On the Soap Shrink’s Couch: Adam Chandler, All My Children’s Supreme Control Freak

Thinking Fans Comment Update Aug. 22: norn sees Adam as a fierce competitor … while Trey thinks Adam is driven by love. See Comments below. 

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By Damon L. Jacobs

“If I don’t take care of this, no one will.”

Does this sound familiar to you?  Have you ever known someone who thought that way?  Or, dear Thinking Fans, have YOU ever been the one who believed you had to solve everyone’s problems, handle every issue, and be in complete control of every situation?

If so, you can understand how the twisted and tortured mind of Adam Chandler (played by David Canary) operates.  Born from humble beginnings in Pigeon Hollow, Adam became a self-made business man early in his career.  He has been driven his entire life by a compulsive need for power, control, and revenge.  But underneath these motivations there lies one common strand:  Fear.

It might seem strange that such a distinguished yet amoral man would be afraid of anything.  I submit, however, that his need to manipulate and dominate every person in his life in every context is a manifestation of such fear.  His history of blackmailing, kidnapping, lying, controlling, and even switching sperm samples all stem from the fundamental thought, “I have to protect myself and the people I love.  If I don’t someone will get hurt.”  For example, Adam spent many years hiding away his good-hearted twin brother Stuart, so afraid that if he were unleashed onto the world, Stuart and others would be damaged.  Years later, when Stuart found love with flamboyant Marion, Adam hired Leo to “seduce” Marion in order to break them up.  When he thought J.R.’s marriage to Babe was a mistake, he did everything in his power to interfere and drive Babe away from the family.  And now, he is in the process of trying to cover up an accidental murder he believes his daughter Colby committed while drunk driving. 

The tragic irony, of course, is that every time Adam tries to protect someone, they end up getting hurt anyway, and then pushing him away.  He has alienated all of his children in this process; it then comes as no surprise that all of them (Skye, Hayley, J.R. and Colby) have turned to alcohol or drugs to cope with his machinations.  The only person who truly understands the motivation behind his actions is Stuart.  It is through Stuart’s eyes that we can recognize the scared little man behind Adam’s disastardly deeds, and the terror behind his obsessing and controlling.

Diagnostically, Adam would carry what is referred to as “Anxiety Disorder NOS,” in that his control issues clearly point to some intense and persistent anxiety, but he does not meet the full criteria for any established disorder.  Treatment with Adam would involve him taking a long inventory of his life, and a pro/con analysis of how his meddling has helped and hurt him. He would be encouraged to explore the consequences of his actions, and how these patterns always end with the same result — being rejected by others. 

I often think of the Beatles classic, “Let It Be” when I work with individuals who have strong control issues.  I don’t think Adam in his life has ever let ANYTHING be, but in therapy he would be encouraged to allow others to make their own mistakes, and to accept their own consequences.  I would be very curious to know more about his parents and how he was raised, so that we could better understand how he learned to be so fearful about the world around him.  I would also explore with Adam if he has any sense of religion or spirituality, since a healthy dose of faith can go a long way to alleviate anxiety about the future and the mistakes of others.

Given that Adam is capable of experiencing genuine remorse, and atoning for his wrong doings (even if prompted by a ghost), I’d say his chance of living a happier life with more fulfilling relationships is quite possible.  But he would have to grasp the concept of how letting go of controlling things can bring him much more happiness — a paradox many with anxiety issues find hard to embrace.  Can you?

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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 November by Morgan James Publishing.  Check out his website, www.shouldless.com.

Comments

  1. norn says:

    Great column! I think Adam’s fierce sense of competition is so interesting … and damaging. Everything, whether business, children, or even love is a contest to be won … with the loser destroyed. I also think Adam’s relationship with Palmer is so interesting. No matter what fortune Adam accquires or what heights he reaches, Palmer will always be the bane of his existance. Just as Superman’s greatest enemy is kryptonite, a piece of gravel from his home planet, Adam will always see Pete Cooney from Pigeon Hollow as his prime antagonist.

    Damon says: Great points, Norn! Adam’s relationship with Palmer really drives home the fact that no amount of money or wealth can compensate for inner insecurity and fear. I love the kryptonite metaphor; I wish the writers played to this aspect of their relationship.

  2. Trey says:

    Looked at another way, all of Adam’s actions are based on love. The love of his family, as well as the love of his self image. In effect, he’s just like everyone else, doing what he thinks is best in order to achieve and protect love. Fear seems to be a byproduct of the seemingly inevitable loss of love, at least on the level of form. ;)

    Damon says: This is a VERY interesting response, Trey. In my experience, genuine love for others involves allowing them to make their own errors. It can be a very loving act to allow someone to face the consequences of their choices. This is not to say I want the people I love to get hurt, or that I don’t try to guide them away from painful decisions. But I also recognize the merits of one making a mess and having to clean it up. I don’t think Adam is there yet.

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