Friday, August 27, 2010
* Low self esteem
* Needy or clingy behavior
* Inability to deal with stress
* Lack of self-control / self-restraint
* Inability to self-soothe (can’t calm self down)
* Inability to develop and maintain friendships
* Alienation from and opposition to parents, caregivers, and other authority figures
* Antisocial attitudes and behaviors
* Trust issues
* Inability to give / accept affection
* Anxious about being touched
* Lack of empathy, compassion and remorse
* Behavioral problems at school
* Speech and language problems or disorders (stuttering)
* Becoming mute
* Incessant chatter
* Difficulty learning
* Inability to sit still
* Susceptibility to chronic illness
* Violence toward others.
* Re-creating the abuse towards one’s own children, wife, etc.
* Drug Abuse.
* Self-injurious behavior (cutting, burning, head banging against walls) to make a statement (I’m in pain / You hurt me), to feel something (if feelings are numbed), to overwhelm / distract from emotional pain, as a sign of self-hate, as identification with the abuser (if you can abuse me, I can too), way of regaining power over flesh, etc.
* Suicidal Ideation (thinking about suicide as the ideal option)
* Suicide attempts
* Disconnection from the body
* Feelings of shame
* Sexual Dysfunctions
* Bed wetting
* Regression (using behaviors more typical of younger children, i.e. a 10-year-old sucking his thumb and using baby talk)
* Flashbacks (a sense of reliving the event)
* Attempts to placate everyone around them
* Learned helplessness (doesn’t bother trying to improve one’s situation out of the sense that it’s all for nothing).
* Traumatic bonding – clinging to the figure that hurt you.
* Paradoxical behavior / feelings: Isolating oneself from others while yearning for closeness and affection; fearing others yet depending upon them.
* Feeling unduly victimized by others
* Being controlling of others
* Increased reactivity to seemingly minor stressors (making mountains out of mole hills)
* Headaches, migraines, and other somatised body symptoms
* Constant weariness
* Major Depressive Disorder (Depression lasting for 2 weeks or longer)
* Heightened startle reflex
* Hyperarousal (being in a highly alert stage even when there’s no visible need)
* Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
* Avoiding reminders (avoiding car parks after dark after a violent mugging)
* Dissociative Detachment (altering the state of consciousness so that you feel disconnected from either yourself or the outer world such as being in a trance-like state)
* Depersonalisation (feelings of unreality regarding your sense of self – like you were on autopilot, or acting out a role in a play, almost as though you were observing yourself from outside your body).
* Derealization (a sense that the outer world isn’t real, everyone else are actors in a play, and you’re watching it all through a tunnel).
* Extreme detachment (a sense that you’re already gone, being completely unaware, perhaps even sitting and staring for hours)
* Dissociative amnesia for frightening or stressful events (blocked from consciousness)
* Fugue states (lose one’s self of identity and memory for their past and travel somewhere else). Dissociative identity disorder (involves a change in one’s sense of identity, engaging in uncharacteristic behavior, and forgetting behavior that occurs during these states).
* Mood swings
* Panic Disorder
* Generalised Anxiety Disorder (basically a worry disorder where the person is beset by constant worries)
Remember that all of these symptoms are also coping mechanisms. Substance abuse allows the sufferer to chemically alter their mood states or ‘kill the pain’ and are particularly helpful for those who lack self-soothing strategies or for whom the pain is overwhelming. Anorexia or cutting behaviors can give the sufferer a sense of control over their lives – and starvation and cutting can both release endorphins for a chemical high.
Oh, and by the way: http://www.nctsnet.org/nccts/nav.do?pid=ctr_aud_prnt_under#q3 is a really good link on psychological trauma and its effects on development.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Whether chronic (repetitive) or acute (once off), these events are so extremely stressful that the individual feels emotionally, intellectually, and even physically overwhelmed. Such events typically involve themes of betrayal, violations of safety, abuse of authority or power, loss of a meaningful person, object or place, betrayal of trust, calculated cruelty, physical and/or emotional pain, confusion, and being helpless to protect oneself. Even witnessing something happen to another person (violent car accident, rape, or domestic violence) can cause trauma in the witness – particularly if the witness knows the victim.
