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Thursday, February 25, 2010

T3 - "Power Patrol" Parenting Style

This week, we dig into the first of our parenting styles, the Power Patrol. If you missed taking the quiz, click here. Once you score it for yourself or your character, sit back and wait until I hit on your parenting style. It's amazing what you can learn about where your character comes from and how that background still affects them (or you) today.

The most extreme form of an Over-Controlling Parent is the Power Patrol. In a worst case scenario, these parents are the ones who end up as a Child Welfare case because they have somehow physically or emotionally abused their children. But not every Power Patrol takes it this far.

In general, Power Patrols want to be in control of every situation. These are usually Lion-type personalities (if you haven't taken the Animal Personality Test I based an earlier series on, click here to access it). Everything that applies to the Lion type (click here), both positive and negative mostly applies to the Power Patrol.

How does this relate to parenting? There are some inherent challenges with all the types, but Power Patrols can have difficulty establishing warmth and connection with their children. They are bossy, argumentative and don't allow for different viewpoints other than their own.
are more concerned with the love of power than the power of love.

What does a Power Patrol believe? Deep down, the internal mantra of a Power Patrol is that children should follow the rules, plain and simple. If a child breaks the rules, then it's the parent's job to punish them. These individuals don't have the nebulous "gray area" that many parents struggle with. To them, everything falls into either black or white. Right or wrong. Usually, their way or the wrong way.

Children who have differing opinions from them are not encouraged to voice these opinions at all. They are seen as wrong, and the child's trying to speak his or her mind is seen as disrespectful or defiant. Besides, if a child exercises their right to speak up, the Power Patrol fears not being able to control the situation.

How does a Power Patrol discipline? By issuing orders, threatening the child with possible consequences of not following through, and shaming them if they don't do it quite right. If these don’t work, they often resort to physical punishment to motivate a child.

If your hero or heroine had this type of parent growing up, how might she or he end up as an adult? Here's some likely possibilities:

1) Inability to trust.

These children grow up with barricade over their heart. All they've basically known is harshness and criticism. Their parents might love them, but their actions hardly say the same thing. In fact, their words and even their body language indicates rejection. It's hard to put yourself out there for anyone for fear of additional rejection.

2) Tendency toward lording over others.

These children might be fearful of their parents, but they are also in awe of them. The amount of power that their parents wield impress them, and since they have no control at home, these children will often seek ways to have power over others anyway they can. They become the playground bullies or the boardroom debater who won't let up on a verbal match.

3) Little self-motivation.

Having grown up waiting for the next demand to come, children of this type parenting style aren't self-disciplined. They are other-disciplined. They go through childhood simply wanting to avoid punishment, and that's why they obey rules, not because they see the value of the rule or respect the parent's judgment. This can translate into low ambition in adulthood. At work, they will appear productive only when the boss's eye is on them.

4) May lean toward abusive relationships.
Since their parent was so controlling (or even worse, physically abusive), and this might have even been done in the name of love, these children come to associate pain (physical, mental, or emotional) with love.

5) Uncomfortable around physical affection.

Wouldn't you be a tad out of your element with a "touchy-feely" if you grew up with a man like the one in the cartoon pictured above? It's not like Power Patrols are completely unaffectionate, but they aren't known for their warm, cushy huge and pecks on the cheek.

If any of these fit the bill, then you'd have a nice internal character arc already plotted out for your protagonist.

Q4U: Any of your characters (or YOU) out there have this type of parent? Did you plan any of these types of conflicts for them to overcome?

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* A lot of the information in this series will be derived from Jody Johnston Powel's book, The Parent's Toolshop. Quite a bit is also from my own clinical experiences and opinions.*

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Treatment Tuesday - From Bully to Protector

Airdale wrote in for an assessment on her military cadet, Kalish* who lives in her medieval fantasy pages as a 17-year-old who just finished the Academy portion of his training before he is delivered to an outpost in the wilderness where Sergeant Daniels* will supervise Kalish's 2 years of field internship. At the novel's beginning, Kalish is a bully and believes the world exists only to hurt him. By the novel's end, he needs to be "rehabbed" into a leader.

Kalish has a backstory that starts as him being a prank-loving 8-year old who, at 14, has a prank that goes terribly wrong. As an alternative to prison, the Academy Headmaster takes Kalish under his tutelage. The Headmaster really takes Kalish to task, beating him and locking him in his room. The Headmaster, who actually cares for him, believes this abuse is discipline. When in training, Kalish becomes savage, and by the time the novel begins, he wills tart a fight anytime someone looks at him the wrong way and won't stop until he causes injury.

* Names have been changed to protect the fictional.

What Airdale wants to know is this: What can Daniels and Kalish's fellow cadets do help Kalish stop being a bully and become a protector and leader? What kind of milestones and lapses might happen along the way? Wh
at kind of situations could I create to help Kalish heal and grow?

