On The Vampire Diaries
Case Notes: Salvatore, Stefan and Salvatore, Damon
Note: Since the subjects are fictional characters, rather than sit down
with them separately or together, the therapist viewed twenty-two
hours of tape footage (one “season”) depicting their interactions with
one another and with others.
Stefan Salvatore is male, Caucasian, appearing to be about
seventeen years old (younger than his stated age of 162).
Stefan stands approximately 5’10”. With a coif of stiff “James
Dean” hair, a black leather jacket, and expensive designer
pants, he resembles a rebellious–albeit wealthy and wellgroomed–
teenager from the 1950s. Other than an ornate
ring he wears no jewelry. His build is athletic, with an
emphasis on weightlifting; the thin black T-shirt he wears
reveals clearly defined pectorals. Though Stefan is officially
undead, he appears healthy.
Mood, Affect, and Interpersonal Characteristics
It is sometimes difficult to even remember Stefan is a vampire.
He presents initially as the vampire version of the prototypical
“nice guy”: the soft-spoken, quarterback boyfriend
you can take home to Mom and Dad. His manners and eye
contact are excellent, and he has high social intelligence,
including an aptitude for discerning what others want from
him. He works hard to please those he deems worthy,
including girlfriend Elena Gilbert and the other human
inhabitants of Mystic Falls. Stefan’s classic expression is the
furrowed brow, head tilted slightly to indicate he is focusing
on what others are saying (though at times I observed what
appears to be a slightly condescending smirk when speaking
to those younger or less knowledgeable than himself).
Overall, Stefan appears to be emotionally healthy and
well adjusted, with the notable exception of the weeks immediately
following his ingestion of human blood at the end of
hour seventeen (“Let the Right One In”). During this period,
Stefan exhibits classic addictive behavior and uncontrolled
mood swings, inappropriately shifting from state to state
without appropriate stimuli. He presents as alternately suicidal
(he refuses to eat, wishes he were dead) and homicidal
(he stalks and drinks from a teen girl at the Miss Mystic Falls
pageant). However, since there are no DSM criteria for the
undead, determining an accurate diagnosis and course of
action is difficult. For a human being, typical treatment
would include committing Stefan to a psychiatric hospital
for detoxification and for the safety of himself and others;
this is in effect what his brother, Damon Salvatore, and
Elena do when they imprison him in the Salvatore basement.
While Stefan continues to exhibit strong feelings of
guilt once clean, his self-control and previous disposition
seem to have returned to normal.
I believe that beneath Stefan’s even-keeled exterior is an
underlying tension surrounding his preoccupation with control.
His need to control his own behavior–in particular his
thirst for blood–seems to extend to his relationship with
others. Much of Stefan’s guilt appears to stem from his
inability to control Damon’s negative behaviors, and Stefan’s
actions toward Elena, particularly in withholding information,
demonstrate a desire to control their interactions. At
this time, it is difficult to tell whether his distaste for human
blood originated from the ethical implications of the act of
taking it or from the impact on his self-control.
It is my observation that Stefan does not have a clear grasp
on who he is. He knows who he wants to be–a hero, a “good
guy,” in control–but though he works very hard to convince
others that he is all these things, he does not appear able to
convince himself. He exhibits a tendency toward overcompensation
and perfectionism and has a difficult time forgiving himself
for failing to live up to his own impossibly high standards.
Damon Salvatore is undeniably male, Caucasian, and like
his brother appears younger than his stated age of nearly two
centuries. Also like his brother, he is well groomed. He favors
clothing that highlights his form; his height is comparable to
his brother’s, and though he possesses a somewhat slimmer
build, his appearance suggests a similar interest in physical
exercise. Other than his classification as undead, he, too,
appears to be in excellent health.
Mood, Affect, and Interpersonal Characteristics
Damon presents as charming, magnetic, and attentive, quite
aware of the reaction he gets from others. It is clear the other
residents of Mystic Falls–as well as (in the interest of full
disclosure) this therapist–respond to his presence and personality.
