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I’ve fairly recently watched a documentary on Netflix — “A Girl Like Her”. If you haven’t watched it, do. It’s a testament to a lot of the problems among teens and pre-teens in the world today. And I found it powerful.

 

Everyone reacts to situations differently. And everyone deals with different situations. But there are ultimately, from what I’ve observed, two ways of personally dealing with any given situation — internalizing and externalizing.

Internalizers encounter problems by pulling into themselves — especially when it’s something they don’t want to make a big deal of (for any reason). They don’t like to talk about it. Externalizers recognize the problem, but they tell others about it in some way — usually in no plain terms relating to the issue. They put it out into the world through their tone, their words, their actions–some way.

The documentary I mentioned above is a great example of this. It follows Jessica and Avery — two girls who go to the same high school and who used to be friends. But then Jessica attempts suicide and is left in a coma. The film crew are already at the school for another reason, but pick up on this thread of how and why a girl at such a renowned high school, that has just won an award for its greatness, would attempt suicide. Avery, the popular girl of the sophomores, agrees to show the world what it is to be popular–and the pressures that go with it. A hidden camera reveals much of the happenings between Avery and Jessica, and lent much to the impact the movie had on me.

Be forewarned, there are SPOILERS ahead if you’ve not seen the documentary. I recommend that you go and watch it before reading, as I do not want to take away from the messages by analyzing parts of the movie and personalities.

This documentary is ultimately about bullying as it is today. Because the documentary is my example, that’s the context I’ve used in this post. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t many more ways internalizing/externalizing can manifest. This is one context, as observed by me. However, this can be a common manifestation among teens and pre-teens in our world today — it’s an important aspect to helping our children grow up healthy and feeling loved.

Jessica and Avery. Of the two, Jessica is the internalizer. She pulled the problems she faced into herself, keeping quiet about what was happening to her. She didn’t even want to talk about it with her best friend who knew what was going on. And because this is how she processed the problem, Avery’s words started to eat at her. Jessica started to believe what Avery said. That’s part of the reason she attempted suicide–she believed Avery. Another part of the reason was because she felt trapped–“It’s never going to stop,” she said so many times. She couldn’t see how it could get any better; she only saw it getting worse. And because she’s an internalizer, she didn’t tell anyone how she was really feeling, and there was no one to encourage her and combat what Avery said.

There are probably more factors involved–I can’t pretend to know everything about Jessica. I’m not her. And I’m not saying that what happened was Jessica’s fault, because it wasn’t. When you feel as trapped as it seemed Jessica felt, you truly believe there’s no way out and that no one will understand–and you’re afraid to tell someone, for fear that they’ll confirm your fears.

Avery is the externalizer. In a sense, she recognizes the problems she’s facing internally. I say “in a sense” because I’m not sure Avery really thought about them and recognized that they were problems–but a deeper part of her did. Though the problems were internal, Avery’s reactions were external, and they weren’t always good. Avery dealt with lots of pressure from home–pressure to be perfect, to be as her controlling mother wanted. Avery didn’t want her mother controlling her life, so she tried to control where she could–at school. I got the sense that she felt invisible at home, so she did what she could to get the attention she so craved at school, no matter if it was good or bad attention.

Avery’s external expression of her hurt was by bullying Jessica–controlling someone else’s life and getting the attention of the school, even though it was negative attention. Everyone knew Avery’s name, and that’s what she wanted. But Jessica attempting suicide isn’t entirely Avery’s fault either.

Both of these girls are very, very hurt. Though they expressed the hurt differently, you can see it in both of them. They had different hurts from different situations as well. A line stuck out to me from the movie, from a parent at a meeting with the school board: “Hurt people are the ones who hurt people.” It’s something we all need to remember. Why did Avery hurt Jessica? Because she was hurting, though she tried to hide it behind her actions. Avery took her hurt out on others, those outside of herself–externalizing. Jessica took her hurt out on herself, listening to the voices in her head that repeated what Avery told her so often–internalizing.

There is so much more to be said on this documentary, so many things that I saw through it. We will continue to talk about internalizing and externalizing, and other issues I noticed from the documentary that are a huge part of our world today. There are so many hurt people out there, but for the sake of time we will leave this here for now.

Next time, we’re going to look at judging others–whether we think we do or not.

And remember–everyone’s hurt by something in some way. Everybody’s been through so much in their lifetimes, no matter how young or old. These two girls are sophomores–and already there’s so much hurt seen here.

 

What do you think? Are you an internalizer or an externalizer?

