On the Soap Shrink’s Couch: One Life to Live’s Dorian Cramer Lord, Part Two

Thinking Fans Comment Update:  CeCe says Dorian should leave Llanview … cher wonders if Dorian is ready for therapy … Dale tries to imagine a “good” Dorian. See Comments below.

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Part 2 of a 2-part OLTL 40th anniversary appointment!

By Damon L. Jacobs 

When we left off on Friday, we discussed Dorian’s symptoms which are consistent with Paranoid Personality Disorder.  As a Thoughtful Fan pointed out on this page last Friday, Marlena herself wrote a wonderful column back in 1998 about how the Dorian facing-her-past storyline  of ‘97-’98 accurately illuminated the tenants of traditional Freudian psychoanalytic therapy.  She faced her painful history, gained insight, and literally killed the mother that had been perceived as a source of so much dysfunction.  But I submit, did this insight make Dorian happier?  Did it help her gain peace?  Did it improve her relationships?  Change her behavior?  I’d say no, especially based on her behavior in the last six weeks, which is arguably worse than it’s been for a very long time.

In order for Dorian (played by the cherished Robin Strasser) to truly heal, I would recommend she work with a therapist on cognitive restructuring.  She would need to be willing to challenge long held thoughts and belief systems which have led her to sabotage her personal and professional goals, and try different ways of acting in the world.  Her therapist would need to follow what I call “The three R’s” of good therapy:  Relationship, Rationality, Responsibility.

1. Relationship — In order to get anywhere with Dorian, she would have to build a solid trusting relationship with her therapist.  Dorian does not make herself open or emotionally vulnerable very easily.  Getting her to begin to question her thoughts and behaviors could only take place if she felt honored, appreciated, and respected.  The last relationship in which Dorian experienced unconditional regard was with Mel.  It was through that bond that she was able to face her past trauma, and challenge some of the ways she had treated others.  A strong bond with a therapist now can assist her to do the same.  In her case this will most likely take a lot patience.  

2.  Rationality — Once a relationship has been formed, Dorian would be encouraged to challenge some of the irrational thoughts that lead her to suffer.  More specifically, she would be need to look at the “shoulds” she maintains which lead her to stay angry, annoyed, and stressed. 

For example, she may say, “I HAVE to interfere in my girls’ lives.  They should never have to suffer.”  I would want to hold this statement up to a rational light and explore the following questions with Dorian: How did you learn this “should” about suffering?  Is it true that no one should ever suffer?  Does suffering ever lead to insight or growth?  What are the benefits of being the protector and caretaker of others?  How do you feel when you think this should?  What would one day be like without this should?  Who would you be if you didn’t believe that others should never suffer?  

Or course I would not want to bombard the poor woman with all these questions at once.  But over the course of treatment, these would be some of the long held beliefs and thought patterns that would get challenged.  I would want to follow the same process of exploration for other statements that may arise such as, “People should respect me like they do Viki,” or “I should be thanked for all I do in this community,”or  ”David Vickers shouldn’t pee in the bed, (the dog AND the man).” 

3.  Responsibility — After Dorian has learned to challenge and alter some of her destructive thought patterns, it would then be essential for her to assume responsibility for ALL aspect of her life.  Her loneliness, her limited connections with family members, her lack of happiness in her life, all would improve if she acknowledged the role she played.  For someone who was consistently traumatized and abused as a child, this can be essentially difficult.  There is, of course, no responsibility a child bears in being harmed.  But as an adult she has continued to blame others for her unhappiness, maintain her status as a victim, and this has only led to more of the same unhappiness and frustration. 

Dorian would also be encouraged to take responsibility for her strengths as well.  Her intelligence, resourcefulness, resilience, and her wicked sense of humor all can be utilized to help her examine her distorted belief patterns, replace destructive “shoulds,” and try new ways of interacting with the people in her family and community.  

What do YOU think?  Could Dorian participate in treatment this way? Is there any hope?  As OLTL celebrates 40 years on the air, can you think of other characters that could benefit from this type of therapy?  Your thoughts are encouraged below.

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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.  Check out his new website, www.shouldless.com.

Comments

  1. CeCe says:

    Thank you Soap Shrink!

    I love reading these assessments!

    I think the only way Dorian were to ever really benefit from any form of treatment she would have to move away from Llanview for the treatment to really help her sort out her life. In my opinion Llanview provides to many distractions and way to many pitfalls for her therapy to have a chance of being successful.

    Damon says: And Cee Cee, I love your feedback and thoughtful comments. I must play Devil’s advocate, though, because I’m not sure treatment outside of her home environment would really help in the long term. Did her years in Mendorra or Paris really help her? I am a fan of the classic adage, “No matter where you go, there you are.” I think Dorian would take her issues and problems with her anywhere she would go, and that she would benefit the most out of engaging in treatment in the middle of the Llanview “mud,” so to speak.

  2. cher says:

    Hi Damon,

    Love your response. You are so good! I think that you are on target! My concern for Dorian is her therapeutic readiness. She would have to admit to herself that she needs professional help. As she has always been the tough one who did not succumb to the mental illness, I would think her perception would be that her family would not see her as the glue that binds them if she showed a crack. I wonder if she would avail herself to the vulnerability it would take to admit one needs help. Self-actualization is not her ticket. Mel annoyed me at times, but the strength in that relationship is that she knew he would be honest with her and that he loved her and wanted the best for her. I think that is why he appears to her when she is most challenged or at a low point in her life. She allowed herself to be vulnerable with him. It would take someone she knew and trusted to point out her need for counseling. Dorian would never arrive at that conclusion on her own. If she did ever go, what you have suggested would be a workable plan. Dorian responds to challenges and she would definitely respond if she finds that it brings her happiness and improves her personal relationships. Ultimately, it’s up to her to take the first step, but someone she trusts, who is sensitve and cares about her, may need guide her in that direction without her thinking it an insult to her mental fortitude. Sometimes the bravest thing to do is to ask for help.

