concluding my review on ‘one flew over the cuckoo’s nest’

This had been an emotional journey.. it opens to so many deep human questions about how we live our lives, our personal freedom, and the use/misuse/abuse of power in the very systems we put in place to ‘help’, ‘treat’, support fellow human beings …

Nurse Ratched’s engagement draws attention to the essential need for any professional in a ‘helping’ position (be it a therapist, a doctor or a head nurse) to be as aware as possible and honest of themselves, continuously questioning and keeping in perspective their own feelings, attitudes and actions. This fundamental matter appears even more central, given relationships where power and authority are highlighted, as the ones taking place in hospitals, clinics or consulting rooms.

The concepts of transference and projective identification appear to provide valuable analytical explanation of the characters’ behaviours and relationships. McMurphy and nurse Ratched can be seen as representing certain polarities, Eros and Thanatos, liberated and repressed sexuality, true and false self. They are the antithesis and nemesis of each other. Nevertheless there seemed to emerge significant similarities from their opposition, mainly in the way they experience a strong splitting of their internal world. They both projected their dark elements and experienced intense prosecution by authority and sexuality, respectively. It could also be constructive to approach the story in the light of communicative analytical theories, considering the continuous clinical deviations and confusing frameworks, especially in terms of breaking confidentiality and the nurse’s lack of abstinence.

Therapeutic change, self-growth and strength did develop with some of the patients; change which was mainly motivated and contained by their fellow patients rather than supported by the medical professionals. The Big Nurse’s ultimate aim had been to retain control and her means would reach to depersonalising oppression and destruction. Ironically, her wishes and attempts for omnipotent domination over herself and others motivated (by reaction) some of the patients to break through their own ‘prison’. At the end, the male protagonist seemed to continue being alive through the others in the hospital ward, internally. The in-patients appeared more alive within themselves by experiencing the death of their external life force: Randall Patrick McMurphy, who flew over their cuckoo’s nest once and for all.