Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Action

A roundup of psychoanalytic points of view

Mad Men: Don Draper on the Couch

Many persistent difficulties with living a full, meaningful life stem from the aftermath of psychological trauma. Read More

Thanks for this... I wish the

Thanks for this... I wish the author had gone more in-depth with a couple things here. Relational psychoanalytic conceptualization! Trauma as a word on its own does not explain Draper's behavior/sxs from a relational psychoanalytic perspective. Don's introjects regarding authority figures and nurturance are arguably spoiled and self-harming for him to exist in reference to. Additionally, he certainly behaves as someone who relies heavily on splitting - Meg was all good for awhile; then she's all bad. Same with Betty. Same with people he has worked with. He will surely do the same with a therapist. Additionally, he has a relationship with alcohol, smoking, and philandering that appears to me, at least, to assist him in keeping distance between himself and others (and between himself and himself) and provide a sense of control over others and his own feelings (while in reality they're likely also fixations related to paranoid distrust of others, arguably arisen from the traumatic loss of his mother and abusive upbringing). Developmentally, he seems trapped at the oral stage and how he relates to others indicates infantile terrors.

As long as he continues to use those behaviors in excess while in therapy - the therapeutic relationship presents another example of how Draper manages attachment and intimacy. I imagine it would be difficult to really look at his thoughts, feelings, and previous traumas while he's still "checking out" with addictive substances and behaviors. Being able to illuminate the "walls" Don keeps up in the therapeutic relationship is one way to use relational psychoanalysis with him, reflecting verbally on what his behavior is in THIS relationship and verbalizing hypotheses about what that might mean for him. My guess is it would be a long slow road for him and additional approaches like CBT, even DBT, and perhaps a gentle suggestion to attend AA would be needed as well.

Don Draper is Dick Whitman

You've forgotten a major component of Don's 'angst' - he's actually Dick Whitman, not Don Draper, and as such he's living a lie, on top of everything else.

Perversity forecloses relating

Don's unconscious object relations seem to be that which makes for "authentic relating" problematic. Interpersonal interaction is a form of pseudo-relating for Don deadening both himself and those who must contend with him in the social surround. To "relate" to him by expressing feeling, I think, would burden him to the point of anger and fear. We see from the show how impossible other people's feelings are for him. I see his 'addiction' to near death' as both a repudiation of life and relating. The only avenue I see as making inroads toward toward something approaching authenticity would be to help him understand his unconscious--thereby allowing him to gain more insight into how lonely he is. Clearly his loneliness is masked by rage at the various rejecting and abandoning objects that threaten the integrity of his inner life. The way in which he treats those in the social surround reflects a perverse solution to the toxicity of his inner world.

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Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Action, edited by Susan Kolod, Ph.D., and Melissa Ritter, Ph.D, is under the auspices of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, the journal of the William Alanson White Institute.

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