Dr. Gregory House

By: Erica Hollyway

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Gregory House is a fictional TV character on the medical drama House M.D. He was born on May 15, 1959 to John and Blythe House. He attended medical school at John Hopkins University and later finished at the University of Michigan. He practices at the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital in New Jersey. He is a diagnostician and rarely uses traditional treatment methods with his patients. He is very sarcastic, narcissistic and manipulative and is able to determine patients problems just by observing their behavior and personalities. He suffered from a blood clot in his leg which leads to the eventual partial removal of muscle tissue in his calf. This left him with permanent pain and a limp. In an attempt to relieve this pain he started taking vicodin and became an addict. He leads a team of fellow diagnosticians (Dr. Allison Cameron, Dr. Eric Forman and Dr. Robert Chase) that help him solve each case. Dr. Lisa Cuddy, his boss and romantic interest, often clashes with him due to his constant disregard for hospital rules and regulations. However, she puts up with him because he is a brilliant doctor and makes connections on cases that no one else could make. His best friend is Dr. James Wilson, head of oncology at the hospital. He is the only person that House truly trusts and often plays pranks on him just to mess with him. Every now and then he will drop in on him unexpectedly and even moves in with him on several occasions for various reasons. His pain created many personal issues that he is constantly battling. These issues become too much to handle that he starts hallucinating, causing him to admit himself to a mental hospital. This brings out the more sensitive and caring side of him that is rarely seen. Despite all his shortcomings he is valued for is knowledge and brilliance.

Trait Perspective

The trait perspective takes into account a person's uniqueness by studying their traits. The Big Five as Gordon Allport calls it include agreeableness, extroversion, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. They are used to determine important life outcomes. People who are agreeable tend to be friendly, trusting and modest. With regards to extroversion people who are extroverted are sociable, dominant and assertive. People who are conscientious have a lack of impulsivity and are competent, persistent and dependable. People who exhibit signs of neuroticism are emotionally insatiable. They are anxious, hostile towards others, often depressed and very vulnerable. Finally, people who exhibit openness, particularly to experience and culture, are very imaginative and curious. This approach was created through factor analysis and emerged from data. Allport suggested that traits were indeed real and that they are broad and contain narrower traits. The Ideographic method also takes into account cardinal and central dispositions, these being ruling passion and fundamental qualities respectively. Of the big five I would say that Dr. House falls high on neuroticism. He is often anxious and hostile towards others. It seems like he often feels threatened by others which makes him use sarcasm as a defense mechanism because he doesn't want to feel vulnerable. His pain caused by his leg makes it hard for him to cope with everyday life which is why he feels depressed. He takes the vicodin to aleviate the pain thereby making him able to function. However, this pain is also the cause of his hostility towards others. He wants other people to suffer because he suffers causing him to manipulate others. I would say that he is low on extroversion because although he tends to be dominant and assertive with his team he is not sociable. He doesn't like to go out and tries to avoid seeing his patients as long as possible. When he is forced to see them he tries to have as little contact with them as possible. An example of this would be a bet that he made with his boss, Lisa Cuddy, involving him diagnosing as many patients as he can without actually touching them in exchange for less clinic hours. In effect, the patients diagnosed themselves. This also shows his dislike for being around people. I would say that he is low on agreeableness as well. He isn't friendly or trusting and definitely not modest with his speech. He isn't afraid to hurt other people if it gives him an advantage and is often very blunt. I would say he is conscientious because he is extremely competent for his job. This is also one way he is unique because he has knowledge and power that no other person has. He can make connections between things that no one else would think of putting together. In this way he is also very dependable. The members of his team will always come to him if they can't find the answer. He also doesn't like change. When his first team broke up he was forced reluctantly to hire three new members, however, he tried to reconcile the old team first. Later on the new members quit and he ended up going back to Cameron, Chase and Forman. He also exhibits the same behavior with Cuddy and Wilson. As a result, they have become desensitized to it. Finally, he would score high on openness. He is definitely imaginative, persistent and curious. He would not be able to do what he does without being imaginative. This is also one of his unique qualities. His curiosity is driven bu his desire to solve puzzles. However, this sometimes causes problems with his patients. He may reveal information that causes his patients personal problems. He is also creative in that he is an avid musician.

