LinkedinTwitterThe DetailsConnectBlog Facebook Meet the TherapistHome For Writers

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How Does That Make You Feel?
New Feature on The Character Therapist!

I've been poked fun of for my profession more for the previous question than any other. So I've decided to capitalize on it, and create a new feature here on my blog.

At least twice a month, I'll post a How Does That Make You Feel question, regarding a scenario I (or some of you!) think of. Could be related to parenting, writing, politics, relationships, religion, family of name it, it's game. You can email me scenarios you yourself have experienced or just want to torture others with at jeannie at charactertherapist dot com.

As an incentive for participating, I'll draw one commenter's name for a mini-assessment!!

That's right! Just for commenting, you'll be entered to get a free character assessment, using my regular intake form questions. This is my way of bringing back the Character Clinics I used to do.

So here's the first scenario:

You got off work and ran to the store to buy taco fixings. Your husband was supposed to work late, and you wanted dinner ready for him when he got home. You slave away, browning meat, chopping lettuce and tomatoes and grating cheese. Just as your about to call the kids in to eat---your husband can warm it up, after all---the front door opens and your husband walks in, grinning large and waving a Taco Bell bag.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Barbie Knocks One Out of the Ballpark

I'm not a big fan of Barbie. Not really.

Growing up, I wanted to be her, of course. I was much older before I realized that her body proportions are unattainable by mere mortals.

So it was with little wonder why I was reluctant to let my daughter view a Barbie DVD she received for Christmas from someone who obviously did not know my feelings about the diva doll.

I watched it with her, and I have to say....

I was WRONG.

(Not about the body proportions, though.)

Mattel Entertainment did a wonderful job with Barbie as Rapunzel. I liked this movie better than I did Disney's version, Tangled. That's saying something, because I think that movie is as cute as all get out.

There are two reasons why Barbie rocks Rapunzel better: 

1) There's a moral premise.

My daughter actually came away having learned a lesson. Here's the moral premise (a la Dr. Stanley Williams) of Barbie as Rapunzel:

Telling the truth leads to happiness and love.
Telling lies leads to bitterness and solitude.

Tangled did not have a moral near so clear, if indeed it had one. (Perhaps Flynn Rider learned not to steal?) Barbie manages to escape her Cinderella-like captivity to Lady Gothel by finding a secret passage way out of the house.  While out in the village, she meets the prince, unbeknownst to her. She leaves before catching his name, which proves to be a very important point later.

Lady Gothel's pet rat? otter?--you tell me--sees Rapunzel with a guy and tells Gothel, who demands to know who he was. Rapunzel honestly didn't know, but Gothel believes her to be lying, so magically creates a tower to keep her locked away.

Resourceful Barbie Rapunzel paints a scene with a magic paintbrush that enables her to leave the tower. She runs into the prince again, and he gets her name, but Barbie Rapunzel actually asks him not to tell her his name, because it was "better for her not to know."

Sure enough, Gothel asks Rapunzel again, and she honestly answers that she doesn't know who the man was she met. Her truthfulness enables her to break through the spell Gothel placed on the tower, which was intended to bind the lying heart inside forever.  

2) Gothel isn't cruel because of vanity.

In Disney's version, it's apparent that Mother Gothel only takes Rapunzel because of her magic hair. that enables her to stay young. In Barbie's version, Lady Gothel, as she is called, has a whopper of a backstory.

We get hints of it very early on that she has a history, something to do with a man in her past and a slashed picture of them. As a result, she's a far more developed character in general because of it. Anjelica Houston does a marvelous job of making her spectacularly evil and somewhat sympathy-inducing...because it was ultimately a broken heart which prompted her to steal Rapunzel and get her comeuppance in the end.

So, this therapist's take on Barbie has been altered. Just as you can't judge a book by its cover, you can't judge a poor doll by her abnormally svelte legs and neck. My daughter and I have watched several more Barbie movies as a result, and I believe Mattel has some creative writers on its team, and your children would benefit from the morals of these stories.

Let's Analyze

Have you ever watched a Barbie flick? What did you think about it?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is....