With Kalish, I'd like to start at his childhood (of course!). The prankster and fun-loving child who makes a huge mistake. Since you didn't specify what went wrong, I can only imagine that Kalish would feel guilt, shame, and a hardening of his heart when he's sent to the Academy, knowing he was destined for prison if he didn't go. This might cause him to really resent the Academy, what it stands for, and what he's learning there. He might decide to beat those who beat him, so to speak. This would give him the motivation to be the best swordsman and best cadet he could be.

Being locked in his room during his formidable teenage years, when Kalish is developing a sense of who he is, and a sense of his self-worth, would be perhaps the most psychologically damaging. It would teach him that he can only depend on himself and trust no one. He'd likely develop the mentality that it's him against the world, since no one was really coming to his aide to stop the abuse (regardless of how much more it might be accepted in your story world). The one man that took him under his wing was also the same man whose hand brought pain. Pain done in the name of love is the most detrimental kind.

For him to want to channel his violent tendencies toward protection, you'll have the hard job of making him actually care about something. You don't want to protect something you don't care about, and if you do protect something you don't care about, then you do so begrudgingly. So what's out there in this wilderness to make him care? Is it incredibly dangerous so that he would care about his life? Is it home of native inhabitants, one of which might become a romantic interest? (Think Avatar here. Being immersed in a completely foreign culture makes a person put up guards initially, yes, but respect tears them down. Learning to respect others is key to not being a bully. This is a mode of treatment for preschool bullies, even.)

I suppose that you could pit him against another cadet in the wilderness who is a contender for the role as "top dog." Then perhaps Kalish might be more of a protector or defender since he's still got something to prove, so he'd recognize that the rules of engagement at the Academy have changed and now he's got to shift his focus from self to something else in order to prove he's the best. Just something to consider.

This Sergeant is going to have to have long-suffering and consistency in order to gain Kalish's respect. If the man didn't beat him or do some other degrading punishment, then I think Kalish would pay attention to him. After all, that's the only sort of discipline he's known. Something completely foreign to him would make him come up short. At the very first "challenge" or behavioral faux pas, have Sergeant show his displeasure drastically different from the Headmaster.

For Kalish to heal from his past and become a man of honor and a great leader, then the internal transformation will have to start small, like learning there are other ways to handle conflict, and then realizing those ways are actually better than his old ways. It would be helpful for him to see someone he's come to respect make a true sacrifice for what they believe in...perhaps even Daniels himself. You might not have planned to kill the Sergeant off in your book, but if Kalish comes to really respect him, looks up to him like a father, so to speak, then having Daniels die at the end, and sort of "pass the torch" on to Kalish would be a powerful motivator for Kalish to finally change his ways. To have someone on his death bed tell Kalish that they believe in him, trust him, would heal all sorts of hurts and wounds from his past. Kalish might very well move mountains not to let Daniels (or whoever) down posthumously. Just another plot twist to think that would be very dramatic for the reader.

All young men--and women--just want to be believed in, to be affirmed and to be blessed by someone they love and care about. The Headmaster's ways weren't affirming, even though he might have cared for Kalish. Having a dying Daniels or someone else affirm Kalish not only because of his military prowess, but because of who he is, would be passing on to him the blessing that he's been denied ever since he played that prank that went horribly awry. He might be able to forgive himself for it, as well.

This assessment has been written a bit stream of consciousness, which I hope is still helpful. I found this was more difficult, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's because of my association with the military (husband is 10 years in the Coast Guard) and having heard all the stories about boot camp, academy,'s hard not to try to put this storyline into modern time for me. If someone was a bully in the military, not able to keep their fists to themselves, then they would just be kicked out. So in a fantasy world, you've got lots more to play with that could be feasible.

Please, leave any additional questions in the comment section. Maybe one of your questions will spur me to think of something else I might have forgot or missed.

Good luck with writing Kalish's emergence into a worthy man. :)

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

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

T3 - Parenting Styles Overview (and Quiz!)

If you're stuck on developing a truly rich backstory for your character--a reason to give them the current quirks and neuroses they have as adults--then look no further! For the next five weeks, this series on parenting styles will not only help enrich the lives of your characters on the page, but it will also help you parents out there know a little bit more about yourself and where YOU come from.

To begin with, we'll start with a two-part quiz. It's a little involved, so do yourself and your character a favor by grabbing a pencil and paper to take this puppy for real. (If you don't have time right now, then come back! Don't rush this one.) Using the scale below, write the number from 1 to 5 that corresponds to your level of agreement with each statement below.

