Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

  • Mood:

Poem: "The Changing Face of Fear"

This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls and fills the "brainwashing" square in my 1-1-16 card for the Spies, Secret Agents, and Noir Bingo fest. It has been sponsored by daisiesrockalot. It belongs to the Berettaflies thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"The Changing Face of Fear"

Dr. Roderstein's office had quickly
become a familiar refuge for Adalina,
with its sleek hardwood floor and
warm brown furnishings.

A sand tray and an art desk
offered different ways for people
to work through their fears.

Adalina sat down on the couch,
got up, paced around the room,
and then sat down again.

"You're restless today,"
Dr. Roderstein observed.

"I'm worried," Adalina said. "Did
SPOON tell you what happened?
Someone was supposed to do that."
She really didn't want to repeat
the whole story again herself.

"Yes, you put me on your list of
emergency contacts, so I heard that
supervillains kidnapped you right out of
the SPOON parking lot and held you
captive in an abandoned mall," he said.
"Then your friends rescued you."

"Yes, they did," said Adalina.
Then she hesitated. "Um ..."

They had discussed this part,
all four of them, because disclosure
was a big step that affected everyone,
but in the end they agreed that Adalina
could tell her counselor. It might help him
take care of her -- and he'd already done
a great job for her and Facet.

"Take your time deciding what you want
or need to tell me," Dr. Roderstein said,
patting the air in a soothing gesture.

"My friends found me because they
could feel something was wrong,
and where to find me," Adalina said.
"I, uh, have Hive Mind. And apparently
Pheromones too, but that one's new."

"Is that why you requested
an extra session today?"
Dr. Roderstein asked.

"Part of why," Adalina said.
"The main reason is that I think
I need to retune my therapy about
Facet, and I'm not entirely sure how.
I was hoping you could help."

"Yes, of course," he said, making
a note on his tablet computer.
"Was anyone hurt in the rescue?"

"The bad guys got their butts kicked and
some of them wound up in the hospital.
The rest of us are mostly fine," Adalina said,
rubbing her wrists, although the healer
had smoothed over the ghastly rash left
by the tape. "Turns out that I'm allergic to
some adhesives now. Ashley has a bruised rib."

"How is your friend Facet?"
Dr. Roderstein asked.

"He scraped up his face and his left eye when
he collapsed in the parking lot," Adalina said.
"I helped him clean up after the fight, and
a really nice med student in the ER finished
picking the gravel out of his skin. The healer
says there's no damage to any living tissue
in Facet's eye, so it's best to wait until
the scraped chitin moults naturally."

"You helped him clean up?"
Dr. Roderstein said, pouncing
on the most relevant clue.

"Yes," Adalina said, leaning forward.
"When Facet got hurt, I realized
that I'm not really afraid of him
anymore, I'm afraid for him."

"What do you think might have
changed that?" Dr. Roderstein asked.

"Your exercises helped a lot,"
Adalina said. "Mostly, though,
he's just a terrific guy. I needed
some time to learn that, and now
that I have, his face is just his face.
It's unusual, but it's not scary anymore."

"I'm so happy for you," Dr. Roderstein said,
clapping his hands softly. "I knew you could
do it, but I'm impressed by the speed. You and
Facet must have worked very hard on this."

"Yes, we have," said Adalina. She thumped
one of the throw pillows into shape and leaned
against it. "We've spent most of our time together
since we got stung. That has helped our link develop
faster -- I can feel him the clearest, everyone else is
just a wisp. They had to team up to find me, but it
worked. Facet says I must have a lot of potential,
to have anything useful from Hive Mind this soon."

"Well, I don't know much about superpowers,
but I do know the human mind," said Dr. Roderstein.
"What makes you afraid for Facet now?"

"I don't know how to take care of him,"
Adalina said. Her hands twisted together.
"I got by this time, using what I know
of first aid, but we didn't study more
than the basics of eye injuries -- and
that was for human eyes."

"You have strengths, knowledge,
and skills that you can build on,"
Dr. Roderstein assured her.
"Think about how you can use
what you have to accomplish
the new things you need to do."

"I don't know anything about insect eyes!"
Adalina said, throwing up her hands. "What if
Facet gets hurt again, and I don't know how
to fix it? Or I make it even worse somehow?"

"If you want to provide first aid for
your new friends like you do at parties,
then you may need some new training,"
Dr. Roderstein said. He picked up his tablet
and ran a quick search. "Let's see ... most of
the current offerings seem to focus on
insect stings due to the berettaflies."

