss of pride, self-respect, and dignity- the definition of humiliation. With his self-esteemed striped from underneath, Frank no longer saw his life as worthwhile and attempted suicide.According to the sociocultural causal model, being a single, white male in America automatically puts one at a greater risk for depression. In addition, “Another group that has elevated rates of mood disorders consists of individuals who have high levels of accomplishment in the arts” (Butcher, 2014, p. 246). Frank is a scholar of French author Marcel Proust, whom Frank claims is the greatest writer since Shakespeare. As an artist and writer himself, Frank is categorized with a group that has an alarming rate for depression. As a Caucasian male in his mid-fifties, Frank also identifies with a group that has the highest risk for suicide completion. Frank’s deterrent from suicide was his involvement and found identity from spending time with his sister’s family. After his attempted suicide, Frank remained in the hospital for two days before being released to his sister. His dismissal was not preceded by any treatment or intervention to help him cope with his mental disorder. The doctor expressed desires to extend Frank’s stay at the hospital but insurance purposes called for an early leave. Despite not receiving any professional treatment, Frank’s medication came in the form of spending time with his sister’s family. In the beginning of the movie, we started off with a family of six people living six separate lives but as they made their way to California in a cramped Volkswagen they became increasingly dependent on each other to uphold their emotional sanity. Frank found a confidant in his nephew Dwayne who expressed a desire to skip high school so he could skip all the miserable years of his life. Dwayne’s confession helped Frank come to the realization that his life closely resembled that of Marcel Proust, the French writer he had so faithfully admired. Frank reached the same conclusion that Marcel Proust had at the end of his life, telling Dwayne that the suffering in high school will be the best years of his life because it will make him who he is. The years that they are happy are a total waste because they don’t learn a thing. From Frank’s monologue, the audience can derive that Frank has discovered an important truth and the cure to his depression. Frank turned his dysfunctional beliefs into a personal narrative and a moral lesson. In the end, we know that Frank will choose to embrace his years of suffering to help him discover himself as he continues to live.Although Frank’s swift, two day recovery from his mental disorder was an unrealistic depiction of a depressed patient, Frank’s depressive symptoms were thoroughly consistent and believable throughout the span of the film. His depression was not dramatized or exaggerated for the sake of a Hollywood film but revealed the causes of depression despite strong protective factors. The visual representation of a depressed patient provided a strong sense of the disorders characteristics in its manifestation on a person. The viewer followed Frank as the onset of his depressive episode and suicide attempt flipped his seemingly perfect life into a spiraling nightmare. Before the incident, the film portrayed Frank as an exceptionally capable person who was struck down by successive tidings of misfortune. Nonetheless, the fault lies in the adversarial events and not the victims. Frank’s recovery illustrates the important fact that a mental disorder is not permanent but curable through the acceptance into a family or a community. The film bridged a connection between the textbook description of a depressed patient and depression in a real person. Through the exposition of Frank, the symptoms of depression became more than a set of words but a serious, impairing disorder. The film helped me realize that underneath a mental disorder is a person’s true self who is no different or stronger than myself.Through the depiction of Frank in Little Miss Sunshine, the viewers are permitted partial disclosure to the five elements of abnormality as well as the biopsychosocial causal factors of depression. We also come to discover that social support is a powerful cure to depression. ReferencesButcher, J. N., Hooley, J. M., & Mineka, S. (2014). Abnormal Psychology (16th ed.). United States of America: Pearson Education, Inc.