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Thursday, April 29, 2010

T3 - Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Self-Actualization

Up until now, we've been dealing with the four lower levels of Maslow's pyramid. These levels make up what Maslow called the Deficit Needs, because if a person doesn't have enough of something--i.e., a deficit--they feel the need. Maslow's theory was that Self-Actualization occurs when a person not only meets the lower, deficit needs, but masters them.

When a person reaches Self-Actualization, they reach their full potential. People desire to be everything that they are capable of being, becoming more and more of what they are. It's a state of harmony and understanding. This is a broad concept for Self-Actualization, but when applied to individuals, it can be very specific.

One character might desire to be an author or a good parent. Someone else might want to be a pro football player or invent something special. When these things happen, among others, these individuals will have a Peak Experience. A Peak Experience is a profound moment when the person is supremely happy, full of love and understanding, where they feel whole, vibrant, and aware. Self-Actualizing people have many Peak Experiences.

When I started thinking about characters in our books, this theory can dovetail off of Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation & Conflict (GMC). What our character most wants, his ultimate goal, could also be called his Self-Actualization. The conflict would be the Deficit Needs going unmet or being derailed. I figured the motivation to reach a person's Self-Actualization would originate from one of the Deficit Needs not being met--perhaps for a long time, like a childhood hurt of learning your birth parents gave you up for adoption, or a lifelong hurt of never feeling safe and always having to look over your shoulder. A person could be motivated to be the best financial provider for his family (Self-Actualization) because his father left them and his mother always struggled to make ends meet. See how this could fit with GMC?

I've said it before, but I'll say it again. Maslow had a theory. It may or may not float your boat, or it may be a useful way or organizing and prioritizing a character's needs. There has been little evidence found for why Maslow ranked the needs on his pyramid like he did. Some researchers didn't find evidence for a hierarchy at all.

One thing that is definitely true: characters can skip around or jump through the hierarchy, and as blogger buddy Livia Blackburne pointed out, the theory could explain why it's so interesting or admirable when a character skips around on the pyramid.

Livia wrote, "Girls swoon over Edward Cullen because he breaks the expectations of the pyramid -- ignoring his need for food in order to meet a 'higher' need. In the same way, we admire a monk who fasts for a month in order to get religious enlightenment. Jumping the pyramid makes you larger than life -- and in some cases, storyworthy."

Couldn't agree more and couldn't have said it better myself. Give a character enough of a motivation or conflict, and you can really play around with these levels.

Q4U: Have you ever purposefully had a character "jump the pyramid" (even if at the time, you didn't know that was what he or she was doing)? How'd it turn out for you?

BONUS Q4U: Any suggestions you might have of some topic you might want covered for Thursday Therapeutic Thoughts?

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gail Sattler's The Narrow Path Review

Gail Sattler's The Narrow Path released this month, and I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy of it.

Here's a blurb from Gail's website about the book:


Miranda feels like she’s been transported back to Little House On The Prairie, and Ted’s head spins when Miranda reads her Bible on her cell phone. Yet Miranda Klassen and Ted Wiebe must find a way to make peace to meet their common goal to open the doors of Ted’s Old Order Mennonite church and community. Will they also find love in the process?

I read this book almost in one sitting. It was light-hearted yet deep, funny and serious in just the right places. And I have to say....she has one of the absolute best "I love you" scenes I've ever read. I sighed SO long afterward.

The aspect of this book I liked the most from a therapeutic perspective is how Gail tackles the very important issue of opposites attracting. Just how important is it for two people to be on the same "page" when they are dating or considering marriage?

As a therapist, I've had to tackle this issue from both sides of marriage: couples who married and realized after the fact how different they are and couples who wondered if marriage was right for them considering their extremely different backgrounds/values/insert-various-dilemmas-to-overcome-here.

Gail does such a good job of showing the characters struggle with this very issue. The reader travels along with them as they encounter their differences with initial shock and dislike, gradual compromise, and eventual embrace of their dissimilarities.

In my opinion, the ending--while very satisfying--wraps up the geographical point of difference between the couple rather abruptly. However, Ted and Miranda do come to a point in both their lives that is healthy and mature as they overcome their differences.

