Psych Ward

Psych Ward: Mystique

How well does the mutant shape shifter even know herself?

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By Tim Stevens

Raven Darkholme is a self-identified mutant who claims to be more than a century old. Able to shape shift with incredible precision, including the rearranging of her major organs and the ability to assume scents different than her own, the client nonetheless has a dominant form: female in gender with blue skin, yellow eyes, and red hair, presenting as in her mid-20’s and in excellent physical condition. At this time, there is no indication that her mutant ability places undue stress on her physiology and it seems she can continue to shift without consequences in the long term.

It is unclear how extensive her shifting can be. Can she cure herself of things like cancer or plaque in her arteries? Does she need to exercise to maintain muscle tone or can she simply “shift” into physical fitness? While these questions are not strictly of a psychological nature, their answers may influence Darkholme’s state of mind, her sense of self, and her own grasp of her mortality and are therefore worth at least some level of consideration.

Over the years, the client has held membership in several organizations on both sides of the mutant rights debate. She is perhaps best known as a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants—an organization she insists was named ironically and as a statement about how society already treated her kind—the terrorist group headed at times by mutant separatist/supremacist Magneto. However, she has also aligned with the mutant rights group the X-Men and their various sister organizations at times. She characterizes her involvement and shifting allegiances as evidence that she is disinterested in the politics associated with her mutant status and cares only about what helps her survive in comfort.

Darkholme is also linked to several prominent members of the mutant and anti-mutant community. She had a longtime romance with Irene Adler (known as the mutant Destiny), an intimate encounter with Victor Creed (Sabretooth) that produced Graydon Creed—a U.S. politician so angered by his lack of mutant abilities despite his parentage that he spent his career seeking to destroy mutantkind until his assassination—is the biological mother of Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler) with a lover she refuses to name, and was a surrogate parent to Anna Marie (Rogue). Her relationships with each, as one might imagine, are complex and often difficult to truly get a handle on. Additionally, she has an extensive history of brief intimate relationships with individuals like James Howlett (Logan, Wolverine) and Forge that did not produce any offspring.

More than part of this is owed to the client’s seeming attitude towards therapy. Darkholme has sought therapy from this writer on and off for several years. Although she has always come of her own accord and ceased the relationship purely on her own whims, she always has presented in session as though she considers the process to be a competition. Her attendance indicates a certain level of consent and desire for help, to be certain, but she is not what this therapist would describe as a cooperative participant in the process.

As such, she often opens up only to shut down, contradict, or retract her statements sessions, if not moments, later. She claims to see the people in her life more as pawns then living breathing beings and her behavior often reflects this. Yet, at other times, she seems genuinely moved by memories or events and exhibits signs of great regret, especially regarding her interpersonal relationships. Additionally, given her ability to shape shift, it seems entirely possible her pregnancies could’ve been avoided had she chosen to do so, leading to questions of why she might have wanted to produce children and why she then still ended up giving them up for other people to raise.

In the end, only the client herself would seem to possess these answers and she is loath to give them up. What is the mask and what is the truth of Ms. Darkholme—what does she truly believe and truly value—cannot be gotten to until the client allows it. And until that happens, this writer cannot see therapy providing her with any kind of long-term relief.

Raven Darkholme recently attended session Doctors Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez, details of which can be found in file ALL-NEW X-MEN #7 available now. She is also scheduled to see Doctors Jason Aaron and Ramon Perez on February 13. Those session notes can be seen in file WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #25.

Psy D. Candidate Tim Stevens, MA is a Dialectical Behavior Therapy Consultant and Practicum Trainee who currently provides therapy and outreach at a state university.

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