Thinking Fans Comment Update October 10: Matthew Cormier argues for more long-term, in-depth character development instead of “crazy plot-driven one-day-at-a-time crap.” See Comments below.
By Damon L. Jacobs
It’s not easy being The Young and the Restless’ Victor Newman. Finding love with a woman half his age and somehow getting her pregnant after two vasectomies were initially happy occurrences for this mustachioed maverick. But when his young bride Sabrina perished in a tragic car crash along with their unborn child, Victor slid into a downward spiral of anger, depression, and even a near suicide attempt. He made a mysterious trip to Mexico, shunned the family members who were trying to help him, stopped eating, and began having visions of his deceased wife.
And this was all before the Stock Market crashed!
Indeed, Victor (played since 1980 by Eric Braeden) may be having his hardest year ever. But how do you help someone who doesn’t want to be helped? Perhaps we would be assisted by understanding how he came to be the man we know today.
Victor Newman, born Christian Miller, was born into a family coping with dire poverty. When his father abandoned the family, his mother put him up for adoption, unable to financially continue taking care of her seven-year-old son. “Christian”
If Victor is able to give his mental health the same kind of nurturing and attention he is capable of giving Newman Enterprises, then I’d say there is excellent hope that he will be able to find more happiness in his life.
survived this trauma by taking on values of independence, emotional isolation, and complete control of his environment. He changed his name to “Victor” as a symbol of his determination to never have to “lose” out again, and he did as a small child.
This modus operandi is what has led him to become the successful business man he is today. Unfortunately, it has not always translated into success in his personal relationships. As Nikki Newman (Melody Thomas Scott) can best attest to, Victor needs to have his women obedient, loyal, and non-threatening. She learned this the hard way when their third marriage fell apart as she ran for the Wisconsin State Senate, and he opposed her bids for political power.
So when he was introduced to Sabrina Costelana (Raya Meddine), he was enchanted. Soft, feminine, able to offer Victor sex and affection without challenging him in any way, she seemed the perfect match. When she found out she was pregnant, Victor embraced the news, and he and Sabrina were soon married. It looked as if he had finally found happiness. That is until she got into that car in which she and Nikki’s husband David were killed.
Diagnostically, he currently meets the criteria for “Major Depression Disorder, Single Episode, Severe, With Psychotic Features.” This a long name to describe someone who is suffering with depressed mood for most of each day, loss of interest in most activities, feelings of excessive guilt, diminished ability to think or concentrate, loss of appetite, loss of sleep, AND recurrent thoughts of death. It gets that extra “specifier” which includes psychotic features because Victor has started seeing visions of Sabrina, which end up in him neglecting his own self care.
For Victor, such a diagnosis is his worst nightmare. After all, he has devoted most of his life to controlling what happens around him and “winning.” But what if his worst enemy is the lurking depression within? It then makes perfect sense that he would literally run away from receiving any type of treatment, as he most recently did.
The issues brought up by Victor’s hospitalization were complex and very true to real life conflicts I have witnessed. Victor was brought into the E/R due to dehydration. But Dr. Leibross, a psychiatrist, was able to correctly determine that Victor’s neglect of his self-care stemmed from severe depression, and could be seen as a passive suicide attempt. What followed was a painfully realistic dialogue in which Nikki, daughter Victoria (Amelia Heinle) and son Nick (Joshua Morrow) tried to come an agreement about inpatient vs. outpatient treatment, the appropriateness of medications, and how to help someone without dishonoring their civil rights. They were correct in realizing that the only way Victor could truly benefit from treatment was if he received it voluntarily. Unfortunately, even thirty years with Victor didn’t give Nikki the foresight into Victor’s hatching of his escape plan.
So now Victor is somewhere out there dealing with this crisis on his own. My hope is that he does at some point decide to engage in some intensive counseling. Any treatment with Victor will have to take place in alignment with the values he holds sacred — independence, success, conquering the obstacles. If Victor is able to give his mental health the same kind of nurturing and attention he is capable of giving Newman Enterprises, then I’d say there is excellent hope that he will be able to find more happiness in his life.
What do you think? Have any of you been in Victoria’s or Nick’s position of taking care of a mentally ill parent? Or, like Victor, have you ever run away from those that were trying to help you? The Soap Shrink wants to know!
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 Nov. 1 by Morgan James Publishing. For more information, go to www.shouldless.com.