Sophie’s Advocate: A Short Story for the Ages

Fiction Writing, Short Stories

This is a short story that was written sometime at the beginning of 2022. This is my first self-published fictional short story. It features elements of contemporary and political issues regarding women and teenage pregnancy. Take of it what you will. How the story ends is entirely up to you.

A strand of black hair fell in front of Sophie’s face as she sat in the bathroom silently crying. She was already running late for school. As she cried in the bathroom in complete stillness, her little sister Sasha knocked on the door.

Sophie knew she needed to get out of the bathroom and quickly dried her tears. Her mom shouted from the hallway and told her to open up because Sasha had to brush her teeth. It was 7:13 am on a crisp fall morning in Boston. Sophie opened the door and let Sasha in. Sophie picked up her little sister and embraced her with a huge hug. Her thoughts were running 1000 miles per minute as she set Sasha back down.

She coaxed Sasha over to the sink to help her brush her teeth. “Soapy?” little Sasha asks, “What’s that?”, as she pointed to the tiny pink pregnancy test on the counter. 

 Soapy was Sophie’s nickname since Sasha learned how to talk. She could never pronounce “Sophie”, so as a toddler she resorted to Soapy. Ever since then, it stuck. It’s like when Sophie was little and her mother laughed when she called chocolate milk “cawlet milk”. Sophie quickly snatched the test up and put it in the back pocket of her blue jeans.

 “It’s nothing, Sasha. Here, put some toothpaste on your brush.”

Sophie squeezed the toothpaste onto her sister’s toothbrush and made a fart noise. Sasha burst into laughter and Sophie smiled at her, satisfied that she distracted Sasha from the pregnancy test. Sophie turned on the water and rushed out of the bathroom. She told her mom she was leaving for school, grabbed her backpack, and ran out the door.  

Sophie ran down the gray, cold cement steps of the red brick two-flat condo. The smell of fall leaves on the ground swirled into Sophie’s nose. The thought of her dad crossed her mind. She wondered what he would think of her being pregnant if he was still around and didn’t abandon her, her mom, and Sasha. Slinging her blue backpack over her shoulder she ran toward the bus stop. She looked behind her and saw that the bus was nearby and catching up quickly. In unison, she and the bus raced to the bus stop on Massachusetts Avenue, side by side.

Catching her breath as the doors swung open violently, she got on the bus, waved her bus card, and plopped down onto a seat near the back of the bus. As she sat down, the pregnancy test in the back pocket of her jeans pushed itself into her as a reminder that it was still there. Her heart pounded and beads of sweat dripped down her neck.  She thought of what she would tell Russ.

Worried about how it might affect their relationship, Sophie realized how much she loved him. Sophie loved Russ more than anything. They had been together for three years. She envisioned holding a newborn and the idea of giving birth at the age of 17. As her thoughts scrambled, an elderly man got on the bus and sat in the handicapped seat. He pulled out a newspaper from his inside coat pocket and a bag of cocaine from the other. Sophie was amused at the sight and laughed quietly to herself waiting for the bus driver to notice. The man dipped a penny into his bag and held it to his nose. His clothes were raggedy and she could smell him from across the bus.

The bus sped over a pothole and the old man hollered, “Come on, man! Don’t you know how to fucking drive? Damn these potholes!”

The bus driver had surely upset him now for making him spill. “I’m not sure who you’re getting loud with. Yell at me again, and you can walk the rest of the way.”

The old man got up from his seat and he slipped the tiny bag into his pocket. Hobbling over to the bus driver he started banging on the dashboard.

“That’s it! You’re off!”, the bus driver yelled.

He stopped the bus and stood up appearing much taller than the old man.

“This is bullshit! It’s freezing out there this morning!”, the old man yelled and cursed the bus driver’s name all the way off the bus and down the cold pavement. This caused Sophie to arrive at school even later. 

Sophie continued to daydream about lunchtime because she knew she’d see Russ in the cafeteria. She slouched at her desk and stared out the window, unable to focus. Chewing gum helped her with her anxiety, but it was not allowed. Her English teacher always made sure to give Sophie a hard time about it. Sophie chewed away relentlessly. She suddenly felt the heat of a million eyes staring at her. The entire class was silent.

“Sophie?!” her teacher exclaimed.

Her head snapped right into the direction of Ms. McCauley.

“Huh?”, said Sophie. “You’re chewing gum again. You know it isn’t allowed,” Ms. McCauley said.

Sophie’s eyes squinted and her brows pushed together in the middle of her forehead as if they were trying to touch each other.

