Saddened (disproportionately) by portrayal of my favourite characters in fanfic

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Laayiv
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Saddened (disproportionately) by portrayal of my favourite characters in fanfic

Unread post by Laayiv »

As you may guess, the characters are the one I'm grossly in love with and the one I see as the ideal version of myself (obviously I ship them). The fanfic is seemingly really good (I can't stand to read it), and the author has been quite a nice person, but the specific relation between the two characters, although, I must stress, unproblematic, just made me really fucking sad when I first looked at it and even months later I still feel bad about it, even though I've reconciled to myself to both all the specific elements of it and the total of it.
The fanfiction, although I don't know everything about it because I just can't read it, basically is just a (entirely consensual and non-problematic) sex scene with some relatively mild bdsm. The male character (my self-insert) has the female character (my love interest) blindfolded and possibly tied up (I can't tell because I didn't read it), they sort of flirt for a bit, he somehow teased her with hot spring water and eventually fucks her. The ending is vaguely wholesome but still upsets me deeply because of what just happened. In context it feels wrong, and even the non-sexual dynamic of the characters it shows violates my personal ideals for them.

It's not so much that I object to this sort of sex on principle, I really don't like it but I can just not read it and provided nothing actually bad is happening (which is the case here) there's nothing I can do. My dismay certainly comes just from the fact that it is these characters here.
As I would have implied, I care deeply (excessively) about both of these characters and their relationship (it's a niche ship too). What I want from their relationship, being identical to what I want from my own relationship which does not exist, is nearly exactly the opposite of what this fic has. That is, a decisive bdsm sexual relationship with the male character always as the sub and the female character always as the Dom. Despite that this is basically just a sexual fantasy, in my mind it's the only way I can conceive of these characters loving each other.
This shouldn't be this bad, but it is made worse by, as I said, the fact that I'm really in love with one of them and want to live vicariously through the other one! Seeing them in a way so diametrically opposed to what I want (nay, need) is much more upsetting than it should be.

Another element which I forgot to mention is that the presence and popularity of that fic made me terrified that this was the only way people would see these characters sexually, and that would both mean that if I where to write anything with them my way (not even sex just the particular dynamic that this isn't) and that nobody else would write the things I need to read because they want this instead.

What can I do? Why am I like this?
Sam W
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Re: Saddened (disproportionately) by portrayal of my favourite characters in fanfic

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi Laayiv,

I'm going to address the more creative concerns first. As someone who's been involved in fandom spaces to greater and lesser degrees throughout my life, I can think of zero instances in which there was only one dynamic of a given ship that people wanted to read (or write). Even in relatively small fandoms. So if you want to write the version of this you like, that's absolutely something you can do (and you don't even have to share it if you're not comfortable doing so; plenty of people write or draw fan content for their eyes alone).

As for what to do about this more broadly, I think a first step is to start figuring out how you can disentangle your own identity from that of the character you see as an ideal version of yourself. Plenty of people related to fictional characters, sometimes in pretty intense ways. But the issue will always be that those characters are objects, not real people, and so they will always be things where other people can pick them up and play with them (including the original creator). And that can lead to exactly the kind of scenario you're experiencing, where the way someone else is playing with them upset you because you've formed too intense a link between yourself and the character.

So, it may help to figure out what you might need to do to scale back your identification with that character or your desire to be like them. That might mean engaging with certain content less, focusing on other things, or even building up the things you like about yourself or want to be in the real world.
Laayiv
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Re: Saddened (disproportionately) by portrayal of my favourite characters in fanfic

Unread post by Laayiv »

Any advice on how to do that, or anything else?
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Re: Saddened (disproportionately) by portrayal of my favourite characters in fanfic

Unread post by Latha »

Hi Laayiv,

I'm so sorry, but, which part did you want advice on exactly?
Laayiv
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Re: Saddened (disproportionately) by portrayal of my favourite characters in fanfic

Unread post by Laayiv »

Sam W wrote: Thu Feb 22, 2024 9:14 am
As for what to do about this more broadly, I think a first step is to start figuring out how you can disentangle your own identity from that of the character you see as an ideal version of yourself.
Sam W
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Re: Saddened (disproportionately) by portrayal of my favourite characters in fanfic

Unread post by Sam W »

Sure! One might be to try to engage in the media containing that character a bit less, including by exploring new media that interests you or returning to familiar media that you know you enjoy, just to spread your focus around a bit (too, in my experience that can help bring us into contact with other characters who resonate with us or who we want to emulate in some way, which can sort of temper the relationship with the character you're disentangled with).

