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Friday, June 28, 2013

Dear Jeannie: Depersonalization Disorder and Survivor's Guilt

Dear Jeannie,

In my sci-fi book, my character endured sensory and sleep deprivation torture for about 5 weeks before being rescued. He hallucinated a malicious version of himself which taunted him. This character had previously died under similar circumstances before being reincarnated. Due to the similar feelings of isolation, helplessness, distortion of senses and reality, as well as the feeling of dying in both situations, do you think it would be realistic for him to develop Depersonalization Disorder as a result of the second event? Also, what other emotional baggage might he develop as a result of this event?

Lively in London

Dear Lively,

Dissociative disorders are a heck of a lot of fun to write, aren't they? Depersonalization disorder might fit the bill for your guy, but let's make sure.

People with this disorder experience episodes during which they feel detached from, outside of, or lacking control of themselves. They know it's only a feeling, not reality.  However, therapists have to rule out certain disorders before considering Depersonalization. One such disorder which you might want to look at is Acute Stress Disorder. Within ASD, the person can have experiences of being outside of their body, numb, and detached. So be sure to check out that link, and if he fits ASD, that would rule out Depersonalization Disorder.

To throw some more research your way, your character's second experience sounds more like Brief Psychotic Disorder to me. Due to his physical and psychological torture, he hallucinated this mean version of himself. Not knowing the full extent of his first experience, just that it is similar to his second, I feel pretty strongly that one of the anxiety disorders (ASD, PTSD) might be a better fit.

What do you think? Feel free to write responses in comment section below.

Dear Jeannie,

A man is responsible for the death of his family in a vehicular accident and because of depression and subsequent job loss, became indigent. What are some ways survivor's guilt would express itself and what is the shortest time frame it would be expected he would recover without intensive professional help?

Wrecked Two Ways in Texas 

Dear Wrecked,

You've already mentioned one of the ways survivor's guilt rears its ugly head: depression, which subsequently led to missing work and eventually losing his job. But in a previous post I did on this subject, I explained that various other reactions would be feasible. Here's an excerpt:
Survivor's guilt used to be it's own diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual until 1994 when it was subsumed under Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It carried with it many of the same criteria as PTSD does now, including depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, withdrawal, nightmares, episodes of uncontrollable crying/laughing, and a loss of interest in things that one brought pleasure. (Very similar to PTSD.)
As for recovery time, that is such an individual variable I couldn't hazard a guess. Given his active guilt in that he was driving the car, I would think it could last a fairly long time. Was he really responsible? Driving drunk? Where there any outside influences on what happened for him to lose control of the car? Some individuals never quite get over this, but some might take years. Therapy is the treatment of choice for this condition, so he could receive help in reframing his belief as being the cause of the accident (if indeed he wasn't) so that he can start seeing himself as a victim.

Any other thoughts or questions, shoot them to me below in a comment.

Got Questions?

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

Monday, June 24, 2013

Character Archetypes 101: The Magician

This week, we have the Magician on the couch. I was pleasantly surprised that he left his top hat, cape, deck of cards, pigeon, and bunny in his car. The Magician is also called the Inventor, Shaman, Healer, Visionary, and Medicine Man.

The "Good"

Magicians aren't just about magic tricks. On a much deeper level, the skills of a Magician represent power which comes from mastering a secret knowledge and manipulating tools to control things and produce desired outcomes. Harnessing this power is like a drug for them.

They are visionaries, usually oozing with charisma and inspiration. They use their imagination to evoke change and find win-win solutions. Their cleverness helps them envision possibilities and invent means to desired outcomes in situations where others would dare not.

Magicians find great fulfillment when visions are realized, whether their own or the dreams of others. They believe that everyone is connected to everyone else, and the idea of synchronicity (events that happen simultaneously and appear to be related but have no discernible connection) is part and parcel of the Magician's life. Social unrest and turmoil is like the Magician's playground, from which they motivate and inspire others and raise the collective unconscious.

