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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Weekend Funnies

Non Sequitur
 Copyright Wiley Miller, 2-8-11

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

T3 - Is Your Character Left Brained or Right Brained?

It's pop quiz day! Take a break from your writing or from work to take the quiz below as your character. Score it and then read on to learn why this might be important in characterization.

Right Brain v. Left Brain Quiz

The following “forced choice” questions give only two possible answers.You must choose one of them, even if you don’t think either is appropriate.  Pick the answer that is more likely to apply to your behavior.  Go quickly and go with your gut (first response).

1. Which of the following statements is more characteristic of you?
 a. I’m a tense person.  I worry about getting things right.  I’m more nervous that most people.
 b. I’m relaxed and easygoing; you can’t fight life, so you may as well roll with the punches.

2. Do you get depressed a lot?
 a. Yes
 b.  No

3. Think about the music you like. Which is more important?
 a. The beat
 b. The melody

4. If you were learning a new skill, which of the following ways of acquiring knowledge would appeal to you more?
 a. Reading books and attending lectures on the subject
 b. An “experience oriented” approach consisting of field trips, workshops, lab work and apprenticeship.

5. If you were in college, which of these two majors would you select?
 a. Art
 b. Math

6. Which of these games would you rather play?
 a. Scrabble
 b. Checkers 

7. Which statement more accurately describes your behavior?
 a. I’m an impulsive buyer; when I want something, I get it even if I can’t afford it.
 b. I’m a deliberate shopper; I think about something before I buy it.  Sometimes I wait so long that what I want is sold out by the time I decide to buy it.  I often talk myself out of things I first thought I wanted.

8. Are you often unsure of your grammar?
 a. Yes
 b. No

9. When you learn something new how does the process usually work?
 a. I flounder around until suddenly a light goes on and I get the knack of it; understanding seems to come all at once, as if a curtain had lifted or a door opened.
 b. I work gradually, learning one aspect at a time; eventually I begin to understand all the pieces and can put the whole picture together.

10. If you have to solve a problem, which would you choose?
 a. A crossword puzzle
 b. A jigsaw puzzle

11. Do you often have hunches?
 a. Yes
 b. No

12. If you could do only one or the other, would you rather
 a. Read a book
 b. See a movie

13. Do you often have trouble putting your feelings and opinions into words; do you have trouble expressing what you really mean?
 a. Yes
 b. No

14. If you have to park a car parallel to the curb, do you
 a. Usually get it right the first time
 b. Usually have to pull out at least once and try anther time

15. If you were taking a trip and someone were giving you directions, would you prefer that he
 a. Write down the directions, listing the route numbers, turnoffs and landmarks in order
 b. Show you the route on a map

16. When you’re choosing clothes, are you more likely to select
a. Fabrics with a lot of texture; such as leather, suede, thick wools, silk shirts and corduroy
b. Relatively understated fabrics, such as cottons and normal weight suits

17. Do you remember faces well?
 a. Yes
 b. No

18. Do you remember people’s names well?
 a. Yes
 b. No

19. With which of the following statements would you be more likely to agree?
 a. There are many things that science will never be able to explain
 b. There’s a natural law that governs everything; therefore, science should eventually be able to
explain things that at first appear to be mysteries

20. Are you a better than average athlete?
 a. Yes
 b. No

Of the two answers to each question, one is more likely to be chosen by a left-hemisphere dominant person and the other by a right-hemisphere dominant person. (Click for downloadable .pdfs that go into more detail about each hemisphere than the picture below.) Left-hemisphere choices are indicated by an “L”, right-hemisphere choices by “R”.

If you choose 13 or more “L” answers, it’s probable your brain’s left hemisphere exerts the dominant force on your personality.  If you choose 13 or more “R” answers, it is most likely that the right brain dominates.  If you ended up with a relative balance between your “L” and “R” answers (that is, if you didn’t score more than 12 or fewer than 8 in either category), you are in a middle group described as “balanced brain.” Quiz courtesy of Pflugerville (TX) Independent School District.

So why is this important? There are definite trends in interests and gifts and talents based on whether a person is left or right-brained. For example, if your character is right-brain dominant, it is her intuitive, emotional right hemisphere that guides the decisions she makes throughout the day. If he is left-brain dominant, it is his sequential, time-oriented left hemisphere which tells him how to think, what to believe, and what choices to make. Those who are middle-brain dominant tend to be more flexible than either the left- or the right-brain folks; however, they often vacillate between the two hemispheres when they make decisions.

So how does your character's brain side preference play into your story?

For a more detailed test that actually breaks down scores within the left and right brain hemispheres, go to the Right Brain vs Left Brain Creativity Test at The Art Institute of Vancouver. This is actually a very interesting site, so check it out.

