A Portrait of Lisa A Case Study Miriam Correia 11/17/2010
In Lisa DaSilva’s family, they have a running joke that she is an onion and her husband, Antonio, is an open book. What they mean is, everyone always knows how Antonio feels and what he is thinking, but Lisa keeps everything in; as soon as they think they know how she feels or everything about her, they figure out that they are wrong. Antonio always wonders why it is so hard for her to communicate when it has always come so naturally to him.
Lisa Querido was born in Angola to a judge and a schoolteacher when it was under Portugal’s reign. Her father was very abusive even when the problems were caused by her older brother, Manuel. She still has scars from the beatings he gave her. She was not a bad kid though; since her mother was a schoolteacher, she more than excelled in academics, being one of the highest ranking students in all of her classes. When her mother was pregnant with her little sister, the whole family went on vacation to Portugal; while they were there, they caught wind that a bomb destroyed their house and all of their memories so they never returned. This was a very tumultuous time in Portugal’s colonies, because they all wanted to be separate from Portugal; even her half brother (her father’s oldest son) was taken hostage and tortured by the insurgents because he was a soldier.
They started to rebuild their lives in Portugal; but then, there were struggles in Cabo Verde, where most of their extended family lived, so they moved there. Here is where she first met someone who would be very influential in her life; a boy who was in her brother’s class, had a very large crush on her. He told all the boys in the neighborhood that he better not even see them walking on the same side of the street as her because he will beat them up. He could not even build up the nerve to talk to her in person, but he will pop up again later. The family did not stay here for very long either, they moved back to Portugal when Lisa was 11. Her father continued his abusive behavior, not just physically but also emotionally. She wanted to be a doctor, he said she wasn’t smart enough; she wanted to be an architect; he said she wasn’t good enough. When they moved back to Portugal, Lisa got very sick with rheumatic fever. She lost all of her hair and was in and out of hospitals for months. This was also the time when she found out that she had a heart murmur and that this was a major reason why she was so skinny and could not gain weight. She had been teased her whole life for being so skinny; she wanted to desperately to gain a little bit of weight but everything she tried only made her lose more weight. Soon after she got better, her mother became very sick. She was bedridden so Lisa and her younger sister, Helena had to take care of the household. Lisa’s main responsibility was taking care of the house and her sister. She still did well in school in hopes of one day getting away from her father. She went to college far away from home and she absolutely loved it.
Her personal and social lives were exceptionally better than her family life. She had lots of friends that she still talks to today and boys fell in love with her almost on contact. She had more marriage proposals and offers to buy her a house by age 20 than any of her friends. She could not emotionally connect with any of her boyfriends so she tired of them quickly, especially when they gave her a lot of attention. Then, when she was 22 years old, she received a letter from the United States from the boy who used to have a crush on her. It turns out that when he was 17 years old, his father had him move from Cabo Verde to the United States for a better future. He was dating a girl that was a cousin of one of Lisa’s cousins; he saw Lisa’s picture at the girl’s house and recognized her as the girl he liked when he was 12 years old. When she received his letter, they started a correspondence; then, he visited her in Portugal and they started a relationship. The boy was Antonio DaSilva. After dating long distance for a year, he asked her to marry him, and she accepted.
Even though she still had another year of school left, she decided to just drop out and marry him. Her father, again, brought her down. He told her marrying Antonio was a mistake and he did not attend the wedding- even though it was at his house. They had a short honeymoon on an island close by and he flew her to the United States. She was able to get a green card with ease and he helped her get a job and a driver’s license. At the time, he was living in an apartment with his brother so they started looking for a place for themselves. They also tried getting pregnant but Lisa soon got some news that was not exactly pleasing. She had endometriosis and she would not be able to have children. She could have found this out in Portugal but back then they had a rule that gynecologists would not see women if they were not married.
Even though she received this news, Lisa and Antonio still kept trying. They tried treatment after treatment and they finally got pregnant with a boy. She miscarried after six months. This was heartbreaking for the couple but they persevered. Lisa had a surgery that later enabled her to get pregnant with a baby girl. It was a very difficult pregnancy and labor but that baby held on and even though she was tiny Anya finally came. Anya was a very temperamental baby so Lisa decided that she was enough for the moment and went on birth control- this did not stop Alina from coming a mere 17 months later. Antonio and Lisa were ecstatic and had another baby, on purpose, four years later. Amy, another girl, was the final addition to their family. The following year Lisa had her uterus removed because the endometriosis was causing her to get early menopause.
Throughout this time, Lisa was in and out of Depression. She saw therapists and she took medications but it never seemed to be enough. She seems to be out of Depression for the moment, but she could go back down at any time.
The avoidant attachment style and the empathy-altruism hypothesis both relate to Lisa. Because of the bad things that happened to Lisa when she was young, she is the onion that she is today. And although there are many theories and hypotheses that would relate to her, these two are the most obvious.
The avoidant attachment theory states that one suppresses his or her needs and/or feelings because of past rejection and because of this has difficulty with his or her relationships. It can be applied to Lisa because of the way she treated relationships before she married. She was very cavalier in her relationships; she did not form emotional bonds so it was easy for her to let the relationship go. She jokes that she married Antonio because he did not have skinny calves like other men, but it may have been to make the ultimate escape from her father. Antonio was not like the other men, he did not seek too much affection from her and he seemed independent enough to not need her as the other men had, so he was tolerable enough to marry. It must have started during childhood- because her father was constantly rejecting her and putting her down she avoided all contact with him. She inevitably had to have some contact with him, but it was very little. This carried on to her adult relationships and even in her marriage; she still suppresses her feelings and needs about certain things.
In contrast, Lisa is very loving and connects in her relationships with her children, her mother, her sister and her brother. Her oldest daughter, Anya, is her closest confidant. She tells her things that she will not tell Alina and Amy; they have a very trusting relationship, which dispels the avoidant attachment theory. She also goes to her mother when she needs emotional help. It is difficult because her mother is still in Portugal, but she knows when she calls, her mother will lend an ear to her problems.
The empathy-altruism hypothesis states that if one feels empathy towards someone in need, he or she will help that person in proportion to the empathy. Lisa saw and went through a lot of things throughout her life and so she feels empathy for many different people, especially young girls who have troubles with their family life and this is a part of her downfall. She helps even when she has nothing left to give. She helps her brother and sister with money problems when her family needs the money also. She will counsel women and girls in their life problems when she is going through emotional trials herself. Lisa has the best intentions at heart, but sometimes it drains her- especially when she is at the bottom of the barrel. Her husband feels that people, including her brother and sister, take advantage of this quality in her.
Lisa goes against the hypothesis in some ways because sometimes she puts a wall up and does not let any emotions in or out. She acts nonchalantly about everything and is able to reason everything out logically rather than empathetically. The theories together contradict each other, but it seems to work in this one person.
If I had to choose one of the theories for Lisa, I would choose the avoidant attachment theory because it has the most to do with the relationship with her father. It correlates directly to her adult relationships and plays a major part in the fact that she internalizes almost everything.
Lisa has a loving family and is getting better now at externalizing her feelings. It may be due to the fact that her father has been more loving in their relationship now than he was when she was a child. He lives in Cabo Verde, but now he makes the effort to call Lisa more and he wrote a story for the town newspaper and dedicated it to her.
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