“In myths the hero is the one who conquers the dragon, not the one who is devoured by it. And yet both have to deal with the same dragon. Also, he is no hero who never met the dragon, or who, if he once saw it, declared afterwards that he saw nothing. Equally, only one who has risked the fight with the dragon and is not overcome by it wins the hoard, the ‘treasure hard to attain.’ He alone has a genuine claim to self-confidence, for he has faced the dark ground of his self and thereby has gained himself.
“This experience gives some faith and trust, the pistis in the ability of the self to sustain him, for everything that menaced him from inside he has made his own. He has acquired the right to believe that he will be able to overcome all future threats by the same means. He has arrived at an inner certainty which makes him capable of self-reliance.

Carl Jung, Mysterium coniunctionis, CW 14

Do You Know Your Influences?

One of my favorite stories is a chapter in Louis Sachar’s Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger. A dubious character named Dr. Pickell hypnotizes a woman to help with her smoking addiction. He tells her the cigarette will turn into a worm in her mouth; then, as is his wont, adds a twisted behavior at the end of their hypnosis session.

“[Dr. Pickell] rubbed his beard and smiled. ‘Whenever your husband says the word “potato,” you will slap him across the face.’

‘When – Fred – says – ‘potato’ – I – will – slap – his – face.'”

A few paragraphs later, we learn the effects of Dr. Pickell’s meddling.

“It was an interesting thing about the word ‘potato.’ Whenever Fred said it, she slapped him. And he’d ask her why she slapped him, but she never remembered slapping him, so they’d get in a big fight, each calling the other crazy. Then they’d kiss and make up, which was nice because her breath didn’t stink.

“They never figured out it had anything to do with saying ‘potato.’…

“But deep down they both must have realized it somehow, because while they used to eat lots of potatoes, they gradually ate fewer and fewer, until they finally stopped eating them altogether.”

You would be surprised how often I think about this story in real life. Sachar is a master children’s author, crafting a deep story in a few, easily understood sentences.

Although I could go on for a bit longer about children’s authors, Louis Sachar, and pickles vs. potatoes; I bring this story up to discuss influences in our lives and whether we notice them or not.

Just think: when you walk into a store, what do you see? Someone has planned what you will see. Someone has looked at studies that say how much space a shopper needs upon entering before he may encounter something on sale. That someone knows that angled aisles are better but not as space-efficient (so they hang tags off the shelves), that we shoppers look for sales, and that we need enough space in an aisle to avoid the ‘butt-brushing effect.’

Advertising is a sneaky business, and one we often think of when considering this subject. As prevalent as purchasing bits of our mind is, however, that is not the influence that I am interested in discussing.

Instead, I want to think about less-evil, subtle influences we are ignorant of; things like choosing to act like our hero, striving to never wear red because you think it’s evil, and picking a genre of music after a coworker won’t stop listening to it.

In my life, I’ve seen examples of all of these behaviors. My brother is in medical school because one of his scout leaders was/is a successful doctor. One of my relatives will not wear red. And our family all got hooked on dubstep because my husband’s coworker played it nonstop.

For me, personally; I do not sew because my mother did not, I read and write because she did, and I abhor shopping and matching and new trends because she always tried to get me to wear (what I thought were) ugly combinations at the store. On sunny days I feel more capable and happy. If a friend makes a nice comment, I feel more confident. A jarring chord or fighting at home raises everyone’s anxiety levels.

When I think about it, the influences seem obvious. When I don’t, they don’t. Either way, I behave impulsively.

When the day is grey and ordinary, do you huddle up and wonder why everything’s dark and depressing? After hearing a favorite song from your youth, do you find yourself fondly (and ignorantly) reminiscing? Or, are you self-aware enough to buck the trends and have a happy-ever-after without any pickles princes?

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Check out what I wrote this week. These posts may affect your day:
Wednesday, March 6: Wrote “It Takes Pains to Be Beautiful but I’m No Masochist,” a discussion of whether beauty is skin-deep and how much some people need to help that.
Also, “A Ghost of a Pinned Chance,” in response to Peregrine Arc‘s writing prompt.

Thursday, March 7: “The Cure for Depression: Get Outside,” another suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.
And, typed up a free-verse poem, “Seasonal Perspectives.”