They have high standards--sometimes too high--and are mysterious, mystical, and idealistic. The have a natural self-awareness which is difficult not to respect. Their intuition and insight help them to grasp and appreciate varying perspectives.

The "Bad"

One only needs to watch films like The Illusionist and The Prestige to see the shadow side of the Magician. Magicians definitely use manipulation--of their tools of the trade and of their audiences. They may see the "known" world as sick, and egocentrically turn to black magic and sorcery to control others, not even realizing that perhaps the Magician himself is the one in need of healing.

At times, the Magician might expect a miracle to save him or the ones he loves, especially when things get rough. When people fail to catch on to the Magician's vision, fail to harness his or her excitement, the Magician will ofter lose patience with them.

Likely Goals

To understand the fundamental laws of the universe
To make dreams come true

To alter/transform the known world
To transform themselves/achieve a high plane of existence

Likely Fears

To have unintended negative consequences
To fear their own potential to do harm
To have a lack of self-awareness

Examples in the Media

Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Merlin in Camelot
Tom Hiddleston as Loki in Thor: The God of Thunder
Darth Vader in Star Wars
Kat Graham as Bonnie Bennett in The Vampire Diaries

Archetypes Who've Completed Therapy

The Innocent                  The Lover
The Orphan                     The Creator
The Hero                          The Jester
The Caregiver            The Sage
The Explorer 
The Rebel

Let's Analyze

Any more suggestions for females? Seriously lacking in the research. I came up with Kat Graham on my own....but there have to be more out there! Maybe the Charmed girls?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Dear Jeannie: Effect of Dystopian World on Archetypes

Dear Jeannie,

I've created a world based on China's one-child policy where the first son is kept and all girl children are given to an orphanage at birth. I'm wondering how being raised in this sort of environment would affect the classic character archetypes? Let's say my MC is a "care giver"--what kind of baggage would she bring with her?

Helpless in Houston 

Dear Helpless,

If you haven't read up on the Caregiver in my Character Archetypes 101 series, you can start there.
The core of an archetype won't change due to the environment. They simply act out their archetypical traits within that environment.

If your female heroine grew up in an orphanage, she would probably have been a parentified child, going around and helping the other girls. And in a severe dystopian-type world where all the girls are thrown out, most certainly there would be a lack of resources to care for the few adults manning the orphanages would welcome her help. She might be like a mother-figure to the other down-and-out orphans. Caregivers want to make a difference in the lives of others...this challenges them and really fulfills a need.

On the flip (shadow) side, she'd likely grow resentful if too much is put on her. In part, this would be her fault, due to her poor boundaries and not knowing when to say no. And even if the culture in accepting of the fate of girls (being discarded), it wouldn't lessen the curiosity and bitterness the girls (and your Caregiver) might feel at the actions against them. Perhaps in her zealousness to make the lives of the other girls better, she might advocate against the dystopian rule for girls being given to orphanages at birth.

Hope this gives you a starting place!


Dear Jeannie,

I'd love to hear your take on personality types/archetypes on some biblical characters. What can you tell me about the personalities of Ruth and Naomi?

Biblical Bookworm in Bethesda

Dear Biblical Bookworm,

You know, I really got into this kind of thing when I did a post on the Woman at the Well, psychoanalyzing her, for lack of a better term. I think that your question would better be served in a Character Clinic-type setting than in this format. I'll work up something on each of them and post them separately, because really, they deserve more attention than my little column can give here.

Hope that's OK....because I truly love looking into Scriptures with my therapist eye. So hold'll come later, but it'll be worth the wait. :)


Got Questions?

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

Monday, June 17, 2013

Archetypes 101: The Sage

To get the Sage on the couch, I finally had to take away his phone, because he kept going to Wikipedia and looking stuff up. The Sage is also known as The Expert, Thinker, Luminary, Scholar, Philosopher, Detective, Mentor, Teacher, and Advisor.

The "Good"

A Sage, who at their core is intellectual and wise, is most fulfilled when looking for answers to unfulfilled questions. Rational and investigative as they are disciplined and unbiased, they simply want to understand thought processes while seeking out information and knowledge.