Pop back over next week when I go over Motivation-Reaction Units from a therapist's standpoint. You writer's won't be disappointed....MRUs will finally make sense!

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Motivation 101 via The Pawn

I finished reading Steven James' The Pawn and just have to hail the man as an incredible suspense writer. But he's also got some great psychological power behind his writing, and has clearly done a lot of research on disorders that he writes about (which makes them thrilling to read!).

FBI agent Patrick Bowers believes that there are only three primary motives, none of which are very helpful when it comes to solving a crime. (He's more into geospatial profiling rather looking at a criminal's motive and means.)

Desire: fame, sex, money, power, revenge, lust, greed, envy, jealousy, ambition
Anger: (a given, according to these FBI agents)
Guilt: regret, shame, remorse

Then the psychological profiler, Lien-hua, (who is all about determining motive), says that she thinks there are two additional--more important--motives that Patrick missed. She reveals the first one:

Fear. She says fear can turn you into a different person and make you do things you'd never do when you're pushed into a corner.

Patrick spends a lot of the novel trying to determine the fifth. I found myself highlighting all their interactions regarding this illusive fifth motive.

He guesses survival, to which Lien-hua responds is the desire to live. Then he tries betrayal. Lien-hua says that you betray someone because of desire, and you respond to betrayal with anger. Patrick's next guess is curiosity. Lien-hua says that curiosity is desire to know what the crime will feel like or how it will affect you. Patrick then guesses psychosis and depression, both of which Lien-hua say are conditions, now motivations. They might precipitate or increase the likelihood of certain behaviors, but they don't motivate the actual behavior.

Patrick then internally dismisses the idea of honor and vanity as forms of desire. He likewise dismisses duty as the desire to please and integrity as the desire to be virtuous. He next guesses remorse, to which Lien-hua responds, "That's just another name for guilt."

He never does manager to guess it correctly and Lien-hua ends up telling him. It rocks his little FBI world. but before I go further....

...can YOU guess the fifth motive?

Be sure to check back at the end of the day. If no one guesses Motive #5 correctly, I'll post the answer around 6 p.m. PST (9 p.m. EST).

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Treatment Tuesday - Cutting/Self-Harm

This week's assessment (finally, someone took me up on the empty queue!) is for Kira. She's writing a YA book about a young girl who's mother died and she's stuck living with her fairly new step-father, with whom she's not very close. The book starts off when the teen and her dad having moved away to "start over."

Kira wants to know: What is some sort of issue for my MC to deal with as a result of her grief that would be easy to write in several scenes? I need her to have a more fleshed-out internal journey.

At the risk of sounding macabre, your very question gave me a great idea for your MC. You mentioned "fleshed-out" journey....and, well, what I'm going to suggest would literally be one.

The current misconception about cutting and other forms of self-harm is that they must follow on the heels of some sort of abuse or onset of a personality disorder. That's just not so. There are people who inflict themselves with various self-harm techniques simply because they have been overwhelmed with trauma of some kind.

Your heroine fits the bill. She's lost her mother, and I can probably assume they were very close. You didn't mention how long it had just been the two of them before her mother remarried the step-dad, but it's probably pretty safe to say that her mother was the girl's world. Depending on the circumstances of her father's absence (either through death, divorce, suddenly deserting their family, etc), your heroine might actually have a very hard time reconnecting with any father figure, much less a "fairly new" one.

To add insult to injury, the step-father removes the girl from her support network to "start over." This is great fodder to push her over the edge a bit and overwhelm her current coping strategies. Friends are especially important to teens, and for the heroine to have to leave her school, church, sports leagues, etc., to live with a man she doesn't really know (or want to know) that well, this could certainly drive her to seek an emotional release from her thoughts, fears, and anxiety.

So you can write the scenes realistically (I doubt it'll be easy writing, as this is really difficult stuff), I'll go over what I understand about self-harm. 

1) Self-harm can take on many forms. It typically starts with a razor blade or knife at first, but it can progress to burning oneself (with erasers, car lighters, cigarette buttes), pulling hair out, picking wounds, or hitting oneself.

2) Self-harm is purposeful without the intent to kill themselves. If the person actually wants to die, then they move up the ladder from self-harm to suicidal ideation or suicidal attempts.

3) Self-harm has many motivations. Some of the most common are listed below.

A) The person wants to distance themselves from emotional pain/numbness. Cutting (or self-harm) is a way to feel something in a controlled way. When people are overwhelmed with negative emotions, the out-of-control chaos of a person's mind can be frightening. Don't think of people cutting themselves in a frenzy. It's actually calm, calculated. It can help distract a person from what their going through internally.