1 strongly disagree; 2 disagree; 3 neutral; 4 agree; 5 strongly agree

Part I: Beliefs

_____1. It is better to give a little ground and protect the peace than to stand firm and provoke a fight.

_____2. Children need discipline that hurts a little so that they will remember the lesson later.

_____3. Children shouldn’t always get their way, but usually we ought to learn to listen to what they have to say.

_____4. The parent-child relationship is like a war in which if the parent wins, both sides win; but if the parent loses, both sides lose.

_____5. If parents provide a good environment, children will pretty much raise themselves.

_____6. The parent’s role is like that of a teacher who is preparing the child for a final exam called life.

_____7. Childhood is so short that parents should do everything to make it a happy time.

_____8. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is still the best policy.

_____9. Children need to learn what they may or may not do, but we don’t have to use punishment to teach.

_____10. Whether we like it or not, children have the last word about what they will or won’t do.

_____11. If you let children have pretty free rein, they will eventually learn from the consequences of their behavior what is appropriate.

_____12. Children first have to learn that the parent is boss.

_____13. Too many children today talk back to their parents when they should just quietly obey them.

_____14. If we want children to respect us, we must first treat them with respect.

_____15. You can never do too much for your child if it comes from genuine love.

Part II: Actions

_____16. I often have to call my child more than once to get her or him out of bed in the morning.

_____17. I have to constantly stay on top of my child to get things done.

_____18. When my child misbehaves, he or she usually knows what the consequences will be.

_____19. I often get angry and yell at my child.

_____20. I often feel that my child is taking advantage of my good nature.

_____21. We have discussed chores at our home and everybody takes part.

_____22. My child gets a spanking at least once a month.

_____23. My child has no regular chores around the home, but will occasionally pitch in when asked.

_____24. I usually give my child clear instructions as to how I want something done.

_____25. My child is finicky eater, so I have to try various combinations to make sure he or she gets the proper nutrition.

_____26. I don’t call my child names, and I don’t expect to be called names by my child.

_____27. I usually give my child choices between two appropriate alternatives rather than telling my child what to do.

_____28. I have to threaten my child with punishment at least once a week.

_____29. I wish my child wouldn’t interrupt my conversations so often.

_____30. My child usually gets up and ready without my help in the morning.

Now, to get your scores, add the numbers for each color.

Part I: Beliefs

Over-Controlling belief score:

RED = ________

Under-Controlling belief score:

GREEN = ________

Balanced belief score:

BLUE = ________

Part II: Actions

Over-Controlling action score:

RED = ________

Under-Controlling action score:

GREEN = ________

Balanced action score:

BLUE = ________

Now add your Belief score with your Action score, and the highest number indicates what type of parent your hero grew up with, or what type of parent your heroine is (or you are). Here's a picture I created to depict how the styles interact with each other. The darker gray rectangles (Avoiders and Power Patrols) are the more severe styles of Over and Under Controlling (scores are between 34-50) while the lighter gray rectangles represent the less severe Over and Under Controlling styles (scores between 0-33). Balanced, as indicated, falls in the middle. You're considered "Balanced" if your Balanced score is higher than the others.

I'll be delving in deeper into what kinds of people most likely fall into each category, their approaches to discipline, parental beliefs, view of negative emotions, and possible outcomes of their children (i.e., your hero or heroine!) when they grow up and strike out on their own. Stay tuned!

Q4U: Did your Belief and Action scores line up? Or did you find you're more one style in beliefs but don't act that style out?

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Treatment Tuesday - Consequences of an Absent Father

This week's assessment is brought to you by Australian author Maree Giles. I'm always a bit stunned when published authors write in about their current works in progress. Well, that any person would trust me with their characters--their story--is humbling and amazing. Thank you, Maree. :)

Maree's working on a historical set in Sydney, Australia, in 1946. Maree's heroine is a famous fashion model, raised by her governess mother, who opens an etiquette school for young ladies with her mom and socializes in all the influential circles. She finds out that a widowed man with 7 children stole a frock in the department store where she works for his eldest daughter's job interview, and this opens the heroine's eyes to the human side of the petty thefts plaguing Sydney. She has the idea to make jam and pickles using the chokos that grow in the man's garden. But someone steals all the products from the man's shed. Meanwhile the man's daughter is taken in for being "exposed to moral danger" when the Sydney police found her in a bar. The girl stays in her father's custody, but is warned she may be sent to a brutal reform school. The heroine offers to enroll the girl in her etiquette school free of charge as a way to help. In addition, she expands her school in a time of high unemployment and low morale to include etiquette for Sydney's roughest, unemployed men.

Maree wants to know the following: Considering my heroine's background, what sort of personality-type would she be? She was abandoned by her father, she's a country girl with old-fashioned values, dedicated to her mother who wants her to make the most of her looks and talents, a bit of a snob and intolerant of bad manners, but caring, intelligent and deep-thinking.

At first glance, it looks like you've got her personality all figured out, Maree. But there are some places where digging a bit deeper might help you flesh her out even further.