"Yeah, Ashley and Tsubasa are looking into
those classes," said Adalina. "I'll pick it up
when I can, but first I want to cover Facet.
He doesn't have much other backup, and
he's not great at taking care of himself.
I think it's because other people don't
value him much, so neither does he."

"Hmm," said Dr. Roderstein, tapping
his forefingers together. "I've seen insects
in zoos. Someone must take care of those.
Other people look after soups. Let's both
scout around and find some classes to expand
your skills. Emergencies are a lot less scary
when you know how to respond to them."

"My self-defense classes certainly
came in handy," Adalina said. She
had taken those in hopes of learning
how to break up fights at parties.

"How do you feel about that?"
Dr. Roderstein asked her.
"Kidnapping can be very alarming."

"At first I was scared, but then I was
more angry," said Adalina. "When Facet fell --
I thought he was dead, and that was terrifying.
I think that I panicked for about a minute. Once I
realized that the getaway driver had locked me
in an ambulance, though, I concentrated
on finding some tools and weapons."

"You did amazingly well," Dr. Roderstein said.
"That kind of focused response helps reduce
traumatic stress. It's the feeling of helplessness
that does the worst of the damage."

"Student responder," Adalina said.
"I may be out of my league,
but I am not helpless."

"Good," said the counselor.
"It's important to understand
the changing face of fear.
Have you and your friends
talked about handling danger
and how you want to respond
to any future threats?"

"Talked, debriefed, and argued,"
Adalina said with a groan. "Facet
really is a superhero, you know?
He doesn't want anyone to get hurt,
not even the bad guys. Ashley is
the opposite, you piss her off and she
is out for your ass. Tsubasa and I both
fall somewhere in the middle."

"That's actually a good thing,"
said Dr. Roderstein. "The weight's
in the center, so your group should stay
pretty stable, but you have someone
anchoring each end. Too much caution
or aggression could get people hurt;
you need a balance. On the other hand,
it's more fractious that way. How much
diversity training do you have?"

"Plenty," said Adalina. "I don't know about
the others, but I love Sankofa. I know enough
to make diversity an asset instead of a liability.
I also know how much work it is -- and we
are already hauling a lot of fresh weight."

"Make sure you schedule plenty of time
to rest and relax," he advised. "You are
still recovering from the original incident."

Adalina chuckled. "Yeah, Facet
found out the hard way. He thought
that he was fully recovered, but after
the fighting stopped ... splat.
He ran out of energy."

"How are you?" Dr. Roderstein asked
as his concerned, professional gaze
made a slow sweep over her body.
"Recently you've experienced a lot of
stress and changes, which can have
quite an impact on your feelings."

"I'm tired and shaken, but basically okay,"
Adalina said. "I got bounced around a bit.
I know that it could've been a lot worse.
The Ring Mistress tried to roll me -- she's
some nasty kind of empath -- but it didn't stick.
Facet thinks my Hive Mind protected me."

"Mindrape is an ugly thing, Adalina,"
Dr. Roderstein said seriously.
"Don't take that lightly."

"I'm not," she said. "SPOON even
had a mindhealer check to make sure
there's no ... damage. The Ring Mistress
didn't really get into my head, just tried to."

"I hear a 'but' in there," he said. "Talk it out.
What do you feel in your body right now?"

"I feel scooped out. Wobbly. Like I don't
have anything solid to lean on," Adalina said.

"Next, look for the roots of what you're feeling,"
Dr. Roderstein coached. "Where is that wobble
coming from? What makes you feel unstable?"

"Some of what she said is bothering me,"
Adalina admitted. Her toes knocked
against the leg of the coffee table,
until she made herself stop.

"Assess the plausibility," he said.

"Most of it's obvious nonsense --
if her dogma was a dog, it would be
the sad mutt at the pound that nobody
wants to adopt," said Adalina. "But she
also insisted that I was being brainwashed,
and if I was, how would I even know it?"

That was the thing that had wrecked her sleep
since the fight: the not knowing if someone
had messed with her head. Because if it was
SPOON doing that, then their mindhealer
wouldn't have said anything about it.

"There are checklists for things like that,"
her counselor offered. "Would you like
to go over one of them together?"

"Yes, please," Adalina said.

If this was something that could be
measured, then maybe doing that
would kill off the doubts that had been
nagging her since the kidnapping.

"All right, give me a minute to find
a good list," said Dr. Roderstein.
His fingers tapped on his tablet.
"Here's one we can use. First, has
anyone pressured you for money
or your financial information?"