Generally speaking, the more prolonged and repeated the trauma, the more serious the mental health problems resulting from it – which makes intuitive sense. Suffering one home invasion is going to shake up one’s feelings of safety at home. Suffering multiple home invasions is likely to destroy any sense of security.
Traumatic experiences can (but don’t always) lead to mental health disorders such as substance dependence and abuse (i.e. drug abuse and alcoholism), personality disorders (particularly borderline personality disorder), major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders (from phobias to panic disorder to generalized anxiety disorder), post traumatic stress disorder), dissociative disorders (fugue or somatic illnesses) to eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, obesity).
These mental health disorders often come about because while the traumatic event may be over, their reaction is not. A key difficulty for trauma survivors is dealing with re-experiencing where the past intrudes into the present through intrusive memories (thinking of your violent ex-boyfriend when kissing your kind new boyfriend), flashbacks, nightmares, or sudden flares of old emotional states (flares of panic or grief for no apparent reason).
It also doesn’t help that trauma survivors generally re-use the same self-protective coping strategies that they used during the event itself. Their symptoms are more a case of adapting to the stress by finding some useful, but ultimately dysfunctional, method to deal with their overwhelming feelings. This is the greatest difficulty for any writer of mental health disorders. Their symptoms should generally serve some sort of purpose, either now or in the past, and even if that coping strategy is ultimately disabling, it might be considered preferable to the alternative – dealing with the overwhelming feelings left behind by the event.
Thus some of the more common symptoms found are problems of hypervigilance (being constantly on the alert for threats), dissociation (feeling distant or disconnected from your body or the world around you), avoidance (limiting your activities to avoid either threatening situations or reminders of the experience), and numbing (feeling less emotionally). You can imagine how each one of these adaptations might have been incredibly valuable at the time.
Childhood trauma can (but doesn’t always) cause some of the most debilitating disorders because it can disrupt basic developmental tasks. Children are learning how to trust, how to judge people trustworthy, how to make decisions, how to avoid exploitation, how to soothe themselves when they get upset, and how to handle anger or frustration.
Also remember that not every trauma survivor will be traumatized by the event. Out of those who are traumatized, not every one will suffer a severe mental health issue. Even children can survive childhood trauma to become functional adults. It will depend partly on perception of the event (Do they believe there was nothing they could do? Do they blame themselves?), coping strategies (those with more appropriate coping strategies for that particular event might not need to create new, dysfunctional ones), support structures (How did people react to them? Were they re-traumatised by disbelief or disgust?), and personal strengths / weaknesses (Someone might cope well with a terrorist attack but couldn’t cope with being raped by a loved one or vice versa).
Well, that's been a helpful overview (for me, at least). Time to take a deeper look into trauma. Hmm, should I look into childhood trauma or alcoholism? Or perhaps peer deeper into the dark jungle of coping mechanisms? It could be the first time I refer to Freud ... who knows?
Also, let me know if I'm writing these posts in boring academic English. I'd much rather I wrote it in a more interesting, easy-to-understand style. I'm also trying to pump as many concepts into a short space as I can. It's a balancing act. One I'm not so good at....
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Fear Within The Character
Fear isn’t just an emotion that can be displayed by a character in response to an incident. Oh no, fear is a motivating force. Fear can either overshadow or exaggerate certain personality traits. Fear can set characters against each other. It can make a character avoid their goal. It can blind the character to a truth – particularly if the fear is of a little-understood species, race, or social class. It can keep the character on the straight and narrow or force the character to the outskirts of society. It can drive both character and plot, in other words, and provides a rich tapestry of motivation. Some people create entire character arcs or storylines that deal with a particular theme of fear and the lengths that people will go to deal or avoid it.
Fear Within The Reader
Some readers want to be scared. They want to explore their fears. Confront them. Deep down, such readers are truly afraid of only one thing and that is that the book they are reading will show them their greatest fear has become reality. Writers of horror and other frightening fiction will often go and explore several angles of your fear, examining it closely, before returning to tell you all about it.
