You’ve probably been watching the Emmy hoarding series “Mad Men” on AMC, and if you’re not, you should watch at least an episode to get a sense of what all the buzz is about. It’s a well-written show with spot on atmospherics and a restless undercurrent that will, if you let it, sweep you into its spell.
Don Draper may be the most memorable character in all of TV drama right now, chiefly because he’s so hard to pin down. On one hand he’s an ambitious go getter, on the other he’s a meandering nihilist. He’s both an insatiable hedonist and a conservative family man. He’s forever making sure that his kingdom is in order, while also believing that the future is little more than a mirage. He’ll help someone out at the most unexpected time, but cheat on his wife just because he can. He reminds us of the paradoxes embodied by series creator Matt Weiner’s other perennially memorable character, Tony Soprano.
Watching Draper in action, you get a sense that he’s always two steps ahead of everyone else. He’s something of a seer before whom transparency is impossible to escape. All of which makes me wonder — what sort of psychologist would Don Draper be?
We can turn to a few of his quotes for an answer.
To a patient who is trapped in the past, Draper might say:
Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent. “Nostalgia” literally means “the pain from an old wound.” It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel, it’s called the carousel. It let’s us travel the way a child travels – around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.
To a patient who can’t seem to move forward in life, Draper might say:
It’s your life. You don’t know how long it’s gonna last, but you know it doesn’t end well. You’ve gotta move forward… as soon as you can figure out what that means.
To a patient who desperately seeks affirmation, Draper might say:
Do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK.
To a patient who thinks she’s predestined to failure, Draper might say:
I hate to break it to you but there is no big lie. There is no system. The universe is indifferent.
To a patient who has difficulty communicating, Draper might say:
If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.
Finally, to a patient who expresses fear about disclosing in therapy, Draper might say:
This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.
That’s a flavor anyway. So what do you think – would you get on the couch for Don Draper?