dysfunctional family who relate to one another through a
series of extensive defense mechanisms, i.e. an unconscious
process whereby reality is distorted to reduce or prevent
son of upper middle-class Beth and Calvin Jarrett, home
meticulously orderly person who, Jared, through projection,
feels despises him. She does all the right things; attending to
Jared’s physical needs, keeping a spotless home, plays golf
an orphanage, seems anxious to please everyone, a
experienced parental indifference or inconsistency. Though a
successful tax attorney, he is jumpy around Conrad, and,
according to his wife, drinks too many martinis. Conrad
seems consumed with despair. A return to normalcy, school
and home-life, appear to be more than Conrad can handle.
Chalk-faced, hair-hacked Conrad seems bent on
discuss a problem in the face of the problem. And, besides,
there is no problem." Yet, there is not one problem in this
family but two – Conrad’s suicide and the death by drowning
of Conrad’s older brother, Buck. Conrad eventually
is full of flying glass" and wants to feel in control. Their initial
sessions together frustrate the psychiatrist because of
Conrad’s inability to express his feelings. Berger cajoles him
leave you alone." Conrad’s slow but steady journey towards
healing seems partially the result of cathartic revelations
woman. Jeannine, who sings soprano to Conrad’s tenor…"
There is no doubt that Conrad is consumed with guilt, "the
feeling one has when one acts contrary to a role he has
assumed while interacting with a significant person in his life,"
This guilt engenders in Conrad feelings of low self esteem.
Survivors of horrible tragedies, such as the Holocaust,
frequently express similar feelings of worthlessness. In his
book, "Against All Odds", William Helmreich relates how
one survivor articulates a feeling of abandonment. "Did I
abandon them, or did they abandon me?" Conrad expresses
when the sailboat they were on turned over. Buck soothes
Conrad saying, "Okay, okay. They’ll be looking now, for
sure, just hang on, don’t get tired, promise? In an imagined
conversation with his dead brother, Conrad asks, "’Man,
why’d you let go?’ ‘Because I got tired.’ ‘The hell! You never
get tired, not before me, you don’t! You tell me not to get
tired, you tell me to hang on, and then you let go!’ ‘I couldn’t
help it. Well, screw you, then!’" Conrad feels terrible anger
with his brother, but cannot comfortably express that anger.
His psychiatrist, after needling Conrad, asks, "Are you
mad?" When Conrad responds that he is not mad, the
psychiatrist says, "Now that is a lie. You are mad as hell."
Conrad asserts that, "When you let yourself feel, all you feel
relationship with his mother, Calvin says, "My mother and I
do not connect. Why should it bother me? My mother is a
psychological literature, "rationalization". We see Conrad’s
anger and aggression is displaced, i.e. vented on another, as
when he physically attacked a schoolmate. Yet, he also turns
his anger on himself and expresses in extreme and dangerous
people, but among survivors it takes on special meaning.
Most feel guilty about the death of loved ones whom they
feel they could have, or should have, saved. Some feel guilty
about situations in which they behaved selfishly (Conrad held
on to the boat even after his brother let go), even if there
was no other way to survive. In answer to a query from his
psychiatrist on when he last got really mad, Conrad
responds, "When it comes, there’s always too much of it. I
express his anger, Berger, the psychiatrist says to Calvin,
"Razoring is anger; self-mutilation is anger. So this is a good
sign; turning his anger outward at last." Because his family,
and especially his mother, frowns upon public displays of
emotion, Conrad keeps his feelings bottled up, which further
contributes to depression. Encyclopedia Britannica, in
explicating the dynamics of depression states, "Upon close
study, the attacks on the self are revealed to be unconscious
expressions of disappointment and anger toward another
person, or even a circumstance…, deflected from their real
direction onto the self. The aggression, therefore, directed
toward the outside world is turned against the self." The
article further asserts that, "There are three cardinal
psychodynamic considerations in depression: (1) a deep
sense of loss of what is loved or valued, which may be a
feelings of love and hatred toward what is loved or highly
valued; (3) a heightened overcritical concern with the self."
denial. Calvin, Conrad’s father, says, "Don’t worry.
Everything is all right. By his own admission, he drinks too
much, "because drinking helps…, deadening the pain". Calvin
cannot tolerate conflict. Things must go smoothly.
"Everything is jello and pudding with you, Dad." Calvin, the
orphan says, "Grief is ugly. It is something to be afraid of, to
get rid of". "Safety and order. Definitely the priorities of his
life. He constantly questions himself as to whether or not he
is a good father. "What is fatherhood, anyway?" Beth,
Conrad’s mother, is very self-possessed. She appears to
have a highly developed super-ego, that part of an
individual’s personality which is "moralistic…, meeting the
demands of social convention, which can be irrational in
and common sense". She is furthermore, a perfectionist.
"Everything had to be perfect, never mind the impossible
hardship it worked on her, on them all." Conrad is not unlike
his mother. He is an overachiever, an "A" student, on the
swim team and a list-maker. His father tells the psychiatrist,
"I see her not being able to forgive him. For surviving,
maybe. No, that’s not it, for being too much like her." A
psychoanalyst might call her anal retentive. Someone who is
"fixated symbolically in orderliness and a tendency toward
perfectionism". "Excessive self-control, not expressing
feelings, guards against anxiety by controlling any expression
of emotion and denying emotional investment in a thing or
person. "She had not cried at the funeral…. She and Conrad
had been strong and calm throughout." The message of the
book is contained in Berger’s glib saying that, "People who
keep stiff upper lips find that it’s damn hard to smile". We
see Conrad moving toward recovery and the successful
management of his stage of development, as articulated by
Erikson, "intimacy vs. isolation". At story end, his father is
more open with Conrad, moving closer to him, while his
mother goes off on her own to work out her issues. Both
trying to realize congruence in their development stage
Theories of Personality, Hergenhahn, B.R., Prentice Hall,
Behavior, Carlson, Neil R., Simon & Schuster, MA, 1984,
page 481. Ordinary People, Guest, Judith, p. 253
Psychology Today, An Introduction, Bootzin, R.R., Bower,
G.H., Zajonc, R.B., Random House, NY, 1986, page 464.
Ordinary People, page 4. ibid, p. 116 ibid, p. 118 Carlson,
page 481. Carlson, Neil R., page 484. Against All Odds,
Helmreich, William B., Simon & Schuster, New York, NY,
1992, p. 134. Guest, p. 217. Guest, p. 218. Guest, page
98. Guest, page 116. Guest, page 97. Bootzin, et. al., page
459. Bootzin, et al., page 459. a psych. book, p. Helmreich,
p. 234. Guest, p. 100. Guest, page 190. Encyclopedia
Britannica, Vol. 7, p. 269. ibid, p. 269. Guest, page 30.
Guest, page 59. Guest, page 114. Guest, Page 127. Guest,
page 173. Guest, page 8. Guest, page 26. Bootzin, et. al.,
pp. 457-460. Guest, page 89. Guest, page 147.
Hergenhahn, page 40. Ibid, page 147. Guest, page 204.
Guest, page 225. Bootzin, et. al, page 467. Ibid, page 467.