Sophie yelled back, “UGH! I’m not hurting anyone.”

 Sophie, you can go to the office and claim your detention slip, Ms. McCauley said.

Sophie got out of her seat, scooting her chair back so loud that it screeched on the floor. She purposely wanted to disrupt the class for disrupting her daydreams.

Slamming the old wooden door on her way out she heard Ms. McCauley’s voice echoing down the hall.

“Shakespeare’s plays can be divided up into different categories: Comedies, histories, and tragedies.” Sophie heard the words; Comedies, histories, and tragedies. If my life were a play it must be a tragedy, she thought to herself. 

She sat in the office waiting to schedule her detention while still chewing her gum when she saw Mr. Tuffin, the school social worker. Peering through the glass window of the main office door she spotted him instantly. His hair was silver and white making him look as cold as ice, which Sophie always thought was ironic considering he was the opposite.

His blue plaid button-down shirt was part of an unwritten dress code that all the staff his age also wore. Mr. Tuffin used his hands when he talked. His ring finger had a gold band and his hands looked as wrinkled as laundry that hadn’t been folded for days. He was talking to the sophomore science teacher. Mr. Tuffin was the only person who truly was able to see the good in Sophie. They met when she went to peer-mediation for a fight she got into with another girl on the first day of freshman year. He spotted her sitting in the office.

Ending the conversation with his colleague he came into the office where Sophie was sitting.

“By the looks of it, you’re not excited to be here, huh? What happened?” he asked her. 

“I was chewing gum”, she said, as a giant bubble formed on her lips and popped carelessly.

“A classic Sophie Seskas move! Nice,” he exclaimed. He was always cheerful and tried to find humor in everything.

“You know the rules,” he said. “Yeah, yeah. And you know more” she hinted.

“Soph, you’re a good kid. You shouldn’t be in trouble so often. I know things have been rough since your dad left, but you’re smarter than that.” he told her. 

She looked at him like a puppy looks at its owner after having an accident in the house. She knew he was right. Mr. Tuffin said she was just a diamond in the rough. Chewing gum was the least of her worries now. She didn’t care about detention or her dad. She wanted to speak to the Dean and head to lunch so she could see Russ. Besides that, she really could use a cigarette, or maybe a joint.

After getting her detention slip from the Dean to bring home to her mom to sign, she finally got to the cafeteria. Russ was standing near a corner of the lunchroom with a group of friends. Dressed in hoodies and sweatpants of all colors of the rainbow they resembled a living canvas of spilled paint. She managed to get Russ alone. 

 He was much taller than her, and his eyes were the color of dark chocolate. His hair was long and brown and flowed naturally like a river. His olive skin was opposite to hers, and she liked that about him.

“Sophie, relax,” he assured her. “Russ! How can I?” she said with tears in her eyes. She looked around at the other kids in the cafeteria. The smell of burgers made her want to throw up. She hoped nobody would notice her crying.

“This is serious,” she said.

“Maybe it’s a false positive,” he assured her. 

“Maybe that’s a false hope.” She mimicked him.

“What are we going to do?” she asked. Russ was shocked by the news and could tell that Sophie was more than upset.

In a reassuring tone, he told her, “We will figure it out together. Meet me by the tree after class.”

The tree was their spot. It was where they always hung out after school. A giant oak stood tall on the lawn near the track and football fields. She anticipated the last bell’s ring more anxious than a child on Christmas morning.

 After school, they smoked under the tree.

“Did you tell anyone, Russ?” Sophie asked him as the smoke blew out of her mouth.

“No… Well, I told Johnnie,” his voice cracked. Her eyes widened.

“You shouldn’t have told anyone yet! Damn it”, she kicked the tree.

“Everyone will find out sooner or later anyway if we decide to keep it” Russ told her. They stayed near the tree for hours as they contemplated what to do. They stayed near the tree until the stars came out despite the cold winds of autumn.

 Sophie strolled home after dark. Her mom waited up for her.

“Anything you want to tell me?” her mother asked quietly so as to not wake Sasha.

Sophie closed the door softly behind her. Her mother, Maria, gave her the look of death with green eyes that pierced her like the sting of a bullet. Her mother looked just like her, only older, wiser, and a little more stout. Maria knew that Sophie was acting out due to her dad leaving them. She tried to go easy on Sophie when she could, but Sophie’s behavior was impossible to manage at times. Maria missed the days when Sophie was still innocent and ignorant of the evil and heartbreak of the world. 

