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Friday, July 26, 2013

Dear Jeannie: Guilt and Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Dear Jeannie,

My MC decides to go to war after a childhood hero is tortured to death by the enemy, and the execution broadcast as shock-propaganda. Two years later, my MC is killed in the same manner by the same man, only to be revived by enemy doctors and told that she is now required to serve a year working in the enemy hospital to pay for her resurrection. Shortly thereafter, she finds that the childhood hero is alive and working as a nurse. Now the pair have finally sparked a real conversation regarding their experiences, and it was my Old Soldier who brought it up. I'm unsure as to how my MC will deal with her death and resurrection, or whether my Old Soldier will feel that her death was indirectly his fault.

Wondering in Washington

Dear Wondering,

This is one of those questions that could go a lot of different ways. The Old Soldier childhood hero could very likely feel it was his fault the MC is now in his same condition, especially if she made it clear that she only joined the war because of him. 

As for your MC, her first reaction to the death/resurrection (outside of "what the h--- just happened?") would be to wish she hadn't survived. She would likely be angry at being revived only to work for the enemy, and her anger would be in direct proportion to how fervent she was in her war ideology. However, upon meeting her childhood hero, she might be grateful to learn he's still alive, sad that he's been held captive for the enemy, and determined to find them both a way out from their oppressor.

I, for one, would love to know what you're going to do next with this interesting plot. Kudos!

Dear Jeannie,

My protag's husband is struggling with an "inner demon." His grandfather and great-grandfather were also "possessed." He learns to control his anger through meditation, yoga, exercise and massage. His bursts of anger range anywhere from a firecracker exploding to a volcano erupting. Can this type of anger be hereditary? Or is it just the inability to cope with stress? Those who are not exposed to these bursts see him as a loving husband, hardworking employee, and loyal friend.

Lost in Translation

Dear Lost,

I'm interested in how you are portraying this man's anger and explosiveness as a demon. Is this because of their religious background? What it sounds like you are describing is Intermittent Explosive Disorder, a very real problem many people face, no matter how you view it (chemical imbalance, demon, etc).

Essentially, the disorder requires several distinct episodes of failure to resist aggressive impulses (both physical and verbal) that results in assaultive acts, destruction of property, or nondestructive/noninjurious physical aggression. Also, the degree of aggression expressed is way out of proportion to what precipitated it. The impulsive nature of these actions has to cause marked distress, impairment, or negative consequences for the individual.

Mental disorders can definitely be inherited, but they can also be a learned behavior, so to speak. If your MC's husband witnessed his father (who witnessed his father) blowing up as a way to be heard, feared, revered and respected, then it's not unheard of for children to pick this up.

Hope this helps!

Got Questions? I'm one away from being OUT.

Post them anonymously below, using monikers like Sleepless in Seattle.
I'll get to them in future Dear Jeannie columns.