A Bit More on Louisa

I have written about emotions versus rational thinking, and we have discussed the contrast between Martin’s difficulties with expressing emotion and Louisa’s passionate reactions. We have also done our best to take the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory as if we are Martin and Louisa. When we did that, we rated Louisa as a definite Extrovert and a Feeling type.

In one comment, Abby explained something about how the brain’s physiological construction operates: “So, regarding Louisa, as long as her middle prefrontal cortex is engaged, she is able to understand Martin and his needs and limitations. However, when she feels threatened, as when he tells her she should stop working (which triggers her fear of depending on anyone) or he withdraws from her due to his depression (which triggers her fear of abandonment), her amygdala starts firing, triggering a fight/flight response, both of which we have seen her do with him. At that point, she is completely running on autopilot; there is no ability to watch her reactions to him and decide whether or not to act on those reactions. She simply REACTS. Her prefrontal cortex is offline at that point.”  (Jan. 10, 2015)

All of the above gives us several reasons for Louisa’s passionate reactions. I now have one more thing to add to why Louisa may be more emotional. In yesterday’s NYTimes Sunday Review, psychiatrist Julie Holland wrote an op-ed about women’s feelings in which she says “Women are moody. By evolutionary design, we are hard-wired to be sensitive to our environments, empathic to our children’s needs and intuitive of our partners’ intentions. This is basic to our survival and that of our offspring. Some research suggests that women are often better at articulating their feelings than men because as the female brain develops, more capacity is reserved for language, memory, hearing and observing emotions in others…Women’s emotionality is a sign of health, not disease; it is a source of power. But we are under constant pressure to restrain our emotional lives. We have been taught to apologize for our tears, to suppress our anger and to fear being called hysterical…Crying isn’t just about sadness. When we are scared, or frustrated, when we see injustice, when we are deeply touched by the poignancy of humanity, we cry. And some women cry more easily than others. It doesn’t mean we’re weak or out of control…We need to stop labeling our sadness and anxiety as uncomfortable symptoms, and to appreciate them as a healthy, adaptive part of our biology.”

As a woman, Louisa is subject to the same biological tendencies that all women have, and that generally leads to being moody, empathic, and more emotional. I think Dr. Holland is right that being emotional is a sign of health and crying is not a sign of weakness. In fact, in Louisa’s case, she does suppress any inclination to cry, and we could consider that unfortunate. I remember one occasion in particular when Louisa wants to cry while talking to Martin but contains her tears after he asks her if she’s crying. (I cannot remember which episode this occurs in. I believe they are standing at the back kitchen door.) To the best of my recollection, this is the only time we see Louisa close to tears even though there are plenty of instances in Louisa’s experiences when we might all tear up. They seem to have decided to represent her strength by having her refrain from crying. We wouldn’t want to see her shedding tears during every emotional scene, on the other hand, a few tears would only make her more human and possibly reduce the sense that some viewers have that she’s too demanding.


Originally posted 2015-03-02 15:18:11.

18 thoughts on “A Bit More on Louisa

  1. Mary F.

    Interesting article but I also think a lot of men don’t want to deal with women’s emotional side, having somewhat squelched it within themselves, so they have a tendency to shut down or make light of it.
    Martin isn’t unique in this regard and Louisa doesn’t want to be perceived as “weak” by him while she is standing up for herself (that was the episode where she overhears him belittle her ability to be a mother and headmistress).
    Its very interesting to note however that when Martin is exposed to a teenage girl’s tears, he hastens to comfort her by coming up with a placebo medicine. You could say she is his patient so perhaps he was merely fulfilling his “duty of care” but he certainly didn’t have to go that far. Very sweet of him.

  2. Linda D.

    I have just today, before reading the new blog entry, wondered why Louisa does not show emotion. When James was born, under less than ideal circumstances, she also learns that Martin still loves her has admitted being wrong about “everything”. Not a tear was shed. As Mary F. pointed out, she WAS upset with Martin for pitching against her when she re-applied to be headmistress again. She began to cry, but quickly checked that behaviour so as not to seem weak in front of him. She didn’t cry when he proposed to her the first time nor did she shed a tear when they finally married. I wonder why the writers chose to present Louisa this way? Yes, we know she is fiercely independent and she IS very strong because of her life experiences. But, I wonder if that confuses Martin to the point that he has trouble relating to her? He has a soft side, as has been pointed out, but she gives him very few opportunities to show her his tender side. I think that makes him a bit afraid to offer comfort to her. They both miss out on tender moments in which to progress their relationship. If she had not been so adamant that he not be involved in raising their baby, and if she had not just assumed he would not want to be a father, her pregnancy and their relationship would have been so much smoother. I’ll be very interested in what others have to say about this.