Let's start with being abandoned by her father. From what you wrote, your heroine's father left her mother when she was born, so she had no chance to get to know him. This is going to leave a young girl wondering why her father left, and upon discovering the time frame of his departure from their family, she will likely reason that his leaving has something to do with her birth--or otherwise, her very existence. Young children are so quick to blame themselves for issues in the marital relationship. They might never say it out loud, but they internalize this untruth in various ways...from outward behaviors to inward depressions and isolation.

I'd also bet that almost to a child, children from divorced homes envy children from intact homes. They know that something is missing from their single-parent home, and can see--even from a very early age--that their home life isn't the same as Marci's or Peter's or Sarah's. Your heroine will find fathers fascinating as a result. This fascination could transfer to men in general, making her very vulnerable to influences of men.

Mary DeMuth's memoir, Thin Places, is a great book to understand the tender psyche of a girl who essentially grew up without a father. There is a yearning to have a deep connection with a male--and this desire should be initially met for a girl by a father. Without the need being met, the girl usually will seek love and acceptance anywhere she can find it. This could be from other boy peers, or other adult men. She'll crave relationship but be scared of it at the same time, as she had no role model for what that would look like.

That said, likely your heroine transferred her desire to be loved and accepted into an unhealthy relationship with her mother. You wrote that the mother "sees potential in her daughter as a fashion model." This takes quite an enterprising and scrutinizing eye to determine this. Anyone can see that a girl is beautiful, but not just any mother would look at their child and think, "Hmm. Future fashion model." There's a difference.

To think one is beautiful is just stating a present fact, enjoying God's creation. To think one could be a fashion model is to assume a future, planning for power and influence. And it worked for this mother. The heroine becomes successful, blooming in her mother's affirmation, although it's somewhat like the difference between a rose grown inside a greenhouse to a rose found on hillside. One is natural, the other is groomed for optimal perfection.

If this girl is not constantly minding her Ps and Qs, looking flawlessly turned out at every function, then she will likely feel that her relationship with her mother will suffer, that her mother won't be proud of her, might not give her her blessing. Who's she really dressing up for? Her mom or herself? Who's she being a model for? Opening an etiquette school for?

Children want to be blessed by their parents. We all crave our parents approval and acceptance. (FYI, John Trent and Gary Smalley wrote a book about this very thing called The Blessing. Fanstastic read, especially for those individuals who can't receive a blessing from their parent, either due to death or a parent's unwillingness to give it.) So this fatherless girl, left only with an enterprising mother (who might very well love her daughter), will seek after whatever blessing and approval she can. So she will turn heads at parties. She will speak with grace and never interrupt. These actions are the currency she uses to buy love.

So YES! She's dedicated to her mother. Probably overly so. You intimated that problems will arise later when her mother begins to depend too heavily on the heroine for company. I think that will be spot on. Eventually this girl will realize there is a world out mentioned having her traveling around to Paris and London and New York. That should do it. Meeting the father of 7 children will definitely expand her horizons. She might even be in awe of a man who would willingly risk getting caught by the police just to steal a dress for his daughter. She won't understand that kind of love and devotion, as her own father wouldn't even stick around to watch her grow up, much less sacrifice so much for her. And the love and devotion from her mother is more one-sided on the heroine's part. In all honesty, what has the mother given up for the heroine? What has she done, other than nudge her daughter into the spotlight while riding her coattails, so to speak?

I hope I haven't wrongly characterized your heroin's mother. I would have liked to email you back and forth a bit about her role, but that's what I get for having a 4-day Valentine's weekend and a 2-year-old birthday party, as well. Let's correspond in the comment section if I read the mom wrong. I gathered that your heroine's snobbery and intolerance of bad manners could stem directly from her mother's influence.

From what I read in your email, it looks like you've got a nice internal arc for her...coming down off the mountain a bit to fraternize with people of lower socioeconomic status, seeing their humanity. This will change her, and perhaps she'll find more in common with them than her influential circles. People are people, the only difference is that wealth aids in wearing masks more efficiently that poverty does. She'll probably be drawn to the "real" side of the rough and tumble men who take her etiquette courses, although initially she might show disdain for it--simply because that's what will be expected of her and it's something she's unfamiliar with. But she'll be drawn to it, as well. You can see the great potential for internal conflict here.

I guess that's enough for this assessment! Sometimes I get carried away, imagining talking to this person in my office. Let your heroine speak to you from that wounded place in her past...the place where a father left a vacuum. Hope this helps!

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.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Thin Places Winners - Second Round

I never heard back from the winners for Mary DeMuth's Thin Places, so I drew again!

This time, Angie and Amy were the winners! Congratulations! Email me with your snail mail addy and I'll get the books right out to you.


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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Thin Places Winners!

