Fear Thesaurus Entry: Losing Autonomy

From Writers Helping Writers:

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental health condition, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life.

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

This thesaurus explores the various fears that might be plaguing your character. Use it to understand and utilize fears to fully develop your characters and steer them through their story arc. Please note that this isn’t a self-diagnosis tool. Fears are common in the real world, and while we may at times share similar tendencies as characters, the entry below is for fiction writing purposes only.

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Fear of Losing Autonomy

Notes
Autonomy fluctuates throughout life but will decrease with certain changes, such as getting married, having a baby, and growing old. A character who fears the loss of their independence will look for ways to maintain their freedom, sometimes at a cost to their own happiness or satisfaction.

What It Looks Like

The character moving out of their parent’s home as soon as possible
Living alone
Setting clear goals for autonomy within relationships
Maintaining superficial romantic relationships so they don’t infringe on the character’s independence
Avoiding family members who exert too much influence
Hiding signs of illness or mental struggles from loved ones

Changing the topic when the subject of assistance comes up
Refusing to use tools that are meant to help, such as a cane, hearing aid, or glasses
Refusing to move in with a relative, even if doing so makes sense
The character dismissing concerns for their safety or well-being
Being deliberately cantankerous or rude to caregivers
Continuing to engage in activities that have become dangerous (driving, drinking alcohol, running, etc.)

Common Internal Struggles

Feeling pressured to let others help despite a desire to remain independent
Fearing that a loss of autonomy will result in a loss of identity
The character wondering if they’re being selfish or stubborn for declining help
Living in denial about their need for assistance
Seeking to justify any loss of cognitive or physical abilities
The character feeling as if they’re a burden for needing any kind help
Feeling worthless
Becoming paranoid about signs of further decline
Resenting the people who are trying to help, then feeling guilty about it
Feeling as if life is no longer worth living

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

Character Builder

PG had never heard about Character Builder before he stumbled on this video.

In addition to any other comments, PG (and, he thinks, others) would be interested in hearing from anyone who has used this software/service or a similar tool.

Do We Really ‘Lose Our Filter’ as We Age?

From Neuroscience News:

Many of us will have experienced some unexpected honesty from the older people in our lives. Whether it’s grandma telling you your outfit is unflattering or grandpa saying he doesn’t like the meal you’ve prepared, we often explain it away by saying “Oh, don’t mind grandpa, he’s just lost his filter”.

But do we really have a “filter”, and do we lose it as we get older?

What do we mean when we say ‘filter’?

When someone has no “filter”, it means they say things without thinking about their audience. They may blurt out something rude, inappropriate, or unkind, without considering the likely consequences.

“Filters” are an important part of our everyday social interactions. A brief Monday morning chat with your boss is more complex than it may seem. For example, you might stop yourself from telling them they smell awful after their morning bike ride into the office and should’ve showered before your meeting. You might consider telling them about the fungal infection you discovered on your toenail over the weekend but decide against it. Of course, what you do or do not say also depends on how well you know them and what’s considered socially acceptable in your workplace.

Your “filter” relies on cognitive processes such as inhibitory control, which stops you from saying the first thing that pops into your mind. It also relies on social cognition, which refers to the ability to understand and predict other people’s behaviours, thoughts, and intentions. This helps us to recognise what behaviour is appropriate in a particular social setting and to adapt our behaviour based on this.

The prefrontal cortex, which is located within the frontal lobes of our brains, acts as our “filter”, helping us say and do things in a socially appropriate way. When this part of the brain isn’t functioning properly, we might act as though we’ve lost our “filter”.

What happens to our ‘filter’ as we age?

As we get older, our brains start to shrink. This is a normal part of the aging process known as brain atrophy. It affects how well our brain cells can communicate with one another. Importantly, brain atrophy doesn’t happen to all areas of the brain at once. It is particularly noticeable in the frontal lobes.

Researchers have linked age-related shrinking in the frontal lobes with declines in inhibitory control and social cognition. Studies have also found older adults respond differently to socially awkward situations than younger adults.

For example, older adults have more difficulty recognising when someone’s said something embarrassing or tactless, and show poorer understanding of sarcasm.

So as we get older, normal aging processes in our brains may make it much easier for things to slip out through our “filters”.

Link to the rest at Neuroscience News

PG thought this might be of assistance to those who are building an older character.

How Emotionally Intelligent People Use the ‘Emotional Postmortem’ to Control Their Emotions and Improve Their Relationships

PG thought this item might be useful for character-building.

From Inc.:

“Oh, boy. This time I messed up.”

