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Exploring the Self: The Psychology of Charlie Brown & The Peanuts Gang

Updated: Apr 27

I happened to be 'watching' The Charlie Brown Christmas Special the other night. Well, I was actually trying to put together an end table in an "I'm-an-empowered-woman-don't-need-a-man" kind of way, and the Charlie Brown Christmas Special happened to come on TV.

I recalled how much I disliked the Charlie Brown special growing up. I just found it boring. Although I kinda appreciated Snoopy's individualism. But I digress... I was stuck on the floor away from the remote, which at my age, means making a 12-point turn to get into an upright position. So, I listened.

Hearing the story unfold, trapped in a pseudo-gymnast position—as I tried to insert wood dowels and screw in camboltsI thought "OMG! I'm Charlie Brown and always have been!" Duh! (Insert audible forehead slap here). I know, I can be late to the party, a lot.

Charlie says things like, "I think there must be something wrong with me. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I might be getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel".

Or... "Nobody sent me a Christmas card today. I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?"

Charlie Brown's anxiety, insecurities and overall neuroses is actually relatable.

Hmmm... maybe this is one of those mirror experiences. Maybe Charlie Brown had been mirroring my own lack of self-worth and insecurities all these years and that's why I disliked him! This is definitely worth consideration. I found myself suddenly exploring the Self and the psychology behind Charlie Brown and the Gang.

Then there is Lucy. Her anger, aggression, advising, directing, diagnosing, dramatics. I can relate to her too! Maybe I'm Lucy!

Or maybe I'm Linus. Sweet, idealistic Linus. Smart and open to ideas and experience; quirky enough not to be embarrassed by his need for his blankie. I loved my blankie too.

Side note: If it were socially acceptable for adults to have their teddy bears, blankies, lovies and snugglies, I bet there'd be a lot less addiction. But again, I digress...

Let's not forget Schroeder. Dedicated, disciplined, focused on his passion. I won't even start to suggest I relate to his character, but sometimes I share these traits.

And Pig Pen? While not as strongly a highlighted character, I could go deep on this one. Carrying the dust of ancestors and ancient heroes? Don't we all?

Maybe the whole point of Charlie Brown...wait for it...was that these are all aspects of ourselves that we fight against, want to acknowledge, but also know hold us back?! I never appreciated the genius of Schulz! Good Grief! I'm so embarrassed it has taken me this long to figure this out!

But these aren't just pathetic characters. Schulz does a beautiful job illustrating the dance between their strengths and their weaknesses; their vulnerabilities and their essence. Furthering their humanness and thus our own as the viewer. Again, genius!

Christopher Caldwell, an American journalist, writes:

What makes Charlie Brown such a rich character is that he's not purely a loser. The self-loathing that causes him so much anguish is decidedly not self-effacement. Charlie Brown is optimistic enough to think he can earn a sense of self-worth, and his willingness to do so by exposing himself to humiliations is the dramatic engine that drives the strip. The greatest of Charlie Brown's virtues is his resilience, which is to say his courage. Charlie Brown is ambitious. He manages the baseball team. He's the pitcher, not a scrub. He may be a loser, but he's, strangely, a leader at the same time. This makes his mood swings truly bipolar in their magnificence: he vacillates not between kinda happy and kinda unhappy, but between being a "hero" and being a "goat"."[1]

Long before Brené Brown, long before the books on self-compassion and self-forgiveness; Schulz was in our papers, on our televisions and in our face with such a seemingly simple cartoon all about it. Next time I see a Charlie Brown cartoon or special, I'll be looking more deeply at the message/the lesson. This is rich stuff. And now I wonder if Schulz was being intentionally ironic when he titled the strip, "Peanuts".

As for the table...well, let's just say, in the spirit of Charlie Brown, I had the courage to attempt something at which I failed and asked a friend for help. And it's an awesome.

"Against Snoopy". StrausMedia. Christopher Caldwell. January 4, 2000. Retrieved December 5, 2014.

Peanuts comic strip


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