They do a lot of self-reflection in light of what they discover. They want the truth in all things, not necessarily to control of alter it in any way, but to comprehend it. They are able to divorce themselves of their own opinions and convictions to arrive at unadulterated and objective truth. 

They don't sweat the small's the big answers they want. They show the value of thinking things through, and it's through this modeling that others around them are inspired to dig deeper than face value. Sages are great advisers (what they do) as well as advisors (what they are), given their philosophical nature and ability to see patterns where others may not.

The "Bad"

The Sage can be a student forever, studying and logging information...but to no avail, no action.  Some call this the Ivory Tower, or a place or attitude of retreat, especially preoccupation with lofty, remote, or intellectual considerations rather than practical everyday life. Their constant seeking after the truth can lead to a disconnect from reality, or perhaps even despair, as they might come to the conclusion that life is meaningless.

Many Sages are socially lacking, and their awkwardness stems from being more comfortable in books than around real people. Particularly, in adolescence, the Sage can be isolated from others, due to so few peers being on the same intellectual plane. And it's this very same plane than can lead Sages to be judgmental, critical, and pompous. Sages can come across as unfeeling and dogmatic if not careful.

The shadow side of the Sage can manifest in various ways, such as giving others unwanted advice and always taking the superior, know-it-all stance, or purposefully giving someone incorrect knowledge or interpretations and using their position as an expert manipulatively.

Likely Goals

To find the truth
To understand the world through analysis

To be objective and honest 

Likely Fears

To be duped/misled
To be ignorant 
To be confused

Examples in the Media

Yoda in Star Wars
Leonard Nimoy as Spock in Star Trek
Professor Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter
Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio
Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid
Gloria Foster as the Oracle in The Matrix
Woody Allen as Alvy Singer in Annie Hall
Henry Higgins in Pygmalion

Archetypes Who've Completed Therapy

The Innocent                  The Lover
The Orphan                     The Creator
The Hero                          The Jester
The Caregiver
The Explorer 
The Rebel

Friday, June 14, 2013

Dear Jeannie: What Makes a Person "Snap?"

Dear Jeannie,

Do you think the death of a child could eventually make a mother snap to the point that she'd want to deprive other women of their children, to make them share her grief?

Curious about Female Serial Killers 

Dear Curious about Female Serial Killers,

The funny thing about psychopathy, and perhaps the one thing professionals wish they could change the most, is that no one can predict what will make a person "snap." It's a combination of things, actually, so you'll want to pay close attention to your would-be mother's environmental stressors. Make sure her child's death is the last straw, due to the perfect storm that had already been brewing.

For example, let's look at the 1992 movie, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. Rebecca De Mornay's OB-GYN husband had sexual assault allegations against him, after which he kills himself. She learns that all assets are frozen and she'll lose her luxurious home. Going into early labor, she then loses her baby and has to have an emergency hysterectomy due to hemorrhaging.

WHAM! Loss of husband, home, child, and any future hope of children. It's little wonder she takes up residence as a live-in nanny with the family of the woman who first charged her late husband with rape. The environmental stressors she went through primed the pump for her to lose her sanity. Click to Tweet!

I believe that any sane mother who loses a child probably has thoughts of wanting the children of other people. I believe to some degree those ideas would be normal, yet ultimately dismissed. If your character is going to kill multiple children of other people, so that those parents share in her particular grief, this would be a new kind of spin on an older plot line. Very twisted...I like it.

Best of luck with your story!

Got Questions?

Post them anonymously below, using monikers like Sleepless in Seattle. If this new idea for posts takes off, I'll begin posting more than just one Dear Jeannie column to address the questions.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Character Archetypes 101: The Jester

Today, I've got the Jester on my couch. I had to take away his whoopee cushion before he took a seat, but no harm, no foul. The Jester is also known in archetype circles as The Fool, Trickster, Comedian, or Joker.

