Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Monday, November 27, 2006



I hit upon the most interesting, enlightening book on the subject of betrayal: Shattered - Six steps from betrayal to recovery, by Fay A. Klinger and Bettyanne Bruin.

Basically, the authors say if you even have an inkling you might be misled or betrayed by someone, you probably are.

The more the person you suspect of misleading or betraying you protests she or he is not acting deceptively - and the more s/he refuses to communicate about the issue, chances are there's fire where that smoke is puffing up a signal.

Why do people deceive and betray?

According to Klinger and Bruin, it can be as "minor" as actually wanting to do something else while claiming they want to do what you want to do - until there is finally an explosion of wills (or won'ts). Or it can be as serious as the menacing desire to control others for nefarious reasons.

To some degree we may have all participated in and been victimized by some form of deceit, abuse or betrayal.

If we are the deceiver, it's important to recognize our behavior whether or not it occurred intentionally. And if we are victimized, we have to face up to our part in allowing it to happen, which is ordinarily very gradual until it wears on us to the point that we know we have to do something because trust is, if not lost, seriously questioned.

"Lesser" emotional abuse that is not usally seen as serious as other, more outrageous, forms of abuse, is probably the most egregious form of betrayal because it's the least recognizable.

Despite the fact that these behaviors do not leave physical scars, they are experienced by victims as the most vicious, gut wrenching and heartbreaking in a relationship because they are so acutely insidious.

Here are some of the behaviors exhibited by an emotionally abusive person:

*Finding fault in the other person
*Name calling
*Unleashing anger on the other person without permitting a discussion of the reason for the anger
*Turning a situation against the other person instead of taking responsibility for their behavior
*Withdrawing communication, silence
*Neglect of others
*Refusing to be open or disclosing of who they are and motivation for what they do
*Being late for or not showing up for agreed upon appointments
*Dismissing the other person's needs or requests
*Pressuring the other person to either do something or not do something
*Insisting on always getting his or her way or doing what s/he wants instead of negotiating
*Making the other person feel guilty
*Withholding affection
*Holding grudges
*Never forgiving
*Having a double standard
*Saying one thing, meaning another
*Keeping unnecessary secrets
*Uncaring in cases of illness or injury
*Manipulation of a situation or individual
*Stringing the other person along
*Refusing to deal with issues or even speak about them
*Minimizing the other person - believing himself or herself and his/her issues "more important" than others
*Agreeing to do something and then not doing it, continuingly claiming they will get to it later

There are far more serious symptoms of emotional abuse, but these can represent the start of an emotionally abusive relationship, and need to be addressed with behaviors changed in a positive way if the participants wish to have healthy relationships in the future.

The six steps to take the victim from recognizing the behavior of betrayal and taking action to stop it or get away from it - to potential reconciliation with the "offending" person are pretty straight forward:

1. Awareness of the abusive behavior/betrayal;
2. Acceptance that abuse or betrayal is taking place and action must be taken;
3. Action to stop the abuse/betrayal or get away from it;
4. Authorization - giving yourself permission to deal with it from a position of strength and confidence as well as potentially create the desire to rebuild trust;
5. Accountability for your own part and participation in the dynamic of abuse or betrayal;
6. Advancement into a new way of dealing with relationships and life.

The most important thing is to acknowledge how it developed so we can make certain it doesn't happen again - by both people on either side of the equation.

OK, that's the real life psychological pattern of recognizing the problem to finding a solution to prime mental health. It's great personal information.

But, like all the proved psychological studies I write about, it's also fantastic background material for a writer.

The reason I focused on the more "minor" forms of abuse is because they are the very symptoms most apt to be practiced in personal relationships, intentionally or unintentionally. And that, IMO, is what resonates most with an audience.

For example, in my recent film, Mortal Wound, Shannon, the lead character, suffers a "minor" wound onscreen. But audiences have reacted more strongly to her "minor wound" than they do watching massive explosions and blood baths because they can identify with it so personally. Some even flinch and turn their heads when this minor wound is seen.

They can't help but respond genuinely viscerally, which is supremely rewarding for the person who wrote and directed it (um, that's me...).

Mind you, these symptoms can be used for drama and comedy: the abuser in comedy usually doesn't commit them purposefully or have a hidden agenda ("What About Bob?"), whereas the abuser in a drama generally has a devious hidden motivation and manipulates others purposefully ("Midnight Lace" or "Gaslight").

The extent of successful manipulation is also usually the scope to which the victim is unaware of his or her emotional abuse. That is, the greater the manipulative skill, the less the victim is likely to understand he or she is being abused and the more likely the victim will blame her/himself for "misunderstanding" the situation.

Now - with this information, the trick is to create someone who looks like a protagonist ("good guy") but who is insidiously abusive (the antagonist=bad guy), while his or her "victim" appears to be the antagonist, but is in fact, the protagonist.

I love this stuff!


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