The Silence of the Lambs Lesson

Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling

My favorite movie is The Silence of the Lambs. Worse still, my all-time favorite character is Hannibal Lecter. I’m a psychiatrist, but don’t analyze me for this just yet, please. The relationship between Lecter, the insane psychiatrist and the young, inexperienced FBI recruit, Clarice Starling is facinating to me. Lecters maniacal madness drives his desire to know what makes Clarice tick. He is only willing to provide information that will help her capture the serial killer Buffalo Bill if she, in turn, provides intimate information about herself. As he says, it’s a quid pro quo. We come to see that he is genuinely curious about her story as these give-and-take dialogues evolve. Despite this, she holds her secrets tightly and reveals her historical details reluctantly.

This is a theatrical poster of the Silence of the Lambs

Why share our stories

We share our stories for many reasons. Doing so helps others. It empowers us. Our reality is authenticated. It keeps us humble. We take the pathway toward self-affirmation. It gives hope for others. We ease our aloneness. And finally, it allows us to be courageous and unites us all as humans. None of these things are possible when we hide our truth away.

Clarice begins to share the more intimate details of her life with Lecter because she is driven to capture the serial killer still on the loose, we are led to believe. But it is more than this. Though she does so uneasily, she wants to unburden herself and Lecter knows just how to tease out her truth. Despite her protestations, she knows that she needs him to be set free. Clarice, me thinks thou doest protest too much.

Our own self judgements can be frightening

We hold onto our deepest secrets tightly. Whether we have a mental illness, have had an affair or are an alcoholic, we think we are most afraid of how others will react if they see our truth but that isn’t our greatest fear. We are most terrified by the thought of holding a mirror up in front of our face and seeing the reflection of the person staring back at us. Our own self-judgements are much more frightening and crushing than anything Lecter might think about us.

Opening up

Clarice finally reveals the most vulnerable truth about the death of her father and because of this, the lambs in her head that won’t stop screaming. It’s a relief that this isn’t a music-swelling, happy ending movie moment. Nonetheless, we look at her expression and sense some relief now that she has finally and fully unburdened herself.

The lesson learned

The greatest The Silence of the Lambs lesson is that it so courageous to peer into our psyches and dare to share our authentic selves. Our truths don’t kill us, our secrets do. They corrode our souls. It is a good thing that none of us need Hannibal Lecter to free us to speak our truths. Well chosen loved ones and kindred spirits are a much better plan. We can finally silence the scary lambs in our own heads and feel unburdened if we find the courage to speak the words that we had previously believed to be unspeakable.

Please…share your story with me

4 thoughts on “The Silence of the Lambs Lesson

  1. Also my fav movie of all time! I, too, am a psychiatrist. I love the juxtaposition/conundrum/enigma of Lecter as a psychopathic psychiatric physician. He is fundamentally incapable of empathy or intimacy, yet intellectually knows they are human needs and recognizes his deficit. He clinically diagnoses her trauma reaction and the doctor in him coerces her quid pro quo therapy and catharsis. Or is he simply preying upon her naïveté, feigning mentorship and care/concern? Just so darn well-written, directed, and produced!

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