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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Heart-Felt Gratitude

Mark Elam Campbell

My wonderful father-in-law went home to be with Jesus a week ago today. It's taken all this time for the reality of his death to sink in. He was only 54, far too young to leave us behind. I've been with my husband and his family since Friday of last week, and I'm reminded of how blessed I am because of this man.

We lived on opposite sides of the country and saw each other so infrequently, but he left a legacy for all his family that I'll never forget. This post is my tribute to him, for as I've written before and will no doubt write again: writing is healing and therapeutic, and I need a little therapy. So today's Treatment Tuesday puts the therapist herself on the couch.

To Mark, my husband's father, best friend, best man, best example, and grandfather to my little girl, his first (and only) granddaughter:

Thank you for your example of marital contentment that you fostered in the life of my husband from an early age. Your love for your wife helped my husband see that the love between he and I was the permanent and lasting kind.

Thank you for your example of fatherhood, your sacrifices to better your family and give them special experiences together. You helped my husband see how children do not complete a marriage, but round it out. You loved your children, always telling my husband that you loved him everytime you talked. Life was too short to beat around the bush, and you weren't too macho to show this love and affection to him, which in turn allows my husband to break that gender stereotype as well.

Thank you for your example to my husband that he can do anything he puts his mind to. You showed him this when you bought manuals on laying a roof and building a baby crib from scratch. Why pay someone else to do what you can do yourself? My husband inherited your knack for tinkering, and while I can't always say I've appreciated him taking things apart, I always seek his input when something baffles me, because he got this unbelievable since of know-how from you.

Thank you for serving your country. My husband was proud to follow in your footsteps. The military made him who he is today.

Thank you for all the free hotel rooms you hooked us up with during the last almost 6 years. All that traveling you did sure did pay off for us. It was so nice to be able to call you in a pinch direction-wise too. Guess I'll have to get better at GPS now.

Thank you for your legacy that we will now pass on to our daughter. I'm sad she wont get to know her Papa, but it is my most fervent wish for her that she comes to know Jesus herself to ensure that she sees you again.

Rest in peace and say hello to my grandparents. Fry them up some fish for me. See you soon.

In honor of this man and in deference to my need and desire to be present with family, my blog will be silent until Friday's free association. You can click here for a chance to win Winning Him Without Words. A winner will be randomly chosen on Saturday.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Winning Him Without Words Review and Giveaway!

"...they maybe won over without words by the behavior of their wives." 
1 Peter 3:1

I was eager to be an influenced for this book simply because unequally yoked marriages is something all counselors encounter in session. We are trained to bring up the "hot button" issues like children, finances, and faith during premarital counseling because differences in key areas like these can lead to marital disharmony. In essence, therapists operate on the assumption that it's better to know ahead of time if you and your partner don't see eye-to-eye, so you can get a head start on resolving the issues instead of being blindsided by them later.

But what if faith wasn't an issue when you first married? What if you came to a saving knowledge later in life and your spouse didn't? Or what if you shunned your faith values for a period, got married, and then came back to your faith?

Authors Lynn Donovan and Dineen Miller wrote their book Winning Him Without Words in an attempt to answer questions just like these, because they found themselves in the scenarios mentioned above.

Here's a blurb about the book from the Winning Him Without Words website:

Week after week, you sit in church…alone. You are one of many women across the country who are spiritually mismatched; committed to a spouse who does not share your faith.

You may feel abandoned by your spouse or forgotten by your church. You may feel like you have to live out your faith in survival mode, guarding the spiritual flame yet never feeling free to share it.

But don’t lose hope! God wants you to thrive—not just survive. Winning Him Without Words presents 10 Christ-centered keys to thriving in your spiritually unequal relationship. In the pages of this book, you’ll learn from real life stories how to:
  • commit to Christian community
  • release your spouse to God’s capable hands
  • find peace in your relationships with Christ and with your spouse
  • continue your pursuit of a growing faith
  • and to love your spouse with fresh enthusiasm
God wants every marriage to exude peace and love, and Winning Him Without Words will help you to create that environment in your homes and thrive as God works.

Both authors are so candid throughout the book that I never felt like this was just another Christian self-help book. These are real women, struggling with real issues, who don't claim to have all the answers. They do, however, claim to know the One who does. Despite years or praying for their husband's salvation, both Lynn and Dineen found certain principles to help their marriage thrive instead of wither and die.

As a counselor, I wanted to take note of the 10 keys that helped them, and I'm so glad I did, because now I have a book to whole-heartedly recommend to clients facing similar life circumstances. Women everywhere will be able to relate to the yearning both women disclose they have for their husbands to accept Christ, because if we haven't prayed for our husband's salvation, then we've prayed for a change in our husband's attitudes or actions. All married women feel alone in their marriage at some point, and these principles Lynn and Dineen offer are solid ways to bring about real connection.

In fact, one of the keys presented was to Stay Connected. In order to do this, Lynn joined a fantasy football league with her husband, even though she knew nothing about football. Dineen started playing disc golf. Yes, it required sacrifice of time and maybe even some of their own desires, but both marriages enriched from it. This is a great takeaway for women everywhere.

