20 thoughts on “More on fathers

  1. waxwings2

    Yes. Fathers matter.

    Have now had a chance to go to the NYT link you provided on the topic “Do Fathers Really Matter?” I found the article you selected fascinating and very much connected to our discussions of ME’s emotional troubles and what they have to do with his own father, his relationship with his own son and with his profound life conundrum with Louisa and being a family.

    This subject has been woefully neglected everywhere! (Though I know you have covered the subject of Fathers here and very well.) But this is a slightly different take on the topic. Thank you for calling it to our attention. I think it merits our scrutiny.

    We have focused a lot on the damage that his mother did to Martin. (In the series, her bald-faced accusation of his fly-in-the-ointment-of-her-marriage characterization was predominant and shocking). One under-appreciated or under-debated subject of the DM Series is Martin’s relationship with his father, who was equally dismissive, disrespectful, conniving and selfish when it came to his only son, Martin.

    Like his mother, Martin was dispensable to his father, not really necessary or someone to be reckoned with. Not anyone of importance, worthy of respect or investment of friendship and kinship. These only mimic and reinforce (in muted form) what his mother represented to him. But somehow, his father’s words and actions are more powerful and therefore, even more traumatic for Martin. It was his father, the great surgeon, whose footsteps he followed in, that disappeared from his life early on. His father only came back to Martin when he needed something financially. Surely, Martin convinced himself that his father must have felt as his mother because he never showed any contrary actions, or voiced opinions different from his mother’s…..what a bummer. Poor Martin!

    Not just one parent, but two! Yikes.

    The NYT author, Mark Oppenheimer, in his essay, said (and it bears repeating here): being around dads is affecting. Being around dads affects children’s biology, which in turn affects their mental states, like happiness, and their success in life. In Martin’s case, it is his mental state. And in another, his career success too. He has a miserable mental state that does not imbue him with emotional confidence. He is not “successful” in his career either (because he can no longer deal with blood, lately realizing that it is connected to a real human being and to his unfinished business with his parents), and he is a person who is arrived at a stone wall in terms of his life. Yes, his mother was a major contributor, but look what his father must have represented to him! O the calumny of it all! The question: how do we, how does Martin rise above it??

    Here is a paragraph from that NYT piece:

    When the pioneering researcher Michael E. Lamb became interested in the role of fathers, in the mid-1970s, “there wasn’t much evidence for the irrelevancy of fathers” — it was just assumed, Mr. Raeburn writes. And “there wasn’t a lot of data to suggest they were relevant, either. Now, there is a growing, but still inadequate, interest in fathers’ influence. Some new research explains genetic and epigenetic links that are unique to fathers and their children, while other studies explore the impact of fathers’ presence or absence. In many studies, there is no clear divide between the biological and psychological: Being around dads affects children’s biology, which in turn affects their mental states, like happiness, and their success in life.”

    The last sentence bears repeating when talking about Martin Ellingham:

    “Being around dads affects children’s biology, which in turn affects their mental states, like happiness, and their success in life.”

    Do we need more proof? How hard is it for Martin to be “normal” and right as a human being and a father? I think this is very hard for him because he lacks the emotional well he must draw upon to be “normal” or even to traffic in normal human emotional commerce. This is what we see throughout the series: A very damaged little boy inside that brilliant surgeon’s body, now GP to the town of Portwenn! It is always a struggle for him. His own father had much more swagger and dishonesty inside of him and he used it to get away with his selfishness and callousness. Not Martin. Too honest and humble. Father and son are not cut from the same cloth and Martin could not abide. This is what is so poignant about the Martin-as-father profile which is haunted by the Martin-and-his-father profile. Martin has it in him to do better. But can he find the necessary help to achieve it?? Great for Series 7 script writers!!

    Ironically, Martin would/should and can make the best of dads! O that he could peel away and lop off that baggage from his father. But he cannot — at least not without help. We look forward to Series 7 to give him that help in the form of counseling — alone and with Louisa. Amen.