But while Damon can be and frequently is charming,
he also has great capacity for violence, both physical and
emotional. He uses sarcasm, in addition to fists and fangs, as
Like his brother, Damon is adept at reading those around
him and, also like his brother, uses that information to
achieve his aims. However, while Stefan wants others to like
him, Damon cares only about the opinions of a select few.
Though he enjoys attention from others, he appears to receive no satisfaction or sense of self-worth from pleasing
others. Damon is clearly the superior of the two in sense of
self. He speaks and acts unapologetically, indicating confidence
in and acceptance of who he is.
Vampires have the ability to “turn off” their feelings, and
initially it appears that Damon has done just this–we see
him kill frequently and without remorse, though he appears
motivated more by utility than pleasure (in the case of Vicki
Donovan, his motivation may even have been pity). However,
as his interactions with others in Mystic Falls have
increased, his tendency to kill, except in defense of others,
has decreased, and he has verbally claimed to again have
“turned on” his ability to feel. Ascertaining whether this is
true, or likely to continue, will require further observation.
During the course of these twenty-two hours we see Damon
undergo significant positive transformation, but there is one
characteristic that does remain constant: the impact those
he cares about have on his self-image and behavior.
Love is a strong motivating favor for Damon, and the
majority of his actions are best understood within this framework.
He is most likely to show his better qualities when
acting on behalf of those toward whom he has a strong emotional
attachment–his brother, Elena, Katherine–but his
willingness to do anything for those individuals can bring
out his most destructive qualities as well. And when betrayed,
he can lash out viciously, driven by emotions.
If those he cares for return his regard, however, he demonstrates
great capacity for love and loyalty–and for change.
His love for Katherine led to his transformation into a vampire
(in addition to other noncharacteristic violent behaviors
previous to the change itself), and his love for Elena
appears to be the source of his newfound humanity. There is
some concern, however, that–just as his interest in becoming
a vampire dissipated once he believed Katherine dead–
should Elena spurn him as Katherine did, his commitment to
his humanity may fall by the wayside.
Relationship between Stefan and Damon Salvatore
All available information indicates that, before Katherine’s
arrival, older brother Damon and younger brother Stefan
had a typical fraternal bond: one marked by competitiveness
but otherwise warm and supportive. Damon showed
physical affection toward Stefan and teased him goodnaturedly,
and Stefan, in defending his brother’s choice to
opt out of combat, demonstrated a similar level of regard
The arrival of Katherine Pierce and the events that followed,
in particular the events surrounding their transformation
into vampires, appear to have altered their relationship. In
the present day, their interactions are characterized by hostility
but also by moments of concern and protectiveness–moments that increase in frequency as they spend time in each other’s
At the start of the season, their relationship is clearly
unhealthy and antagonistic. Damon enjoys tormenting
Stefan in a fashion that is in part reflective of typical sibling
relationships but that also appears to reflect a deeper well of
negative feeling. As Damon explains, he promised Stefan an
“eternity of misery” and is just “keeping his word” (hour one,
“Pilot”). His infliction of that misery is not just verbal;
Damon and Stefan’s conflicts frequently have physical repercussions,
not only for them, but also for those around them.
Some of those repercussions (for Vicki, for Mystic High history
teacher William Tanner) have proved fatal. Stefan’s
response is to ignore and avoid Damon whenever possible,
which only appears to exacerbate Damon’s behavior.
Stefan claims to hate his brother and seems to just want
Damon to go away and leave him alone. But he later confesses
to Elena that “I try so hard to hate him. I guess it’s just
pointless” (hour twenty-two, “Founder’s Day”), and he is
obviously reluctant to cause Damon permanent harm, even
in service of preventing Damon from hurting others. And
despite his own acts of aggression toward Stefan, Damon regularly
defends Stefan against external threats. As he explained
after saving Stefan’s life in hour six (“Lost Girls”), “If someone’s
going to kill you it’s going to be me.” Damon also assists
Elena in Stefan’s detoxification. Though this is likely as much
for Elena’s sake as for Stefan’s, Damon notably ceases encouraging
Stefan to consume human blood–one of his most frequent
forms of taunting–after Stefan has recovered.
