Sunday, May 4, 2014

Tarot Of Terror- Norman Bates

This week brings us a classic- Norman Bates from the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho. There are some differences between the book the movie was based on and the film, and though there doesn't seem to be too many significant changes, I'll stick to the film version here. Norman Bates is an interesting study, as he has a laundry list of psychiatric problems that contribute to his eventual end. A brief rundown of his life brings up a good deal of these. The Bates family lived together until Norman's father died, at which point it's just Norman and his mother, Norma. Norma suffers from extreme paranoia, delusions to some extent, and inflicts emotional and psychological abuse on Norman. Norma's mental illness seems to be exacerbated by stress, as the Bates Motel has been through some dire financial straits. Judging from the history of mental illness in the Bates family (Norman inherits a great deal of Mom's issues), I'd say the root cause is schizophrenia, possibly coupled with bipolar depression. In Norman's case, the onset is really at adolescence, when he first commits murder, and this is the point at which most inherited mental illnesses take effect. At any rate, Norman is brought up very much under his mother's spell, more specifically under her delusions- all women (except her, that is) are evil, and sex is evil as well. Norman, being young and impressionable, believes her, and internalizes these ideas. Things go on this way until Norma meets Joe Considine, and the two begin a relationship. Norman, insane with jealous rage, kills both of them by poisoning, then makes it look like a suicide.
At this point, things really go downhill for Norman, as his apparent schizophrenia is joined with dissociative personality disorder- he takes on his mother's persona, (incidentally, this is where much of our knowledge of Norma's personality comes from) and preserves her corpse, having inherited the family business of running the Bates Motel. Dissociative personality disorder is essentially taking on a different personality in order to avoid dealing with something traumatic- not unheard of in abuse cases, though Norman's is unique in that he becomes the abuser, as he is unable to deal with the guilt of having committed the murders, and perhaps because having lived so long under his mother's influence has left him unable to function in the world without her. This idea is lent some credit in that Norman supports his "mother", who he tells everyone is an invalid and confined to the house, yet retains an iron grip on Norman. His Norman persona goes about business as usual, though his Mother persona remains intensely jealous of Norman, and continues on in the same vein of delusions as she did in life. Whether Norman is aware of Mother as a part of himself is unclear- he appears to regard her as completely separate, and addresses the corpse as his mother- the Norman persona seems to be unaware of his mental state, as is Norma, who is more concerned with protecting her own existence than helping Norman. Again, this is interesting because dissociative personalities usually have some benefit- they allow the person to cope or address something that they otherwise are unable to handle. At any rate, Norman and Mother converse regularly, also not unheard of with this type of illness. Mother will attack anyone (especially women) that she or Norman sees as a threat. Given the extent of Mother's delusions, well, there's not too many people who make the cut, pun not intended. Mother continues to murder anyone Norman even considers reaching out to, and Norman, ever the dutiful son, covers up the murders. Finally, the situation is discovered, and Norman is hospitalized, unfortunately only after his Norman persona (his normal self, the shy but nice guy who runs the motel) is all but destroyed, and all that remains is Mother.

"Norm!"
Norman is eventually deemed sane enough to be released, and continues to fight against his domineering Mother persona, whose main goal is to keep Norman under her thumb, so to speak. Norman shows strong evidence of wanting to just settle down and live a normal life, often rebelling against Mother whenever he can.
Interestingly, we have a birth date for Norman, which allows us a rough view of his Zodiac chart- he was born on April 12, 1934, making him settled firmly in Aries as his main sign, with Taurus as his ascendant- Norman evidently inherited his Mom's strong will and determination, yet is really not a bad guy- under different circumstances, he would have probably turned the motel around and made it a success- Aries is a Fire sign, characterized by drive, will and determination, and Taurus is an Earth sign, likewise marked by determination, and also practicality, good decision making, and in many cases, a good head for business. Doing a reading for Norman was challenging- am I reading for Norman, Mother, or both? Well, the short answer is both, as they are really different sides of the same person. Norman is the public face of this person, whereas Mother represents his darker half- he wants what anyone else wants, to fall in love, have a relationship, be a young swinging guy having a good time, but Mother won't let him go out and get corrupted by the world- remember that Norman has really internalized Mother's delusions about the world- it's not a nice place, and Norman, being a nice boy, has no place there.
For Norman, I did a Celtic Cross reading, and the results were pretty interesting. Norman is a fairly complex character, and not really, deep down, a bad person. The first card, dealing with the present, is the 2 of Pentacles. The main focus here is balance, and the emphasis here is on Norman's day to day life. He's lived this way so long, with Mother constantly breathing down his neck, that he can at least get by, if not entirely the life he wants; it tells me that Norman has to some extent accepted his situation. But the problem is, this is not a permanent solution, and Norman remains one stressful event away from slipping back into letting Mother take over. Covering this was the Judgment card, telling me that there just might be hope for Norman yet. Judgment deals with moving upwards from his situation to hopefully bringing his two halves together- Norman really wants control, but perhaps is unable to face the guilt and the fact that it was him who committed the murders- it seems that a part of Norman, or at least Mother, is aware of that, yet knows that until Norman can address that, he will remain the way he is- divided.
Does this sweater make me look fat? 