  2. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    You really took this subject to great heights! I think there’s no question that we should include Martin’s father’s influence on him in any discussion of what he suffered through during his childhood and beyond. The program has provided us with more background information about M’s mother and she’s been the one who tells him so many hateful things, but we have also been given a window into his father’s brutishness. We’ve seen a recollection of M being treated roughly as a child by his father after witnessing M being belittled and humiliated by his father as an adult. On the other hand, I don’t want to go too far with this thinking because I kind of doubt any of the writers, etc. would have spent much time delving into studies about the effects of fathers on children. We all have an intuitive sense that fathers play an important role in their children’s lives, but like Oppenheimer says, not much emphasis was placed on how fathers impacted their children until recently.

    I think they’ve already done a good job of making M a much more involved father with his son than his father ever was. He still believes in discipline, or at least gives lip service to it, and he was considering boarding school until L squashed that idea. He certainly contributes a lot to the care of JH. It’ll be interesting to see how they have him handle a son who starts to walk and talk.

    M is such a mass of mixed influences and pulling them apart isn’t easy. I guess that’s what keeps us thinking about what’s going on with him.

  3. Mary

    It is a terrible struggle for Martin to be his own person, separate and whole from that of his father. One wonders how much worse off he would have been without the kindly benevolence of his Auntie Joan. I think as he grew up he desperately sought, like any child, his father’s approval/attention, and when he was repeatedly rebuffed he withdrew into himself, shutting off the valve to his emotions until he met Louisa. I think he is a powder keg when it comes to his father, there is so much anger he has repressed that it surfaces in the form of phobia’s or his general fear of connecting with others. I think he needs to forgive his father and let go of the pain before he can move on.

    The dream he has of his dad berating him after he catches a butterfly was a bitter peek at Martin’s early relationship. He has learned over time to put up with his father’s selfish behavior, bearing him grudging respect , but shows little faith or trust in him. He has been hurt one too many times. And even this bit of respect evaporates when Dad attempts to cheat the one person who truly loves him; Auntie Joan. Martin’s respectful attitude towards his father is veneer-thin after years of abuse.

    When ME in Series 6 finally learns why he is the way he is; it appears to be a revelation, especially since he hears it from Ruth. Its a great moment when he allows this idea to be absorbed slowly, like a spoonful of medicine. I think his understanding of his relationship with his dad was that it wasn’t very good but probably no worse than most peoples, so what could that possibly have to do with his relationship woes or blood phobia? His dad has wielded far more influence than he previously realized and despite the fact that he had no wish to emulate him.

    He now has people in his life who really care about him, not just for his medical expertise, and who are nudging him to look harder at the parental connection. He doesn’t have to live his life with the self doubt that his father inspired.

    I have seen sons find different ways to survive monstrous fathers but not all of them lead to a happier way of life. Martin will need a great deal of introspection if he is to increase self-awareness and strengthen his relationship with Louisa.

  4. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Let’s face it, ME grew up with two horrible parents and it’s hard to know which one of them did the most psychological damage. Being at home wasn’t a good experience and being sent to boarding school at such a young age wasn’t good either. Maybe he was happier at school than at home, but that’s not saying much. Joan was his only refuge and then that was taken away from him. He’s got a lot to deal with and he’ll need a very competent therapist. He was open to trying some of the methods the therapist sent him for his phobia, as long as it was in private. He’s motivated now. We’ll see how they approach therapy this time.

  5. Lynn

    I found one of the most painful moments to be when Martin’s mother uses Martin’s desire for love from his father in an attempt to manipulate him by telling him his father expressed regret and affection toward Martin on his deathbed. I got the sense that Martin wanted to believe it was true while struggling with his knowledge of what lies his mother is capable of.

  6. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks for your comments Lynn. Although I agree that Margaret tells Martin about his father’s supposed regrets to manipulate him, I’m not sure Martin is ever convinced that his father had any desire to express kind feelings towards him. Margaret first tries to tell Martin his father wanted to tell him how proud he was of him in the episode when she shows up at his doorstep. Even then Martin seems pretty skeptical and wonders why his father never found time to tell him over the years. He also gives his mother the cold shoulder when she wants to apologize and says that now they have a chance to start over. So I think he’s already suspicious of her motives for coming. The scene where she describes his father’s deathbed expressions of affection towards Martin is after Ruth has made him even more aware of his mother’s lack of warmth. In my opinion he has come home to confront her about why she’s there and to get her to leave. He immediately questions the description she gives of his father’s medical status and realizes she’s concocting her story. I don’t doubt that he would have liked his father to have said some nice things about him; I just don’t know if he ever looks like he believes his father wanted to.