“Mrs. Bernardi called tonight,” Maria announced. Sophie’s heartbeat thundered in her chest. She knew Johnnie told his mom. Johnnie Bernardi was the biggest snitch and unfortunately, best friends with Russ.

“Asshole” Sophie mumbled under her breath, “Hell, of course, she did!”

The next day Maria and Russ’s mom, Angelica, spoke on the phone and decided that Sophie would get an abortion.

“They are simply too young. This can’t happen,” said Mrs. Angelica Jones.

Russ’s mom also wasn’t fond of Sophie. Sophie felt confused, alone, and unsure of what to think or do. What would happen to her if she had an abortion? She wondered if it would kill her. Would it damage her insides? How could she go through with it? There was a baby inside of her. It was her and Russ’s baby. There was no way she could go through with it. Maria and Angelica scheduled Sophie’s appointment as soon as they found out.

On the morning of the procedure, she didn’t bother to style her hair or put on makeup. It’s not like she had any reason to be glamorous. She was nervous and shaking the entire car ride to the clinic. When she and her mom pulled up there was a large group of people standing outside on the sidewalk just near the entrance. They dressed in bright orange vests and were carrying large signs; the enormous signs that you only see at a protest. The signs had blood-red paint which Sophie thought was used as symbolism.

Crosses were painted on the signboards, and the group chanted about how abortion is murder. God will give you hope. God will give you strength. Don’t kill your baby. It’s an innocent child. They shouted. They weren’t new to what they were doing. They must have rehearsed more than a cheer squad getting ready for finals.

“MURDERER!” they screamed at her.

They spewed hatred and verses from their bibles as she went into the clinic, not even 18 years old, with her very embarrassed mother by her side. Sophie and her mother said nothing. The air was filled with such a strong silence that it consumed them entirely.

 Sophie had a decision to make. She considered the words of the women outside, even though they seemed like religious nut freaks. She thought of Russ and his dark chocolate eyes and his olive skin. She wondered how the baby would look. She felt it inside of her. Sophie was not ready to part. She thought of what the baby’s nose would be like. Would it be wide or upturned? Would the baby be a boy? A girl? Sophie wondered. 

 “Sophie.”

Her mother called her to the desk where she was filling out paperwork.

“You need to sign this. You need to consent to the procedure.” 

 She couldn’t look her mother in the eye. She took the pen. As she lifted the pen, she imagined running out of the clinic and the protestors cheering her on. They would shout for her. Those protesters would celebrate for her. They’d celebrate as if Sophie had just crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The applause was so loud now in Sophie’s mind. Her hand trembled as she held the pen. She reminded herself of who she was and how much she’d endured in her life so far.

Sophie realized that this decision was solely up to her; and was one only she could make. The only one who could truly advocate for her in this world was herself. 

If you were Sophie – what would you do? This story was written with the intention of sharing a fictional point of view of a direct inside look at millions of stories just like these. While fictional, this story has many truthful elements that take place not just in the USA but across the world.

Teenage pregnancy and abortion will forever be debatable and controversial issues that people may in fact never agree on. What I hope readers take from this story is the fact that we all make our own choices. While the choices we make might not be agreeable to some – it is best to remember that the choices we make must be ones that benefit our own lives regardless of what other people may think. Life is short and pretty wild. Be careful, stay safe, and be smart.

The Gift: A Poem

Poetry
I have a gift for you, my grandpa says. 
With excitement, I jump up and down. 
So tiny and little, my feet make no sound. 

He has a box and it's wrapped with a bow. 
Someday, my dear, you will certainly know. 
Keep the box with you and never let go. 

This gift will guide you and it will protect.
When it is open you can see the things you will never forget. 
Greater than any other gift, nothing will compare. 
Unwrap the box and you will see how I care. 

All of those times you should not have been alive, 
And should not have survived,
It was me
And the gift, 
Working out of sight. 

The one that I gave you so long ago. 
The prettiest one, that was wrapped with a bow.
You have much work to do still, here in this life.  

This is a gift that can withstand all time. 
You can pass down the gift to your own down the line. 
It was given to me, and now I’ve given it to you. 
Stay strong and have courage, as we need you to do. 

There is no greater gift than the truest of love. 
Marching behind you, we push and we shove.
Your wisdom is brimming, your light they'll try dimming.
Do your greatest and make us so proud. 
Believe in the magic and keep passing it around. 

Do not be afraid, and hold close your gift. 
It’s been crafted with much care, I’m here to uplift. 
Remember me always, my grandpa says. 
No longer tiny and little, I’m fierce and I’m loud. 