"No, in fact, Facet keeps telling me
I don't owe SPOON anything because
I was the victim of a soup attack and
they have funds for that," she said.
"They must have spent a mint on me
just for medical care alone. I feel
like the world's biggest mooch."

"You're not worried they'll demand
that you pay it back?" he said.

"No, I'm worried that they won't let me,"
said Adalina. "I don't like owing people.
I want to pull my own weight."

"That's reasonable," said Dr. Roderstein.
"Responsible people want to contribute.
Give yourself at least until the end of
your first month before you go looking
for work. You're racking up a lot of
study time on new topics, and that's
a form of contribution too."

"Okay," said Adalina. "I will
try to keep that in mind."

"What do you think of Facet as
a mentor?" asked Dr. Roderstein.
"Does he listen to you, or does he
act like he knows everything?"

"He's a pretty good listener," Adalina said.
"I think he's out of practice dealing with
people, though. So many of them are
mean to him, I swear I'm going to bite
someone's head off if they keep it up."

"Remember that he scared you too,
at first," the counselor reminded her.

"Yeah, but I got over it, and I tried
not to be a total bitch about it," she said.
"Some people are too lazy."

"Who else besides Facet has seemed
like an influential figure to you?"
Dr. Roderstein asked.

"Granny Whammy called to talk with
me about the berettaflies," said Adalina.
"She was all sympathetic about me getting
stung, but then she tried to congratulate me
on becoming a superhera. What the hey?
I have to reorganize a bunch of my college stuff,
and she wants to talk about a career change?
Someone needs to tell her to go soak her head!"

Then Adalina clapped a hand over her mouth.
"Please don't tell anyone I said that."

"I won't," he promised. "Client confidentiality
applies. I think you're right, though -- she
needs to hear 'no' more often."

Adalina giggled, trying to imagine
someone saying 'No!' to Granny Whammy
like shooing a dog away from the sausages.
"Maybe she does," Adalina said.

"How do people respond when you ask
questions?" her counselor said. "Do they
answer, or discourage you? Do you have
people you can trust with your questions?"

"Well, that's what Facet is for, he's
my soup mentor so it's his job to answer
all the newbie-Qs," said Adalina. "Nurse Overton
has been awesome about the icky medical stuff."
Thinking about the first awful days still made
Adalina shudder. "She even got me through
the stupid panic attack that I had after
the vision tests confirmed I can see
ultraviolet and polarized light."

"There's nothing stupid about getting upset
over major life changes," said Dr. Roderstein.
"What matters is that you face your feelings
and have support for them if you need it."

"People have been pretty great,"
Adalina said. "I'm lucky to have them."

"How about friends and family?"
Dr. Roderstein asked. "Have you kept
in touch, or has anyone tried to isolate
you from your support network?"

"That's been rough," Adalina admitted.
"I don't have much contact with my family.
Some of my teachers are being supportive,
but others are mad that I need to defer classes
and finish up later. A bunch of -- excuse me --"

She had to stop and grab a handful of tissues
from the ever-present box on the end table.

"Take your time," he murmured.
"Big events cause big feelings.
You need to let them happen
so that you can process them."

Adalina nodded. After she got the tears
under control, she continued, "A bunch of
my classmates died, so it's really hard to be
with my other college friends right now."

"Who else is filling that gap for you?"
Dr. Roderstein asked, tilting his head.

"Facet has asked if I want to attend
a few school activities, and there was
the campus meeting about the berettaflies,
but he hasn't pushed me," she said. "He just ...
kind of stepped up when I didn't respond.
He talked me into going out for ice cream
right before I got kidnapped. That's
why we were in the parking lot."

"Then I'm not seeing much sign of
brainwashing," the counselor said. "A cult
usually tries to control a convert's money,
information, and outside contacts as a way
of influencing beliefs and actions.
That's not happening here."

"Oh, thank god," said Adalina. "I thought
that maybe I was just overlooking it."

"I can give you some worksheets on
brainwashing and other thought distortions
so you can check yourself if this comes up
in the future," said Dr. Roderstein.

"Yes, please," said Adalina,
and they transferred the files.

"Did the Ring Mistress say anything else
that bothered you?" asked Dr. Roderstein.

"Yes. She talked a lot about oppression of
soups, like America is some bottom-ten country,
but we're not. I know that," said Adalina.

"I'm listening," said Dr. Roderstein.

"The part that bothers me is when
she said soups don't have representation,
and I couldn't think of any counterpoints
to that," Adalina said, bouncing a fist against
her knee. "She also said that people become
supervillains because they have no choice.
What would I know about that? Ashley said
some alarming things during the fight, though ..."

