People, by Judith Guest, was about a family who has had two tragedies and how they dealt with these tragedies. This story shows how the environment in which one lives affects ones reaction to tragedy. The Jarred family, were ordinary people. The family consisted of the father Calvin, the mother Beth and two sons Buck and Conrad. They were an upper class family in good financial standing. They apparently had a happy life until Buck died in a boating accident. Calvin was a concerned father and husband. He tried to keep everyone happy. Beth, who was the mother and wife, was a cold frigid woman, who liked everything organized.
She was very rigid and wanted everything in its place. Beth appeared to be concerned about her own needs, never about the needs of others. She was egocentric and narcissistic. She was unable to share her feelings of love, happiness or sadness. Conrad’s parents, especially his mother, loved Buck. Buck was on the swim team and the best on his team. He needed more attention to follow through on things and appears to have been a bit of a daredevil. Conrad, a senior in high school, appears to have been a good child who always followed rules and regulations; never requiring his parents to remind him of things; he was always on task.
Buck and Conrad went out boating. The weather started turning bad and instead of going back to the harbor, they continued boating. When the storm got bad, Conrad was telling Buck to bring down the sail but he could not. The boat capsized and they were both in the water. Buck told his brother Conrad they had to hold on to each other. Conrad tried unsuccessfully to hold onto his brother. Buck drowned and Conrad survived. Beth did not show her feelings at her son’s funeral. She was concerned with how her son and husband looked. She told her husband to change his shirt and shoes.
Calvin tried to take care of his remaining family, trying to keep communication going without much success. Conrad had a lot of guilt. He blamed himself for his brother’s death. He became depressed. He was not sleeping or eating. He was daydreaming in school; he was on the swim team but was not doing very well. He was withdrawn and did not talk to his parents or his friends. Conrad was in a very bad place psychologically. Conrad slit his wrists (suicide attempt). He spent four months in a psychiatric hospital. He felt comfortable there. At the hospital he was able to talk about his feelings and thoughts.
He made friends with another patient, Karen, who was also depressed. When Conrad was released from the hospital, his mother was trying to act as if nothing had happened. Everyone was all right and no one had any problems. His father had continued to ask if he, Conrad, had called the psychiatrist for an outpatient appointment. His father knew going to see the psychiatrist would help him through out his recovery. On the other hand his mother did not want him to see the psychiatrist. She was worried about what others would think of her perfect family. It took a while before Conrad finally called for an appointment.
When he finally did, he was turned off when he called Dr. Burger because he was with a patient and he could not talk with him at the moment. Dr. Burger did offer to call him back but Conrad said no he would call later. It seemed Conrad felt rejected. I was surprised to find out that Conrad finally did call Dr. Burger back because sometimes when a patient’s needs are not addressed right away the patient becomes resistant and never calls back. The initial interview is very important, whether it is in person or by telephone. Conrad was very nervous at first meeting with Dr. Burger.
He did not know what to say or how to act. At the initial meeting Dr. Burger ask why Conrad was there. Conrad stated he wanted to be in control but did not say in control of what. He told the doctor how he felt. He felt jumpy. He thought he did not like swimming very much and the coach was a tight ass. But when the doctor asked him was he going to quit he said no. He did not want to quit because being on the swim team was what his parents expected and he did not want to give his mother another reason to not love him. After several meetings, it appeared Conrad was more comfortable.
The psychiatrist let him talk freely and at times he confronted him about his feelings. There were times you saw when Conrad’s repressed feelings were made conscious and other times he left with something to think about. He had some friends who tried to be understanding of his feelings while other’s whispered behind his back. He continued to have problems. He was no longer on the swim team. He told his friend it was hard for him to be on the swim team because it reminded him too much of his brother. He was isolating himself, no longer hanging out with friends.
He reached out to the girl he met in the hospital. Karen met him at a diner and she was happy and talking about how good everything was. Conrad was the opposite; he missed the hospital, it provided some sort of security for him. Karen was not seeing a therapist because she thought she was all better. Before leaving the diner she told Conrad they where going to have the best Christmas ever. Karen was in denial of her true feelings. She committed suicide during Christmas. Calvin went to Dr. Burger to see how his son was progressing, but this was an excuse to see the psychiatrist. Dr.
Burger made it clear to him the conversations between them was confidential. The doctor saw the father wanted to talk and the doctor’s responses where things that Calvin knew already but he needed validation from the doctor. Beth wanted to go away for Christmas but Calvin did not want to go. Calvin saw that Conrad was so hard on himself and it hurt Calvin. Conrad and his father went out to buy a Christmas tree. They started to bond. Beth came home very upset because she just found out Conrad was no longer on the swim team. Instead of asking him what happened, she just started yelling at him.
Finally Conrad yelled back but then felt guilty and was very remorseful. Beth took advantage of the situation and talked her husband into taking a vacation right after New Year’s; just the two of them. They vacationed in Texas and had a good time until they started talking about the next vacation and Calvin said Conrad would enjoy it. Beth immediately became upset which led to a big argument. He told her he saw the psychiatrist and it may be good for her to go too. But of course she refused. She is resistant to any kind of help. In her eyes there was nothing wrong. Beth felt Calvin was putting Conrad needs ahead of hers. Beth definitely had issues with her son Conrad. Whenever Conrad asked her a personal question she would never answer him; she would change the subject. He felt rejected by the way his mother treated him. He remembered how much his mother laughed with his brother. He felt he and his mother did not connect. She never went to the hospital to visit him, saying she was sick and she could not see him because she was contagious. Conrad felt his mother did not love him. He had to be perfect for her to love him and he was not perfect because he attempted suicide.
