Dr. Sleep

Posted on December 10, 2014

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Spoiler Alert:  I am going to talk about a scene from a recent Stephen King novel (Dr. Sleep).  I will try not to give the ending away, but I need part of it to make my point.  I will give away the ending to The Shining, but that has been out for 37 years and twice made into a film.  If you haven’t read it or seen it yet, you probably aren’t likely to.

So after almost forty years, we got to find out what became of Danny Torrance after he and his mother Wendy escaped from the evil Overlook Hotel and the clutches of his violent, possessed, and alcoholic father.  Jack Torrance, as you might recall, was killed in a boiler explosion (if you read the book) or froze to death in a hedge maze (in the original Jack Nicholson film).  I never saw the remake, so I don’t know how faithful that film was to the book.

Dr. Sleep is the sequel that follows Dan Torrance from 1977 through 2014.  Like his father before him, Dan becomes an alcoholic.  As one who works with addicts, I appreciate how well King captures (in both books) the addict’s thought process and the process of recovery.  From the rationalizations, to the grievance story, the minimizing, and the compartmentalizing, it is all there.  Even the 12 step process and the need for support and accountability are faithfully represented.

But that’s not what I want to talk about (and here’s where the spoiler alert comes into play).

Near the end of the story, Dan and another character with the shining are coming into the final mind battle against the main villain.  Dan is tricked into believing that his ally is actually the evil person (who claims to have killed Dan’s ally) and he starts choking her.  I won’t give you the ending, but I will give you the metaphor.   There are times when you can be deceived into seeing your partner as the enemy.

When couples get stuck in negative cycles of interaction, when negative sentiment starts to overrun the relationship, when the cumulative effect of years of hurt take their toll, it is easy to see your partner as the enemy.  If it seems like your partner is your enemy, it is not surprising that, at best, you are not very nice and, at worst, are hurtful to him or her.

I may not know your partner, but might I suggest that you consider the possibility that you have been tricked.  Your spouse is not your enemy, but a partner in a dance that has left you both feeling angry, hurt, and lonely.  Your partner, like you, is a person who wants to be loved and valued, treated with kindness and respect.  You can still be the hero in this story who sees through the deception and emerges triumphant.

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