Emotional Wound Entry: Telling The Truth But Not Being Believed

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

truthCharacters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

TELLING THE TRUTH AND NOT BEING BELIEVED

Examples:

  • Telling someone one trusts that one is being abused by a close relative (parent, sibling, uncle, etc.) and not being believed
  • Going to the police and reporting a crime (a rape or physical assault, for example)  and not being believed
  • Being accused of something (stealing, lying, etc.) and proclaiming one’s innocence has no effect
  • Being charged with a crime one did not commit
  • Being sentenced and punished for a crime one did not commit
  • Having a parent believe someone else over their own child’s accounts of what happened
  • Being called a liar repeatedly by one’s parents, caregivers or those in authority
  • Confiding in a teacher or principal about an abusive situation and being labelled a troublemaker
  • Giving a witness account of something and it being dismissed as lies
  • Giving an account of something that challenges belief systems and being made fun of for it (seeing a ghost, talking to God, spotting a UFO, experiencing something supernatural, etc.)

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: physiological needs, safety and security, love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • Why tell the truth? No one will believe it
  • If I tell, I’ll just get in trouble
  • If I tell the truth, people will just hate me or blame me
  • People say honesty is the best policy but it isn’t
  • People only believe what they want to hear
  • I can’t count on anyone to stand beside me when it matters most
  • People think everything I say is a lie anyway, so I may as well lie and come out ahead
  • The people you think love you will betray you in the end
  • The only one who looks out for me is me

Positive Attributes That May Result: cautious, courageous, disciplined, empathetic, honest, honorable, independent, just, loyal, meticulous, nurturing, persistent, persuasive, protective, responsible, socially aware, spiritual, wise

Negative Traits That May Result: antisocial, compulsive, cynical, defensive, dishonest, disloyal, evasive, fanatical, hostile, inhibited, insecure, judgmental, know-it-all, needy, nervous, obsessive, oversensitive, paranoid, perfectionist, prejudiced, pessimistic, rebellious, resentful, timid, uncommunicative, weak-willed, withdrawn

Resulting Fears:

  • Fear of not being believed
  • Fear of persecution
  • Fear of being wrong about something and being accused of misleading others
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of being taken advantage of
  • Fear of trusting the wrong person and being betrayed
  • Fear of vulnerability
  • Fear of those with power or authority who can twist the truth to be whatever they say it is

Possible Habits That May Emerge:

  • Developing a compulsion for honesty (being overly honest)
  • Feeling one must prove that one is honest
  • Asking for assurances that one is believed
  • Explaining oneself and one’s motivations when it isn’t asked for or necessary
  • Growing explosively angry when one is not believed
  • Suffering a complete meltdown when one is challenged regarding the truth
  • Lying compulsively to mask feelings and avoid being hurt by others
  • Not being able to take a joke about lying or dealing poorly with being teased
  • Proving one’s loyalty at every opportunity
  • Being unable to keep a secret if by doing so one feels one is lying to others
  • A compulsion to reveal the truth to others if they are being mislead by someone else
  • Not opening up or sharing one’s past experiences because one expects to not be believed
  • Telling people what they want to hear to avoid problems
  • Obsessing over the truth, and over-detailing answers to prove one is being truthful
  • Never making assumptions and always searching for facts
  • Resenting those who are skilled liars when others take them at their word
  • A highly-tuned sense of fairness

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Image: Geralt @ Pixabay

ANGELA ACKERMAN

Angela is an international speaker and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also enjoys dreaming up new tools and resources for One Stop For Writers, a library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.

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17 Responses to Emotional Wound Entry: Telling The Truth But Not Being Believed

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  3. Victoriah Lloyd says:

