LinkedinTwitterThe DetailsConnectBlog Facebook Meet the TherapistHome For Writers

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dear Jeannie: Spoiled Teens, Past Lives & Equinophobia (Fear of Horses)

Dear Jeannie,

I cannot tell if my young MC is spoiled or rebellious. Or maybe neither? Lynn grew up as the pampered, complacent child in a family of sharp tempers and strong opinions. She happened to agree with the rules and expectations placed on her, so issues like conflict resolution, self control, or authority were left to other people. Summoned to a foreign court as a teenager, Lynn finds herself ill-prepared for the schemes, responsibilities, and power struggles that ensue there. When told what to do (or what she can't do), Lynn keeps getting washed away with unexpected anger, stubbornness, and a severe case of the "will nots." She doesn't seem to have any coping strategies in place, and no one who loves her recognizes the furious, power-mad person she's turning into. So, I'm not sure (a) quite what's happening with Lynn (whose full-on tantrums erupt when she's in her late teens/early twenties, following one too many betrayals), and (b) how I can either equip her to handle herself better or provide people/experiences to mature her properly. Any suggestions appreciated!

Off-Guard in Eutawville

Dear Off-Guard,

You wrote that Lynn was a complacent child amidst a family of sharp tempers/opinions. I assume she "happened" to agree with the rules and expectations because they indulged her rather than gave her boundaries. A steady diet of this type of spoiled upbringing will leave a child ill-equipped to deal with life when things don't go her way. So the answer to your first question is that Lynn is both spoiled and rebellious. She's going to kick against the goads when any kind of rules are imposed on her. And if this is when she's a teen, then so be it. I'm not sure what "full-on tantrum" means in your book, or what betrayals she's suffered, but I do have one suggestion that would work for helping her gain empathy. If she were exposed to another person, close to her age, preferably her own sex, who had things so much worse off than her...a slave, if you will...and were to strike up a friendship with her, she'd have to wrestle with the discrepancies in their life situation. Of course, the slave would handle what Lynn perceives as insults with aplomb instead of anger. Acceptance that life isn't always what you want it to be. Lynn needs a little yang to her yin, you know? Try that out and see if it helps.

Dear Jeannie,

Cicely is about to get dragged away, very reluctantly, on something you might call an "adventure" - although it quickly turns into a nightmare. Cicely's mother has dragged her all around the world her entire life and while it's been fun, is it plausible that Cicely is sick to death of it and would want a plain and simple life more than anything? The other guy is one who's been reincarnated time and time again. He remembers slivers of his past lives and not all of them were good people - in fact, they've done some awful, bloody things. How deeply do you think this would affect what he's like?


Dear Anonymous,

Your first question seems very simple: people want what they can't have. It's been that way since the  beginning of time...the whole forbidden fruit, and all that. If Cicely has been high flyin' all her life, it's very feasible that she'd want to settle down, have sleepovers and proms and all that, like a normal person. As for your other question, a man who has glimpses of some of the awful things he's done in past lives...I imagine that's very much like a person who "loses time" (dissociates or goes into a fugue state) and remembers glimpses of it later. It's very disconcerting, leaving the person apprehensive, and sometimes fearful of these recollections. Depending on how he felt currently about some of the "bad" behaviors, I'd think he'd want to right wrongs, so to speak. Maybe they'd make him more circumspect, handling people with more kindness. Hope this helps.

Dear Jeannie,

Katy was a witness to her parents' death by a favored horse. She had been outdoorsy and good with animals before this, but a crippling fear of horses changed a lot of things. Stables practically give her hives. As a young adult, she'd now like to leave her foster home. Which involves getting on a horse again. Part of her knows the fear is irrational, but telling herself that doesn't seem to help. And she has lost her only "friend" (more like a captor), so she's without any kind of support system to encourage her attempts. Not just this first time someone throws her on the back of an animal, but also in subsequent attempts to ride, how is she going to react or process this fear?

Unseated in Union Station

Dear Unseated,

You wrote that Katy was "thrown on the back of an animal." With a fear like hers, this would be debilitating.  But you also wrote that she's without a support system to "encourage her attempts," which indicated that she did make attempts. So depending on how her early attempts went to get back on the horse, she might be able to function through her fear, especially if her body knew what to do while her mind was preoccupied. Don't underestimate how strong latent memory can be. It's like riding a bike or brushing your teeth. The only variable is the horse itself. I'm not a rider, but I've been told they sense and react to fear themselves. But it if's the favored horse she knew well and loved, then the animal might overlook her tenseness. I'd ask a horse rider, though, for sure. Psychologically, she's do much better if she went through a process of systematic desensitization.  Let me know if this answers your question. Best of luck!


Maybe I've got answers. Leave your questions below anonymously, using monikers like Sleepless in Seattle. I'll post my answers in a future Dear Jeannie column.