Bottom line, this was a great read, and one I'd recommend for ministers or therapists to keep on hand when faced with couples who might be in a similar situation. Differences can be like the frosting of a cinnamon bun rather than the mold! (Read the book to get this!)

You can read the first 3 chapters of Gail's book here.

Order The Narrow Path from or or or

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Treatment Tuesday: OCD v. OCPD

This week's assessment is from Karissa. She wrote in wanting to know the difference between obsessive-compulsive personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

How happy I am to oblige! I did a post not too long ago about Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) here, so I won't go into that again. But the analogy I used on that post was that if neurosis was water and a person was a sponge, a person with OCPD would be completely saturated while a person with OCD would just be wet.

People with OCD are trapped in a pattern of endless thoughts and behaviors that really don't make a lot of sense and can't be stopped. The obsessive thought drives the compulsive action in a vicious cycle.

Obsessions have 4 criteria that all have to be present:

1) Thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced as intrusive and inappropriate. They usually case marked anxiety or distress.

2) The thoughts are not simply excessive worries about real-life problems (like checking the doorknob and windows locks in a run-down neighborhood where break-ins are common).

3) The person attempts to ignore/suppress these thoughts or neutralize them with some other thought or action (the compulsion part of the equation).

4) The person recognizes that the obsessive thoughts are a product of their own mind.

Compulsions have 2 criteria:

1) Repetitive behaviors (like hand washing, ordering, checking) or mental acts (like praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the person feelings driven to perform in response to an obsession (see above) or to be in accordance with some rigid set of rules they have in their life.

2) The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing distress (like preventing some dreadful event---like a break-in), but they aren't connected in a realistic way or are clearly excessive.

So a person with OCD has to fit the above picture, but they also have to realize at some point that the obsessions and compulsions are excessive or unreasonable and they do the following:

1) cause marked distress

2) be time consuming (like more than 1 hour a day)

3) significantly interfere with the person's normal routine (occupation or academic fuctioning, as well as social activities or relationships

People with OCD don't want to be OCD. They don't relish it. Their mind is a mind that just won't quit. They have no peace, no calm. That's what it's an anxiety disorder.

So while people with OCPD might share similar characteristics with OCD sufferers, the biggest difference might be that people with the personality disorder aren't in as much mental anguish. Some might even enjoy being the way they are...perfectionistic, conscientious, detailed, devoted, overly productive.

Hopefully this clears it up. I'm glad Karissa asked, because I meant to clarify this more after that personality disorder post and forgot! So thanks for the reminder.

Q4U: Any OCD or OCPD people in your books? How do you/could you find a balance between showing the obsessions and the compulsions within the written page?

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Monday, April 26, 2010

A Little Transparancy

We write what we know, right? From the roots of our pain or happiness or guilt can come words that can heal, trap, or free ourselves. Writing is just that powerful.

I recently finished an article that had it's origins in tender teenage years, and I decided to be transparent in the hopes that other teen girls might learn from my mistakes. My article for SAGE Girl's Ministry for May is out already, and I wanted to share this little piece of my painful history--and subsequent joyous revelation--with my blogging friends, as well.

Here's the link to my Parent Pointers article on Modest Waiting:

If you know of a young person who might benefit from reading this and other articles like it, please share this site with them. While it's intended for young girls, parents and others can benefit as well.

Happy Monday!

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

T3 - Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Esteem Needs

Now we're getting into the upper levels of needs according to Maslow. (If you missed the first three levels, click on the following to access them: Basic Needs, Safety Needs, and Social Needs.)

Aretha can sing it better than I can type here's what Maslow's fourth level in his pyramid is all about:

People want to be respected, esteemed by others. This type of external respect is the lower order of Esteem Needs. You might say this is the need for status, recognition and prestige. We want to be valued and accepted by others. This could come in the form of attention, reputation, dignity, and even dominance over others. A person can be famous or have national/international glory, but both require the opinions of others (the public) to make them so.

This is considered a "lower" need because it's based on the opinions of others and it's not intrinsic to yourself. This kind of esteem can come and go, and can certainly be lost. Just ask Tiger Woods.

A higher order Esteem Need is to have internal self-respect and self-esteem. This is when we want to feel that we've contributed something worthwhile, something of value. To have inner strength, competence, mastery, independence, freedom, and self-confidence. Something that we do--activities, club, our jobs, or hobbies--or something we live through and experience gives us this feeling of contribution and competency.