When I stomp on the ground my feet do make a sound. 
With all of my force I shake and I scream, 
Energy swarms and it moves and
I see. 

All of the things I was meant to see. 
With the power of the gift, I have so much more. 
It’s everything I’d ever need or could imagine.
More than just one lifetime could fathom. 

Looking at the gift now, the box and the bow, 
I wrap it back up knowing what I know. 
Tie it so tightly, 
With all the love 
And care that I can, 
Now the box feels mighty, even more than before.

Set it aside and wait patiently for the next, 
Now when it’s my turn 
I’ll give it to them too, 
When they most need it!
When the day comes, with honor I'll tell
Someday, my dear, you will certainly know.
Greater than any other gift, nothing will compare. 
With the power of this gift, You will never be defeated.
Keep the box close and always be aware.
Untie the bow and you will see how I care.

The Homemaker: A Poem

Poetry
On a Saturday afternoon, 
When the sun is out, and the sky is bright blue,
I’m in the house stuck again.
All alone and dancing in my room,
With a vacuum in hand.

I remember your face and the things that you said.
You don’t remember of course,
But I’ll never forget.
Now I’ll dance with my vacuum instead of with you.

I open the window to let in some fresh air.
Make my way down the three flights of stairs.
Just to wash all the laundry, I see images of you
In my mind, they taunt me.
Loading the clothes bit by bit,
I wash them and you as I close the lid.

Carrying my soap and basket
Back up the stairs, it’s not so bad I say,
Carrying the weight of my fears.
The weight of the years, the ones spent.
The time wasted that I won’t get back.

Into the kitchen now, here I go.
A sink full of dishes is waiting for me.
They’ve been there forever, just like I waited for you.
Those dishes can’t sit much longer,
We can’t live that way.
Soak them in suds, watch it go down the drain.

Turn around now, and I stare at the floor.
Bits and crumbs, tiny pieces on the tile.
The walls close in, and I feel the pressure.
Grabbing the broom hardly even remembering your smile.
Sweeping myself off my feet as I sweep the kitchen,
You’d be silly to think I even miss you a smidgen.

Hot water now fills up a bucket.
Another romantic date with my mop.
This is what I signed up for,
It’s exactly what I wanted.
Did you think I’d be your little puppet?
You had them lined up.
No use for me.
The truth would have been good.
Or maybe even sympathy.
Dirty mop water, pour it all out.
Like I did with my heart,
And you flushed it all down.
Not a care in the world, you don’t hear a single sound.

I make.
There’s a pot on the stove,
It’s been cooking all day.
Stirring and stirring, daydreaming as I go my own way.
Who is better at stirring the pot?
Is it me or is it you?
Because it’s not just myself who I need to feed,
But the little one who is relying on me.

What is a bathroom break when you must clean the bathroom?
Bleach, baking soda, and mini cleaning brushes,
Are part of my auxiliary.
It’s standard for the code, luxury is forebode.
Don't get caught taking a breather.
Scrubbing the shower, I scour and scour.
Pretending I could scrub you just the same,
But off of my skin.

Dusting the shelves and little knick knacks is part of the routine.
When cleaning the home, I’m also cleaning me!
I polish the floors, while you polish your whores.
When I caress the dishes, you are giving kisses.
I wash the tub, and I dry the puddles.
Reminiscent of the time when I wasn’t sitting in a muddle.

What touch feels like now is a mystery to me.
But then again, so are communication, respect, and boundaries.
The night comes fast, almost too quickly.
I still have one task to complete swiftly.
On top of the cooking and cleaning, I take out the trash.
Symbolic, I think, as I laugh and I laugh.
The house is sparkly and gleaming.

But a repair needs to be made, so I’ve learned how to do it.
I do your job now since you’re not around.
I don’t mind it at all, in fact, it’s quite profound.
The things you’ve taught me just by disappearing, I find quite endearing.

While you’re out nailing and screwing, I’m doing the same.
The only difference is the things you nail and screw actually breathe and have a name.

Inspiration and Contributions

Experiences, Thoughts

“Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”

Maya ANGELOU

I am a bit behind on my writings this week! Normally, I post by Wednesday or Thursday, but this week it has been so busy for me. Finally, I’m at ease and am able to get my words down on this “paper”. 

