Ten Things Ted Lasso Teaches About Mental Health Without Whacking You Over the Head with Them
Ten Things Ted Lasso Teaches About Mental Health Without Whacking You Over the Head with It
Ted Lasso, an Apple TV show that follows an American coach of the Richmond Football Team, is hailed by many as a joyful reprieve from the doom and gloom that has covered the past year and a half— insert pandemic here. However, the series is more than an optimism overload. Many point out that the show champions the importance of mental health, empathy, and growth without hitting it's viewers over the head. Here are some things Ted Lasso teaches about dealing with mental health. (It's also filled with spoilers, so maybe catch up and read through!)
1. Be a Goldfish
In the first episode of the series, Ted (Jason Sudeikis) pulls self-ridiculing player Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jamoh) aside and says, "Do you know what the happiest animal in the world is? It's a goldfish. It's got a ten second memory. Be a goldfish." It's human nature to make mistakes, but punishing yourself constantly for mess ups forgotten by everyone else doesn't serve you. In his book Think Like a Monk, Jay Shetty recognizes, "A monk mind practices detachment. We realize that everything-from our houses to our families-is borrowed. Clinging to temporary things gives them power over us, and they become sources of pain and fear." You give moments the power to have control over you. Lasso and Shetty would agree: mess up, move on, keep playing. Be a goldfish. (Yes, you heard me right. This was the FIRST EPISODE).
2. You Can't Fake Good Mental Health
Ted Lasso is the most optimistic man depicted in modern media. I am willing to die on that hill. He brightens up every room he walks into, but who helps him? One minute he's making his boss homemade cookies every morning (because he's PERFECT) and then next he's having a panic attack. He keeps putting positive energy out into the world without leaving any for himself. Which, as Srinivas Rao points out in her book The Art of Being Unmistakable, "It is exhausting to keep a facade of farting rainbows and sunshine when life has not gone according to plan." Lasso's wife left him. His team keeps losing. Yet, he spends his time trying to fix everyone else's problems. His panic attacks, fortunately, lead him into the office of the team therapist, Doctor Sharon (Sarah Niles). Needing help does not mean you are not a competent, capable, and optimistic individual. It just means that you are human. And on that note...
3. Going to Therapy Isn't a Weakness
GOING TO THERAPY ISN'T A WEAKNESS! When Doctor Sharon arrives, the team doesn't miss a beat in making appointments to see her. There's none of the media-mob-mentality of Oh but I'm a manly man, I don't have feelings or a mind, psh women, right? None of that. They visit a therapist and guess what? They get better! Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) finds a way to reconnect with the team, Colin Huges (Billy Harris) establishes a new self-confidence mantra, and the team starts to play better. We have to give this win to Doc...tor Sharon.
4. It's Okay to Ask for Help
Everyone should ask for help when they need it. In her book Mayday!: Asking for Help in Times of Need, M. Nora Klaver writes, "Asking for help not only gets my needs met but, even more importantly, offers me a chance to be touched by another soul." Whether you've spent a life building up a reputation as "Jamie f***ing Tartt" or as a do-everything-on-your-own, "every f***ing where, Roy Kent!" (Brett Goldstein) asking for and receiving help can be scary. When Jamie finds himself teamless and almost sequestered on ecstasy island, he swallows his pride and turns to Ted for help. When Roy feels disconnected from the game and finally accepts Ted's offer to be a coach he finds that he is truly happy— no matter how many swear words are thrown in along the way. Why keep yourself back when the only thing standing in the way is your refusal to ask for help?
5. Friends are Not a Vessel for Your Emotional Baggage
"I mean that's why you have friends, isn't it? To burden them with your issues and anxieties, right?" Wrong. This line, spoken by the head of the Richmond Football Club, Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham), points out the flaw in it's own logic. It's easy to say I don't need a therapist. I don't have a problem and when I do I talk to my friends. Is that really what your friends are for? Also, the friend you've been unloading your deepest insecurities on for an hour doesn't actually know how to help you. The best they can do is say "That sucks," and then feel bad that they couldn't help more while a cavernous pit opens in your stomach that you accidentally overshared. You know who wouldn't do that? (Rebecca, I'm going to let you answer this one).