This is a "higher" level because the idea is once you respect yourself, it's harder to lose that respect.

These two levels of Esteem Needs aren't a package deal. You can have one and not have the other. A character who has low self-esteem will not be able to improve their view of themselves by receiving accolades and fame. A narcissist would think highly of themselves, but wouldn't have the external esteem to go with it because let's face it. Who really likes narcissists?

When this need isn't met, a person or character could have low self-esteem or an inferiority complex. Helplessness, depression, or emotional weakness can also happen if these needs are deprived of realization.

Q4U: Have you ever thought about the two types of respect needs? Internal v. external? Lots of plots revolve around this particular Need on Maslow's pyramid. Is yours one of them?

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Treatment Tuesday - Claustrophobia

This week's assessment is from Lindy*. She wrote in a few scenario questions which happen to go really well with Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs that we've been looking at for Thursday Therapeutic Thoughts.

* Name has been changed to protect the not-so-fictional.

Lindy wants to know: If a character has a phobia of small places like closets and elevators, and is being held by a killer in a shed, how would she react? Would she be more concerned about the killer murdering her or will the phobia overpower her?

I'm going to answer this question strictly from Maslow's theory and we'll see how the character could be written out.

Linday has given her character claustrophobia--a fear of small places. This isn't a clinical term for an actual diagnosis, which may or may not be important for you to know. This character would likely fall under the diagnosis of agoraphobia, with or without panic disorder, or perhaps generalized anxiety disorder if they don't meet all the qualifications for agoraphobia.

People who suffer from claustrophobia are usually afraid of two things: 1) being restricted and 2) being suffocated. I'll break these down according to which of Maslow's Needs. What's at stake when a person is restricted, either by movement of arms or limbs or being unable to stand or move at will? It's the fear of not being safe, not being able to get your person--your body--out of danger. Being restricted plays out on Maslow's pyramid as a Safety Need. A person with this disorder would move mountains not to be put in such a dangerous situation to them as being shoved in a shed.

Being suffocated is a different story. What's at stake? Not being able to breath, i.e., not being able to stay alive. This is a Basic Need, arguably the most basic need of all. Everything else pales to not being able to breathe. This is why most people with agoraphobia are diagnosed hand-in-hand with panic disorder.

A character in this situation will likely have a panic disorder at the idea that they won't be able to breathe. It's a catch 22, of course, because as they have the panic attack, their airway does close off, making it more difficult to drag in a breath, consequently making them feel as if they are starving of oxygen. I can only imagine how truly awful it is to think you can't get a breath. Think of people with asthma. *sigh* Huge Basic Need problem. (FYI, Brandilyn Collins does a terrific job of describing full blown panic attacks in her book Exposure. Excellent read.)

Bottom line will be that you've got to think through how bad a phobia you want to give her. I don't care to be stuck in an elevator going up 50 flights. I can do it without sweating and I don't consider myself claustrophobic. But if I had a preference, I would have Scotty beam me up instead.

But you've also added the little tidbit of a killer about to murder her. While she's in that shed, the threat of the killer is really a Safety Need threat. He's not actively trying to kill her. If, say, he were trying to gag her, that's the need of oxygen, which is a Basic Need. If he's trying to chase at her with a knife, then it's the need to avoid pain/survive, a Basic Need.

So the character is in the shed with two Safety Needs not being met and likely one Basic Need not being met, that of lack of oxygen because she's probably hyperventilating in the confined space, thinking she's going to suffocate. In this scenario, with a true claustrophobic, I guarantee that her will to draw in a breath will outweigh some future threat of danger from the killer-slash-kidnapper.

Of course, Maslow's theory is a theory. But I happen to think it makes an awful lot of sense.

Hope this helps Lindy!

Q4U: Any claustrophobics in your novels? Do they have panic disorder to accompany their fear?

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

T3 - Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Social Needs

Thanks for joining me again in this series. We're to the third level in Maslow's pyramid, Social Needs. (If you missed it, I already covered the first level, Basic Needs, and the second need, Safety Needs.) Once a person has taken care of themselves physically, they are ready to share themselves with others in a meaningful way, and that leads to social needs.