I'm giving away one copy of this book to a commenter from the lower 48 states below. If you are not in a spiritually mismatched marriage, still make a comment. This book would be a lifeline for a friend you might know who is. Give it to them as a gift. They'll be so glad to read a book and find community with other women in similar situations.

To enter the giveaway, I'm asking that you please follow my blog first and then leave a comment. You won't be penalized for not following, you just will only get one entry instead of two.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

And the Winner Is...


I've already sent you an email, but I love announcing my book winners! You'll really enjoy CJ's book. :)

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

T3 - Men v. Women: Arguments

So hopefully you've read my previous three Thursday posts about predicting future breakups. If you haven't, no worries, but this post is a wrap-up of sorts to explain what psychologist and researcher John Gottman found to be generalities between men and women when arguing is going on.

While you're writing those heated scenes between your heroes and heroines (come on, I know you've got them), you might want to take note of some of the things Gottman found to make sure your characters aren't acting too far outside the norm.

According to his research, Gottman found that in 85% of marriages/relationships, the guy is the stonewaller. (Read this post here to make sure you know what a stonewaller is.) Why is this so? Simple gender differences.

I found a great explanation of this at Denver Psychotherapy and Consultation Services, LLC, that I'll share here.

"Any nursing mother can tell you that the amount of milk she produces is affected by how relaxed she feels, which is related to the release of the hormone oxytocin in the brain. A women is more able to quickly soothe herself and calm down after feeling stressed.

In contrast, a man’s adrenaline kicks in quite readily and does not calm down so easily. The male cardiovascular system remains more reactive than the female and slower to recover from stress. For example, if a man and woman suddenly hear a very loud, brief sound, like a blowout, most likely his heart will beat faster than hers and stay accelerated for longer. The same goes for their
blood pressure — his will become more elevated and stay higher longer.

When male subjects are deliberately treated rudely and then told to relax for twenty minutes, their blood pressure surges and stays elevated until they get to retaliate. When women face the same treatment, they are able to calm down during those twenty minutes.

It’s a biological fact: Men are more easily overwhelmed by marital conflict than are their wives or girlfriends. During relational stress, men have a greater tendency to have negative thoughts that maintain their distress, while women are more likely to think soothing thoughts that help them calm down and be conciliatory. Men, generally, either think about how righteous and indignant they feel (“I’m going to get even,” “I don’t have to take this”), which tends to lead to contempt or belligerence. Or they think about themselves as an innocent victim of their partner’s wrath or complaint (“Why is she always blaming me?”), which leads to defensiveness.

While these rules don’t hold for every male and every female, Gottman has found that the majority of couples do follow these gender differences in physiological and psychological reactions to stress. Given these dissimilarities, most marriages and relationships (including healthy, happy ones) follow a comparable pattern of conflict in which the wife or girlfriend, who is constitutionally better able to handle the stress, brings up sensitive issues. The male partner, who is not as able to cope with it, will attempt to avoid getting into the subject. He may become defensive and stonewall or even become belligerent or contemptuous in an attempt to silence her."

How familiar is that pattern of conflict in your character's lives? (Or even in your own life?) Women are often more the pursuers, trying to bring up those sensitive things, while men commonly are the retreaters. However, Gottman himself said this isn't always the case....just predominantly. That said, I'd wager that using the same rule of thumb in your fiction would be a good idea, as well.

Hope you've enjoyed this series!

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Technique Toolbox - FREE DOWNLOAD ADHD scales

Vanderbilt ADHD Diagnostic Parent and Teacher Rating Scales

Credited toMark L. Wolraich, MD, and colleagues

For use with: Children

What you will need:

downloaded scales
writing instrument
scoring instructions
time to observe the child

What you do:

Download the Vanderbilt ADHD Diagnostic Parent Rating Scale here.

Download the Vanderbilt ADHD Diagnostic Teacher Rating Scale here.

Typically a clinician will give each of the scales to the appropriate person, either teacher or parent. That person, then, observes the child in either the home or school settings, checking things as they apply and using the scoring details to determine the child's propensity in that setting.

(These are GREAT scales to have on standby to determine if your character meets the criteria for ADHD as well! Bonus, right?)


Making the correct diagnosis in pediatric attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is especially important today. The Vanderbilt Rating Scales closely follow the criteria set forth in DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 4th Edition) and have been customized to observations made in the home and classroom environments (thus the Parent and Teacher scales).
When the forms are returned to the counselor, the scoring allows the clinician not only to make a diagnosis of ADHD, if present, but also to categorize the problem into one of its various subtypes: inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, or combined. The Vanderbilt Scales also look for symptoms of other disorders that are commonly found in children with ADHD, such as oppositional defiance, conduct disorder, anxiety, and depression.

Hope you find them useful!

