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Friday, January 10, 2014

Dear Jeannie: Prioritizing Coping and Civil War Pressures

Dear Jeannie,

Maryanne gets hit with several life-altering traumas at once--infidelity, professional failure, imprisonment and torture, massive culture shock (after a scientific mission ends in disaster and surviving crew members crash in an alien world). Because she was sheltered and stable, I don't think she has a lot of coping strategies in place for any one of these issues, much less all at once. Will she prioritize or shelve certain issues? She's well attuned to her own thoughts and feelings, but tends to be a bit dense where others are concerned.

Lost in Space

Dear Lost,

You're right. She'd probably have very poor coping skills shored up to deal with any of those stressors.  I'd want to direct you a series of posts I did on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Imprisonment and torture will infringe upon her Safety Needs (possibly her Basic Needs, depending on how they torture her), which takes precedence. You're not thinking about what a dirtbag your husband is when you're running for your life. The culture shock would be a Safety Need, as well, because when you're uncomfortable in your surroundings, your future and health and well-being are called into question. Her husband's infidelity is a Social Need problem, which would come after all the above. At the tail end would be her professional failure, which is an Esteem Need (and internal one, at it's the second tier of Esteem Needs. I hope this helps when thinking about how to order her coping with what. Best of luck!

Dear Jeannie,

As Civil war looms, Paulette is faced with two problems: the death of her father and a proposal from her childhood hero. Where she might have welcomed the romance with open arms, she now has political, economical, and social pressures on her that she doesn't welcome but cannot escape because she is running the family plantation in the Deep South. She's young to be coping with wartime troubles, especially as an unwanted leader in her ill-tempered home. How likely is she to want to wait out the war and her family instead of giving an immediate "YES!" to the boy she loves? (He's very anti-secession, so the added certainty of disaster or desertion weighs the scales awkwardly for her.)

Crooked in Colleton 

Dear Crooked,

At 16, in that era, she wouldn't feel psychologically ready to be married, no matter what her responsibilities had been up until then. According to this article, the mean marrying age for white women was around 23-24 years old. Now, she might want to ardently accept the proposal (most young girls would!), but perhaps they'd make the pact in secret, especially since the boy has anti-succession leanings. Waiting out the war would seem the most logical bet, but in every generation, there are those outliers who don't fit the bell curve. You know Paulette better than she an outlier? You mentioned that she was thrust into a leadership role in the plantation, which I assume the death of her father only solidified. Does she abhor this role? Enough that she'd eschew the whole thing and run off with this boy? It seems counterintuitive that she'd welcome the romance with open arms when his political leanings make things so awkward. Does she have strong feelings in the opposite direction? Would that be an insurmountable obstacle for her? Sorry to end with more questions, but you'd have to give some thought to these before making your final plan on the page. Thanks for writing in!

Got Questions?

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