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A survivor metaphor

Have you ever seen the 2007 film ‘I Am Legend’ starring Will Smith? I am going to start with a brief synopsis of the said film so that you can relate it to this article. This American post-apocalyptic action thriller is based on the 1954 novel by Richard Matheson (Ransom, 2018). The film is set in New York City after a virus, that was originally created to cure cancer, ended up wiping out most of mankind. This situation left the main character, interpreted by Will Smith, as the only surviving human being in New York City, alone with nocturnal mutants. During the film, he is immune to the virus and thus begins to work to develop a cure, whilst defending himself against mutants (Matheson, 2007).

The world’s current, difficult situation due to the Coronavirus pandemic evoked this film in my mind. ‘I Am Legend’ displays healthy ways of coping and taking care of your mental health during a difficult time. If you look at it more carefully, some interesting themes come to light. These include transformation, spirituality, the therapeutic impact of animals and man’s struggle with isolation.

Throughout the film, a hard-to-miss spiritual symbol in the form of a butterfly often appears. The butterfly is a powerful symbol of transformation – from egg to pupa and finally to a fully fledged, glorious butterfly. The psychological significance of the butterfly is that of inner beauty and re-birth. It may also represent romance joy, freedom and success. It is, after all, the essence of your true self (Hamilton-Parker & Milton, 1999).

In relation to what we are going through now, we may realise that this situation is a journey to our inner selves. We will have the opportunity to better understand, without any distractions, who we really are as a mother or father, as a son or daughter, as a colleague or friend, with regard to resilience, and so on.

The second theme is that of spirituality and lightness which is depicted in the soundtrack, particularly through the use of Bob Marley and the Wailers’, ‘Three Little Birds’.

Don’t worry about a thing
Cause every little thing is gonna be alright

These lyrics depict man’s destiny and the fact that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, no matter what the situation is.

Another theme that is revealed to the viewer is the personification of the dog and the mannequins, as they are represented as a form of social support. Thankfully, the good news for us is that in most of our cases, the internet, social media and telephones are ever present. These means of communication let us keep in touch with one another, thus offering us peace of mind. If not, pets can also bring us joy and comfort during these difficult times.

Coping strategies and mechanisms that help us deal with difficult periods

  1. The attitude taken towards social distancing, where one either “just accepts the situation” or else “just grins and bears it”. Research has shown that what helps best with social isolation is religious or spiritual beliefs, a sense of reality, a positive attitude and family support (Choia, Ransomb & Wylliec, 2008). All countries are currently taking radical and extreme safety precautions. When people offer help and support as well, we feel much safer. With safety comes the reassurance that, in the end, we are going to be just fine.
  2. When relying on competent and qualified professionals, such as correctional officers, hospital staff, journalists, police officers, firefighters, social workers, soldiers, waste collectors, probation and parole officers, psychologists, psychotherapists, sales persons, bus drivers, grocery store owners and others, a crisis like ours becomes more tolerable. It is a pity that we have to experience a catastrophe in order to truly appreciate what we have. Many of the things we should be thankful for cannot be bought with money. Hopefully, after this hardship is over, we will be in a better position where we’re capable of appreciating even the smallest things around us.
  3. A positive attitude can help us make the best of a bad situation, while we are quarantined at home. An elderly person once said, “I made up my mind… that I was going to do all the activities I could, and I was going to be happy, you know, try to be happy” (Choia, Ransomb & Wylliec, 2008). Nobody asked for this purgatory-like situation, where we are trapped inside, unable to meet friends in restaurants. People yearn to be able to go outside and continue with their routines. Nonetheless, adopting a positive attitude and finding several ways to pass the time helps us cope better.
  4. When family members are deprived of one another’s actual physical presence due to social isolation, this can take its toll on someone’s mental well-being, Nevertheless, forms of long-distance communication can counteract that.
  5. Psychotherapy can prove to be a valuable source of support. Several agencies have helplines, as well as therapists who are offering support via Skype sessions. So there’s no need to be shy. Reach out for help. You never know, a word of encouragement and reassurance can change your whole perspective during these hard times and help you feel better.

Remember that in the end, you are not alone. We are all in this together.


  1. Choia, SN.G., Ransomb, S & and Wylliec, R.J (2008). Depression in older nursing home residents: The influence of nursing home environmental stressors, coping, and acceptance of group and individual therapy. Aging & Mental Health. Vol. 12, No. 5, September 2008, 536–547.
  2. Hamilton-Parker, C., & Milton, L. (1999). The hidden meaning of dreams. 1st Edition. ISBN-13: 978-0806977737.
  3. Matheson, R. (2007). I am legend. 2nd Edition. ISBN-13: 978-0765357151.
  4. Ransom, A.J. (2018). I am legend as American myth: race and masculinity in the novel and its film adaptations. 1st Edition. ISBN-13: 978-1476668338.
Maria Mifsud

About Maria Mifsud

Maria graduated with a Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) in 2008, then went on to read for a Masters in Probation Services at the University of Malta. After years of being part of the Government workforce, she realised that to better understand her clients and be more equipped, she had to further her studies by enrolling in a Masters in Systemic and Family Psychotherapy with IFT-Malta. Some years later, she continued to pursue her studies in Clinical Supervision with IFT-Malta. Maria is also a qualified Victim Offender Mediator.

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1. TherapyPacks come in bundles of 5 or 10 sessions. Prices of bundles:

  • 5 sessions – €270 – must be utilised within 3 months from date of purchase
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