On the Soap Shrink’s Couch: General Hospital’s Carly Corinthos Jacks

By Damon L. Jacobs

Hello and welcome to my cyber office.  These sessions will be an opportunity for us to examine the psychological profiles of some of our favorite soap characters, explore their symptoms, and get a better grasp of why they do the things they do.  My hope is that we will have a dialogue about each person, and this will lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of our shows.  I welcome your feedback in the comments section below.  

On the Soap Shrink’s Couch this week:  Carly Corinthos Jacks (played by Laura Wright).

What’s the problem?  

Carly’s behaviors have ranged from cruel (seducing Tony) to dangerously violent (shooting Tony, leaving A.J. drunk and abandoned in an alley), to outright psychotic (Emily and a sickle … need I say more?).  

At the root of her actions is an intense need to avoid abandonment.  She came to Port Charles initially to seek vengeance on the person she considered to be the source of her pain:  Bobbie Spencer. Bobbie gave Carly up for adoption at birth because she was a poor unwed prostitute at the time, and even Bobbie knew that brothel wasn’t the ideal place to bring up a young daughter.  

Carly perceived this as the ultimate rejection, and thought that making Bobbie pay would alleviate her pain.  But guess what?  Hurting others does NOT heal emotional suffering.  Once Carly “succeeded” in hurting Bobbie, she embarked on an endless quest for men to fill the emptiness inside her.  Jason, Tony, A.J., Sonny, Zander, Lorenzo, and now Jax, have all became part of her desperate attempts to feel whole and cared for.  When she perceives herself as not getting a satisfying amount of validation, watch out!  She may simply yell at the “other woman” she perceives to be getting in her way.  But, if truly scorned she may do something more drastic, like faking her death for a week just so she could attend her own funeral and see who came to mourn her.  

On a few occasions, Carly has even been known to lapse in a psychotic state.  When this happens, watch out again!  She hallucinates, she thinks  people are out to get her, she stabs innocent pillows.  

What about her strengths?    

This girl has resilience like nobody’s business.  If you’re ever on the wrong side of a bullet during child labor, this is the person you want by your side.  She can go toe-to-toe with cops, judges and mob bosses and usually come out ahead.  She is fiercely loyal to those she loves, and has been increasingly able to accept unconditional love from healthier sources, namely her husband Jax.  

Most recently she has had to cope with the crippling trauma of her firstborn son Michael getting shot, and being left permanently comatose. Yes, I know there is no such thing as “permanently comatose” on a soap, but stay with me here.  This violent act against her son has shattered the entire illusionary world she has built for herself of never-ending attention from mobsters.  For the first time she is being forced to grow up and take inventory of the priorities and choices she has made in her adult life.

Okay, she’s been taking her rage out on others. Sure, she’s irrational.  And yes, doing the nasty with Sonny in the back of the limo right after dropping their comatose son off at an institution was using very poor judgment.  But hello, this woman’s entire life is crumbling around her. When our entire foundations are thrown off, we tend to do things that can be reckless, impulsive or downright tacky.  Carly has always used her sexuality to make herself feel important, real, and alive.  It makes sense that she would use it again when she sees her world falling apart.  At least she’s not attacking any girls in the park with sickles!  

Analysis:

Carly is a classic example of someone suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, a disorder that describes a series of chronic and impairing personality traits.  It is typified by someone who is terrified of being abandoned, is desperately attention-seeking, has a history of unstable relationships and tends to see others as “all good” or “all bad.”  It’s referred to as “Borderline” because it can straddle the border between psychotic and neurotic traits.  It often results in one going to great lengths in order to get attention and validation, or to draw someone back in when they are stepping away.  Example:  the week when Carly found Sonny and Alexis in bed together, and then was rejected by Zander, she went so far as to fake her death  in order to get attention and caring from everyone.  In real life, we see reactions more on the order of wrist cutting, drug relapses, superficial suicide attempts, or provocative statements like, “I’m just going to go kill myself,” when someone doesn’t get their way.  

Carly seems to be holding it together for now, but she is walking a thin line.  Based on her history, I’d say she’d better get herself to a therapist STAT, or reserve the next available room at Rose Lawn.

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.  For more book news, contact him at shouldless@gmail.com.