Today, I have Erica's character Jason on the couch. He's 43, divorced, with two sons, ages 21 and 17. He was taken from his bio mom when he was 8, and still carries this with him today in the form of panic attacks/nightmares. He was placed in a loving foster home and eventually adopted by a pastor and his wife. He married his high school sweetheart Nina, but he's not sure what went wrong or when he wasn't enough, but they divorced this year. He's afraid of being abandoned and alone and just wants peace in his life and for his ex-wife to love him and their children as much as he loves her.
Erica wants to know: I'm having a hard time figuring out what Jason's external goal is. I feel like there is something he's not really telling. Any ideas or should I trust him? Also, I wonder how I can really show the effects of his childhood on his adulthood. Is the information he gave enough to work with? Jason and I are both new at this. We appreciate your advice.
It's no wonder that you're having panic attacks and nightmares with a vengeance at this time. When your wife walked out on you and your family, it was like your mother's abandonment all over again. Because even though you were taken from her, deep down, you know that she had checked out long before you were removed from her care. Nina checked out, and you're scared of those feelings.
Even more so, your younger son is about to graduate from high school. This will leave you with an empty nest, and for an emotional guy prone to crying, I imagine you aren't looking forward to this very much. It'll be one more abandonment (even if developmentally appropriate for your son to leave the house at 18), one more rejection.
You said your external goal was to have Nina return your love. Since I'm not sure what your author has cooked up for you (i.e., getting back with Nina or not), I still have to remind you that you can only be responsible for you alone. You won't be able to change Nina...only to change your interactions with her.
Now, she might be able to change once you change (in family systems theory, we like to look at this like a dance...you move, she has to countermove to adjust to your move. The whole system shifts because of one move, which YOU can make), but you can't count on it being a move in a direction you want. Life's just that way.
I'd venture to say that your external goal is more to have a complete family again. While this can carry with it some internal, emotional facets, it's a physical goal to strive for. Or perhaps it's to prevent other children from experiencing what you went through as a child, and your physical goal could be to work hard at your Children's Center to help families barely keeping it together. One family in particular might could tug at your heart....a family with an 8-year-old boy being raised by a single mom with a history of drug addiction. The reader would definitely see the effects of his own childhood in his work and emotional life then.
I hope you've enjoyed your brief stint on the couch today. If you want to go deeper, let me know! We could talk about your panic attacks and how they are triggered and how you might could come to a literary place of healing with them.
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