My response to DM about the Rational v. Emotional

This post is the first I’ve published as a response to a comment by a blog reader. The reason I decided to create a post rather than reply as usual is that I have so much to say. When I write my posts, I do a lot of editing that I can’t do as easily when writing a reply. I often write down my thoughts, take a break and save what I’ve written, then come back and reread them. This type of revising is hard to do as a reply.

I will refer to DM’s comments throughout my response with the plan of making everything as clear as possible. In preparing to answer this post, I have learned a lot more about several of the terms DM uses and about Antonio Damasio’s research into the mind/self relationship. I hope what I have put together will stimulate more discussion. How rational and emotional reactions function in humans is a fascinating topic and, although it relates to the show, the study of emotions and how they affect our behavior is certainly applicable to us all. Should you decide you’d like to hear Damasio’s TED talk from 2011, here’s the link.

The way I interpret DM’s remarks is that they not only refer to the original topic of how emotions can be related to rational/logical decision making, but also to the topic of whether people can change (or even should change). When DM writes of the third component of the self or mind as being how one acts on one’s feelings or thoughts, he/she notes that this “underlies a great deal of one’s ability to learn and one’s capacity for change.” In the final paragraph of DM’s comments he/she states that ME made a bargain with himself while he was still young to become a great surgeon like others in his family (probably most like his grandfather who he admired), and that this may have been the only thing he ever wanted. To me that begs the question of who is Martin Ellingham and does he need to change to be able to want more for himself? Not only that, but when DM brings up the paradox of the Ship of Theseus, he/she is bringing into our discussion the concern that if ME (or anyone) makes changes of significance, he may not be the same person anymore. In the case of the ship, every part of the ship was replaced during restoration and Plutarch asked whether it remained the same ship. We could ask that question in many instances, and that has happened throughout history until today we have something called “Trigger’s Broom” which refers to a roadsweeper in the BBC sitcom “Only Fools and Horses” (1981-2003) where a broom has had 17 new heads and 14 new handles but is still considered the same broom. (Fun fact: the role of Trigger in that series was played by Roger Lloyd-Pack, who played the role of Phil Pratt in Doc Martin and recently died of pancreatic cancer.) Some people wonder if a person with a psychiatric disease, and who takes medicine or has therapy that makes them more stable, is still the same person? We could ask here if counseling will make ME a different person in a substantial way. He wants to change and believes he can change, but what does that mean? He can certainly manage his blood phobia with adequate therapy; however, would Louisa want Martin to be that different from how he is now? His emotional breakthroughs in S6 already demonstrate some change, and Louisa might appreciate a change in his willingness to express his feelings to her. On the other hand, too much change may not be desirable because he would not be the person with whom she fell in love. It’s a great question and hard to answer.

This issue also goes to the heart of DM’s comments in general and his reference to “thinkers from Aristotle to Descartes to Damasio.” In my opinion, Damasio’s theories about emotions are of particular import here because they are so current. Damasio studied people with damage to the part of the brain where emotions are generated, primarily the insula, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the medial prefrontal cortices. (The insulae are believed to be involved in consciousness and play a role in diverse functions usually linked to emotion or the regulation of the body’s homeostasis. These functions include perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive functioning, and interpersonal experience. The anterior cingulate cortex is involved with rational cognitive functions, such as reward anticipation, decision-making, empathy, impulse control, and emotion. And the medial prefrontal cortices have been implicated in planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behavior.) Damasio learned that when these emotion producing locations are damaged, decision making ability was also compromised. All of this is to say that without emotions we have trouble making decisions; therefore, as I argued in my original post, when we make decisions, even rational or logical ones, we must be accessing our emotions.

DM agrees that ME exhibits emotions, especially anger, disgust, and fear. I would add sadness, relief, and tenderness. He displays tenderness towards James Henry regularly, has shown tenderness towards Louisa when he rubs her cheek or expresses concern for her, and shows some tenderness towards a few others as well. He is brought close to tears several times in connection to Louisa, and when she returns his love or he convinces her of his sincerity, he is relieved.

DM’s paragraph that stands out to me states:
Considering the conative-self of Martin Ellingham helps to explain, at least to me, some of the paradoxes he embodies: he is a driven and highly accomplished professional, yet he is perplexingly passive; he brooks no acceptance for the status quo in anyone else, yet generally resigns himself to little more than enduring his situations and his phobia; he desperately loves and desires Louisa, yet he is perplexingly ineffectual at pursuing what he so obviously wants.

What DM asserts is that ME is missing the concept of “wanting” as distinguished from the concept of “having a duty to” do something. Want and desire are typically equated, and there are many theories of desire. I think what we have in the case of ME is someone who has desires but, when it comes to certain circumstances, is totally at a loss to act on them. As DM says, ME wanted to be a surgeon and acted on that desire, taking the steps necessary to reach that goal. He also decided he did NOT want to be with Edith and acted on that. However, when he becomes infatuated with Louisa and wants to have her in his life, he does not know how to act. Here is where applying the psychological theories developed by observing typical behavior may fail us because this character doesn’t conform to these. ME has emotions, can act on them at times and be decisive, yet is paralyzed when dealing with this one person, Louisa. Perhaps, as DM believes, ME regards emotions as something he would like to remove because he would be safer without them. But I’m not sure how DM arrives at this suspicion. It may be based on how ME reacts to Louisa’s emotional outbursts. Emotions are painful for everyone. On the other hand, they are also pleasurable and we see this when ME takes Louisa’s hand and we see his feelings of satisfaction, or reads to JH or successfully operates on a variety of people. We watch as he appears proud of his handiwork and adjusts the cuffs of his shirt or admits he saved someone’s life. He is not anhedonic as an alexithymic person might be. Although he fits the definition of alexithymic insofar as an inability to have emotional awareness, social attachment and interpersonal relationships in addition to having difficulty distinguishing and appreciating emotions in others. He does not fit it in that he enjoys his clock hobby, sex, and socializing with his aunts. (DM is clear that in mentioning alexithymic behavior he is not making a diagnosis.)

I am not certain what DM means by saying that the bargain ME made with himself about becoming a surgeon may have formed the basis for his “haemophobia and may ultimately form the basis for his redemption.” Was the bargain one that limited his desire to one, and only one, acquisition in his life — the skill to operate well? Will the redemption come in the form of a reduction in his phobia or in the success of his marriage? Or both? Did it bring on his haemophobia by putting too much pressure on ME to perform as well as his grandfather? I’d like to have more of an explanation about this statement.

Like DM I am generally wary of some of the suppositions about how abuse as a child, or bad home or boarding school life may have impacted Martin. We are provided these possibly damaging influences without any specific evidence to support a judgement. The idea that DM expresses that there is still an “undeveloped” part of Martin is very intriguing because that could be what gives the writers freedom to explore all sorts of areas. Rather than trying to change him by trying to turn him into someone different, Louisa may find it possible to foster those traits that have languished and can be expanded now. In S6 they’ve given us signs of so much potential for growth in terms of his emotional status. In S7 we might be shown many ways for that to happen.

This discussion about the interaction of emotions with so much of what we do as humans has broad implications beyond this show and is another example of how this show brings up so many deeply philosophical and psychological ideas. I did not realize when I first noted the way the show counterbalances the rational with the emotional that it would lead to such a far-reaching discussion. I hope what I’ve said has been of value and that many of you will add your own thoughts. I also look forward to hearing more from DM.

Originally posted 2014-07-12 10:34:25.

64 thoughts on “My response to DM about the Rational v. Emotional

  1. Linda

    Oh my goodness! I am HUMBLED by the comments in this category. Such depth and so interesting! I will be re-reading this for days. I wonder if the writers of Doc Martin could even conceive of such analysis of Martin? Great job and great reading ALL! Thank you!

  2. Santa Traugott

    I am far away from home and a reliable computer connection, but just want to throw into the mix a comment relevant to whether, if there are enough changes the “self” is the same. A social psychologist, Hazel Markus, made a comment once that: “self is a verb.” Which means, I think, that therr is less bedrock than we think, or more positively, that we are all plural selves, with different versions of our “self” being elicited in different social contexts. Without wanting to parse this too much I do feel that “social” does have a lot to do with self. Just look at the brief glimpses we have of Martin Ellingham interacting with his London colleagues, or ven with Edith. Anyway, interesting discussion.

  3. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    We have definitely taken the show and and its characters in directions probably never conceived of by the writers, although I do wonder if Trigger’s Broom might have entered their minds. In general, though, I doubt the writers went to such lengths in creating the show and its characters. But it’s fun to have a discussion of this kind, isn’t it? Thank you for reading and commenting!!

  4. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    It’s so good to hear from you Santa. I was beginning to worry about you! I hope you’re having fun wherever you are.

    The “self” is a difficult subject and I would agree that we have many selves. I also think we are always changing. All the events in our lives impact us and change us, even aging changes us. Damasio’s observations during his TED talk emphasize how much the body is involved in molding the self. In the talk he used the example of a little cyst in his retina changing the images he saw which led to him physically having a different experience from other people. We all know that perception is greater than reality, both physically and figuratively. Much food for thought!

  5. Joan

    I’d agree that the writer’s don’t mean to go so “deep”if it weren’t for the presence of the Buddha and sometimes several small Buddhas. I did some superficial reading about Buddhism and it seems relevant to DM. Read Wikipedia on Buddhism and see what you think. I’m impressed with the quality of your last post. Sorry I don’t have the energy to approach this question (Buddhism) as thoroughly.

  6. santa traugott

    I’m really not sure that the authors intended it as such but I agree that thinking about Buddhism in this context (as many others) is intriguing. My knowledge of Buddhism is pretty limited, but it comes into the discussion of self because, I think, Buddhism doesn’t acknowlede a real self — self is an illusion which can be overcome by right practice. Please correct me if I am spreading misinformation!