Too, would you say your attachment to this character is based on wanting to be like them because you feel like they're great/cool/etc and you're not? Or is it more that you just see a LOT of similarities between you and them?
Laayiv
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Re: Saddened (disproportionately) by portrayal of my favourite characters in fanfic

Unread post by Laayiv »

Sam W wrote: Sat Mar 02, 2024 9:19 am Sure! One might be to try to engage in the media containing that character a bit less, including by exploring new media that interests you or returning to familiar media that you know you enjoy, just to spread your focus around a bit (too, in my experience that can help bring us into contact with other characters who resonate with us or who we want to emulate in some way, which can sort of temper the relationship with the character you're disentangled with).

Too, would you say your attachment to this character is based on wanting to be like them because you feel like they're great/cool/etc and you're not? Or is it more that you just see a LOT of similarities between you and them?
The problem is, I sort of just don't know why I feel so much like him. There aren't many things we have in common that I don't also share with a large number of other characters. I do think he's a better person than me, which is hard to judge precisely but is definitely correct, but that's not unique either.
But as for the first thing, I can't really control what I think about in that way. Even if I'm doing something else, I still know about and therefore think about all these things.
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Re: Saddened (disproportionately) by portrayal of my favourite characters in fanfic

Unread post by Latha »

Hi Laayiv,

You've touched upon this tendency of yours to fixate on things that feel wrong to you before. Do you think this might be related to the mental health difficulties that you've mentioned?

I've noticed that you can be very self-deprecating, like you think very little of yourself. I understand that, to you, this might just seem like the most accurate way to think about yourself. If you can, try to keep the possibility that you are not as bad as you think you are in mind.
Laayiv
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Re: Saddened (disproportionately) by portrayal of my favourite characters in fanfic

Unread post by Laayiv »

Latha wrote: Sun Mar 03, 2024 2:18 am Hi Laayiv,

You've touched upon this tendency of yours to fixate on things that feel wrong to you before. Do you think this might be related to the mental health difficulties that you've mentioned?

I've noticed that you can be very self-deprecating, like you think very little of yourself. I understand that, to you, this might just seem like the most accurate way to think about yourself. If you can, try to keep the possibility that you are not as bad as you think you are in mind.
I'm mostly self-deprecating for the sake of honesty and humility.
As for the other thing, I must have exaggerated "mental health difficulties" in earlier posts. It's (as far as I know) just (high-functioning) autism, ADHD, anxiety, sexual deviancy and general stress. And it's not that I fixate particularly on things I consider to be wrong, rather it's that several of the things I fixate on happen to be wrong. This is really quite an important distinction, though of course it's not your fault for not understanding this from the little I've said about myself
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Re: Saddened (disproportionately) by portrayal of my favourite characters in fanfic

Unread post by Willa »

Hi Laayiv,

Even if you feel like your self-depreciation comes from a place of "honesty" we can get stuck in thought patterns like this that end up hurting us much more than they help us. It seems like this is also intertwined with your thoughts/feelings/attention to this character as well. Focusing on this character seems to give you more opportunities to compare yourself to him and in turn put yourself down when you feel like you don't compare- would you say this is accurate?

I know you responded to Sam that you have trouble controlling what you think about in terms of this character, but taking a break from engaging with this character and the media surrounding him may help over time break some of those thought patterns. Especially if you spend that time focusing on activities that make you feel fulfilled, such as other hobbies.

Does this all make sense? Is there anything else you feel we can specifically help you with around all this?
Laayiv
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Re: Saddened (disproportionately) by portrayal of my favourite characters in fanfic

Unread post by Laayiv »

It makes sense, it's just not how I live.
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Re: Saddened (disproportionately) by portrayal of my favourite characters in fanfic

Unread post by Sam W »

I think, then, we might have hit the end of where we can take this particular conversation, at least for now. Because a lot of the things we've recommended, or could recommend, that could help with that over-identification and attachment to a fictional character and relationship are going to require engaging with your thought and focus patterns in ways that may not feel intuitive to you or be how your brain generally works.

I do want to comment on this particular thing you said a few replies back: "I can't really control what I think about in that way. Even if I'm doing something else, I still know about and therefore think about all these things." What you're describing there is basically how our minds tend to work; we're usually holding and interpreting multiple inputs at a time, and having different bits of information either be called up to or drifting through our attention.

What I was getting at with my recommendation to broaden the fictional things/people you focus on is more like this: imagine your brain is a shelf with different things that you like displayed on it. When we're really, intensely into a given thing, it's like it's sitting on the shelf with a spotlight on it, so when we look it's all we see and it can start feeling like the only thing we have. But if we turn off that spotlight, or encourage it to pan back and forth, or we add more things to the shelf, it lessens the intensity we attach to that first thing. That first thing is still there, and our focus still moves to it or centers it from time to time, but it's not the only thing there. And if something happens to it, we don't feel like we've lost EVERYTHING we liked.
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