As you can imagine, as a writer, I have several different types of thesauruses. One is called The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma by Ackerman and Puglisi. I use this to drill down to the deep soul-need in my character. Then I can construct the plot and force my character to face the wound and change her narrative.
I’ve had this book for quite a while, and I use it often. But I’ve never used it on myself. There are many emotional wounds I could identify with but the one I focused on was “Battling a Mental Disorder”.
I turned to page 90, ran my finger down the page and made a mental checkmark by each element describing me. It’s kind of shocking to see your “issues” written as a black and white list on two pages. It was also kind of comforting to see myself on the pages – it made me feel less alone. After all, if Ackerman and Puglisi can make such a list, then surely I can’t be so unusual, right?
I won’t share with you their entire list because Ackerman and Puglisi are writers and their work is their work. But I will share the pieces which described me, and I’ll indicate the most relevant to my world and my heart.
These needs, obviously, are universal. But the degree of the need is not. When I don’t receive positive feedback to what I’m doing, I begin to feel like I’ve disappointed. It’s as if I say to myself, “They didn’t ooh and ahh. Therefore, it [I] must be awful.” Wrong thinking but being wrong doesn’t make the thought stop.
I had each of these beliefs at various times and in those truly awful moments I’ve had them all simultaneously. Right this minute, I think the only one which causes me true struggle is “my dreams are out of reach”. New authors have a very difficult time finding traction. (Unless Reese or Oprah lands on your book.)
I fear losing what I’ve worked hard to achieve – a good marriage, a fulfilling career, friends, my adult relationships with my children.
Emotional volatility is my most problematic response. When I act out of emotion instead of wisdom, I say harmful things. And we all know words cannot be retracted – ever.
I’m not sure it is. But identifying the negative traits gives me the opportunity to seek change. Knowing my triggers lessens their power. Acknowledging my less-than-helpful responses allows me the chance to pause and respond differently. Understanding my fears allows me to shine a light in that corner and make the monster go poof. Identifying my fears also affords me the chance to work in that area.
Okay, maybe this was helpful. You don’t need a book to do this. Look inside yourself –
Put the answers in black and white. Once you have the information, you can use it to your advantage.
If you are a writer, I highly recommend ALL of Ackerman and Puglisi’s thesauruses. You can find them at onestopforwriters.com. I use this site almost daily.
In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....