B) The person is expressing something for which they have no words. Literally, the term for this is alexithymia ("no words feeling"). There just isn't a label to use to express how they feel. Cutting themselves can display anger, show emotional depth of pain, and shock others. It can also get them help without actually having to ask for it (if a friend were to see an uncovered arm of someone who cuts, they would be extremely concerned).

C) The person wants to experience a sort of euphoria. The body is a wonderful thing. When being hurt or injured, it works to minimize pain and heal quickly. The brain releases endorphins that work as pain-killers when the body is hurt, regardless of whether that hurt comes from oneself or another. This physical high can be addictive, but the body does build a tolerance to endorphins and the subsequent acts of self-harm won't produce that initial "high." This can lead to more severe self-harm, such as deeper cutting or moving on to a more dangerous form of self-harm.

D) The person feels like they deserve to be injured. Either they think they are "evil" or that they should be punished for some misconception over whatever has happened as being their fault. They might think that they deserve the pain, and that maybe somehow in hurting themselves, it will stop a worse punishment later from someone/something else.

E) The person wants to heal emotionally by taking care of their physical injuries. When emotions run to deep and out-of-control, self-harm provides a way to make the internal pain external. When you care for your cuts and bruises, it's a way of taking care of internal scars. There are some people who have rituals to take care of their body after self-harm occurs, making the aftercare more important than the act of cutting or self-harming.

Here is an excerpt I found online from the book Cut by Patricia McCormick that kind of gives an idea of the internal mindset of a cutter:

“Then I placed the blade next to the skin on my palm. A tingle arced across my scalp. The floor tipped up at me and my body spiraled away. Then I was on the ceiling looking down, waiting to see what would happen next. What happened next was that a perfect, straight line of blood bloomed up from under the edge of the blade. The line grew into a long, fat bubble, a lush crimson bubble that got bigger and bigger. I watched from above, waiting to see how big it would get before it burst. When it did, I felt awesome. Satisfied, finally. Then exhausted.”

I wish you the best with this book. Teens need to understand that just "regular Janes" can develop this scary behavior.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

New Website Launch Soon - How Can You Help?

Hello friends! My new website will be launching soon (I'm hoping by May 1st) and I'm seeking people who will be willing to "host" me on their blog to mark the occasion. This will be kind of like a blog tour for a new book release, only the release is going to be my website!

If any of you are willing to spread the word in your circle of influence (blog, facebook, twitter, shoutlife, etc), please leave a comment with your email address and I'll get in touch with you about potential dates. As a thank you, after the post runs I'll give you your choice of three articles for sale on my site (Writer's Guide to Personality Types, Writer's Guide to Personality Disorders, Writer's Guide to Character Motivation) or a "coupon" for one free full character assessment (as they will cost $9.99 during the website launch and $14.99 afterward).

As you all know, word of mouth is HUGE, and the more people who can generate talk about the site, the better the launch will be. So if you've found any help at all amidst the pages of this blog, I would be ever so grateful for a shout out on your blog!

Happy Monday to you all!

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

He Is Risen!

“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.” -Apostle Paul

His story…
THE Passion. “And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly.” (Luke 22:44 ESV) The Garden. A place where Jesus had come many times before to pray. But this time was different. This time He was in an agony. What’s interesting is that this is the only time this phrase is used in all of scripture. It was not just agony. It was an agony. A battle… a fight… a struggle in deep anguish. “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me…” Lying on His face, prostrate before His Father. Crying out in such deep distress that the capillaries under his skin burst and “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (vs. 44). Typically this kind of agony can cause brain damage, or even death. But Jesus lived on… to die…
THE Punishment. “But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV) Being hung on a cross to die was common in those days. But this was different. Before the actual crucifixion, Jesus was brutally beaten. Burly Roman soldiers used their clenched fists and pounded His face over and over again “we esteemed Him stricken” (vs. 4). Handfuls of His beard were yanked out. Onlookers walked up to him, cleared their throats, and spit in His face. A crown of thorns was placed on His head, and then driven deep into His skull with wooden reeds “He was afflicted” (vs. 7). Stripped naked, He was scourged with a cat of nine tails — so named because there were nine strands, and on the end of those nine strands were pieces of metal or bone, designed to dig into the skin and rip it open. Normally a man was whipped with 39 lashes. 39 lashes with 9 strands. Do the math. When they were done Jesus’ lacerated flesh hung from His body in long strips, exposing muscle, sinew and even bone — “with His stripes we are healed” (vs. 5) After all of that, He was then made to carry His own cross “Surely He has born our griefs and carried our sorrows” (vs. 4). Nailed to the cross, the One who knew no sin, became sin for us “and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (vs. 6).