  7. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I have resisted getting into a discussion of Buddhism because my understanding is that when Philippa Braithwaite was asked about the Buddhas, she said she would not explain their presence. I figured that must mean there is some sort of personal reason for including them and the writers were not involved in it. Since there’s no way to know what the personal reason is, my feeling was we would be coming up with totally unfounded conclusions. I, too, don’t know much about Buddhism. Oddly enough, my husband has read a lot about it and can see some relevance here.

    I have to ask him about your notion of self in relation to Buddhism. He has told me about some other aspects of Buddhism that could work with the character of ME and I’ll try to write them in a post soon. For me it’s a little bit of a reach to apply what he’s told me so far, and I still question whether the writers ever considered it while developing the character and the storyline. Even so, we can enjoy the exercise and see where it takes us.

  8. santa traugott

    i agree karen tha whatever the Buddhas mean to philippa, they are not germane to doc martin. but possibly t a discussion of self. I await enlightenment.

  9. Joan

    I saw Philippa’s comment about never commenting on the Buddha’s but do not think that’s because it’s only personal between her and Martin. That may be part of it but the Buddhas are too present and move around too much to not be an important part of the show. Other additions to the show from their personal lives are commented on like Mary their dog in series 1 and their daughter in series 4 was focused on for a longer than normal time for a child commenting “are you ok miss?” ME’s annoyance with Danny’s Born Again Christian comments, and Louisa’s attempts to see the “real” ME by getting him drunk touch on the contrast between the “self” she’s sees between ME and Danny and which she prefers. I thought for awhile the Buddhas appeared whenever ME was fighting with his emotions but that seems not to be true. I can’t predict when they show up and when they don’t so maybe that’s a too simplistic idea.

  10. waxwings

    Karen, thank you for your careful response to DM on the rational v. emotional. Both of your entries are full of ideas, interpretive analysis and insights. I must admit that I may not have appreciated all of what the two of you have written to each other in highly specific professional language, but one can get the gist of much of it. (My dictionaries didn’t even have some of the words you two spiced up your entries with!)

    You ask of DM if he/she doesn’t beg the question of who Martin Ellingham is, and does he need to change to be able to want more for himself? This you raise when you write:

    “In the final paragraph of DM’s comments he/she states that ME made a bargain with himself while he was still young to become a great surgeon like others in his family (probably most like his grandfather who he admired), and that this may have been the only thing he ever wanted. To me that begs the question of who is Martin Ellingham and does he need to change to be able to want more for himself?”

    I think you and DM are on the same wavelength and actually agree that he does need to change to be able to “want” more for himself. I disagree that it begs the question of who Martin is. I think, if I read DM correctly, he/she would say that Martin needs to access that underdeveloped conative part of his mind—the one that helps him act upon his wants and needs. It has been atrophying (and even actively suppressed) because he deliberately may have limited his “wants” only to being a surgeon to reduce exposure to failure in other areas. So as an adult, he has no experience with “acting on” other “wants.” Especially in the personal realm (and the one time he did, with Edith, he got crushed again when she turned down his marriage proposal and went off to pursue her career far far away from him).

    Then you write:
    “….when DM brings up the paradox of the Ship of Theseus, he/she is bringing into our discussion the concern that if ME (or anyone) makes changes of significance, he may not be the same person anymore….would Louisa want Martin to be that different from how he is now?….His emotional breakthroughs in S6 already demonstrate some change, and Louisa might appreciate a change in his willingness to express his feelings to her. On the other hand, too much change may not be desirable because he would not be the person with whom she fell in love. It’s a great question and hard to answer.”

    I believe that Louisa would want Martin to be different from how he is now in ways that would enable him to access more of the tender, kind, feelingful self that is buried deep inside him. But that’s not all. She would also want him to be more accessible to her in normal couple ways, and to be less rigid in how to be together in a marriage. These are things that can be learned (the conative tapped) with counseling and by building up a storehouse of trust (of her), and surely trust of emotions—both his and hers. (He has learned to be distrustful of most emotion because it was emotion that brought him so much pain early in his life.)

    I don’t think learning these things (or tapping what is already there) will make Martin lose the other things that Louisa loves about him. I do think Martin would be the same person she fell in love with, only with less of the defenses and baggage. To think otherwise is to suggest that Louisa has been a masochist all this time, enduring Martin’s sometimes disastrous behavior, and therefore, would prefer continuance rather than risk change. Why is it an either/or? Why would all the good parts of him that she loves suddenly go away with improvement in the areas he needs help with?

    I think she loved him for what was there, but which was constantly overridden by the defenses Martin erected against both intimacy and joy. This is the reason the conative needs to kick in, show him what he truly wants (Louisa and James) and give him permission to go after it with confidence. And Louisa can play a role here too.

    I am skeptical Martin can manage his blood phobia without a certain and different kind of therapy — one that probes deeply his past and brings that to bear on the present. The therapy he has been doing is inadequate.

    I agree with you Karen that: “without emotions we have trouble making decisions; therefore, as I argued in my original post, when we make decisions, even rational or logical ones, we must be accessing our emotions.” And as DM writes, emotions to Martin are something he would like to remove because he would be “safer” without them. You ask DM how does he arrive at this suspicion?

    We know the problem for Martin is that he is terrified of having some emotions, esp. ones that connect with personal need and want — such as Louisa and his own son. Emotional love. To have it and be at ease with it, and keep it, Martin needs help. He needs to tap what DM calls that conative part of himself to do it—to allow himself to trust and therefore to change old reflexes of suppression and denial.
    And I think we do know why he has so much trouble with his own emotional needs and wants now, as an adult. It’s because his own original needs and wants as a child (which were all emotional) were totally crushed. He learned to suppress and distrust. Sabotage. As someone with direct personal experience, no emotion is safest. Believe that.

    I fully agree with your paragraph:
    “The idea that DM expresses that there is still an ‘undeveloped’ part of Martin is very intriguing because that could be what gives the writers freedom to explore all sorts of areas. Rather than trying to change him by trying to turn him into someone different, Louisa may find it possible to foster those traits that have languished and can be expanded now. In S6 they’ve given us signs of so much potential for growth in terms of his emotional status. In S7 we might be shown many ways for that to happen.”

    So we have a lot to look forward to in S7. And probably a lot more to argue about until then! Thank you again for your good post to DM.

  11. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I’ll try not to keep you on a limb too long! Oh, if only I could provide enlightenment!!

  12. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Lots of good thoughts here Joan. Well, I have a tough mission here. I’ll see what I can do!

  13. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Marta, your points are well taken. You may be right when you say:”I think, if I read DM correctly, he/she would say that Martin needs to access that underdeveloped conative part of his mind—the one that helps him act upon his wants and needs. It has been atrophying (and even actively suppressed) because he deliberately may have limited his “wants” only to being a surgeon to reduce exposure to failure in other areas.” Now we have seen him act on these wants more with some success and some failure. I’m still not sure I understand how the bargain led to his haemophobia and will lead to his redemption, though.

    I also want to respond to this part of your comments: “I don’t think learning these things (or tapping what is already there) will make Martin lose the other things that Louisa loves about him. I do think Martin would be the same person she fell in love with, only with less of the defenses and baggage. To think otherwise is to suggest that Louisa has been a masochist all this time, enduring Martin’s sometimes disastrous behavior, and therefore, would prefer continuance rather than risk change. Why is it an either/or? Why would all the good parts of him that she loves suddenly go away with improvement in the areas he needs help with?” Martin has been such a mixture of tenderness, obvious desire, and obliviousness that I think any woman would be confused while also being flattered and moved. I’m not suggesting an either/or; only the possibility that any change could theoretically lead to a different person much like replacing the parts of a broom can be seen as either perpetuating the existence of the original broom OR creating a broom very different from the original.

    I’m guessing that any couples therapy they begin will make a stab at dealing with their marital problems as well as his phobia. Perhaps finding a way to conquer his hangups that affect the marriage will make it easier for him to manage or rid himself of his phobia. But we still need to expect that any therapy will be handled with some humor and certainly not be an immediate solution.

    Thanks for your reaction. I was looking forward to seeing what you would write!

  14. Santa Traugott

    This discussion reminds me of another point I was thinking of in the discussion of “self” which is that many psychotherapists do conceive of their therapeutic task as giving the client/patient access to their “authentic” self — clearing away the barriers and defenses that don’t allow them to feel and to want, to even acknowledge their feelings or desires. So while Martin does have undoubted access to some negative feelings of anger and hostility, Louisa, and presumably we, would like to see him be able to acknowledge his more caring and tender feelings, without being drunk or desperate. Perhaps we are all talking about the same thing in slightly different language. In that sense, the ship of his self is really being restored to its original framework, with dysfunctional accretions being stripped away.

  15. DM

    Thank you, first of all, for sharing your thoughtful analysis and for now, and again, stimulating so many more thoughts in turn. I may yet owe you an apology for my initial reply casting a much wider net on the subject of interest than I likely first intended (and that despite considerable clipping and compaction).

    Perhaps I can begin by refining and clarifying some of my original thoughts one by one and thus better invite wider and deeper discussion from others which we might then together tease apart some of the overlapping and, in many cases, still inchoate ideas therein starting with the topic of change.

    You’ve already deftly taken on the theme of personal change as woven throughout Doc Martin in several of your earlier posts. The number and intensity of the replies are a testament to its resonance with your readers and likely viewers at large. The writers of Doc Martin certainly do seem to have a special affinity for the subject as it recurs over and over in the course of several episodes and with many different characters. Again, what I thought to add to the topic was in the current context of emotion and cognition mediated by conation, a facility of the self that includes volition, and thereby serving as the means to enact change.

    As has been noted, Martin himself speaks explicitly (and thus rather uncharacteristically) and affirmatively on the subject of change with Aunt Joan in his kitchen following the disastrous concert date with Louisa. He painstakingly and hilariously qualifies his indubitable capacity to change with, “…if there was any point. But there isn’t, so I don’t. It’s quite simple.” (which resonates with the idea of conation and Martin’s capacity for change being derived from his capacity to ‘want’; an aspect which I hope to return to).

