Soap Shrink: From Savvy to Reckless, How General Hospital’s Alexis Davis’ Behavior Makes Perfect Sense

Thinking Fans fret over Alexis:  Purple Haze is puzzled by her treatment of her children … esther says give up a bit of mob air time and tell us what happened to Sam’s father … while Marilyn Henry wants to see her learn from her mistakes … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Damon L. Jacobs

If you’ve been watching Alexis Davis in recent years, you’ve probably been wondering what the heck happened to that whip-smart, savvy attorney who blew into town twelve years ago.

She came to Port Charles with integrity, intelligence, poise, and loaded with self-confidence.  Now she lies, gets easily flustered, and allows Jerry Jacks, a known killer, to grab her and shut her up with a kiss.  It may appear that Alexis (played by Nancy Lee Grahn) has been dumbed down, blinded by hormones and obsessed with mobsters and murderers.  But stick with me, dear Thinking Fans, and we’ll see how all of Alexis‘ behaviors are consistent with classic symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Now let’s not forget: early in her childhood Alexis was traumatized by witnessing her mother Kristin‘s throat get slashed at the hands of Helena CassadineHelena was jealous and furious that Kristin had a love affair with Helena‘s husband Mikkos, and sought mortal revenge. The message young Alexis received was clear:  Love is

It makes perfect sense that Alexis would prefer her men dangerous, difficult, and unhinged instead of safe, easy, and stable.

meant to be kept secret, forbidden, and ultimately ends in a shockingly violent death.   Logic (and good therapy) may have lead Alexis to learn that love and intimacy do not have to end tragically, and that it is possible to be happy with someone who can provide her with the respect, honor, stability, and the loyalty she deserves. She did in fact find these qualities in her relationship with Ned Ashton (Wallace Kurth), who listened to her, understood her, and offered unconditional love and support.  Instead of being able to receive these qualities, she literally ran away from him and flagged down a truck in the middle of their wedding.  This is generally not the sign of a emotionally high functioning person.

It is not uncommon for survivors of trauma to engage in a dynamic known as “the repetition compulsion.”  Basically, this means an individual will unconsciously try to re-create and re- experience a traumatic event in order to achieve mastery over it.  An individual who witnessed her mother die as a consequence of her love interest may inadvertently re-create the same dynamic in her adult life as a way to gain control of the overwhelming event that happened to her as a child.

Keeping this idea in mind, it then makes perfect sense that Alexis would prefer her men “dangerous, difficult, and unhinged,” like Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Bernard), Ric Lansing (Rick Hearst), or Jerry Jacks (Sebastian Roche) , instead of safe, easy, and stable, such as Ned or her good buddy Jasper Jacks (Ingo Rademacher).  She cannot get truly excited and passionate about a man unless he is helping her play out a new script for coping with her childhood trauma.  She may know intelligently that Jerry is a terrorist who shot her friend Robin, but another part unconsciously thinks, “Here’s a great chance to prove that I’m the one in control, that I have the power.”

Treatment with Alexis would involve helping her to talk in detail about the overwhelming violence she watched as a child, and the tragedies she has experienced as an adult.  Certainly getting shot at, coping with cancer, and losing her sister Kristina  to another violent crime have only contributed to her sense of helplessness. She would need to gain insight into why criminals are so stimulating for her, and honestly look at the consequences of her choices.  It is important that she recognize the connection between tragedy and love, and work to change that relationship in her own mind.  I’m afraid if she doesn’t do that soon, it may have dire consequence for herself and her daughters.

What about you, TFs?  Can any of you relate to Alexis‘ choices?  Have any of you ever chased after the “bad boy” instead of someone healthy?  The Soap Shrink wants to know!

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Damon L. Jacobs is a family and relationship therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of the newly published book, Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve.  For more information, go to www.shouldless.com.

Comments

  1. Purple Haze says:

    I agree with your analysis of her attraction to bad boys, what I don’t get about her is that she is not an indifferent mother whose children are primarily pawns in a narcissistic pursuit of a succession of men (think Brooke Logan).

    Alexis truly seems to care about her children’s welfare and then recklessly pursues the course that will best guarantee their endangerment.

    Rather than acknowledging the attaction and then running away, she basically says to herself, “this is the pain I know” and pursues a course that she knows in advance will only end in despair and pain.