Good fear fiction often ignores the rules about who can live and who can die. Children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and people who are just so cute and innocent that the world would be too cruel to kill … horror writers will kill. They take away that comfort value that the rules supply you with so that you’ll be biting your finger nails in the hope that your particular brand of fear won’t hurt that one person you’ve grown attached to. Maybe you’ll get lucky. Maybe they won’t die. But that doesn’t mean they’ll come out of it okay.
Did I mention destroying your security blanket? Well, horror fiction writers will take it away from you. They’ll try and turn your world upside down and show you what might lie behind that veneer. They’ll try and make you question your perceptions – what’s behind the assumed reality? What would happen if your household dog turned against you? What if demons were truly real and that schizophrenic you always derided was actually trying to help you? They make delusions seem reasonable and reality seem like a delusion.
Of course, the trick is that in the quest for the paranormal, the mundane fears are lost. If you look at all the things that terrify you, it isn’t generally a fear that a vampire will break into your house in the middle of the night or that your boyfriend is a werewolf. So why are these horror tropes? Well, because paranormal horror done well reminds you of all the mundane fears. The vampire represents every story of home invasions, organ harvesting (in this case, harvesting blood), muggings, assaults, infection, corruption, death and even the fear of losing your mind and your heart to someone who’s no good for you. The werewolf boyfriend represents the fear that the man you love might hurt you and he might not even want to, he might hate every minute of it, but he simply might not have the self-control to keep himself at bay.
If you focus on what the monster represents, if you follow the ‘What If’ line all the way home to the brutal possibilities, then you can still get fear value from the paranormal monster. You just need to show the similarities.
Of course, horror, especially horror involving monsters, requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. If you’re trying to keep the fear going as well, that suspension becomes a very tight wire forever on the edge of snapping. Everything else must be believable. Anything that jars them out of the story will snap that wire and you’ll have to hope you get another chance to re-string it. Fix any typos and keep everything else as realistic as possible. Dialogue, characters, scenarios, and descriptions.
Even more importantly, make sure the characters shine. Really shine. Because if your readers don’t care about what happens to them, any of them, then you’re doomed. They don’t need to be likable (though it helps) but they need to be memorable, with interesting flaws, and a way about them that draws the eye.
The other trick is to face your own fears, explore them, poke them, ask yourself ‘What if?’ and ‘Why?’ until you scare yourself. We’ve all read the same tired tropes written over and over by people with a mastery over writing technique but who just don’t feel the fear. Bring your own unique slant to it by asking yourself if this scares you, and if so, why? Because fear is contagious and if you can bring that scent of fear to your novels, then you’ll be all the more successful at frightening your readers.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Okay, this’ll be the more boring bit of my Fear Series but stay with me. Anxiety is a chronic, and often less acute, form of fear which involves a generalized expectation of danger that leaves the anxious person in a state of heightened tension. While fear involves a ‘fight or flight’ response to a specific threat such as a spider or violent man, anxiety serves the purpose of keeping the person alert to possible dangers. Phobias occur when the fear of a threat is far greater than the actual danger involved. Anxiety disorders occur when the alarm bells keep ringing and don’t let the person relax – forcing them to feel and behave as though they were in constant danger.
Causes of Fear
Both fear and anxiety can be infectious, particularly with children, who are more vulnerable to such experiences. Children look to their parents, or other authority figures, to check if a situation is safe or dangerous. If the adult seems scared of an object, the child is more likely to think twice about going near it. If the adult’s fear reaction becomes frightening in and of itself (screaming, jumping up on tables to avoid it, backing away in utter horror), then the child is even more likely to develop the same fear.
While phobias and anxiety disorders are less likely to occur in adults who see other adults’ afraid, fear in one’s peers can still be scary. Watching a horror movie with someone who laughs and mocks it is obviously not nearly as scary as watching it with someone who is quite plainly scared. When the threat is not immediately obvious, such as a friend who looks over your shoulder with a look of plain terror, the infectious fear becomes far more potent. This can, under the right circumstances and with the right people, lead to hysterical responses as the infectious fear builds to severe levels.
