Years ago, when Devil (a.k.a. that not-good horror movie where everyone in the theater laughed when they saw “from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan” during the trailer) came out, Vulture consulted with an “elevator expert” about how accurate a film named after Satan himself is. The verdict: “If you’ve got… the devil inside the elevator, press the call button.” The more you know!
I thought about that article while reading what a self-described “clinical psychologist” had to say about the Game of Thrones season six finale, specifically as it relates to Cersei. The episode ends with the Mad Queen on the Iron Throne, having killed the competition (Margaery Tyrell, the High Sparrow, Kevan Lannister) in a wildfire explosion for the ages. It’s everything Cersei has always wanted, but it came at a massive cost. Her children are dead, her brother-lover is incredulous, and the only ones at her side — both literally and figuratively — are creepy Qyburn and the zombie Mountain.
“Cersei is a classic narcissist,” the psychologist/Reddit user Rain12913 writes. “As such, she lacks the ability to truly empathize with others. Despite this obvious reality, people seem to be falling into the trap of thinking that Cersei really does genuinely love her brother and her (late) children. While she certainly says that she does quite a bit, and while her behavior may seem to suggest that she does, it is highly unlikely that such a narcissistic character is capable of true love.” But Cersei’s love of her children is her one redeeming quality — well, that, and her cheekbones. How does Rain12913 explain that?
You might think that narcissists are incapable of love, since they often seem to be quite incapable of having empathy for others. You may be right, in a certain sense (although remember, we’re talking about extremes here, whereas real people fall throughout the spectrum). However, there is a sort of narcissistic love in which the narcissistic person loves others as an extension of him/herself. In this scenario, the narcissistic person experiences a fragmentation of the self in which the other becomes a part of the self. This is almost always seen with family members or lovers. Rather than loving this other person as a separate entity who has their own strengths and weaknesses, the narcissistic person splits them into the “perfect” category, and considers them to be an extension of him/herself. You see this in the way that Cersei thinks about Jamie and her children. They are her blood, and they share a part of her. As such, they must be perfect, like she is. In fact, Cersei isn’t even capable of loving someone who isn’t herself. Her one true love in life is her twin, who looks just like her. Loving one’s twin is the ultimate form of self-love, and it is sort of a perfect embodiment of what it means to be narcissistic. As soon as Jamie departed in the first season, she was sleeping with her cousin who, again, was just another extension of herself. She can’t even bare to not have sex with herself during Jamie’s departure. (Via)
(I like to imagine Cersei laying down on a couch and spilling her guts to her therapist, The Mountain, who’s wearing smart-person glasses. He’s an expert listener, and his waiting room music — it’s Septa Unella yelling “shame” to the tune of “Carol of the Bells” — puts you in the mood for a good session.)
The tl;dr version for the non-armchair shrinks among us: “Cersei is a narcissist who is incapable of true love; instead she loves others only due to the belief that they are extensions of herself. Given this, it isn’t accurate to say that she’s motivated by a love for her children of Jaime.” Here comes Brienne galloping from the Riverlands saying she’s capable of love, with Tormund right behind her yelling the same thing.