The winners of Mary DeMuth's Thin Places are.....[drumroll]....

lgrace2 and babylukesmom! Neither of you left your email, so hopefully you'll see you won on this post and leave a comment with your email!

If I haven't heard from one or both of you by Monday, I'll draw again.

Thanks for entering, everyone!

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

T3 - Multiple Personality...Types

I wanted to do a follow-up post on personality type combinations. I found a better online version of Florence Littauer's Personality Plus (wouldn't you know I found it after this series), and you can take it here. Even if you did take the test earlier, TAKE THIS ONE. It'll make the rest of what I'm about to type make sense.

Even given the 10 percent margin of error inherent in these types of tests (the word you picked to describe yourself is based on your perception of yourself, not fact), your score should indicate that one type is your dominant type. Usually, you'll have another type that comes in second, called your secondary type.

You can have a strong dominance of one type over the secondary, or almost equal scores in two types. Either way, there are some "natural" combinations that occur at birth that I've listed below.

Golden Retriever/Otter
Beaver/Golden Retriever

The reason for this type of pairing is that the strengths of one are usually the weaknesses in another. A normal, "healthy" pattern is characterized by balancing scores of strengths and weaknesses in any single type (i.e., you're not going to have every strength of an Otter without a healthy dose of Otter weaknesses, as well).

The following two combinations are what Florence Littauer calls "unnatural combinations."

Lion/Golden Retriever

These are sometimes seen quite frequently, but Littauer claims they aren't inborn in a person, and after a bit of research, I believe she's right, as well. She believes the combinations to be evidence of one of two things: 1) a "misunderstanding" about what some of the words might actually mean that were selected as representative of the person or 2) a "personality mask," because the traits in the above combinations are diametrically opposed to one another.

Before I get into what a mask is, I want those of you who might have one of these combinations to go back and take the test again, this time using one or all of the methods below:

1) Use a dictionary to make sure you know what the words mean
2) Select words that represent who you truly are, not who you want to be (for example, if you have learned a behavior--say, spontaneity or being scheduled--that doesn't come naturally for you, don't check that description). Another way of thinking about this is to select which word describes you as a child, not an adult.
3) Go back over the word groupings--if you had a difficult time choosing just one, check both. If nothing sounds appropriate, skip that question.

If after taking this test, you still have one of the "unnatural" combinations, then it might be the result of a personality mask. Masks are indicative of outside forces working on our lives that try to tell us what we should be, or how we change to conform to what we think someone else wants us to be. A mask could also be developed in childhood as the result of trying to survive a difficult or dysfunctional family living situation.

Some situations that might cause masking:

1) A domineering parent or a controlling spouse
2) An alcoholic parent
3) Being rejected by one/both parent(s) in childhood or by a spouse in adulthood
4) Emotional/physical/sexual abuse
5) Single parent home
6) Legalistic religious home
7) Birth order (firstborns in particular are subjected to zealous parents)

(I can give particulars on any of the above if anyone of you would like examples. Just email me or ask in the comments.)

Now, there are occasions when a person scores the same in three categories or four. When this happens, the best thing to do is to have someone who knows you very well to objectively look at the test for you. You might find that you're not exactly who you think you are, or that you've covered up your natural inclinations so much that you don't know who you are. (When my husband took the test "for" me, I tested high Beaver. When I took it myself, I was high Lion. Just interesting how his perception of me was a bit different than my perception of me.)

I hope that you've enjoyed this series as much as I have. Personality types are a great way to understand yourself, your loved ones, and your CHARACTERS.

Q4U: What have you learned--if anything--from this series? Anything take you by surprise?

The drawing is still going on for both copies of Mary DeMuth's memoir, Thin Places. Scroll to yesterday's post to leave a comment to be entered!

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mary DeMuth's Thin Places - Review and Double Give Away

I was blessed enough to be on the influencer list for Mary DeMuth's memoir, Thin Places. I got the book late, due to unforeseen postal difficulties (which happens when you move cross country twice in a year), and was afraid I wouldn't get my review in on her blog tour week. Boy, did I underestimate how gripping this memoir is.

While I appreciate the bravery and candidness Mary wrote from her own place of brokenness and redemption--it truly is a beautiful book--the thing I loved best about it was that it caused me to stop and contemplate my own thin places.

Mary calls a thin place, "[T]hose times where the division between this world and the eternal fades; they are snatches of holy ground, tucked into the corners of our world, where we might just catch a glimpse of eternity."

As a therapist, I was determined to read the book to see how it might benefit one of my clients, perhaps ones who had experienced sexual abuse, a fatherless childhood, or feelings of rejection. What I didn't expect was to read the book and come away praising the Lord for my own painful experiences in childhood or adolescence.

