Thinking Fans Comment Update: cher shares on Dorian and respect … norn on Dorian and revenge … and more. See Comments below.
Part 1 of 2-Part OLTL 40th Anniversary Appointment!
By Damon L. Jacobs
Each week the Soap Shrink tries to offer a glimpse into a soap character’s history, symptoms, and hopefully suggest an optimistic view of how, growth, change, and development are possible.
This week his hands are full. Because Dorian Lord, perhaps the most brilliant, yet self-destructive, person in Llanview has been very naughty lately. How can someone so smart, with such great wardrobe choices, make SO many of the same mistakes over and over? Let’s take a look and find out.
Dorian, played with timeless mastery by the inimitable Robin Strasser, grew up in an environment that can best be described as chaotic. Throughout her childhood she witnessed domestic violence between her mother and father, and she herself was physically and psychologically abused. This in and of itself can lead to rage, distrust, and difficulty in emotionally connecting with others. But Dorian carried the additional burden of caring for not one but two mentally ill sisters. The messages communicated to Dorian were very clear: Life is to be feared, no one can be counted on, and you must work harder than everyone else in order not to slip into the same mental abyss.
Imagine the pressure! Most of us have a hard enough time just meeting quotas at our jobs.
These family traumas became the driving force behind Dorian’s never-ending quest for power, stability, revenge, and control. She became a doctor at a time when it was unusual for a woman to enter the medical profession. She strove to be the best at everything she did, and used men to achieve greater power and status. At the same time, she prioritized the care of the women in her family, and remained controlling of her sisters, her daughters, and her nieces.
To the outsider she appears ruthless, dominating, and even tragic, as she tends to alienate the very family members she is trying to help. But from Dorian’s standpoint, these are necessary measures in order to prevent any other women from going through the chaos and suffering she endured from her parents. She continues to live in desperate terror that one of her “girls” may also suffer a mental breakdown, and she fights against any force (i.e., men) she considers a threat to their well being.
There is one woman, however, that Dorian has never been able to control. Viki Lord Davidson has been a constant foil to Dorian’s machinations for over 30 years now. Whereas most women either fall under her control, or simply walk away, Viki stands right up to Dorian, tells her where she can go, and never ever cowers to Dorian’s domination. This is especially aggravating to Dorian since Viki herself has suffered with severe mental illness and also survived significant abuse as a child. Dorian on one hand is fascinated and jealous of Viki, on the other is repulsed and outraged by her.
Dorian’s behaviors are classic symptoms of Paranoid Personality Disorder. Now, when most people hear the word “paranoid,” they tend to think of being followed, of aliens listening to them through the TV, or being poisoned by Cookie Monster. But in this case, the term is used to convey a pattern of pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others, even when it is unwarranted. Individuals coping with the disorder tend from an early age to lack trust in others, have an excessive need for autonomy and self-control, have great difficulty accepting criticism, are acutely attuned to issues of power and rank (“C.E.”, anyone?) , and prone to anger outbursts and rages toward others. They may be consumed by doubts of others’ loyalty, and tend to persistently hold long-term grudges against others (Viki, Nora, anyone with the last name “Buchanan,” you get it).
How in the world would you help someone suffering in this way? Tune in Monday, Thinking Fans, for Part 2 of this session, an exploration of interventions and treatments I believe would help Dorian. Until then, what are your impressions, memories, and thoughts about Dorian? Do you ever see parts of yourself in her? Does she remind you of anyone in your own life? Is she just beyond all hope?
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.