    I think I agree with Martin and most of your readers who’ve stated an opinion, that personal change is eminently possible (although Martin’s impaired self-awareness is a massive impediment). Yet the big outstanding question for me is, how much- if at all, has Martin Ellingham changed thus far over the course of the series? We may have to qualify that as ‘true change’ and not just some fleeting alteration of behaviour or awareness. But has he changed- measurably, at all? For me, it seems like: very little (and setting aside all his not negligible efforts to change, which by themselves have tremendous meaning).

    So, if he has not measurably changed and nonetheless Louisa has fallen thoroughly in love with him and ultimately makes the commitment to marry him despite immediately (and thus critically) thereafter is confronted by the utmost necessity that he now change, then what exactly has Louisa fallen in love with in the first place? And more to the point, to change now, would it not fundamentally change the nature of that love, if not to outright nullify it? Therein raises the paradox of the Ship of Theseus; what is the essence of something or someone and what does it then mean to change that very essence?

    I can’t imagine that the writers would intend to nullify the love and the love story they’ve created between Martin and Louisa like that. They’d might as well end the story with Martin waking up alone and middle-aged in his London flat, still a swanky surgeon but with his life still devoid of- well, life; it’s all been a dream, a vivid yet altogether unreal dream: Louisa, James Henry, Love, Cornwall, and all the odd inhabitants of Port Wenn. Maybe for a creative flair, they’ll have him awake suddenly on account of acute spontaneous epistaxis in his sleep (a nosebleed); annoyed, he wipes himself clean, ponders briefly what might’ve caused all that blood, shrugs to himself, and then hurriedly prepares to leave because he’s due in theatre in one hour. They ain’t gonna do it.

    Louisa certainly is mystified on how to explain her love for Martin, not only to the patently curious gathered for her first pre-wedding, but also genuinely to herself. That seems to persist up to their actual wedding day when there’s still been no indication that she’s had an epiphany settling the question for her. Yet I don’t doubt her love for him nor his for her and I never doubt the lovability of his essence either (although we viewers have the advantage of watching from beyond the fourth wall, something which is never made available to Louisa by other means- a note to her critics). This makes changing Martin even trickier.

    Yet how can Martin and ‘things’ remain the same? The environment is stultifying, for Louisa, for Martin, and for James Henry (perhaps especially for James Henry? His ‘self’ is already rapidly developing and principally through his interactions). The environment is stultifying even before Martin’s cloven hooved mother appears. So, what can change? The writers have boxed us in with this argument already by responding to us rhetorically as, “Ah, so you mean just change X, Y, and Z but do so without making him quite so- what, ‘smarmy’?” The paradox here is more than just one-half of Martin Ellingham (joke).

    Focusing on the story, I think this is the schematic which the writers have presented to us thus far. Whether nothing changes and nothing remains the same however, is not merely an ontological or epistemological argument along with the certitude of a big, fat headache. Which leads me to ponder: what can emerge from what already is to enable what could be? Which together with some more paracetamol, is a good place to stop for now.

  16. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks for writing again DM. It seems there are many things we agree on. We agree that Martin (or people) can change, that Martin changing measurably may alter his essential self, that we wouldn’t want him to change too much, that some of the criticism of Louisa and her reactions is due to viewers forgetting that she isn’t aware of many of the events that have taken place in his early life, and that the exhibition of emotion is intimately bound up with the intention to change.

    I am forever mindful that Martin Ellingham is a character who has been devised to behave a certain way because that is what makes him so provocative and compelling, and funny. (I don’t want him to turn into someone like William in “William and Mary” because that’s been done and it’s kind of boring.) We can’t explain why people fall in love and what exactly makes Louisa love Martin. I don’t think she wants someone like Danny who is too sycophantic. She wants a challenge and sees throughout the series that Martin is hard on the outside but soft in the middle, as they say. The fact that medical cases bring them together works well because she sees his deep knowledge of medicine as well as how much he cares. Beneath his gruff, monosyllabic exterior there is an efficient and concerned man who doesn’t give up. Falling in love is often accompanied by some indefinable feelings. Louisa has been looking for the “right” man. We don’t know what that means to her, but Martin seems to have the qualities she’s been looking for along with some she’d like to ditch. She defends him when others attack him yet finds him utterly unbearable at times herself. Welcome to the real world! These are the emotional mysteries of the human experience.

    Like many men he isn’t inclined to reveal too much about himself or his thoughts; he makes decisions without consulting her or even informing her; and he makes work his priority. The difference for me is that they have given him so many socially insensitive traits. As the only doctor in town, he can get away with telling off people and being unconcerned about his image. What he can’t do is woo Louisa while disparaging her. At the same time as developing a difficult male character, they have created a strong female character who won’t be treated as secondary to him.

    Portwenn can be seen as a charming little village where life is protected from outside interference, or it can be seen as extremely confining and too limited. Martin will be changing in S7 and Portwenn may be changing too. He and Louisa will work on their marriage and finding a way to deal with his phobia and their relationship. Portwenn may see some additional tourists arriving to stay in Ruth and Al’s B&B. There will be many more opportunities to interact with newcomers and Martin will hopefully only make small adjustments to his overall approach to life.

    As Ruth tells Al: “You write the story and you have no one to blame but yourself. If you want to change your circumstances, then change them. Only you can do it.” I love that for so many reasons. Of course, the writers are writing his story, but it also applies to using our conative self, as you would say. Act on your desires! Don’t sit around waiting for something to happen; make it happen. I think Martin will do that, Louisa will happily respond, and Al will also find out he is capable of getting his life going in a better direction too.

    I guess that’s enough pie in the sky commentary for one day! I love the intellectualizing, but I can’t help taking us to ground now and then too.

  17. santa traugott

    To make the discussion even more concrete: what is it about martin that has to change for Louisa to be happy with him? She is prepared to tolerate quite a lot of social oddness, but what she really wants from him, I would argue, is that he be able to share himself with her to some degree, at least. Presumably they addressed his high-handed decision-making after S5 denoument — now he needs to treat her as his “wife” — confide in her, share his concerns, TALK to her. When he refuses to do this, it at first bewilders her and then, when his pent-up feelings explode at Sports Day, she realizes the magnitude of the difficulty and that this choice of his — to live emotionally as a bachelor, is incompatible with her idea of marriage.

    My point is, he can LEARN, to be more open with her almost in a stimulus-response kind of way, that doesnt really have to address the black-box of the self. Many marital counselors would start right there. Cognitive-behavioral stuff can do a great deal here. Ultimately, of course, as he learned that being open with Louisa did not have adverse consequences, and that he could tolerate a degree of open-ness, he might extend this behavior to others and in other spheres, and we might see some personality changes. But I argue, start with some behavior changes first, and go from there.

  18. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Yes! I totally agree that Louisa accepts his social awkwardness to a great extent. She may need to remind him how to act when they have dinner guests, but generally she doesn’t want him to be artificial. He treats her more kindly than others throughout the series until S6, when he shuts her out and nothing she does brings him out of his stupor. As I said in another post, it takes the car accident to shake him out of being so wrapped up in his own world and by then it’s too late. However, like you, I think he’s now ready to learn what to do differently and will be willing to try. It’s a shame that something fairly catastrophic often has to happen before people make changes, but that’s the way of the world.

  19. waxwings

    Why DOES Louisa love Martin?
    This is the essential question that I focused on after thinking over this discussion between Karen and DM (and Santa) on whether the ship is the same ship if a part of it is changed, and, would one even recognize it?

    DM poses this to us when he/she writes:
    “So, if he has not measurably changed and nonetheless Louisa has fallen thoroughly in love with him and ultimately makes the commitment to marry him despite immediately (and thus critically) thereafter is confronted by the utmost necessity that he now change, then what exactly has Louisa fallen in love with in the first place? And more to the point, to change now, would it not fundamentally change the nature of that love, if not to outright nullify it? Therein raises the paradox of the Ship of Theseus; what is the essence of something or someone and what does it then mean to change that very essence?”

    Then Karen agrees, stating: “We agree that Martin (or people) can change, that Martin changing measurably may alter his essential self.”

    Would we really be changing his “essential self,” his “very essence” with some good work on his dysfunctional, shut down behaviors in the marriage? I keep thinking that I am missing something in what DM and Karen are saying to us…

    I agree with Santa that it’s his emotional bachelorhood that he needs to lose, and that he CAN make changes thru cognitive behavioral work. But Karen suggests that Louisa might not be attracted to him anymore perhaps because he wouldn’t be the kind of “challenge” she likes (compare sycophant Danny), or that his “change” would ipso facto alter the qualities she was originally attracted to.

    This made me really think hard about what it is about Martin that Louisa first loved and continues to love, despite the difficulties Martin creates for her and them in S6.

    Why would making improvements in the areas Santa outlines necessarily ALTER any of the good qualities Louisa originally found attractive in Martin?

    I am really baffled by this assertion that it would, and am having a lot of trouble with the idea. I hope this can be better explained as to why you believe this.

    So I tried an exercise on myself, and I invite others to join me: Why DOES Louisa love Martin, and how would changing his dysfunctional social and emotional bachelorhood side (what’s giving Louisa such headaches) alter the qualities that she loves in him so much that a) she wouldn’t recognize him; or b) she wouldn’t love him anymore?

    Karen has listed several possible and plausible reasons in a recent post, but says no one can know for sure what attracts Louisa to Martin. Agreed, but I also think we can make some pretty reliable guesses.

    When I got through making my list (below), I did NOT see how Martin would be fundamentally different IF, through cognitive behavioral therapy or tapping/activating the conative aspect of himself and successfully putting it in service to his emotional needs and wants, he changed to be a better partner in the marriage (and the broader world). And here, I must really second Santa’s recent statement that with therapeutic help “the ship of his self is really being restored to its original framework, with dysfunctional accretions being stripped away.”

