Lights! Camera! Action! Welcome to your Monday Mental Health Moment at the movies, a series discussing the intersection of psychology and cinema. Some spoilers ahead…
It’s no surprise that a movie titled Everything Everywhere All At Once contains countless interpretations for each viewer. The story follows Evelyn, an immigrant laundromat owner being audited for tax fraud whose mind constantly fantasizes about different versions of herself in alternate lives where she made different choices. The audience can connect with Evelyn’s experience; the doubt and regrets we all have can cause us to question our own decision-making, and at times paralyze our intuition of how to move forward. Evelyn is then surprised to find she has been selected to protect the entire multiverse and can only do so because of her inherent uniqueness as “The Worst Evelyn” in existence.
Some clients come to me feeling like they are the worst version of themselves and long for some secret piece of advice that will transform them into their ideal self. A version of one’s self that makes all of the right choices and thereby outsmarts regret. But the truth of the universe is no one can avoid some level of regret in life and no one can become the “perfect” version of themself. In every timeline of our lives, there is no escape from our flaws and uncertainty. Life, no matter what we alter, will always be a balance of both good and bad (of googly eyes and an everything bagel). As we search for ways to make meaning of our existence, we will always wonder what could have been if we had done things differently. So how do we learn to embrace this meaningless mess?
Here are some lessons from the film that helped me:
You underestimate how the smallest decisions can compound into significant differences over a lifetime. Every tiny decision creates another branching universe…Every rejection, every disappointment has led you here, to this moment. Don’t let anything distract you from it. - Alpha Waymond It’s hard not to replay the past or rehearse the future in our minds, but sometimes we need to come back to the present moment to actually intuit what we need. Even the bad stuff shapes who we are and how we deal with the world around us, so use the story of your life to guide you. Regret is painful but powerful, it ultimately functions as a course corrector in the adventure of our lives. Recognize that mistakes are inevitable and that in another universe, you’d probably just make different ones.
You’re not unlovable. There is always something to love. Even in a stupid, stupid universe where we have hot dogs for fingers, we’d get very good with our feet. - Evelyn Wang Embrace your mediocrity - seriously. You have had no choice but to adapt to the environments you have found yourself in. If you’re “bad” at something, it probably means you’re good at something else but not paying attention to it. Reframe how you see yourself and be curious about what you are good at. Are there moments where you have had to be resourceful to survive? To connect? To learn something new? Being inexperienced is the perfect opportunity to practice humility. Learn to laugh at your shortcomings and be grateful for them, because you could have been born in a universe where you had hotdogs for fingers…yuck.
Shhh. You don’t have to worry about that here. Just be a rock. - Rock Joy When you feel lost or overwhelmed, just be a rock. Sit on the silent peak of your existence and look out at the vastness of nature. We are all “small and stupid humans” - in the infinite scale of the universe, our problems have no choice but to shrink down to their appropriate size. This is not to be mistaken with minimizing or invalidating - your suffering is in ratio to the space in which it exists, like a massive boulder in a fish tank. In the day-to-day, our struggles can be debilitating, because in that context they are! Simultaneously, when we intentionally zoom out and look at the big picture of our existence, the intensity of our issues can fade. Picture dropping that same boulder into the ocean, and notice what shifts.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, give it a watch and come up with your own explication. We may never know what the meaning of all of this is, so be with the people you want to be with, find joy in the small absurdities of your day and be kind to one another.
In observation of Eating Disorder Awareness Week from February 21st - 27th, Looking Glass Counseling has made a charitable donation to Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association (MEDA). MEDA is a Newton, MA based eating disorders nonprofit organization. MEDA provides education about eating disorders and their underlying causes to develop a compassionate community that promotes hopefulness and supports healing. They offer a variety of services to support individuals and loved ones through the various stages of their journey. Through their network of treatment providers and treatment tenters MEDA connects clients with the best care for their needs.
Hillary Brown, LICSW is an adaptive and playful therapist interested in helping her clients improve their interpersonal relationships as well as their relationship with themself. Hillary is unapologetically fat-friendly, LGBTQ+ affirming, and committed to noticing the systemic stressors of our world that can exacerbate mental health symptoms. Together with her client, Hillary detects what changes can be made within them and around them, while fostering resiliency and hope during times of disempowerment in oppression. Hillary believes that priorities do not have to be competing with one another and instead can find a harmonious balance through boundaries, awareness-building and self-compassion.