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The Arkham Sessions, Ep. 150: ‘Doom Patrol – Penultimate Patrol’

The Arkham Sessions, hosted by Dr. Andrea Letamendi and Brian Ward, is a weekly podcast dedicated to the psychological analysis of pop culture, including Batman: The Animated Series and Doom Patrol. Nostalgic, humorous, and even a little educational, each episode promises to lend some insight into the heroes, villains, and classic stories of the Dark Knight!

The Arkham Sessions, Ep. 150 – “Penultimate Patrol”

On the last episode, we spoke about the important difference between actions that could be considered forgivable and actions deemed so problematic that the person behind them should be punished via public shaming. On this episode, we revisit the concept of “Cancel Culture,” adding some considerations not addressed in the last discussion — the emotional toll on the targeted party, the damaging impact of hateful words and actions, and the healing of the person or persons harmed. (We would like to make note here that we included a candid conversation between Brian and Drea about the tension survivors and targets of harassment may feel when presented with the option to “cancel” their offender publicly.)

Now on to the second to last episode of Doom Patrol’s first season, which takes us further along our journey of psychological introspection! In assessing where our heroes are emotionally, we are pleased to see how far Rita, Cliff, Larry, and Jane have come. In what appears to be their most challenging lesson to date, Mr. Nobody transports them back in time to the exact day of the adverse event or traumatic experience that led them to become members of the Doom Patrol. They’re given the decision to start over, to avoid the trauma, to essentially wipe out the horrors and setbacks that sent them on the path of superhero freakdom. It isn’t startling to learn that each character reckons with their past by refusing to change the course of their future. In a bold move, they accept their flaws and mistakes, acknowledging some level of accountability for their misguided actions and vowing to “do better.” Rita, in fact, commandeers control of her narrative, informing Mr. Nobody that she refuses to allow her story to be told by another person. By “writing her own narrative,” she secures agency and control, but she also accepts her failures. This newly realized self-efficacy can be a powerful tool.

In the realm of narrative psychology, a person’s life story isn’t just a mundane list of facts–it’s the way we integrate our experiences and events internally. Our narrative is how we weave experiences together to make a meaningful story. We are storytellers to our core. A healthy approach to identity building involves the use of competence-building themes in our narratives, which psychologists define as adaptive ways of recounting one’s life experiences. For instance, when we reflect on successes (success narratives), we think about ways in which we achieved our goals effectively and secure confidence, pride, and the drive to succeed again in the future. Failure narratives, on the other hand, allow us to appreciate our own efforts, to recognize we survived something difficult, and to tell ourselves we can be equipped to deal with future challenges.

Practical tips for writing your own narrative:

  • Be real to oneself. Don’t tell your story with rose-colored glasses. Have self-compassion about your story, your hardships, and struggles.
  • Be your own coach – try the method of “psychological distancing,” which is how we intentionally reflect on our character, choices, and judgment from an external perspective.
  • Always know your audience. Your story may be interesting to another person, but keep in mind their story as well and how they may relate to yours.

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