    We don’t know anything about ther relationship she was in as a teenager that resulted in the birth of Sam, but I dare say that would have as much to do with her “repetition compulsion” as witnessing the death of her mother. (Of course, this may give the writers too much credit in devising a scenario that makes any sense!)

    Damon says: I’m with you, PH. The part that’s hard to get about her is that on a conscious level she is so loving and attentive to her daughters’ needs, then on an unconscious level is sabotaging their physical and emotional safety. How an intelligent compassionate woman could be so damaging to herself and others is one of those quandaries us shrinks deal with frequently. I do know that with good therapy she can start to make these connections on her own and then change them.

  2. Matthew Cormier says:

    You know i love your take on Alexis, but honestly to me the reason Alexis is the way she is know is simple: Guza and Fronz simply want the show to revolve around the mob and to make Jason and Sonny look always like the good guys (even though they are the bad guys) and in doing so they sought to make every single woman on the show some victim that the mob could push around. They turned Felicia into a middle aged school girl who abandoned her children anytime Luke needed her, they made Elizabeth into a self-rightous, hypocritical shrew who passed judgement on everyone, they turned Carly into a whiny, whimpering stick who let Sonny control her, they turned Maxie into a bratty, spoiled princess who treated everyone with discontement.

    Not to mention the characters they’ve introduced: Sam a mob lackey who did everything she was told and than turned into a vindictive, cynical, criminal when she was rejected; Faith a female mobster who used sexuality anytime she needed to manipulate a man and violence anytime she had to confront another female, they turned Emily into a whimpering moron and then there was the slew of Brenda clones: Hannah the FBI agent that pretended to love sonny, Resse who pretended to love Sonny but really wanted revenge on Carly, and Kate the most boring character of all-time who does nothing but tell sonny his life is bad and that he’s a bad man… and don’t even get me started on what they’ve done to LuLu.

    Bottom Line: Alexis like other female characters on GH is a reflection of the writers and network heads at ABC; clueless male pigs that believe everyone wants to watch Sonny and Jason mame and murder in the name of all that’s supposedly good.

    Damon says: Yes, well, Matthew, what can I say. I don’t disagree with you at all. However, as the Soap Shrink I’m trying to help us understand the drives of Alexis, not the motives of those who write her words. My hope is that Alexis’s character flaws may help illuminate how we can be blindsided by “repetition compulsions” in our own lives. Isn’t that what soaps used to so well?

  3. Matthew Cormier says:

    Every single character on “GH” can be an example of repetition compulsions: Sonny has gone back to Carly how many times and continually seeks out women that remind him in some way of Brenda. Carly has repeated the same mistakes time and time again: using her men for revenge, falling into Sonny’s arms and blaming others for her actions.

    I think one major thing we need to look at about Alexis is her relationship with Helena, who after murdering her mother tried on many occassions to murder Alexis as well and deemed her the black sheep of the family and said she was unworthy of love because she was the daugther of Mikkos with another woman. It was this relationship that i believe was the deciding factor in wether or not Alexis would be a functional human being. Because of her hatred of Helena for murdering her mother she sought to become a lawyer to put criminals away but because Helena became the default female role model in her life she also became confused about the roles of good vs. evil and about how men should treat woman; as she probrally saw how Helena treated others and was treated by men. It probrally stirred up a great confusion inside her. I also must mention the semi-incestous relationship that Helena had with her sons, Starvros (her golden child) and Stefan (her black sheep) who she would go from wanting to kill to practically making love too—Helena was always too close to her sons and meddeled in every possible way. I believe witnessing this sort of relationship probrally caused Alexis as a woman a great confusion about how she should act around men. As far as Alexis as a mother: i think the fact is that she knows enough logically that she doesn’t want to harm her daughters, but the great confusion her upbringing brought has probrally inteferred in ways she didn’t expect.

    Damon says: Oh to have been a fly on the wall in the Cassadine castle when little Stavros, Stefan, and Alexis were running around. I’m sure it was a cesspool of Freudian family dysfunction!

  4. esther says:

    Fantastic analysis of Alexis! Bravo! She is a tough nut to crack and she would be — she’s had to learn to protect herself, because lord knows the adults in her life weren’t able to do so. I do think the only reason she didn’t go nuts was her incredibly loving relationship with Stefan. But I so want to know about Sam’s father and what happened there — why doesn’t Sam?? Oh riiiiiiiiight…cause that would take airtime away from the mob and we can’t have that. ;)

    Damon says: Some day, Esther, someday we will know the story about Sam’s father. Remember how long it took for us to find out about Carly’s father? I just hope Alexis is still on the canvas when that happens, I think it will explain a lot. Thank you so much for your comment!!