    Damon says: Wow, thanks for compliment! I whole heartedly agree that Dorian (or anyone entering treatment) would have to be willing to be there in order to get anything out of it. As you sensitively pointed out, Dorian may perceive getting support through treatment at odds with her role of “the strong one” in the Cramer family. You are SO right on in pointing out that Dorian could see any suggestion of getting help as an insult, and so the very idea would have to be approached with caution. Her relationship with Mel was an example that with the right connection she can be open to SOME level of humble inquiry.

    What thoughtful comments!

  3. Dale says:

    Damon, I love your portrait of Dorian Lord. Honestly, I cannot even begin to understand the woman! If she were a real person, I truly doubt that she could benefit from any therapy or intervention! Can you imagine what Dorian could accomplish if she used her time energy and powers for the good? LOL!

    In real life, I am sure that Dorian’s flamboyance, humour and gameplaying would be amusing for awhile, but I doubt I’d keep her around as a friend for long. Too destructive. But at least I think I could understand and empathize with her – the familial childhood abuse that she suffered is the root of all her evil, yes?

    Damon says: LOL, Dale, can you think of all the soap characters we love whose antics we would never tolerate in real life? I think for General Hospital fans this list would be the longest. Unless people actually like bullets flying around their living rooms! Thank you for your comment, and for your help with the columns this week.

  4. Matthew J Cormier says:

    I’ve always thought Dorian needed some form of therapy. I think it would be beneficial for sure. Heck i’d even go as far as suggesting that Dorian and Viki see one together since Viki seems to be the source of much of Dorian’s jealousy and hatred. maybe they could get out in the open all this stuff and move on.

    As for other characters that could use a good therapy session here’s my ideas:

    AMC’s Erica Kane—she’s done everything and anything to recover from the trauma of rape at an early age. She’s been confronted by one child she gave away for adoption (Kendall) and another she believed she had aborted (Josh), her pride and joy Bianca came out as a lesbian, which led to insecurities about her own sexuality—something she’s always been secure about and she’s bed hopped from one man to another countless times. She’s had very few close female friends in her life and has been arch enemies with Brooke English for so many years now it’s hilarious—Also worth noting—Brooke is Erica’s exact opposite—patient, calm, rational, caring…

    I’d love to see someone give a theraputic analysis to GH’s Tracey Quatermaine because i have a feeling there’s a lot in heer that needs to be explored.

    From OLTL, I would say that it would be helpful for someone to try and understand the main frame of Todd Manning.

    Damon says: Thank you, Matthew, for your input and observations, especially about the Divine Ms. Kane. I always thought that not playing up Erica and Brooke as AMC’s answer to Dorian and Viki was a lost opportunity.

    Marlena says: I disagree. I think the hundreds of argument scenes Erica and Brooke had over the years on All My Children made them just as powerful adversaries as One Life to Live’s Dorian and Viki have been.

  5. Matthew J Cormier says:

    I think that any scene with Brooke and Erica was great — but I agree with Damon, they never allowed that relationship to go to the next level. The thing that was missing that Dorian and Viki have is a level of friendship and respect. Because as Dorian does awful things to Viki you always get a sense that part of Dorian wants to be more like Viki and over periods of time they begin to trust one another (only to have it all fall apart again) — whereas with Erica and Brooke is was pure hatred from day one. they’ve never tried to understand one another or learn from each other.

  6. norn says:

    Do you feel that you’ve learned more about Dorian in the Anniversary episodes? I know that I was watching with this post in mind! We got a crash course in Dorian’s motivations courtesy of Mel! When he said, “You live your life in reaction to Viki!” i nodded, so happy to hear it called out!

  7. Lisa F says:

    I have been a huge Dorian/Robin Strasser fan since the early 80s and have watched her destroy the best parts of her life- the love of the men who truly cared for her, her relationship w/ Cassie, etc, etc, etc. However, the Dorian of the 1980′s was a Dorian we could actually empathize with and had more redeeming qualities than the Dorian of today. Nowadays the writers seems to portray her as ALWAYS the bad guy, the annoying shrieking lady, the miserable one. We don’t see enough of her redeeming qualities to love her as much as we once did. Or maybe I’m speaking about me personally. don’t mind the “we.” Anyway, maybe it’s a sign that NOW is the time for the character to undergo serious psycho-analysis. I mean, seriously, how great would it be if this was actually a storyline on the show! She needs some help. Or she needs a “Mel” in her life again. Or a “Herb” that will help her see her best qualities but also call her on her worst qualities and not back down from her. i think when she’s in love she’s the best behaved b/c she feels safe. Dorian acts out the way she does b/c she doesn’t feel safe. That abused little girl is still living inside her, and as Mel said she is living in reaction to Vicki instead of living her own life. I loved that line! So true! I only hope the writiers throw our Dori a bone so that she can be a part of a story that gives her a little credit. She can be bad and good – as she once was. Hope that made sense! It’s late and I’m rambling….

    Damon says: What an astute and sensitive comment! It seems you really understand how Dorian improves when she feels safe and loved. When she perceives herself as alone as she does now, she regresses to that abused angry girl inside. I too feel she is being written now as a one-note shrieker, but hopefully that will change.

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