The next card deals with the Past, and here was the 4 of Cups, telling us that there is definitely a genuine family bond among the Bates family- Norma, as much as she was able to, really did love Norman and really did care about him, despite causing him so much harm. Earlier intervention would have saved Norman from a world of trouble, and perhaps even saved Norma's life. But despite this, the 4 tells us that the wagon of love broke under the hay of life- it was too little too late, and things went sour for Norman. Nonetheless, there is a message of a mixed blessing here, as Norman did gain from the experience, learning to fend for himself, though he relies heavily on Mother to do this.
In the Foundation position, we see Norman's nature come through, and a ray of hope- here was the Knight of Pentacles. Norman seems to have strong Earth associations, as Pentacles pop up frequently in the reading. The emphasis of the Knight here is on introspection and development. This tells me first and foremost that Norman really does want to get "better", and to be free from his mother/Mother's influence, both in terms of mental illness and the psychological scars she has left. But again, lacking a support system (apart from Mother, that is) Norman really has no one to rely on other than himself. If Norman can become strong enough to replace Mother as the dominant personality, perhaps Norman will find the strength to address his underlying issues. This is always something of a dicey area for readers, as we don't want to bring up anything too painful, and this seems to be the root of Norman's problem- that he can't come to terms with these things.
There were a lot of reversed (upside down) cards from here on out in this reading, indicating a lot of blocked energy- here we see a lot of Norman, and the blocking is created by Mother; she wants to maintain control, while Norman, though desiring to be free, often lacks the strength to take on Mother alone. The next card to come up was the Near Future- here was the reversed 10 of Pentacles- whatever Norman manages to accomplish in terms of steps towards a quiet, peaceful life will always have Mother hanging over it like a shadow- again, until he can work through these issues and come to terms with them. Going back once more to the Knight, I don't think this is entirely out of the question. This, I would say, is what Norman needs to focus on- that process of self-examination, and eventual healing of his own mind. The future for Norman is actually not too bad, and I think the determination and hard work he puts in mean he might possibly come out on top.
The Aspirations position, the best or desired outcome, held the Moon, again in a reversed position. Norman needs to "wake up"- to see past the illusions he himself has helped to create, and in so doing, get past the shock of knowing he is capable of murder, and capable of harming others. His Mother persona will, when it's in her (his?) interest, play the harmless old lady, but under that exterior lies a cold and calculating mind. In some ways, this is not a bad asset to have. If Mother is this much of a quick study, it tells me that Norman is highly intelligent, and capable of abstract reasoning and self-examination.
The 7th position, the Future, holds the 7 of Pentacles, also reversed. The reversal here indicates a stagnation- Norman isn't going to get better unless he can take on Mother, and without the resources to do so, (which Mother will fight tooth and nail, as s/he knows it will be the functional end of her) Norman can't move forwards- whatever gains he makes are small ones, and Mother will remain running the show. Judging from what we know of the life and times of Norma, it seems this is her ultimate end and desire- to remain in control. Unfortunately, Norman's best interests take a back seat to this desire for control.
The 8th position is interesting, as this indicates hopes and fears- here the message seems to be that to some extent Mother and Norman are both accepting of the situation, even desiring to keep it the way it is, as the card here was the Empress reversed, indicating control to the point of smothering- think of a really overbearing mother, trying to control every aspect of a child's life. But of course, there is an element of rebellion here- that kid will start to look for opportunities to rebel, and look for ways to get out from under that tight control. This seems to indicate both halves of Norman- Mother's desire to remain in control, oblivious or unwilling to acknowledge the harm she causes Norman (not to mention the murder victims), and Norman's desire to rebel, even if it's in some childish and ultimately ineffective way. But then again, we now know Norman is capable of self-examination- it'll be a long and difficult road, but I think there's still hope for Norman yet.
The 9th position deals with hidden influences- things that come to bear on the situation, but are not obvious, and here was the reversed Ace of Swords. The message here is that there is at least the beginnings of the insight Norman needs, as the card is very much about potential, and most importantly, new ideas. Again, the reversal does indicate a blocking of this energy, but nonetheless in this case the fact that it comes up at all is a good indication. The whole problem again seems to be that Norman is simply not strong enough to take the steps needed to regain control- he's just not there yet, though he begins to grasp what he needs to do, and this small spark might well become a fire for him. Being an Aries, Norman is never one to give up, and though he may not be strong enough to tackle Mother, he won't give an inch either.
Finally, the outcome. This reading has kind of a shortage of hope, but nonetheless, in time and with psychological help, I wouldn't completely write off Norman Bates. The final card here was the reversed 2 of Wands. This tells me that down the line we can expect Norman (the persona, that is) to become more and more defiant, if not stronger- perhaps ultimately leading to a showdown between Norman and Mother- much of this will be dependent on Norman's decision- will he decide that he can accept what happened and what he did, or will he simply regress into his own shell, still unable to come to terms with what happened? Unfortunately, that's all that Mother needs to remain in control. However, one interesting aspect is that Norman seems to know (and disapproves) of what Mother does- he doesn't really want to kill people, especially not a woman he likes, and this breeds resentment and anger towards Mother in Norman's half of the mind. But again, what this ultimately comes down to is whether or not Norman can accept the truth. He's spent a long time running from it, and this very much shows up in the reading. Should he be finally able to accept what happened, his life will begin to change, and it's at that point that finally Norman will begin to heal the rift in himself.

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