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Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Free Association Chain

In honor of my Fifty Shades review, 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!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

If You Missed the Discussion about Fifty Shades... missed something good! Click below to join in with your thoughts about this popular, evocative novel.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Therapist's Take on Fifty Shades of Grey

This book is perhaps one of the most controversial books being talked about on the web right now. E.L. James markets her fiction as "Romance~~Suspense~~Erotica" and that's exactly what it is. I got the book knowing that there would be sex.

I didn't know that I was going to crack open a book with a main character with severe mental issues.

As a therapist, the sex wasn't gratuitous for me. Each time the main characters came together, it was like the author peeled away another layer of Christian Grey, revealing an emotional cesspool under the cool, handsome CEO exterior. It was through the sexual encounters that we came to know who he was, and the trauma he had endured.

WARNING: There are spoilers below. 

In order to talk therapeutically about Fifty Shades, I have to give a few spoilers. If you haven't read the book and intend to, bookmark this page to come back to, read it, and then come back and let me know what you think.

Book One, Fifty Shades of Grey, introduces Anastasia Steele, a virginal soon-to-be college graduate who is forced to interview CEO Christian Grey because her roommate and aspiring journalist got sick and couldn't do it.

The attraction is immediate, though Ana suffers from some self-esteem issues and likens Grey to a demigod who could never be interested in her. In some ways, this instant attraction is reminiscent of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight. Bella is drawn to Edward in the same way Edward is drawn to her. The power differential between them is significant on multiple levels: physical, financial, sexual.

Grey slowly seduces Ana, though it's hardly traditional, and he had a very specific goal in mind: his BDSM world of bondage & discipline, dominance & submission, and sado-masochism. Ana, being a virgin, couldn't be more shocked when Grey pulls out his non-disclosure agreement and contractual agreement (which was quite shocking to me, as well).

Gradually, Ana experiments with being a submissive, though this goes against her personality and even her ideas about relationships. Grey acts dominant even outside of the "playroom," and his choice as dominant clearly reflects who he is.

Until the reader, along with Ana, begins to learn other things about Grey, usually through sex scenes.
  • He's got small, circular burns on his chest and back. 
  • He doesn't want to be touched along his chest and all. This is a hard limit for him.
  • He's adopted. 
  • He has a "thing" about Ana eating all of her meal. 
  • He was preyed on (Ana actually calls is what it was: child abuse) by an older female dominant  when he was 15 and was with her for 7 years.
  • He is thankful to this woman for steering him away from the path he was going down. 
  • He doesn't make love. He "f--ks, and f--ks hard." 
  • He doesn't do "hearts and flowers."
  • He doesn't sleep in the same bed with his submissives, and never has. 
  • He sees a Dr. Flynn for therapy (Jeannie=giggles in anticipation of couples therapy)
  • All his former submissives have dark hair and resemble Ana.
It's these characteristics of Grey's that suck you into the book. (BDSM education is just a bonus.) What in the heck happened to him to make him the way he is? Ana wonders this frequently. As a therapist, I knew it had to be the pages just kept turning.

We learn that Ana isn't like his other submissives. Even Grey himself recognizes this, and asks her what spell she is casting on him. What makes Ana so different? Why is Grey even still with her, when she basically shuns the whole contract, negotiations, etc? She frequently angers him by defying him or refusing to give him information he thinks he deserves. It's her anti-submission that forces little cracks to begin to form in Grey's armor.

He goes against many of his own rules, and is better for it. He initiates real love-making (not BDSM) with Ana to take her virginity, which is a first for him. He admires Ana's debating skills, and her penchant for sending witty emails. He ends up staying the night in the same bed with her a few times...and sleeps better for it.

I went straight from Book One to Book Two, Fifty Shades Darker, mainly because EL James leaves the reader on a major cliffhanger. Ana has a taste of Grey's true dominant self, and let's just say that taste is more than enough for her.

In Book Two, we see Grey begin to experiment with the "hearts and flowers." It's all new to him, just like Book One was all new to Ana. It's turnabout. We're all rooting for Grey to overcome his internal demons, and it looks like he's making strides. We see him mark boundaries for where Ana can touch him with a tube of hooker-red lipstick. He struggles through experimental touch in his forbidden zone (chest). He gradually draws away from the BDSM contract and non-disclosure agreement, and asks her to move in with him, so staying in the same bed is a given.  The "playroom" takes on a different meaning for them both.

His therapist makes a few cameos, and Ana even gets to talk to Dr. Flynn about Grey (which was well done). We learn that Grey has made more progress with Ana in 3 weeks than Flynn has made in 2 years. There is hope for a future for these two, for a healing for Grey, and it's that hope that keeps you reading well past the time to go to bed.

