In Ordinary People, how is Conrad's psychological and emotional growth as a character impacted positively by those around him?
Clearly a number of key people feed into Conrad's psychological and emotional development as he journeys from being profoundly unhappy with himself and his life to being more emotionally in touch with himself. Dr. Berger is one such character who, through his treatment of Conrad, helps him to realise that he is not to blame for his brother's death and helps him to move on beyond recriminations and guilt. He offers typically humorous, slightly teasing comments, such as when he says "People who keep stiff upper lips find that its damn hard to smile," and also gives vital and important advice such as:
Feeling is not selective, I keep telling you that. You can’t feel pain, you aren’t gonna feel anything else, either.
This is an important point for Conrad as he comes to realise that his emotional numbness is a result of his shielding himself from pain. However, as he subsequently discovers, feelings are not "selective," and by taking these steps to shield himself from pain, he also shields himself from other emotions such as love, joy and happiness. Dr. Berger is an important character in helping break through Conrad's self-imposed shell and moving him forward positively towards wholeness. Other characters that also have a positive impact on him are his father, Calvin, and his girlfriend, Jeannine.