THE Proclamation. Hours of wretched suffering. One last time Jesus pushed up against the nail in His feet to take the pressure off of His diaphragm so He could take His final breath. Burning lungs filled with air, and then from a parched throat, through swollen, broken bleeding lips, the very Son of God cried out, “It — Is — Finished!” Every Jew within earshot knew those words. They were the words the high priest used every year to proclaim that their sins had once again been atoned for, by the sacrificing of a spotless, unblemished lamb. But this was different. The Lamb of God — the perfect Passover Lamb — who came to take away the sin of the world, (John 1:29) was proclaiming for all to hear, that once and for all, the final sacrifice had been made. “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by the means of the blood of goats and calves, but by the means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12 ESV) Then He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit…

THE Promise. A few days before, Jesus had told His disciples that He was about to die. Sensing the fear and anxiety that they were experiencing, He gave them this promise, “I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3 NASV) A dead god could never keep that promise. Surely He couldn’t mean that He would actually die. But then, albeit from distant hiding places, they watched Him do just that — die. Now what? Hopes, dreams and promises dashed upon the stone placed and sealed at the entrance of His borrowed tomb. Hear these words. In them you will find the hope of His promise — “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James… came to the tomb… and looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away… they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, ‘Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here!!‘” (Mark 16:1-6 NASV) Up from the grave He arose… with a mighty triumph o’er His foes! We do not believe in a God who was once alive and now He is dead. We follow after a God who once was dead and now He is alive. Life is no longer a hopeless end… it is an endless hope. 

The death, burial and resurrection of Christ were a moment in time – no, it was THE moment in time — that changed the course of humanity. A perfect offering presented. That which had been spoken of by the prophets in Scripture, fulfilled. God’s gift of love, freely given to all who will receive. 

In the great “Resurrection Chapter”, Paul presents the gospel — “…Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures… and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain…” (1 Corinthians 15 ESV). These words are not a defense of the resurrection. They are in effect a declaration of the most important words in Christianity… He is risen! Words that turned the world around.

Our response? He is risen indeed! Our opportunity? To “know Him… and the power of His resurrection…” (Philippians 3:10 ESV)

Hope you enjoyed this devotional from the American Association of Christian Counselors
Happy Easter!

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!


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Thursday, April 21, 2011

T3 - Emotional Brain v. Rational Brain

People do things out of character all the time. Donald Maass says that we should strive to create scenes in which our characters think, talk, or act the exact opposite of how they normally think, talk, or act in order to make them three-dimensional.

I totally agree with Maass, but the WHY behind your character's shocking behavior or thoughts is super important. A character has to reach a point of being pushed so far that they suddenly have motivation to act out of character.

I'd like to posit that the main reason a character does something like this is because their emotional brain commandeers their rational brain.

What does this look like in real life? Here are a few examples:

1) Zinedine Zidane: When he head-butted Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup Soccer finals, he was kicked out of the game, France lost the World Cup to Italy, and Zidane’s career (and world-wide role model status) ended in disgrace.

2) Mike Tyson: When he bit Evander Holyfield’s ear in their 1993 title boxing match, his emotional brain commandeering cost him $3 million and lost his boxing license.

3) Bill Clinton: When he "did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," he got impeached.

4) Elliot Spitzer: New York governor Spitzer had to resign in disgrace when it became public knowledge about his involvement in a prostitution ring with prostitutes who charged over $3k an hour.

In each of these examples, we scratch our very rational brains and ask, "What in the world were they thinking?"

The answer is, of course, that they weren't.

Our emotional brain (amygdala) is the seat of a basest survival instincts: feeding, mating, fighting, flighting. The rational brain (prefrontal cortex) is the seat of executive function, rational thought, and judgment. Ordinarily, both parts of the brain work together: the rational brain adds subtlety and perspective to the raw feelings of the emotional brain and the emotional brain tempers the rational brain’s cool clinical judgments. But when out of whack, the emotional brain takes over and simplifies everything to black-and-white choices instead of subtle shades of rational gray.

I promise not to go into too much detail, but neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman found that when the amygdala (emotional brain) is active with blood and oxygen, there is less activation in the prefrontal cortex (rational brain). Our thinking power is disrupted and there are deficits in our problem solving because the blood and oxygen are present in the amygdala versus the prefrontal cortex. It is like losing 10 to 15 IQ points temporarily, which explains “What was I thinking?”

So this is happening to your characters in novels too! They think on the knee-jerk reaction of the amygdala, which hones in on potential dangers or threats and holds them up against previously stored emotional memories. (Good explanation found here.) This prompts them to basically lose some "smarts" and act in foolish, embarrassing, hot-headed, ridiculous ways that they most assuredly later regret.