    So Karen’s list of why Louisa loves Martin includes the fact that he is “challenging,” has a soft, not harsh, interior, is deeply “knowledgeable of medicine” also efficient and persistent, and is a caring GP. I think these are all key descriptors that fit within a broader list I would like to propose that defines what is essential about Martin, and what Louisa actually loves in him.

    Here’s my list, off the top of my head. Perhaps others can add to it. This is only an exercise, the purpose of which is to ask ourselves HOW Martin’s change in his dysfunctional areas would affect the following basic qualities that I believe Louisa loves about him:

    1. Martin is BRILLIANT with a keen intellectual aptitude, able to embrace the most exacting details of a first rate surgeon, to the larger issues of the wider world (music, art, literature, science, etc). His vigor of mind enables him to keep up with the latest in medical knowledge and sustains his healthy desire for learning.

    2. Martin is HONORABLE and exhibits behavior based on the highest ethical values with a moral compass always pointed True North. We see it in the strict patient confidentiality that he keeps, to his admitting responsibility for running over Mrs. Wilson’s dog, to wanting to do the right thing by Louisa and the baby in child support, education, getting married, etc. He honorably rescues his Aunt Joan from eviction by buying out his father’s share of the farm and not wanting her to know (so she would not feel beholden.)

    3. He exhibits CONFIDENCE in his professional work and has a TAKE CHARGE attitude in every medical event that occurs in the village, going to great lengths to see a patient, heal a patient, follow a patient afterward. This confidence in one’s own abilities is always an attractive feature in a person with great responsibility, and poignantly more so when that person is so hesitant in matters of his own heart.

    4. He commands RESPECT by having earned it the hard way — showing his considerable abilities to a hostile village, enduring their taunts while doing his job, and gaining their confidence, even admiration. He saves many lives. And he does this all maintaining professionalism and his dignity though ministering to them in difficult situations (esp. in times when his blood phobia arises publicly).

    5. He shows COURAGE in the face of physical danger or medical disaster, even when it puts him at risk or brings him into collision with his blood phobia. Martin, not Penhale, is the one that successfully intercedes in situations that involve guns, deranged criminals, arsenic-poisoned pensioners; he is the one to save Peter Cronk in the ambulance, Holly after her fall.

    6. He demonstrates RESPONSIBILTY for himself and others. In his practice he exhibits a degree of CARING that always puts his patients first, himself second. He attends to his own business and is able to organize his own life (household, cooking, finances, juggle a London apartment and deal with the daily operations of his surgery in Portwenn). He is also financially well off, at least until he had to sell his London apartment to help his Aunt Joan.

    7. Not least, he is physically ATTRACTIVE, keeping himself well groomed and always nicely dressed. Being a tall, big man is a very appealing feature that wouldn’t be missed on any woman in Portwenn.

    I believe that Louisa sees all of these qualities in Martin (mostly demonstrated via his medical practice) and she naturally assumes that these same qualities are inherent, and basic to who he is, and would translate in his personal relations with her. It is not an unreasonable assumption….I think she loves these essential qualities even through the worst part of Martin’s withdrawal in S6.

    Returning to my original question, why would helping Martin become less socially dysfunctional and emotionally remote in his marriage, result in a man so changed that he would not be the same person Louisa originally loved? Which of the qualities listed would be so altered as to be unrecognizable?

    Hoping not to lose sight of the ship of Theseus, sorry for this very long post.

  20. Maria

    This is a great list. I would add two more qualities that attract Louisa to Martin. because they are qualities specifically lacking in her parents that have been particularly painful for her:

    1. Martin is completely honest. To the point of being undiplomatically straightforward, to be sure, but he is always truthful. Martin simply doesn’t see the point of telling untruths in general and certainly would not do so for personal gain in any meaningful situation. Louisa’s father, in contrast, is superficially charming, but lies, steals, and manipulates and uses people. He does care about Louisa, but he has little to no sense of responsibility and when it was expedient for him, left the family. Martin is honest to the point of being guileless. He takes things literally and would have no idea how, nor would he want to, play mind games, especially to attract someone. He is trustworthy and steadfast, which Louisa’s parents are not.

    2. Louisa’s father abandoned the family, and her mother is flighty and superficial. Martin is reliable and takes responsibilities very seriously. This is especially true for medical situations, of course, but he also demonstrates it on many other occasions. It’s true that Martin plans to move to London after S4, but he makes arrangements for Louisa to be financially secure and is disappearing physically from her life because he thinks she wants him to. Of course, his strong sense of responsibility backfires at the Sports Day fiasco because of his inability to access his emotions – he has said he will go, and so he does, although he is currently in no state to do what Louisa wants him to do at this event.

    I think she is also attracted not exactly TO but BY his social ineptitude and abruptness. As much as they cause her pain, embarrassment, and anger, they intrigue her in some fashion, because they are so different from her own personality and that of her parents (and virtually everyone, for that matter!). It is not uncommon for people to be attracted to and even at some unconscious level envy qualities that are completely opposite their own. That is not to say, of course, that Louisa wants to become rude and overbearing. She genuinely cares about the people in the village, as they do about her. Nevertheless, they sometimes annoy her, and I think at some level she fantasizes about what it must be like to be completely unconcerned with what others’ feelings or opinions and just say what you’re thinking.

    It’s possible that at some earlier point in her life, Louisa was attracted to the proverbial bad boy, we don’t know. But that certainly isn’t the case now. She wants a lifelong partner that she not only loves but can rely on, admire, respect, and raise a family with.

  21. Mary F.

    I have been following this line of commentary and wow, its a lot to absorb….it is as if you have Martin on the head of a pin, and there is no side of him that hasn’t been dissected or closely examined. I don’t think a psychologist could do a better assessment, and I believe there are some professionals who are adding to the commentary. My own plebeian addition would be that I think Maria has nailed why Louisa loves Martin, certainly Waxwings covered most aspects of her attraction, but I do think her sad upbringing by flighty parents led her to seek out someone who had a strong sense of duty and would not run when the first sign of trouble arose. Remembering her statement “there are 10 things that are crap about you, but if you were a rock, you’d be Martin Ellingham all the way through”, it was as if she suddenly realized what it was that made her love him. This was a guy who would not let her down. (though, of course, he does!)
    Well done everyone!

  22. Mary F.

    Oops, and I didn’t answer Waxwings question! I do believe that therapy will help him considerably without changing his essential being. The “emotional bachelorhood” within the marriage, that has to go, as well as those “dysfunctional accretions” (wonderful terms by the way!). But I think his “ship” will remain his ship just the same. I don’t think anyones basic personality changes very much with therapy, what changes is how we deal with our issues and how we behave towards others. But I think our personality, assuming we aren’t lunatics, remains the same. We have already been witness to a few small attempts at change. It was a struggle, but he apologized to a patient, he blew off his mother and he told Louisa he needed her help in order for their marriage to work. All giant leaps for Martin.

  23. Barb

    I am somewhat of a female ME. I can relate and understand him because a lot of him is just like me. Our lives were quite a bit the same from childhood through young adult. You people are boggling my mind. I can’t comprehend all you are saying because I’m start to apply it to my life. Plus some of it seems over my head. I am much older now than ME, and I don’t think I’d be able to change without therapy either. But all your posts and replies help me to understand myself somewhat although I can’t seem to comment on them. I have tried doing social occasions, and I don’t enjoy them. So I stopped going. Feelings are hard for me also. I’m pretty introverted, but my DH is extroverted. We have been married a great many years. He is free to do all the social occasions he wants. I think he has just accepted that I won’t go, and he is used to it now. I busy myself with my own projects etc… well, never mind all that. What I really want to say is that I thoroughly enjoy reading everything. You all are so thoughtful and interesting. I really look forward to DM Season 7 to see how some of ME’s issues will be handled. I’m trying to understand myself and perhaps make some small changes.

  24. Linda

    As usual Waxwings, you have made a wonderful analysis of the question of why Louisa loves Martin! I always appreciate your sensitive and sensible commentary. I agree with everything on your “list”. I think that she sees things in him that she hasn’t seen among the “pickings” in Portwenn. She is fussy, thankfully and has not been willing to settle for just any man. She clearly has staunch values and even at her age, is not willing to compromise them for the likes of Danny. I found him to be insipid, by the way. The only good thing about him was that he succeeded in making Martin jealous! Who can say for sure what attracts two people to each other? I think, often, it is not definable – even by the two parties involved. Clearly, she sees a lot of good in Martin – enough to make her (sometimes) able to put up with his less loveable behaviours and attitudes. I don’t think she wants or expects to change him alot. Throughout their relationship, she has accepted him as he is, while poking a little fun at him and defending him, vigourously, to others. She thinks he is handsome and well dressed. She knows he IS capable of being tender, as evidenced by his behaviour during their first engagement and at other times. It is when he “shuts down” or shuts her out that she is most worried and unhappy. She hasn’t yet pointed this out to him directly – that he only responds affectlionately to her when he has his back to a wall and realizes he IS about to lose both her and James. Has he figured this out – not so we can tell ,but he might be getting it now. They both have work to do on the relationship but he is the one with the biggest to do list. Thanks for your great commentary!

  25. Santa Traugott

    One more quality: vulnerability. I believe Louisa honed in on this pretty quickly, and perhaps part of her frustration with him is that he is so seldom able to acknowledge this to her. The underlying vulnerabiliy, togethr with the courage he displays when medically needed is a powerful combination, suggesting even heroism.

  26. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I have wanted to write something and started several times but then needed more time to think. My first response is that we have certainly made a convincing argument for why Louisa wants to be with Martin. All of those viewers who don’t understand what attracts her to him should read these lists!