If you plan on reading this book, keep what I wrote earlier in mind: the sex scenes are the keys to unlocking the mysterious Christian Grey.

Kudos to EL James for a most provocative look into BDSM and the effects of childhood trauma.

Let's Analyze: Have you read the book? If you have, do you agree with my assessment? If you haven't (and you actually read all the way down...sorry for you), do you still want to?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I Just Read Fifty Shades...

Don't miss my therapeutic assessment of this provocative book tomorrow!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Everyone's a Winner Today! Ann Lee Miller's Kicking Eternity

Note: Anyone who leaves a comment on today's post will receive a free copy of Ann's book! Just leave your email address in a non-spam format, i.e., charactertherapist at hotmail dot com.

I'm happy to welcome Ann to my bog today by featuring a therapeutic review of her novel, Kicking Eternity. Here's a blurb about it from Ann's website:

Stuck in sleepy New Smyrna Beach one last summer, Raine socks away her camp pay checks, worries about her druggy brother, and ignores trouble: Cal Koomer. She’s a plane ticket away from teaching orphans in Africa, and not even Cal’s surfer six-pack and the chinks she spies in his rebel armor will derail her.

The artist in Cal begs to paint Raine’s ivory skin, high cheek bones, and internal sparklers behind her eyes, but falling for her would caterwaul him into his parents’ life. No thanks. The girl was self-righteous waiting to happen. Mom served sanctimony like vegetables, three servings a day, and he had a gut full.

Rec Director Drew taunts her with “Rainey” and calls her an enabler. He is so infernally there like a horsefly—till he buzzes back to his ex.

Raine's brother tweaks. Her dream of Africa dies small deaths. Will she figure out what to fight for and what to free before it's too late? 

For anyone who's ever wrestled with their dreams.

When I started reading this book, I was brought back to my own camp days, both as a camper and a staff member. The close knit community that comes from working together toward a common goal is truly an interesting thing to be a part of.

In Ann's book, not all the camp staff actually hold that goal, and it makes for intense after-hour conversations! Cal embodies the type of people we encounter every day...those who have had a bad experience with faith or with church or with believers. Drew embodies those people who follow God at great personal cost. And Raine is caught in between the two in a delicious romantic triangle that will not leave you disappointed!

One thing that struck me from reading this book was the depiction of Raine's brother's drug addiction--so much so that I emailed Ann to ask her if she had personal experience with someone who did methamphetamine. My county in California has a high meth use percentage, and I see the after effects and the enabling so much within my practice. Ann's fictional account of how desperate people can be who are addicted to substances is totally accurate. Raine's actions are honest, and come from a good place, but she is an enabler, and Drew's calling her out was awesome. Someone needed to do it.

Raine's struggle to handle the intense attraction for non-believer Cal also was well done. Her internal dialogue and prayers show her true heart to follow Christ, but pitted against her carnal nature, it's a toss up for the reader. I loved the way Ann ended the book, and the message that all things work to the good of those who believe in God is quite clear.

However, I'm now anxious to read Cal's story in The Art of My Life, which debuts in September!

Let's Analyze: Have you or someone you know ever had to deal with someone's drug addiction, someone who you cared about? Ever have to show some tough love and not enable their own self-destruction?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Weekend Funnies: Emoticons


This resonates with me, b/c I frequently make text mistakes that embarrass me to no end. Ah, technology.

Friday, June 22, 2012

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!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

When Families Feud: Effects of Stress

Have you ever looked around your house and wondered, "How did it get this dirty?" My husband and I had this experience last Saturday.

Problem is, no one wants to admit having been the one to start piling the dishes up, or having left a plate on the table or not told our daughter that she really should throw most of her toys in the trash because they are actual trash. (What is it with kids and trash they think are "treasures?")

Anyway...this brought about a little fight disagreement between my husband and me. We exchanged some heated words (proud to say there was no cursing) about whose fault most of the mess was. We usually just point our fingers at our oblivious daughter, sigh, and go into a cleaning session that makes Martha Stewart look bad.

This past Saturday, though, was different.


Because our family unit is under a bit of stress.

Stress makes even little arguments balloon out of proportion. My husband has started a new job as a youth minister (part of the reason for the no cursing). If you didn't know it, youth ministers have weird hours. I don't think they have an actual "schedule," you know, like normal working folk. It's more of a vague, ambiguous "I don't know when I'll be home" kind of thing.

Bottom line: Our family system reacted differently (heated words) because one family member (my husband) had changed the status quo.

Systems operate that way. Any good Marriage and Family Therapist will tell you that. This is a great example from my own life to illustrate my point.