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

He Who Loves Least - A Therapeutic Tale

In the absence of assessment questions in my queue, I get to post on what I want to, and that is this little nugget of wisdom that comes in the form of an old proverb (origin unknown to me):

He who loves least has the most control.

Ordinarily, we don't think about relationships in terms of who loves whom the most. We might actually think that's kind of tacky or in bad taste. But that doesn't change reality. In most non-permanent relationships (and in all the ones that have entered my office), there is one partner who loves the other more.

Let me tell you a little tale and then tell you how this applies to fiction.

Beautiful guy (think Dennis Quaid), could have any girl he wants, calls me. At the time, I was the impressionable age of 22, he the revered age of 30. I was smitten, of course, and when I left my internship for Christmas break, we'd had 3 dates, one kiss, and the promise of, "I'll call you on Christmas Eve," for me to fly home with on cloud nine.

Christmas Eve came. And went. My high school friends had a get-together that I gladly forsook in preference to sitting by the phone. No ring came. I imagined him out with some other girl, flirting, exchanging gifts. After all, he was a smooth-talking older man. I knew lots of girls liked him...and he knew it too.

Something snapped inside me. I was angry for missing good fun and fellowship with my friends because of this guy's promise. Sure, it was my own fault for not having better boundaries and expectations, but I laid the blame squarely at his feet. When I returned to my internship, I was a new woman.

We saw each other at church, and instead of berating him for not calling (he had called Christmas Day, which according to him, was the more important day to call), I just smiled, nodded, and went on my way. Of course, he would have none of this. What, no fawning? No falling over myself to talk to him?

He began to call me almost every day. I'd tell him, "Call if you call." In essence, I removed my emotions from the equation, and things began to pick up quite rapidly. I even joked about other girls, saying, "I know you've got other fillies to saddle up every now and then. Have fun." He was amazed, of course, and it kept him coming back.

Was I happy with him? No. Not really. We were basically using each other at the time, and I'm thankful I've grown from the experience and matured in relationships in general. But by the time I left to go to seminary from that internship, several states away, the guy still called....actually told me one phone call that I was the "girl who got away."

What had changed? The pendulum had swung from him "loving least" to me loving least (although technically, it wasn't love). Man, did I have control or what! It was very empowering to know this guy was hung up on me. By acting like I basically didn't care, I wielded a power over him, as he wanted me to care. (Deep inside....he would never have admitted this.)

But this is human nature. When someone holds on too tightly, we want to pull away. Just ask any teenager if he thinks his parents are too involved in his life. When someone hangs on too loosely, we want to cinch things up, to bring about a measure of comfort and security that we are lacking from the situation.

So think about your heroines, heroes, and villains who like the heroines and will never get her. If you have a designated pursuer (or perhaps the one who is first attracted to the other) then this person is the person who "loves the most." The reluctant participant who doesn't even want to be thrown into an acquaintanceship is the one who "loves the least."

There are certain, inherent traits the person who loves the most will probably feel:

1) Insecurity

The person who loves the most will either worry that they aren't attractive or charming enough to attract the other person in the first place, or that they aren't attractive of charming enough to keep the other person interested.  Of course, this brings about lowered self-esteem and constant self-doubt.

2) Jealousy

We should be nodding our heads here, because we've all been here. The person who loves the most will be more likely to mistake an innocent touch, laugh, or phone call to be more. The mind plays havoc on someone who is already insecure, which is such a catch 22, because the person who loves least will only be driven further away with accusations.

3) Self-Depreciation

This rational thought comes later, after the person who loves the most realizes that they put too many eggs in one basket and that basket is sinking. Usually, in terribly mismatched relationships, the person who loves the most made tons of compromises to their own integrity, whether it was lying about little preferences or being extremely tolerant of intolerant behavior on the part of the person who loves the least.

Q4U: I'm sure there are other traits of the person who loves the most that you can think of. What are they? (Come on, all you brokenhearted writers out there! I know you've got some insight.)

Q4U2: Anyone know where that proverb comes from?

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Bound by Guilt Review and Giveaway!

C.J. Darlington's sophomore novel peeled back the curtain into certain life situations people have the misfortune of living. Heartbreaking, and utterly true. I know this because I see these people in my office every day.

Here's a blurb about the book from C.J.'s website:

Shuttled between foster homes, Roxi Gold will do anything to fit in. Soon she’s traveling the country stealing rare books from unsuspecting bookstores. Police officer Abby Dawson has seen the worst of society—and not just at work. One fateful night, both their lives are changed forever. One searches for justice, the other finds herself on the run. Will the power of forgiveness set them free?

I was happy to be allowed to review the stand-alone sequel to C.J.'s first book, Thicker than Blood. C.J.'s tag is "Stories of Real Life & Real Hope." Real is definitely what you get with C.J. Her second book had a heroine with more issues, if possible, than the one in her first book. C.J. doesn't shy away from the tough issues, and she portrays them in all their ugliness and sadness, which serves to bring the hope and forgiveness they find into sharp relief.

