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If you suffer from an eating disorder now or have in the past, please email Joanna for a free telephone consultation.



Eating Disorder Recovery
Joanna Poppink, MFT
Eating Disorder Recovery Psychotherapist
serving Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon and Utah.
All appointments are virtual.


Black Swan film, control and suppressed adult sexuality

In the film "Black Swan," the character Nina is portrayed as emotionally and physically trapped in a child-like state, In the film "Black Swan," the character Nina is portrayed as emotionally and physically trapped in a child-like state, heavily dependent on her mother for care and guidance. Their mother-daughter relationship is characterized by a binding pattern where Nina's mother treats her as a child, and Nina, in turn, cannot function as an adult.

To improve their relationship realistically, Nina's mother would need to treat her as an adult, and Nina would have to embrace adulthood. However, this transformation never occurs, and they both remain stuck in their co-created dynamic.

They are both caught in their mutually created bind. They are both frustrated by how they live together. Yet they both get and emotional and psychological benefits living this way. Each has a sense of who she is and that sense is validated and confirmed by the way they continue to live with one another.

Everything in Nina’s most personal environment reinforces her child-like identity. This helps to keep her removed from the feelings of an adult woman and certainly from her adult sexuality. You see this through the symbolism of her little girl’s room full of stuffed animals and fluff.

Her mother assumes responsibility for the details of Nina’s everyday living including providing meals, being her confidante – especially about the ballet, and governing Nina’s time away from home. Nina accepts this control.

Is the mother maintaining her feeling of power by controlling Nina and keeping her dependent?


Is Nina maintaining her own sense of power by keeping her mother dependent?

Both can criticize and judge the other for emotional effect, but neither can break the pattern of control and manipulation they both need.

Growing pressure from the artistic demands of her role as the Black Swan pushes Nina to act beyond her psychological or emotional capacity. This creates a greater need for more fantasy in order to compensate for her psychological deficits.  She attempts to go where she is unprepared.

Her limited sense of self is wholly identified with being a perfect ballerina. Her performance challenges now require that she express an adult woman’s sexual energies. Nina never developed the maturity to feel or cope with such feelings.

But Nina is not a child. She has dormant or repressed adult feelings, and they could disrupt her carefully constructed and limited immature life.

When energy is compressed and confined, like lava under a volcano or oil pressed into underground pools by the massive weight of the earth, that energy will explode forth through any crack in the container. The volcano erupts. The oil gushes into the air or the sea.

When normal human adult sexuality is thoroughly compressed and confined a crack in the container will release that energy in unexpected and even bizarre eruptions. Nina did not develop as an adult woman.

She did not experiment with her sexuality gradually as part of her normal development as a woman. She is under pressure to release her sexual energy with no way to guide, direct or experience that energy as a healthy and mature woman. Her sexuality gushes forth with no established channels to hold it.

Nina's mind creates fantasies to hold her experience. As in most severe eating disorders, particularly anorexia and bulimia, she loses her ability to recognize the difference between fantasy and reality. She becomes lost in her obsession.

Black Swan: Beautiful Public Appearance and Ugly Secret Body Destruction (1-8)

Black Swan: Narrow Life Obsession (2-8)

Black Swan: Mother/Daughter Control Issues and Sexuality (3-8)

Black Swan: Stealing (4-8)

Black Swan: Violence and Danger (5-8)

Black Swan: Danger to Others (6-8)

Black Swan: End of the Film and Beyond (7-8)

Black Swan: Is Help Possible for Nina? (8-8)

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Written by Joanna Poppink, MFT. Joanna is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in eating disorder recovery, stress, PTSD, and adult development.

She is licensed in CA, AZ, OR, FL, and UT. Author of the Book: Healing Your Hungry Heart: Recovering from Your Eating Disorder

Appointments are virtual.

For a free telephone consultation, e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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