Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Treatment Tuesday - Maverick Syndrome

UPDATE: Evelyn has responded!
Check it out here: A Character Speaks Out.

Thought that title might capture your attention. Read on for my therapeutic assessment, which comes today courtesy of Chas. His books are about angels/former demons-turned-angels who came to Earth 3 years ago and have relationships with humans. As a result, each has faced very human emotions and situations. So the Holy Spirit decides that an angel who has a lot of experience in ministering to humans in times of need will be sent to Earth to administer therapy to these angels living as humans, or “angel psychology,” if you will.

Here’s a character sketch of Evelyn.*

She was once a warrior angel who gets sent to Earth as a human so she can learn about redemption. She was knowledgeable about many things, but not about being human, so she got caught up in a bad relationship with a playboy who has a history of using women. Evelyn suspects foul play, but finds out the hard way that he was using her all along.

She finds redemption, and eventually forgives the rogue, but three years later, she finds that the pornographic images she saw in the playboy’s apartment still fill her mind. All the very sensual ex
periences (sex outside of marriage) she had haunt her still, and even now she feels very guilty about it.

* Names have been changed to protect the fictional.

I emailed Chas to ask how having been a warrior angel fighting on behalf of humans would effect her as a human. Evelyn is a take-charge type person, fiercely defend her friends, but also harshly judge others (at least at first). She tends to impulsively act first, and think later (which cost her virginity and virtue). She also has a lot of motivation to get into trouble because the humdrum day-to-day existence proves dull for a former warrior angel whose life was one adrenaline rush after another.

As a therapist (granted, not an angelic one ☺), if Evelyn came in to see me, I would probably focus on the following, and in this order:

1) The residual guilt that she’s carrying like a millstone around her neck
2) Impulsivity in her thoughts and actions
3) “Adrenaline junkie” patterns

In reality, Evelyn’s impulsivity actually led her to the feelings of guilt she has. If she hadn’t been so impulsive in her decision to date the rogue in the first place, then she wouldn’t have found herself in the situation she did, seeing pornographic films at his apartment. But you don’t want to put the cart before the horse and freak a client out by going for their jugular. Focus on the presenting symptoms first—i.e., her guilt—and then work your way into the underlying reasons that are more deep-seated in their personality.

These images that fill her mind and haunt her need to be looked at through the light of redemption, which I understand plays a big part in your books. God’s redemption covers all sins. Yes, she indulged in some self-gratification when she focused longer on these images than necessary. Yes, her curiosity and intrigue cost her dearly. But that’s not unforgivable. And since I’m not sure what all type of sex education angels-turned-humans have, some of her fascination might have been warranted (the whole forbidden fruit—no pun intended—thing). Children, ‘tweens and teens have the same type of curiosity about sex and other things, which comes from parents unwilling or unable to explain certain matters to their satisfaction.

So the therapist should normalize her curiosity about these things, as everyone everywhere has been in the same place (perhaps not about porn, but you get the idea). Where Evelyn went astray was when she let her fascination root her to the spot as she continued to watch in her repulsed interest. Now, Satan is playing the tape over and over in her head, rewinding it as needed.

I often encounter this type of thing in counseling others. One sinful act, one unpardonable thought, impulsive decision…and lifelong punishment. God wouldn’t want us to focus on one such sin so narrow-minded a fashion. He wants us to have joyful life, not oppressed "scraping by." Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross canceled our litany of sins…God doesn’t even see them anymore when he look on us. He sees the perfection of his Son. So why should Evelyn bear the burden of a sin God no longer even sees in her state of sanctification as a believer in Christ?

Depending on just how impulsive you have characterized her, you could go different ways. Some of the things you have written about her fall into a personality disorder known as Histrionic Personality Disorder. But she doesn’t have enough to qualify for a diagnosis of this, so I won’t go into detail for this assessment. Her playing on her hunches and adopting convictions quickly is indicative of this disorder, as is often considering relationships more intimate than they actually are (but I wasn’t sure how she viewed the relationship with the rogue, but she definitely showed naïveté regardless). But she would need to meet five of the eight criteria found here to meet this diagnosis.

The best way I've found to address impulsivity is to do some rational emotive behavior therapy with her (Google that). Evelyn would need to come to an understanding that her impulse is largely an emotional response to an antecedent. Before she has the impulse to do something, she’s already had a mental thought about it. Usually, that’s followed by an emotional reaction and then the behavior. (Sound familiar? It should…this is the best way to write character reactions: Event, Thought, Emotion, Physical Reaction - which is my souped up version of MRUs.)

Chart courtesy of counselingresource.com

You could have the therapist start her on what is typically called an ABC chart. These are used to track emotions and thoughts to events. A = Activating Event; B = Belief about A; C = Consequence (feelings/actions). So every time she does something impulsive that lands her with a bad consequence, she could chart it. This might be too technical to include in a novel, though. You can read more here about ABC charts. They are incredibly helpful for seeing the forest in spite of the trees.

As for her seeming addiction to adrenaline rushes, it would be of service to her as a client to facilitate a brainstorming session where ideas are generated to supply healthy activities that might illicit this powerful “high.” These hobbies or pastimes should be 1) scheduled on a weekly or maybe even daily basis…to take the edge of her “withdrawal,” 2) take the place of the morally evil diversions she is drawn to (whether pornography or whatever), 3) geared toward recreational pursuits, since I imagine she was in great shape as a warrior angel (I’m thinking Xena with wings). But these are just my initial thoughts.


The idea is to recognize her Maverick Syndrome (this isn’t an actual clinical term, but one I made up. It’s from Top Gun… “I feel the need for speed.”) and help it work for her instead of hinder her. Once she’s able to anticipate her restlessness and ill at ease, then she’s on her way to a healthier place.

As always, feel free to email with any additional questions. Hope this helps your angelic therapist minister to his human clients! ☺

This service is for fictional characters only, so any resemblance to real life examples is entirely coincidental. Any other fictional character assessment questions can be directed to charactertherapist@hotmail.com.

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5 comments:

Jessica said...

Ooh, very cool assessment. I learn so much from reading this stuff. Thanks Jeannie!

Katie said...

Wow! That was deep! Also, what an interesting story line. I bet you never thought you'd be therapizing angels before!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Utterly fascinating. If I had it all to do over again, I'd probably get a psychology degree to go along with that Journalism one. :)

Might I link to your blog tomorrow for my Wednesday Writing post? I bet some of my bloggy writer friends would lurve this place!

Jeannie Campbell said...

that'd be fine, angie. i post my assessments on tuesdays and Thoughts (that relate to writing somehow) on thursdays. this week will be on body image if you want to wait until then. :)

Jeannie Campbell said...

and thanks, jessica...i always appreciate your encouragement. :)

katie - his storyline is really interesting. where are you, chas?