That’s what I was thinking when some years ago, I let my emotions get the best of me. I believed a colleague had stolen something of mine. Not literally; I thought he stole an idea. At least, that’s how I felt.

I knew the way I should handle it. I knew I should approach him calmly, state my concern without any type of accusation, and give him the chance to explain the situation.

But that’s not what I did.

Instead, I went in like a ticking time bomb, asking emotionally charged questions before …

I went off.

In the end, it turned out to be a huge misunderstanding. I felt horrible, because the colleague was a nice guy, and up until that moment we had a pretty good relationship. Of course, I apologized profusely, and he said it was OK and we’d consider it water under the bridge.

But to this day, every time I think of that moment, I cringe.

If you’ve ever had a moment like this one, maybe you can relate. In emotional intelligence terms, we refer to this as an emotional hijack.

In an emotional hijack, a small part of your brain known as the amygdala, which serves as a type of emotional processor, “hijacks” your brain and causes you to react without thinking. In my case, some built-up tension and various other factors caused me to see a situation unclearly, jump to conclusions, and hurl harsh accusations at a colleague.

It’d be great if we could identify the circumstances that lead up to emotional hijacks before they happen, but that’s not usually how it works. But learning to analyze an emotional hijack after it happens can be almost as valuable.

I like to call this process the “emotional postmortem.”

Just like a medical or project postmortem, the goal of an emotional postmortem is to determine the cause of “death,” or failure. When you identify the cause for a hijack, you can devise a plan to help you avoid repeat episodes in the future.

Link to the rest at Inc.

The Once and Future Temp

From Public Books:

In the 1980s, Arlene Kaplan Daniels coined the term “invisible work” to describe unpaid labor, traditionally undertaken by women, in the household. Over time, feminist scholars—from anthropologists to economists—adopted and broadened the term to refer to any work that is physically hidden, culturally overlooked, socially marginalized, economically devalued, or legally unprotected. This is to say, invisibility is a rather amorphous characteristic that results when the work, worker, or workplace is obscured, often leading to a combination of economic, cultural, and social devaluation.

In Hilary Leichter’s first novel, Temporary, this invisible work makes the world turn. Following the incredibly odd temp positions of a young woman navigating the workplace, the reader quickly realizes that Temporary is a surreal and speculative novel set outside this universe. In each chapter, the unnamed narrator fills in for a different person or thing, taking on wacky placements as an assassin, a pirate, and a sea barnacle.

In Leichter’s novel, the protagonist is born a temporary, living in the space “between who she was and whom she was meant to replace.” While Leichter’s temporaries were originally created “to fill any gaps the gods had forgotten,” over time they have become a class of people with no choice but to embrace their transient occupational status and its affective demands. In Leichter’s world, the “temp” has grown from a temporary occupation into a permanent fixture of the universe. In one sense, then, Leichter forces readers to ask what it means for temps to be anything but provisional.

Leichter dreams up a colorful and kooky world of work in Temporary, which asks the question, What can fiction, specifically the surreal and bemusing kind, teach us about modern working life? With a matter-of-fact tone and tongue-in-cheek language, Leichter crafts a world in which work-life balance is as elusive as celebrity status. While Temporary’s story world is purposefully impressionistic, its portrayal of temporary work draws very real connections between the history of the “temp” industry in the US and newer forms of contingent labor that demand workers sacrifice not just their time—and now, potentially, their health—but also crucial facets of their identities.

For Leichter’s mythical temps, their purpose is not merely to stand in for other workers (the assassin, the pirate) but also to embody them, to become them. The central journey occurs in this in-between of internal and external selves, for it is through these portraits of exaggerated embodiment that Leichter captures the gendered and affective aspects of work. Leichter places these traditionally invisible and feminized practices in the foreground, constructing a campy story of work and identity that reveals just how closely the two are connected and how this proximity can invite exploitation.

Link to the rest at Public Books

PG notes that every job he held in college was temporary.

He’ll further note that any job he held after graduating from college and law school was temporary.

The legal term is generally At Will Employee. Here’s a definition:

At-will employment refers to an employment agreement stating that employment is for an indefinite period of time and may be terminated either by employer or employee. If an employment is at-will, such an agreement would typically be expressly included in the relevant employment contract.

Although PG has held some executive positions, none ever came with an employment contract. He liked that because he could always move to a better job for more pay. He always felt the best employment security was his ability to do useful things.

Additionally, but definition, all attorneys, doctors, dentists, etc., provide services only if and when clients or patients ask them to do so.

Silicon Valley has a hipper term for Temp – Gig Work.