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Psychotherapy. “A Beautiful Mind” Film by Ron Howard


Reality of society is peculiar for its diversity and inequality in accordance with different ranks. In fact, people are trying to express themselves in life to make more emphasis on the uniqueness of their personalities. In this respect it is great when one community of people can impress other ones with talented, up-and-coming, and experienced individuals. It makes the constructive development of the nation faster and accompanied with more points on success and progress. However, in the course of time the majority of people were formed due to principles of crowding. It made them united in their opinions about life and the way they used to live. Thus, the “brilliant” ones are usually thought of to be just freaks or ones going apart from the crowd. In turn it makes the rest of people become cruel and outraged.

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The way people think goes through such parameters as ethics, morale and extent of radicalism in individuals. This is why it is vital to analyze the ways which a man’s mind can lead a person to. Thereupon, the societal structure and the influence of social system are also under analysis. The well-known movie A Beautiful Mind provides a scope of assumptions and suggestions regarding hidden capabilities of mind. The vortex of knowledge and behavioral peculiarities that can play with a man a “beautiful” lifelong game might be understood on the base of theoretical perspectives. Hence, it is about time to get deep into the theoretical grounds of the main character of the movie along with therapeutic explanations of different changes in his mind.


Synopsis of the film

A Ron Howard film A Beautiful Mind starring Russel Crowe as the main character is a story of a man who was other to the society due to his intellectually high possibility. In fact, the film is about a person (John Nash) who did his best in mathematics and enters Princeton University (Howard, 2001). John Nash has already achieved particular recognition, as a recipient of Carnegie Prize in math. His tries now are focused on an inner desire to complete his master at the university in order to proceed further. When he moves in he meets Charles Herman, his roommate who seems to be never sober. John also becomes a friend to other promising students of the university, such as Martin Hansen, Sol, Ainsley, and Bender. However strange and somewhat eccentric John’s character, he tries to catch attention of his new friends. He even makes up a theoretical explanation contradicting Adam Smith’s economical theory while sitting at the bar and judging on pretty girls to have come.

John Nash is a genius, but he misses most of his classes. Thus, the headmaster of the university gives him to understand that if the thesis is not completed, John will not graduate. Though it is hard to John to catch up, he makes progress and graduates. After university, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) becomes a new appointment of John Nash along with his mates, Sol and Bender. Later on he meets one of his students, Alicia Larde, while solving problem drawn by him on the blackboard. Eventually, both fall in love and marry.

On his way home, John happens to meet Charles with his niece, Marcee. Once, John Nash meets with William Parcher who is a representative of the United States Department of Defense. Nash is invited to work over secret task in encryption of quite complex telecommunication on the part of the enemy (Howard, 2001). Here, John gets involved into an abyss of different tasks given and events happened to him. As a result, working over deciphering secret documents, he becomes expressly paranoid. This process becomes more complicated, as John always thinks of Soviets looking for him, and trying to extract secret information from him (Howard, 2001). His wife, Alicia, informs psychiatric service about the case and John is put up to the psychiatric facility. Finally, John is given ostensive arguments on the fact that Charles his niece, Marcee, and Parcher were hallucinations. At the end of the treatment John is proposed to perpetually use antipsychotic medication, but at a definite moment he decides not to use it.

A horrible case happens when John leaves their common with Alicia son in the bath thinking that Charles will take care of it. At this moment Parcher commands John to kill his wife. John refuses, of course, but when preventing Alicia and a child from Parcher, he accidentally brings them down on the ground. Such insanity is outlined with John’s continuation of using special drugs, but now he lives in such an abnormal condition. The three persons of his mind never leave him, but it is all right at the moment, for John recognizes where the truth lies. Finally, after years of work over the game theory he wins the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics (Howard, 2001). Being now an old man he again meets all three in the hall where the ceremony has taken place. At this point Nash stops and Alicia asks him for what has happened. The final words of John that show off the happy end are: “Nothing. Nothing at all” (Howard, 2001).

Theoretical back-up

The theoretical grounding for the case study illustrated above is varied due to the recommendations of different psychologists and experts in this field. Dimensions of human behavior are supposed to know no limits. To run the gamut of conscious and sub-conscious reality is not that easy. Perhaps, it is an occurrence among a group of people similar to John Nash. On the other hand, games of mind can happen to anybody intentionally or unintentionally. It depends on different reasons. However, all of them are hypothetic and can be worked out solely during some psychic deviations.

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Hutchinson (2008) gives a reason to such phenomena in people as related to social systems in which individuals live. Interrelation of different systems is that fact of social life. It can constitute emergence of some boundaries of behaving and thinking as well. In turn, such system is balanced, and encompasses its positive side when all members of the system serve patterned models to think and behave. In case with John Nash, he was trying to predict reality due to constant work of his cogitativity. In this respect Nash shows his mature estimation of things going around on the example of Martin Hansen’s tie. He managed to solve tracery on the tie with mathematical sharpness. Though, one may suggest that Hansen, Sol, Bender and others were representatives of one system. John Nash, Charles Herman and later Marcee and William Parcher appeared to be members of other, say, unreal system.