The "Good"

As you can imagine, the Joker likes to be funny and spontaneous. Practical jokes are often a part of their repertoire, and they are never caught off guard because they think on their feet. They dearly love to laugh, and believe each moment needs to be lived to the fullest. They live with freedom and play hard. 

Jesters get psyched when they can use their wit and humor to lighten up a stressful situation or turn laborious work and mundane tasks into something fun and light-hearted. They can motivate others to do this as well, which makes people gravitate toward them. Life's absurdities are something to be poked fun at, and one need not put on airs to do so.  They like to be exactly who they are, which is usually charismatic, magnetic, mischievous, and clever.

They have a gift for telling the truth and imparting wisdom, and they do so softly, in a way that others can hear and respond to positively. In the olden days, a court jester was there so amuse the members of the court, but they also stood behind the king and offered him discernment on the actions of others who came before the throne. So while definitely not the center of power, they play an important role on the sidelines.

The "Bad"

Just as the Jester wishes people would lighten up and not be so serious, many of the Jester's friends wish the exact opposite of him: to be more serious and not so frivolous. It's difficult to carry on an important conversation with a Jester who makes quips to deliberately lighten a somber atmosphere, which is at odds with the topic needing to be discussed. 

The shadow side of the Jester can be quite evil and petty. Their quick wit and even quicker tongue can deliver the most cutting, sarcastic lines, critical remarks, and cruel jokes. Their humor can be twisted to be hurtful instead of uplifting and positive. They might also tend toward con-artistry or other forms of manipulation.

Some Jesters are prone to dissipation and wasting time, who have difficulty staying on task. One source went as far to say the Jester could be so irresponsible and debauched as to be a "glutton, sloth or lecher wholly defined by the lists and urges of the body without any sense of dignity or self-control." 

Likely Goals

To live in the moment
To have fun and enjoy life
To lighten up the world

Likely Fears

To be bored with lack of stimulation
To bore others
To not be "alive" 

Examples in the Media

Stanley Tucci as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ellen DeGeneres as Dori in Finding Nemo
Jean Stapleton as Edith Bunker on All in the Family
Will Ferrell as Buddy in Elf
Melissa McCarthy as Megan in Bridesmaids
Michael Richards as Kramer in Seinfeld
Matt LeBlanc as Joey in Friends 
Anything Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, or Jim Carey ever played
The Iguana in Tangled
The Carpet in Aladdin

Archetypes Who've Completed Therapy

The Innocent
The Orphan
The Hero  
The Caregiver
The Explorer 
The Rebel
The Lover
The Creator

Let's Analyze

Very few female examples are given because this role traditionally goes to a male. Modern comedies most always feature a male. Any other female examples to add? 

Friday, June 7, 2013

"Dear Jeannie" Column Unveiled!

Now it begins! My new interactive "Dear Jeannie" column, which is taking the place of my Friday Free Association Chain.

Here's your chance to ask any burning questions you have, writing or psychology-related. No need to be embarrassed, because all comments will be by "anonymous" participants, signed off in true "Dear Abby" Curious in California, Frustrated in Fresno, Sleepless in Seattle, etc. (All west coast examples, but you get the idea.)

Here's what they will look like:

You ask your question...and come on...anything goes: sex, drugs, rock and roll, whatever...I promise, I've heard it all. No judgment, just honest answers from your friendly online therapist.

When you enter your comment below, comment as a Guest, not using any of the login information from IntenseDebate, Twitter, of Type "Anonymous" in as your name, include your email (which is inaccessible by me or anyone else) and click Submit Comment.

Just make sure to use a moniker like Stonewalled in Staten Island. [Waving at East Coasters!]

So what are you waiting for? Ask away. I'll select one question for next week's column, so make it juicy or scandalous, folks.

**Special thanks goes to Lisa Godfrees for her creativity 
in suggesting the "Dear Jeannie" column.**

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Inspiring Publishing Story Behind The Shack

Paul Young and me.
This past weekend, William Paul Young came to speak at a conference hosted by our church, along with theologian C. Baxter Kruger, a fellow Mississippian. Paul, as he likes to be called, is the author of The Shack, and he shared how this book came about in one of the most inspiring publishing stories I've ever heard.