RULES: First commenter free associates (writes the first word that comes to mind) with the above word. Second commenter free associates to the first commenter's word, and so on. Remember - the FIRST thing that comes to mind.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Crush of Betrayal

Have you ever had an experience where you thought you knew someone...really knew them...only to discover you actually knew nothing about them?

I recently found myself in this predicament, and short of all the cliches I could think of to describe it (e.g., the wool being thrown over my eyes, the rug being pulled out from under me, etc.), the experience itself was educational.

The wiser, more street-savvy me would tell the wide-eyed, innocent me I was a few months ago a few things, let me tell you. I guess I'm pretty much a "what you see is what you get" kinda girl. I'm the same at home, at church, in my car, in front of the mental health field, it's called congruence.

This is a sign of good mental health.  (Aren't you glad to know I'm not loopy?) People who knew me in college would know me today. Don't get me wrong here--I've changed based on experience and education--but my core personality is the same.

What happens, though, when your personality is fractured? I'm not talking about Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder). I'm talking about incongruence. Being different people depending on what environment you're in.

How hard that must be, trying to keep it all straight. Trying to keep the lives separate, the people from interacting, the secrets from coming out. How exhausting--mentally, physically, emotionally.

And the fall out is earth-shattering for those who knew only one side of the person. My world had been tipped on its axis. Nothing felt secure or safe anymore. I have constantly second-guessed my interactions with this person, and the extent to which I let them in my life, in my home, around my child.

I was so clueless.

And I'm still utterly enraged at this person.

Once the shock about and the denial of the other aspects of their personality, their other life, I went straight to anger...and I'm still there. Who did they think they are, anyway? Leading everyone down a merry path that was all a LIE.

Having this kind of experience has been depressing, yes, but it's also been instructional. I'm not going to say that I won't trust anyone anymore, but I'm going to take to heart the advice from Matthew 10:16. We are sheep amongst wolves, and we need to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. To me, this means to have a little discernment.

Face value is sometimes just that...face value.

Let's Analyze

Have you ever had an experience like what I've just described? How did you deal with it? How long did it take you to accept the other "lives" of the person you knew? Do you know of any good books based on someone making a discovery like this?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Weekend Funnies: Identifying Serial Killers

This week's comic is in honor of Kevin Bacon's prime time debut in The Following, which I have every intention of watching, given that it involves serial killers and psychological drama.

This absolutely cracked me up...Doug Savage is one talented cartoonist. Check him out at

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is....


RULES: First commenter free associates (writes the first word that comes to mind) with the above word. Second commenter free associates to the first commenter's word, and so on. Remember - the FIRST thing that comes to mind.


Don't forget I'm giving away a copy of Elizabeth Camden's new release, Against the Tide. Click here!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review and Giveaway of Elizabeth Camden's Against the Tide

I did this review an injustice by posting it so late in December when everyone was out for the holidays! So if you'll indulge, me, I'd like to re-post it today and give you all another chance to win this excellent book!

I was honored Elizabeth asked me to read her latest novel. I had mentioned in a review of her debut novel that I wanted to see a book featuring the villain (who made a 180-degree turn in that book), and she was so obliging that she wrote one. :)

Here's a blurb from Elizabeth's website:

Boston of 1891 is a city of hope and ambition, where mariners, merchants, and dreamers thrive in the cobblestone streets of America’s most historic city. Within the harbor of Boston’s naval shipyard, Lydia Pallas has become a trusted assistant to an Admiral in the U.S. Navy. Fluent in seven languages, she spends her days translating documents from all over the world.

Lydia’s remarkable language skills bring her to the attention of Alexander Banebridge, a mysterious man on a quest to rid the world of the scourge of opium. Only Lydia has the rare combination of language skills and courage he needs to advance his cause. A man as coolly analytical as he is relentless, Bane never bargained on falling in love with Lydia. As he battles the bittersweet love that grows between them, Bane’s mission will take Lydia away from everything—and everyone—she ever held dear.

I was very eager to dive into this book, given my appreciation for Bane's characterization from The Lady of Bolton Hill. Elizabeth lets enough time pass that his character is solidified in a believable way you never once question. Clearly, though, Bane is still haunted by the crimes of his past (namely helping to smuggle opium unto the country), which threatens to interfere with his future happiness, and the happiness of Lydia.

