August 27, 2007

The Other Soprano Psychiatrist


(Finally watching the series on DVD.) 

Carmela Soprano, wife of mobster Tony Soprano, is so unhappy in her marriage that she goes to see an old, Jewish, psychiatrist, which is a leap for her as she is not too keen on psychiatrists-- or Jews, for that matter.  She describes her ambivalence about her husband:



Carmela (crying): He's a good man, a good father.

Dr. Krakower: You tell me he's a depressed criminal, prone to anger, serially unfaithful. Is that your definition of a good man?

Carmela: I thought psychiatrists weren’t supposed to be judgmental.

Dr. Krakower: Many patients want to be excused for their current predicament because of events that occurred in their childhood. That’s what psychiatry has become in America. Visit any shopping mall or ethnic pride parade and witness the results.

...You'll never be able to feel good about yourself. You'll never be able to quell the feelings of guilt and shame that you talked about, so long as you're his accomplice.

Carmela: You're wrong about the accomplice part, though.

Dr. Krakower: You sure?

Carmela: All I did was make sure he's got clean clothes in his closet and dinner on his table.

Dr. Krakower: So "enable" would be a more accurate job description for what you do than "accomplice". My apologies...

Take only the children--what's left of them--and go.

Carmela: My priest said I should work with him, help him to become a better man.

Dr. Krakower: How's that going?

Carmela: I would have to get a lawyer, find an apartment, arrange for child support...

Dr. Krakower: You're not listening. I'm not charging you because I won't take blood money. You can't either...

Let's pretend that this isn't TV, and that this old psychoanalyst knows something about the therapeutic process.  Why say this?  What defense mechanism is so prominent in her?  What's the single sentence Dr. Krakower can say that changes this conversation from an irresponsible breaking of therapeutic neutrality to a means of overcoming a powerful defense that allows for life decisions based on insight?  He says it at the end:

Dr. Krakower: One thing you can never say: You haven't been told.

Therapy isn't about being happy, it's about honestly knowing who you are, and then picking a suitable life.  Every day you must consciously choose who you are.  Choose.