Family members have to shift to account for a change in another family member. Readjust, if you will. It's the readjustment that sometimes brings a family into therapy, but in contrast, it can be the status quo that needs to be readjusted that brings a family in. Either way, the system changes.

My husband and I are fine, by the way. We both recognize (and more importantly, talk about) the changes in our life and how this affects our reactions to each other. We're hunkering down for this transitional period....and we're going to ride it out on top of the wave.

Let's Analyze: Summer breaks are around the corner (or already here) for most of us...and this is a huge stressor for families because schedules change, as do expectations and responsibilities. Any shifts going on in your family at this time?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Review and Giveaway of Deb Kinnard's Seasons in the Mist

I won a copy of Deb's book on a blog a while back, and I'm happy to introduce you to the 2011 Grace Award winner for Christian speculative romance.

Here's a blurb about the book:

Stranded in 1353 Cornwall, American graduate student Bethany Lindstrom knows she must find a way back to her own time or face a life of falsehoods and peril. But with the stern overlord Sir Michael Veryan, she is swept into the intrigues of King Edward’s court, which will test their mettle and their faith in God to the limits—and forever bind their lives together.

I'll admit, this was my first time travel anything to read. It won't be my last. It was fortuitous for Bethany that she happened to be a student of medieval life. She was able to pick up talking in Middle English and it was humorous to read her internal, contemporary thoughts as she went through her day. It made for a great juxtaposition.

I like reading books where I learn a little something. In the case of Seasons in the Mist, I learned a lot. Deb really infused her book with interesting tidbits gleaned from her research. Lots of information about medieval clothes, medicine/midwifery, politics....none of which was monotonous or overbearing to the reader.

Deb does have a character who flirts with madness, and he was an interesting villain. Medieval craziness has a lot in common with today's craziness, they just had less medicine and techniques to deal with it.

I'm offering a lucky commenter the chance to win this book (since Deb was kind enough to send me an .epub edition so I have a copy to keep)! Leave a comment below with your email address to be entered. (US only, sorry.) Facebook likes and tweets using the buttons below will get your extra entries.

Let's Analyze: If you were to travel back in time to 1353, what would you take with you that would fit in, let's say, a fanny pack (because we all know how big that would be, not because I have an affinity for them). :) You'll have to read Deb's book to figure out what she thought important enough to time travel with.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Weekend Funnies: Internet Therapy

Not too far from the truth! Love that he's on a Macbook, though.

Friday, June 15, 2012

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! 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Using the Term Psychopath Correctly in Fiction

I'd like to clarify the usage of the term psychopath in fiction.

Colloquially, people use the term to indicate that someone is “crazy,” but that would be a gross overstatement. I’ve got family members who are crazy, but they are in no way, shape, or form psychopaths.

In the psychological field, the term is mainly used in conjunction with or as the equivalent to antisocial personality disorder, but this is shortsighted and incorrect.

Click here to read the rest of my article for Christian Fiction Online Magazine. In it, I go into detail about a measurement used to determine if someone is truly a psychopath or not.

Let's Analyze: Have you ever misused the term psychopath?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Review and Giveaway of Dineen Miller's The Soul Saver

This week I have the pleasure of reacquainting you with author Dineen Miller. I previously featured Dineen when her non-fiction title, Winning Him Without Words, was released. Now, Dineen has written a companion fiction title, The Soul Saver.

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

Meet Lexie Baltimore, who is in the supernatural battle of her life. In obedience to God’s calling, Lexie uses her art and dreams to help others. But will she have enough courage to help herself when she becomes torn between her atheist husband and a godly man?

A widower and a father, Pastor Nate Winslow is drowning in darkness. Will he resist his treacherous assignment to win Lexie’s heart, or give in to the attraction between them?

As events unfold, Lexie becomes entangled in a twisted plot. Can she overcome the evil assailing her, or will she yield to the dark side?

I want to say that Dineen's heart for ministering to people in mismatched marriages touches me. As a woman, as a counselor, as a wife. Reading about Lexie's unequally yoked marriage was heartbreaking. I can't personally relate to that predicament, but I know plenty of women who can. I've utilized her non-fiction title in individual relationship counseling, and I know it's blessed my clients.

Now, I have at my disposal a fiction title to introduce some of the concepts in her non-fiction title a bit more...softly. And by that, I mean that reading about someone else in your predicament is easier than reading a book geared to help you in your predicament.