Lydia has enough quirks of her own to make her real. In fact, I know someone just like her at work, and I like to "mess" around with things on her desk the same way Bane does with Lydia....just to throw her Type-A, slightly OCD-self off. (Mean of us both, is it not?) Lydia's cravings of control and order and security are well-motivated, given her loss of family at such a young age. It makes her the perfect romantic interest for a man who can never settle down for fear of his nemesis using anyone he loves for ill.

Perhaps the aspect of Elizabeth's novel that I was most impressed with was her extensive research into opium and the resulting symptoms of dependence and withdrawal. This is an area that I am most familiar with (you can read about the present-day diagnostic criteria here), and Elizabeth's portrayal of this very real problem many face today was very true to life.

I think I read this book in about 6 hours, give or take. I took a Saturday and just lollygagged, and this book was a most worthy companion to invest time in!

I'm giving away my review copy, which is signed by Elizabeth, to one lucky commenter. This is my way of saying thanks to my readership. Lower 48 only, please.

If you don't want to wait to win, you can buy the book here: Amazon, Christianbook, B&N, and Books-a-Million.

Let's Analyze

To enter the giveaway, leave your email and the answer to this question below:

What's the craziest thing you've ever done to flirt with someone?

Monday, January 14, 2013

YA/New Adult "Good Girl Saves Bad Boy" Myth Problematic

I'm totally disillusioned.

I have a daughter. She's almost 5.

The thought of her reading these books that are labeled as "Young Adult" in ten years is just mind blowing.

I'm not one of these parents with my head stuck in the sand, either. I'm a therapist...I know that sex in today's youth culture is prevalent. I know how Planned Parenthood is like a mecca for these kids, too.

We can't ignore it. That's not going to solve the problem of underage pregnancy and STDs.

I just want to be able to give my daughter the option of a different way. I want her to know that couples can get together and not have sex as an expected part of the relationship.

Does this happen? Yes. 

Does it have to be the prevailing narrative for teens? No.

I finished 4 popular, well-rated secular YA books over the weekend. They were quick reads, for the most part.  And I enjoy revisiting a time in my life that was full of angst and drama and excitement and firsts. But these books all have something in common, and it's part of the reason why I think the sex in these books becomes the focal point too soon.

There is something innately bred in girls (and women) to believe they can be the "bad boy's" savior.

Everyone of the books I read featured a playboy hero and virginal heroine. I mean, this is like Fifty Shades of Gray for teens. In a post about that book, I quoted the heroine Ana, as having the following thought:
This man, whom I once thought of as a romantic hero, a brave shining white knight—or the dark knight as he said. He’s not a hero; he’s a man with serious, deep emotional flaws, and he’s dragging me into the dark. Can I not guide him into the light?
These poor teens gravitate toward the idea that they CAN guide these boys into the light. That their innocence will be enough to save the guy from his path of destruction, to change him for the better into a one-woman family man. That they alone will be able to see through the rough, superhot exterior to the tenderhearted, broken little insecure boy underneath.

I won't say that this can't happen...but I will say it's rare. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Ask any behaviorally-oriented therapist and they will tell you the same.

Isn't it folly to fill our kid's head with the idea that this is the natural order of things? That my daughter should settle her heart on a bad boy and hope that she's different enough--special enough--to change him? And what happens when, in real life, he doesn't change? Her heart is broken thinking she's not good enough to change him.

Excuse me? HE'S the dirtbag who can't--or won't--change.

The books I read featured a bad boy who eventually does do a 180 and of course they end up happily ever after. 

[Insert eye roll here.]

Why can't YA books portray the actual reality of the success rate of relationships like this? The aftermath of virgins giving their innocence away only to have it thrown back at them? The unlikelihood of two sexually-polar opposites finding a middle ground?

Best quote ever for young girls to memorize regarding this subject:

Better to rescue a good man from his loneliness 
than a bad boy from his misogyny. 
~ Rabbi Schmuley

End of rant. I know I'm sounding off on this a little bit lately, but I think there is something worth investigating here with this trend. The widely successful popularity of books with this theme is utterly alarming.