This week I’ve been thinking about kindness, inspiration, and the good and the bad of life. Each day I have to log on to my browser on my desktop for work, school, and everything else. Whenever I log on, the browser is filled will all kinds of terrifying and depressing stories filled with misery and shock. It makes me crazy if I look too long, so sometimes I head over to this website and look at GOOD NEWS Stories because I despise looking at only bad ones. In fact, watching the news is not allowed in my house! (Before you call me a warden, realize it’s just me, my kid, and the cats.) Most of the news on mainstream news channels is all trash anyway and is weakening the minds of all of us. Never do I ever recall in my life hearing a “good news” story on the 5:00pm news. Do you? In a book I read once, the author broke down how much time we waste by watching the news, and how much more of that time could be used to be productive. Considering I gave up on the news when I was 17 years old, I felt proud to know that my viewpoints aligned with the author in that respect. (And much else of what he said, to be fair.)

As an example let’s do some quick math similar to what the author wrote in the book.

30 minutes of news per day x 5 days a week = 150 minutes of watching news

150 minutes per week x 4 weeks = 600 minutes of watching news per month

600 minutes = 10 hours per month

10 hours per month x 12 months = 120 hours per year

Now if you add in watching both the morning and evening news, you are going to double your numbers in the above equations. Imagine wasting 240 hours per year watching the news.

Photo by Danya Gutan on Pexels.com

Crazy to think about, isn’t it? I feel bad for those that do! If you do, and you are shocked reading the numbers, congratulations this will be the beginning of your new life and a new routine. What can we do with 120-240 hours per year instead of watching the news? We can work on ourselves, our community, our passions, our family dynamics, and hobbies. So back to my main topic – good news and bad news. Positivity vs. negativity. Inspiration and contributions!

Positivity seems to be a recurrent theme on social media these days. Often we post pictures or quotes that have to do with being positive or inspirational. I too am guilty of posting this kind of content. Not that there is anything wrong with it at all – because there really isn’t. Whether we practice what we preach is up to us entirely as individuals. But as the saying goes, “It’s the thought that counts.” Right? When we post these quotes or images on social media, is it just for likes, or is it because we actually want to inspire others? Chances are, it’s the latter. Something I’ve posted recently was an inspirational quote by Bruce Lee, and with the quote, I attached an image that also had a quote by Maya Angelou. The two quotes posted were: 

“Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.” – Bruce Lee 

“Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.” – Maya Angelou 

These two quotes are not only true but also legendary considering who said them. Reposting these quotes is a contribution of sorts and gives a little spark of hope to those who read them. Isn’t that the end goal of sharing these things on social media? It’s like when you read them, you feel a passion or some wonderful sentiment that was not there just seconds before. You feel the emotion behind it. You feel the spark and want to share that spark with other people. Misery loves company or so they say, but I think inspiration does also. 

Through my writing and freelance work, I definitely feel like I help people much more and that I’m making positive contributions to the world. Some of my side gigs also give me that same feeling. I’m no stranger to getting paid to pick up groceries for the elderly or give people a ride when they need it in exchange for cash. Time is money of course, but I also feel good when I’m helping people who actually need help – and getting paid for it. The same thing goes for when I help companies write or edit articles and blog posts, or when I help my clients with their website needs. I love to do it, and I enjoy helping them while I can also have some sort of creative freedom. These are all contributions I make to my life, and my community through my work. Inspiration is one of the driving factors behind such actions.

One time several winters ago, I stopped at a local grocery store near my friend’s house to make a run for some alcohol and munchies. It was the month of January and the temperatures were below freezing. Seeing a homeless woman outside of the store asking for food broke my heart. I’ve never talked about this until now, but I bought a bunch of extra food, including a warm pre-made meal, and gave it to her. Could this also be considered an act of inspiration? I believe so. Random acts of kindness, positivity, and inspiration are just good for us and our mental and physical health. 

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Thinking of situations that are on the giving spectrum, I’ve donated several times to archeological foundations and nature/wildlife foundations. The feelings that prompted me to do so were because these are things that I strongly care about. These are things that trigger my emotion, want, and need to help contribute to my community and earth.

When it comes to contributing to my family, or friends, often I’m putting them before myself. My kid and my fur babies always come first, and for my true friends, I try to be there for them at the drop of a dime. Spending time teaching my son new things, expanding his education by getting him new books, or showing him a new hiking trail is something I consider to be a good contribution to his life. With friends, you might see me trying to make plans with them, or help them through their problems. 