    My trouble with writing has really been trying to determine what to say about how therapy might affect a person’s sense of self, and could it significantly change the self. The Oxford dictionary helps with this. Its definition of self is: A person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action:
    our alienation from our true selves
    guilt can be turned against the self
    [MASS NOUN]: language is an aspect of a person’s sense of self

    If Martin seeks counseling, I think we would all agree his lack of introspection would be likely to get altered. Once he (and Louisa) start sorting out what is causing the problems in their marriage and have a therapist who encourages them to look at how they respond to circumstances and each other, their insights could have a strong impact on how they see themselves (emphasis on the self). Of course, we’re talking about a show and not a real couple trying to cope with their individual and marital problems. I don’t expect to get into deep analysis here like the show “In Treatment” did. But we’ve been talking about the self and its various components apart from the show too.

    Like the Ship of Theseus, the self is made up of parts of us that have been built over the years and become unique to us. The question is whether once we become more aware of how some of those parts should be changed to give us a better, more fulfilling life, are we going to be a new “us?” We will probably behave differently, and others will consider us changed because of that. We probably won’t have different values, although we might. Nevertheless, the purpose of therapy is to help us become more self reflective and thereafter modify our behavior. We don’t lose our individuality; we enhance it and give it a chance to grow.

    I think it’s good to know that we can reshape our “selves.” If we are troubled by a psychological problem and want to find a way to alter it, we shouldn’t be afraid that that could change who we are. What it will ideally do is help us to rid ourselves of the obstacles in our lives that trouble us and keep us from having the best life possible. A phobia that has been keeping us from doing certain things could be eliminated or greatly reduced, and we can now get out and do more. What we see with Martin and Louisa in S6E1, when Martin’s phobia has abated, can return. I’d love to see that!

  27. Santa Traugott

    I also having been thinking about what constitutes the “self” — tho I’m not sure I’ve gotten very far. It’s a slippery concept. But to start with, I think we have to distinguish, as the OED definition does, between a subjective experience of self, and the self as seen from outside — the “objective” self. Perhaps this objectiv self is what we call personality (although this too is a slippery concept).

    Disorders of the self, or personality disorders, are notably diffiicult to treat. Although there are claims made for some short term treatments, on the whole I think received wisdom is that real personality change may take years (although the state of knowledge may well have changed). But in short, I don’t think in the life time of Dod Martin, there is much danger of seeing a whole lot of changes in his personality. ((except for ones introduced for purely dramatic reasons, as between S1 and S2, by the producers).

    We hope, though, that he will learn to think somewhat differently of himself — that in fact, he does deserve to be happy wiith Louisa and in his career. Willl such changes make him less attractive to Louisa? I feel she would have to be somewhat perverse if her attraction to him waned because he felt better about himself. And I don’t think he is. I think what she wants is for him to develop enough confidence in himself that he can be an active partner in their relationship.

  28. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I, too, don’t think we’ll see major changes in Doc’s personality or that Louisa would want that. I have been concerned that some viewers want that, and I think that would damage the show. Now that they’ve taken Martin to such a low spot, the likelihood is that the next series will lighten up again. I agree that Louisa doesn’t need him to do much more than realize that she is on his side, and by his side, even when he’s struggling. For sure she wants him to talk to her more and let her into his inner life to some degree. For all this show’s involvement with all sorts of relationship issues, at heart it’s still for entertainment, and I think we’ll get back to more of that again.

  29. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I think you found the perfect quote. She likes the fact that she can count on him to be steadfast even when she’s not thrilled about everything he does. When he gets so troubled in S6, she doesn’t know where she stands in his life any more and that causes her to become unsteady. When he was chasing after her to earn her love, they had their ups and downs. Then, at the end of S5, the relationship seemed to get to a place where they both could be content. Now the relationship has hit some rough spots, the rock has some chinks. I believe the next series will repair the chinks to some degree. Thanks for the comments.

  30. Barb

    I’m a little confused. Did Doc know he was saying the wrong things to Louisa? He seemed confused as to why she reacted with anger to things he said. In one show, he told her he was better off not saying anything which also made her very angry. She must have been very attracted to him to keep trying. I’m hoping season 7 will clear up lots of things, and Doc will be willing to share his feelings.

  31. Diane

    This website is great for all Doc Martin lovers and I’ve enjoyed the different topics that have been discussed here. I especially like the conversation about ‘self’ and whether or not Martin would dramatically change if he and Louisa would undergo couples therapy. This changing of ‘self’ was briefly hinted at in Series 6 with Mike, the OCD child-minder. He said that the army wanted to change him and he wasn’t willing to do that, so he went AWOL. Doc Martin convinced him to go back to the army and try and get some help because ‘they had a duty of care’ for him. Would anyone care to compare and contrast Mike’s OCD with Martin’s blood phobia?

  32. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Welcome to the blog Diane. Your point about Mike is interesting. I will give some thought to comparing and contrasting the two men. My understanding about Martin’s advice is that he was asking whether Mike would be more willing to work on his OCD if he were allowed to choose therapy or behavior modification for himself rather than be forced. Briefly, OCD is very closely related to efforts to control one’s surroundings. When Mike elects to turn himself in, he does so with the assumption that Martin is correct that the army will consider his desertion part of his disorder and because Martin has made it his decision.

    I’ve written several posts about the topic of change. You may want to read them since they address the issue of free will as it relates to a person’s desire to change. I happen to have read a lot about OCD as part of my studies and feel like I know a great deal about this disorder. That was one of many reasons I am so fascinated by this show.

    Thank you for your comments.

  33. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Barb, my strong impression is that Martin is usually stupefied by Louisa’s reactions. His lack of insight and literal approach to what people are saying make it impossible for him to comprehend what makes Louisa so upset. To him it’s perfectly logical that if Louisa has nothing scheduled for a certain afternoon, he should be free to arrange for the christening that day. He also sees no reason why Louisa should be unhappy that he’s chosen the color to paint their flat in London without consulting her, or to make out the forms for naming James Henry without her, etc., etc. All of these decisions seem obvious to him and no sense that Louisa will feel like she’s in the dark ever enters his mind. Clearly he also doesn’t learn from making these mistakes over and over and always getting the same unhappy response from her.

    These miscommunications, or the lack of communication, are the key ways the series makes the relationship between Martin and Louisa so up and down. I’m sure they’re supposed to be funny during the majority of the series. They take on more seriousness in S5, however, and get really bad in S6 when Martin says very little about what he’s suffering through. We are led to believe that he now gets it and realizes she needs to hear some caring comments from him now and then at the end of S5. But that doesn’t last very long after all and he becomes even more closed off to her as S6 progresses.

    I think all the qualities that everyone has listed recently that attract Louisa to Martin, and the fact that they have a child together, keeps her hanging in there. It isn’t easy though, is it? Once again at the end of S6, Martin seems to grasp how he’s unconsciously pushed her away. He needs her help to be a better husband and now we’ll see how that goes.

  34. Maria

    Barb, I think this is a great question. As I understand it, you are asking how much Martin consciously understands about himself and his behavior, and why he acts the way he does. I think there are several reasons, depending on the situation. One is the cases that Karen describes. He doesn’t realize that other people want to be involved in decisions that affect them. Other people are separate entities with their own preferences, opinions, and ways of doing things that are just as valid for them as his are for him. Even if his way of doing something should happen to be the most reasonabie, rational, and logical, it still might not be what someone else wants. On top of that, he has rarely had to take other people’s wishes into account in making decisions, and so it doesn’t occur to him to.

    Then there are the situations with Louisa in which the feelings he has buried for so long come into play. He does want intimacy with her, but he feels vulnerable and is terrified, so when the possibility arises (in the earlier seasons, the various occasions on which she kisses him, for instance), he automatically immediately grasps at the one thing he does feel confident about, i.e., his objective and scientific medical knowledge. If we agree with Ruth’s assessment that he feels he doesn’t deserve to be loved, we can also assume that in these situations, he has to come up with a “rational” explanation for Louisa’s expressions of attraction, since surely she could not really like him for himself. In these cases, no, I don’t think he realizes he’s saying the wrong thing or why. (This is what he could learn in therapy – to bring all this into conscious emotional awareness. But that’s another topic!).

    As soon as he says these inappropriate things, he does understand from Louisa’s reactions that it was somehow wrong. To his mind, he is expressing interest, but she expresses annoyance, anger, or embarrassment. We know what the problem is – Louisa has revealed herself emotionally, and he is not only not reciprocating but seems to be condescendingly telling her that feelings, hers anyway, are nothing more than physiological expressions of chemical processes. But she doesn’t tell him what bothers her, so he is left wondering why she is angry. It is obvious to a “normal” (in the sense of being usual, or the norm) person that romantic situations don’t call for cold scientific facts. But Martin is not normal in that sense, and he is stumped

    Barb, I also found your earlier post about seeing elements of ME in yourself very interesting. I think that is one of the great things about this show; the characters are complex in the way that real people are and allow us to gain insights into real human behavior, either our own or that of other people.

  35. Linda

    Great comment Mary F! I loved that scene. She had realized that Danny was a kind of “fly by night” guy and that Martin was kind of a “what you see is what you get” kind of guy. Apparently, she prefers the solid type. I believe she said there were 20 things about him that were crap. Did anyone else wonder what those 20 things were and how she had an exact number? Did you notice Martin thanked her but didn’t ask what she meant? Perhaps we should start a list ourselves? We could start with gruff, monosyllabic, and rude! We know those 3 for sure from what she said!

  36. Linda

    Great comment Barb! I think he really doesn’t “get” that his comments are so strange and garner such a reaction in her! In the beginning, he would just let her comments roll over him and not say anything. As they grew closer, he would sometimes show his confusion or say something to her. He ALWAYS has an answer -he IS a doctor after all. He is used to listening and then commenting, without regard to the effect his comments might have. He has said to her that very little of what she does and says makes sense to him. How she has kept from knocking him silly mystifies me. She HAS slapped him but he didn’t even get that! She is precious in these moments when he responds to her affection by analysing her. It is just too funny!

