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Kurt Cobain: A Psychoanalytic Perspective of Personality

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Kurt Cobain was the lead singer of the Seattle based grunge rock band Nirvana. As Nirvana's lead songwriter, guitarist, and singer, Cobain took the music industry by surprise and is considered the godfather of the grunge rock movement. Cobain and his band had a prevalent influence on young teenagers of the 1990s and were considered idols by numerous individuals. Nirvana took the popular music industry by storm when they were able to revamp the genre of grunge rock and cause a dramatic shift in music, away from the dominant genres of the 1980s. The success of Kurt Cobain was overshadowed by numerous of his psychological problems including drug addiction, his unstable marriage to music celebrity Courtney Love, and constant pressure from the American media. Cobain committed suicide on April 8th 1994, where he was found dead in his home from a self inflicted shotgun wound to his head. What were the psychological problems that existed in Cobain's life and how did they affect his behavior and overall outcome that led to his demise as a celebrity? How can certain theories and aspects of personality be linked to Curt Cobain's intrapersonal and interpersonal conflicts that existed in his unique relationships with his family as a child and later his wife and family?

Kurt Cobain was the center of attention within his family until the age of three, when his sister was born. Before his sister was born, he received more attention, but at age seven his parent's marriage went sour, divorcing, which had adverse effects on Cobain's psychological development as an adolescent. According to Cloninger (2004), "These events left a narcissistic wound and a craving for parental love that was never met" (p.97). Although at first Cobain came from a relatively stable nuclear family the birth of his sister and divorce caused him to become mobile between living with his mother and father, and then eventually with assorted members of his family. He even claims in one of his songs from the famous album Nevermind that he was homeless at one time and lived under a bridge surviving "off of grass, and the drippings from the ceiling" (Geffen Records, 1991). Cobain's success with music can be related to his personal striving to resolve interpersonal, intrapersonal, and cultural factors within his psychological conflict.

Cobain had a unique talent for writing lyrics and combining them with his band's overall ambition for musical abilities. I believe that music was the overall outlet that Cobain displayed to separate him and express his feelings in order to control his psychological neurotic problems. Psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung would integrate his psychoanalytic theory of the self or psyche to Cobain's talent. Jung's theory incorporates a unique integration of all aspects of personality and an individuals overall qualities and potentials.

Psychoanalyst Alfred Alder would relate Cobain to his individual psychoanalytic theory where a person is described to be struggling from inferiority toward something better. Cobain's inferiority can be seen within his troubled childhood where "fear of abandonment, stemming undoubtedly from his parents' emotional and sometimes physical abandonment left him vulnerable" (Cloninger,2004, p.108). Cobain's relationship and sense of worth regarding his family led him to become neurotic, which he displays in the lyrics of his songs and his interactions with other individuals. An example of his actions, within his strange interpersonal relationship with his wife, can be found in the matrimonial photograph where he is wearing pajamas next to Courtney Love. Cobain could have been reflecting a deranged child-like self image by wearing pajamas in the photograph. This could have shed light on the feelings he had about matrimony where he could have believed that his relational boundaries and sense of self were being broken by a bond. This bond would not allow him to act childlike anymore and put restrains on his desires. How were his interpersonal relationships affected by his childhood past? Cobain's growth process and the realization of his sense of self were stagnated and consequentially he felt the pressure of inferiority complex. According to Cloninger (2004), "The felt-minus situation is too powerful to be overcome and the person accepts an exaggerated sense of inferiority as an accurate self-description... This exaggerated sense of inferiority may result from physical handicaps, family dynamics, or societal influences that are overwhelming" (p.108). Adler would have carefully analyzed his final outcome of suicide and would have labeled it a negative outcome which could have been prevented.

The father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud would shed a tremendous amount of light on Kurt Cobain's death from suicide. Freud's theory of the pre-genetically disposed biological drives within the human brain can give reason to why an individual, who was a celebrity superstar, would take his own life in a selfless act. The psychological drive of Freud's "Id" theory displays intrinsic characteristics of human nature. Within the "Id" principle there exist the life and death instincts: Eros and Thanatos. Sigmund Freud would shed light on Cobain's Thanatos. Cloninger (2004), states:

Thanatos, the 'death instinct,' is a destructive force directing us inevitably toward death, the ultimate release from tension of living. It motivates all kinds of aggression including war and suicide. Most often, Freud emphasized erotic, sexual, energy and conflict over its expression." (41)

The sexual expression that Cobain expressed included numerous sexual explicit drawings where fictitious characters were missing the appropriate genital areas only to be placed somewhere where these organs are not expected. Another form of this expression could be displayed in the album cover art of Nirvana's compact discs such as the naked baby submerged in a swimming pool while chasing after a dollar bill on a fish hook in their most famous work of music Nevermind. Cobain displayed self destructive tendencies in his continuous tampering with his body due to the use of psychoactive drugs. His constant use of heroin may have been the biological good feeling drive that he could have believed drugs offered. Cobain had overdosed numerous times on different substances, most notably was the time Nirvana had to cancel their European tour due to Cobain's overdose prior to a live concert in Rome, Italy. Post mortem autopsies found that during the time he committed

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