The Ego and Despair in Ordinary People

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The Ego and Despair in Ordinary People Ordinary People by Judith Guest is the story of a dysfunctional family who relate to one another through a series of extensive defense mechanisms, i.e. an unconscious process whereby reality is distorted to reduce or prevent anxiety. The book opens with seventeen year old Conrad, son of upper middle-class Beth and Calvin Jarrett, home after eight months in a psychiatric hospital, there because he had attempted suicide by slashing his wrists. His mother is a meticulously orderly person who, Jared, through projection, feels despises him. She does all the right things; attending to Jared's physical needs, keeping a spotless home, plays golf and bridge with other women in her social circle, but, in her own words "is an emotional cripple". Jared's father, raised in an orphanage, seems anxious to please everyone, a commonplace reaction of individuals who, as children, experienced parental indifference or inconsistency. Though a successful tax attorney, he is jumpy around Conrad, and, according to his wife, drinks too many martinis. Conrad seems consumed with despair. A return to normalcy, school and home-life, appear to be more than Conrad can handle. Chalk-faced, hair-hacked Conrad seems bent on perpetuating the family myth that all is well in the world. His family, after all, "are people of good taste. They do not discuss a problem in the face of the problem. And, besides, there is no problem." Yet, there is not one problem in this family but two - Conrad's suicide and the death by drowning of Conrad's older brother, Buck. Conrad eventually contacts a psychiatrist, Dr. Berger, because he feels the "air is full of flying glass" and wants to feel in control. Their initial ses... ... middle of paper ... ...Bower, G.H., Zajonc, R.B., Random House, NY, 1986, page 464. Ordinary People, page 4. ibid, p. 116 ibid, p. 118 Carlson, Neil R., page 393. Time, July 19, 1976, p.68 Hergenhahn, page 481. Carlson, Neil R., page 484. Against All Odds, Helmreich, William B., Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1992, p. 134. Guest, p. 217. Guest, p. 218. Guest, page 98. Guest, page 116. Guest, page 97. Bootzin, et. al., page 459. Bootzin, et al., page 459. a psych. book, p. Helmreich, p. 234. Guest, p. 100. Guest, page 190. Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 7, p. 269. ibid, p. 269. Guest, page 30. Guest, page 59. Guest, page 114. Guest, Page 127. Guest, page 173. Guest, page 8. Guest, page 26. Bootzin, et. al., pp. 457-460. Guest, page 89. Guest, page 147. Hergenhahn, page 40. Ibid, page 147. Guest, page 204. Guest, page 225. Bootzin, et. al, page 467. Ibid, page 467.
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