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Sam had an obvious turning point when Dean died. It pretty much destroyed him. It made him weak, vulnerable, and ripe for manipulation. That brings on another catalyst for rage, guilt. Hereâ€™s the definition of guilt in the Encyclopedia of Psychology. â€œAn emotional state produced by thoughts that we have not lived up to our ideal self and could have done otherwise.â€ It further goes onto explain â€œGuilt feelings may also inhibit us from falling short of our ideal again in the future.â€ You mean like feeling responsible for your brotherâ€™s death by not using your powers to save him so youâ€™ll learn to use them now to save others?
Who could blame Sam for choosing that path? Why not turn his curse into a gift? He could use it to exorcise demons, save people. He hardly put up a fight when Ruby suggested it. He didnâ€™t care what it did to him internally. He didnâ€™t believe he would lose control. He was too weak to save Dean, so maybe he could save others instead. Sure, Sam suffered from guilt too when Jessica died, blaming himself even though he couldnâ€™t have known the dream was going to come true. So how did he deal with that? By throwing his ideal life away and seeking out revenge. Sure, we wouldnâ€™t have a series if he didnâ€™t, but Samâ€™s extreme reaction to guilt not only comes from the anger within but itâ€™s managed to make it worse. The anger gets worse, the desperation gets worse, the guilt gets worse, and the whole cycle continues until he explodes in a swirling fit of rage. You know, like when heâ€™s under a spell by Famine and uses his extreme power to stop him.
Samâ€™s anger and subsequent outbursts of rage are a combination of the depression, the extreme guilt, and hopelessness inside all coming from being constantly caught in no win situations. His fears from his drunken tirade in â€œPlaythingsâ€ still holds true today. â€œEven now everyone around me dies.â€ How does someone in that mess break the cycle? He canâ€™t use revenge, like when he tried to use Pamelaâ€™s death as a reason to get mad enough to go after Lilith in â€œOn The Head of a Pin.â€ He canâ€™t run and hide either like he found out in â€œFree To Be You and Me.â€ All thatâ€™s left is to go through the motions, taking it one day at a time. Needless to say, that complacent life doesnâ€™t help inner rage either. He keeps losing more and more control, especially when something supernatural pushes his buttons.
Oh, but it gets even more complicated for Sam. Thereâ€™s a theory I read out there that shame plays a big role in developing guilt and subsequently rage too. In her article â€œWhen Shame Becomes Rage,â€ Lynne Namka says this. â€œShame rears its ugly head when there is a threat and you feel helpless, humiliated and dehumanized. If you lose control when you are angry, you have learned to substitute the emotion of rage to take yourself out of the bad feelings of being a victim.â€
Sam, a victim? Heck, heâ€™s the victim poster child. More so than Dean just because of his demon blood and dark destiny. However, Sam didnâ€™t know about being fed the blood until he was 23 years old. So did he always feel like a victim? Yes. For one, heâ€™s on more than one occasion said his family is cursed. Thatâ€™s classic victim mentality. Notice thatâ€™s something Dean has never said. We really donâ€™t know how long Sam has felt that way, but Iâ€™m presuming for some time, probably while waiting in those motel rooms for John to return two weeks later, not knowing if he was dead or alive. Another sign of feeling like a victim is negative self talk. You know, things like â€œI should have saved him/her.â€ Yes, both Dean and Sam are guilty of this, but it seems to be more of a catalyst for Samâ€™s condition. Sam especially though is bad about negative self talk. Take for example the beginning of â€œLucifer Risingâ€ when talking with Ruby. â€œDeanâ€™s better off as far away from me as possible.â€ Then he goes through with the plan to drain the nurse of her blood after getting a final rejection from Deanâ€™s voice mail. Sure, he thought he was saving the world, but he ultimately did it because he was only acting like what he really was; a monster, a freak.
Another sign of being a victim is feeling unfairly treated and trapped. Just look at Samâ€™s conversation with his hallucinated mother in â€œWhen The Levee Breaks.â€ Sam is terrified at the idea of facing Lilith, facing his destiny. As â€œMaryâ€ tells him he has to kill Lilith, his real hidden fear surfaces. â€œEven if it kills me.â€ Sam doesnâ€™t see any choice. Heâ€™s the only one to kill Lilith. He has to drink the demon blood, he has to die, because killing Lilith will stop the apocalypse. Thereâ€™s no time to consider the fact that heâ€™s scared out of his wit or is worthy of better. He has no choice. Heâ€™s never had a choice when it comes to things.
This sign of being victimized though is what gets me the most; what others say. Dean means well and so loves his brother, but he doesnâ€™t know how to help Sam. He took Samâ€™s actions in â€œLucifer Risingâ€ as betrayal and when Sam forced the truth out of him (as he often does) in â€œSympathy For The Devil,â€ Deanâ€™s harsh honesty managed to crush an already dripping with guilt and shame Sam. Enter more intense self-loathing. Then Sam had his moment of clarity at the end of â€œSam, Interruptedâ€ and Dean shut him down. He told him to bury it. I know Dean didnâ€™t do that out of harm but that was the absolute worst thing Sam could have heard at the time. Sam had to listen to Dean though, he had no choice. Heâ€™s still trying to build Deanâ€™s trust. Heâ€™s still trying to prove his worthiness. Through all his guilt. All his shame. All his self-loathing. Throw in talk of how heâ€™s going to say yes to Lucifer and friends are dying brutally and his helplessness is at an all time high too. So there we have it, the perfect recipe for extreme anger and rage.
Is There Hope?
The signs are faint, but Sam still clings on to hope. Granted lately that hope is hanging on by a thread, but itâ€™s all he has. Even when the ghost of Jessica (aka Lucifer) tried to beat him down in â€œFree To Be You and Meâ€ he told her there was reason for hope. He showed signs of letting go of that anger by making amends with John (albeit past John) in â€œThe Song Remains The Same.â€ We have to wonder if he still prays daily like he revealed in â€œHouses of The Holy.â€ Does he still think that something out there will save him? Will he finally earn that redemption that has been eluding him his entire life? I think itâ€™s possible, judging by the final scene in â€œMy Bloody Valentine.â€ Sure, Sam was suffering horribly in withdrawal, but we canâ€™t help but believe, especially when he came clean with Dean about his demon blood hunger, that Sam voluntarily put himself through withdrawal this time. He could have easily, just like in â€œLucifer Rising,â€ decided to take the one track course to his end and gone out high on blood and power. Thereâ€™s still hope for Sammy.
The promise from Kripke himself is that season five would be where Sam finds redemption. I think Dean earned his redemption in season three when he faced his bitter end self-actualized and chose to accept the consequences of his actions. Sure, Dean has some big issues right now, but redemption is not something he needs to seek. Heâ€™s just trying to hold it all together in impossible circumstances (so not easy). Sam has yet though to have his moment of vindication. Since season two heâ€™s been in a downward spiral that has yet to bottom out. Just when we think it canâ€™t get worse for Sammy, it does.
So why is Sam Winchester so angry? The answer is quite obvious. The bigger and more pressing question is how does Sam stop being so angry? How does he get redemption? Thatâ€™s the trickier answer and one will have to play out the rest of this season and possibly beyond. Both brothers are deep in a dark place right now and help will have to come from other places. Being there for each other just wonâ€™t be enough. Somethingâ€™s got to give soon though or the results will get very messy. Sam said it best though, â€œThere is reason for hope.â€ For your sake Sammy, we hope you are right.