  37. Linda

    Wow Diane. Great insight! Martin did point out to Mike that the army had “duty of care” for him and asked Mike if he would feel better about getting help if he was not “ordered” to do it. We do not know the reason Mike has OCD, any more than we know what caused Martin’s hemophobia. Perhaps Martin will discover a childhood trauma or incident in which there was a lot of blood. One would hope that Mike will receive therapy to give him insight into his OCD and even be able to change it or tone it down. I want him to come and live at my house and organize things for me! Maybe they should have intoduced Mike to Trisha Sommes who also had OCD. We don’t know what caused her . OCD or what happened to her either, come to think about it. I wonder if Martin would gain insight into his hemophobia if he took the pressure to return to surgery off the table? Is the pressure he feels to be a surgeon rather like Mike’s “orders” to be different that he really is? How is that for a compare and contrast? I am astounding myself at this very moment! Just kidding! Just sayin’! Maybe the Martins and Mikes of this world will never really fit in. Maybe they’ll not be ordinary. And maybe, that’s not so bad. Is that why we love the Martins and Mikes of this world?

  38. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Maria, I love your comment that one reason Martin reacts the way he does to Louisa is because Ruth may have correctly assessed him as feeling undeserving of Louisa and he probably doesn’t believe that she could love him. So what we have is a very tortured man who has a strong desire to attract Louisa to him while at the same time thinking there’s no way he can accomplish that. One thing that is a bit contradictory about all of this is his previous engagement to Edith. What did he think then and how has that experience affected/changed him? Is it only how his parents treated him that has made him lose confidence?

    I have a slightly different take on why he uses medical explanations on some occasions when they kiss. Beyond the fact that it may have started out as something humorous for him to do, I think that is the way he relates to the world. He is ultra aware of scents in particular. His cluelessness leads him to be surprised when his identification of a certain scent (and its potential causes) ends up being insulting to Louisa. At other times, like when he tells her she may have erotomania, I think he does not remember telling Louisa he loves her, or he’s embarrassed that he said something so revealing. Pauline has already embarrassed him among the townspeople by sending out the pictures of him with the dog, and he’s spilled wine on himself and hit his head. Once again Louisa walks into a situation that she knows nothing about and is blindsided by his response. He has probably learned to be defensive to protect himself when he’s being teased. I also think he’s simply awkward when it comes to certain situations and he just doesn’t know how to respond appropriately.

    The episode in which they go on the date to the concert is such a microcosm of their relationship and bears looking at in more detail I think. That may be my next post.

  39. Barb

    I really appreciate all the thought you all give to your posts. It’s a lot to take in, but well worth reading and thinking about. I am uncertain how to feel about some things. I’m thinking that if your life hadn’t gone the way it did you probably wouldn’t have become the good things you are or have done. Perhaps ME wouldn’t have become such a successful surgeon or such a master with clocks. I think the bad things in my early life caused me to be successful in many ways. Until a few years ago, I thought I had created a good life in spite of my early circumstances. I didn’t realize until then that I kept my life so full I didn’t have time to really think and feel. I spent any free time learning, taking classes, and doing hobbies. It was a great shock to discover what I had done and why. It is my hope that the young ME’s and Peter’s of the world seek help to become more complete. I think it’s true that some of us will never “fit in”, and people need to try to be more understanding. We seem to attract users and bullies. Who wants to keep dealing with that, so we tend to isolate ourselves. I don’t know why I was drawn to this show. I had never heard of it before. One evening I clicked on our PBS station, and I saw Louisa at Martin’s door telling him she was pregnant with their baby. Something about it attracted me, and I’ve been watching every since. I found the earlier shows, and I’ve seen most of them now. It wasn’t long before I saw so much of myself in ME. Next thing I knew I was looking for all things Doc Martin! hahaha.

    Yes… Karen, I think you are right about why Martin is doing things without including Louisa. I considered only that he was trying to be helpful and efficient. He wasn’t thinking like a married man. I did like that he was so helpful otherwise… like taking care of James Henry, cooking, and cleaning. Wow, that was great. I think you are right about how he perceives scents and that he didn’t remember telling Louisa that he loves her. I’ll look forward to a post about the concert. I had a feeling that was going to end badly when he didn’t compliment her on how wonderful she looked. Instead, he said something negative about her shoes. I have to say that I actually LOL when they showed him laying on the bed wide awake in his suit with the little flower in the lapel. Hmmmm I don’t know why it struck me so funny when he was in so much pain. That might be inappropriate behavior on my part?

    Yes Maria and Linda! That’s exactly what I was wondering. Those are great explanations for it. Thank you.

    I think part of the problem with the marriage started because Martin was afraid to say anything negative to Louisa. He couldn’t tell her he was struggling with the change in lifestyle because he didn’t want to upset her. He finally just became overwhelmed and shutdown. I hope in season 7 they will address some of Louisa’s problems too. It also bothered me in season 6 they never showed any affection between them and no signs of intimacy.

    I don’t have time to go into things as much as I would like. But I am studying all the posts.

  40. DM

    You ask a very good question, “Why would making improvements… necessarily ALTER any of the good qualities Louisa originally found attractive in Martin?” I suppose the short, but cheeky, answer would be, “When has anything about Martin Ellingham ever been that easy?” The longer answer may be for us to think about not just change but the nature of change. In other words, it may be like what Louisa says about the proverbial “stick of [Blackpool] rock”: you can’t change a piece in the middle without changing the whole thing.

    You cite a great many qualities that Martin Ellingham seems to embody; were even these taken away it’s likely much would remain to admire in him and more than enough for Louisa to fall in love with. Were it possible to do so recursively, we might eventually arrive at and identify his ‘essence’- even were it to ultimately prove ineffable. I don’t believe that a person’s profession necessarily defines their essence, but another thing I noticed from your list, is that they are sufficiently intertwined that we’re given the extra challenge of their separability.

    Perhaps a worthy thought experiment to consider is a test of Martin Ellingham’s potential beliefs about change: personally, professionally, and in principle. As you’ve said, he is clearly a brilliant surgeon who cares deeply about his patients’ health and quality of life, he earns respect time after time without needing to demand it, dishonour is not even in his ken, and when confronted with a medical crisis he takes charge* without hesitation and exudes a confidence that readily rallies others to his side. The qualities that derive from his practice of medicine inform who he is. But then again, is it actually the other way around? Perhaps we should just say that his qualities simply ‘bleed through’ from one to the other, the outer world to his inner world- perhaps exposing more of his essence rather than what Jungians would term merely a ‘persona’.

    In this thought experiment, rather than attempt to separate his qualities from his profession, consider instead the very same qualities making him an eminent and successful cosmetic surgeon. He would help countless people, make them feel better about themselves and measurably improve their lives- all whilst doing what he has explicitly declared that he loves to do. By implementing this change (and becoming essentially an implement of change) he could facilitate change to patients with literal surgical precision, excise out disagreeable aspects whilst carefully preserving desirable ones, ameliorate misshapen ones, implant improvements, and graft over deficiencies. He could assure himself that he’d not only be changing his patients, but he’d be transforming their outlook on life, and possibly alleviating painful and difficult pasts.

    Yet, there’s something about Martin Ellingham and his essence that to me precludes him from making such a change about himself without inadvertently changing his essence. More importantly, such a change, which itself demonstrates a certain attitude he may have towards change, seems likely not to be interpreted by Louisa as one for the better.

    Extending the experiment further, it’s hard to imagine Martin ever considering a similar attitude about such changes applied to Louisa. What if her continuing stress following the baby about her weight or body condition could be addressed by this skill, wouldn’t Martin recommend that? What if Louisa’s insistence on doing so many things: work, school play attendance, community activities, not to mention all that daily exercise she insists on doing- were mitigated to afford her more time to spend with James Henry? Wouldn’t Martin endorse changes with the same effect, particularly if they were derived from the same god-given skills he himself possesses?

    I make no judgement about surgeons who devote themselves to this sort of work nor to their many appreciative patients. Yet Doc Martin didn’t tell the distressed adolescent girl with the as-yet-to-develop breasts, “come back in a few years so I can fix you right up” or “here’s the name of a colleague. Next patient!” He did tell the same teenage girl his lecherous father leered at with the mole on her bare midriff, “I don’t perform unnecessary procedures.”

    Personal change, what’s necessary and what’s not so necessary, fundamental or even essential is generally not nearly as precise nor always as discriminating as a sharp scalpel in the hands of a superbly skilled surgeon. Some qualities may be inseparable from the not-so-much qualities, and as both a doctor and a surgeon, Martin would be well acquainted with possible side-effects and iatrogenic consequences. I suppose that such a belaboured experiment still doesn’t answer the question, “What does it mean to change?”- but hopefully it keeps us thinking.

    * Has anyone noticed or offered an interpretation of the scene immediately following Louisa’s accident in the surgery’s kitchen where Martin is searching for his car keys when his mother suddenly enters from the back door? Martin is understandably frantic with emotion, Michael is already overwrought with his own unfolding problems, when Martin’s mother enters and reacts with what seems almost like real emotion and almost genuine concern. It’s perhaps the most non-creepy we’ve ever seen her act and the least transparent of her feigned displays of caring about anyone and stands out as distinct (notwithstanding her hollow words and that she still can’t get Louisa’s name correct).

    I don’t know what the writers could be trying to telegraph to us here tucked behind the central drama, but could it be related to this topic of change and one’s essence and superficial versus meaningful selves? Nonetheless, we’re sure she’s not authentic. However, it does feel poignant and perhaps unsettling considering that similar authentic medically-charged moments are where we believe we see the true Martin shine. Does anyone have an interpretation of this scene and how it might relate?

  41. DM

    vul·ner·a·ble /ˈvəln(ə)rəbəl/
    from Latin vulnerō (VERB first-person singular present active) meaning:
    “I wound” or “I am wounded”

    The Latin etymology makes your point that much more poignant, considering Martin Ellingham is as dedicated as he is to treating the wounds of others, don’t you think?

  42. Maria

    Karen, I hope that you do take up the concert date episode for a post. I’m sure it would start another great discussion.