Two theoretical perspectives by Hutchinson (2008) contradict in aforementioned assumption, namely: Social Behavioral and Conflict ones. However, one should also put psychodynamic perspective forward as relevant to Nash’s behavioral model. The question is that his ideas, his needs and emotions consumed him in a very complicated way. Hallucinations of John Nash are the result of his “innate drives and unconscious processes toward greater emphasis on the adaptive capacities… and their interactions with the environment” (Hutchinson, 2008, p. 69). Thereupon, Nash suffered from initial differences between his system of interests and one belonging to his mates, his wife and other people. Furthermore, there was an overlapping of these systems, for John did not recognize the difference for a long time.

Complexity of human mind as well as human as such is never examined utterly. In this respect solely theoretical explanation is possible to give answers on human behavior. Berman (2009) admits the following supposition as of the case: “Classical conditioning involves reflexive, elicited behavior that occurs outside the person’s conscious control” (96). It is necessary to admit that in case with John Nash there were neutral and unconditioned stimuli experienced by him. For instance, the first one concerns with Parcher claims to complete the task. The latter stimulus is Nash’s direct reaction by means of deciphering codes.

A provided treatment of the main character in the movie was considered solely with chemical therapy of using medicines and insulin shocking therapy as well (Howard, 2001). However, the field of cognition needs particular conceptualization, as it is a subtle frontier of complex processes. Friedberg and McClure (2002) admit that hypothesis-testing and open-mindedness lead toward effective data analysis. Thus, John was better to get through the treatment of cognitive reproduction of what was happening around. His problem and his despair were in the fact of misunderstanding on the part of therapist and, at some points, of his wife.

Mastos et al. (2007) provide a picture that drives human beings to be persistent in personal wrongness, as illustrated on the example of John Nash. Three basic elements provided motivation in doing what John wanted to do, namely: his abilities, environment, and the goal (Mastos et al., 2007). Hence, John was goal-directed during the whole life. Nash lived in the reality of the Cold War. He was aware of the danger of it. Thus, he wanted to contribute into the common idea to reduce threads of Soviets on the US. His work is rationally realized and conceptually structured. In this respect Hutchinson (2008) would add that “social reality is created when people, in social interaction, develop a common understanding of their world” (65). Surely, it suits the story of John Nash. He was overwhelmed by digits and code encryptions.

Conceptualization of Nash’s perspective goes apart with century-long system of family. In this case the scene where the main character loses his attention to his child is demonstrative. The point is that when two systems collide in minds of individuals, nevertheless, the most of the sympathy is taken to one of more appreciation. In other words, John loved his job and what he was doing since entering Princeton University. His imaginary friends were his all. Charles supported him in the way people should communicate. It is apparent in the episode when John tells that he is proficient with numbers as well as Charles is proficient with people (Howard, 2001). Marcee pleased John each time he saw her. Finally, Parcher was one to give John instructions on what to do to defend the country. He was somewhat like a chief to John.

John thinks of his family, as something optional, for a while. His responsibility is almost trite during his involvement into the play of his own mind. Carter and McGoldrick (2004) remark that “when family members act as if family relationships are optional, they do so to the detriment of their own sense of identity and the richness of their emotional and social context” (377). It is obvious that dimensions of John’s inner world went beyond commonplace understanding of things around. Hence, John sacrificed himself and his family in order to complete the task given by Parcher.

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Realizing the fact of John’s total prevalence by hallucinations of complex type, he stayed mentally active. It is seen on the outcome of his lifelong struggle, i.e. Nobel Prize. Methodology implemented in his case was sequential and constructive (especially in the last years). Though the images of three people stayed with John, he reached out the point of recognition. It is necessary to state that “successful treatment rarely occur by chance” (Woody et al., 2004, p. 1). Thus, the case of John Nash is a ground for more observation. Again, Hutchinson (2008) would recommend nuzzling up to the social constructionist theoretical perspective. John’s individual consciousness reasoned in him the scope of things, people, events which he could interpret easily without laying much emphasis on the material or immaterial essence of them.

Looking at the aims of John Nash, it is vital to admit his interests, as aforementioned, to his job. He is a decided professional in mathematical economy. His choices in life were always thought over. In this respect it was his only fault that he never let somebody into his affairs. However, Hutchinson (2008) would be right if stated on the applicability of rational choice theoretical perspective in case with John Nash. The thing is that the main character is perpetually trying to accomplish his goals. He does not waste his time in vain, because he knows the destination of what he is attempting to finish.