Fear and anxiety can obviously be influenced by bad experiences with the severity of the experience generally, but not always, influencing the degree of the phobia. A dog that mauls your arm is far more likely to give you a phobia of dogs than a dog that barked at you. They can also be affected by the severity of the threat (or at least the perception of it). If you come across a snake that you know is both placid and harmless, you’ll likely have a very different reaction then if you come across the same snake but believe it’s from a highly venomous and aggressive species. Of course, one bad reaction can give all similar creatures a bad rap as most people try to avoid their fears.
Fear can also transform itself and attach itself to related issues. Someone who had a terrifying encounter with the snake (even if the snake itself was placid and non-venomous) might now avoid long grasses and feel unsafe in wilderness gardens because you never know what might be lying in that grass. The fearful person might even largely forget about the snake incident, perhaps because they were exposed to ‘tame’ snakes or because they later found out the snake was perfectly harmless, but are still scared of long grasses because they never dealt with that issue. And besides, what if the next time it’s a poisonous one?
Also, while the fight or flight response gets a loss of press time, I think there is a third behavioral response that is little examined. Sometimes when the anxiety gets too much or you feel so shocked by recent threats that you just shut down and ‘Freeze’ up. You don’t know what to do or where to start. Your heart might race and you might feel all the effects of ‘Fight or Flight’ but you’re stuck between the two and don’t know what to do. This can also occur in response to certain threats, for example peering down from a great height or stumbling onto a snake, where you go absolutely still and couldn’t move for the life of you.
Treatment of Fear
While fear, phobias, and anxiety disorders can all be sparked by bad experiences, they can also be calmed through good experiences. In what is termed ‘exposure therapy’, a person who feels profound anxiety in social groups might be slowly exposed to increasingly large groups of people in a supportive and friendly environment. As each baby step is rewarded with positive treatment and happy experiences, the person generally become less afraid of social groups. This can be a very interesting process to see in novels where people who were too afraid to trust are slowly rewarded for every little show of trust until they feel safe to do so.
Exposure therapy is important to be aware of because it goes doubly for fictional works. While seeing a real life monster that wanted to eat my gizzards wouldn’t make me fear it any less, when I’m watching it on the movie screen and the fear is a much weaker beast, then I will quickly get used to the monster if I see it too often. This is one of the reasons behind the whole ‘Leave the big reveal to the end’ rule. The less we know of a threat, the more alien it seems, and the more our imagination can run away with it. When the threat only exists in our imagination (because we don’t actually need to worry about Geiger aliens showing up on our doorstep) then that’s the most powerful place to keep it – in our imagination.
Exposure Therapy – Not a guarantee
Not every person gains relief by being gradually exposed to their fears or by attempting to transform terrifying experiences into positive ones (such as through re-framing). Even for those who do gain relief, it has generally been found that the same old fears, phobias, and anxieties will flare up again though it’s normally not as bad after successful exposure. How the person reacts to those flare ups, and the repercussions that come from their reaction, will determine if the person can come to terms with their anxiety again or if they will slide back into old habits.
For example, take that interesting set-up with the protagonist who is afraid to trust. In one situation where he (it’s usually a he) is relating a personal story to the romantic interest, he might suddenly grow quite anxious that she’s about to betray him. His pulse starts to race, his finger tips tingle, and he gets the urge to fight to protect himself (hopefully verbally) or even beat a hasty retreat. Now comes the power of interpretation. He might feel the panic and think “oh, dear god, the baggage is back”.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Watch Movie Trailers. I dunno. I think it's all the bright lights, loud music, and interesting quotes thrown together in the space of a few minutes. A good trailer is unlikely to help me nut out just what Jason SHOULD say to Lirrian, but it does help get me in the creative mood. Besides, it provides inspiration for what movies should be on my To-Watch list.
Cinema Visits. Watching movies at home is okay for a bit of a creativity enhancer, but it's the loud noise, dim lights, and sheer ambience of a cinema that works the most for me. Again, I rarely get a flash of inspiration on how to resolve a plot issue from watching movies but it does get the creative juices flowing.
Exercise. Not so much the slow grind down at the gym, but rather going for long, brisks walks, running around the block, dance lessons, or doing silly things like chasey and stuck-in-the-mud. In case you're wondering, I'm 25. No, really. I think it's the adrenaline coupled with the time to think. This actually can help me work out plot issues.