There was a young lady named Pratt who was in the church chorus with Conrad and she also attended the same school. He was attracted to her but did not know who to approach her (he had low self esteem). She also was attracted to him. Conrad asked her out on a date. As they became closer, she asked him if his attempted suicide hurt. In his response he admits that she was the first person to ask him about it, besides doctors of course. Then their conversation got interrupted and he stopped talking. The date did not go too well and he got very upset. He called the one person he knew he could talk to, his friend Karen.
When he called her home, her parents told him she committed suicide. He got extremely agitated by this. His parents where not home for him to talk to. He ran into the bathroom and ran the water and put his hands in the water. He started having flash backs. He ran out of the house to no where and called Dr. Burger. The doctor heard the distress in his voice and met with Conrad in the middle of the night. Conrad was hysterical. For a moment there he thought the doctor was his brother (transference) and let out all his feelings. This was a moment Conrad forgave himself for the boating accident.
He realized it was not his fault. He also realized there’s nothing wrong with him and his mother was the one with the issues. After things were clear to Conrad he tried to use what he learned from the psychiatrist and put it into effect. He went to Pratt to apologize. She admitted she was wrong but she did not know how to handle his situation. They agreed to start over. When his parents returned home, he greeted them with a smile and hugged his mother. Early the next morning his parents had a discussion. His father told his wife how he felt even though she did not want to hear it.
He asked what difference did it make what he wore to his son’s funeral. He expressed how much he loves and cared for her but she was not strong and loving. He asked her how she felt about him and she could not tell him how she felt. He finally told her as long as things were neat she was happy but she could not handle a mess and he could not be with her. She packed her things and left. Conrad felt that it was his fault. His father assured him that it was not. This was a family that was grieving and needed to go through the grieving process. According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (1969) there are five stages to the grieving process.
These steps do not necessarily come in any particular order, nor are all steps experienced by all patients, though she stated a person will always experience at least two. They are: 1. Denial: “It can’t be happening. ” Denial was shown in this story when the mother was trying to act as though nothing happened. 2. Anger: “Why me? It’s not fair. ” Conrad showed anger when he expressed why his brother let go the boat. 3. Bargaining: “Just let me live to see my children graduate. ” 4. Depression: “I’m so sad, why bother with anything? ” Conrad expressed his depression by attempting suicide 5.
Acceptance: “It’s going to be OK. ” Conrad finally accepted the death of his brother during a session with the psychiatrist. During this session he spoke to his brother (transference with the psychiatrist); “why did you let go”. Afterwards Dr. Burger and Conrad discussed his feelings and the cause of the death of his brother. Conrad understood that he had not done anything wrong by surviving the accident. He accepted the death of his brother. Conrad also suffered from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). According to the DMS IV (1994), the criteria for PTSD are: A.
The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following have been present: 1. The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others 2. The person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Note: In children, this may be expressed instead by disorganized or agitated behavior B. The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in one (or more) of the following ways: 1.
Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions. Note: In young children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the trauma are expressed. 2. Recurrent distressing dreams of the event. Note: In children, there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content. 3. Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur upon awakening or when intoxicated).
Note: In young children, trauma-specific reenactment may occur. 4. Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event. 5. Physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event. C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by three (or more) of the following: 1.
Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with the trauma 2. Efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma 3. Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma 4. Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities 5. Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others 6. Restricted range of affect (e. g. , unable to have loving feelings) 7. Sense of a foreshortened future (e. g. , does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span) D.
Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), as indicated by two (or more) of the following: 1. difficulty falling or staying asleep 2. irritability or outbursts of anger 3. difficulty concentrating 4. hyper-vigilance 5. exaggerated startle response E. Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in Criterion B, C, and D) is more than one month. Specify if: Acute: if duration of symptoms is less than 3 months Chronic: if duration of symptoms is 3 months or more Specify if: With Delayed Onset: if onset of symptoms is at least 6 months after the stressor
Conrad had PTSD because he had the symptoms in criteria A; which was when he and his brother were out boat when the storm hit. The boat titled over and they had to try to hang on to survive; Conrad survived but not his brother. In criteria B he persistently re-experienced the traumatic event in more than one of the ways; one of the ways he experienced this was through his dreams. In criteria C he presented more than three ways of avoiding stimuli with associated with the trauma. He avoided his brother’s friends; he quit the swim team and isolated himself from others.
In criteria D, persistent symptoms of an increased arousal after the trauma was indicated in more than two ways; for example difficulty sleeping and sudden out bursts. He had chronic PTSD because his symptoms lasted for about a year. Once Conrad and his father went through the stages in the grieving process they grew tremendously by learning to accept reality rather than to hide from the pain. Conrad’s breakthrough happens only after he painfully lets people in. He developed new relationships, and he also developed the ability to express his feelings honestly and passionately.
He no longer feels guilty for surviving or angry with his brother for dieing. Conrad gradually learned how to express his emotions. With the new skills he developed he used them to build up his relationships with others. His father realized his wife had to be happy with herself before she can be happy with others. Conrad and his father broke the cycle of the way they were living and started over with new beginnings. They started to live in the here and now. Work Cited American Psychiatric Association (1994). DSM IV Guest, Judith (1982). Ordinary People