    The nature of Martin’s relationship with Edith and the broken engagement are a big, interesting question mark. I have only some half-formed (if not half-baked) ideas about it so far and would love to see this come up for discussion too at some point.

  43. Linda

    I remember laughing at that scene when he was awake all night after the concert too! I guess I thought how ridiculous he had been when she was showing him AGAIN that she was in love with him! Although he stared at her longingly, he turned away when she caught his eye. And, you are right, she was complimenting him when all he could say was “good evening”. I think, had he not told her she was moody and smelled faintly “urine-like”, he would have ended up in her bed instead of lying awake all night on his own! Though he did try to explain to her why he said what he did, he truly did not “get” that he had ruined her lovely moment with him under the trees. He was upset, I think, because she blew him off. It reminded me of an episode in series 6 when she put lavender oil on their pillows in hopes of helping them sleep. He sniffed it, asked her if it was her perfume, THEN said it smelled like a cat! Hilarious! After she had her eye mask on, he threw his pillow to the ground and pretended to be reading just long enough that he thought he could sneak out of bed. It was SO funny!

  44. Linda

    Oh. I forgot to say that I think your ideas about discussing the concert episode and his interpretation of scents would be great!

  45. Linda

    Don’t get me started on EDITH!!!!! I could write a lot about her! I thought she was vile, yet his reaction to her was quite telling and even humerous!

    Which broken engagement were you referring to Maria? He had broken engagements to both EDITH and Louisa!

    Oh yeah, IT’S ON!!!!!!!

  46. waxwings

    DM: I agree, nothing about Martin Ellingham was ever easy, and I accept that whatever “work” in solo therapy he will need to do to lose that part of himself that is pushing Louisa away and destroying their marriage, will be difficult and long, and may even fail. Esp. since he is so lacking in self-awareness and introspective skills.

    And I do also get the analogy with the Blackpool rock—that you can’t change the middle of it without changing its present nature. However, the distinction here is that you may be able to return it to its ORIGINAL self. I return over and over to Santa’s wise insight on this page that with appropriate therapy, “the ship of his self is really being restored to its original framework, with dysfunctional accretions being stripped away.” This statement is reinforced by Aunt Ruth in S6, when she tells Martin that he was once a very sensitive and affectionate little boy, who she saw change within a few years. So why can’t Martin recapture that original self that Ruth describes? And why would recapturing it alter him so greatly that he wouldn’t be “himself?”

    You ask: “The qualities that derive from his practice of medicine inform who he is. But then again, is it actually the other way around?”

    I think it is the other way around: Who he is informs his practice of medicine and other parts of his life. One example, not having to do with medicine, is when he honestly and immediately tells Mrs. Wilson that he ran over her dog. A less honorable person might have just ditched the dead dog somewhere and not told anyone. Where did that honesty and sense of responsibility come from? Surely not his parents, but perhaps it did in reverse—by his very rejection of their dishonest and irresponsible behavior. He decided as an adult that he would not be like them.

    He shows this in another revealing example: where did his sense of generosity come from when he sold his London apartment to buy out his greedy father so his Auntie Joan could keep the farm? Again, these qualities stem from a rejection of his parents’ values and less-than-appealing attributes, rather than the practice of medicine.

    Or using another more slippery slope example from his personal life, we know he is emotionally repressed, fears intimacy and thinks he doesn’t deserve love and happiness from Louisa. This comes out in his consistent and inappropriate verbalization of medical diagnosis whenever Louisa (in the early seasons) tries to be affectionate with him. He uses it b/c he is terrified of the emotions her affections bring out in him. Medical diagnosis is his safe haven. Where does this behavior come from? It doesn’t come from medicine, but from his learned responses as a child who was punished for having needs and wants and emotions that his parents couldn’t handle and grandly rejected. It is a form of self protection.

    You discuss many other complex and elusive ideas, but like Scarlet O’Hara, I will have to wait until tomorrow to understand them and to think more about cosmetic surgery, the nature of change, Martin’s beliefs and attitudes towards change, and whether he could extend and apply them to Louisa. The kitchen scene with his mother is worth reflection. All of this deserves more thought. Thank you for your reply to my question about how changing one part of Martin will change his essence. I’m not there yet with you, but I’m still trying to understand this idea.

  47. Santa Traugott

    I agree with Barb’s diagnosis of what led to Martin’s shutdown in S6. Louisa was busy with career and baby and like many people in this situation, she wasn’t paying a lot of attention prhaps to her husband’s needs. And he needed more order and space. But how to raise these issues with her if you already feel you don’ deserve her? Just shut up about tt and shut down is what seems to have happened — at least, that’s one plausible theory. They really didn’t give us much to go on, and what they did was as much in shot selction (all those boxed in frames) as dialogue.

  48. egwrd

    Would love your insights on the Concert episode, which I believe is the best episode in the entire series.

  49. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    There’s certainly a lot to the idea that having a husband or wife is a significant change for anyone, but when you add in the baby at the same time, you can’t help but have lots of stress. The thing that I find contradictory is that in S5 they seemed to be handling living together in the surgery building with a baby keeping them up at night quite often and still managed to get along pretty well. At least that was true until late in the series when Martin planned the christening without consulting Louisa. Then, at the end of S5, they reconciled. At some point soon after they decided to marry, had a very disrupted wedding night but seemed to come out fine, had a relatively good resolution of the nanny situation and went to the school performance together successfully. Even their dinner showed some good interactions between them.

    But once the blood phobia returns, everything takes a downward dive. They then start showing Martin in closed in spaces and up at night, and the marriage begins to flounder. What they seem to be doing is coupling the difficulties he has with his blood phobia with his inability to be open with Louisa. One guess could be that he hates to admit that the phobia that seemed to have disappeared has once again broken through any control he thought he had over it. I think the issue of control is very much at stake here. They’re already struggling when his mother shows up, but her arrival only makes things worse. Control is implicated again at this point because he can’t stop his mother from visiting when he least wants her there, he can’t stop her from intruding on him and his home life, and she tells him many troubling things. They have piled problem upon problem until there is no surprise that he falls apart under the weight of it all, and Louisa does too. I would suggest that Margaret overstays her welcome deliberately because she knows it will cause upheavals. She wants Martin and Louisa to separate so she can get her claws into him. Louisa realizes Margaret is a terrible person but is too nice to say anything until she sees Margaret at the airport. The perils of being a daughter-in-law and not wanting to appear to be the bad one! Luckily Martin knows his mother is an awful person, hates to see her around James, and ultimately takes Ruth’s advice and confronts her. With Margaret gone, Louisa unable to leave, and Ruth to help, they can now find a way to get back in sync with each other. The marriage is never going to be one of smooth sailing, and we wouldn’t want it to be or the awkward moments and humor would be missing. There’s still plenty of room for conflict without necessarily having so much gloom and doom.

  50. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    DM your musings over ME and how he relates to his essence make me want to separate the external, superficial, part of ourselves from our core beliefs and values. Although our exterior selves are representative to some extent of our internal selves, I think the fact remains that changing the superficial will probably not change the deeper values we have. The way ME dresses and carries himself is certainly meant to convey his attention to precision and structure and professionalism. I imagine that if we have some prominent physical defect and we have surgery or otherwise modify it, we can improve our sense of confidence and well-being. But it’s unlikely our core values that may consist of honesty, tolerance, anxiety, optimism, pessimism, etc. would be affected. Some of ME’s essence seems to have been formed in reaction to how his parents treated him. He has, however, chosen surgery to conform to his family history. He’s selected vascular surgery because it suits his sense of precision, technical know-how, and desire to be important to others. He believes in excellence and making no mistakes, which surgery requires. We could also say that saving people’s lives brings a certain respect to him that he likes.

    When Ruth tells him he has to change, and that it will be harder for him than for most, I believe she’s talking about changing his behavior. He doesn’t have to change his values or his inner essence. He should still be an excellent surgeon/GP who is willing to treat everyone alike. He should still be a person who loves his son and wife, and is willing to extend himself for them. Louisa, as our recent comments suggest, loves him for his core values and accepts his mannerisms in general. What she needs is reassurance about their relationship and his commitment to her.

    As far as the scene in the kitchen with Margaret…my interpretation is that she does appear more sincere than usual, but she’s a pretty good actor. She might even want to look concerned to convince Martin of her desire to help. Despite the fact that in his desperation Martin asks Margaret to take care of James, it’s clear he’d really like Michael to do it and Michael seems to get that. She’s back to her old self when Louisa returns and she tells her she looks terrible. There really isn’t any time when I thought that Margaret could be trusted. It’s perhaps a testament to Claire Bloom’s acting skills that she is able to make Margaret appear sincere here. To me she always dresses in dark clothes and always appears like a dark cloud hovering over their lives.

  51. Mary F.

    Yes! That episode was so many things: hysterical, frustrating, lovely, annoying( I remember yelling “You IDIOT!” at Martin as he lay on his bed) but it was the only way he knew how to communicate after being thrown by Louisa’s passionate embrace…and how funny to think that he imagined Louisa would appreciate his sense of smell?! This kind of miscommunication is why I love the show, it often runs the gamut of emotions and in spite of everything I still find myself fascinated by both characters. This Rational vs Emotional question has raised so many interesting points that I’m sure Karen will be busy with new posts right up to the seventh series.

  52. Mary F.

    Waxwings, when you speak of ME’s honorable behavior, it struck me that this has been a continuing puzzle which I have been turning over in my mind again and again and I’m still not settled on an answer yet….why is it that we have two characters who have such a strong sense of honor and decency, but neither comes from a background which would support or develop this gold standard of values? Martin’s parents are glittering cold creatures who think only of themselves and Louisa’s parents are warm but sadly lacking morally and ethically. Is it enough to say that their kids decided that this was not the path for them? My observation of most people is that the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, but parental faults and moral lapses are refreshingly absent from this pair.