Daydreaming. I only do this when I'm already excited about what I'm writing, but it does bear mentioning anyway. Forced daydreaming while listening to inspiring music can also help.
There are other things that might work for you though they don't work much for me. Reading novels helps me hone my craft but doesn't tend to leave me excited to write my own works. Some might enjoy cooking for the same reason why I enjoy exercise. Others might do a spot of guided meditation or visualisation.
Oh yeah, if I ever get published, remind me to declare that I require a weekly hour-long massage to keep my creative juices flowing...
I tracked down the guest blogger to her own web-site and I'm glad that I did. Who wouldn't love a blog called Killer Characters? It's an absolute treat (though on a less practical note than the Mystery Writing Is Murder blog) as Killer Characters gives the various characters in her novels a chance to come forward and make blog posts themselves. Talk about a great exercise for getting to know your characters! It would also be a lot of fun for her readers as well.
Monday, August 16, 2010
But I've realised something ... I know them the way a person knows their boss or a friend and it's just not close enough. There's knowledge there but no real intimacy. There's a certain spark of recognition that's missing. While the protagonist does his thing I don't really know what everyone else is doing. How do they exist outside of the protagonist? Who are they really? What are their plots?
I'm wondering how I could best determine this. Perhaps do a blow-by-blow of what others are doing when off-stage? Perhaps do a mind-map and brainstorm all the aspects of the characters and what that would likely drive them to do? Perhaps brow-beat them into submission by writing character interviews and demanding they reveal all?
I'm just not sure.
What do you do?
Friday, August 13, 2010
It can be seen in the face by the sudden widening of the eyes and/or mouth, often with the eyebrows raised, and sudden pallor. The frightened individual may hold their breath (or breath faster) and go motionless (or flee). They may crouch or cringe away from the object of their fear. Heart rate increased, muscles tremor, pupils dilate, neck muscles contract, and the voice may fail the frightened person.
Fear can be regarded in many ways by different people. It can be seen as a commodity. People can buy and sell fear - from thugs on the street to debt collectors to marketers for drink driving campaigns. It can be seen as weakness for those who see fear as a disabling emotion that makes you inferior to the object that causes fear. It can also be seen as a clever warning device that keeps you safe by alerting you to potential hazards. Some find it so debilitating that they avoid all mention or thought of it - walling up their fears in the belief that it is in their best interest to dam the sensation. For some, fear is the spice of life. It keeps them on edge, on their toes, and excited. What beliefs does your character hold about fear?
I would argue that fear is not, in and of itself, an enjoyable emotion - positive emotions can be caused by otherwise frightening occurences but those responses are excitement, anticipation, and perhaps certain kinds of anxiety. However, the afterglow of fear can be a powerful intoxicant as relief mingles with a sense of achievement mingles with the heady hormonal mix of adrenaline and even endorphins.
How does your character respond to fear? And what other responses do you think are possible?
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Do you know who your target audience is?
And if so, who are they?
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
So, I've done Love. What should the next thing be on my agenda?
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Attachment theory suggests that our attachment patterns with our parents as infants affects our attachment patterns as adults. Basically, children use attachment figures (caregivers, basically) as a source of security that allows them a safe retreat while exploring the world around them. Parental responses lead the child to develop a pattern of attachment that will assist the child in creating an understanding of the world that will guide their feelings, thoughts and expectations in later relationships.
Securely attached children have available parents that respond consistently and promptly to their needs. This allows the child to use the caregiver as a secure base for exploration.
Now onto the adults…
A securely attached adult will likely have a positive view of their relationships, their partners, and themselves. They are more confident in relationships and feel comfortable trusting their partners, being open with their feelings, and developing both intimacy and independence. They can approach difficult issues with greater ease as they feel they are broaching the topic from a place of safety.
Those who had an anxious attachment style are more likely to closely monitor their relationships as they find themselves preoccupied with worries and anxieties about whether or not they will get the intimacy they so desperately crave. They find it difficult to believe that their partner loves them, and even when reassured, will find it difficult to believe that their partner will love them tomorrow. They are less trusting and more impulsive in their relationships. They are likely to self-disclose easily, perhaps engaging in too much self-disclosure, and can experience a high degree of jealousy. Regrettably, their needs make them easy to take advantage of – a fact that can leave them more suspicious and anxious in future.
