real problems faced by real people in the world, it might seem foolish to analyze a fictitious character. But sometimes it is easier to understand human nature when we look to art or fiction, in part because art provides us with some needed distance at times and in part because fictitious characters are often relatively pure distillations of character types. This is the case with the character of Grace from the television show "Grace Under Pressure." This paper provides an analysis of this character using first the Adlerian therapy model, then analyzing her through a behavior model and then finally suggesting a treatment plan for a person with the profile of Grace.
Grace's character - to begin with a thumbnail of her - is presented in the series as a no-nonsense, take-no-guff survivor of a bad marriage that was often abusive (at least in psychological terms). After eight years of putting up with this bad marriage, Grace decided that low pay and long hours was a better choice than staying married, and the show follows her as she lives with the consequences of this choice as she works to raise her three children on her own with few skills or advantages even as she works to overcome her own problems with alcohol.
Grace is in many ways an ideal candidate for Adlerian Therapy, which stresses the importance of personal growth and the need for each individual to take control of her or her life. This model allows for people to make significant changes in their lives, something that is often very difficult for women (especially women with children) in abusive situations:
Adlerian Therapy is a growth model. It stresses a positive view of human nature and that we are in control of our own fate and not a victim to it. We start at an early age in creating our own unique style of life and that style stays relatively constant through the remained of our life. That we are motivated by our setting of goals, how we deal with the tasks we face in life, and our social interest (http://www.psyweb.com/psywebsub/MentalDis/AdvPsych.html).
Adlerian therapy stresses the importance of challenging people to set goals that are as high as they can reach so that they are not defeated by repeated failures to achieve those goals but also sufficiently high that an individual can in fact make those changes in her or his life that are needed to make significant and substantive changes so that they emerge with a sense of self-worth and personal and social competence.
An Adlerian therapist encouraging goals "that are useful socially and to help them feel equal... from any component of life including, parenting skills, marital skills, ending substance-abuse, and most anything else." This approach would mesh very well with someone like grace, who struggles as a parent and as someone with an addictive personality and problems with alcohol (http://www.psyweb.com/psywebsub/MentalDis/AdvPsych.html).
One of the issues that an Adlerian therapist would certainly address vis-a-vis a character like Grace is that of learning to recognize and avoid situations of domestic violence. The issue of domestic violence - always of concern to the victims, some researchers, and many social and women's shelter workers - became an issue of national concern during the O.J. Simpson trial. Just as the Clarence Thomas hearings raised the issue of sexual harassment in places where before it had been ignored, the pictures of a battered and bruised Nicole Brown - pictures that she had made so that if Simpson ever killed his/her past violence to her would be known -- gave an unforgettable face to the problem of domestic violence. That case also highlighted some of the complex problems that scholars studying the issue of domestic violence and social workers trying to end the beatings face in their work.
But as soon as the Simpson trials - criminal and civil - were over, the issue of domestic violence began to fade again into the woodwork. It once again became something that people knew about but - unless they were directly involved - didn't talk about, didn't think about. But it is a subject that people should think about both because of the magnitude of the problem and because it has enduring implications: Abuse does not stop with a single generation. This paper examines the recent research done on the subject of domestic violence in general before focusing specifically on the ways in which immigrant women are especially at risk.
The character of Grace, like that of many women who find themselves seeking Adlerian therapy to give them the skills to help better their own lives, is not atypical. Thousands of American women are abused, either physically or psychologically or both, by their partners, and alcohol is a major contributing factor in a majority of these cases.
Grace's reflects the following statistics - although she chose to remove herself and her children from a dangerous situation before it turned lethal.
Women were attacked about six times more often by offenders with whom they had an intimate relationship than were male violence victims.
Nearly 30% of all female homicide victims were known to have been killed by their husbands, former husbands or boyfriends.
In contrast, just over 3% of male homicide victims were known to have been killed by their wives, former wives or girlfriends.
Husbands, former husbands, boyfriends and ex-boyfriends committed more than one million violent acts against women.
Family members or other people they knew committed more than 2.7 million violent crimes against women.
Husbands, former husbands, boyfriends and ex-boyfriends committed 26% of rapes and sexual assaults.
Women of all races were equally vulnerable to attacks by intimates.
Female victims of violence were more likely to be injured when attacked by someone they knew than female victims of violence who were attacked by strangers (http://www.usda.gov/da/shmd/aware.htm#BREAK).
In order to understand how Grace is lucky in escaping from her marriage as well as the ways in which the divorced Grace would benefit from a program of Adlerian therapy we must understand the nature of the abusive situation that she has escaped from. So what exactly are we referring to when we discuss domestic violence? A generally accepted definition is violence by one adult member of a household against another. This obviously excludes child abuse, not because this is an area of lesser concern but because the dynamics of child abuse (while similar in some ways) are different enough that it should be considered separately.
This definition is obviously and intentionally gender-neutral, for it does happen that women are always the victims but sometimes the aggressors in situations of domestic violence. (And sometimes one individual can play both roles in different situations.) While of course no act of violence should ever be trivialized, violence perpetuated by men against women is far more serious for two reasons. The first is that male-against-female violence accounts for the greatest majority of incidents of domestic violence; the second is that male-against-female violence accounts for the great majority of lethal domestic violence (Renzetti and Miley 13). This differential of lethalness in this type of domestic violence is true in part because men are usually stronger and larger than women but also because it seems to be the case that men in general (and especially abusive men) have less psychological resistance to escalating the levels of violence in a relationship (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/domesticviolence.html).
Grace has to deal with other issues as well as her past abusive marriage, although it results in many ways from her being in an abusive relationship for eight years. She definitely could improve her self-esteem. It is generally acknowledged that low self-esteem is one of the main characteristics of many mental disorders including depression. It must also be acknowledged that low self-esteem is widespread amongst Americans. This is due in no small part to the fact that many parents and other caretakers do not provide an environment that is sufficiently nurturing for their children.
However, this is not the only reason that there exists such a large percentage of the population with low self-esteem. Equally important to consider is the self's need for others (not only parents and early childhood caretakers) to perform self-object functions. Adlerian therapy encourages people to use the therapist as a new self-object to restructure the self, thus allowing an individual to find that in many cases she can reclaim and repair part of her (or his, of course) past. Elements of the past that cause continual problems for the subject can be "repaired" by the substitution of a new piece of information that the patient and the therapist create together.
Thus one of the most important actions that the Adlerian therapist can perform in working with a patient who is depressed and is suffering from low self-esteem is to take over some of the unfilled roles in the patient's life and by doing so provides a better overall environment for the patient. This seems to be the case for Grace. This empathic and supportive intervention provides a…