Dineen's book is very spiritually-focused. Lexie receives dream visions from God of a person she's supposed to sculpt, and then later on that day meets them and hears from God how she is supposed to help them. This is her calling, and she's unable to share such an important part of her life with her atheist husband. Her husband, on the other hand, a Stanford physicist, has placed all his eggs in the very wordly basket of seeking tenure at the university. Two polar opposites who experienced trauma in their family life which caused Lexie to seek God and Hugh to seek academia.

It's also supernaturally-focused, with the introduction of a real demon who takes on a major role in the story. The way Dineen portrays this demon-man is wonderfully wicked. His hold on Nate has rendered Nate to a shell of his former self, yet he's still more spiritually-minded than Lexie's husband, which of course leads to the attraction on her part. Women the world over should relate to this aspect of the novel, because less the grace of God, there we go.

By this point in the story, I was totally hooked...trying to read in the bathroom, on breaks at work, late at night. I wanted to know how it was going to go down! I got chills reading about the supernatural element and the powerful use of prayer throughout the entire novel. The fight for Hugh's soul and the takeaway lessons about God and his faithfulness engender a hope in the reader that stayed with me.

Dineen has offered to giveaway a copy of her debut fiction novel to one lucky commenter below. Tweets and facebook links will get you extra entries...just use the buttons below so I'll know. Open to the continental US and open through Sunday. Comments without email addresses will not be valid.

Let's Analyze: Do you know anyone or are you yourself in a spiritually mismatched marriage? If you feel so led, leave just their first name below so we can lift them up in prayer.

Friday, June 8, 2012

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! 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

3 Exceptions I Took with Neil Gaiman's 2012 Address to The University of the Arts

I watched Neil Gaiman's address to the 2012 graduating class of the University of the Arts this past weekend. Gaiman is well known to the publishing world for many mediums, including comics and fiction.

He's a success story, or he wouldn't be giving a college address. The overall tone of his presentation was very positive, and I'm glad I watched it. It was inspiring.

However, there were a few things that rubbed me the wrong way, so much so that I transcribed those sections of the address for you below in red

1) He made freelancing sound so arbitrary.
"A freelance life—a life in the arts—is sometimes like putting messages in bottles on a desert island and hoping that someone will find one of your bottles and open it and read it and put something in a bottle that will wash its way back to you—appreciation, or a commission, or money or love. And you have to accept that you may put out hundreds of things for every bottle that winds up coming back."
This life-is-like-a-box-of-chocolates mentality doesn't sit well with me. The more I'm studying marketing and reading up on how big name bloggers got their big breaks, I'm realizing that a rise to success is actually carefully plotted out for most people.

I'm not going to discredit the Stephenie Meyers of the world who knock their first best-seller right out of the park. It does happen, just not often.

But I don't like his alternative, either. If I'm sending my bottles out carelessly, haphazardly, then yeah...his quote would be accurate. But I'm learning that I can set my bottles on a trajectory that will better my chances.

2) I'm not willing to sacrifice my integrity.
"People get hired because they somehow get hired."
Gaiman included this tidbit as his first "freelance secret" that he imparted to the graduates. He then told a story about how he lied to an editor at a magazine about where he had previously been published. He then said he made it a "point of honor" to write for all the magazines he'd named.

The fact remains that he was hired on false pretenses. Ethics aside--well no. I can't even write that. We are our word. We can sell ourselves without selling out ourselves. I work hard, and mainly work for free, in order to get publishing credits that I hope will send more bottles back to me on my desert island when the time is right.

3) Luck plays a small part in success.

The harder you work, and the more wiser you work, the luckier you get.
I'd like to think that luck will have very little to do with it if you're working hard and working wise. Gaiman said that we should view our publishing dream as a big mountain on the horizon. He said take jobs that get you closer to the mountain and refuse jobs that don't.

I say look for those jobs and opportunities that will get you closer. You don't have to wait passively on the island for jobs to come along. Your active role will be empowering, and when success happens, it won't be because you didn't seek avenues to usher it along.

Let's Analyze: Did you watch Gaiman's address? If not, you can see it here in its entirety. What do you think of his quotes above? Take any exceptions like I did?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Character Clinic: Julian Requiem and Laziness as a Defense Mechanism

I've got Anastasia's character from her contemporary fantasy on my couch today. Julian is a 17-year-old with innate skills for fighting who prefers not to engage in war or fight. He's a bit lazy and doesn't want to care about anything. When he was younger, his older brother found out Julian's twin sister was "working for the other side" and tried to kill her. Julian killed his brother to make sure he couldn't finish the job, but Julian's twin died anyway. Lately, he's been hanging around with two guys, Tristan and Caine. Tristan wants Julian to fight in the war, but Julian is reluctant to do anything, yet he finds himself caring about these two guys when he doesn't want to care about anything.

