I don’t actually want to spoil anything for anyone here, but lately it’s been difficult to avoid the topic of disappointment when it comes to talking about favorite TV shows ending. By now I’m sure most people are sick of hearing about how Game of Thrones came to an end, and there were very strong feelings about it across the board. The main complaints were about the show building up expectations so high that there was no way the ending could possibly deliver satisfaction for all fans.
I realized that emotional attachment to a TV show parallels some real life relationships. Sometimes people’s expectations of each other are built up so high that disappointment is inevitable because you can’t please everyone. The majority of people have been let down by someone they cared about, which is a natural part of life. It’s much easier to bounce back from a disappointment by strangers who produced a show I watched once a week than from someone I intimately know in real life. In some cases with real human-to-human relationships, the same lessons can be applied.
In relationships, every encounter is like another episode of a show. We build connections with each encounter we have with others, much like our attachment to TV shows builds with each episode as we get to know the characters and understand the storyline. You gather more data with each conversation and read the unspoken cues. Is this person maintaining eye contact, leaning in and showing interest? Was there a sideways glance that could be foreshadowing or insight to how they truly feel? Why are the conversations so fixated on a certain topic? It’s a fun game to play with friends and fellow fans to guess what could be going on in each character’s mind while watching the show. In real life relationships though, it’s downright impossible to read another person’s mind. As a therapist, I’d even dare say that two-way communication is the key to healthy relationships!
In TV shows and in real life, there are moments that blindside us (read: plot twists). “How did I not see that coming?!” was often my question while watching Game of Thrones. When someone disappoints us in real life, our brains search for clues to answer the same question. My initial reaction to being let down is to check for signs that I may have missed leading up to the disappointing incident. Could I have avoided feeling this way? What could I have done differently? It’s normal to feel those negative emotions like embarrassment, sadness, or guilt. Moving on from being let down can be difficult.
After some time to heal from the initial shock, there’s an opportunity to look back and remember that there was a journey to this moment. There were good times that came with the bad. The reason we build up expectations is because we are wired to want to be even more connected. Disappointment signals that the connection may be broken, and that can be a harsh reality check. In real relationships, letting the other person know that you feel disappointed due to a specific incident opens the door for healthy communication about a solution. Finding solutions together can help repair the connection and heal from the disappointment.
You can communicate with a person in real life to help heal and move on from disappointment in the relationship, but you can’t sit down with fictional characters and discuss ways to change in the future. A healthy relationship with a TV show means something very different than a healthy relationship in real life. Keeping in mind that TV shows are fictional and should NOT be applied to real life in the majority of cases, I think it’s still important that we have our escapes from reality from time to time. It was a pleasure getting to watch this show unfold and to look back with appreciation for the entertainment value (after some time to grieve the loss). The difference with being disappointed in a TV show versus being disappointed in people is that the TV show does end, but the real life show must go on.
An Thai, MS, provides couple, family, and individual therapy in our Sterling, VA office. Call or email today to set up your first appointment or a complimentary telephone consultation with An!