Roxi, the young 16-year-old heroine, captured my heart because I work with teens just like her in a group home type situation. Some reading the book might think that Roxi's story is too melodramatic to be real. But I gotta say that C.J. nailed her and her tragic story so well, it's like she pulled up a chair and chatted with me about some of my clients and created Roxi from our discussion.

Donning my therapist cap, if Roxi really were in my office, I'd give her the diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAS), predominantly inhibited type. But RAS can be manifested in a child who exhibits an overly inhibited, hypervigilant, or highly ambivalent (contradictory) response, such as a mixture of approach, avoidance, resistance to comforting, or exhibiting a frozen watchfulness. Man, is that ever Roxi. 

Also, a child with RAS has had pathogenic care, like the persistent disregard for basic emotional needs for comfort, stimulation, affection, physical needs, and repeated changes in primary caregivers that prevent formation of stable attachments....e.g., frequent changes in foster care like poor Roxi.

So that gives you an idea of what kind of girl Roxi is. She's a troubled teen, and society would view her as damaged beyond repair. I'm so grateful the Lord doesn't look at us that way. Even a diagnosis such as the one above doesn't preclude a child from eventually forming an attachment. C.J. allows the reader a satisfying ending that is not far-fetched. Handling Roxi is like handling a dog who has been abused....and interestingly enough, the dog Roxi clicks with in the book, Selah, had an analogous past to Roxi's own.

Love rules supreme in this book, and the takeaway lesson is that's is preferable to always follow God's leading, even when it might not make sense to you (like taking in a 16-year-old runaway with major trust issues). He's got things happening for a reason.

To be entered in the giveaway for this book, leave your email address in a spam-me-not format in the comment section below. As usual, followers will receive additional entries, so be sure to click on the "Follow" button to the right. A winner from the lower 48 will be chosen on Saturday. Good luck!

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

And the Winner Is....

Julie Arduini! 

You're going to love Jill Eileen Smith's Bathsheba.

I've already sent you an email to request your snail mail addy.

Thanks for entering, everyone! Don't miss out on Monday's giveaway for C.J. Darlington's Bound by Guilt!

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

T3 - Predicting Fictional Breakups, Part Three

This week I'll be wrapping up the six signs Dr. John Gottman discovered in his research that indicate a couple is heading for a breakup. Click on them if you missed Signs 1 & 2 or Signs 3 & 4.

None of the signs are sequential, which I think is an important note. They are simply 6 characteristics couples have during arguments that, if present, give a very good indication that that couple will not stay together.

Sign #5: Failed Repair Attempts

A repair attempt is one partner's efforts to deescalate the conflict between them. It's putting the breaks on the argument so that flooding is prevented. The repair attempt doesn't have to be eloquent or articulate. It might be one word, or a look, a gesture, a touch.

For example, a husband might hold his hands out and say, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have made that comment about you mother." The wife then would need to respond to this repair attempt, maybe offer an apology of her own or verbally recognize her husband's apology. A girl might reach over and cover her boyfriend's hand on the steering wheel in an effort to end the silent treatment they have been giving each other since a fight over dinner. The boyfriend might give a smile in response, indicating he's willing to break down the wall between them.

What Gottman found in couples heading for divorce was that one partner didn't respond to the repair attempt or another or that repair attempts were never made. Usually it's the partner who is flooded and disengaged from the argument who rejects or doesn't even realize their partner has issued a repair attempt.

The presence of this sign between couples in your novel is an almost guarantee that they won't stay together. Accuracy of prediction reaches into the 90th percentile when partners don't respond to repair attempts made. The four horsemen can run rampant in a marriage, but if repair attempts succeed, the marriage is probably stable and happy.

Sign #6: Bad Memories

The last sign Gottman discovered that was present in couples headed for divorce court is an inability to recall their past life with anything other than negativity. Gottman calls this "rewriting the past" when the current negativity in a relationship distorts the past, which at one time likely had been positive or the couple wouldn't have gotten together.

When a couple remembers the low points and none of the high points, it's definitely a sign. In fact, Gottman said, "When I ask them about their early courtship, their wedding, their first year together, I can predict their chances of divorce, even if I'm not privy to their current feelings."

Next week we'll conclude this series by looking at the argumentative tendencies of men and women.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Character Stereotypes: The Narcissist

Narcissists get their name from the Greek myth about Narcissus, a man renowned for his beauty. Myths state he was cruel and disdained people who loved him. As divine punishment, he falls in love with a reflection in a pool, not realizing it is his own reflection. He dies there, unable to leave the beautiful image.

But narcissism, like many other character flaws, operates on a continuum. At one end, you have people with the clinical diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). These people want to be the center of attention and feel entitled to first-class upgrades, backstage passes, and half-court seats. They are self-absorbed and believe themselves to be invulnerable, almost as if bad things will bounce off them like they were Superman or Wonder Woman. They usually aren’t anxious or depressed, and rarely feel overwhelmed with stress.

Then there’s narcissism on a subclinical level. These people have a healthy ego that might be at times too large for those around them—the guy who thinks girls are fighting over him when he’s not looking and the girl who would genuinely say that a Victoria’s Secret model has nothing on her.

