I enjoy the show “Mad Men” for many reasons, one of which is the surprises. When the emotionally silent power broker Don Draper married his secretary Megan, I assumed it wouldn’t be long before he shut her down and she became disillusioned, codependent, sarcastic and resentful. But instead of hiding behind a veneer of polite non-communication, when they bump up against each other, they let things fly, act out and dramatize. It’s not polite, it’s passionate.
But the really interesting thing is they eventually get to the heart of the matter and come out more intimate and loving than before.
I once thought I was light years ahead of neighbors who had very vocal disagreements. Our house was quiet and polite—theirs got loud at times. Yet neither household seemed to resolve issues. Our silence didn’t solve issues, and their drama didn’t either. I’m not advocating drama. Loud doesn’t get voices heard. There is something dysfunctional about a husband who drives off in anger—leaving his wife stranded (briefly) miles from home.
But what would you expect from people who have never had the experience of navigating emotionally charged topics as a team? It’s a skill like any other, and needs to be practiced. When you practice a new skill, you make mistakes and things get messy. Your soft underbelly gets exposed—and if that scares you, you can find yourself striking out and hurting the people closest to you. Who likes that?
But if you really care, as Don and Megan do in the show, and if you get to the other side often enough, eventually the cycles get quicker, and resolution comes sooner.
So the kind of dramatics “Mad Men” fans are privy to this season both look and in many ways are dysfunctional—and yet they are a natural part of learning how to be authentic, intimate and loving. “Mad Men” shows how messy the process of communication improvement can be. If you don’t understand how normal the mess can be on the road to greater intimacy and self-expression, you might shut things down just when they’re really working. They’re changing old habits. Until you have new habits to replace them with, you probably will feel like you dropped into chaos. Keep striving. Keep being willing to do it wrong until you get it “right.” You’ll find your footing at a higher level. It’s worth it.