Those with an avoidant attachment style are likely to continue to rely on themselves and are uncomfortable with the idea of relying on someone else. Their desire for high levels on independence can lead them to appear to avoid attachment altogether. They may suspect that their loved one won’t be there for them when push comes to shove. They can be mistrustful and cynical but also independent and self-sufficient. They tend to suppress their feelings and signs of rejection may lead them to distance themselves from their partners. They can survive with far less affection and intimacy and prefer focusing their efforts into their work and social lives. They also tend to reveal less about themselves and be less jealous of their partner’s attentions.
As an adult, those with a disorganised attachment style tend to have quite mixed feelings towards close relationships, desiring that intimacy yet never feeling entirely comfortable with any degree of emotional closeness. Thus they may combine a desire for closeness with a strong need for independence. They might appear to have low levels of self-confidence and may nurture fears of rejection. While they may be more emotionally visible than, say, the avoidance, they may still find it hard to open up to others. They are likely to experience a number of trust issues and often feel they are unworthy.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Are we there yet?
Anyone else get like this?
So without further ado, John Lee’s six love styles are:
Ludus. This is a belief that love is a game ... or a battlefield. The Ludic lovers are far more interested in quantity and are far more likely to put the metaphorical notches on the bed head. They are all about the fun of sex, the thrill of the chase, and can recover quite quickly from break-ups. They are often reticent about marriage, are more likely to cheat even if they do get married, and more likely to be promiscuous.
Storge. This love is held by those who desire a more friendly, affectionate sort of love. Storgic lovers require a firm foundation of friendship and are sometimes capable of helping the friendship endure past a breakup. They desire their significant other to also be their best friend and will be hurt by any signs that this isn’t the case. They are quite committed to the relationship and may consider both children and marriage as capable of cementing the bond. While they may be as sexually charged as the more passionate love styles, it is of lesser importance and these individuals may cope quite well with reduced passion and sex drive so long as the intimacy and friendship stays strong. Storgic lovers are happiest in relationships with high intimacy and commitment.
The Pragma love style is a practical one. Pragmatic lovers, true to their name, will be quite rational in their selection of partners and may even select them by comparison to a list of traits. Ultimately, they want a partner who will work with them toward common goals or who have the necessary resources required to assist the Pragmatic Lover towards their goal. Sex might be controlled as either a reward for good behavior or considered as simply a means of procreation. The Pragmatic lovers are often less demonstrative of their emotions.
Mania is a love style based off low self-esteem. The Manic Lover seems to derive much of their self-esteem through their relationships, feeling a need for their lover's presence, as the lover is thought to be rescuing them from a bad situation, or even reinforcing their value as a human being. “If I am loved, then I am worthwhile” is often their motto. They’re more possessive than those of the other Love Styles as they generally feel they have more to lose in a break-up, particularly if their partner is more confidant than them. Sex reassures them, marriage is ownership, and they can become quite jealous. These people also have an intensity of feeling that can be quite attractive to some.
Agape is a self-sacrificing and all-encompassing love. The Agapic lover is more often spiritual or religious and they find their loved ones to be blessings on their lives and thus desire to take care of them. They believe that love should be unconditional. They will avoid causing their partner pain, show a great deal of patience, and tend to view marriage and children as a sacred trust. Sex is considered to be a gift between the two lovers. They can be quite generous, sometimes to the point of martyring themselves, although they can induce feelings of guilt in their partner.
Remember, of course, that people are more complicated than these rules of thumb and circumstances can change. An Agapic Lover can be rude and controlling at times - even causing a great deal of pain to their lovers through their loud matyrdom. A Ludic Lover might remain a game player deep down but simply love a particular person so much that they don't need to play that game any more. A Storgic or Pragmatic Lover can also have very high sex drives which boosts the passion in their relationships - even if their method of choosing and sustaining relationships differs from the Erotic and Manic Lovers.