Click here to read the rest of my article at Christian Fiction Online Magazine.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Treatment Tuesday - Opposites Attract

This week, I've got Jim and Suzy* on the couch, characters in Michelle's novel-in-progress. They've been married for 15 years. Suzy is a Popular Sanguine/Powerful Choleric who loves to have fun and is a great leader. She's a school teacher and her kids love her. Jim is a Powerful Choleric/Perfect Melancholy. He is a highly regarded manager at his company, is well-respected as a leader and has helped grow the company significantly in his role.

* Names have already been changed to protect the fictional.

Michelle wants to know: How are these two going to get along? In my story, they're going to be in love when they meet and marry, but during the next 15 years, will have problems related to accepting one another and modifying some of their own harsher edges. How might this look?

I think everyone who's ever been in a relationship understands the phenomenon of meeting someone and being totally infatuated with the very characteristics that later come to bring resentment, grudges, and discontent. Marriage is no different. We often marry those people who are our opposites, giving credence to the old adage, "opposites attract." The best we can hope for is that there are enough similarities to make up for our differences, enough likemindedness to counteract polar extremes. You as the author will be the only one who knows if Jim and Suzy have what it takes.

You've set up your characters to both have a little bit of the Lion/Choleric personality type, which is good. They'll both probably be direct, which means they won't beat around the bush when it comes to their differences. (Can be good or bad, depending on how they go about the arguments--see below.) Lions actually thrive on opposition, so their differences become something of  regular burr under the marriage saddle.

Suzy is a dominant Otter, so she's very people-oriented, which is why her students love her. Jim is dominant Lion, so he's more of a get-'er-done guy with little tolerance for playing around. I'd imagine this would be one of the largest glaring differences between these two personalities. Suzy might get things out of priority in her quest to have fun. Jim might try to take charge of things too much and try to make decisions for Suzy too much to suit her.

You'll have to figure out what the number one pet peeve for Jim is about Suzy and the number one pet peeve for Suzy about Jim. These two hot-topic buttons will be what the other pushes regularly and will most commonly lead to their arguments.

Lucky for you, I've been doing a series of articles for my Thursday Therapeutic Thoughts (T3) for predicting fictional breakups (which, of course, is very much grounded in research about breakups of real people). I think you might find these beneficial, if for no other reason than to see what you might want to steer away from during their arguments if your intent in the book is to have these two stay together. Dr. John Gottman found that there were six signs that, if present, would indicate that a couple was heading for divorce or breakup. I've gone over Signs 1-2, Signs 3-4, and will conclude with signs 5-6 this Thursday.

I'd think it's important to mention that arguing in and of itself isn't an indicator that the relationship is failed. Arguing without the six signs can actually be an indicator of a healthy relationship. No one is going to get along 100% of the time (except, perhaps, during their courtship, when the negatives are not seen through the haze of goo-goo eyes).

You also wanted to know: I'm thinking that something will happen to shake them up, make them realize what they are doing and start looking to God for the answers, instead of just blaming each other. How might this look from a psychological viewpoint?

As I wrote on my post about Lions, "Spiritually, Lions usually need a traumatic experience or event to spur a recognition of a need to make a commitment to Christ." I could also have said that it would take a traumatic experience to end their self-centered focus and gain a heavenly perspective.

And the sky's the limit on traumatic experiences. But I as brainstormed this (with myself), I thought perhaps some trauma involving a child--either them wanting a child, losing a child, having difficulty getting pregnant/getting pregnant/losing that child....something along these lines might be particularly effective. My reasoning would be simply this: realizing that another person depends on their ability to get along might be enough to give them a good shake-up. And it'd be a shake-up experienced together, no mater how you spinned it.

I've often times talked with clients about how there is no one right way to raise a child. The strengths of one parent can offset the weaknesses of the other, and in fact, the child can have an even better upbringing just by having such varied parents. I read a devotional by Nancy Moser in February from Christian Fiction Online Magazine that spoke to this very thing. Read it here.

Hope that this gives you some direction. Personalities are a very fun thing to play around with, using them against one another.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Bathesheba Therapeutic Review and Giveaway!

Reading Jill Eileen Smith's latest release in her Wives of King David series, Bathsheba, is like drawing back a curtain into the lives of well-known biblical figures.

Here's a blurb from the author's website:

"A single moment changed her life – will she ever regain all she’s lost?

Can love triumph over treachery?

Bathsheba is a woman who longs for love. With her husband away fighting the king’s wars, she battles encroaching loneliness–making it frighteningly easy to succumb to the advances of King David. Will one night of unbridled passion destroy everything she holds dear? Can she find forgiveness at the feet of the Almighty? Or has her sin separated her from God—and David—forever?

With a historian’s sharp eye for detail and a novelist’s creative spirit, Jill Eileen Smith brings to life the passionate and emotional story of David’s most famous—and infamous—wife. You will never read the story of David and Bathsheba in the same way again."