Though the relationship between the two improves in
strength and quality during these twenty-two hours, it still
retains a sharp edge, particularly when it comes to Elena. As
Damon’s feelings for her increase, Stefan’s behavior toward
Damon becomes more and more aggressive. Stefan appears
to be more anxious about and threatened by Damon’s positive
intentions toward Elena than he was by Damon’s previous
threats on Elena’s physical well-being.
If one were to point to the single greatest factor affecting the
current state of Stefan and Damon’s relationship, it would be
their interactions with Katherine. Before her appearance,
their interactions appear to have been well within normal,
healthy parameters–especially notable given that their
father demonstrated a clear preference for Stefan and barely
concealed disdain for Damon. As the elder Salvatore replied
to Damon’s assertion that he never asked for his father’s
respect, “Good for you, Damon. Because all I have is disappointment”
(hour thirteen, “Children of the Damned”).
This family dynamic was no doubt partly responsible for the
competitiveness Katherine was able to use to her advantage,
turning the two against each other.
However, our relationships are shaped as much by our own
choices as by those of others, and Katherine cannot shoulder
the blame for the choices Stefan and Damon made. Stefan
chose to consume his father’s blood, then kidnap a girl to
coax Damon into drinking. Damon chose to kill her–and to
not only blame but continually punish Stefan for Katherine’s
capture and his own death and transformation. In the present
day they continue to choose to treat each other badly. Each
sees only the ways the other hurts and betrays him, not the
ways the other supports and protects him. They choose to
allow competition over Elena, like competition over Katherine,
to drive them apart.
Though the two are able to come together to defend
themselves and those they care about against outside enemies,
acting as brothers and even friends, the alliance dissolves
once the threat has passed. They immediately return
to blaming each other for their problems rather than taking
responsibility for their own actions and working to make
amends. Not just Stefan and Damon, but also those around
them, tend to suffer from the fallout.
One option to minimize the damage of their relationship is
for Stefan and Damon to part ways, this time permanently. It
could be that their shared past is burdened with so much
pain, betrayal, harmful words, and manipulations that reconciliation
or even respectful coexistence is impossible.
However, I believe that their relationship can be saved.
They clearly care for and desire a relationship with one
another: Damon’s constant needling is an unambiguous
attempt to attract and hold Stefan’s attention, and Stefan’s
continuous cycle of hope and disappointment at Damon’s
behavior is a clear indicator of his desire to regain the loving,
trustworthy brother he feels he lost. Rebuilding their relationship
won’t be easy, but while their past cannot be undone,
it is in both their best interests to find a way past their differences
and heal the rift between them. They are brothers, and
undead ones at that. Why fight for an eternity if they don’t
The first step is to find a way to let go of blame and start
taking responsibility for the role they each played in the
events of 1864 and in the dissolution of their bond. Both
boys have made mistakes, and both boys have betrayed and
deeply wounded each other.
The second step is to begin treating each other with
respect. Damon is no longer killing to feed, which means
(morality aside) that Stefan can no longer use that as an
excuse to look down on or reject him. If Stefan can be forgiven
for his behavior after consuming human blood, then
Damon must be afforded the same consideration. Damon
must stop using sarcasm as a defense mechanism and learn to
be honest about what he wants from Stefan instead of using
violence and insults to get his attention.
Finally, they must not allow history to repeat itself: they
must prevent their feelings for Elena, and Katherine’s return,
from dividing them. Competition, especially when it comes
to love, is their biggest weakness, but if they can remain
faithful to one another, they may yet be able to change their
Though Katherine’s return to Mystic Falls may provide
another external enemy against whom Damon and Stefan
must come together to defeat, they must learn that they need
not always wait for the next enemy attack to lean on each
other and to be brothers. They can forgive each other, move
past their problems, and be on each other’s side no matter
what is going on. Day-to-day problems can be just as challenging
as a tomb of rabid vampires bent on revenge.
Together, they have faced insurmountable odds. They
have hurt one another, but they have also healed one
another. How they proceed in this next chapter of their lives
is up to them.