On the Soap Shrink’s Couch: One Life to Live’s Dorian Cramer Lord, Part One

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.


  1. I did a column in October in which I reached similar conclusion in regard to Dorian, especially the distrust issues (Marlena I even linked to an old column of yours found here: http://members.aol.com/MrAvenez/solved.html). With regard to Viki, I think the main issue for Dorian deals with the fact that Viki is loved and respected. Dorian strives so hard to achieve love and respect yet it remains amiss though Viki seems to have it in Dorian’s eyes by mere virtue of her name. Dorian hates her, especially when those closest to her gravitate toward Viki. Despite all that, I think on some level Dorian loves her; she identifies with that inner child within Viki that is in fact vulnerable and much like Dorian. What do I think would help? Someone in her life calling her on her behavior yet continuing to love her. And here’s the thing, giving her the respect and love she desires.

    Damon says: Thank you for your response, Cher. Isn’t it interesting how Dorian already has that love and respect from so many family members yet is STILL jealous of Viki?

    Marlena says: It’s always interesting to see articles I wrote 10 to 12 years ago for the mag. I remember this one well, because I was convinced the Labines were doing a Dr. Freud on Dorian and her family and I found out later from Claire and family that’s exactly what they had in mind. Too bad the storyline was somehow short-circuited.

  2. Damon, I’m hard-pressed to come up with names of the family members who respect her. Her sister is married to and sexing it up with Dorian’s EX in Dorian’s house and continually asking if it makes Dorian jealous and others, while they love her, are pretty much dismissive of her. Take for example, her trying to get them to be on the board of her company CE. In Dorian’s eyes, they turned their backs on her when she has this company that will benefit their future. Not saying that they were wrong in declining her offer. I’m just saying from the character’s perspective it is a show on non-support. So yes, Dorian does feel that she is not respected. Recently she told David that she turned on him because he didn’t stick up for her when Viki laughed at the idea of David and Dorian being together again. She told him that she was the one who was once his lover. She asked him to honor and respect her over Viki.

    Damon says: But Cher, I think Starr, Langston, Blair, even Addie love and respect Dorian. However, they do not love and respect what she DOES. This is an important distinction – you can love someone without loving their actions. Someone with Paranoid Personality Disorder is unable to make this distinction.

    I’m very interested to know what other Thinking Fans think about this! Is Dorian appreciated, or simpy dismissed by her family?

    Cher says: However, I disagree that she is respected. It looks to me like Dorian is mostly alone. I think that she is loved but not respected. Let’s consider not having her family show her respect is what contributes to her behavior and her acting out because of her family history and her maladjustment at feeling alone. Tell me what her family has done through their actions to show love and support? Actually, in a follow up scene after the Cramers turned Dorian down to work at CE, Langston–Dorian’s foster daughter—appeared in her bedroom to see if she was OK. The other family members –living in her house gratuitously, were hunkered down in the kitchen chatting about their lives and eating her food. Everyone looks to Dorian for support but I have yet to see what any of them have done recently to demonstrate it. Dorian’s obviously going through a rough patch. Has anyone asked if she is OK? Her boyfriend just dumped her and is living with the woman with whom he cheated on her. It’s humilating for such a prideful woman. Was there even a scene where any of them showed concern? She is there and supportive for Langston (taking her in her home; the “abortion” scenes) Starr (discussing boyfriend woes, the pregnancy with Cole and kicking Todd out) and Blair (again, intervening with Todd) but what does Dorian have as a source of support? What I am seeing is her sister (who tormented Dorian during childhood) rubbing it in her face that she is married to Dorian’s ex, sleeping with him and fleecing her.

  3. I deeply love Dorian!

    I identify with her, in her constant quest for respect … that internalized inadequacy that makes us strive even harder!

    Its so unfair … as far as Dorian is concerned, Viki was just “born” into her position, while she, Dorian, has EARNED hers! (She’s a doctor!)

    But Dorian is pure REaction, always striking back in revenge, for some perceived slight. Dorian’s actions come from a place of hurt; her lashing out is designed to escalate the situation rather than healing it.

    Until she learns to be PROactive rather than REactive, all her schemes will go aft agley.

    I was very impressed with that scene a few weeks ago, Dorian and Langston discussing choice. Dorian explained the history and what life was like before women had choice. What might have come across as didactic, Robin Strasser played so that it felt like we were being given a key into Dorian’s personality: her staunch belief that all women should have complete control over their own bodies and lives.

    Her drive is to establish independence for the Cramer Women, and, by extension, all women.

    And, if she can get some revenge in the bargain, all the better!

    Damon says: Well put, Norn! Thank you for sharing how you can relate to Dorian’s drive for respect and approval. It seems you really grasp Dorian’s strengths, as well as her limitations.

  4. Matthew J Cormier says:

    I love this column and it reminds me of an essay i had to write for my philosphy class in college where we had to take a character from popular culture or media and perform a psycho-anylitical anyalisis on them, i of course chose Erica Kane.

    I suggest that you write a column about Erica Kane, the grand diva of all grand divas!

    Thank you Matthew, I’d be interested in reading your take on the Great Kane.

  5. I absolutely loved your article on Dorian — my favorite daytime vixen! Thanks for the great read, I look forward to seeing how Dorian will hide what she did to Charlie!

    Than you for your comment. Dorian may very well get away with this crime, but she can’t get away from the demons in her head. See my next column about interventions that can help Dorian feel better and have healthier interactions with others.

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