A case study: Mr. Kumar Patel

We were asked to create a fictitious case study of a fictional character for a class I am taking. I am fully aware of my mixing of media, but I couldn’t resist. Also, if it makes you crave a White Castle Burger, I apologize: 

I decided to do my case analysis on Kumar Patel from Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay and A very Harold and Kumar Christmas. For more information go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_%26_Kumar

Mr. Kumar Patel sought out a Jungian psychoanalyst for a few reasons. The first is because Jung’s theories focus on the point of life Kumar is currently at, namely mid-life. Second, Jung’s research into Hindu and Buddhist religions resonate with Kumar’s background and upbringing. Finally, the idea of an epic hero quest, insight through dream exploration and archetypes of the collective unconscious are consistent with Kumar’s experiences in young adulthood.

Mr. Kumar Patel is a first generation Indian American. His parents, both Gujarati Hindu’s, emigrated from India in the mid-1970’s. His father is a successful physician and his mother a homemaker. He was born in 1977 and grew up in New Jersey with one older brother, Saikat Patel. Kumar was brought up with typical Indian traditional values and a heavy emphasis was put on his studies so that he might follow in his father’s footsteps and become a physician.

In his young adulthood, Kumar had been rebellious and made grand attempts to differentiate himself and his values from his conservative upbringing. Although extremely bright, his college years were spent smoking pot and partying. His interest in woman was normal for a young man his age and he generally had healthy relationships, but tended to sabotage them with his lack of responsibility and motivation.

As Kumar’s best friend, Harold Lee, matured and ultimate started a family, and after his second failed relationship with his college sweetheart, Vanessa, the realization of his efforts to put off adulthood slowly dawned on him. Kumar has continually gone through periods of regression to his idyllic college years. Consequently, he has shown consistent issues with overcoming his impulsivity, his masking of depression with humor, and continuing drug addiction episodes. His friends regard him as funny, kind, generous and loyal, but in the negative, as undependable, lacking in foresight and in an ability to contemplate the repercussions of his actions. His psychoanalyst has described him as a primarily feeling type.

Kumar himself has felt pigeonholed by his ethnicity and culture and on more than one occasion he has suffered with racial profiling by the authorities. Kumar’s first run in with the authorities was during a stressful period of college where he and his friend embarked on what his psychoanalyst termed a “grail quest”. It was during this period of his life that his quest for meaning and fulfillment began to surface, expressing itself in an overwhelming urge for a White Castle burger, the mythic representation of manna from heaven and food for the soul.

After an incident of racial profiling that lead to the most traumatic event in his young life, his imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay and his subsequent escape, Kumar began to realize his need for psychological help. His continuing conflicts between his persona image, or social mask, and his internally motivated quest for individuation and self realization lead him deeper into another life-quest for redemption.

This event highlighted the shadow aspect of his personality and he chose to reject it rather than integrate it into his psyche. It was only through his crashing through the roof of then President George W. Bush’s home, after falling from an airplane, that Mr. Patel received the redemption he was seeking. This, of course, mirrors the myth of Icarus, and Kumar acknowledged that he felt he was indeed unconsciously acting out this myth, which was rooted, in his disagreements with his own father and his rejection of his father’s advice, leading to his downfall both literally and figuratively.

After this traumatic event Mr. Patel sought treatment for his drug habit and successfully completed medical school. He began working under Dr. Gregory House, M.D. at the Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital in New Jersey. Throughout his work his unresolved psychological issue, including his continued depression and feelings of a lack of meaning began to worsen, resulting in a suicide attempt.
Kumar suffered from vivid, sometimes drug induced, dreams throughout his young adulthood and which continue to haunt him to this day. One dream he recounted to his psychoanalyst was of riding a cheetah that had escaped from a zoo. This dream represented his own feelings of imprisonment, provided symbolic imagery for his internal struggles and gave expression to his repressed emotions of feeling on social display for novelty as a minority. In his dream he and his best friend, Harold Lee, were riding the racing cheetah through the woods, their symbolic sprint to freedom and into the wild. Like many archetypal dreams, it involved vivid colors and standard archetypal images.

It has been in coming to terms with the conflicts inherent in his own heritage that Mr. Patel made the most significant transformations during therapy. His psychoanalyst was able to interpreting many of his dreams in terms of Hindu mythology, providing Kumar with multiple layers of understanding and interpretation. In one session in particular, the therapist suggested to Kumar that a vivid dream of being present when his associate, Mr. Neil Patrick Harris was shot outside a brothel, was akin to the famous talk that Krishna gives to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita as he fears his brother’s falling in battle and laments his own participation in the slaughter. This mythic scene represents the conflict between the universal laws, or in Jungian terms the collective unconscious, and the social duties one must perform. To Kumar, Patrick Harris’ death and the death of Santa Claus in another dream also represented the death of his own innocence, for which he also grieves.

In the other significant dream, his accidental shooting of Santa Claus was initially interpreted as representing Kumar’s rejection of his American upbringing and his turn back toward his traditional family values. Although in this dream, Kumar realizes his regret over this action he was ultimately able to integrate his feelings surrounding his racial profiling incident and minority issues in a positive way. He associates these dream incidents of violence with his own suicide attempt and is slowly coming to terms with the feelings surrounding this dark period in his life.

Mr. Patel and his therapist should continue to work on elucidation and acknowledging the primacy of his defense mechanisms in directing his decision making process. Kumar need support in translating his newly found psychological balance into responsible actions. He still shows signs of neurotic tendencies and expresses a feeling of a lack of purposed in his life.

It is recommended that the therapist move onto working with the anima side of Kumar’s personality, which he has not yet explored much in therapy. He has continually avoided discussions regarding both his mother and his love interest, Vanessa. Although on several occasions the psychoanalyst noted that he mentioned feminine archetype dreams, including the Brothel madam, the anthropomorphic feminization of drugs and numerous fantasies involving multiple partners. Mr. Patel still suffers from a lack of integration of his anima/animus and continues to repress his feeling about his failed relationship through his fantasy and by objectifying women in his daily life.

In striving to transform his work into a more meaningful pursuit Kumar has expressed interest in joining Doctors without Borders and going to India to work with the Dalit community. It is recommended that the therapist gently encourage Mr. Patel to explore this option when he feels Mr. Patel has done more sufficiently integrated the shadow aspect of his psyche as it expresses itself through his self-defeating and self-destructive behaviors.


Corsini, R. J. & Wedding, D (2010). Current psychotherapies (9th Ed.). Brooks Cole.

Jung, C. G., & In Franz, M.-L. . (1964). Man and his symbols. New York: Dell Pub. Co.


Harold: I want that.

Kumar: What? A Hot Dog Heaven super chili cheese dog?

Harold: No. I want that feeling. The feeling that comes over a man when he gets exactly what he desires. I need that feeling!

Kumar: Are you saying what I think you’re saying?

Harold: We gotta go to White Castle.

Kumar: YES! YES! I knew you had it in you dude!



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