  7. Linda

    I agree that Martin has an upward battle to overcome the abuse he suffered at the hand of his parents. When both parents abuse a child, it is very sad and very damaging. I think it is interesting how so many people cling to the hope that some day, somehow, vile parents will change their stripes and become the parents of their dreams. When faced with further proof of their disdain for him, Martin almost reverts to his childhood. Fortunately, he is smart enough to see right through them and to stand up to them inspite of the great pain he suffers. Martin needs to realize that both his parents were damaged individuals who never should have had a child. He needs to forgive them for his own good, and in his mother’s case, NEVER allow her to come close to him again. Martin can change the cycle of abuse by being a better husband and father. Louisa too, was raised by selfish and untrustworthy parents so she can relate to Martin in some ways. He, of course, hasn’t told her all of what has gone on between his parents and him, so she is in the dark about all he has gone through. Letting her in, would go a long way to healing the ridt between them. Auntie Ruth has nailed it on the head for Martin and given him some real food for thought. He obviously took it all in when she was analyzing him. I was interested in the statement that she made about haemophbia being linked to childhood trauma or incident. He dismisses this, telling her he had a “healthy childhood”. Why would he think that?????? I am guessing, there WAS something in his childhood that he has stuffed down, or has forgotten about. Maybe that will come out next series as he gets on with a sincere attempt to solve the problems he has with Louisa. I actually know someone who came from a horrible childhood who has married and has committed himself to raising his sons in a healthy way. So, it CAN be done but it takes a lot of commitment and drive. Martin loves Louisa and James Henry and they show HIM the kind of love that he has rarely known as a child. They say that “love conquers all” so let’s hope that is true for all of them.

  8. Linda

    Oh yes. This scene was powerful. Claire Bloom was a magnificent vile mother. Martin Clunes was awesome in the scene. I cried for him when I saw his face in reaction to to her diatribe. He was SO hurt by what she said but then came up strong in rebuking her and kicking her to the curb. Of course he wanted to believe his father had loved him and been proud. Any son who had been so horribly treated would want this. Martin learned that his father hadn’t changed, even as he was dying. He learned how much more cruel his mother could be in creating the lie. The hurt turned to outrage. I am so glad he sent her packing.

  9. Carol

    Hey everyone. Linda, I want to respond to your great question, “Why would he think that?”, referring to why ME would think he had a healthy childhood. Here’s my take, coming from someone who had a similar, though not nearly as bad, upbringing. First of all, we know that ME takes everything literally, so I am sure that part of what he meant was that he was physically healthy as a child. But I think on some level, he must have realized that Ruth meant more than just his physical health. My opinion is that Martin, like many of us who were brought up in homes where things looked fine from outside, has convinced himself that things weren’t so bad really, lots of people have it worse, and all of “that” didn’t REALLY affect me.

    I say all of this because I still remember talking to a friend of mine when I went to college about something my mother had said to me once. I knew, somewhere deep down, that it wasn’t a nice thing to say, but had always minimized it to myself. My friend said, “Your MOTHER said that to you?” She was entirely incredulous that a mother would say something like that to her child, and I had made it into nothing. It was a “light bulb” moment for me. It helped me to see that what had been said was truly inappropriate, and that my instinct at the time, that it hurt, was right. See, I had pushed it down to make it so that what my mother said was true and right, and that I was bad. This was a turning point in my life because I finally realized that something I suspected all along deep down inside was true. I was being emotionally abused. When you are so used to it – and after all it is your mother and she loves you, right? – you can go a lifetime not really getting it. Interestingly enough, I don’t even remember now what the comment was that my mother had made because the insight of my friend caused such a difference in my life, that the actual comment got pushed to the side in what became my new pursuit – recognizing that I wasn’t bad. Thank goodness for this courageous woman who continues to be my friend to this day – now we are both 50!

