The movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” became a blockbuster. Hardly anyone realizes that the film trilogy depicts serious personality disorders of the two main heroes – Christian Grey and Anastasia Steel. Let me invite you to the first article of my series “50 shades of psychology”, where today I analyse the personality of Anastasia Steel.
What kind of woman would feel attracted to a Christian Grey?
Let’s expose one of the 50 shades of psychology together. Everyone knows the fable about a knight on a white horse in shiny armor arriving to fight for the princess in a tower. Women often fantasize about being swept off their feet by a handsome, decisive, wealthy man, who will satisfy all their longings and desires. Christian Gray, from the outside, is seen as such a man. Later on, he uncovers his face of a malignant narcissist with sociopathic tendencies.
Ana is an introverted young woman at a difficult point in life where she lacks certainty in what next steps to take. She is studying literature and admits that she lives mainly among the books and her social life is much limited. She is inexperienced in relationships and very insecure of herself. Do you remember a photography exhibition of her friend where her photographs were displayed? She felt ashamed and shy. Ana wasn’t a self-confident woman with high self-esteem who would walk into the room with a big smile on her face.
She was living in the world of romance. The world she knew so well from her books. Still, she agreed to have an affair with a man who had no intentions of making it a real romantic relationship. Why? Because Ana was desperate for love. Her father died when she was young and this trauma in the heart of a small girl was one of the most valid reasons why she was so desperate to be loved by a man.
Insecure, shy, agreeable, ashamed, with low self-esteem, and living in a dreamy world – such women quite often fall prey to narcissists. They are “good girls” and they lack the basic skills of setting boundaries.
What deficiencies from childhood did Ana have?
As we learn from the movie, Anastasia’s father dies when she was young and a stepfather brings her up. The sudden death of the biological father is a serious and deep trauma. Losing a father at a young age is a tragedy for the child. The child feels left alone or sometimes even subconsciously guilty that the father disappeared.
We can imagine that Ana never experienced her biological father taking care of her, pampering her, telling her complements. She didn’t have that. That’s why she was thirsty to hear it and Christian filled in the gap. Do you remember the scene in the club? Ana was drunk and called him. He came to rescue her, drove to the club, and took care of her. Like a father would.
She asks later in the hotel: “Christian, why am I here?” He answers what her heart longs to hear: “I couldn’t leave you alone there”.
Subconsciously Ana might have felt left alone by her biological father. When Christian assures her he would never leave her there, she feels he takes care of her like the father who could not because he was never there. He passed away.
50 shades of psychology – what psychological dynamic makes her agree to be with Christian Grey?
Each of us has software running in our brains that was installed in our childhood. Anastasia Steel has a psychological savior complex. She wants to rescue Christian from himself and his past. She believes he would change thanks to her love. The problem is that you cannot be a teacher to the other person, because then you enter a parenting role and your beloved is in the position of a child. This is not a couple relationship anymore, but rather a parent-child connection.
People with savior complex often chase broken people or people with severe psychological issues. They believe they can help them and change them. Unfortunately, it never works like this. We are not responsible for fixing other people; we’re responsible for fixing ourselves. Ana didn’t get that. A savior complex is also described as ‘co-dependency’. It is a tendency to remain in unhealthy, one-sided relationships, where they cater to their partner’s needs without regard to their own, thus enabling his or her toxic behavior, be it abuse, addiction, or general underachievement.
Anastasia tolerated Christian’s behavior and preferences despite wanting something else – a true and loving relationship. She exhibited many traits of a savior complex and dependent personality disorder. A rather inappropriate example for teenagers and young women looking for love.
There was a study in the Journal of Women’s Health, which claims young adult women who read Fifty Shades of Grey are more likely to replicate the behaviors of people in abusive relationships. Let’s hope young adult women are smarter than that.