    Thanks Glynis for your advice. Although, it’s much easier said than done. Especially when the inception of it happened over 35 years ago. As of recent pasts, the source of that inception has passed on, but the remnants she left behind still staggers even today. The hardest part is realizing that because of this one emotional wound, several others were created out of it. Leaving a big funk in my life, and a host of unmet internal needs that I’m afraid, might never get met. Not to get personal on this site, but I’ve become a hermit in my own right. Celibate for over 6 years, too afraid to trust anyone, and too afraid to believe in any other truth other than my own. This is definitely unhealthy. I’ve tried so many times to write my own story, but as I said in the initial post, I’ve suppressed so many feelings and memories as my defense mechanism to ward off feelings of hurt, that in my refusal to face the emotional wounds, has stagnated my writing. I know this to be true, because everything I have written so far, is too safe. Meaning, I’m sore afraid of hitting that nerve that will make me feel again, that my characters are under-developed, which in turn, makes the action inconsequential to a great story concept. Believe it or not, Angela, my words may sound like a set-back, but being forced to face myself by you posting this emotional wound, has given me a new direction (turning point in the story world) and a new goal (a new end in sight). I cannot tell you how much this site means to me. Not only for it’s psychological factors for characters, but also for self. Thanks everyone. Thank you Angela and Becca.

    • I am sorry for the wounds you carry, Victoriah. I don’t like that this post has stirred some pain for you but also glad if it has allowed you to see things in a new way and provided a direction forward. We do need to try and work through the things that have hurt us, even if it is only a tiny bit at a time.

      Some wounds I have been able to move past, others I am still working on. Ironically it was in writing the Negative Trait Thesaurus that I realized what one of my wounds was (that I never felt like I had an advocate growing up), and how the past was affecting my present, changing the family dynamic because of certain behaviors I was taking too far (trying to always be on my kids’ side, always going to bat for them), on a path of “over correcting” something done to me when I was younger. I realized this and found a more balanced way of dealing with things, and I think I managed to ensure I didn’t create a whole different problem (them being unable to handle problems or stand up for themselves because I always did it for them) for my kids moving forward.

      But each wound is comprised of layers as you well know…we might be able to face the big wound, and in doing so, it lessens its hold on us, but the damage to our self esteem is something that takes time to rebuild. Wounds are insidious, for us and our characters.

      So, take your time. Love yourself. But love the world too, and realize that there is so much good out there. Sometimes it is worth risking a bit (when we’re ready) to find a piece of it to find the love and value we all crave to make us feel complete.

      Take care,

      Angela

      • Victoriah Lloyd says:

        Angela, i would’ve paid money to hear that. I’ve spent so much already, and never heard anything as genuine and real. Your advice is taken to heart. I’ve prayed for a light at the end of the tunnel for years. Never knew I’d get it like this.

        • Victoriah, I am glad I was able to say the words you likely already know deep down, but needed to hear come from somewhere else. I am wishing you happiness and peace, and am so hopeful you will find it, because you deserve it so much. 🙂

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  5. A good entry!! Having personal experience in this wound, I can use that when it comes to my characters. It helps to have these guides to the wounds to look over though and say, yes, this and that, are how I’ve felt/feel.

  6. Latanya says:

    Thank you! My female protagonist deals with this aspect and I needed help writing such a characteristic.

  7. This is terrific. Making me think deeper about a secondary character’s life and behavior. Which coincidentally, goes along with today’s post on Writer Unboxed. Thanks, Angela!

  8. Victoriah Lloyd says:

    OMG. I love this entry. This is the story of my life. Reading it brought back memories I thought I had long forgotten. Feelings I have suppressed over the years. And nothing is out of place here. I am all of the positive and negative traits. I have believed those same lies about myself, and behaved in many of the habits. This is the first time I have ever come this close to seeing myself in a psychological fashion. You are spectacular in so many ways, Angela. Thank you for this post.

    • Hi Victoriah! This wound thesaurus seems to be impacting writers themselves as much as it sparks ideas for their characters! I’m glad it gave you some insight into your own past. The more we know and understand about ourselves, the more we can grow. 🙂

      I think this is a very common Character Wound. I think all of us can think to a time where we were not believed, and the shock and feeling of betrayal that goes with it. Sometimes tho, this would is deep, so deep it really affects us on a profound level, and so it is the same for our characters. I would say that depending on the circumstance and personal nature of the event and those involved, this might be one of the harder wounds to overcome.

      • Victoriah Lloyd says:

        This wound is the key to my writer’s block. I’ve been so caught up in the mess of it all, and my writing has been hindered by it. The one thing that had gotten me thru this far, is knowing that i can’t control what others think, d,o say, believe, or feel. It doesn’t change the truth.

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