    This, I think, is the crux of ME. And perhaps a part of the crux of MC himself. I think that through all of the experiences we have seen with him, and especially the series 6 episodes, he is slowly awakening to the REAL life he has experienced, not the one he has convinced himself he has experienced. After all, with 2 socialite parents who cared tremendously about the opinions of others, I am sure things looked quite well from the outside. ME probably easily convinced himself that he was the bad one, and that what they did was right. (Remember his offhand comments to Louisa about his punishments?) And that HE was bad somehow.

    Now that he is awakening to all of this, hopefully he can see that he is not fundamentally flawed as he has been led to believe, can come to love himself, and then can love others. It is a journey that will likely take the rest of his life, but hopefully, thanks to “Portwenn time” we will be privileged to see a lot of it. That’s my hope anyway.

  10. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Carol, your remarks seem quite insightful to me. I can imagine that ME would not have realized how bad his home life was for many reasons. For one thing, it was the only experience he had, and boarding school wouldn’t have given him any more insight into what could have been wrong about it. He always comments that the punishments he received did no damage to him, and, as you say, even when he’s talking to Ruth he doesn’t look at his home life as having been unhealthy. I agree that his orientation towards the literal would make him think in terms of his physical health and not his psychological health. When he dreams of the time when his father yelled at him for not knocking on the door before entering, we can’t know how he relates to that because he never tells Louisa about his dream or anything to do with his recollection. It’s the mobile above the crib that has triggered his memory. I like that scene because it gives us some background info about his childhood. It fills in a little about how his father treated him as a child. The thing that is weird about the scene is that MC plays the role of the father and looks very little like the Christopher Ellingham we met earlier. If we’re really doing psychological analysis, we might think he is identifying with his father in some way now that he has a son. I’d expect a memory like this would make him even more determined not to behave toward his son like his father did toward him. We know he believes in discipline, but we also see him being very tender with his son.

    We don’t know much more about his interactions with his father as a child, but I have to believe he is much more involved with his son than his father ever was with him as a baby. We only hear what his relationship with his mother has been like, both through Margaret herself and then through Ruth. What we hear isn’t good at all and must have been hard on him. When Ruth has coffee with Margaret she remembers some shocking things about her. He must have gotten his values either as a reaction to how his parents behaved or from school. Pretty amazing how children put things together and find a way to push aside events that were hurtful. Like you say, children often blame themselves too.

    It will be interesting to see what happens next.

  11. Linda

    I too found it heartbreaking that she would try to manipulate Martin (for cash) by telling him lies about his father’s feelings for him. He really didn’t buy in but you could tell, he would have been happy to hear that his father cared for him. Thankfully, having seen no evidence of this in his 51 years, and knowing what a vile and evil woman Margaret was, he quickly understood what was going on. What a terrible thing for anyone – to learn that neither parent loved him, respected him, or admired him. It would seem that he always had hope for those relationships but that he compartmentalised that part of his life in a seperate part of his brain and did not see any connection between his outrageous and sad upbringing with his current blood phobia or his issues as husband and father. I supposed too, that he always saw himself as an unloved and unlovable person who didn’t deserve happiness. He really never knew what happiness felt or looked like. Ruth is the first person to really lay it out before him and he is somewhat reticent to accept it at face value. No doubt he thought a lot about it after. He trusts Ruth so he does pay attention to what she says. She seems to have hit upon some very important facts. She points out his emotionally bankrupt childhood. She reminds him of his love for surgery. She suggests a connection between his childhood and his phobia – something he has apparently not thought of before. She gets him to say he really loves Louisa and that he didn’t want her to leave. She points out to him that he did nothing to convince her to stay. He protests that he couldn’t stop her but, in truth, he just didn’t know how to approach her and that’s why he couldn’t talk to her in the hospital, in the car, as they stood on two sides of the bathroom door, and as she got into a taxi. I think if he had said almost anything to her about wanting things to be better, she would have stayed. I sure hope that Martin continues to seek Ruth’s counsel, and goes to other professionals so he can realize the impact his upbringing is having on his relationships and on his phobia.