6. Your Past is Not Someone Else's Problem
You can't expect your friends to carry your emotional baggage. You also can't let others be the outlet for your angst. Such is the case with Nathan Shelley (Nick Mohammed), the well-meaning kit man turned coach. Bernard Golden, Ph.D. writes in his article Displaced Anger: One Destructive Way We Disavow Anger, "Displacement may seem the best alternative when, even as an adult, acknowledging such anger may be experienced as a betrayal of the idealized parent." Nathan is a quiet and intelligent force until he is dismissed by his distant father. Then Jeckyll turns into Hyde and he attacks the nearest, weakest person with unrestrained venom. When Natan reads a tweet calling him a "loser", he immediately storms into the locker room, screaming at the new kit man "If you ever do anything to humiliate me again, I'll make your life a f***ing misery" (again, with the language!) It's unfair to misdirect anger we feel towards the people around us, but it's easier than facing the reality of the situation. Jamie's anger towards his abusive father is constantly misdirected at the team. It isn't until he acknowledges that this is exactly what he's doing that he's able to come back and mend his relationships with the people he hurt along the way.
7. Admit When You're Wrong
We live in a time when it feels almost impossible to admit that you are wrong. The idea in theory, seems like it should be easy. "Yet," states Mike Brooks, Ph.D. in his article Why is it so Hard to Admit When We Are Wrong?, "the struggle over right/wrong can almost feel like life or death. Our evolutionarily based fight/flight/freeze instinct becomes activated. We argue, deny, and distort reality to protect our status and sense of self." Everyone, however, makes mistakes. A lot of mistakes. Proceeding forward, trying to convince yourself that you are right even when you know you are wrong, takes a toll on your emotional health. Rebecca continues to try using Ted to ruin the Football club and is agonized with guilt as she realizes how cruel she is being. With some strong armed encouragement, however, Rebecca takes the high road and admits every terrible thing she's done or attempted to do to Ted, and apologizes. Her consciousness is cleaned and her emotional state is lifted. It takes great strength to admit when you are wrong, but there is a pressure and anxiety that grows larger and larger as people hold on to these things. It is important to let them go.
8. Try to Forgive People When They Do
It is hard to admit when you are wrong. It is often harder to forgive someone once they do. Forgiveness, however, is a major key to happiness. (A goldfish would forgive.) When Rebecca apologizes to Ted he acknowledges how difficult he knows divorce to be and how it makes people do "crazy things". He finds it in himself to forgive her. He doesn't guilt her about it. He doesn't push her on it. He recognizes how hard it is to admit when you've done something wrong, and he forgives. (Name another show that's been on in the last ten years that shows an apology where the person just accepts it without dramatically staring out of a window saying things like "I don't know if I can ever forgive you." I'll wait...) That's not to say that every apology needs to be taken at face value, but there is a lightness that comes to the soul in forgiveness. According to Kirsten Weir's article Forgiveness Can Improve Mental and Physical Health, "Research has shown that forgiveness is linked to mental health outcomes such as reduced anxiety, depression and major psychiatric disorders, as well as with fewer physical health symptoms and lower mortality rates." Why fight to hold on to something that will harm you emotionally and physically therein making you worse at soccer?...I mean football.
9. Strive to See the Good in Others
Ted Lasso sees the best in everybody. He sees it in the players that initially reject him. He sees it in the fans that chant expletives at him. He even sees it in the wife who left him. There is a joy that comes from striving to see the good in people. When debating whether or not to let Jamie back onto the team, Ted states, "Isn't never give up one of them things we always talk about in sports and shouldn't that apply to people to" If a person is mean, like Jamie Tartt when he was originally on the team, it does not imply that Jamie himself is a bad person (Sorry Hobbes. Going to let my man Rousseau carry us home on this one.) Rousseau once stated,"There is no evildoer who could not be made good for something." Even when Jamie does return to the team and is striving to be his best self he discovers, with the help of Coach Roy Kent that his old self, in part, was what made him an excellent player. When you believe people are good and everyone has value, the world and your mind seem lighter.
10. Being a Team Player Involves Being Open
No one can pass to you if you're not open (emotionally). (Get it? It's a football joke!) At the beginning of the series, Jamie Tartt and Roy Kent, teammates at the time, absolutely hated each other. They would get in fights on the field, create a hostile environment at practice, and lose the team matches. Then Ted sat them down and told them to find a way to work together. When Jamie Tartt hogged the ball, chanting "Me!" After he scored a goal, Ted Lasso put him on the bench. This allowed the rest of the team to connect with each other. With the value of their openness and teamwork, they were able to win a game. Good mental health is not just your ability to be with yourself. It's your ability to be open enough to receive others and help them along the way.
In summation: Just be a goldfish. Okay?