• Effects of repeated violence

  • Repressed memory/dissociative amnesia

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder/PTSD

Westworld (HBO), a television show about a theme park full of lifelike robots, may not seem to depict the effects of trauma, but it certainly does. And quite well!

Westworld is about a wild west town where rich people pay to interact with humanesque robots (known as “hosts”). In this make-believe world, paying customers (aka “guests”) can play out their darkest, most violent fantasies without the fear of moral or legal consequences. Because of this, guests routinely beat, rape, and murder the hosts, who are incapable of fighting back. At the end of the day, the victimized hosts’ memories are erased, so that they can function unencumbered for the next set of guests.

While the humans view the hosts as robots, they are actually sentient beings. Because of this, they respond to repeated violence and trauma just as humans do. Their erased–but really just repressed–memories are recalled constantly as flashbacks and nightmares. Some of the hosts seem to suffer from PTSD; they are hypervigilant, suspicious, always waiting for the next attack.

While the show doesn’t specifically talk about dissociation, the storyline of Dolores (played by Evan Rachel Wood) is one of the best depictions I have ever seen of what it feels like to live with dissociation, dissociative amnesia, and PTSD. As the traumas pile up for Dolores (and other characters like Teddy, Maeve, and Bernard), the past and present get continuously blurred to the point where these traumatized hosts feel like they are living inside their own nightmares.

Westworld very accurately depicts the psychological consequences of repeated trauma. It’s a must-see for anyone who wants to understand what it feels like to live with dissociative amnesia.

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