Wednesday, January 19, 2022

When Emotions Paralyze


“The human brain is the universe’s most implausible science experiment.”

What would you do if emotion paralyzed you? Not metaphorically or spiritually but physically. This is the premise behind “Daphne,” by Will Boast. Inspired by the myth of Daphne and Apollo, “Daphne” is based on a very obscure, but also very real, disease where any type of feeling or emotion causes various degrees of paralysis from slumping over to outright rigidity.

In order to cope with her disease, Daphne has constructed a rigid and tightly controlled existence in order to keep her emotions in check. She drinks to deaden her feelings. She watches videos of global disasters and starving children to numb her feelings. She works in an ethically challenged environment to harden her feelings. But then she meets and falls in love with Ollie, a sensitive man who does everything he can to understand Daphne’s condition but also takes her places ripe to trigger the disease. As Daphne and Ollie’s relationship grows, she finds herself becoming more involved with the people around her. Opening up to people produces consequences as the disease fully manifests itself and Daphne crashes. The latter portion of the book describes Daphne’s struggle as she tries to return the robotic lifestyle she had before meeting Ollie.

Fleshing out the book is a variety of secondary characters. The members of Daphne’s support group discuss the ways they cope with the disease and how it affects their lives. Daphne is not fervently involved with them and seems to drop in on the meetings only when it’s convenient for her (another coping mechanism). Her childhood friend Brooke provides emotional and literal support while living a borderline dangerous lifestyle of hard partying. Daphne’s mom sobs frequently due to the untimely death of Daphne’s dad but does provide a moment of clarity at the end of the book.

Daphne was not the most likeable character, but who would be sunny and bright when just seeing a sad commercial on TV can send you tumbling to the ground? Yet those in her support group still dip their feet into the muddy waters of feeling and somehow survive. I was intrigued by TeShawn as he takes a prescribed medication and seems to make out okay. I wondered why Daphne and the others didn’t take advantage of it more often.

But my biggest challenge was that I wanted something to change for Daphne and this disease never goes away. There is no cure. So when I would get angry at Daphne for being disagreeable and mean, I would change my mind a few pages later and feel nothing but empathy. Of course she would shut herself off from the world. Feeling was literally dangerous. But then I would get angry again as she blithely ignores the homeless man with whom she developed a friendship and uses the disease as an excuse even though this time, her behavior had nothing to do with the disease. If she shouldn’t initiate relationships, then she shouldn’t, right? But then I return to feeling sorry for her because I cannot imagine in a million years how hard it would be shut myself off from laughter, sadness, anger, happiness or the hundreds of other emotions people feel on a weekly basis.

“Daphne” may not have been the easiest read I’ve experienced this year but it produced some very strong thoughts and emotions (and yes, the irony of that statement is not lost on me). And maybe the whole point of the book is to teach us to embrace all the messy feelings we have each and every day and be thankful we can have them at all.

Thank you for your time!

Lynn Alexander is a recently published author and long-time book, food, cat and college football lover (Go Green!). Her career journey started in upstate New York, writing and recording commercials for radio. She moved to Venice, Florida to manage a restaurant which led her to Naples and Marco in 2002, where she currently books weddings and events for a local resort. Alexander is a Leadership Marco 2015 alum which fed her passion for history and learning. A butterfly at parties but a loner at heart, she loves nothing more than baking yummy desserts then retreating to a quiet corner to read.

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