Next week, I'll have a quiz for your characters to see if they are left-brained or right-brained...and how you can use this in your stories!

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Technique Toolbox - Grieving the Loss of a Child

I received an email from American Family Media not too long ago with a movie "ticket" to see their 40-minute film, Flame On.

I knew very little about the subject matter, but I went to the website to check it out. I had to register my email address, but then I could watch the film for free.

I can't tell you how this film touched me. I'm from Mississippi, and the family who loss their son, Cooper Jasper, is from Tupelo, not too far from my hometown. They are so candid as they talk about the loss of Cooper. They are grieving intensely, almost two years later, but they have the hope of the Lord! It's evident in so many ways.

I'm going to keep the link to this film and show it to clients who go through the tragic loss of a child. If you yourself have been through this, or know someone who has, PLEASE give them the link to Flame On. Here is a news clip about the family with some clips from the movie itself:

You can go to the official Flame On website at Click "Watch" and you can enter your email address and get a direct link to the movie.

Tragedy strikes everyone. It rains on the just and the unjust. This family has got it spot on. You never "get over it," but you do "get through it" with Jesus.

I'm so glad I found this movie to keep in my toolbox for clients. Hope you enjoy it and it speaks to you.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Movies & Madness Treatment Tuesday: Lars and the Real Girl

I still have an empty queue, although several little birds have told me some are on the way. :) So until then, another movie review! When Lars and the Real Girl came out in 2007, my husband and I thought it one of the most bizarre we'd ever seen. Here's a brief synopsis:

Lars Lindstrom is a loveable introvert whose emotional baggage has kept him from fully embracing life. After years of what is almost solitude, he invites Bianca, a friend he met on the internet to visit him. He introduces Bianca to his brother Gus and his wife Karen and they are stunned. They don't know what to say to Lars or Bianca--because she is a life-size doll, not a real person and he is treating her as though she is alive. They consult the family doctor Dagmar who explains this is a delusion he's created--for what reason she doesn't yet know but they should all go along with it. What follows is an emotional journey for Lars and the people around him.

Lars is diagnosed in the movie by a family doctor/psychologist as having a delusional disorder. In my world, a delusion is defined as a fixed false belief. For a diagnosis to be made, the person has to 1) experience the delusion for at least a month, 2) can't experience them a direct result of being under the influence of a substance. The other requirement is 3) that the person's behavior not be odd or bizarre apart from the delusion. Lars actually manages to support himself by going to work, attending church, etc., so he meets all these qualifications.

The delusion Lars suffers from is "non-bizarre," that is, it could be plausible, as opposed to bizarre. While we might all think Lars is off his rocker, his frame of mind around Bianca as his girlfriend is logical, other than being based on an improbable foundation. 

Let's look at Lars most closely. He's socially inept but very sweet and likable. He runs from his interested co-worker Margo, doesn't like to be touched, and is basically happy living in the converted garage of the house he and his married brother inherited from his father. When Lars announces that he's met a wheelchair-bound missionary on the Internet, he introduces Bianca, a RealDoll sex doll (who he shows no sexual interest in at all). They convince him to take Bianca in to the doctor in order to get Lars' mental health checked out. Funnily enough, the doctor diagnoses Bianca with "low blood pressure," and advises Lars to bring her in weekly for treatments (pretty dang slick of the gal).

The townspeople accept Bianca as a real woman because they love Lars. If it wasn't so crazy, it would actually be quite touching. As a result, Lars becomes more social. He still meets with the doctor weekly, and his painful past becomes apparent in that his father changed and became very distant when his mother died (as a result of giving birth to Lars). The viewer can even see that Lars still carries a baby blanket around with him....clearly he isn't okay.


Eventually, Lars' delusional dependence on Bianca as an emotional crutch dissipates. Margo had begun to date another guy, and this bothered Lars. He comforts her when they break up, and even touches her hand without his gloves on, which is very symbolic. By the end of the movie, Lars had broken up the delusion in his own time in his own way (Bianca is "unresponsive" one morning and has to be taken to the doctor...eventually she "dies"). At her funeral, Margo and he seem to be connecting on a deeper level.

As crazy as this flick was, Ryan Gosling did a great job acting. He had several scenes alone with a non-responsive sex doll. I mean, how hard would that be to do and not crack up?

But it does show the way a delusional disorder check it out.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Character Stereotypes: The Tomboy

Fiction carries many examples of tomboy characters: Jo March in Little Women and Idgie Threadgoode in Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop CafĂ©, to name just two. The word can refer to little girls engaging in what society considers more boyish activities to grown women who “hang with the guys.”