I’m not perfect in any way, and I do not try to be. Even as an adult I’m still trying to practice acts of kindness, gratitude, and contributions of inspiration to myself, my family, and of course my friends. In many ways, I don’t think I’m someone to be setting examples for others, but if I’m in the spotlight to do so my main focus would be practicing to be more understanding and patient with myself and the people who are around me. I believe I do a good job, but there is always room for improvement with anything and everything!

When it comes to inspiration – what inspires you? What inspires you deeply and what inspires you to contribute to the world around you? Always remember – there is good news in the world. Sometimes it is up to us to be that good news.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

New Life

Poetry
Here is a thing you should know. 
When love is true it doesn't need to be proven. 
It's just something you can feel. 
Like a vibe. A sudden burst of energy. 

Like a ray of sunshine, you feel the heat touch your skin. 
You just know it's there. 
She didn't have to prove to you. You know she cared. 
But the best part now is all the time and energy she put into you - 

Now it goes into her. 
Right where it should have been all along. 
She thanks the gods every day,
The moon, and the stars - 
For showing her the way.

The goddesses too,
For leading her down a path -
To where she'd never have to see you, 
Ever again in her life. 

She's happier than ever that she is not yours!
And even more ecstatic that she's
Not a wife. 
2 Years. 

Two years ago today, 
She thought you'd be together forever. 
Two years ago today, she'd never forgotten your face. 
Now she can barely remember your name. 
The memory and pain,
It haunts her - but not all the time. 

Her brain, it wants her;
To Leave you Behind. 
Just like you did to her heart. 
She just doesn't understand why you even had to start. 


Some things are better left unanswered;
Now she doesn't care if she will ever know. 
See. Despite any difficulties, 
Her life has improved drastically since you left. 
In fact, she said she feels 
Like she was saved from sudden death. 


She thinks of it as some sort of a "Divine Intervention"
It's really that magical. 
She laughs out loud now if someone even 
mentions your name. 
Although she is still healing, 
she no longer has the feelings; 

Of her heart sinking deep 
into seas of anguish and misery.
Chained down by an anchor of sorrow.  
She is Lied to, not anymore. Not her. 
She was relieved when you walked out the door. 
Your exit gave her a better tomorrow. 

And when you said goodbye, for the hundredth last time; 
That goodbye was the opening of the doors 
to her New Life. 

I wrote this poem one night while laying on the couch. It was after a long day of work, and I was all alone with nothing but my thoughts. Being alone is not something that I’m really afraid of anymore. I think at one point, I may have been. Due to that fear, I put myself into some really ugly situations. If it wasn’t for those “situations”, this poem would not have been born. This just emphasizes my personal belief that most certainly everything happens for a reason.

Psychology & Literature

Psychology, Thoughts

The older I become, the more aware I become. I think this is a sign that I may actually be a normal human; if there is such a thing. When I speak of becoming aware, I mean seeing things, realizing things, or understanding things differently than I did when I was a younger person, for example. I’m 31 years old right now. Looking back, it’s easy to see how my thought process was so much different 15 years ago, compared to today. What pains me though, is that my young brain and self were loaded up with circumstances that should be considered unbearable for a child or young person to have to endure. I’m able to look back and see that now. I knew then that many things were wrong with certain aspects of my life. 

As a child, you use your peers or childhood friends and playmates as a comparison. I’d often look at the other kids I knew, and view their families through a very observant lens. Comparing, and contrasting, and even as far as discussing the differences between families. We’d talk and say things like, “Do your parents smoke too?”. Basic and simple observances were made to figure out ourselves and our own community. The difference now though, is when you make certain comparisons as an adult – you are able to find more reasoning behind why certain situations happen. Instead of, “Do your parents smoke too?”, it becomes – Why? (A very in depth “why”, if you think on a critical level).

As children, and humans, we are able to observe and see. We are able to absorb. But we don’t question the depths of what we are seeing. In my adult life, I’m able to dig deep. I’m able to fully analyze and comprehend things in my day-to-day life, and things about my childhood too. The fact that my knowledge and experience have increased over the years has helped me tremendously to process events that many consider painful. Of course, not everything in life is so gloomy or down. Don’t be fooled completely by my words. But the topic I want to discuss is in fact, not so bright – but may lead people to a better understanding of what is happening in their own lives, or around them; which in return can create a figurative or metaphorical brightness. 