  12. Linda

    Carol – that was such a powerful entry and I truly admire the way you have dealt with many of the same issues in your own life. I think you are exactly right about people pushing things down that are so unpleasant and sad. Recognizing that someone, who is a flawed individual themselves, can make comments and gestures to their child which have life-long negative impact, is the first step toward healing oneself. You realzed it and are taking steps to see yourself as a worthy, healthy person. Martin needs this exact thing to happen. He needs to see the truth about his upbringing and the effect it had on him. He can no longer pretend that it was “normal” or that he caused things to happen because he was “bad”. Sometimes we are able to forgive abusive or disfunctional parents for not being the parents we needed. This of course is the best way to begin healing. Sometimes, though, it is necessary to completely rid yourself of toxic influences so that your own healing can proceed. Some people are so toxic and so wrapped up in themselves that they are not able to change. I can’t see anyway that Martin could forgive his father or his mother so it is probably best that he manned up and kicked her to the curb. Now he is beginning to turn to those who love him for who he is. He has a lot to figure out and a lot to do to make the changes in his life that will allow him to have a happy and fulfilling life with his family. Luckily, Louisa, Ruth, and James love him and want the best for him. I think he will make it in the end. Thanks Carol for an amazing, thought provolking post!

  13. Linda

    I agree that Martin always had a bit of wary hope for his father’s approval and respect. Of course, we see Christopher charming everyone else while being dismissive of Martin. In telling him of his father’s death bed revelation, his mother, no doubt thought she could manipulate him but was not able to make a convincing argument. Though the hurt and betrayal Martin felt stemmed from his abusive treatment as a child, the little boy inside him never left and neither did his need for their approval and respect. Martin, of course gets through to heart of the matter and exposes his mother for the vile woman she is. He now knows her to be a liar, a manipulator, an unkind mother, and an appalling person in general. Claire Bloome played this character so well! Standing up to her must have been liberating for Martin and at the same time sad. He has to let his “baggage” with his parents go now and forge ahead to break the cycle with James Henry and Louisa.

  14. Santa Traugott

    I think one of the most powerful, psychologically “packed” scenes in S6 was when Margaret came into the surgery and attempted to convince Martin that they were “family.” When she told him that his father had always loved him, and he responded “he had YEARS to tell me that” — Martin’s eyes glistened, and I think it was with both rage, and deep sadness.

    I probably have mentioned this here somewhere, but for a few years, I did some work as a clinical social worker, with abused children (and with many adults who had been abused as children). What I was taught turned out to be largely substantiated in practice; i.e., children who have been abused almost always believe it is because they themselves are defective and in some sense deserve it. Why? because their abusers tell them so (just as a battering male tells his partner that she “made” him do it). And also and most crucially, b/c it is just too threatening to believe that your parents, who are supposed to protect you so you can grow up, are not up to the job.

    So this is a critical piece of DM’s dynamic, one that he has been in denial about for much of his life, and he is only now allowing into consciousness, I suppose, because the alternative of losing James Henry and Louisa is so much worse.

    Did the writers intend to paint this kind of psychological portrait? Actually, I suspect so. Most of them are of an age and social strata. and in a kind of zieitgeist where psychologizing is common currency. And as writers, they must also be keen observers of human nature.

    To me, the interesting thing here is, how does Louisa process this? We do assume that she knows next to nothing about his upbringing, although he has tossed off comments now and then that raise her eyebrows. It occurs to me to wonder, does she just think he is odd, quirky, maybe even does she buy into the Asperger’s diagnosis a bit? I think it will be a tremendous relief to her to get some better sense of him. I hope their couples counseling, besides working on their communication skills from the ground up, goes into each of their childhood experiences, so they can process together how they have impacted the way they deal with each other today.

  15. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Santa, I remember that you have been a social worker and I’m sure you are right about how kids process being abused. Isn’t there also an element of not knowing anything else but what they’ve been experiencing? In ME’s case, I’m not exactly sure at what age he started to spend time with Joan and have a loving environment, but until then he wouldn’t have had any means of comparison. Once he began spending time with Joan, though, would he have started to realize that his parents stood in stark contrast to Joan? How would he have handled that? Denial, repression, self-accusation, all of those? That, among other things, may have really been the explanation for Margaret and Christopher deciding not to let Martin visit Joan, which is along the lines of what Ruth says to Margaret in that great confrontational scene.

