Self-Sabotaging Behavior on Tilt Via The Breakfast Club

Louis Laves-Webb

October 18, 2017

The Breakfast Club is a movie that is widely recognized for its unique plot and memorable characters. The rebel John Bender, the jock Andrew Clark, the pampered Claire Standish, the nerd Brian Johnson, and the introvert Allison Reynolds all showcase their unique personalities, including their adolescent ways of protecting, fortressing, and establishing each of their own defensive structures.

Although this style of teenage rebellion and “acting out” is generally developmentally appropriate in adolescence, it can directly contribute to unintended self-destructive behavior patterns when carried forward into adulthood. Let’s further explore these characters to examine how their respective brand of self-sabotage could appear in adulthood.

What causes self-sabotage?

Self-sabotage, also known as dysregulatory behavior, is best defined as unconscious or unintentional behavior that negatively impacts our life and body. Some theorize that self-sabotage stems from an innate need to protect the most vulnerable parts of oneself or one’s “inner child”.

However, instead of the “adult” parts of oneself charged with the responsibility of protecting this vulnerable child within all of us, one’s “adolescent self” is inadvertently placed in charge of offering this protection. This often results in unintended consequences, maladaptive patterns, and over or under reactions to perceived threats to self.

Simply put, self-destructive behavior can lead to actions that can cause harm to one’s life, including:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Setting ourselves up for failure
  • Social suicide
  • Unnecessary self-sacrifice
  • Mental and/or physical neglec
  • Relationship sabotage
  • Self-harm
  • One step forward, two back
  • Physical altercations
  • Power struggles

Self-destructive behaviors in The Breakfast Club

projecting a tough personality

Projecting a tough personality – John Bender

Bender’s rebellious attitude may make him an endearing character. But, his tough personality is one that came as a result of having to fend for himself through rough home experiences. His defiant persona is used to safeguard himself from being hurt and to protect any perceived vulnerabilities. However, if this same coping mechanism is carried into adulthood, it could ultimately lead to situations where he could break the law, develop patterns of quitting, or contribute to being ostracized by society.

class as a means of protection personality

Class as a means of protection – Claire Standish

Creating class barriers in an attempt to keep others away is something that can be best seen through Claire Standish. Her character showcases a seemingly shallow personality and a perceived perfect lifestyle in order to protect her emotionally vulnerable side. By setting up these barriers, she keeps others from getting close to her and potentially causing her harm.

If this type of coping mechanism becomes too entrenched in adulthood, it can lead to isolation, trouble in interpersonal relationships, and delusional self-concepts. By not showcasing who one “really is” and instead placing a false persona up as protection, one can place themselves in a position that could can easily lead to challenges in interpersonal relationships.

escaping from reality personality

Escaping from reality – Allison Reynolds

The “basket case” character, Allison Reynolds, personifies escapism as a means of protection. This falls into an autistic fantasy way of coping and can lead to ignoring reality and living in a fantasy world. This comes with several “real life” issues as they neglect their responsibilities and instead focus on escaping from reality.

For Allison, this comes as a result of facing neglect from her parents. Her boredom and loneliness causes her personality to be shown as shy or reclusive, despite her desperate desire for acceptance by others. At its worst, carried into adulthood, this type of self-destruction can lead to a pervasive neglect of oneself, an inability to deal with problems in an effective manner, and a propensity for addictions.

emphasis on pleasing others personality

Emphasis on pleasing others – Andrew Clark

Andrew Clark is the “jock persona” showcasing a confident personality to others while blatantly appearing insecure and submissive to authority in reality. His behaviors are not congruent with his own needs or desires, but instead are a product of the high expectations from his dad and a preoccupied desire to please him.

Those who have this form of self-destruction can have rigid rules and ideas of how to please others in an effort to avoid injuring their inner child. By relegating their actions and presenting a submissive personality they then seek acceptance and protection from others by complying with their expectations.

In adulthood, this willingness to comply with authority for protection can lead to a vulnerability to manipulation, judgmentalness, and a loss of self identity.

attempting to over-control personality

Attempting to over-control – Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson is a character whose persona revolves around the value of perfectionism. His core belief is that if he’s perfect, then he’s protected. Although, on the surface this could be hard to see as self-sabotage, it can ultimately lead to excess pressure, an inability to deal with failure, and a lack of creativity.

In adulthood, those who solely seek perfection and control as a means of coping are negatively impacted by a fluid and dynamic world. This can lead to a strong sense of perfectionism where everything has to go according to their plan. This can unintentionally lead to anxiety disorders, disruption in relationships, OCD behavior, and suicidal ideation or acts.

How do I end the cycle of self-sabotage?

The simplest answer is to move from an adolescent means of protecting yourself to an adult means of advocating for yourself. This can be facilitated with psychotherapy, where childhood or adolescent experiences can be addressed and “moved through” and other means of coping can be introduced. Where insight and awareness can be increased, and emotional regulation and integration can be experienced, and ultimately developmental growth and maturation can occur.

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