Over the last several years, I’ve been really trying to find myself more so than ever before. There’s been many things I’ve done to try and better myself and my life. I feel like, considering my earlier years, I owe it to myself and to my child to be the best version of me that I possibly can. I enrolled back in school, and I studied Psychology/Social psychology initially but changed my major to Creative Writing and English instead. The change came this year after some tough thinking, but it was a decision that I felt was best for me and the lifestyle I’m trying to create for myself. I was unsure what it would be like trying to obtain a Creative Writing and English degree, but now I’m finally experiencing it. “Words are magic”, is a belief that I will always hold true and near to my heart and my life! Of course, they are! How can they not be? 

This term I am currently taking a World Mythology class, and a Critical Approach to Lit class – which is basically a class about different types of Literary Theories. Literary Theory is a term that I’d like to think is a title that we use to describe different ways of analyzing literature. Some have written books on “Literary Theory”, itself, stating that it can be a number of things. I can’t give you a book on the subject at this time, so I’ve only provided a short definition written in a simple way that makes it easy to understand. At first, I really disliked this class. It shocked me to dislike this class. I thought to myself, maybe something is wrong with me? I’m obsessed with books, and stories, and fairy tales, mythology, and legends of all kinds; but this Critical Lit class was boring me more than anything. That is until we started talking about the Psychoanalytical approach of criticizing and viewing literature. I did not care about Structuralism, Marxist theory, Formalism, or New Criticism. I’m not downplaying their importance, they just were not something I was immensely interested in. The Psychoanalytical approach, however, piqued my interest instantly. I’ve studied the works of Freud before, and of course Jung. I studied them before I was even in school again and I admire their thoughts as well as their contributions to humanity. Studying this psychoanalytical approach and how it can be applied to literature was eye-opening for me. Not just due to the way this approach can be used in literature, but because of how this psychoanalytical approach could be applied to life and many of those situations that just leave us thinking: “What the hell just happened?” 

You know, those situations, don’t you? The ones where you are experiencing a moment with a person and although it’s a memorable moment, it’s not necessarily a good one. If you have seen some of my poems on my blog, you will realize that the majority have a certain theme. The theme is not something that I have entire control over. Most of it stems from my unconscious as I’m just simply writing experiences that I’ve witnessed in some form or another that have tremendously impacted my life in a significant way. 

Applying the Psychoanalytic approach was genius to me. I’ve always wondered why people do the things that they do. People, or characters! I feel like every action we take, or every single thing we do is caused by a deeper thought or feeling inside of us that we may not consciously even be aware of. Freud was able to prove this theory, and I think this is why I fell in love with his ideas. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve only halfway read through, “The Interpretation of Dreams”, by Sigmund Freud. Someday I hope I can finish the book all the way through, in between my studies. I can only hope to read all of the books on my to-read list, in this lifetime! Freud, the creator of the psychoanalytic approach, left us with some amazing and valuable information. So much that I can only fit a tiny bit into this blog post. 

From him, my own viewpoints have been confirmed and reassured. He believed that our minds had a way of pushing unconscious feelings to the surface through a variety of actions or circumstances. This goes back to the “Why?”, that I mentioned earlier. When thinking of Literature in general, and analyzing characters or stories, we ask the same question – “Why?” Why is a character doing or saying ______? Literature is full of stories that are left to our own interpretation and this is where critical literary theories come from. Freud taught us that, “the conscious mind often performed significant transformations on unconscious material”, (Michael, 2017) I want to dig a little deeper into what this actually means. Our conscious behavior is highly influenced by thoughts, feelings, or emotions within us that we simply cannot even grasp because they are stuck in a realm of our unconscious. So even if we do not realize something is affecting us, it certainly can be. 

The Freud family gifted us with the concept of defense mechanisms. Finally, as an adult, I have learned what to call these mechanisms that I’ve witnessed for so many years from a multitude of situations and human experiences in my life. The defense mechanisms that we are all too familiar with are actions that come from thoughts that have been repressed within us. It shook me to learn that these behaviors are actually named. These behaviors, many of us have witnessed, and some of us of course have even acted out. It is human nature, and none of us are perfect. If the behaviors are witnessed by a child, you have to realize that those experiences are locked away within the child and may influence behaviors as an adult. Making this connection of literature, psychology, childhood and adulthood, is kind of like the same feeling you get when you walk into your own surprise birthday party, or unwrap a special present that was unexpected. It was a wow moment! I will now discuss in a bit more detail, intellectualization, projection, reaction formation, regression, suppression, sublimation, and rationalization. These are the defense mechanisms that humans use in a variety of situations. If you are unfamiliar with these, you may experience that surprise birthday party feeling I was mentioning. Now let’s unwrap this gift. 

