By Damon L. Jacobs
Look into his eyes. Those deep blue eyes. There you may see a man who has great capacity for warmth, generosity and concern for his family and community.
Look a little deeper, however, and you will also see anger, bitterness and an intense fear of being inferior to others.
But let’s back up a bit. Guiding Light’s Joshua Lewis, played by Robert Newman, is the son of Martha and HB Lewis. Little seems to be known about Martha and her relationship to her children. But HB was a rigid task master, an old fashioned cowboy who didn’t appreciate sass from his children. Unfortunately for him, he received a lot of sass from his rebellious, hot-headed rock-&-roll-loving son Josh. There was much resentment and competition between these two, and at one point HB even married the woman Josh loved (Reva, natch). Josh clearly was an outsider, and did not fit into the family mold as well as his brother Billy. The message he received constantly from his father seemed to be, “You’re not good enough, you’ll never be like me.”
Fast forward to 1990. Reva “died” after driving off a bridge during an unfortunate bout of post partum depression. An older and more mature Joshua was thrust into the role of single parent. By this point he and his father HB had been able to reconcile most of their differences. However, true to many father and son relationships, Josh couldn’t get his father’s messages out of his head, even after his father’s death. And this is why, the Soap Shrink submits, Josh launched into his super sanctimonious savior pattern that he has been repeating ever since.
How many vulnerable women has Josh tried to “save” to prop himself up? He has practically made a living by romancing emotionally unstable partners, then rejecting them when their neuroses became evident. Sonni Carrera, Annie Dutton, Olivia Spencer and Cassie Layne can all testify to Josh’s ability to love you when you’re down, then reject you when you make the mistake of trying to live up to his impossible expectations. Did he deserve to be lied to, cheated on, betrayed, manipulated, or drugged by his own after shave? Heck no! But isn’t it time Josh start to think to himself, “Gee, I wonder what role I’m playing in all these disasters?”
I believe there is a part of Josh that thinks if he can make these women “good,” then he’ll finally be the good enough son his father always wanted, and finally feel some peace within. The only problem is: trying to change others NEVER brings you genuine happiness or tranquility. It simply puts you on an emotional roller coaster in which your state of mind gets determined by that other person you are trying so hard to control.
Of course, the only woman who can meet Josh on the same competitive self-sabotaging level is the incomparable Reva Shayne. She is his soul mate, his wife three times over and, I’d argue, his mirror image. She too has struggled with her insecure sense of self, which also has led her to be quite self destructive over the years. But whereas Reva’s insecurities tend to get played out in public arenas, Josh’s poor self-esteem is quieter and more subtle. He may not be jumping in and out of fountains, but his jumping into the ministry is no less extreme or dramatic.
One important question the Soap Shrink would pose relates to Josh’s connection to his deceased mother Martha. Little seems to be known about her, as she has rarely been mentioned by any of the Lewis men. Is there a reason for this? What was his relationship with her like? And how, exactly, did dear Martha die? Could this information help us understand why Josh feels a need to rescue desperate women?
Although Josh does not clearly meet any diagnostic criteria at this moment, his relationship patterns could lead him to feeling alone, hopeless, and clinically depressed. In treatment, the Soap Shrink would encourage Josh to look into the “shoulds” he received from his father, question the rigid expectations he was raised with and decide for himself who he is and what he stands for outside of his father’s shadow. It is only by taking responsibility for his own values as an adult, and accepting ALL parts of himself, that he will truly start to feel positive about himself, and be attracted to those that also feel peace and acceptance within.
My advice to Josh Lewis: Get thee to a therapist before you can say your next “Amen!”
Damon L. Jacobs is a family and relationship therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve, to be published in September by Morgan James Publishing. For more book news, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.