Friday, March 8: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Michael Fishman!
I was prolific this week! Wrote “The Seedy Underbelly of Writing.” Be careful out there, people.

Saturday, March 9: Announced the 17th Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is Under-the-Table Deals. PLEASE ENTER!

Sunday, March 10: “I’d Like to Mouse Wheel a Motion,” my entry for Carrot Ranch‘s prompt this week.

Monday, March 11: “Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Five.” Pants Hands-down, one of the funniest in the series so far
Tuesday, March 12:  An inspirational quote by @Girlbebrave.

Wednesday, March 13: Today.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. I wrote “Selfish Selflessness,” “The @#*&% Diet,” and quoted Erma Bombeck.

 

Photo Credit:
Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

Which Side Will Ye Choose?

Introspection has left me a bit concerned.

It comes from Disney movies, really. Those seemingly innocent graphical displays for children planted a seed in my developing years, one that was never really meant to flower or even grow. This is because the packets I was attracted to, amid the vast array of smiling Princess Tulips and Prince Charming Roses, were always those meant to shrivel and die.

I speak of The Villains.

Just think: if they were to be represented by some sort of vegetation, would it be a healthy variety? A pleasant green thing? A flower?

Rafflesia
“The Rafflesia is considered one of the ugliest flowers in the world and on top of that, it smells like rotting meat… It feeds on other plants to survive.”

Maybe the sort of healthy, living thing that could EAT YOU.

No, villains are the scapegoat. They’re the blame for good, noble characters ever needing to do something questionable. Unfortunately, they must also suffer the worst typecasting, character motivations, and evil characteristics.

Does one really need a maniacal laugh to be considered for the job?

Strangely, I am not attracted to villains because of concern for any of these things. I’m not out to get them sympathy, a decent backstory, and equal rights. I’m pretty sure I like the dark side because it’s awesome.

I threw Disney under the bus initially because those are the earliest memories I have of being drawn to the films’ antagonists instead of the ones I’m supposed to like. I’m talking Maleficent, Snow White’s stepmother, or Mad Mad Mad Mad Madam Mim.

Maleficent of the 1959 animated film is so purely cliché, but this doesn’t phase me. I can only respect a villain who is clearly evil for evil’s sake; bestowing a curse, cackling, destroying her own minions, and transforming to a dragon to finally kill that pesky prince.

As one can imagine, my aberrant obsession has just gotten worse over the years.

I’ve been drawn to The Goblin King of Labyrinth, Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers, and Darth Maul of Star Wars, Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Really, though, one can’t blame me when it’s David Bowie, Tim Curry, and Ray Park we’re talking about.

Maul
Darth Maul, himself

I like Qui-Gon. Really. And I knew Obi-Wan was supposed to live long enough to instruct a whiny Luke in the future. But couldn’t Darth Maul have lived longer than a few double light saber scenes as well?

I think I’ve gotten distracted.

Ah, yes: my distractions. In my defense, I am not drawn to lame villains. You can keep your Ursula, Jafar, Gaston, Yzma, Prince John, Governor Ratcliffe, Judge Frollo and the like. In adult films; I just can’t enjoy Raoul Silva, The Merovingian, or Richmond Valentine.

Are you thinking of pointing out a redeeming characteristic of mine? One that involves me clearly thinking a bad guy is cool only when he is? Maybe I like the ones that have something likeable so that is my motivation?

If so, thank you. BUT, the problem is that I do not like the hero in most films. If it’s likeability that draws me in, shouldn’t I extend that attribute across to the brighter side of things? I’m sorry; good guys just aren’t that interesting to me. Woohoo, they did the boring thing and saved the day -right? Yay.

As such, one might bring up Ocean’s ElevenThe Italian Job, or Batman in general. No luck. Even “heroes” who break the law, and are therefore villainous, don’t quite do it for me.

I can’t help but feel a fangirl crush at the sight of a depressed, conflicted, powerful soul. He or she destroys the weak, one-sided protagonist with a cleverly-contrived trap. Then, he turns to the camera and intelligently delivers his Monologue of Evil with a British accent.

Maybe I just need to watch more foreign films?

Or, maybe I am -as I suspect- slightly evil?

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unsplash-logoPeter Forster