Social Needs encompasses the need for love and belonging, by both small social connections and larger social groups. In fact, many versions of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs calls the Social Needs level the Psychological or Love Needs.

At this point, people want to be surrounded by friends, a sweetheart, a spouse, children, neighbors, office coworkers, church, community. This is a need to have relationships, either through marriage, having a family, being a part of a fraternity, a gang, or a bowling or gardening club. This truly is a psychological need, one you feel with both your head and your heart. It's intimacy, and it's much more than just sex at this level. It's the need to love and be loved, and that's in a sexual and non-sexual way.

With this need also comes the fear of being alone or looking foolish. At the extreme, this could lead to clinical depression. There are some times when this need is so strong, it overcomes the Basic and Safety Needs, as in the case of an anorexic who may ignore the need to eat and the security of health to have a feeling of belonging and acceptance and control.

I could throw out so many scenarios for writers to consider regarding this theory of a needs heirarchy. For you historical writers out there, think of the carpetbagger who moves around with no clear knowledge of where they might stay. Wouldn't their first priorities be having a place to sleep? a place to eat? Would it really be to find love?

What about the severe mental disorder of Borderline Personality Disorder? These individuals are so driven by their emotional needs that they act in hysterical and disturbing ways at times, definitely capable of jeopardizing their own safety.

What other scenarios can you think of that either do or don't fall in line with Maslow's theory? (Keeping in mind that it's just that...a theory....not a fact.) :)

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Friday, April 9, 2010

We Have a Winner!

The winner of Kaye Dacus' A Case for Love is....Lynnet (Mom2Three)!

Thanks for entering everyone!

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

T3 - Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Safety Needs

Last week, we covered the Basic Needs that form the foundation of Maslow's pyramid. This week, the next step up is to Safety Needs.

Safety Needs encompasses the need for security, stability, and protection. After Basic needs are taken care of in order to survive, it frees a person's mind to think about "higher" order concerns, fears, or anxieties. People generally want some structure, order, and limits in their world. They want predictability and familiarity.

At this level, most adults focus on the four types of safety/security:

1) Their person and/or family/belongings. This is when people put alarm systems on their house or car or when they implement a neighborhood watch system. They might feel the need to carry a firearm or conceal one at their home. You might install motion detection lights outside your front door and password-protect your laptop. Some will keep safes hidden away under tables or behind pictures or will keep a lock box at a bank where they'll put their most precious belongings. People also appreciate grievance procedures developed on many different levels (government, work, church) that are in place to protect an individual from maltreatment.

2) Their financial security. Adults generally seek out jobs that will give them the most security, and if that comes along with making the most money possible, even better. People will save money in savings account, invest in mutual funds, start a ROTH IRA, or horde a nest egg away on their own in a piggy bank masquerading as a book in their library.

3) Their health/well-being. You only get one body, and while you can alter it considerably with surgeries and the like, you better have dang good insurance to do so. In order to protect themselves again the adverse effects of being really ill, or breaking bones, or having cancer, people have to have insurance or some other social program (Obama's health care reform hadn't exactly been envisioned by Maslow at this time) to fall back on.

4) Their future. The argument could be made that all of the above greatly effect a person's future, and you'd be right. People seem to enjoy planning for when the time will come when they won't have to work and can just enjoy their lives doing what they want to do. In order to do this, though, things have to be put in place while they are still working, like having a good retirement plan. Its important to have a safety net (or as Dave Ramsey likes to say, an "emergency fund") for when there might be a major accident or illness that would have negative impacts.

So how does this apply to writers?

The importance of the two levels we covered last week and today is this: a person can't fully give of themselves to others (in true friendship, romantic love, and intimacy) before these needs are met. It wouldn't make sense for a character to only pines for love when they don't have a basic need or safety need met beforehand.

If you think back to what you've written in previous books or manuscripts, you'll likely see that you've already done this. You probably have heroines/heroes who already have stable jobs and ready access to food (ha! I'm sure most have never put thought to this!) before they look to get romantically involved. :)

But the higher we go on the pyramid, the more interesting the nuances become for writers. Stay tuned!

Q4U: Can you think of any characters from books or movies that bypassed one of the first two levels on the pyramid to seek out romantic love?

One that comes to my mind is Bella Swan from Twilight. Any other takers?

