Over the past few months I have been collecting articles that relate to many of the topics we have been discussing on this blog. I don’t think they merit individual posts so I am collating them here in one post. Please respond to whichever ones take your fancy.
I’ll begin this collection with the topic of social anxiety and other related subjects:
ME certainly does not like to socialize, and there have been several times when it was clear that speaking in front of a group was unpleasant for him and he was incredibly bad at it. He rarely wants to attend social events like parties, and he turns down all offers to have a pint or have a friendly interaction with Joe (or Mark from earlier series).
An article I read made me wonder about the origins of social anxiety and whether the humorous set pieces in DM where he unequivocally turns down an invitation to a wedding or an opportunity to join a group could also be associated with other events in his life and shed some light on the plight of people who suffer from social anxiety.
The article quotes, Stefan G. Hofmann, the director of the Social Anxiety Program at Boston University: “Social anxiety is a result of the fear of a possibility that we will not be accepted by our peers. It’s the fear of negative evaluation by others, and that is [part of] a very fundamental, biological need to be liked.”
“Social anxiety is a very normal stage that children go through, [along with] separation anxiety and stranger anxiety.”
Also, “Social anxiety disorder is the most common form among all the anxiety disorders. It actually is also ranked, in comparison to all the other mental disorders, as one of the most common disorders, next only to depression and substance use disorder. Thirteen out of 100 people meet criteria for social anxiety disorder [at some point in life].”
“The definition of a mental disorder is that it causes either significant distress, and/or significant interference in one’s life. So you might be able to perform normally during daily life, but you’re terribly distressed around these social situations, such as meeting people, giving speeches, or doing things in front of people.”
We have a pretty good example of this disorder in the character of Martin Ellingham. (BTW, I wouldn’t say that negates anything I said about him as a superhero. Because superheroes need to hide their identities they harbor a higher than average need to be alone and often do not socialize unless it helps them capture the villain.) He would rather stay at home, especially with Louisa and James, than attend any of the community events in Portwenn.
This sort of avoidance of social interaction also connects to another article that was in today’s NYTimes. This article brings up both being in social settings and how to achieve happiness. We might say that both ME and Louisa could use more of what we might call networking or perhaps associating with others on a personal basis. Like many people who work, they have plenty of interfacing with colleagues and clients/patients/students/parents while having very little with someone in whom they can confide. Along those lines there is a humorous article, also in the Times, about complaining. The author loves to complain and says, “Being a person is terrible. And complaining about it is the purest, most soothing form of protest there is. Complaining feels so good. It’s like casting off the oppressive wool coat you’ve been buried under since October on that first truly beautiful warm April day. Pointlessly yelling into the void about some minor injustice you’ve suffered is the perfect relief for the giant wave of anxiety crashing against your insides, a balm for the wounds that riding public transportation with people who don’t use headphones while they listen to music can inflict upon your weary soul. It doesn’t even have to be verbal. The shared grimace and eye roll between me and the other woman who was inconvenienced by the oversize suitcase the man in Seat 3B tried to sneak past the flight attendant can feel better than a long hug. Complaining is a hot bath for your feelings.” Obviously she would not recommend anything close to repressing one’s feelings. In fact, she might consider ME’s outbursts about the townspeople very healthy for him. Not only that, but the occasional shared eye contact between ME and Morwenna or Louisa connects them in a somewhat intimate way.
That leads me to another article that recently appeared in the NYTimes. In this article the wife of a married couple, Peter Pearson and Ellyn Bader, who have established a couple’s therapy institute is quoted as saying,“he’s lots of things that my best friend isn’t, but my best friend is lots of things he’s not.” Her point is that having a close connection to one’s spouse does not satisfy all of our needs in terms of having someone to talk to and divulge intimate thoughts to. Sometimes those thoughts might be about one’s spouse! This pair also challenge “the notion that you shouldn’t get married to change someone.” ‘I think that’s what marriage is about,’ Dr. Bader says. ‘It’s where some of the juices come from, and it’s also how you get the best out of the person you marry.’ Of course we know that part of the reason ME and Louisa don’t have personal friends is the constraint of the show. Whereas they bring in all sorts of outsiders during each series, and in S8 we seem to have at least one new addition in each episode, most of these are “one and dones,” as they say. We will never see them again and they do not develop into anyone who becomes a confidant. Louisa has had Holly and Isobel, but they did more confiding in her than she did in them. Martin has had Roger Fenn and Chris Parsons very briefly and not often. With them he listens and rarely reveals much, especially after S1.
The change comments are interesting. We might argue with that position; however, there is certainly some indisputable validity to them. If we don’t acknowledge that we change throughout our marriage, we would be denying the truth, and I doubt any of us has never tried to change something about our spouse.
In regard to the notion of changing someone you love, there was another article in the NYTimes that engaged with that topic. They distill their argument by saying, “To make us feel loved and valued, our spouse must convey appreciation for the person we currently are. To help us grow, he or she must emphasize the discrepancy between that person and the person we can ideally become, typically by casting a sober, critical eye on our faults.” They admit that this balancing act is very demanding and hard to achieve yet extremely gratifying. Their examples appear to recognize that it usually falls to one spouse (or partner) to fulfill this task. In the case of ME and Louisa, we could say that ME is fairly comfortable in his role as GP and the sense of accomplishment it gives him and that it’s Louisa who is still searching to find that level of satisfaction both at home and at work. We might actually want to applaud ME for pushing Louisa to raise her competency both at home and at work, and even in her new endeavor to become a child therapist, if it weren’t for the fact that he rarely demonstrates any affection or loving support for her. He’s more in the territory of belittling her and showing off his own abilities and knowledge. She could use more expression of love and appreciation!
I am clearly always thinking about what we see in this show while I read the newspaper. These articles also appeal to me on a personal level. I’m interested to see what kind of reaction I get from all of you.