I’ve posted a couple things on Facebook about how emotionally devastating This Is Us can be for me. ALL the adoption stuff, Kate’s struggle with her weight, the episode about Dr. K losing his wife to cancer… It’s all very personal and close to home. Recently, a friend suggested that maybe I shouldn’t watch it, for the sake of my emotional well-being. It was reasonable advice – sometimes life has enough big feelings and we don’t need tv shows (or American politics!) getting us all riled up. It can hinder our ability to stay calm and emotionally present for our loved ones. Definitely. So I thought it over. Why do I keep watching? Is it worth it? Should I keep watching?? For me, the answer was YES! If you’re at all like me and you’d like to know why we keep doing this to ourselves, here you go:
Watching This Is Us helps me process emotions I’d otherwise avoid.
I grew up in a home where emotional expression was not exactly encouraged. Any time we would get too excited or too upset or too… anything… we were quickly told to settle down. I grew up with the ability to stuff my feelings and carry on with life. Helpful in the short-term, not so much in the long-term! I viewed emotions as weakness and, although I’ve come a long way, continue to feel shame whenever I do lose control emotionally. As a result, the ostrich method (stick your head in the sand) has become my preferred way of dealing with big feelings and anything that triggers big feelings. I’ve learned that this is not helpful as a parent! When one of my children is having big feelings, whether it’s a Monday morning meltdown over having to get out of bed and get ready for school or a full on violent meltdown because a deep-seated fear of abandonment was triggered, I won’t have the ability to keep my cool and stay calm, connected and compassionate if I’m fighting my own deep sense of shame. Honestly, my tendency in those moments is to shut down their feelings, to get it over with as quickly as possible so I don’t have to feel any discomfort. What they need, though, is for me to let them know they’re not alone, that I can handle their feelings and that it is OKAY to have big feelings! Watching This Is Us helps me unpack my emotional baggage a little more regularly so we aren’t all tripping over my suitcases!!
The adoption storyline in This Is Us renews my compassion for my kids and where they’ve come from.
As an adoptive parent, it is all too easy to forget the trauma of deep loss that marked the early lives of my children. I’m so grateful for the skilled therapist we have working with our kids. She has helped us uncover some of the deep questions lingering in our children’s hearts and minds, questions about their preciousness, whether or not they are loved, questions that impair their ability to trust our love for them. Randall’s character in the show has softened my heart even further. His ambitious, perfectionistic drive, his crippling self-doubt, his grief over not knowing his birth father sooner in life, and his feelings of betrayal over his mom’s lifelong lies have all given me a fresh perspective on growing up adopted. It is clear that Randall is driven by questions of self-worth, but while his character reminds me that how we start our lives will impact us for all of our lives, I see that it does not need to define our lives. Randall and Rebecca are on the road to relational repair, and he is becoming more gentle on himself thanks to his birth father’s influence. The nuanced, sensitive way the writers are portraying the various aspects of the adoption experience has reminded me to view my children more compassionately and to appreciate their perspective more deeply.
Basically, This Is Us is good self-care for me!
We have a tendency to convince ourselves that no one really understands us and that we’re all alone. (My self-talk can go there, at least!) Rebecca’s character has been very helpful in encouraging me to extend grace to myself, and reminding me that I’m not the only one who has certain feelings. As the show has revealed her journey, especially her fears regarding Randall knowing his birth father, I have felt relief. Discussing her character with other adoptive moms has reminded me again that I am not alone. We all struggle with our own fears and doubts. We all want to do the best thing for our kids. We all make mistakes. Feeling compassion for Rebecca despite her flaws has been a good reminder that I can be a good mom even though I am not perfect, and that it’s never too late to ask for forgiveness. These are good things to remember! I am grateful for the way This Is Us is a therapeutic space in which I find grace and healing – wouldn’t have expected that of a tv show!
While I hope my thoughts resonate with some of you, I am sure there are others who have chosen to stay away from the show for equally valid reasons, and that’s okay! I wouldn’t want anyone to think that a tv show can be a replacement for therapy or a group of supportive friends, or that there’s some sort of obligation to watch if you’re an adoptive parent. The last thing I want to do is put more pressure on already stressed-out moms! The benefits that I’ve experienced could have been gained in other ways – This Is Us just fast-tracked some of that learning for me!!
We’d love to hear from you! Do you watch the show? What has your experience with it been like? What do you love (or hate) about it??