Let's Analyze

What are your thoughts about the bad boy hero and the virginal heroine? Have you read books exactly like what I've described? Do you have any awesome suggestions of YA books for me that don't feature this alarming trend?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Weekend Funnies: Paranoid Interventions

Copyright 2008  Jon Carter

I wish that I could post something like this in my office. Hardly professional, but definitely worth a laugh.


Friday, January 11, 2013

First Friday Free Association of the New Year!

The word is....


RULES: First commenter free associates (writes the first word that comes to mind) with the above word. Second commenter free associates to the first commenter's word, and so on. Remember - the FIRST thing that comes to mind.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New Adult/YA Bestsellers Fall Flat

I spent a ton of time reading over the break. I managed to read most all Kindle bestsellers in the Young Adult/New Adult category, as that's where the wind has been blowing me lately. For this post, I'm going to focus on Hopeless by Colleen Hoover (NYT best seller) and The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden by Jessica Sorensen (NYT and USA Today best seller).

Nice graphic there, eh? Did it myself. At any rate, consider yourself warned.

What struck me the most was the similarities of these two stories. Indeed, I feel sure that everyone who bought one must have bought the other. They have almost the exact same number of reviews (both over 1300).

Both deal with incredibly dense subject matter once you take away the heart-pounding romance elements. In Hopeless, the main character (Sky) is a victim of childhood sexual abuse. In The Coincidence, the heroine (Callie) is a victim of sexual abuse and has an eating disorder (more on this later), and the hero (Kayden) is a victim of severe physical abuse at the hands of his father.

Both had very good characterization development at the beginning, at least. I became invested in the stories, but this only served to throw my let down in sharp contrast. But there were some things done right, for sure.

As to what wasn't.

I'll start with Hopeless.

Sky has trouble with intimacy. She removes herself from the moment and goes into her head, a common problem with victims of sexual abuse. However, she doesn't remember the abuse, so thinks there is just something wrong with her. She's a virgin.

Enter Holder, the hunky ex-neighbor she doesn't remember who is the brother of her best friend (whom we later come to learn killed herself because she, too, was abused by Sky's dad). He knows who she is and also that she doesn't know. Sky conveniently starts having these recovered dreams to put the pieces together. She comes to understand that her "mother" abducted her to protect her from her father.

Once she remembers how her daddy would "turn the doorknob" and come into her room at night after her mother died, she decides to confront him. He's a law enforcement officer (some sort of statement there, I feel). Holder is there, and the book just slowly deteriorates.

Dad ends up copping to the truth, which includes a revelation that he abused the "little girl next door" after Sky left home (which devastates Holder, b/c now he knows why his sister committed suicide). Then, no joke, her dad kills himself in front of his daughter and Holder. Literally takes his gun and blows bits of his brain into Sky's hair. As if this isn't enough to traumatize someone for life, they go back to their hotel, take a shower together, pick out the brain matter, and then have sex for the first time?!? WHAT? We're so messed up that we need to get together. Totally unbelievable, very melodramatic, utterly disappointing.

Now on to The Coincidence. This one was the better of the two for me, but there were equally unbelievable aspects.

Callie has all the stereotypical outward characteristics of an anorexic/bulimic. She is skinny, wears baggy clothes, and all of a sudden, had a behavioral change in 6th grade where she went from "normal" to "freak" when she withdrew from everyone and everything (take a wild guess what happened to make this change).

But that's where this element of her characterization ends. Most people are dominated by their eating disorders to the point of physical unhealthiness. Callie just "dabbles" in it when she wants to. A trip to the bathroom to make herself feel better after getting too "close" to Kayden physically, to help her gain control. Purging is not an afterthought.

She interrupts Kayden's dad from killing him the night of graduation and they have a platonic moment before she leaves for college that summer. He joins her at the school during regular freshman orientation, during which Callie has undergone a tremendous change socially, at least. No identified reason for this change, but I suppose being away from her hometown and the bad things that happened to her at home helped?

She now has a best guy friend who is gay (major cliche, with his own issues due to his sexuality) who she now trusts when she has trusted no one before (likely because he has no interest in her sexually and the pressure is off). They have this list of things that she's supposed to do...basically to live a little, all of which thrust her into Kayden's path more and transform her physical appearance (getting rid of her trusted hoodie sweatshirt, wearing her hair down instead of in a ponytail, etc).

