How Psychology Unites Persona 5 And Gypsy

“The world will shine brightly as long as you hold hope in your hearts. Remember… There’s no such thing as the “real” world. What each person sees and feels— Those are what shape reality. This is what gives the world infinite potential. – Morgana, Persona 5

Have you picked something up and it stayed with you forever?  A piece jumped out and buried itself in your heart.  Persona 5 and Gypsy will both do that to you.  And interestingly enough, for the same reasons.  They’re both perfectly executed application of psychological theory.

How Persona 5 is the Perfect Application to Jungian Psychology 

Persona 5 is a video game about a group of highschoolers who enter a shadow dimension to fight demons and change people’s hearts.  Jung calls this constantly striving for growth (individuation), which happens to be the goal of the game.


In the game a person’s desires can become so warped that they create a reality called a Castle.  These Castles are a physical representation of complexes where the owner’s unconscious perceptions determine the battleground.  Whatever the fixation is, that determines the Complex.  In Persona 5 this ranges from a school to a bank to a museum.  Each with its own personal attributes that reflect on the owner’s psyche.


The ruler of the Castle is an exaggeration of the ruler in the real world.  It is a manifestation of the ruler’s shadow self.  The shadow self is the side within each person that we wish to ignore. It is the part of us that separates us from the collective unconscious.  Persona 5 shows us what happens when the shadow takes over a person completely.


In order to fight these shadows the player has to have a Persona.  This is usually triggered by a necessity to adapt and is shown in the game through players ripping off their masks.  These Persona’s are the inner rebel within each of us, and our masks are what we show the outer world.  When you rip off the mask you’re revealing your true self.  The Persona then battles shadows in various Castle’s as well as the collective unconscious named Mementos in the game.

Collective Unconscious

Jung believed that people are born with a “blueprint” already in them that will determine the course of their lives.  In the game people can travel to the other realm of Mementos where everyone’s complexes and shadows are connected.  It seems to be more the realm of Man more than the realm of any one man.  In Persona 5 you are never fully alone since the real world is just a manifestation of all human perception.

The moral of the story is a nice one.  Even though the game can be dark, it does a remarkable job of staying positive.  Especially since dealing with people’s shadows and inward manifestation can have a very negative connotation.  The themes of forgiveness are prevalent throughout the game, since everyone needs a shadow to be good.


Gypsy Shows the Dark Side of Freudian Psychology

Where Persona 5 shows the light of every dark side,  Gypsy (Can we still use that word?) shows us that behind any good their is an unconscious layer of bad.  The show tells the story of psychologist Jean Holloway as she pushes the boundaries of what is ethical therapy.  Gypsy is the Freudian thesis in action.

The Unconscious Mind

Jean is established as an unreliable narrator from the start.  Is she unreliable because she is lying to her audience or is it because she is lying to herself?  Freud often talks of our tendency to lie to ourselves about our own motivations.  We never really understand Jean’s choices, is she there to help her patients or to sabotage them?  Throughout the show it’s hard to tell if she even knows.

The unconscious mind acts as a repository, a ‘cauldron’ of primitive wishes and impulse kept at bay and mediated by the preconscious area.  In the show Jean struggles with her daughter.  She’s cognitive that she should accept Dolly (her daughter), yet Jean’s subconscious has trouble reconciling Dolly’s boyish demeanor.  This manifests itself by not allowing Dolly to cut her hair shorter.  This is Jean’s process of repression.

Eros and Thanatos

Jean appears to want to sink her ‘perfect’ life.  She takes enormous risks with her job, her personal life, and even her family.  Every episode sees her journeying further down the rabbit whole, yet still managing to escape catastrophe by the skin of her teeth.  Freud called this the struggle between Eros and Thanatos.

Eros is our instinct to live, our life blood that is our reflex for life.  It is our ‘libido’.  And boy does Jean have a libido 😳.  She’s thirsty for life in a very desperate way.  This desire appears to motivate her to tango with her clients in an unhealthy way.  Which leads her to engage her ‘death instinct’ or Thanatos.  Jean always skirts the line, begging to be caught yet doing everything in her power to maintain the life she has.  Her internal destructive force is directed towards others through inserting herself in their lives.

Ego and Superego

Our struggle with our superego can often be demonstrated with our relationship with our parents.  Since we get our first inkling of societal standards from our parents, how we treat them is often a projection of how we feel about ourselves in society.  This is represented by Jean having no relationship with her father, and a disdainful avoidance of her mother.  The mother’s all too knowing smirks cause Jean to engage her superego and become critically self-aware.

While the superego serves us to connect us to outward perceptions, the Ego is there to anchor ourselves in our desires.  Jean’s struggle with her Ego is why she is a psychologist.  It allows her to fulfill her inner unconscious.  We’re left after watching one full season of Gypsy with a sense of discomfort.  Left with the question, “Do we control our own lives?”

Gypsy and Persona 5 have both stayed with me.  They manage to show us psychological theory.  I left feeling like I just got my bachelors in psychology and I was ready to practice.   I highly recommend if the human mind is something you like to explore.

Let me know what you think!

Naomi Watts in Gypsy

P.S.  “The ego is not master in its own house.”-Sigmund Freud