Oh yeah. No, people don’t develop psychosomatic injuries over adrenaline addiction. I think it’s pretty obviously tied to John’s feelings of uselessness. It’s a physical manifestation of his sense that there’s no purpose or place for him, and nothing for him to contribute.
John’s clearly a man who needs to feel like he’s needed. Not just useful—because John is a doctor, he’s always got something valuable he can contribute to society, and furthermore he clearly doesn’t suffer from fundamental self-esteem issues. He needs to feel like he’s doing something that requires him,something that not just anybody can do. Any doctor can treat hemorrhoids and strep throat. But when he was in Afghanistan, with a team, he wasn’t interchangeable with just anybody else.
And when he’s with Sherlock, there’s no one else who could be there, who could fill the role in Sherlock’s life that John does.
I think this tells us something about why and how John grieved. Because when he lost Sherlock, he didn’t only lose a friend. He lost his place in life. This has a similarity with losing a spouse, or a parent when you’re a child, in that the person you’ve lost isn’t only someone you care for, but someone who forms an important foundation in your life. In a very practical, real sense, their loss leaves you struggling to find your bearings and rebuild your entire life around yourself.
(Sherlock really has no conception of what he did to John with that stunt. I don’t think he can; I don’t think he’s got the experience or background to have any idea how extensively he shook up John’s life.)
It’s worth noting that John is still limping in TEH, even though he’s met Mary and is meaning to propose. He loves her, and she brings much-needed stability back into his life, but this indicates that he isn’t finding his purpose with her. He doesn’t feel like this relationship with her is the thing he’s needed for.
And I like the fact that Sherlock didn’t reallycure John’s limp. He made it go away because he gave John a purpose; he didn’t fix whatever it is in John’s head that makes him need to be needed so badly that he’d develop a psychosomatic limp over it in the first place.
That limp represents John’s sub-conscious (or maybe not so sub-conscious; if you asked him he might well tell you this to your face) equating of uselessness and brokenness. He sees himself as having been discarded by the Army due to no longer being able to do the job; ergo, he’s a cripple, he’s broken, he’s refuse.
My apologies to people with disabilities in the audience; I don’t mean that this is true, because it’s so very not. What is true is the frustration that can arise from feeling like you’re less than fully functional. For a lot of us, even a weekend of flu-ridden sofa-coma is enough to leave us feeling like a lump or a burden on the people taking care of us. For John, clearly he’s turned that frustration in upon himself.
But think about this one for a moment. Lots of us want or need to be needed. But for that urge to be rooted so bone-deep that John is in physical pain, his body actually physically twisted from the deprivation when he can’t fulfill it… He seems to have picked that limp up subsequent to being invalided out of the Army, and it’s understandable if that gave him a sense of being kicked to the curb. But even before that, he must have had a deep sense that being useful to other people is an overriding priority. How does a person learn that the most important thing in their life is that they need to be useful to someone else? Where could he have come by this sense of needing a One True Place in life?
There’s not a single possible answer. Some people suffer abuse that teaches them that if they’re not being useful, they’re being a waste of space. Other people grow up being told that they’re meant for Great Things, that they’re bound to do something Important, until they feel like they’re a failure if they’re not. But I think we can be sure that there’s something fractured in John’s psychology, and it goes way deeper than John simply having a high tolerance for risk.
You might also ask yourselves, what kind of history could a person come from to leave them blase enough with being called stupid’ or ‘an idiot’ on a daily basis to live with Sherlock without ever getting riled or taking those words to heart? What happens in a person’s life to give them a ‘love for danger’ that in fact flirts with emotional masochism? Watson canonically has a gambling problem. In the show, John gambles, too. He gambles with trusting Sherlock to keep him safe no matter what kind of hair-raising insanity Sherlock pulls them into, and he gambles with whether the people he’s chosen to love will cut him too deep for him to bear.
It’s not news that the characters on this show are all, um, questionable in their various ways (let’s be honest, it’s modern noir, they were never meant to be upstanding ethical icons of good behavior). But whereas Sherlock is batshit but not especially broken, John is really, truly a fucked up mess underneath all that cuteness and stoicism and friendly demeanor.
Yeah, I definitely think John’s need to be needed verges on a serious problem (though in some ways it empowers him and motivates him to become a doctor and a soldier, so he is constructive about it). It’s hard to tell definitively *exactly* what John was like during Sherlock’s absence, and how the early relationship with Mary played out, but clearly (as John says) she changed his whole world in a good way. When you can say that about any relationship, but especially a relatively short one, it’s obvious that there’s a great lack of something in your life. I dunno if Mary needed him, so I’m guessing he needed her more. She fulfilled some needs but not others; rather the way Sherlock also fulfilled some needs but not others. It’s just that, I think, the stuff Sherlock couldn’t give him was ultimately minor. John doesn’t need to be in a relationship if he can have the kind of life he wants (which is surely why he was single and in the army for so long).
Aaah I’m sorry, I don’t know anything about Doctor Who! But by looking at the pictures I think that the Twelfth Doctor is a very good looking and very angry man.