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Treatment Tuesday - Abuse Cycle Elements

This week's assessment comes from Hayley. She's writing about Alana*, a girl who has experienced a fair share of neglect and abuse from a very young age. She eventually ran away from home and became a beggar in a major city before she fell in with a gang, where she is grouped with Corban*, the antagonist who is 10-years older than Alana. Corban takes a liking to Alana, but when she doesn't reciprocate, he pursues her more forcefully, and his intent grows from an infatuation to an obsession over several years.

Alana finds herself in an abusive relationship with Corban as progressive incidents of physical and verbal abuse maker her increasingly complacent. She adopts a survival mentality, accepting a lesser pain to avoid the greater and to cooperate rather than anger him. Her addiction to alcohol increases as a means of escape, as well as occasional use of opiates. She hates him, is terrified of him, yet he holds an incredible sway over her image of self-worth now. When Corban nearly rapes her, she flees at the age of 17. The novel starts 2 years later when she circumstances force her back to the city and get her involve with the gang and Corban again.

* Names have been changed to protect the fictional.

Hayley wants to know several things:

1) Does it make sense that Alana tries to avoid, fight, or resist Corban in their scenes together, but also has a level of complacence after several years of his abuse? 2) What are the side-effects of this type of abuse? 3) Do the presence of drugs/alcohol make sense? To what degree? 4) Is it believable for Corban to still have so much influence over Alana after two years apart, and how difficult would that be to overcome during the course of the novel? 5) Would it be believable for a romantic subplot to take place during all of this, helping her towards greater self-worth and showing her such treatment isn't normal?

This is a lot to cover, so I'll jump right in. What you're writing is tricky, mainly because you are making it clear to the reader that Alana doesn't want to be with Corban. In order for the domestic violence (also called interpersonal violence now) cycle to work, there is that vital link of the abused actually being co-dependent on the abuser that's implied, yet that's missing from what you've described. She doesn't want to be with him at all, but he's pressed her into submission anyway?

My initial thoughts for question #1 are this: either you're going to have to have Alana's motivation to stay in the gang be so compelling that she'd rather deal with Corban than the awful, dangerous, life-threatening alternative waiting for her outside the gang, OR you'll need to write in an initial attraction of Alana to Corban (which I think would work because she's young and impressionable, and he's older, maybe handsome...) that changes a bit when she realizes that he's not very stable with his emotions.

The situation as you've described it is totally appropriate for domestic violence (DV) situations, given that the abused actually CARES for the abuser in a co-dependent kind of way. Let's just say Alana actually did have feelings for Corban initially, but they get buried in fear as he becomes increasingly possessive and aggressive. You can set the story up for a traditional DV situation with just one little tweak. There are a few things missing for this to fit into Stockholm Syndrome, as well, because generally, victims/hostages with Stockholm come to love/respect their abusers, and you don't have Alana doing that, either.

If there isn't something added or tweaked, the reader might be suspicious...I mean, why the heck doesn't she just LEAVE him if she doesn't have some sort of residual feelings/attraction for him? (Let's face it...this is the question we always ask of women who are in DV.) The important difference being for Alana is that you have her not liking Corban at all with no reciprocation of his it would bound to raise this question in the reader's mind as it did in mine. One-sided relationships don't quite fit the bill for the cycle of abuse, of that makes sense.

You did write that she "still responds if he's kind." In the cycle of abuse, women generally want to believe the abuser when he swings back to the honeymoon phase. When he says he'll never hit her again, or destroy something meaningful to her, she believes it because she desperately needs to believe it. By doing so, she gives validation to her remaining with him as long as she has. If there isn't some redeeming factor about the guy, women probably would leave quicker. As it is, the national statistic is that women leave an abusive relationship an average of eight times before they leave it for good.

So that sets up the situation of Alana coming back to the city/gang/Corban very nicely (question #4). He's still have a great influence over here, even after 2 years. Women who have been in these type situations never forget the feelings of inferiority and helplessness. It'd be akin to shrugging into a coat of oppressive memories again, and all too easy to slip back into that mindset.