Me? I’m an internalizer, and always have been. I was able to connect with both of these girls through different things–I may call Avery a bully, but until I know her, I can’t begin to understand what she’s going through. I’ve learned much. What have you learned?

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WARNING: This post may contain SPOILERS, though I have done my best to give away as little as possible. However, as I’m examining the characters’ relationships throughout the novel, some context and relational development will likely be considered spoilers by many. You have been warned. Read on if you dare. (Or read the book first, then return. I recommend it. You can find it here.)

sea of shadows

Ashyn closed her eyes and reached out to the spirits. After a moment, she could feel them pulling at the edge of her consciousness. It wasn’t like the gentle plucks of the ancestral spirits; these were harsh, like needle jabs.

She repeated the words Ellyn had taught her.

“I’m here to give you peace,” she said. “You want peace.”

No, they wanted revenge.

 

Short Summary:

Ashyn and Moria are twins who live at the only entrance to the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s criminals are exiled. They are the Seeker and Keeper of Edgewood, and they must defend the empire from the vengeful spirits within the forest. On Ashyn’s first trip into the wood, everything goes wrong, and the two girls are forced to leave their home and head to the Imperial City to find the emperor. But they can’t travel alone. Gavril, a young warrior from a disgraced family who has lived in Edgewood for many years, and Ronan, a young thief exiled to the forest before the winter who managed to survive, accompany the girls while facing many challenges and threats along the way.

The relationships:

The two girls are close to one another, hardly separated for more than a day before they’re forced from their home under grim and unusual circumstances. They have a close bond, as expected of twins, and are identical in looks, though extremely different otherwise. However, the two girls temper each other: Ashyn, the quieter one who tends to think things through and is well-read, and Moria, the rambunctious fighting-type who’s good with a dagger and quick wit, but letting no one get away with insulting her sister or friends. Both are fiercely loyal and charged with daunting tasks, but they care deeply for one another and the few close to them.

Both are close with their bond-beasts, Tova (a Hound) and Daigo (a Wildcat) respectively. These bond-beasts help set them apart as Seeker and Keeper, and are fiercely loyal of their charges and vice versa. Multiple times Ashyn protects Tova and worries, and Moria worries over Daigo when he’s injured. Both Tova and Daigo are much like the girls with whom they are bonded, and are also close to one another.

Throughout the novel, the young warrior Gavril changes–or we get to see more of who he is–through Moria’s eyes. While in Edgewood, Gavril is intimidating and seemingly cold, though he and Moria get along alright. She enjoys his jabs and corrections, and quips back, not to be outmatched. As they travel to the Imperial City across a large expanse of cooled lava (the Wastes), following after Ashyn and Ronan, he starts to soften after an encounter with a mythical creature. We hear more about him and start to learn who he is. We also see Moria opening up and staying respectful, and we watch as their relationship deepens. We are shown how they temper each other, Moria taking action when it’s needed, and Gavril showing caution and giving chastisement when needed.

We see this developed relationship clearly through Ashyn’s eyes after they’ve caught up with her and Ronan. She sees something more between Moria and Gavril than was there in Edgewood, though Moria continues to claim that they’re only friends. By the end of the book, Gavril changes before our eyes, and readers are left bewildered by his actions. (Read the book to get the full extent and to find out what happens! I’ll not spoil it here 😉 )

We also see a relationship start to develop between Ashyn and Ronan as they work their way together across the Wastes. He ever so slowly opens up about who he is and why he’s so anxious to get back to the city, but (from my angle) we’re still not sure we know much about him by the end of the book. However, we do see a struggle within Ashyn as she works to quell her growing feelings for him and her desires for a romance as she’s read of in tales. We don’t really get the chance to see Ashyn and Ronan’s relationship through Moria’s eyes, as that’s not the sort of thing she’d think to look for or worry about, as Ashyn does. Therefore, we get to see it mostly through Ashyn’s eyes as she struggles with herself. However, again at the end of the book, we are shocked to see where their relationship truly is and how it’s developed. (Again, you’ll have to read the book.)

 

This is merely a review of the main relationships throughout the novel, but, as with most novels, there are many more relationships that come and go: the girls’ father, the villagers, other soldiers. There is much more that can be said and evaluated about the relationships we’ve already talked about as well, though that would require great depth and many spoilers. And I’m not inclined to giving things away, as that’s something that bothers me.

If you’ve read the book and have something to add, or you would just like to discuss aspects of the book, comment below or shoot me an email. I would love to discuss it with you, though I ask that comments be as free of spoilers as possible. At that point, just email me. 🙂

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