Women (or men) reading this book will identify with several of the experiences Mary had. Most of us remember our first dance, our first kiss, our keen desire to fit in outmatched only by our foolishness in trying to accomplish the deed. After reading each chapter, Mary would comment on where she is today with regard to how the Lord has brought redemption in her life at each thin place. As a result, I found myself doing the same.

There were many experience Mary had that I could not share, but millions of others can. These were pages that I could only read with my hand to my mouth, a tear in my eye. God's ways are unfathomable. He used a young girl's early entry into the adult world of sexuality, pornography, and divorce to bring hope and healing almost forty years later as she wields her words in a powerful healing arc over others.

If you'd like to be entered in a chance to win one of two copies of Mary's book, just leave a comment below. Winner will be drawn and announced over the weekend. You don't want to miss out on this memoir!

Mary, thanks for being the instrument to bring restoration to others and myself. I'll never look back on my own thin places with more regret than gratitude.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Treatment Tuesday - Opposites Attract...BEWARE!

This week's assessment comes from someone who wishes to remain anonymous. It's great timing that I can feature it this week, as it's right in line with the personality type series I'm doing! (Access the personality type overview here.)

Anonymous wrote in with a simple question: What personality types generally attract each other?

What a fitting question with Valentine's Day just around the corner. *sigh* If only there was a simple answer. Since people are so varied in what attracts them, it would stand to reason that there isn't a formula to spout for what type attracts what type.

We base who we find attractive on several factors: looks, age, race, religion, educational level, geographic location, social class, familial obligations, and financial status. With these components, the old adage "like is attracted to like," comes into play. We generally want to be with someone around the same age, who adheres to the same faith or lack thereof, who comes from our ethnic and cultural background because they are more likely to be like us, and who lives in the same area, as that is infinitely preferable.

But all those things can attract on an outward level. Once a person finds out that someone makes over $100,000 a year, or that they are a Christian, or that they hold a PhD in physics, or that they have the right social connections, then they decide to move forward with getting to know the person. At that point, personality becomes a factor, and this is when the old adage, "opposites attract," comes more into play. Indeed, people who are the exact same on more complex personality tests (like Myers-Briggs) are highly unlikely to marry each other.

In general, we are attracted to people who have strengths where we have weaknesses. For example, a Beaver, who is so meticulous and detailed, might fall for a Lion, someone who sees the big picture. Or a outgoing Otter might be attracted to an loyal, introverted Golden Retriever. It's exciting to reconcile differences...encountering someone just like ourselves would be boring.

Once two people pair off, then what commonly happens is a "honeymoon" period. Your mate can do no wrong during this time (or at least you can't see the flaws as readily). But inherent in the very idea of opposites attracting is opposition. Eventually, the opposition becomes greater and greater and you'll find yourself trying to change them to conform to your personality. This is called the Pygmalion Project.

Depending on which resource you read, Pygmalion was a Cyprian artist who, upon not finding a woman to be his equal, began to create a sculpture. He worked long and hard to make the statue perfect, and when he was done, he fell in love with it. According to legend, Aphrodite took pity on him and brought the statue to life. Pygmalion and Galatea were married and had a child.

Of course, the analogy today is that people try to change their mates/spouses to be who they want them to be. Even good marriages have this as an irritant, but it's also a huge factor is break-ups and divorces. It's something we've all tried (if not with a mate, than with a child). This really does great damage to the relationship. It tells the other person that they aren't enough just as they are. Of course, our mates also try to conform on their own, in a way to please us. But this is when we look at our relationship in a few months or years and wonder where the zzzzzzing went.

What's the solution? Recognize our impulse to change the other person, and hold our tongues in favor of remembering what attracted us to them in the first place. The more conformation our mate makes in our direction, the less exciting things will be.

So how's that for a roundabout answer to your question, Anonymous? Hope that this gives you--and all my readers--something to chew on.

Q4U: How many of you married/hooked up with someone who is your opposite? Did you try to change them?

Come back tomorrow for a special Wednesday book review and giveaway of Mary DeMuth's memoir, Thin Places!

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.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

T3 - Lion/Choleric Personality Type

We're in our fourth and final week of looking at personality types! We've covered the Golden Retriever/Phlegmatic type here, the Beaver/Melancholic type here, and the Otter/Sanguine type here. You can still pop over to take the tests recommended by the Character Therapist here.

For all you Lions out there, I imagine you were ticked that Lions weren't the first type discussed 3 weeks ago!(As a Lion, I know that usually, Lions expect to go first.) So fear Lions out there haven't been forgotten or left out. :)


Choleric Lions are your born leaders. They are dynamic, active, strong-willed and decisive. They are self-sufficient, independent, persistent, exude confidence and can run anything. They have a compulsive need for change and if they see an injustice, they must right the wrong. Lions are usually bold, self-reliant, enterprising, competitive, and they welcome challenges. They are goal-oriented and goal-driven.