    Marlena adds: Damon, to get a bravo on anything soap related from my bratty though beloved old friend Esther is incredible! And, inasmuch as she’s one of the world’s greatest authorities on the GH character of Alexis, her superlative response to you is perhaps one of the greatest miracles … since Charlton Heston parted the Red Sea …

  5. Marilyn Henry says:

    There was a time when analyzing soap behavior was one of my favorite pass-times. Pat Falken Smith was especially good at giving us characters whose psyches were so well-developed that one could actually define the actions of each by their particular traits. Unexpected plot turns could take place, but as in all good fiction, the actions of each character were true to their natures and the plots were driven by what we could expect from what we knew of the characters.

    Soaps, and especially GH, do not seem to work in that way anymore. I loved Alexis when she arrived and established herself as one savvy professional and an intelligent lady who could still show a bit of nerve when approached romantically — Nancy does this amusingly and believably. She is a lady with a cryptic tongue and all seriousness in her work, but when it comes to romantic relationships, she isn’t that self-confident or practiced and becomes befuddled. I could identify with that, easily enough.

    But the present writers just haven’t seemed interested in Alexis, not for years, and so she got little air time and only sketchy storylines. The Labines did better by her, but she has never been all she should have been on this show, given Nancy’s talent. It therefore isn’t easy to assess why she goes for the killer types. Your explanation makes a lot of sense, but I still feel the character is much too intelligent not to see how badly these relationships will end. Problem is, her best relationship so far on the show (barring the aborted one with Lane Davie’s Cameron) was with Jax. They were easy and happy together, respecting each other, enjoying each other with humor and a comfortable intimacy. But the writers, for whatever reason, didn’t want to go there.

    So maybe the writers, like you, have felt all along her early trauma over her mother’s horrifying death is what is behind her bad choices. If that is the case, it is about the first time in a long while the current writers have actually given much thought to why a character does what they do. ( Usually they are simply content to twist characters about in order to make them fit the dumb plots, and when they have ruined them, content to kill them off in some mobular way.)

    Pardon my bitterness, but Alexis has long been my favorite female character on the show and I LONG to see her given a real story and to see her behave in a believable and logical way that I can actually relate to. Give her the trauma, but have her learn from some of her mistakes.

    I am also sad because I like Sebastian, but his character never made sense, especially for Alexis. But oh my, they were good together! Really sparky fun.

    Damon says: Thank you Marilyn for such a heart-filled reply! Between you and me (and everyone else reading this) I’m sure Guza knows as much about PTSD as Sarah Palin knows about Russia. But as the Soap Shrink (and as a real therapist) it is often my job to find some meaning in behaviors that are inconsistent and contradictory. Thank you again for your feedback!!

  6. Matthew Cormier says:

    The character of Jerry Jax has not made sense from day one… First of all why would Jerry the minor con artist all of a sudden turn into a psychotic killer? why would he take hostage Bobbie’s daughter and all his BROTHERS WIFE? it doesn’t make any sense. He would never shoot anybody… and the fact this all happened and was not once addressed by the writers was moronic. The fact that Alexis who hates Sonny and is mad at Ric for their lifestyles would all of a sudden fall for Jerry never made sense.

  7. esther says:

    Marlena, you crack me up. But I appreciate your appreciation of any little bit of praise I’m actually willing to give, lol. ;) For you guys, it comes easily. Daytime writers these days….eh, not so much.

    Marilyn, oh do I feel your pain. If the writers had given half a damn about Lane’s character, their pairing could have been terrific. And I’m so there with you on Jax. I was actually into Sonny/Alexis and it was getting interesting but that stopped on a dime once Guza came back. Like…the very day his stuff began airing. Alexis started getting treated horribly all to prop up the horrible Carly. And of course…Guza won’t leave! So we’ve been stuck with Alexis being treated horribly ever since.

  8. Matthew Cormier says:

    Well Guza hasn’t exactly done a good job writing Carly either… with Tamara Braun in the role he wrote her as a spineless whimp who cried and whined about everything. She lost her ability to tell off anyone that got in her way and to snap back with a sarcastic comment when she felt cornered. Under Brandsford she was written as a psychopath and under Laura Wright thus far she’s been reduced to screaming and yelling at everyone.

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