Kayden is physically abused by his father, who has major anger management issues. I think this is fairly true to life around the world, and abused guys are rarely featured in fiction, so I found that part refreshing. His family dynamics were well done, as well, given that Kayden was the youngest of three boys, and he was left to his dad's rage when his brothers skipped town.

He has emotional scars, just like Callie...and I suppose that is the coincidence of them getting together? Both are familiar with outward scars. Callie has to face her abuser (brother's friend) when he comes home during Christmas break during the same trip that Kayden's dad nearly kills him.

And then the book ends.

What can possibly be more frustrating than a non-ending? Now you have to read The Secret of Ella and Micha to finish Callie and Kayden's story. I suppose this could be a positive according to marketing and sales...but I have lost all faith in this author to produce a story from cover to cover. Just advertise it as half a book if that's what it is.

I suppose you can say that this is my rant, but hey...

It's my blog and I can rant if I want to, rant if I want to, rant if I want (might) rant to if it happened to you.

Let's Analyze

Have you read either of these two books? What were your thoughts?

It's not too late to enter my Writer's Guide to Breaking Stereotypes giveaway! Today is the last day to enter, so click here! Winner announced Thursday.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Best Christmas Gift for Germaphobes

I've been asked multiple times by family members and friends what my favorite Christmas gift was of 2012.

My answer?

My new Sonicare Essence Power E-series Toothbrush.

A toothbrush?

Ah....if you only knew how OCD I am about my teeth, you'd know this was the most perfect gift my husband could have bought me.

O Sonicare, let me count the ways I love you:

1) You feel like you've just stepped out of the dentist office...every time you brush.

2) It has an ooh-la-la gum massage function....which is just as it sounds. Mah-velous.

3) It feeds my OCD-ness: you brush the prescribed 2 minute period, but it beeps at you every 30 seconds to let you know to focus on a different quadrant of your mouth (up right, up left, down right, down left). I sigh in satisfaction as I know each tooth is getting the right amount of tender, loving care.

4) It holds charge for at least 2 weeks, which is great for traveling.

5) Changing toothbrush heads is extremely easy to wires, batteries, etc.

6) It's actually a politically-correct gift for someone with OCD because everyone needs to have good dental hygiene. (My husband gets a lovely snort each time he tells someone what he got me...and WHY.)

7) I get an equally good snort when I tell people my husband shopped at Costco and got 2 of these brushes for the price of he basically ripped me off by getting himself a gift disguised as a gift to me. Even I have to admit this was great thinking on his part. 

Let's Analyze

What's the BEST Christmas gift you got? Why?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Writer's Guide Giveaway!

Writer's Guide to Breaking Character Stereotypes

With the advent of the new year, I wanted to unveil my new Writer's Guide to Breaking Character Stereotypes to everyone. I'm really excited about it, as I think it's one of my most informative yet. You can find all my Guides in my newly renovated Therapy Store.

Here's a quick blurb:

All writers want to transcend fictional stereotypes on the page, but this is hard to do without deeper knowledge of the underlying reasons why certain people become walking clich├ęs. In this guide of over 50 pages, The Character Therapist breaks down twelve common stereotypes and gives fresh, innovative background information essential for spicing up fictional depictions. The stereotypes covered are The Victim, The Cynic, The Tomboy, The Geek, The Do-Gooder, The Playboy, The Workaholic, The Neat Freak, The Ditz, The Narcissist, The Doormat, and The Lone Wolf. 

Just $5!

This guide is a compilation of previous posts which are no longer available on my site, and it has been expanded and enlarged. You can get your copy here!

Let's Analyze

What stereotypes mentioned might be populating the fiction you've been reading lately?

To be entered in the giveaway, just leave your name and email address in the comment section below! Giveaway will run for one week. Since this is a .pdf, everyone is eligible!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Will likely bring back this picture every year, b/c it's still one of the coolest things I've ever done. Gotta love sparklers and time-release photography.

Happy New Year, everyone!

See you back here on Friday for some Free Association.