  3. Laura H

    If it’s a good cry we are looking for from Louisa, the winner has to be in the ambulance on the way to the hospital with Martin and Peter Cronk (last episode of Series 1). She cries for both Martin’s dilemma as he relates the first appearance of his blood phobia and Peter’s precarious condition, also later when she mistakingly thinks Peter didn’t make it. The flip side emotionally is that she gives the young surgeon, Damian Pitts, a good verbal thrashing in Martin’s defense. Why doesn’t she break down during emergencies with Caroline, Danny, and Holly? Is it because she’s witnessed Martin’s medical expertise previous to those later emergencies?

  4. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I think you’re right about Louisa making an effort to look strong when responding to Martin. I’m wondering whether they make her too strong and not openly emotional enough. I like her toughness and ability to stand up to him and I think it makes their interactions that much more on an equal footing and funnier at times. It does, however, possibly contribute to viewers sometimes thinking she’s not tender enough. She’s passionate in comparison to his restraint, but she could be more labile.

  5. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    To a great extent I agree with you. I think they’ve made her a little too strong, perhaps. By the end of S6, Martin has been tearful more often than Louisa. She has been tender and looked upset, concerned, angry, etc. without getting teary. I’m also thinking of in the hospital, both before she leaves for Spain and after her AVM operation. I should say again that I wouldn’t want her to cry too often, but sometimes we cry out of frustration as well as out of true sadness. I am amazed that she can hold back the tears under so many circumstances while also being glad she isn’t breaking down every two minutes.

  6. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Your examples of Louisa crying are true, but since they occur in S1, I almost discount them. Both Martin and Louisa change after that series. He becomes much sterner and less prone to smile, while she shows less readiness to cry. As I said in answer to another comment, I wouldn’t want her to cry too often. I just think showing a bit more overt emotional reaction when Martin is either too difficult or when he finally expresses his feelings to her would be nice. We’ve all noticed how rarely she tells him she loves him. I guess this sort of goes along with that.

  7. Carol

    Love this – “women’s emotionality is a sign of health….source of power”!!! So great to hear this within a context that makes totally good sense. Makes me feel a lot better about myself 🙂

  8. Linda D.

    That was an amazing episode that Laura talks about. Louisa was clearly very emotional, partly because she was so worried about poor Peter and because she realized that Martin was opening up to her about his blood phobia- a very personal revelation. is right to say that both Martin and Louisa changed a lot after that. Hmmmm. Karen is right to note that they changed after this episode. I wonder why they didn’t play that up more at the time. Martin doesn’t comfort her when she is sure Peter has died. He doesn’t compliment her on how well she handled things before and during the ambulance trip and yet they really connected during the crisis. She clearly recognized, (possibly for the first time), that Martin was VERY skilled and she complimented him in the taxi and explained Peter’s comments. Of course, there were the kisses and the bad breath incident which was really hilarious after such a compelling episode! I loved his lame explanation when they finally “bumped into” on another. It was a sign of great things to come.

  9. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    One thing we can say about this episode is that the wedding episode in S6 somewhat reflects this one. In both they contain their feelings for one another and, like he does during the wedding reception, we see Martin admire Louisa when she sleeps on his shoulder. He’s pleased that she has chosen to be close to him. Also, just as she takes initiative and defends Martin when confronted by the caravan owner in S6E1, she defends him and his skills in this episode in S1. So there is some continuity between S1 and S6 even though the main characters morphed into more exaggerated versions of the originals in later series.

  10. elle

    Louisa does, at points, become emotional. Another poster mentioned the birth of her son and if you watch, she does respond to Martin with a huge “ohhhh” and almost a joyful cry as he kneels besider her. She does the same when the baby is handed to her, you can hear the glee in her voice, exclaiming “yes…yes.” The ambulance with Peter we see her overcome with emotion as others have mentioned.

