The Burden of Self-Reliance – Nami’s Path to Healing
- April 25, 2023
Fearing vulnerabilities is one of the most prevalent emotions we experience. Therefore, whenever it is portrayed well in media, it strikes a chord with me. In the Arlong Park Arc, we get insight into Nami’s back story and even though I knew it was a popular one and felt how the development of the main crew became seemingly better and better with each arc, I was mesmerized by Nami’s story. The main aspect which captivated me was the portrayal of overcoming the anxiety to ask for help. The list of stigma I would wish to vanish from this world is endless but at the top of it, there is a special place for the perception that people with mental health conditions are weak or incapable. This false belief is so dangerously persistent and prevents so many people from seeking help from people in one’s environment or mental health professionals. Especially if you’re in a challenging place, ironically, this fear of not being “worse off” enough for external help increases. In addition to that, there is almost always shame – shame of being helpless and in need of others.
Nami is introduced as an independent and skilled thief and navigator. We only see the parts she consciously presents to Luffy and the rest of the crew. As the story progresses, her mask of contentness and carefreeness crumbles. Right before the start of the Arlong Park Arc, we get close up-shots which reveal her serious and worrying emotional states. She got reminded of her intial plan: leaving her home island to steal and gather enough money to buy the village which was controlled by Arlong. She lost her mother, Bellemere, the person she relied on the most in an excruciatingly traumatizing way. She abandoned everyone in the village in order to save them. Living in a place which is ruled and terrorized by psychopathic fish men obviously are extreme circumstances but her personal suffering becomes a universal one. You are not “unworthy” of help when you do not experience extremely life threating circumstances. You are worthy of help whenever you feel overwhelmed and helpless, regardless of the circumstances.
Reaching for Hands
The dialogue in which Nami asks Luffy for help is my favorite from the series so far. Luffy does not know why Nami is so devastated and frustrated that she cuts her arm, who Arlong is and why she wants revenge but he comprehends that she is in need of help and that is sufficient. When you are struggling emotionally, there is this belief that no one else could remotely relate to or even comprehend your feelings. Sometimes these negative feelings are only reinforced by an environment which has prejudices and does not know how to deal with your situation. It becomes a protective mechanism to assume others will judge, regardless of the reality of their perspective. It becomes hard to make yourself vulnerable but simultaneously, it is the key for being fulfilled. There are very few things which feel as emotionally fulfilling as sharing emotional hardships and not only getting support but realizing that some people are more than happy to be able to help you.
Lufy puts his hat on Nami’s head as a gesture. She gathered the courage to ask for help and entrusts him with saving the village which means the world to her. Luffy’s hat means the world to him. A transaction. One treasure for another. A bond of immense trust is established and acknowledged by each of them.
Ideals, Inspiration, Healing
Acknowledging the struggle. Becoming vulnerable. Two immense steps which – if you’re in a bad place – appear out of reach. The level of friendship characters in One Piece and many other Shounen series realize is beautiful and inspiring but can be just as devastating and alienating. Friendships come in many forms and with varying degrees of emotional closeness. If you stumble through your everyday life, it is rather unlikely that you come across a bunch of people you want to sacrifice your life for in the second week. Not to say that these relationships cannot exist or cannot develop over time but the problem with idealizing (fictional) friendships is devaluing all of the other sorts of enriching relationships. That school friend you meet up with once a year. Someone you enjoy texting with once in a while. People you enjoy going to bars or clubs with. That guy in your philosophy seminar you like to discuss with. Every social interaction has the ability to develop and flourish. Though, it is absolutely fine if it does not. Time and emotional resources are limited. As someone who generally struggles to form deep stable connections, Nami reminded me to try because it is worthwhile.