Supernatural meta, reviews & fic recs

Sam Winchester: Lack of stability and motherlessness

This is the second of my conversations with Travellerintime:

bangingpatchouli asked: In that case, could you do a post about Sam’s lack of stability or a mother during the most important developmental years of a child’s life? And/or his lack of a female contact while he was growing up? I mean, we know that Dean did the best he could, but he was just a kid himself.


You are pushing my buttons again!!! LOL

First of all, neurologically we are born with way more neurons in our brain than we get to keep. This is because infants are programmed to learn while adults are programmed to act.

At first all these excessive neurons are firing all over the place but in neurology we have a saying “fire together, wire together”. This means that neurons that gets activated at the same time starts to form stronger and stronger connections while the neurons that doesn’t get activated start to die off. This dying off process starts at around the age of four and continues for the rest of our life. The responses that are wired by this point, if they keep being reinforced are very hard to undo, if not impossible. It becomes normal. It becomes the base on which we build the rest of our emotional development. This is why it gets harder and harder to change the older we get.

Given what we know about Sam as a child it’s reasonable to assume that certain “truths” are hard wired into his system.

Like, Dean is the source of any comfort, consistency and security. Not men in general because his father isn’t really there, just Dean. Females are not a reliable source of anything (other than sex) and are redundant as long as Dean’s around. If Dean’s not there they are the next best thing.

Also a child raising a child will have consequences. A parents job is to teach your child how to handle emotions and any other difficult part of life. You teach them how to handle fear, anger, sadness etc by showing how it’s done and believing in their ability to do it themselves, even when they don’t think they can.

For example you say “See, there is nothing under the bed, there’s nothing to be afraid of. You can turn on the light if it will make you feel less scared” and then you tell them to go back to sleep and you walk away.

If you don’t, if you start to bring that child out of their room and into your bed or if you start spending every night in theirs you are actually telling that child that there’s a reason for fear and that you need to be there to protect them.

As far as we know this is what Dean did. As cute as Dean’s overprotectiveness as a child is, he didn’t actually teach Sam how to control and handle his fear/anger/sadness, he taught Sam that Dean is the reason bad things don’t get him which is something else completely. What must have gotten hard wired into Sam is that “No Dean = Danger. Dean = No danger”

And what’s worse is that since they both were children it is likely that Dean imprinted this truth on himself in the process thus creating the famous codependency. Dean’s idea that he is essential to Sam’s survival and well being was probably not helped by the fact that at age four, Dean managed to save his brother while his father failed to save their mother. In the mind of a four year old boy that can very easily turn into a hard wired belief that no one else can be trusted with his brother. Not even his father.

I would argue that this would create an adult man (Sam) who is very very bad at regulating his own emotions, that is dependent on his brother to ground him and bring him back from from the over-emotional edge. It also would create a man who is basically unable to function on his own because his emotions would quickly spiral out of control, thus prompting him so search out the next best thing (women) as soon as Dean can not be reached. Which is what Sam has done on more than one occasion.

bangingpatchouli responds: Yes, I see what I’ve done and it’s awesome. I need to push your buttons more often. The fandom lacks good meta on Sam in particular, but both boys relating to the consequences of how they were raised.


3 responses

  1. Pingback: Supernatural Season 4: “The Monster at the End of This Book” | The Collective

  2. Can I just say I am in *awe* here?? lol..Seriously, again, this is what I’ve been trying to explain to people for years about this character and the brothers in general. The night Mary died, John shoved baby Sam into Dean’s arms and told him to save his brother, to run and not look back. For the next 20 odd years, he was basically told the same thing over and over and over again…Sam was Dean’s *only* priority. For Sam, Dean became his everything…brother, parent, confidante, role-model, idol. They were isolated from the world at large, those unusual roles/bonds constantly reinforced between them. Dean did the best he could, but he was just a child himself…he looked to anyone he could for guidance, but mostly had to figure it out on his own. No child should have to be forced into that. Ultimately, Dean is a very sympathetic character in those regards. As for Sam…we got a glimpse of his ability to bond with a female but again, her death, in the same manner as his mother, completely refocused his compass onto Dean. After all, it was Dean who saved him, once again, by hauling him out of that burning room.

    October 6, 2013 at 1:42 am

    • Yep, and the thing is that everything that has happened since Jess’s death only reinforces that Sam needs Dean. I think that Sam had a brief window of opportunity with Jess to become a relatively independent person, but from that moment of her death again Dean saves him, and continues to — Sam couldn’t have found the strength to overcome Lucifer and jump in the Pit if Dean’s life hadn’t been at stake. We see Dean as Sam’s source of strength and security over and over — blatantly in Hello, Cruel World and in Sacrifice. Even when Sam was with Amelia, he was digging his hand into his palm, seeking that connection. And yet Sam is equally willing to sacrifice himself for Dean as he did in Swan Song, as he was willing to do in the s6 finale (I won’t leave my brother alone out there), as he would have just to not let Dean down in Sacrifice. And Dean? Yeah, his motives are all just right out there in the open. Sam is only a little less easy to read because he does have an underlying desire to regain the agency that has been taken from him repeatedly from the moment Azazel fed him demon blood. Some fans misinterpret that desire as selfishness.

      October 6, 2013 at 6:14 am

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