    She is close to tears in the non-wedding episode as she approaches Martin to explain the letter. We see her close to tears, again, as she leaves the hospital after being told that the baby isn’t developing normally. If you watch her studying the scanned picture, she looks to be wiping away tears. I saw tears as he leaves her hospital room in the last scene of season 6.

    To the point in another blog (or this one) as to Louisa’s declaration of love. She clearly states her love for him in the non-wedding scene as she explains the letter: “It says I love you, and I do…”

    Season 7 might be a season of tears.

  11. elle

    I wanted to add another scene between them in Season 6. It is at the front door as the taxi waits to take her to the airport for Spain. He gives her the baby and Louisa’s eyes are filled with such tenderness and is clearly fully of emotion as she anticipates their sad goodbye. A bittersweet moment between this couple and one of my favorites in all of Season 6.

  12. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Elle, you are absolutely right about Louisa showing emotion on a number of occasions. We viewers can see she’s close to tears many times. What I was alluding to is how she feels obliged to repress those tears rather than allow them to trickle out of her eyes. I don’t know if I would be so capable of holding back the tears. I get the impression that CC has been told to show emotion and come to the edge of crying without letting tears actually form. We wouldn’t want her to be a blubbering mess, and she is supposed to be a strong and competent female figure. Now and then, however, we could see a tear or two, e.g. in S6 when Martin refuses to have breakfast with her and turns down her suggestion of the three of them taking a trip. By this time she is at her wit’s end and trying very hard to reach out to him. A few tears might have been expected, although perhaps that’s exactly the problem. She is so concerned about holding herself together that her true feelings have been kept in check for a long time and now she struggles to release them. Primarily I was struck by the assertion made in the article that crying should not be considered a sign of weakness but a source of power. I think this show has done a great job of including strong women and could do more to accept that women cry and that’s healthy.

  13. elle

    I wonder if it isn’t more of a cultural influence or the British “reserve” that we are seeing in her choices (actor) or in the character of Louisa that feels the need to “repress” her tears.

    In general, women are scrutinized in many male dominated environments where crying is considered unprofessional or a sign of weakness. With Louisa, it may simply be her own biology and the need to show strength. Ironically, the scene that you mention where Louisa is in his kitchen as she scolds him for interfering (and begins to cry) you’ll see Martin, in response, soften towards her. Yes, to your point, he asks “why are you crying” but he is moved by her tears. As far as the viewer, I am more affected by the performer that shows restraint but is still able to evoke or stir my emtions/tears.

  14. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Elle, you are so right about the stereotype that the British are less likely to show emotion. There was even a joke in the kids’ movie “Planes” about that. The British airplane says “I’m British and I don’t cry” or something like that. I suppose that could be related to this topic!

    I certainly agree that I wouldn’t want Louisa to cry at the drop of a hat and that we wouldn’t be nearly as sympathetic to her if she did. We’d probably want to throw something at the TV after too much of that! I just wonder if there could be some occasions when we see actual tears, but I don’t want to make too much of it.

  15. Sally

    When Chris Parsons says “if Martin stays a little longer you( Lousia) won’t have to fend for yourself”. Louisa responds “I won’t be fending” I’m perfectly capable of taking care of the baby by myself. However, both times she leaves Martin she goes to her mother rather than look for her own place in the village. I don’t think she is quite as strong as she thinks she is. In season 6 Martin points out that Louisa doesn’t even like her mother and yet she would rather go to her mother than search for her own place or stay home and work on their marriage.

  16. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Good points Sally! Louisa may not be as strong as she thinks and she continues to lean on her mother even after her mother has done so many things to let her down. Aren’t we often surprised that people seek out their parents even after they have been treated poorly by them? There’s strong filial attachment in most of us!

  17. Linda D.

    Hmmmm. Nice observation Sally. It is interesting that she runs to her mother both times. Clearly, she has few options and her mother is better than no one. She needs someone to talk with about her problems.

  18. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    She needs someone to talk to and she is given few options, as you say. I suggested in my post on “The Importance of Mothers” recently that her decision to choose her mother is an implication that she still needs her mother’s approval and that she continues to want a relationship with her mother despite the many times her mother has disappointed her. I don’t know if they were deliberately pointing out how much a child needs his/her mother no matter what the age, or if they simply needed a place for Louisa to go, or both. It’s another interesting mixture of possibilities, isn’t it?

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