    I also agree that the writers have had ample opportunity to be exposed to family conflicts like this either personally or in all sorts of popular sources. I am 100% on board about writers being good observers of human behavior. In fact, I asserted that in my dissertation and in some articles I’ve written. Even before various psychological conditions were named, or had been studied in depth, many writers picked up on the traits that later became identified with a particular syndrome. Quite remarkable.

    As for the therapy sessions or marriage counseling they include, I would imagine their parents would come up. How much a counselor would bring in childhood experiences is uncertain though. Not only is this a TV show and not an actual counseling scene, but also counselors handle treatment in so many different ways. Aren’t some counselors very pragmatic and try to stick to the problems at hand without delving too deeply into the past? The past is past and brings up too many issues that become a back and forth argument. My impression is that what marriage counselors want to do is address the current situation and find solutions that can get the marriage on a better footing and leave the rest out because of the additional problems that can pose.

  16. Santa Traugott

    Marriage counselors really differ in their approach. I would imagine that almost all, though, would begin by strengthening communication skills, focusing on active listening, etc. And my guess is that is all that we will see of counseling sessions, which I think will be less of a focus than some have imagined.

    But as to whether couples counseling would delve into pasts — in some cases it can be very helpful to people to understand how their patterns of interacting with their own nuclear family have been shaped by interactions learned in their families of origin. It can help reach partner not to take some things so personally, and recognize that dysfunctional patterns can be left in the past, once exposed. I certainly think that Louisa’s experience of Martin would be much less frustrating if she had a deeper understanding of what had shaped him and what he might be struggling with. And perhaps vice-versa.

    But we won’t see any of that in the counseling sessions, I don’t think.

  17. Maria

    Santa, I would love your input on this as an expert, as I am definitely out of my area of expertise here. My understanding is that since abused children believe they “deserve” their treatment, besides repressing their anger, on a more conscious level, they often draw the – to them logical – conclusion is that if they are causing it, then their only hope of stopping it and gain the parents’ love is to be “better”, and ideally, perfect. It doesn’t seem too big a stretch to me to see this dynamic playing out in Martin. He clearly has very high expectations for himself, does not like to admit mistakes (since that would make him less than perfect), and projects that expectation onto others as well. Of course in many cases, his irritation with patients is understandable and even justified, but I have also thought that the degree of anger with which he expresses it is at least partly projected anger at his parents and himself. He is gradually consciously processing the monstrosity of his parents, but that has only started happening recently.

  18. Santa Traugott

    Maria, I have delayed answering a bit in case some inspiration came to me. What follows is in no way authoritative — just my take on this.

    Children who have been abused, either emotionally or physically or both, have at least a double whammy, They most often feel it is their fault and that they are somehow bad or defective. This can lead to a great striving to win approval and stop the abuse. Sometimes, the defense is to go so far as to “identify with the aggressor” . So when they win approval and approbation for their efforts, their sense of being somehow bad or at fault doesn’t go away, but what often gets added on is the feeling that one is an imposter — the world praises me, but if it only knew…….

    It is interesting that you mention Martin’s anger. Martin Clunes remarked somewhere that while he was nothing like his character, he understood him “and his anger.” So it is interesting, and I think legitimate in terms of literary criticism, to ask where that anger comes from, and what it is about. Primarily, I think I agree with you that he is mostly angry at himself and at the fate which has cast him up at Port Wenn. I would think his anger with himself is not very far beneath the surface. But yes, to a degree, I think a lot of his expressed anger at his patients is projection of his anger at himself. On the other hand, as Morwenna pointed out, a lot of his patients are quite frustrating, and he has been given genuine cause of anger on several occasions.