The side effects (#2) of abuse to this degree are serious. Women who are abused as a child often end up in abusive relationships, accepting this type of treatment as the norm. Using alcohol and drugs (#3) to escape their present circumstances and past trauma is totally feasible and psychologically appropriate (in that it makes sense, not in that I'd recommend it to a client!). They have trouble with long-term relationships a lot, as well as with intimacy once they've found a great guy. Lots of PTSD can be involved in their day-to-day lives, flashbacks, avoidance of certain places, etc. (And men who have been abused in their childhood are more likely to become abusers as not sure how Corban lines up with this, but of course, this isn't 100% necessary.)

As to question #5, whether it's feasible for a romantic subplot to happen, my answer is that it's feasible, but probably not within the same novel. Maybe you could hint at an attraction to someone else, an attraction she's scared of, but I'd save delving into it for a sequel. In reality, it takes a while for women who have been abused to trust again. But a hint or two wouldn't at all be inappropriate, because the reader will want to have some hope that she will eventually see that there are better ways to be treated and that she won't settle for something less. After leaving Corban, she needs to have a strong inner resolve that she'll never settle or get involved in something like that again. Once she returns, this resolve will be tested, but perhaps interactions with this other man will fortify it? You could go different directions here...just think about it.

Okay...all for now! Any other questions, please ask! You have a lot going on in this story that a lot of women will be able to relate to, which is great. Good luck with it!

This service is for fictional characters only, so any resemblance to real life examples is entirely coincidental. Any other fictional character assessment questions can be directed to charactertherapist (at) hotmail (dot) com.

You can still enter to win Kaye Dacus' A Case for Love by clicking here!

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Kaye Dacus' A Case for Love Review and Giveaway!

The third installment in the Brides of Bonneterre series features some heavy issues into which I was happy to therapeutically delve. Here's a blurb from Kaye Dacus's website:

The Alaine Delacroix that all of Bonneterre knows is the carefully polished image she puts forth every day on her noontime news-magazine program. When her parents’ home and small business is threatened by the biggest corporation in town, Alaine is forced to choose between her image and fighting for the life her family has built.

Lawyer Forbes Guidry is used to making things go his way. But when he’s asked to take on a pro bono case for a colleague, he’ll learn that he can’t control everything—including his feelings for his new client: Alaine Delacroix.

Alaine’s only option to help her family is hiring Forbes, but can she bring herself to trust the handsome, disarmingly charming lawyer? And will Forbes Guidry be able to make a case for love before losing his job and family? Can both trust that God will present a solution before it’s too late?

Kaye's Bonneterre series has a strength in grounding the reader in a setting and culture, that while fictional, does exist in southern Louisiana. She's clearly done her research (check her website for info), and for someone who lived three years in New Orleans, I felt a bit like I was back there, reading the French names and wondering how the heck you're supposed to be able to pronounce them! (Kaye even helps readers out with phonetically proper pronunciations, though, so no worries.)

So, donning the therapist cap, let's take a look at the deeper issues Kaye brings to light within the confines of her lighthearted and often humorous romance.

Kaye's leading man, Forbes, is a control freak. The thing is, though, is that he admits it, which makes him one of the worst kind of control freaks out there: the kind that unrepentantly makes the choice to be. Forbes gets involved in his family's business on a regular basis. Part of that is because he's a lawyer, and his family uses his services for convenience.

But Forbes takes things too far, and often has to apologize, only to do something else again. Kaye handles this issue well, because by the end of the book, God forces Forbes to come to the conclusion in his character arc that God is in control, not him. He can't go around playing Holy Spirit Jr. and usurping God's role in his life (and others). The beauty of getting to this breaking point is when you realize how much God can bless you through the thin place. Forbes experiences this, and it just makes you smile.

Forbes is faced with the worst kind of decision about mid-way through the book, as he learns information about a particular legal dealing his parents are involved in. He comes to the conclusion that his parents are on the "wrong" side of things, and he makes the difficult decision to go up against them (and his own firm).

This book will resonate with anyone because of this storyline. Who hasn't struggled with the biblical edict to honor your father and mother (Exodus 20:12) when what you think they are doing isn't honorable? Does God want blind obedience to the rule, or would he prefer obedience to the spirit of the rule? Forbes wrestles with this, and Kaye does a great job of showing his hesitation, his resolve, and the aftermath that ensues as he effectively cuts himself out of his close-knit family for taking the stand he does.