This is peculiar also to his interests in economics and mathematics where the rational choice is a gut for the whole idea of these disciplines. In other words, Hutchinson (2008) understands it in the following way: Rational choice perspective sees human behavior as based on self-interest and rational choices about effective ways to accomplish goals. The philosophy of John Nash is in some points familiar to the philosophy of Nicolas Machiavelli. Exitus acta probat is particularly what John used in practice. Those never sent envelopes with secret information and tons of allegedly top secret papers highlight his high motivation to reach out the goal of his life.

To turn the whole situation to its positive side, it would be better to pay more attention to John’s communication with friends, families and coworkers (Hersen,Linda Krug Porzelius, 2001). His surroundings never touched upon his prevalent type of work. Neither Bender, nor Sol could think of the problem. Queerish outlook and behavior of John should signal his wife and his friends the strange things happened to him. Alas, John was calculating mind and such image of his made others think that it is all right. In fact rational choice that John made since graduation is rather respectful, because he followed completion of his multiple tasks never stepping back one iota.

It is significant to scope out the fact that John Nash stayed the same for a long period of time. He was always attempting to have his own opinion on everything. He did not believe in personal fallacies about the reality of the aforementioned “three.” He is rather persistent in remaining the same in ideas, despite contradictions as for it coming from the society. This game of his mind made him more hidden in feelings and in what he was thinking at the moment. Hence, it is fair to analyze John’s behavior from the point of developmental perspective (Hutchinson, 2008). It is too significant to admit John’s coming through ages with the same idea, i.e. to work maturely for the US Department of Defense. Thus, the real change of his life came out to be after the nearly fatal case with his little son. It is better never than late, as they say. Such rational change let John complete more serious and more needful aim of his life, namely working out game theory in detail. This step turned out to be successful outcome of all his life struggle with self and mind.

Giving a reason to theoretical perspectives

All theoretical perspectives which are outlined above were chosen in order to make sense in the main character of the movie. The first reason is that these perspectives reflect the behavior of John Nash in detail. Due to them it is possible to make the grounds of his actions out. Hence, as the main character is seen in the movie in the dynamics of events coming around, several features were analyzed. These are: system, conflict, psychodynamics, rationality, and development. All these parameters are appropriate to analyzing John Nash and his behavior, in particular.

It is quite better now to understand and predict, first of all, similar inclinations in a person guided by the story of John Nash. Theoretical framework is definitely what one needs in explaining such deviations in psyche. It is a matter for further analysis among topline experts in the field of psychology. It is apparent also that the example of John Nash provides a scope of therapeutic treatment in combination with cognitive therapy, particularly.

Experienced challenges

While getting through the analysis of the movie A Beautiful Mind I experienced several challenges that made me think of my personal destination and use for the society. In this respect the first issue relates to the fact that I really ran previously into the examples of genius people who conclude with schizophrenia. The example of John Nash irritates more desire to study thoroughly and to attain goals in life in me. On the other hand, I feel like responsible for personal behavior and necessity to maintain warm relationships with friends and family. Such closeness of relationships may foresee any changes in me on the part of my relatives and those with whom I am more intimate. However, I have also realized that one should never lag behind the time prospects and achieve the goals in life, for it seems that short.

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Berman, P. S. (2009). Case Conceptualization and Treatment Planning: Integrating Theory With Clinical Practice (2nd ed.). NY: SAGE.

Carter, B. & McGoldrick, M.(2004). ‘The family life cycle.’ In Normal family processes: growing diversity and complexity by Walsh, F. NY: Guilford Press: 375-398.

Friedberg, R. D. & McClure, J. M. (2002). Clinical practice of cognitive therapy with children and adolescents: the nuts and bolts. NY: Guilford Press.

Hersen, M. & Porzelius, K. (2001). Diagnosis, conceptualization, and treatment planning for adults: a step-by-step guide. London: Routledge.

Howard, R. (2001). A Beautiful Mind. Starring Russel Crowe. Los Angeles, CA: DreamWorks Pictures.

Hutchison, E. D. (2008). Dimensions of human behavior: Person and environment (3rd ed.). NY: SAGE.

Mastos, M., Miller, K., Eliasson, A. C. & Imms, C. (2007).Goal-directed training: linking theories of treatment to clinical practice for improved functional activities in daily life.’ Clinical Rehabilitation, 21(1): 47-55.

Woody, S. R., Detweiler-Bedell, J., Teachman, B. A. & O’Hearn, T. (2004). Treatment Planning in Psychotherapy: Taking the Guesswork Out of Clinical Care. NY: Guilford Press.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, December 9). Psychotherapy. “A Beautiful Mind” Film by Ron Howard.

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StudyCorgi. "Psychotherapy. “A Beautiful Mind” Film by Ron Howard." December 9, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Psychotherapy. “A Beautiful Mind” Film by Ron Howard." December 9, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Psychotherapy. “A Beautiful Mind” Film by Ron Howard'. 9 December.

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