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Friday, September 6, 2013

Dear Jeannie: Stages of Development and Bibliomania

Dear Jeannie,

My character, Tanya, is a six-year-old in a fantasy setting. She becomes pair-bonded with a Genki (speak with him telepathically and be aware of each other's presence and state). Her village believes the Genki are monsters, and exile Tanya, along with her family, when this is found out. She is allowed to set up outside the Genki village (who are also mistrusting of humans) of her pair-bond. I imagine Tanya would have some guilt from her family going into exile with her, and causing grief for her pair-bond. Also maybe some anger towards her village and confusion about the recent events. Fear of other humans is probably another outcome. Though, I believe, there would also be a stabilizing effect from her pair-bond. What else would be realistic for a six-year-old in this situation? And, as she grows into a young teen, how might these events affect her emotional and mental development, as well as that of her pair-bond?

Curious in Cascadia

Dear Curious,

Only a writer can ask a question like "what else would be realistic for a 6-year-old in this situation?" after having just described a scenario where The Village (Shyamalan) meets Twilight-type stuff. :) The most important part of that question is her age. The psychosocial stage she's supposed to be in is industry v. inferiority...but she's reading more like the stage for 3 to 5-year-olds, which is initiative v. guilt. She's exerted too much control over her environment by bucking the trend to not go into the forest and now is pair-bonded with a Genki. According to Erickson, she's definitely going to feel guilt. But at age 6, kids are usually entering the academic world more if, while outside the Genki village, she's engaged in some sort of industrious learning or schooling (whether traditional or about the Genki or the pair-bond or what-have-you), this will do a lot for helping move her along. You can consider the pair-bond stabilizing only as far as she doesn't blame him or their bond on what has happened to her. Moving from her village and uprooting her family is what professionals would call an adverse childhood event, which in turn, if prolonged or severe, can cause trauma and stunted development in children. If the pair-bond is a positive experience in her mind, then he will be the secure base she'll gravitate toward, and research shows just having one of these in a child's life improves outcomes for them. Hopefully this information, and the Ericksonian psychosocial stages I gave you links for, will help you out. Thanks for writing in!

Dear Jeannie,

Sylvia lost a child, aged about 6 months, in a horrific accident (the baby fell from the a mountain cliff). Sylvia was then age 32 and already had two other children. We meet her when she's 60 and suffering from bibliomania. How likely is it that the accident and the book hoarding are connected psychologically?

The Lost Girl

Dear Lost Girl,

I'd have to know a few things first, namely, when did the book-hoarding begin? Did she collect books at all prior to the accident? Bibliomania is not a disorder recognized by the DSM-V (newest edition of our "bible" of mental disorders), though it would fall under obsessive-compulsive disorders. I'd want to know if Sylvia had any other compulsions prior to collecting books, because by age 32, usually a person would already have displayed symptoms of anxiety or compulsiveness. I'd also want to know if collecting the books relieves anxiety she might have, and if so, on what doess her anxiety center? If it could talk, what would it say? It's my understanding that for the bibliomanic individual, the type of books collected doesn't matter. They will buy many copies of the same book, with no intention of reading. How severe are her compulsions? Is her house completely littered with books? or is it just her deceased baby's old nursery? Gotta say...this would be a good one to have sit on my couch. Kudos, 'cause I'm other readers should be as well. :)

Got questions of your own? Leave them in the comment section, using monikers like Sleepless in Seattle, and I will post my answers in next week's column.