  53. Joan

    Karen, I was reading some of your earlier posts and came across the one where you mentioned Penhale asking Martin if he was going somewhere nice and he said no not really and Penhale said oh France then. You said you thought there was another degradation of France and asked to be reminded of the situation. It was during the Fun Run episode when Mr. Briggs fainted while Penhale and Bert were in the cooler. Martin told Briggs he got an infection from someplace with poor hygiene and Penhale said oh, like France.

  54. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Joan, thanks for that reference. I think someone else also mentioned it. France is certainly the butt of several jokes in the series. It’s probably because the Brits and the French have a sort of love/hate relationship.

  55. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Mary, I agree that this couple could not have learned their good values from their parents. They have probably been learned in reaction to what they saw their parents doing. They rejected much of their parents’ behavior because they had some good models (perhaps Joan in Martin’s case, and Bert or other villagers in Louisa’s case) who were better examples of how to act. (Before you respond that Bert would not be a better example, I want to note that although he cuts corners in an effort to make money for himself at times, he tries to treat others fairly and he has a good heart that leads to him doing nice things for others. He seems to have a soft spot for Louisa especially, after Al.) I know cases of this sort of reaction to home life and find it quite plausible, if somewhat extraordinary.

  56. waxwings

    Hi Mary,

    Thanks for your question — it’s a good one, and I think there is another equally important question behind it. I hope what I’m about to say is not too off the wall.

    First, I want to affirm my original thesis that Martin (and Louisa) both chose to act differently as adults from the way their parents behaved. IMHO, their positives came from negatives. The issue of nature vs. nurture or genetics vs. free will is fascinating. (Brings up the whole issue of the nature of “self” as we have been discussing).

    The more interesting question to me is: when does a person choose to act differently and when does it happen? How does it happen?

    When we are young, we have no other family or experiences to compare against our own. So we grow up believing that what we “know” is “normal.” Then we get out in the world (separate from our parents) and we experience “other.” We see parents and children who are actually happy to be together; we see loving, kind, attentive adults who are not abusive, disrespectful, distant, narcissistic or violent with their children, and we have to, at some level, conscious or otherwise, realize that our experience was not necessarily “normal,” and that there is another way. We gradually realize that what we have known can be different for us, if we choose to make it so. That is, if we want it to be different. How this happens is the mystery.

    Along the way, with the damage that has been done to a child (as in Martin and Louisa’s cases), we have to have help experiencing a different model (as Karen points out — Aunt Joan with Martin, Bert Large with Louisa). For others, damage can be somewhat mitigated in adulthood with a lot of therapy, and a consciousness that’s brought to bear in one’s daily life. In the beginning one’s choice “not to be that way” is probably more subconscious than conscious. But as therapy helps a person to be more aware, and to change one’s behavior, then deliberate decisions can be actively made. That process is what is fascinating.

    For people who have experienced a relatively healthy, functional family, this change (making the fruit fall farther from the tree) may be hard to imagine. Or believe. But it does happen.

  57. Mary F.

    Thanks Karen and Waxwings, I appreciate your thoughtful responses and agree…I think also that their professional training may have underscored their dissatisfaction with the way they were brought up. Part of a teachers training is to promote ethical thinking and living, and ME’s training must have included how to deal with patients health issues in a moral and ethical way. Although he needs a great deal of help in the “bedside manner” dept…..but kidding aside, I do think the villagers in general are a decent lot whose knowledge of Louisa’s upbringing would have influenced their interactions with her. I remember Aunt Joan telling ME that she didn’t call the police to turn in Louisa’s father when she caught him stealing because it would have hurt Louisa. This kind of protectiveness was the village’s way of “righting wrongs”. It may be the reason why Louisa is so rooted to her home. It was the supportive atmosphere and guidance she received there as well as her observations of others. Burt may not know how to run a business, but he is a moral person. Still, even with all of this, it is rather unusual for L and ME to turn out the way they did without a bit of therapy along the way. If your parents always took short cuts around ethical behavior, then it becomes much more likely that you will do the same. Switching from the crooked path comes, perhaps, when an intelligent, sensitive child grows up and is able to look critically at his/her parents behavior and see how harmful it is both to themselves and their community. But I think it takes someone with great self awareness to see that and choose differently. Parents cast a large shadow.

  58. Santa Traugott

    This thread reminds me that I have sometimes thought that part of what leads to Martin’s “breakdown” is his experience of parenting James and of watching Louisa be a mother to James. It must stir in him the suppressed memories of how badly his parents treated him, in contrast — something that he has always tried to deny, but which has become increasingly more difficult. He KNOWS that Louisa is a warm and loving mother, and can’t help but contrast this with Margaret. And he KNOWS that he could not shut James away in a cupboard or hit him with a belt. This is how I’ve interpreted the scene where, unable to sleep, he stands for a moment over James’ crib.

  59. Mary F.

    Yes, Santa, I find it truly amazing that Martin never loses his temper with James or treats him in any abusive way, he has certainly learned what NOT to do from his parents horrendous treatment of himself. But he still has a very tough time showing his son any real affection, we never see him kissing him or telling him he loves him. Perhaps he thinks his son will know this by osmosis or by the fact that he never hurts him. ME is on the right path, but feeling a bit alien around his son, almost as if he is someone else’s baby. With therapy he should start to feel more comfortable with showing his love. We know he loves him but I just wish we didn’t have to wait 2 years to see it!

  60. Mary F.

    Oh yes, I think it’s a definite reference to the love/hate thing between France and Britain. Penhale says it in such a funny assuming way that it makes me crack up every time. Martin Clunes has said that Paris is one of his favorite cities in the world, so I think they are just poking fun at old prejudices. Then again, I’m not English or French and cannot assume to know much about this cultural squabble.

  61. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I remember you bringing this up before Santa, and I think there’s little doubt that we all compare our own experiences to the ones we see around us. In Martin’s case, the show gives us several occasions when he notices the parenting practices of others in the village, e.g. Theo Wenn’s parents, the Oakwoods. We also know that he’s been impressed with Louisa’s commitment to Peter Cronk and other students. Not only has he stated outright that he thinks Louisa would make a lovely mother, in S5 he is clearly pleased by watching her hold the baby. Then when his mother shows up in S6, we are made aware that he is very wary of having her around James. So it seems likely that he considers Louisa the best example of a mother, and one who gives their son the love and comfort a child should have. What you are saying is his view of how a child/baby should be treated by its mother is a good example of how that contrasts with the memories he has from his own childhood. That seems absolutely true.

    I think we’ve looked at that scene in the bedroom before too, and agreed that he seems deep in thought about the status of his family. I think I said something like the camera pans from the head of the bed, past Louisa, to Martin standing over James lying asleep in the crib. His life is there in that room, and he seems tortured by what has been going on within him and keeping him up at night, and how that might impact them. It’s a very powerful scene and one that I find remains implanted in my memory. Throughout S5 and 6, Martin is an attentive and tender father to James which makes it incredibly hard to imagine him ever doing anything too harsh. He is a believer in discipline, however, so we’ll see how that plays out. Up until now we’ve had a baby who has not been very difficult at all. Once the baby is walking and they have to childproof the house and deal with moods, who knows how Martin will react? Of course, we may not get too much of that since the show is not really centered on the baby as much as it is about the parents. Childcare can be a trouble spot for parents though. I guess we’ll soon find out.

  62. Linda

    I think you are partially right Barb about saying that Martin is afraid to say anything negative to Louisa because he fears it will upset her. He has not realized, that the relationship between husband and wife includes sharing struggles and joys and above all else, TEAMWORK. If there had been any affection and intimacy in series 6, things might have been different. They were like ships passing in the night. He does use the excuse that he doesn’t want to worry her to deflect her concerns too. In a way, it is a cop out. He is struggling and so overwhelmed by his blood phobia, his insomnia, loss of appetite, and weight loss that he thinks it must be a medical issue. He shuts down more and more because it becomes clear that this is NOT a medical problem. He has a very hard time dealing with the abstract idea of emotional issues. He really does not want to go there. That might open up Pandora’s Box and I think he is fearful of that. Louisa sees him pulling away from her and begins to feel it is HER that is the problem. She tries, unsucessfully to reach him. She needs to see that he has checked out of their marriage and her attempts to find him and bring him back to her have not been successful, more because of his unwillingness to accept emotional causes for all of it. He is so shut down, he can’t see anyone else’s pain or needs. He wants her and James there but has not realized the strain and stress that his emotional upheaval is causing. None of their needs are being met. Louisa gets reactive when under stress and needs to learn how to read him better. She should have seen that the arrival of Margaret was causing a real shut down for Martin. Of course, she has NO idea of the history of that family. If she had, she would probably have handled things much differently. When he didn’t react compassionately to her comments that she was not happy and wasn’t making him happy, he missed a chance to begin to turn things around. He failed to try to convince her that he didn’t want her to go and then used the excuse that he couldn”t stop her. This is a pattern for him – letting her go and not even trying to get her back or to talk things through. He does listen to Ruth and she has analyzed him well. HE needs to change if he wants to work things out. It seems he is willing by what he has said to Louisa. I hope she goes home and they begin their healing. Both of them deserve better than they are getting.

  63. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Linda, you make a good point that Martin’s reaction to Louisa’s comment that she wasn’t happy, and she wasn’t making him happy either, was not what she was looking for. But it’s typical of his replies throughout the series. He wonders why everyone is always worried about being happy. Happiness is an emotion that isn’t in his sphere of awareness, even though he exhibits both happiness and sadness at times. (I have a post about the meaning of happiness that you may have read.) Once again, Martin is insensitive to Louisa’s feelings because he is missing that ability to recognize what she means by her words. We don’t need to analyze what happiness is to reach out to someone who is clearly distraught. Whereas his cluelessness has been amusing to us at other times, here it is anything but. He seems to have had some sort of introspective moment while sitting in the car with James earlier, but apparently he still isn’t capable of allowing Louisa to know about it.

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