Warning: Spoilers for the Game of Thrones finale up ahead!
Cersei has been the name on everyone's lips since the finale episode of Season 6 of Game of Thrones, which saw the headstrong Lannister ascend the Iron Throne after blasting her competition out of the ball park with a neon green bang:
You can't deny that Cersei is perhaps one of the most complex characters at the crux of the fantasy series and now that she's essentially become the Mad Queen, our fascination with her can only grow. Her coronation is everything she has ever wanted, but her victory has come at an incredibly high cost. This very fact bears the essential question: What kind of person can bear to live with such a reality?
A recent discussion on Reddit has fueled just this debate. A self-described "clinical psychologist" going by the name of Rain12913 provided an opinion on the Queen's mental state, loosely applying some psychiatric expertise to the character. Before you rush into the study though, read the following disclaimer offered by the author:
Psychiatric disorders are complex and mysterious classifications of human minds, and the minds of fictional characters are not real. Therefore, what I'm doing here is just loosely applying these terms to a character who simply displays the behaviors and characteristics of a particular diagnostic label that we use for real people.
'It Is Highly Unlikely That Such A Narcissistic Character Is Capable Of True Love'
Diving right in, the Redditor outlines factors that suggest that Cersei's major fault is that she is a "classic narcissist:"
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.
The psychologist then goes on to add that Cersei does not view others as real, complete human beings:
Instead, she views them as either "all good" or "all bad" (this is known as splitting, and it is a defense mechanism). Her tendency to split is reflective of her inability to view herself as a person who has both good traits and bad traits. Most of us are able to view ourselves in shades of gray: we're capable of good things and bad things, we have strengths and weaknesses, etc. Instead of embracing this reality, Cersei must either embrace the belief that she is a worthless, damaged, and hopeless person, or the belief that she is impeccable, gifted, and perfect.
From the Mad Queen's perspective, she can only ever be the latter, even though deep down, she may know that she falls more into the former category. From this, Rain12913 reveals:
This is a way of coping with and protecting against emotional pain, hence the term 'defense mechanism.'
'Cersei Isn't Even Capable Of Loving Someone Who Isn't Herself'
The fascinating Reddit post goes further in exploring Cersei's relationship with her family, who are her blood and therefore make up a fragmentary part of her. As a result, with the narcissistic love she harbors for them, she places them into the "perfect" category. Turning our attention to Jaime and her children in particular, Rain12913 writes:
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.
We might remember that when her brother leaves her in the first season, she turns to her cousin for sexual intimacy. Ultimately, Cersei can't even fathom having sex with someone that isn't a direct extension of herself.
'Cersei's Love For Her Children Is 'Hollow''
And although the Queen's devotion to her children may be very real, it is "hollow." The psychologist writes that often with narcissistic behavior, there is a tendency to swing to the opposite of the spectrum — to the "bad" category. In Cersei case, Tommen gradually stops being a reflection of herself and therefore, she abandons him emotionally and physically.
With the tragic events of the final episode, many shocked fans questioned whether she would have blown everything up if she had known that her son were there. Rain12913 remains adamant that she wouldn't have spared him:
Again, for Cersei, it's not about Tommen; it's about herself, because in her mind, she is all that exists. People are either "her," or they're "not her." At that point, Tommen had become "not her." He had joined the Faith and forsaken his family. He showed weakness, gullibility, and stupidity, and he even abandoned her. From that point on, he was no longer a part of her.
Think back to her lack of emotion in being confronted with the young King's mangled body — it's certainly a far cry from her hysteria following Myrcella's poisoning and Joffrey's brutal suffocation. Ultimately, Tommen's treatment is different because he is no longer a part of her and thus, she is incapable of loving him truly:
Read the full Reddit post here.