What is projection? – Projection is a defense mechanism in which an individual will reflect their own thoughts or actions onto someone else. An example of what this could look like would be an extremely jealous partner who is a cheater, but accuses their spouse of cheating. The cheater is projecting what he dislikes about himself, and what he/she knows is wrong onto their significant other. Another example of projection could be a person who is overweight, but is constantly ridiculing how other people look, or the eating habits of other people. Projection comes in many forms and can be found in romantic relationships, friendships, and even family dynamics. Projection takes place most often when a person has a serious dislike about something within themselves, but tries to put a spotlight on another in order to deflect their own thoughts, behaviors, and actions. 

What is reaction formation? – Reaction formation is when a person wishes to hide their true thoughts or feelings on a subject; and instead, they display opposite thoughts and feelings in response to what they truly think. An example of this would be a person who is homosexual in secrecy, but on a surface level, they preach to everyone they know about how they despise gay and homosexual people. Have you ever heard the term, “Kill them with kindness”? This is another example of reaction formation. Instead of literally killing a person you don’t like, we use this term to cover up true feelings and insist that we are nice to them; so nice to them in fact that it may make them sick! That is reaction formation. 

What is regression? – Regress means to return to a previous or lower state. When regression is at hand, it means we are reversing into a backward or more immature mind state or thought process. When this occurs, a person may display behaviors that seem juvenile in comparison to their actual age. An example of this would be an adult who has a major meltdown over something that is not so major. A parent has just got home from a hard day at work, they are tired, angry and unhappy with their day – and maybe even part of their life; their child accidentally breaks something or spills something. The parent reacts in a big way, when in reality the problem is quite small and can be fixed or cleaned up. This is regression. We return to a thought process that has us respond quickly, often angrily, or temper tantrum like – without thinking. What kind of people have temper tantrums? Toddlers. The answer is toddlers. We are all guilty of this in some way or another perhaps. 

What is rationalization? – Rationalizing involves trying to make sense of a situation. Rationalization as a defense mechanism is when an individual tries to explain or justify their behaviors in a logical way. Think of this: Person A. slaps Person B.. Person B. then says, “Why did you do that?”, to which Person A. responds with, “YOU MADE me mad, so that is why I slapped you. It’s your fault.” Person A. is trying to rationalize their abuse by blaming Person B. the one who actually received the abuse. Person B. does not control Person A, and has zero control over the thoughts or actions of Person A. Person B. is not responsible for this behavior, no matter what Person A. says. Rationalization can include blame shifting, and Person A. will try to make sense of their behavior by reassuring themselves that they have a good reason for acting as such, even if the reason is incorrect. This is, according to Freud, an attempt to make the action acceptable according to the ego. 

There are more defense mechanisms that we, as human beings use whether we realize it or not. Intellectualization and suppression are also on the list. Suppression obviously includes suppressing thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc. When you suppress something it is bound to come out at some point or another. This can lead a person to “bottle up” and then “explode”. The worst part of this, is since we are all different, there is no telling exactly how or when a person will “explode” and what their actions will consist of. Intellectualization is a more logical defense mechanism, and leads us back to that question: “Why?”  When you use intellectualization as a defense mechanism, you try to think of a logical and accurate reason as to why something has happened. When you intellectualize a situation, you will be better off because you will be using logic to find an answer, instead of reacting in such a way that leads you to something else, like, regression, for example. 

If you are still reading, thank you so much. Now that we have covered these, I hope you are able to see how the psychoanalytic theory can not only be applied to literature but of course, also to life itself. Literature is a big part of our lives and every time we read a good work of literature, we are using our mind to piece together the story, and make sense of it in our world. Just like we are doing with our day-to-day situations. Most of our actions, or the actions of others have a tendency to come from our unconscious mind. To tie this back in with literature, Macbeth, by Shakespeare shows us exactly what Freud is talking about when it comes to the unconscious mind playing a part in our conscious thoughts and behaviors. In Macbeth, handwashing is a symbol of trying to cleanse what subconsciously cannot be cleansed. I won’t go into much more detail than that, but if you know the story, you will know what I mean. The handwashing soliloquy has also become a meme, thanks to coronavirus. 

If you learned something new, or enjoyed reading this – give me a like and a follow. My goal is to help other people, so we can all learn and grow together. 

References: 

‘Out damned spot’: the hand-washing scene that became a Coronavirus meme (penguin.co.uk)

Ryan, Michael. Literary Theory: A Practical Introduction. Available from: MBS Direct, (3rd Edition). Wiley Global Research (STMS), 2017.