I have to share it with you.

In 2004, Paul was really struggling with financial instability. He'd lost everything--his house, his vehicles--thanks to the economic downturn for telecom companies. His wife Kim and their children moved to a small town in Oregon where he began to work three jobs to make ends meet.

Kim had asked him years ago to "write down how he thinks in once place." Paul had dabbling with writing off an on, usually poetry and short stories that he shared with friends and family.

So that year, given that they had little money for any other type of gift, Paul pushed to finish The Shack while he was commuting via train to one of this three jobs. He intended to give his children the book for Christmas as gifts.

Thanks to an anonymous donation under his door of $100, Paul was able to purchase 15 copies of his book at the local Office Depot. He wrapped them up for his children and few other friends and family members.

15 copies.

Printed at Office Depot.

They got handed out to friends of friends of friends...and it just took off. Literally. Paul never intended to publish this book when he wrote it. He ended up querying various agents and publishers, but since none of them would take it on, he just published it himself.

Now over 18 million copies. 41 languages.

But the first 15 copies did all he ever hoped this book to do.

Let's Analyze

You can read more about his story in his own words here, but I've given you the basics. Don't you find that amazing? No one expected Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey to be the breakout novels they were, but those authors wrote with the intention of publication. Paul didn't.

Is that inspiring or what?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Character Archetypes 101: The Creator

It took a little work, but I got the Creator away from composing songs on the guitar in order to spend a few moments on my couch. In archetype circles, the Creator is also known as the Artist, Inventor, Musician, Writer, or Dreamer.

The "Good"

Obviously, Creators have creativity and imagination in spades. They find inspiration in the most unlikely of places, and their inherent ability to find expression--be it through music, art, design, invention, poetry, literature, or photography--helps them think outside the box, using metaphors and abstracts to create something of lasting value.

Creators most like to see new ideas take shape, and the icing on top when these ideas are non-conformist. The love unique, unusual, clever, and visionary creations. They find joy in demonstrating their innovation, individuality, and freedom from societal constraints and convention. They get excited being able to express themselves, which includes finding and accepting themselves in relation to the external world.

A Creator will dedicate his or her life to finding beautiful aestheticism. Their talents are often the sole pursuit of a Creator, whose life can be dictated by applying learned and experienced artistic expression. They can be incredibly focused internally, and rejoice with a feeling of wholeness when they are able to prove reality outside of their minds.

The "Bad"

The shadow side of the Creator might not be too hard to guess. Artistic types are often perfectionists and/or prima donnas. They might lose sight of the forest for focusing too much on the trees. As a result, they might come up with bad solutions that show an irresponsible side to themselves. They can also be outsiders, separated from average joes by their incredible talents.

Some Creators want to play God. Not in a grandiose way, believing themselves to be God, but in a destructive way, where they use their creativity to the exclusion of reality. Their art--or whatever medium they choose--can become like a god to them, and they might sacrifice anything and everything at its altar. In certain cases, some Creators can literally lose their mental stability and physical well-being in pursuit of their craft. 

Likely Goals

To create things of enduring value
To see a vision realized

To hone artistic control and skill
To create culture through self-expression 

Likely Fears

To have a mediocre vision 
To only execute a vision half-way
To believe all is an illusion
To remain unchanged/unmoved by beauty

Examples in the Media

Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens in La Bamba 
Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe in Friends
Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon  
Winona Ryder as Jo March in Little Women
John Cusack as Craig Schwartz in Being John Malkovich 
Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City
Ewan McGregor as Christian in Moulin Rouge
Ed Harris as Jackson Pollock in Pollock   
Glee ensemble members

Archetypes Who've Completed Therapy

The Innocent
The Orphan
The Hero  
The Caregiver
The Explorer 
The Rebel
The Lover

Let's Analyze

In my research, I came across one source who indicated that a large goal of the Creator was to "prove reality outside of their minds." What exactly do you think this means?