There is no hard-and-fast rule why some girls prefer Tonka trucks and Transformers to tea sets and tiaras, but sociology has established tomboyism to be a normal experience among girls of all cultures and identities.

Unfortunately, most of the psychological research looks at tomboyism in light of gender outcomes as adults, such as homosexuality or transsexuality. But roughhousing young girls shouldn’t have to suffer the presumption that they want to be a boy or will grow up to be a lesbian. In books written for the CBA market, this is certainly not the intended or desired result for our heroines!

Typically, in books targeting Christian readers, the author pens a “one of the guys” kind of girl who refuses to wear pastel, lace, or dresses. She usually ends up donning a dress against her will that is both pastel and lacey for some event, then she realizes that she wants her best guy friend to see her as a romantic interest and look at her as a girl.

How can you spice up this stereotype?

Click here to read more!

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weekend Funnies and Giveaway Winners!

Copyright Kieran Meehan March 3, 2011

Giveaway winners listed below!

For Roseanna White's Jewel of Persia: Annette!

For Dr. Richard Mabry's Diagnosis: Death: Margaret!

Thanks for participating!

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

T3 - The Languages of Apology

Last week we looked at the five languages of love, based on Dr. Gary Chapman's book, The Five Love Languages. This week I want to introduce you to Chapman and Thomas' book, The Five Languages of Apology.

In much the same way that the love languages work, if you aren't speaking your partner's apology language, then they won't hear it. I can't tell you how many times in counseling I've had one person say, "If he would just apologize, then maybe I could move on." The man then says, "I did apologize! I said I was sorry." She says, "That's not an apology!"

Our characters are constantly messing up, or we wouldn't have conflict and tension on the pages. Consequently, they usually have to say they are sorry. Use this post to help you consider the best way for your particular character, with his/her temperament and characterization layers, to say they are sorry.

Paraphrased from Chapman's website:
  • Expressing Regret - "I'm sorry."
    “Expressing Regret” zeroes in on emotional hurt. It is an admission of guilt and shame for causing pain to another person. For those who listen for “Expressing Regret” apologies, a simple “I’m sorry” is all they look for, provided the apology has truly come from the heart. “Expressing Regret” gets right to the point, doesn’t make excuses or attempt to deflect blame, and takes ownership of the wrong. “Expressing Regret” speaks most clearly when the person offering the apology reflects sincerity not only verbally, but also through body language. Unflinching eye contact and a gentle, but firm touch are two ways that body language can underscore sincerity.
  • Accept Responsibility - "I was wrong."
    For many individuals, all they want is to hear the words, “I am wrong.” If an apology neglects accepting responsibility for their actions, many partners will not feel as though the apology was meaningful and sincere. Many partners need to learn how to overcome their ego, the desire to not be viewed as a failure, and simply admit that their actions were wrong. For a mate who speaks this apology language, if an apology does not admit fault, it is not worth hearing.
  • Make Restitution - "What can I do to make this right?"
    A mate who speaks this love language believes that in order for an apology to be sincere, the person who is apologizing should justify their actions. The transgressor must learn the victim’s love language (Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, and Receiving Gifts) and use that specific language in order to make restitutions in the most effective way. For a mate whose primary apology language is making restitutions, no matter how often you say “I’m sorry”, or “I was wrong”, your mate will never find the apology sincere. You must show strong efforts for making amends. A genuine apology will be accompanied by the assurance that you still love your mate 
and have a desire to right the wrong-doings committed.
  • Genuinely Repent - "I'll work hard to avoid doing that again."
    For some individuals, repentance is the convincing factor in an apology. Some mates will doubt the sincerity of an apology if it is not accompanied by their partner’s desire to modify their behavior to avoid 
the situation in the future. One important aspect of genuinely repenting is verbalizing your desire to change. Your mate cannot read your mind. Though you may be trying to change inside, if you do not verbalize your desire to change to your mate, most likely they will still be hurt. It is also important to make a dedicated plan for change. Often apologies involving repentance fail because the person never set up steps of action to help ensure success.
  • Request Forgiveness - "Will you please forgive me?"
    In some relationships, a mate wants to hear their partner physically ask for forgiveness. They want assurance that their mate recognizes the need for forgiveness. By asking forgiveness for their actions, a partner is really asking their mate to still love them. Requesting forgiveness assures your mate that you want to see the relationship fully restored. It also proves to your mate that you are sincerely sorry for what you’ve done. It shows that you realize you’ve done something wrong. Requesting forgiveness also shows that you are willing to put the future of the relationship in the hands of the offended mate. You are leaving the final decision up to your partner – to forgive or not forgive.
Of course, to up the tension in your books, you might consider having the person your character is trying to apologize to not speak the same language. Always makes for a more interesting read.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Diagnosis: Death Review and Giveaway!

