Got some great questions for Dr Jax – thanks everyone! I’ll post some answers today and then some more tomorrow. If any of the responses prompt more questions, feel free to ask. I’ll run this until the end of the week.
Have also decided to make the first Monday of each month a regular Ask Dr Jax Q&A. So if you haven’t got a question this time, there’s always next month.
Righto, before I launch into the answers, here is the usual disclaimer. Dr Jax is a psychiatrist, not a writer or editor, and any advice he gives is based on what would happen to real people in real life situations that may not be suitable for fiction.
Alrighty…. (Dr Jax’s answers have been paraphrased)
Question 1: “I’m thinking oppression could break someone…or strengthen them to fight/rise up….does their personality type of other background play a part?
Dr Jax: Yes, background and personality do play a part. If their early experiences have taught them resiliency – ie good attachments to people, even if it was just one person who cared about them – then they would be more likely to deal resiliently to life’s tragedies (fight in other words).
Question 2: Firstly, is it credible for a teenage boy to have a goal to be a volunteer doctor in third world countries, due to an unconscious need to prove his self worth following the deaths of his mother and brother in an accident? Secondly, is it credible for that boy, now a man, to leave Africa and his work as a volunteer doctor (and his unconscious quest for self worth) in order to return to the UK to be a father to a child he never knew he had? Or would he stay in Africa? Note: I’ve paraphrased this.
Dr Jax: Firstly, yes, it’s credible for a teenage boy to have this goal – more plausible if he was the oldest brother (I met many people like this in med school!). To answer the second question, you need to consider what kind of person he is. As a kid was he serious? Or did he like to have fun? Was he curious? Or was he a cautious kind of person? What was he like at school? What were his favourite subjects at med school? etc, etc.
Then you need to look at that in conjunction with his past. How does he view fatherhood? Is being a good father important to him? Or does he put the needs of others before his own needs?
Also, consider how working in an under resourced third world country would have changed him. Because it would definitely change him.
Question 3: How do you start helping someone get over a phobia? Spiders for example.
Dr Jax: There are two ways of dealing with phobias. Flooding – which is sticking the person in a room full of tarantulas and keeping them in there until they’re no longer scared. This works but is obviously very traumatic and not as effective as the second option. Systematic Desensitisation is the other way. This involves firstly learning deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques (no mention of spiders at all). Then the 2nd step might be thinking about spiders as you practise your deep breathing. Third step might be talking about spiders- still deep breathing etc. Fourth might be looking at pictures of spiders while deep breathing, etc, etc. This goes on until you are able to look at real spiders and not feel scared. This process might cover a considerable period of time.
People’s background and/or personality doesn’t make any difference to the treatment.
Question 4: When figuring out conflict, we often use a character’s early experiences with people to determine how they view life when the story opens. What I’d like to know is when they have these early experiences, how do people normally react? For example, if a character had an abusive father, would he become abusive himself or would he be more likely to abhor violence?
Dr Jax: People generally react in two ways to early experiences. They either identify with the treatment or they do the opposite. In this instance, your character may subconsciously decide that violence is okay and go on to be an abuser himself. Or he could decide that violence is never the answer and eschew it entirely. Note – when people do the opposite, they almost always do it in an angry way or in a way that makes a statement. For example, your character may tell his father angrily that violence is not the answer or deliberately not fight back as a way of making his point.
Okay, I’ll post up Part 2 tomorrow. I have paraphrased people’s questions and also Dr Jax’s answers (let me know if I’ve got any of your questions wrong!). Feel free to post if you have any other questions, or use the contact tab just below my blog header!