"Let's take those one at a time,"
said Dr. Roderstein. "Can you
think of any soups in politics or
other important positions?"

"Well, there's Granny Whammy,
she's a huge influence but she's
not actually a politician," said Adalina.
"No matter how often people beg her
to run for office, she always refuses."

"She feels that she can do more good
elsewhere, and she's probably right,"
said Dr. Roderstein. "Anyone else?"

"There's Scrunch in Britannia --
everyone knows about him -- and
then Contretemps up in Canada, but
he's just a businessman interested in
politics, not a politician," said Adalina.
"And they're both supervillains."

"That does match the estimates, though,"
said Dr. Roderstein. "There are about
two supervillains for every superhero.
I can't think of any major politicians
with superpowers. The Ring Mistress
may actually have a point here."

Adalina whimpered.
"I wanted her to be wrong.
I need for her to be wrong."

"One of the uncomfortable truths
in my profession is that sometimes
the 'crazy' people are right," he said.
"That's why we're trying to fact-check
all the things that are bothering you,
to sort out sense from nonsense."

"I guess," Adalina said.
It still made her uncomfortable.

"I don't know much about why someone
might become a supervillain," said Dr. Roderstein.
"I suppose some of the reasons probably overlap
why people become ordinary criminals -- greed,
a history of abuse, untreated mental issues,
a rough neighborhood, that sort of thing."

"Lack of better opportunities,"
Adalina whispered. "I know that
happens to ordinary people too, and
Facet warned me about discrimination."

"So this part may be true, but we
don't know how true," said Dr. Roderstein.

"The SPOON website has a section for
supervillains," said Adalina. "I haven't gone,
but I've seen it in the menu. Maybe it says
something about their reasons there."

She used her smartphone to look it up,
giggling over some of the pamphlet titles.
'How To Apologize And Make Nice:
The Healthy Supervillain Edition.'
'Making Franken-Critters:
Why and Why Not.'

"I don't see anything here
explaining their reasons,"
Adalina said eventually.

"Perhaps no one has asked yet,"
said Dr. Roderstein. "I've found that
people like to talk about themselves."

"Maybe here, but soups aren't as
chatty," Adalina said. "Some of us have
dangerous secrets that could really hurt
someone if they got out. I've been
warned to think before I speak."

"It might not work then," he admitted.
"I'd still like to try, though. I bet that
some supervillains don't have anyone to talk with
and it might help them -- maybe even convince
them to switch to a different line of work.
Besides, it would be voluntary."

"I don't know much about surveying
people, but I have some classmates
who do," said Adalina. "I could ask
them, and check at SPOON to see
how things get added to their website."

"I know how to write psychological surveys
and frame things according to ethical standards
for human research," said Dr. Roderstein.
"Let's both consult our own sources and
compare notes in the next session."

That made Adalina check her vidwatch.
"Oh gosh, time's almost up."

"How are you feeling now?"
her counselor asked.

"Better," Adalina said. "The kidnapping
was scary, but we got through it. I'm
really glad about not being brainwashed.
The supervillain stuff is still worrisome,
but we've got ideas on how to follow up
on that. I'm pretty confident that I can
learn how to take care of Facet, too.
I guess that I just needed someone
to help me work through it all."

"That's what I'm here for,"
Dr. Roderstein said.

"Thanks," Adalina said, standing up.
"I'd be totally lost without you."

"I doubt that," he said as he
opened the door to let her out,
"but I'm glad I could help."

* * *


Dr. Bryson Roderstein -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short curly brown hair. He lives in Easy City, where he works as a counselor specializing in fears, from annoying distractions on up to life-wrecking phobias. He understands negative emotions and the positive role they can play in personal growth. He doesn't heal well from physical injuries, though. Dr. Roderstein helps Adalina deal with Facet's unusual face.
Qualities: Master (+6) Emotional Intelligence, Master (+6) Insightful, Expert (+4) Psychologist, Expert (+4) Soothing Voice, Good (+2) Campfire Singer, Good (+2 Networking, Good (+2) Thinking Outside the Box
Poor (-2) Slow Healer

* * *

Dr. Roderstein's office has an art therapy desk and a sand tray for expressive therapy.

Self-disclosure is an important part of therapy and other human interactions, but it has pros and cons for people with a stigmatized concealable identity. This gets especially complicated when the thing you want to reveal about yourself also necessarily affects other people, as with Adalina's superpower and her hivemates. There are different ways to reveal things and sensible steps to follow.