I had the pleasure of reading Dr. Richard Mabry's fiction brand of "Medical Suspense with Heart" for the first time with his book Diagnosis: Death, which released on April 1st from Abingdon Press.

Here is a description from Amazon:

The threatening midnight calls followed Dr. Elena Gardner from one city to another, prolonging her grief. Even worse, they are echoed by the whispers of her own colleagues. Whispers that started after her comatose husband died in the ICU . . . then another mysterious death during her training. When a third happens at her new hospital, the whispers turn into a shout: “Mercy killer!”

Why doesn’t she defend herself? What is the dark secret that keeps Elena’s lips sealed?

Two physicians, widowers themselves, offer support, telling Elena they know what she is going through after the death of her husband. But do they? And is it safe to trust either of them with her secret? Soon Elena will find that even when the world seems to be against her, God is for her, if she'll only trust him.

I enjoyed this book for several reasons. It was glaringly clear that the author has first-hand experience in the medical field. I learned lots of little medical tidbits and caught a glimpse into the fascinating world of hospital politics.

My clinical mind began to wonder about what was going on with Elena, and why she was unable to remember her actions at certain times, far before diagnosable symptoms like fugue state began to pepper the book. Of course, I grew really, really interested when that happened, and the pages kept turning faster. The subject matter isn't something covered in many novels I've come across. I appreciated the medical side of the discussion, and it rounded out my understanding of the scientific under-workings of the mind.

I also appreciated the romantic elements in the book. Given that Elena had recently lost her husband at the start of the book, there is a lot of active grieving she is still undergoing. Her suitors, also widowers and familiar with loss of a spouse, understand this and give her space, which was nice to read. Given the nature of her husband's death not being a sudden tragedy but a more languid one, it's entirely feasible for Elena to begin seeking friendships--if not something more--with other men, so that was well done.

Plus, it's just good suspense. You're kept wondering what in the world is going on and who is out to pin these deaths on Elena until the end. You won't be disappointed!

One lucky commenter will win either a printed copy or .pdf copy of Dr. Mabry's book--your choice. Just leave a comment below and you're entered: 2 entries for followers of this blog and one entry for non-followers. A winner will be chosen on Saturday from the lower 48 states. Good luck!

You can connect with Dr. Mabry on his website or Random Jottings blog.

Don't miss your chance to win Roseanna White's newest release, Jewel of Persia! Click here!

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Movies & Madness Treatment Tuesday: Fight Club

Since I don't have any more character assessments in the queue, I'm assessing a movie character. (Come on, people! Get your sketches in now while the full assessment service is still free! When my website debuts in a month or so, I'll be charging for a full, but still doing mini-assessments for free.)

WARNING: Spoilers exist below, so if you haven't seen the movie and/or read the book and don't want to know what happens, then do not continue reading.  

When we first meet Jack (the narrator), we learn he is a 30 year old single white male complaining of insomnia for over 6 months. His job as a liability consultant for an automotive company requires him to take frequent trips to different time zones, usually on a short notice, therefore leaving him jet lagged. He goes to a doctor to get a prescription to help him sleep, but the doctor prescribes support groups for cancer patients, for Jack to see what real suffering is. Jack does, and finds his ability to sleep at night improve...until Marla Singer, another "faker," begins to attend the meetings he is, which lessens the carthatic impact of these support groups and Jack's insomnia returns.

Then he meets Tyler Durden, a nihilist soap salesman who is disgruntled with common culture, on one of his business trips. When Jack's condo burns down, Tyler agrees to let Jack move into his dilapidated house if Jack will hit him. Jack does, and the two star a fight outside the bar. This becomes sort of ritual between the two of them, and Jack finds the insomnia goes away. Others join in the fights, and thus the fight club is born in the bar's basement. Tyler takes the club and turns it into Project Mayhem, which organizes increasingly serious anti-capitalist vandalism ventures. 

During one of these missions, a fight club member dies, and Jack tries to shut down the operation in Tyler's absence, as he and Tyler have drifted apart some. He retraces Tyler's steps, and learns that fight clubs have been started in every major city. It is in one of these cities that someone calls him Tyler. Jack calls Marla and begins to realize that Tyler is a split of his own personality.

So the official Character Therapist diagnosis of Jack/Tyler is....[drum roll please]...Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder, DID patients have the presence of two or more distinct identities/personality states that recurrently take control of the person’s behavior. Jack had no idea he was Tyler, and there is little evidence until the end that Tyler knows he is Jack. Usually the personalities are vastly different, and no one would argue that Tyler and Jack are almost polar opposites.

