Sunday, July 1, 2012

Interview with Andrea Kayne Kaufman, Author of Oxford Messed Up: Part 2

Part 2 of my interview with Andrea Kayne Kaufman, author of Oxford Messed Up.
Check out Part 1 Here.

ExpWoman:  The image of Henry inviting Gloria into the tub 
of cold water to illustrate how over time one can habituate 
to the chill, just as exposures can habituate 
you to OCD fears, is very powerful.  
The tub is central as image in this novel--
did the image come first, 
or evolve as you explored the characters?

Andrea:  So glad you asked about the tub. I remember when we were learning about exposure response prevention, the doctors described it as stepping into cold water. If you pull your foot out right away, you will never get used to it. You will never habituate.  But if you stay, it will gradually become bearable.  I also really liked the tub/water as a metaphor for rebirth and renewal. The tub is the place of Gloria and Henry's greatest suffering as individuals and a couple. It also becomes the place of their reckoning, their paradigm shifts, and ultimately their redemption. When the novel first came to me, i saw Gloria scrubbing a claw foot tub with bare hands. I also saw them striking their deal in the tub. And i saw them making love in the tub. Although when i actually wrote that scene i realized it would be very hard to have intercourse for the first time in the tub— thus, it was next to the tub on the loo floor.

ExpWoman:   
Henry's addiction has many parallels to Gloria's OCD.  
How does the addictions recovery model resonate
with exposure therapy for you?  
Have you, or do you know people, who have experienced either of these?

Andrea:  Very true.  In addition to having experience with ocd, there is also experience in my extended family with drug addiction and recovery.  When the ocd in our family got out of hand— total conflagration as the doctors said— it required more and more compulsions, reminding me of a drug addict spiraling out of control, needing more and more drugs to get high.  I also think recovery models closely resemble the cbt paradigm.  Also, one never is totally rid of ocd, it can remerge and tempt you at different points in your life just like addiction.

ExpWoman:  
Your theme of "choosing happiness" resonated with me.  
When I  stopped writing poetry, and started making art, 
I did feel guilty at first for doing something 
that made me happy, making art that expressed joy & hope.  
Is there a particular point in your life that
you "chose happiness" and if so, can you tell us a little about it.

Andrea:  This is a really important theme for me. The courage to write the novel and put it in the world was really me choosing happiness for myself. I am one of those "people pleasers' who's renounced my own needs in favor of other people's needs.  It took me a long time to learn that happiness was something you have to affirmatively choose and not just wait for other people to give you.  Moreover, it took me a long time to learn that i was worthy of happiness and love.  I also experienced some tragic losses as a child and it took me so long to stop defining myself by the cloak of tragedy— which felt familiar and comfortable. I was worried that people might not like me as much if i came out of the closet and they knew i was happy.

ExpWoman:  
I remember being surprised when Oliver is revealed
as Gloria's OCD"voice" rather than an actual boyfriend
in the first pages of the novel, and impressed 
with how this gave a sense of how integral OCD can become
to one's person.  How did Oliver come to you as a character?  
What were the challenges in creating him?

Andrea:  As we were going through ocd in our family, it became clear that the ocd was a voice in the head demanding certain things. It was like a hostage takeover. The doctor encouraged that it be externalized and named. This helped distinguish what the ocd wanted from what the actual person wanted. As parents, it also made it much easier for us to participate in erp and cbt because we knew we were standing up to the ocd and not our child.  I also really felt like there was a dilemma about whom to listen to--  the ocd voice or us.  Thus the love triangle concept was born. Oliver was a challenging but wonderful character to write because i really do view it as a love triangle. And Oliver is so different than Henry. I have been approached by a major hollywood studio about doing a movie version and talking about how to portray Oliver in a film has been a lot more challenging but there are so many intriguing possibilities.

6 comments:

  1. I wonder if labels such as OCD reduce a persons humanity rather than help them. People are not a diagnosis.

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    1. Personally, I have found the "label" of OCD to be freeing. Instead of demeaning me, I feel that identifying the OCD gives me more ability to separate myself from this illness that keeps disturbing me. That is my personal opinion, though. I realize that an outside person could judge me solely based on my "label," and that might be part of why I keep it to myself sometimes, but people judging me is a risk I can't completely get away from, regardless of whether or not I am labeled. I appreciate your concern though, and am glad you know to look past the diagnosis

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  2. Thanks for sharing this interview with Andrea Kayne Kaufman with us!

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  3. You asked such great questions! Thank you so much for doing this interview and sharing it.

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  4. OCD isn't a label it's a real medical diagnosis. It was in my family and it was for Gloria, although I really think people are more than their OCD.

    Thanks- I enjoyed doing this interview & appreciate the discussion!

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  5. Naming the OCD voice...that is such a good idea. I tell my husband all the time as a way of explaining: "It's my OCD brain." A separate voice is precisely what it feels like. I don't know that I could name it, but I like the concept.

    Also, I guess I'll have to read this!

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