Dealing with an elephant in the room can be very challenging. Fear, guilt and political incorrectness, are the main reasons why we avoid pointing out what’s sitting right there in front of us.
My father’s a violent drunk, and he’ll beat the crap out of me if I say anything.
I hate my mother, but feel too guilty to tell her, and that’s why we speak in boring platitudes.
Saudi Arabia continues to spawn terrorists, but we need oil so we don’t do anything about it.
At Joe Paterno’s memorial service, Phil Knight, Nike founder and CEO, was the 1st to bring up the catastrophic sex scandal that rocked Paterno’s legacy and may have even contributed to his rapid demise. Twelve thousand people were in attendance when he stated that he thought Paterno should have been treated by the PSU board and the media in a more respectful manner. It took courage to expose what was obviously on most of the attendees minds. To pretend that there was nothing amiss would have been bizarre.
How we deal with “elephants in the room” is extremely important in both writing and psychotherapy. The essence of creating good fiction is creating conflict, and the essence of good therapy is exposing and removing conflict.
Pat Conroy is a master at creating “elephants in the room” and then exposing them. The Catholic Church and how it relates to his “saintly” mother, in South of Broad, is a fascinating study in how to deal with a life-and-death secret. In Chasing Backwards, Art Smukler’s main character shows how his life depends on exposing the “elephant in the room” that his mother never divulged. Secrets are always fun to read about.
In fiction, how we deal with “an elephant in the room” can make or break a novel’s effectiveness. In real life, it’s usually more helpful to call an elephant an elephant and learn to deal with the roaring and potential stampede.
How do you deal with “elephants in the room”? Any advice? Any examples?
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