Psychoanalytic Perspective

From a psychoanalytic perspective House utilizes many of the defense mechanisms created by Freud as well as goes through many of the psychosexual stages. Within this perspective personality consists of the Id, ego and superego. The Id controls pleasure desires, the ego controls one's sense of reality and the superego is a combination of the two controlling morality. Freud also believed that the mind was broken into three states: the conscious, the unconscious and precocious. Here also notes that dreams are the “royal road” to the unconscious. Within the dream there is manifest content which is the parts of the dream that the person remembers and latent content which is the hidden meaning of the dream. House is a realist but he struggles between pleasure and morality. Psychosexual development is based upon different stages throughout one’s life. From birth to 18 months is the oral stage in which the person is fixated on satisfying hunger and thirst orally. However, it this is not satisfied the person will have a preoccupation with it later in life. They become addicted to smoking, drinking etc. House is a drug addict for pain killers. The problems with his father earlier in his life could have caused this stage to be unsatisfied. His vicodin is the only thing that is keeping him going so its having the desired effect. Next is the anal stage that occurs from 18 months to 3 years. Here the person gets pleasure from relieving bodily waste. If not satisfied the person can either become anal-retentive or anal-expulsive. An example of this would be neatness or messiness. House satisfied this stage because he isn’t extreme on either end. The phallic stage occurs between 3-6 years. Here pleasure is focused on the genitals and masturbation. Boys go through the Oedipus complex where they are attracted to their mother and girl the Electra complex where they are attracted to their father. They are fixated on vanity, narcissism and inability to love. House defiantly has problem with this. He is extremely preoccupied with his genitals and masturbation. He often makes it clear and uses sarcasm about it especially to Wilson. He does have an inability to love. He messed up all the relationships he has had because he wasn’t able to commit to them. Again this problem could stem from the problems he had with his father. His inability to love has also caused many of the other problems in his life. Its probably why he is so antisocial and why he doesn’t always see eye to eye with his co-workers. Next is the latency stage that occurs from 6-11 years. Here the person is focused on academic and social pursuits along with same-sex friendships. He satisfied this stage because he attended medical school and John Hopkins University and the University of Michigan. He met Lisa Cuddy there along with his long time friend James Wilson. The final stage is the genital stage that occurs from age 12 to adulthood. He has defiantly satisfied this stage because even though he may have an inability to love he still has no problem engaging in strictly sexual relationships with whomever.
Another part of the psychoanalytic perspective involves defense mechanisms. The purpose of these is so the ego can balance the demands of the Id, super-ego and reality. Then first mechanism is repression in which the individual pushes threatening thoughts into their unconscious. This can occur as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder. A good example of this would be in an episode when House was in a bus accident. The episode focused on him trying to remember the events of the accident because it held key information about one of the cases. His brain was blocking them so he used any means necessary to unblock them including taking more drugs, hypnosis etc. Another mechanism is reaction formation where an individual hides threatening impulses by over-emphasizing the opposite. The next mechanism is denial in which the individual refuses to acknowledge a traumatic event all together. He does seem to do this a lot with his patients. Sometimes his desire to solve a puzzle interferes with his ability to save patients. Therefore, sometimes when he loses patients because he needed to solve the case he tries to ignore their death all together. Next is projection in which one’s own anxieties are put upon someone else. I would say that House uses this mechanism a lot. First, he mostly projects himself on Cuddy and Wilson. When it comes to relationships since he hasn’t had very successful ones he is always trying to solve theirs, sometimes breaking them up with their partner. He also gets suspicious of his patients for one reason or another. On one case he even hires a private investigator. Next is displacement which occurs when the target of one’s fears are shifted to something else. House always does this in the form of sarcasm and sometimes he exposes his co-workers weaknesses and reveals things about them that they wanted to keep private often causing arguments and tension. Another mechanism is sublimation where those dangerous urges are changed into positive motivations. He demonstrates this with his musical ability. He likes to play the guitar and piano and even took on cooking in a few episodes. House does not really show regression, by returning to an earlier safer time in life, that much. It was mentioned that he had the same sarcastic, narcissistic personality that he has now. He never really had a safer time in his life to go back to. The last mechanism is rationalization. Here one creates rational explanations for unconscious impulses. This is the way that House is able to do what he does. When he is trying to solve a case he looks for rational explanations for why his patients exhibit certain behavior. This always makes him able to diagnose the problem. This mechanism is also seen in his personal life when he analyzes Cuddy and Wilson's behavior. However, he does not do it too often when he is talking about himself.

Gregory House's personality and behavior stems from experiences throughout his life that have been traumatic. However, from a trait perspective Gordon Allport would say that his trait characteristics are too blame here. He would but House high on neuroticism because of his hostility towards others. He would score low on extroversion because as seen in many episodes he doesn't like to interact with his patients or anyone else for that matter. He is high on openness. This trait can be seen in his puzzle solving ability and his like for music. He is low on agreeableness because his lack of friendliness and trust and finally somewhat high on conscientiousness because he is competent, persistent in his work and dependable for his ability to solve each case. Freud would say that he had not satisfied many of the psychosexual stages. His addiction to painkillers, his obsession with masturbation and sex etc would all explain his sarcastic, narcissistic demeanor. He also uses several defense mechanisms to hide his vulnerability and fear.


Gregory house. (2011). Retrieved April 18, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_House

List of house episodes. (2011). Retrieved April 18, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_House_episodes