DID patients can't integrate these various aspects of their identity/memory/consciousness without professional help. Each personality, or alter, has its own history, name, image. Usually, the primary identity (which is Jack) is passive, dependent, guilty, and depressed. Fits him to a "T." Jack disclosed to the doctor that he sometimes would wake up and have no idea how he got there, which accounts for the DID symptom of experiencing gaps in memory that go beyond normal forgetfulness for the primary identity (i.e, Jack "lost time").

Lastly, it is common for individuals suffering from DID to self-mutilate, be aggressive or suicidal. Clearly, Jack is all of these. He fights himself, beating himself to a pulp. He pulls the trigger of the gun "Tyler" is holding in his mouth, knowing that he is really holding a gun in his own mouth. However, this proves to be something of a fusion ritual for Jack, in that once he pulls the trigger, he shoots himself in the cheek, which doesn't kill him, but the viewer sees Tyler fall down with an exit wound in the back of his head. 

Now you know all about this movie and can perhaps guess why it is a psychological favorite of mine. (What does that say about me? LOL!)

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Jewel of Persia Review and Giveaway!

This week I've got two reviews and giveaways going on, so be sure to click back over here Wednesday, as well!

The first is Roseanna White's newest release, Jewel of Persia. I got lost in the story of Xerxes, his Jewess concubine Kasia, and Kasia's best friend, Esther. Yes, that Esther. I love how biblical fiction writers see fictional ways to bring the Scriptures to life for us!

I had told Roseanna after reading her first book, A Stray Drop of Blood, that she could just put me down on her influencer list permanently. So glad I did!

Here's a blurb about the book from Roseanna's website:

How can she love the king of kings without forsaking her Lord of lords?
Kasia grew up in a poor Jewish home with more siblings than luxuries. But when a chance encounter forces her to the palace of Xerxes, she becomes a concubine to the richest man in the world. She alone, of all Xerxes' wives, loves the man beneath the crown. She alone, of all his wives, holds the heart of the king of kings.

Traveling with Xerxes through Europe as he mounts a war against Greece, Kasia knows enemies surround her, but they’re not the Spartans or Athenians. The threat lies with those close to the king who hate her people. She determines to put her trust in Jehovah–even if it costs her her marriage.

Years of prayers are answered when Kasia's childhood friend arrives at the palace after the war, but even as she determines to see Esther crowned in place of the bloodthirsty former queen, she knows the true battle is far from over. How far will her enemies go to see her undone?

Combining the biblical account of Esther with Herodotus's Histories, Jewel of Persia is the story of a love that nearly destroys an empire . . . and the friendship that saves a nation.

I mean, don't you just want to read it after reading that? This tale is so epic. Upon finishing the book, I immediately Googled Kasia's name alongside Xerxes just to see what I could find about them. (And no, I won't tell you what I'll have to read it yourself.)

I appreciated the glimpse into Xerxes' world. What a responsibility the man had as ruler of all. The intrigue of the palace, the backstabbing of the harem, the raging politics of the day...he had to have a handle on all of it. The Book of Esther gives glimpses into Xerxes, and Roseanna's book no doubt gives breath to those words and helps the reader see how big of a deal events in Esther might be, such as:

"But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger." (Esther 1:12)

This single event sets things in motion in Esther. Roseanna's tale lets the reader see behind the words to the people who inspired them. Truly a magnificent, divinely inspired feat.

As is customary, I want to touch on a therapeutic topic that pops up quite frequently: the relationship between husband and wife, or in Xerxes' case, husband and wives. I know that back in that time period, multiple wives wasn't that big of a deal. It was accepted, expected, and encouraged for political and economic reasons, especially. But even given this expectation, women weren't crafted together emotionally in a vastly different way back then from now, surely. They must have felt extreme jealousy when one wife was favored over another, must have felt discarded when they weren't called on to visit the king, must have angled to get him to cast them a look like a dog angles for scraps from a table...anything to feel worthwhile.

The reality of the situation Esther and Kasia both entered was harsh. They were young, too, considered women at the time, but still mere teens. With the Lord's help, of course, they manage the sheer awkwardness of loving the same man, being married to the same man. They are far greater women that I would be, I'm afraid.  Reading this book made me appreciate so very much that this is not the modus operandi for us anymore!

Roseanna has agreed to give one lucky commenter their choice of a either a .pdf now or paperback version of this book when they come out. Leave your email in a non-spam format, like this: character therapist (at) hotmail (dot) com. Followers of this blog will receive two entries, so be sure to click on the "Follow" button on the right! A winner from the lower 48 will be selected and posted on Saturday. Good luck!

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