A different stream of thoughts: Trauma, Damaged Heroes, and Coming to Terms

I told myself when I started this blog that I wouldn’t post ridiculously personal ruminations and would use this mainly as a place to work out my thoughts on the things that I’ve been reading and writing.  Well this last week, I have been contemplating the nature of many things: the past and a probable plan for the future–so many possibilities and too much as stake sometimes to really even make good decisions.  No matter that I’m generally a very positive person, some times life in my own brain is just too much.  The past is sometimes much too difficult and one cannot easily overcome it.  When I was a teenager, I wrote epically bad poetry to attempt to process life’s trials, tribulations, and traumas.  Now, I find myself as an adult drawn to damaged fictional characters.  Reading is not only escapism, though I adore that aspect of reading; reading, for me, is about pushing me to think creatively and critically about myself, my life, and the world around me.  It helps me to process through triggers, generally in productive and safe ways.

Just a few of my favorite damaged characters are Sherrilyn Kenyon‘s Zarek and Acheron, J.R. Ward‘s Zsadist, Patricia Briggs‘ Mercy Thompson.  All of these characters are compelling and intriguing in part because at some point and in some ways they overcome their traumas even in the midst of their defensive mechanisms that always seem insurmountable in themselves.  One of the most compelling plotlines for me are those featuring romantic leads that are both damaged in some way.  One example are Destiny and Nicholae in Christine Feehan‘s Dark Destiny, but my current favorite epitome of a damaged couple are Gideon and Eva from Sylvia Day’s Crossfire Series (the first book is Bared to You).  These are two absolutely compelling characters, who both must work to engage with and attempt to overcome their own traumas and the damage that they inflict upon themselves through trying to deal with that damage. For many readers, these characters are so compelling because it has been rare in my experience who, like many of us, actually find themselves attempting to address self-sabotage of the defensive mechanisms they have built to deal with the traumas and trials of their lives.  I absolutely cannot wait to see how their story plays out in the third in the series, Entwined with You–coming June 4.   I will also mention Jennifer Lyon‘s The Proposition (see last post for more here too). I loved if for the manner in which Kat and Sloan demonstrated a resistance to tearing down the defensive walls while at the same time starting to see small cracks in those defensive mechanisms.  I’m looking forward to their continuing story and to see how each of them deals with the past and works to create their own approach to those defensive mechanisms they have in place to deal with their emotional and physical (in Kat’s case) pain.

Overall, here are the questions: what makes some of us take our traumas and turn our lives around and do good in the world and what makes some of us take our traumas and find ourselves unable to see outside of them.  What makes so many of us take those damaging experiences and create detrimental defensive mechanisms, instead of positive coping mechanisms? One of the things I love about reading about these damaged characters is the knowledge that there are other people who are likely dealing with these issues, but more importantly authors are allowing their characters to work through their defenses and their damaged soul.  These are not tales of a happily-ever-after that says “everything gets better” or “don’t worry one day you’ll wake up healed”: these are stories that say “this is hard work, but damn it I’m worth the effort” and “trauma never goes away but it can be managed and maybe even healed.”

I’ll leave you not with my tragically bad poetry, but with a song that resonates with me from Skylar Grey–“Invisible.”  Her sentiments are so real for so many of us: “Here inside, my quiet hell / You cannot hear, my cries for help / I try everything, to make them see me / But every one, sees what I can’t be / Even when I’m walking on a wire / Even when I set myself on fire / Why do I always feel invisible, invisible / Everyday I try to look my best / Even though inside I’m such a mess / Why do I always feel invisible, invisible.”  The power of songs (and books) is that when you recognize yourself in it, it says that you are not alone.  That’s why we read or write, right? To process our own failings and successes, to contemplate about our triumphs and traumas, and to work through all the positive and negative thoughts that swirl through our brains.

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