In all truthfulness, knowing the story in its entirety before picking up the book isn't going to change what a page-turner it is.

I just have to start out with this: the largest intellectual shift for me came in the characterization of Uriah. In my mind's eye, I thought of him as this boorish, hairy man who never fully appreciated his beautiful wife. Don't ask how I got this impression....perhaps from his name. Uriah just doesn't have as handsome a ring to it as David. But there is nothing in the scriptures to give indication of my assumption. He was a godly man, one we should hold in high regard.

Donning my therapist cap with this book review was a bit odd. I mean, these people were just Bible characters before reading this book. Now they are actual people to me, not just characters, and even more, they were real people in the lineage of my Lord and Savior.

But real people suffer from trauma, and biblical times were fraught with it (war, famine, etc). We all know the story of Bathsheba: David spied her on her roof and couldn't shake the desire her nudity flamed to life. He summons her while her husband is away at war, and Bathsheba, being a female in those times, did what she was told and went to him. David's handsome face and lyrical voice are intoxicating to her, and, fighting the loneliness she feels with Uriah away all the time and no baby to warm her arms, she agrees to stay the night with him.

How many clients have sat in my office ruing one single choice? One moment where they chucked everything to the wind and followed their desires? One brief second when emotions won out over rational thinking? Bathsheba is no different. Years of fidelity crushed with a single kiss.

Her mourning has just begun, compounded by the knowledge of the Law of Moses and what is to become of an adulterous woman. Her sweet, unsuspecting Uriah delivers his own death warrant to his company commander when David can't convince him to return home to sleep with Bathsheba. She loses her husband as a direct result of her own actions. David offers to become her kinsman redeemer, a political farce to cover what he wanted to do all along. Bathsheba endures the shunning of the other wives and the looks of skepticism when she gives birth to a child 2 months early who looks full-term. At long last she has a baby, but he's ripped from her arms at the prophet Nathan's proclamation, which also turns the nation against her as they now know she's a wife of fornication and adultery.

It's little wonder Bathsheba didn't go insane with the amount of grief inflicted upon her. Jill portrays Bathsheba's heartache well, including how she would want to shun David, the one man who had basically brought ruin to her life. But their story is one of grace and forgiveness, both from God and toward each other. They are blessed with another son (and many more), their relationship reaches new heights of love, and they are strengthened against future adversaries.

But the Bible clearly shows that they regretted their past sins, sins which held far-reaching consequences in their lives. This is real life, folks. The Bible isn't a prosperity gospel. It doesn't say life is going to be all peachy when we accept Christ, but it does promise us forgiveness if we reach out and take it. Bathsheba's story is an example for how far and wide Christ's love is for us all.

Jill has all sorts of bonus features on her Wives of King David website, including a Bible study and discussion questions. Check it out when you have a chance.

Available March 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below with your email in a spam-me-not format. Followers of this blog will get 2 entries, so be sure to click the "Follow" button on the right-hand column. A winner from the lower 48 states will be announced on Saturday!

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

T3 - Predicting Fictional Breakups, Part Two

This week continues the series started last Thursday, based on the work of Dr. John Gottman. He came up with 6 signs of pending divorce/breakup. Signs 1 & 2 were discussed last week, and that was a harsh start-up to the argument and the four horsemen of criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

Sign #3: Flooding

After you've got defensiveness and criticism, usually you've got flooding following right on their heels. According to Gottman, flooding is when the partner's negativism is so overwhelming and sudden that it leaves the other person shell-shocked.  Stonewalling is one way to emotionally distance oneself from the negativity. You want to do anything you can to avoid replays, so you're hypervigilant against cues that your partner is about to "blow." You might second guess your every word, or feel like you're walking on tiptoe.

Sign #4: Body Language

There are physiological changes that happen in the body that coincide with flooding, such as an increased heart rate, the secretion of adrenalin, and an increase in blood pressure. Now Gottman had couples wired up to all sorts of machines to measure this kind of stuff, so that's how we have this data, but his research shows that these physical responses to flooding make it impossible to maintain the discussion at hand.

"Your ability to process information is reduced, meaning it's harder to pay attention to what yor partner is saying. Creative problem solving goes out the window" (Gottman, p. 37). Essentially you're left with the most basic reflexes to either fight (which is more of the four horsemen - criticism and contempt) or flee (which is stonewalling).

If one partner feels this type of severe emotional distress, their body is going into overdrive and perceiving the current situation as dangerous. Heart rate is a pretty good indicator. A man around 30 years old has a resting heart rate of 76 (a woman has one of 82). If either has an increase in heart rate over 100 beats per minute (even as high as 165) - this is easy to predict breakup.

Next week we'll cover the last 2 signs that predict breakup, so be sure to come back next Thursday!

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Critical Incident Stress Debriefing

I want to thank you for the prayers of encouragement. The critical incident stress debriefing (CISD) went well, and I think my community is beginning the long, arduous process of healing.