He's also faced with losing everything to make this one stand. He feels God's assurance that he's doing the right thing, but yet he feels the costly sacrifice that comes with doing the right thing as well. He stands to lose his relationship with his parents, his job at a prestigious law firm, his love for nice clothes, etc. Not all of us might have had to face something that would so definitively change our lives, but many of us have, and my sympathies went to Forbes as I recalled my own experiences.

In conclusion, Kaye has written characters that are relatable, likable, and therefore memorable. An excellent book to curl up with and enjoy...and it can be yours!

To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment below with your email address written so spammers can't get it (ex: charactertherapist (at) hotmail (dot) com). The rules are simple:

1) If you are already a follower, you will be entered twice in the drawing.
2) If you become a new follower, you will be entered three times!
3) If you refer a follower my direction, your name goes in the pot two more times! (Just tell me who you referred.)

Giveaway ends on Friday! Best of luck to everyone!

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Articles Published This Month

This month, I am blessed to have three articles published!

My usual column at Christian Fiction Online Magazine features my article "Bipolar: Research It Before You Use It." I also had the privilege of writing the "Author by Night" column as well.

My monthly SAGE Girls' Ministry column, Parent Pointers, features "Keepin' It Real," how to apply God's word instead of merely hearing it.

Hope you enjoy them.

Have a fantastic weekend, and I'll see you back here on Monday for a chance to win Kaye Dacus' new release, A Case for Love!

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

T3 - Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Basic Needs

What does some guy named Abraham Maslow have to offer writers about how to develop their characters?

SO glad you asked!

After recently brushing up on human motivation theory (no need to bore you with details, but there it is if you want to Google it), I realized that this simple little pyramid developed by Maslow might help us figure out just what our characters want.

Maslow's theory was that there is a hierarchy, or pecking order, of human needs. In turn, I thought how appropriate to apply this to our character's lives. My plan for this new series is to start at the bottom of his pyramid, since these needs are what comes first, and then work my way up a level each week.

So this week we start at Basic Needs.

Basic needs are the primary things a person needs to survive, like air, water, and food. If forced to choose between water and food, a person will instinctively choose water, because a body can live for weeks without food, but only days without water. Water is a stronger need than food. If being strangled in a banquet hall full of food and you are starving, you're going to opt to try to breathe rather than try to stuff your mouth. Air is a baser need than water.

The body needs certain salts, proteins, sugars, and vitamins and minerals, as well. If our body is low on sugar, then we crave cakes and cookies. If it's low on salt, we want potato chips. If we're low on vitamin C, we want things high in vitamin C, like orange juice. Keeping a pH balance is also important, as allowing our body to get too acidic or too base will kill us. We also have the need to excrete wastes (whether it's carbon dioxide through breathing, sweat, urine or #2), avoid pain, sleep, and be active.

Humans also need to maintain their body temperature right at or pretty darn close to 98.6. If your character is thrown overboard off the shore of Northern California without a wetsuit, he won't last 30 minutes. So keeping his temperature high, as well as not drowning--which would interfere with his need for air--becomes the A-1, top priority. Nothing else will matter.

One could (and Maslow did) make an argument for sex to be included here, as well as sleep. The sexual drive in humans is strong, and studies have been done that show sexual drive can literally drain energy away from other goals. I believe this drives womanizers. They don't need the higher need of love and belonging, but they can't deny their sexual desires, so they don't even attempt to try.

There is also the lesser, basic need for clothing and shelter, although the human body could still exist without these. They still fall into this category, however.

How does this apply to writers?

SO glad you asked!

In reality, if you have a heroine who is starving, or freezing, or being deprived sleep or food...she isn't going to be wondering at that particular time if they might possibly be in love with the hero or if their 401k is growing fast enough. When a person is deprived of basic needs, the basic need becomes a priority. It's just not realistic to have them musing, reflecting, or speculating about so-called "higher" needs.

In Maslow's on words, "For the man who is extremely and dangerously hungry, no other interests exist but food. He dreams food, he remembers food, he thinks about food, he emotes [feels] only about food, he perceives only food and he wants only food."

This is in the moment, of course. As soon as the need is satisfied, the character will have other, higher needs replace it (see the pyramid). We'll be covering these higher needs in future posts, so stay tuned!

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