  19. waxwings

    Maria and Santa, these are very good observations concerning Martin’s anger and perfection—his adult twin protective traits—with their sub-text of denial and suppression, as pointed out by Carol several replies back on this page. All three comments have set in motion more thinking about this question—how the destructive impact of emotional and/or physical abuse in childhood is often manifested in later life, and what the healing process might look like to ameliorate that impact. I have no professional expertise, only personal experience, like so many others on this site who recognize the Doc’s problems as familiar ones.

    Like the famous stages of grief, I suggest that the road to health for the damaged child follows a similar progression—denial, anger, depression, enlightenment, acceptance, hard work to be aware and to change.

    Denial is normal when still in the sway of one’s parents. Once released, counter ideas to what is “normal” surface by comparison, and the anger begins, usually accompanied by numbing alcohol and drugs, or as with Martin, uber control and perfectionism. The former sets a low standard, the latter a high one. Both are crutches and offer the required barrier to feeling and unmediated intimacy, which the child has learned to fear. Both help maintain the denial, and set up the persona of the imposter, so well suggested by Santa here.

    The next stage is depression, which is just anger turned inward. This is what Martin is experiencing throughout Series 6 as his loss of control and his memory of his own terrible childhood is probably awakened by Louisa and James. His new family life stirs recollections of his old one, as Karen reminded us in the scene over the crib with the mobil. But this he has been repressing his whole adult life (similar to what Carol describes above), and resists it still, because he can—up through the last episode of S6.

    Acknowledging his own miserable childhood is too unbearable, the mechanism to deal with it not available, so he clings to denial and the old coping methods of withdrawal, perfection (in others) and pushing love away—all behaviors that ultimately sabotage the union. The internal voice says, “not worthy, don’t deserve it.” Need and want get shoved down and stay down until that moment when truth and enlightenment can be received from someone like Aunt Ruth. That “light bulb” moment for Martin (and most of us) requires a no-way-out situation, which occurs for the Doc on sports day in S6.

    After the terrible school sports award day, and Louisa’s even more terrible accident, Martin goes to the bottom, where loss of everything he loves and wants is upon him and there is no way out but up. Only then can he finally hear the truth about himself for the first time, and accept it, slowly awakening to what Carol called “the REAL life he has experienced, not the one he has convinced himself he has experienced.” This gives him the resolve and hopefully the courage to change, leading to the final stage of work that he must do for healing to begin.

    As Carol writes: “Now that he is awakening to all of this, hopefully he can see that he is not fundamentally flawed as he has been led to believe, can come to love himself, and then can love others. It is a journey that will likely take the rest of his life…”

    And like the stages of grief, none of the recovery stages from childhood abuse can be skipped. This is why even Martin’s descent to the bottom in Series 6, with all its depressing seriousness, was so necessary (despite how much we all might have hated it), allowing Aunt Ruth’s truth to be heard and accepted for the first time, and for the change resolve to set in. The enactment of change is what Series 7 holds out for us.

    It is too bad there are no short cuts to healing, and that suffering must follow damage like a shadow. In my view, that suffering is what makes Martin’s character embody such vulnerability. As with the child, so too the man. We can only hope that Martin’s basic goodness and strength will prevail, once he asks for help, and is willing to work hard to apply it.

  20. Maria

    Thank you, Santa (I certainly didn’t mean to put you on the spot –sorry if it appeared that way!). The imposter syndrome totally fits in. I think we see it in situations where Louisa praises Martin and he denies that he has done anything extraordinary, is remarkable, or any of the other things she says. This is not ‘aw-shucks, Ma’am, it weren’t nuthin’ modesty; he thinks, and often says, that he is just doing his job. He does think he is good enough at that but certainly not exceptional, and of course in his mind abysmal at anything else. Ironically, it seems it would never occur to those who actually are imposters to suffer from this syndrome – Christopher and Terry come to mind, for example.

    waxwings, your application of the stages of grief to “the road to health for the damaged child” is so interesting. It makes total sense that the process would be the same, since it is also grief, namely the child’s realization of all the damage that was done to him/her. Your explanation of how specifically how it is working in Martin is fascinating and eloquent. I know many fans were unhappy with the tone and developments of S6, but I totally agree that it was necessary and inevitable in the character’s trajectory.

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