Nomí Berg (nomiberg) wrote in binky_betsy,
Nomí Berg
nomiberg
binky_betsy

It is done!

A few people asked me to post my psychoanalysis of Liz (Under My Thumb: The Elizabeth Patterson Story) when it was finished. Well it's done but it added up to about 18 pages (comics included) so I'm going to skip the history stuff which you all know already and get straight to the heart of the story. Feel free to disagree with my analysis, Liz is a complicated girl and there's more than one way to skin a cat:
Elizabeth is a fragile individual, the slightest upset in her routine leaves her feeling shattered and questioning herself. Contrarily, major events like her attack don’t seem to have significant impact on her. This inconsistency is an acquired defense mechanism from her youth. Since she was a young girl Michael took center stage, his juvenile behavior attracting the attention of his parents. Elizabeth was their baby girl, but she was most appealing when in one of two situations: either dressed up like a toy doll or in need of their comfort and security. When April was born Elly needed her to be a parent and wouldn’t accept any bucking of this responsibility even when it was at the expense of Liz’s grades or personal life. The message was mixed, Liz needed to be strong and silent when it came to major responsibilities and circumstances (the birth of April), but crying over manageable issues would get her mother’s attention. This translated into Liz setting aside her emotions when it came to large, traumatic events but being free to overreact to struggling with her cat. She controls her id with inappropriate outbursts of frustration.
    Elizabeth
also fails to take responsibility for events in her life. She seems to believe that by not taking action or being direct she can somehow avoid being at fault when things go poorly. When confronted by this behavior she either ignores it or gets frustrated. Though she knew she wasn’t interested in a relationship when Warren first came into her life, she didn’t tell him, instead she just waited for him to get the message. When she started dating him after breaking up with Paul she knew that he had a hectic schedule and wouldn’t always be around, she had known this for years, but rather than confront him about how she felt she acted as though nothing was wrong and blew raspberries at the phone after hanging up. There are a few factors from her childhood that lead to this kind of behavior. First of all, Liz’s role models. Life in For Better or for Worse is something that just happens to the characters. Almost all the children were accidents, Michael ran into and later married his first crush from kindergarten, Liz was set up with Anthony by her friends, when the family home was getting too crowded, John’s dream house popped up on the market, Anthony and Lawrence have been working at the same jobs they’ve had since high school, John has been working at the same practice since the start of the strip. There’s a theme in Liz’s life of fate being the best manager of one’s life, something that has clearly made an impression on her. Because of this, it’s understandable that she would end up with Anthony, the man her family has been pushing her towards since she was a teenager. Her romantic interests have become an example of Liz’s synthetic functions, dependant on the relationship she has with her parents.
    Alternatively, Elly has always micromanaged Liz’s life. Freud would say that this probably started with Liz feeding too frequently as a child but I believe it started in the anal stage. Liz believes she has no control over any major decisions in her life which, even as a teenager she didn’t, to deal with this she panics over smaller things like use of the shower and the state of her boyfriend’s sink. Elizabeth believes that woman her age should have a boyfriend, it’s what she needs to feel complete, so when she doesn’t have one she gets flustered and depressed. Being stuck in this stage also explains why she was still sucking her thumb in junior high.
    Then there’s the mother-child relationships she builds with her students. In each school she’s taught at, Liz has picked a young boy to be her pet project. With Dylan she was only a student teacher so it was reserved to special assignments and talks after class, the other teachers told her to stop but the semester was already over. When she moved to Mtigwaki she took a shine to Jesse, asking him to help her after class, inviting him over for cookies, adopting a cat he brought her. She doesn’t seem to realize that this is inappropriate probably because it’s a similar relationship to the one she had with Miss Edwards in junior high. She needed someone who would belong to her, someone she wouldn’t have to share with her brother and baby sister; Miss Edwards was someone who had time for her, unlike Elly. So while her teacher was a positive role model in some ways in others she seems to have had a negative influence on Liz.
    Liz also has transference issues concerning her little sister. She sees April as a combination of Michael and herself rather than as her own person with her own motivations. When April calls her Lizardbreath (as Michael did when he was young) she becomes unreasonably angry, she could never really take her anger out on her brother so she displaced it onto a more manageable target. When April got in trouble for kissing a friend from school she confided in Liz who had recently broken up with Eric. Liz felt foolish and immature for allowing herself to get hurt so she projected by lecturing her younger sister on the perils of relationships. In reality the advice she gave was completely misplaced, she was transferring her own perception of relationships onto April’s differing set of circumstances.
    Elizabeth
doesn’t see herself as having any sort of problem so it’s unlikely she would voluntarily go to therapy. However since she rarely makes decisions for herself it’s logical to assume that if her parents suggested she go, she would go. Of course this wouldn’t happen because Elly’s symptoms are like Liz’s, ego syntonic, they both believe themselves to be entirely well adjusted and are certain any normal person would react and overreact as they do.
    Elly is a major obstacle that needs to be worked through in therapy. Liz has been allowing her to run the show since she was a young girl put in charge of raising her baby sister. Even after she moved out of the house Elly viewed her as a part time mother to April, complaining to her about April’s failings and involving her in the parenting process. Elizabeth, even as an adult, is desperate for her mother’s approval and doesn’t see their enmeshed relationship for the impact it has on her. Liz’s ego ideal is essentially Elly. To be a good person she believes she must suffer for the circumstances she’s in but be obedient enough not to try and change them. She must believe in equality for women but still need to be submissive, delicate and entirely feminine. It’s a complicated place and this balancing act is causing her undue stress, one of the goals of therapy would be to face her conflicting beliefs and maybe reestablish her ideals.
    On a more urgent note, Elizabeth is about to enter into a marriage with a man who has yet to admit any fault in the deterioration of his marriage while she has yet to admit any fault in the deterioration of her relationships with Paul and Warren. For that matter she doesn’t seem particularly enthused by the wedding or the relationship with Anthony in the first place. First, Elizabeth needs to establish that this is something she really wants, not just something that’s happening around her. Next, she needs someone to lead her through the events leading up to her breakup with Paul, she needs to see how her selfish and inconsistent nature played a part in Paul leaving her.
    Liz also needs to work through the more traumatic events in her life. She has never really allowed herself to suffer over her attack in 2005, probably because of Anthony putting pressure on her to date him only moments later. She needs to confront these feelings and really let herself go with them because holding them in like she believes she’s supposed to is causing undue conflict between her id and superego. This anxiety comes out in other ways like frustrations with her family over things that would seem less consequential if she could face her past.
    When others try to connect the dots for her, Liz either gets defensive or ignores the issue completely which is why her therapist can’t offer opinions or analysis, instead he or she should ask questions and let Liz come to the conclusion herself.
    Liz also needs to know that being single does not make her any less mature or complete. I would want her to come up with what being a single person means to her and then help her work backwards to see where she came up with that stigma. Ideally she would realize tat her judgments are not necessarily grounded in reality. The best thing for her might be not to date anyone for a while and really get to know who she is apart from someone else.
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