At work, they are your problem-solvers. They're motto is "Let's do it now!" They will sign up for anything that will lead to advancement: difficult assignments, challenging directives. They are straight shooters, getting to the point and being very direct. A Lion likely pursued their education with vigor and was a top student. They are great organizers, delegators, and move quickly to action. They can stimulate activity where there was none, thrive on opposition, and make their goals by seeking practical solutions. Their approach to teamwork really is just to take charge. Their leadership style is more autocratic and they prefer a hierarchy of management (with them on top). They release stress by doing something physical, and emotional stress will always drive them to a high-impact activity to recover.

As far as friends go, they can excel in emergencies, keeping their head about them. Their usually driven by rationality, not emotionality, so this helps them do this. They lead and organize group outings and like nobody's business. They are usually extroverted, so making friends can come fairly easily (but sometimes not! See below). They can make a quick decision when a group is stalemated about what to do.

Spiritually, they can motivate the body of Christ to accomplish great feats. Far away trips to distant lands are no problem. Annual church homecoming picnic, no big deal. Head of the committee or chair of the deacons? Covered with time to spare. Lions can make fantastic Marthas.


Lions can be controlling, argumentative, and dictatorial. They often are opinionated, arrogant and unsympathetic to the plight of the "little people." They're touchy and severe, impatient, pushy, and harsh. They can be a bit egocentric and won't even give up when they know they are losing. Their self-sufficiency can come on too strong. They can be inflexible, unable to relax, and quick-tempered. They aren't known for being complimentary, but instead controversial.

At work, Lions are not only often the "boss," but they are often bossy and aggressive. They'll try to take charge in other people's affairs. Since they're so focused on the goal, they can step on people to reach it. It's this insensitivity--this rudeness or tactlessness--that can leave a trail of hurt feelings behind them. They have little compassion on or tolerance for mistakes and can be difficult to please. They are bored by trivia and don't analyze details, so they may make rash, impetuous decisions. They can be manipulative to achieve their goals, but the end justifies the means as far as a choleric person is concerned.

Lions are uncomfortable with the expression of emotions. They see emotions as obstacles (getting in the way of the almighty task). So managing friendships can be difficult at times. Insensitivity at work bleeds into their friendships, as does dominating others and deciding for them. When things don't go their way, Lions can literally blow their top in a fit of anger, especially when personal goals aren't met. They think they know everything, and usually are right, but this doesn't make them very popular. Lions have a hard time saying they're sorry and they can also be possessive of their friends and their spouse/partner.

Spiritually, Lions usually need a traumatic experience or event to spur a recognition of a need to make a commitment to Christ. The also have a hard time expressing grace. Their self-sufficiency can lead to sin problems of hubris. They also could miss out on the heart of a spiritual experience because they are so consumed with the big picture. Since they are Marthas, consumed with the task at hand, they can miss out on the relational experience that Marys have.


Lions prefer to be dealt with by being direct and factual, because this is the way they are. You give a Lion the run around, and you are going to have conflict in droves. Lions like for things to be nailed down and written in stone. Give them a wishy washy boss or love interest and watch the sparks fly. Since they are so bored to death by detail and trivia, pair them with a Beaver who thrives on it. Heehee!

Another way to create great conflict is to pit them against another Lion. Two Lions are going to battle it out every time in a fight for dominance over the other. Give a classic male Lion a female who won't take no for an answer and he'll have met his match. Have fun with it.

Next week: Since I've had a couple of people comment about their type combinations and what that might mean, I thought I'd do a wrap-up post to discuss common combinations, not-so-common combos, and what this might mean for the test-taker.

Q4U: Have you found out anything about yourself you didn't already know? Anything you want to work on for the new year?

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Treatment Tuesday - Alcohol Abuse v. Alcohol Dependence

This week's assessment is for Vickie, who wrote in with quite a few questions about Taylor*, her hero who grew up with an abusive, alcoholic father. Taylor often took the brunt of his father's abuse in order to save his youngest brother and mother. When his father died when Taylor was 14, Taylor never grieved a day, but took on a part-time job and did everything he could to make sure his brother and mother had a good life. He drew into himself, never trusting anyone but his immediately family and never opening up to anyone else. Vickie wrote that his biggest fear is rejection. He was the epitome of control, masking his emotions and reactions--which led to a career as a Hollywood A-lister. Eventually, Taylor will meet Charity*, a woman who will lead him to a knowledge of Christ.

* Names have been changed to protect the fictional.

Vickie wants to know: What would Taylor find most compelling about Charity and her dependence on Christ? What would it take for him to make that leap to believe and trust in a loving heavenly Father?