I thought I'd share with you the stages of CISD in case you want to use them in your novels. CISD is not therapy. It's goal is to try to return the affected group of people back to their normal level of functioning. Post-traumatic stress reactions are normalized and mitigated through this CISD process.

A critical incident is anything that produces a significant emotional reaction now or later. It's usually something extreme (outside the range of ordinary human experiences) and traumatic. The debriefing is recommended to occur within a 24-72 hour window, preferably toward the earlier time period. Usually a mental health professional leads the discussion.

There are seven phases to the "Mitchell Model" of CISD, which I've listed below with a description of each (courtesy of Brian G. Jatczak of Eastern Michigan University). The Mitchell Model was developed by Dr. Jeffrey Mitchell.

1. Introduction:  The introduction phase of a debriefing is when the team leader introduces the CISD process and approach, encourages participation by the group, and sets the ground rules by which the debriefing will operate.  Generally, these guidelines involve issues of confidentiality, attendance for the full duration of the group, however with non-forced participation in discussions and the establishment of a supportive, noncritical atmosphere.

2. Fact Phase:  During this phase, the group members are asked to describe briefly their job or role during the incident and, from their own perspective, some facts regarding what happened. Usually, a few individuals provide core facts while others fill in the missing details. The basic question is: "What did you do at the scene?" For those not at the actual scene, the questions would be, "Where were you when you found out?" "Who told you?" "What were you doing when you heard?"

3. Thought Phase:  Touching on the emotional aspects begins during the thought phase. The CISD leader asks the group members to discuss their first thoughts during the critical incident: "What went through your mind after you came back from auto-pilot?" I usually try to normalize the fact that many people have shocking thoughts that might often cause distress later when they reflect on their initial thoughts.

4. Reaction Phase:  This phase is designed to move the group participants from the predominantly cognitive level of intellectual processing into the emotional level of processing. "What was the worst part of the incident for you?" "How did it make you feel?" This is the most intense phase of the process. Not everyone will feel comfortable sharing his or her feelings in this phase. However, listening to the others talk about their feelings during this phase of the debriefing will be beneficial in and of itself. Many participants will discover that the reactions they had or are currently experiencing are similar to the feelings and reactions of their peers.

5. Symptom Phase: This phase begins the movement back from the predominantly emotional processing level toward the cognitive processing level. Participants are asked to describe their physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral signs and symptoms of distress which appeared (1) at the scene or within 24 hours of the incident, (2) a few days after the incident, and (3) are still being experienced at the time of the debriefing: "What have you been experiencing since the incident?"  

6. Teaching Phase:  Information is exchanged about the nature of the stress response and the expected physiological and psychological reactions to critical incidents. The process of critical incident stress, stress reactions, and techniques to decrease stress are explored. I like to give a handout (click to download) that fully explains the variety of reactions people can have. This serves to normalize the stress and coping response, and provides a basis for questions and answers: "What can we learn from this experience?"

7. Re-entry Phase:  This is a wrap-up, in which any additional questions or statements are addressed, referral for individual follow-ups are made, and general group solidarity and bonding are reinforced: "How can we help one another the next time something like this occurs?" and "Was there anything that we left out?"

This pretty much explains what I've done the last 2 days. It's not easy, but it's very helpful to most people. Hope you can benefit from this as well!

FYI - A good book to check out that utilizes a version of CISD is Candace Calvert's Critical Care.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

No Regrets

There has been a tragedy here in northern California and I've been called to do critical incident stress debriefing (CISD). Blog posts are a very secondary concern during this time, but I found this poem and thought it was appropriate to share, given the current situation I'm dealing with. I hope it's a lesson to us all to appreciate the people in our lives while we have them.


If I knew it would be the last time
That I'd see you fall asleep,
I would tuck you in more tightly
and pray the Lord, your soul to keep.

If I knew it would be the last time
that I see you walk out the door,
I would give you a hug and kiss
and call you back for one more.

If I knew it would be the last time
I'd hear your voice lifted up in praise,
I would video tape each action and word,
so I could play them back day after day.

If I knew it would be the last time,
I could spare an extra minute
to stop and say "I love you,"
instead of assuming you would KNOW I do.

If I knew it would be the last time
I would be there to share your day,
Well I'm sure you'll have so many more,
so I can let just this one slip away.

For surely there's always tomorrow
to make up for an oversight,
and we always get a second chance
to make everything just right.

There will always be another day
to say, "I love you,"
And certainly there's another chance
to ask, "Anything I can do?"

But just in case I might be wrong,
and today is all I  get,
I'd like to say how much I love you
and I hope we never forget.

Tomorrow is not promised to anyone,
young or old alike,
And today may be the last chance you get
to hold your loved one tight.

So if you're waiting for tomorrow,
why not do it today?
For if tomorrow never comes,
you'll surely regret the day...
That you didn't take that extra time
for a smile, a hug, or a kiss
and you were too busy to grant someone,
what turned out to be their one last wish.