Anastasia wants to know: I intend for Julian to eventually reveal his past to one of his two friends – however most of the time he doesn't like to acknowledge even to himself that it happened. What might get him past this? And how to do it without him losing his careless, lazy personality? Also, from what he's revealed here, would you say he has a personality disorder? And what would be the most believable reaction from him if there was a sort of repetition of the past (the two people he cares about most try to kill each other)?

Julian really doesn't fit a personality disorder from what you've shared. He suffered a trauma early in life when his brother tried killing his sister. Since he idolized his brother before this happened, and wanted to join the war efforts to be like him, it makes sense that he would have an intense dislike for the war and for fighting...since it drove his brother to kill his own sister. That would put an intensely bad taste in Julian's mouth.

But it would also cause Julian to doubt his judgment, his decision to be just like his brother. He'd question his values, his morals...second guess how he could have blindly followed someone so intense and "off-kilter" as to kill family for what is essentially a difference in opinion.

I think this makes his preference for being unconcerned, seemingly aloof or "too lazy" to worry about the war or fight much, make a lot of sense. In a way, it's a post-traumatic response...avoiding the very subject that caused all the strife in his family in the first place.

I would think similar stakes (fear for the life of one of his friends due to overzealous warmongers, etc) might get him to break out of his comfort zone and tell about his past, to explain his reluctance to associate with the war. The idea of a repeat performance of his past is an excellent way to reach the climax of his internal and external arc. It would force him off the couch or out of his bedroom and into the fray, so to speak. I think that was a great idea you had.

So if you think of him more as being lazy as a reaction from his previous trauma, that might make writing him more easy. The fact of the matter is that he does care, he's just pretending not to. It's his defense mechanism.

Any other questions, drop them to me in the comment section below. Good luck!

Let's Analyze: What's the most recent book you've read where the hero/heroine had to encounter almost the exact same fearful situation they failed at earlier in order to complete their character arc?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Review and Giveaway of Jordyn Redwood's Proof

I'm pleased to introduce debut author Jordyn Redwood and her first medical suspense novel, Proof. Jordyn runs the blog Redwood's Medical Edge, which is very similar to my blog, except that she deals with medical information for writers, not psychological info. So I feel we're kindred spirits. :)

Here's a blurb about her book:

Dr. Lilly Reeves is a young, accomplished ER physician with her whole life ahead of her. But that life instantly changes when she becomes the fifth victim of a serial rapist. Believing it's the only way to recover her reputation and secure peace for herself, Lilly sets out to find--and punish--her assailant. Sporting a mysterious tattoo and unusually colored eyes, the rapist should be easy to identify. He even leaves what police would consider solid evidence. But when Lilly believes she has found him, DNA testing clears him as a suspect. How can she prove he is guilty, if science says he is not?

Jordyn's book was one of the first I've read in a while that made me think and ponder the plot for a long while after I put my book Kindle down. I even ended up talking about it's genius with my husband (which never happens) and Googling some of the medical terminology just to learn more about her fascinating premise.

So first off, the plot of this book will send you reeling. Did you read the blurb? I had to know more about why this guy was being cleared through DNA evidence, yet Lilly knew he was her rapist. I got incensed more than once as I read, completely baffled.

Second, even though her book is full of medical lingo/terminology, Jordyn does not write above the average reader's intelligence level. She utilizes Jami Gertz characters (you can click to read the post referenced, but essentially, uninformed characters in the book who have to ask tons of questions to get the understanding that the reader is seeking) very well. I was smarter when I came away from reading this book, and that's always a good thing.

Jordyn dealt with the issue of rape very realistically. This serial rapist had left a trail of women in various stages of grief and healing behind him, all of whom were portrayed true to life. She also clearly read up on serial killers, because the rapist was one sadistic, mentally-ill man. Loved getting more background on him, because it all wove together to form a perfect villain that I loved to hate.

I've asked Jordyn if I can be on her permanent influencer list, and she's graciously agreed. I am highly recommending her book to y'all.

Jordyn has also agreed to give away a copy of her book to one lucky guest commenter! This contest will run through Sunday, and is only open in the continental US. Tweets and Facebook likes will get you more entries....just tag me using the buttons below so I know! Please leave your email address in the comment in a spam-me-not format (charactertherapist at hotmail dot com).

Let's Analyze: Have you ever read a fiction book that made you smarter? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Weekend Funnies: The Psychotropic Highway

Hmm. Not so sure this is "funny" as it is realistic. Thanks, Rachel.

By the way, I take submissions for Weekend Funnies...any picture or comic you see that relates to the world of psychology, send it on to me at charactertherapist at hotmail dot com.

Friday, June 1, 2012

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!!