Discouraging the Sad Clown

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 10

Discouraging the Sad Clown

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 10

Discouraging the Sad Clown
Talking television.
Nov. 18 2002 11:23 AM

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 10

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Throughout the history of our Slate discussions, Peggy, I think I have always had greater regard for Dr. Melfi's work than you have. I really think you are being overly critical of her session with Tony last night. I know she was less than empathetic, but in my opinion, she was "right on." If we think about therapy as involving an oscillation between an empathetic perspective, where we put ourselves in the patient's shoes, and an "outside" perspective, where we make observations about the patient that the patient can't see, then last night was a moment when the latter approach was needed. Tony was wallowing in self-pity about being the "sad clown." Dr. Melfi refused to collude with him. She pointed out what OTHERS say: namely, that he erupts in rage and masks his sadness behind his anger. Even though Tony didn't particularly like this comment, Dr. Melfi continued to confront him in a way that made him face the fact that he has caused others to suffer as a result of his behavior. You can't let this guy off the hook if he is ever going to benefit from the therapy.

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Glen

Glen O. Gabbard, M.D., is a professor of psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and author of The Psychology of The Sopranos, inspired by this discussion. Philip A. Ringstrom, Ph.D., Psy.D., is a senior faculty member at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles. Joel Whitebook, Ph.D., is on the faculty of the Columbia Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. Margaret Crastnopol, Ph.D., is on the faculty of the Northwest Center for Psychoanalysis. All are practicing therapists as well.