So hold your loved ones close today,
and whisper in their ear,
Tell them how much you love them
and that you'll always hold them dear

Take time to say "I'm sorry,"
"Please forgive me," "Thank you," or "It's okay."
And if tomorrow never comes,
you'll have no regrets about today.

— Author Unknown

Please be praying for me as I lead several CISDs over the course of the week. It's draining work, so I'd appreciate it. Thanks so much.

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Book Giveaway Winner and Announcement

This weekend I went to San Fransisco and didn't get to all my posts for this week! But I wanted to let everyone know that the winner of Tommie Lyn's High on a Mountain is Kyle!

Kyle, you must know that you are the first guy to win a book on my congratulations. :) Send me your snail mail addy and I'll get that book in the mail to you (unless you want a .pdf).


My queue is empty right now....if you don't count superheroes (who have tons of problems). Get your questions in while you can! When my new website is up and running, you'll have to pay *gasp* to get the same amount of info for one of my Treatment Tuesdays. (Don't worry, there will be a free mini-assessment option for those of you who don't want to pay, you just won't get the full.) :)

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Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

Last chance! Click here to be entered in the giveaway for Tommie Lyn's High on a Mountain!
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

T3 - Predicting Fictional Breakups, Part One

If I told you that there was a man who was able to predict--with 93.6% accuracy--which couples will remain married and which will get divorced, would you believe me?

You should, because such a man exists. Dr. John Gottman, a name as well-known in my circles as Freud, based his predictions on scientific observation of the interactions between couples in his Love Lab. He used video, heart rate monitors, measures of pulse amplitude, jitteriness and skin conductivity in his research--making it fully scientfic. 

In 1994, he wrote an incredible book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail. In it, he said, “A lasting marriage results from a couple’s ability to resolve the conflicts that are inevitable in any relationship.” He gives 6 signs of pending divorce/breakups, along with helpful quizes, to help shed light on the process of relationship deterioration.

As a marriage and family therapist, I often discuss these 6 signs in session. As a writer, these signs should be present in your manuscripts for breakups to be realistic--because our fiction should be based in reality!

Sign #1: A "Harsh" Startup

This might sound obvious, but research shows that if your discussion begins with a harsh startup, it will inevitably end on a negative note, even if there are a lot of attempts to “make nice” in between. 96 percent of the time you can predict the outcome of a conversation based on the first three minutes of the fifteen-minute interaction.

Sign #2: The Four Horsemen

1) Criticism

We are all going to have complaints about our partners. That's life. But there is a world of difference between a complaint and a criticism. For example, “I’m really angry that you didn’t take out the garbage last night” is a complaint which focuses on a specific behavior. On the flip side, "You are so forgetful! You never take out the garbage when it's your turn!" is a criticism. Criticism throws in blame, accusation, and general character/personality assassination.

Criticism is present to some degree in all relationships, but just because it rears its head doesn't mean the relationship is headed for a breakup. When the criticism becomes pervasive, though, it does signal the arrival or worse horsemen.

2) Contempt

Showing contempt to your partner is the worse of all the horsemen. Contempt is attacking your partner’s sense of self with the intention to insult, demean, or psychologically abuse him or her. This can be in the form of "sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor" (Gottman et all, 29). Contempt conveys disgust, and it's impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that you are disgusted with him/her.

Criticisms can lead to long-standing negative thoughts about your partner. When the differences aren't resolved, then complaints turn into global criticisms, which produce more disgusted thoughts and feelings until finally a person is fed up. The result is a decay of admiration and positive feelings for the partner.

3) Defensiveness

When one person is contemptuous, it stands to reason that the other will likely be defensive. This is a normal reaction to contempt, but it's not helpful in the least. "Defensiveness is really a way of blaming
your partner. You're saying, in effect, the problem isn't me, it's you" (Gottman et al, 31). The problem will never resolve with defensiveness, and conflict escalates further because communication is obstructed. A person who is defensive will usually play the martyr, constantly seeing themselves as the victim by denying responsibility, making excuses, "yes-butting," cross-complaining, etc.

4) Stonewalling

This is when a person withdraws from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict. The withdrawer may think they are being neautral, but stonewalling conveys disapproval, disconnection, separation, and icy distance. In fact, it can even come across as smug. The "I'm-better-than-you-because-I'm-walking-away" action.

It's an absolute communication shutdown, precipitated by a length of time when the first 4 horsemen are incredibly active. "It takes time for the negativity created by the first three horsemen to become overwhelming enough that stonewalling becomes an understandable out" (Gottman et al, 34). FYI, men do this more than women.

Join me here next week when I cover the next two signs that predict breakups.

Q4U: Any of you have your characters start off their arguments harshly? Do you have your arguments end well when they do?

Click here to be entered in the giveaway for Tommie Lyn's High on a Mountain!
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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mad TV Therapist Spoof

Take 6 minutes out of your day to watch this skit Bob Newhart did as a therapist on Mad TV. You'll get a good laugh, promise...especially if you make it all the way to the end. Wish it was this easy in real life. *sigh*

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