Stiles: It’s not just a feeling though, it’s- it’s like a panic attack. You know, like I can’t even breath.
Morell: Like you’re drowning.
Morell: So, if you’re drowning, and you’re trying to keep your mouth closed that very last moment, what if you choose to not open your mouth, to not let the water in?
Stiles: You do anyway, it’s a reflex.
Morell: But, if you hold off, until that reflex kicks in, you have more time right?
Stiles: Not much time.
Morell: But more time to fight your way to the surface.
Stiles: I guess.
Morell: More time to be rescued.
Stiles: More time to be in agonizing pain. I mean, did you forget about the part where you feel like your head’s exploding?
Morell: If it’s about survival, isn’t a little agony worth it?
Stiles: But what if it just gets worse? What if it’s agony now and then- then it’s just hell later on?
Morell: Then think about something Winston Churchill once said. ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’
So I was watching through Teen Wolf and came to the intro with Stiles in Morell’s office. And, having spent plenty of time in therapy myself, I started trying to look at this situation from her point of view.
We see the conversation start, seemingly unprompted, with Stiles rattling off the random information he’s learned about drowning. The workings of it, the effect on the body, the sensations a person is feeling. He ends this by taking on this almost longing tone to describe the death, about how “it doesn’t hurt anymore” and “it’s actually kind of peaceful.”
Now let’s think about that. Morell is a school counselor and she’s presented with a kid who of his own volition just revealed this positive and wistful view of death. That is red flag number one. Then Stiles goes on to discuss the falling apart of his relationships with the two most important people in his life, his dad and Scott. Red flag numbers 2 and 3. They discuss other people and Stiles shows self-deprecation when it comes to lacrosse, flippantly talked about his teammates’ death and disappearance. Red flag number 4.
And then Stiles doesn’t want to talk about himself, closes off when she asks about him. Red flag number 5.
When she gets him to open up, things just get even worse from Morell’s perspective. Stiles is talking about this hyper-vigilance, this persistent panicky sensation and talking about how it’s becoming too much.
That’s when I think Morell switches, when she’s no longer trying to get him to open up. She’s trying to get him to survive. I think Morell recognized Stiles as someone who has given up on life.
Look at the conversation above. We’ve read these words, watched them a million times, but look at them for exactly what they are, in this specific context. Their conversation above, about agony and wanting it to end, that wasn’t just inspirational and moving. That was Morell trying to convince Stiles to keep on living.
Because in that whole conversation, Stiles never once admits that survival is more important than pain. He fights it, pushes back. It’s like he’s given up when he says “It’s a reflex.” As if he’s saying death is inevitable, there’s no point in fighting it, in prolonging it. He thinks they’re losing, HARD (and they are) and he has accepted that his own death will probably be an outcome of this.
Morell keeps pushing it though, emphasizing survival and trudging through the pain, not giving him even an inch. She’s making it clear that she will not concede his point, that no matter the pain, the agony, the hell, staying alive and fighting is the only option.
And the look on Stiles’ face when she says that… it’s like she saw right through him and he just realized what she’d done. And he felt raw, vulnerable and to me that look says he heard her, that he understands. This was a classic example of a session in which the counselor gets someone to talk their way to revealing things they didn’t even know about themselves.
Jumping forward, to the next day after the game, when Stiles is projecting all over Lydia about death- that tangent came from almost nowhere, which makes it seem to me that death has been on Stiles’ mind a lot (specifically his mom’s death). But I don’t think he was just yelling at his mom; I think he was yelling at himself. He saw what his disappearance did to his dad and I think he was angry at himself for even for a moment giving up, for entertaining the possibility of letting death take him without a fight. And he was trying to convince himself to keep going not because survival was important to him, but because his survival was important to others.