She also wants to know if the following scenario would be indicative of a realistic alcoholic problem:

Throughout the story Taylor drinks when he's stressed or worried. He turns to alcohol to calm himself and relax. He wants a drink when he knows he can't have one, but he never gets drunk in public because he knows it would land him on the front page of every tabloid in America, and he wouldn't allow that kind of loss of control or invasion of privacy. But when he's alone, he sinks into a downward spiral of despair and emptiness and turns to alcohol to induce numbness. Only near the end of the story does that spiral spill out into a public setting, and it's after that occurrence that he decides to get help.

Oooo! Great stuff to work with, so I'll jump right in.

I want to start with the abusive history, as it plays a huge role in his present-day alcoholic problem. Seeing as how Taylor's dad wasn't much of a "dad" in the traditional sense, Taylor took on that role early. In my field, we call this "parentification." Taylor essentially lost his childhood and had to grow up entirely too early. 14-year-olds shouldn't be worried about who's going to get the next blow from Pop or bringing home money to take care of Mom. They should be into chicks and concerts and malls.

But Taylor's experience with his dad definitely scars him. He grew up with one heck of a role model. (Research highly supports the idea that those who grow up from abusive families will go on to become abusers themselves. Statistics vary depending on what you read, though.) But Taylor doesn't abuse people, he just abuses alcohol--like father, like son. His behavior is partly learned and partly situationally induced, I'm sure, as Hollywood A-listers aren't exactly known for their abstinence from alcohol and drugs.

You're big challenge will be to portray Charity in such a way that Taylor wants what she has, even though he "has it all." Her simplistic style of living, maybe, or the fact that she doesn't seem to need or seek his attention like everyone else he knows (because she's focused on serving Christ).

Taylor will likely struggle over a heavenly Father being any different from his earthly one. In truth, the discordance between an "ideal" divine Father and the real deal, warts-and-all Pop hinders many people from developing a relationship with Christ. So Charity might want to steer clear from the imagery of a father all together when she's witnessing to him. She could focus on Jesus instead as a "friend," or "confidant," someone Taylor could turn to with his problems and just talk to.

It would be fascinating for Taylor to discover that Charity came from a background situation much like his. If she had a father that was similar to Taylor's own work-of-art dad, then he might put more stock into her conversion or into what she has to say. If she comes from some pristine perfect family, though, he'd be more likely to pin her lifestyle difference on that. If Charity came from a really dark place--perhaps sexual abuse?--I think Taylor would really stand up and take notice of her faith as what "got her through," or what she turned to after being down so low.

You wrote that his biggest fear (as you've written him so far) is rejection. You could definitely play with this, going off the fact that his dad essentially rejected him as a son and rejected their family when he went to beating on them like punching bags. However, I think Taylor's character could be so much stronger if you up the ante on his biggest fear by giving him a nasty little flaw of needing anger management.

Think about this. Let's say Taylor is the epitome of self-control--as you've written him--until the right set of circumstances will blow his top faster than even he can get under wraps. If he's doing all this turning inward--also called "bottling things inside"--this is unhealthy. These people don't just get mad, they usually explode like Mount Vesuvius or they implode like a grenade went off inside. His dad obviously erupted outwardly with physical violence. What if Taylor had this tendency? Maybe he's never hit someone, but his biggest fear is that he could turn out to be just like his dad and be abusive? He's already half-way there with this alcohol it's just something to consider. Take it or leave it, of course. :)

So on to the alcohol problem (I could have done a whole post on just this question...and I might later!). There are 15 alcohol-related diagnoses in the DSM-IV, the most common probably being Alcohol Abuse, Alcohol Dependence, Intoxication, and Withdrawal. Taylor fits the bill for Alcohol Dependence, and he fits that bil rather well (kudos!). You can read about the criteria here. Alcohol Abuse is much more severe, and depending on what type of public spectacle he makes, he just might cross the line, so you'll want to read about Alcohol Abuse here.

A comprehensive explanation of treatment for alcohol abuse or dependence can be found at Psych Central. They go into medical treatment for withdrawal and psychosocial treatment to handle urges, find a community of support, and deal with what led the person to drink in the first place. So definitely check out that link. He could do an inpatient or outpatient program.

If Taylor really fears rejection, and you couple his public display with the younger brother's threat of "Get help or leave us alone," I think you've definitely given him motivation to seek treatment. If his greatest fear is turning out to be just like his dad, then if the public incident has something to do with violence (maybe toward some paparazzi or something?), then that might be enough for him to see he's hit bottom...he will end up just like his dad if he doesn't do something.

Hopefully this will give you some things to work with. I welcome any additional questions you (or anyone else) might have in the comment section.

Q4U: What are some other ways to describe your relationship with Christ besides a "heavenly Father," "friend," or "confidant?" How would you reach someone whose earthly father left a bad taste in their mouths?

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.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

February CFOM article!

My first article with Christian Fiction Online Magazine has been published! Click the magazine cover below to read my Therapeutic Thought on Triangles!

Doing the happy dance....

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