Therapy for fear and trauma needs to account for a range of intensities, although few local-American resources discuss this. L-America advice is not to seek help until your problem is literally wrecking your life. But there are cases like this, where a fundamentally healthy person with good coping skills gets hit with a cluster of challenges, and just needs a little support in figuring out how to handle that. It's why Adalina bounces back so fast. Therapists can help by asking open-ended questions and inviting the client to explore feelings, thoughts, and possible actions.

Change comes in many varieties, and good therapy accounts for that. You can tell that your therapy is working when it makes you feel better and improves your life. However, this may mean you need to discuss other things with your therapist and refocus your therapeutic plan to keep up with your current needs.

First aid for eyes can get kind of complicated, and that's just for one species. Trying to go from basic care of simple eyes to treating injuries to compound eyes is a daunting jump.

Feelings of helplessness increase the risk that disturbing experiences will lead to traumatic stress which lingers over time. Thus, training for a crisis reduces the chance of traumatic stress. Even if you can't stop the disaster, working the problem allows your brain to process it better and then overcome the impact afterwards.

Student responders study such things as first aid, emergency preparedness, and party safety. Some colleges encourage medical students to volunteer, which not only provides better emergency care on campus but also gives them valuable job-relevant experience. The more someone practices thinking about emergencies and how to handle them, the better chance they will handle any crisis well, even something outside their training. Skills generalize: learn how to stay calm in a crisis, keep other people calm, and handle a wide range of emergencies.

The awkward experiences with new superpowers can be greatly reduced by finding a mentor. Here are some tips on getting yourself a mentor.

Morality depends on complex factors. There are many models of moral development, and it is inherently a messy topic. Moral values and actions exist on a spectrum, which can be mapped. You can also examine different pillars of morality. Games may use a 3x3 or 5x5 alignment chart. to compare different characters. Here is an explanation of the 3x3 model, which uses good-evil, lawful-chaotic, and neutral. One alternative to alignment is a moral code based on multiple criteria. In this case, we could map the hive from most practical (Ashley) to most idealistic (Facet). Here is a class exercise on exploring the moral spectrum.

Diversity is a combination of different traits. It provides advantages in interpersonal and professional contexts. It also requires hard work. Learn about diversity skills.

Sankofa means "If you forgot it, go back and get it." In Terramagne-America, Sankofa clubs celebrate diversity. More obliquely, this helps raise acceptance of superpowers, too. There are many ways to value and teach diversity with children.

Mindrape is a violation of psychological integrity. It is most often discussed in entertainment, via superpowers or other extraordinary abilities. However, it also happens in real life, a process sometimes called earwigging. Another example is forced therapy, in which a counselor barges into someone else's psyche and attempts to rearrange it in a manner more pleasing to himself -- or whomever is paying the bill. Mindrape often does more damage than genital rape, as a victim of genital rape may employ protective strategies to shield the mind such as dissociating from the body; but this is much more difficult to do when the mind itself is assaulted.

Productivity is an essential part of life, and it is far more about contribution than employment. People often resist taking "handouts" even when in desperate need. This happens because people need to feel useful, and tend to become miserable if they cannot contribute. Understand how to make yourself useful and contribute to society. Do this even if people tell you that you are useless; it will piss them off when you prove them wrong. However, productivity isn't everything, and there are times when you need to ease up -- like right after a major crisis. Adalina needs to find ways of contributing that will not overload her already strained resources.

Brainwashing involves steps to control someone's mind. It is possible to break free, though. If you're wondering whether you have been brainwashed, look for warning signs and find a good checklist. The ABCDEF is an elaborate framework of analyzing cult danger. Know how to recognize and avoid brainwashing.

Cognitive distortions and logical fallacies can wreck your life. But notice how closely these distorted thought patterns compare to brainwashing messages. When you learn to spot them and challenge them, you can avoid their influence.

Worksheets cover such topics as observing instead of judging, recording dysfunctional thoughts, recording evidence for and against thoughts, and challenging negative thoughts.

Sometimes, the "crazy" person is right, which appears in the tropes Cuckoolander and Only Sane Man. However, it happens in real life too. Just because the Ring Mistress is mentally ill, doesn't mean she's wrong about everything; she has astutely identified several flaws in T-American society. She just goes about trying to fix them in rather destructive ways.

People become criminals for a wide range of personal and social reasons. Look at the background of supervillains in Terramagne, and you can see that many of them were severely damaged by their past, while others suffered from a lack of lawful opportunities. These are things T-America needs to fix in order to lower its supervillain population, because it is much easier to prevent a supervillain than to stop one. By analyzing risk and protective factors, we can reduce the number of people who commit crimes.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.