Looking for Something? Get “Lost”! avatar Posted by Dr. Mike Brooks
Jun 1, 2010
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Perhaps this seems odd to give a plug to my favorite TV show, ABC’s Lost, on this website . What on earth does this have to do with psychology & well-being, you ask? Well, let me explain myself.

First, I have to say that I’m pretty bummed that Lost has concluded. I loved the finale. I’m still thinking about it! The main writers of the show, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, along with creator J.J. Abrams, have given us a spectacularly thought-provoking, deeply satisfying, and wonderfully entertaining experience.  I think it will be talked about for years to come, and its success may never be replicated on television.

Now, I have to admit that I did not watch Lost from the first episode in 2004. I had heard that it was good, and many friends implored me to watch it, but I resisted. I’m not sure why…maybe because they were pressing on me so hard about it. In social psychology, that’s known as “psychological reactance” – when we perceive that our freedom is infringed upon, we tend to act in ways to maintain our sense of freedom and control. Thus, when people insist we “must” do something, a part of us kicks in that says “you can’t make me!” As John Locke, a character in Lost would put it, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” Anytime a person would try to tell Locke he couldn’t do something, he wanted to prove them wrong. So, it sort of was like this for Lost with me.

Then what happened was a number of clients began recommending that I see it. “I probably will someday,” I would promise. I think I must have said that for a couple of years. I did intend on giving it a try…one day.

Then about two years ago, one of my longtime clients, with whom I shared many book & movie interests, kept giving me a hard time for not at least watching an episode or two. Week after week he would ask me if I had gotten around to seeing an episode. Sheepishly, I kept replying, “Uh, no. Not yet…”

Undaunted by my procrastination, he persisted, “Just try an episode or two…give it a chance. I guarantee you will love it!”

Well, a little over a year ago, I finally started watching Lost with my wife (we have about the same taste in TV & movies, fortunately). We were hooked within the 10 seconds. We eagerly watched 5 years of episodes within several months. Now, Lost has a voracious fan base. While I am a big fan of the show, I wasn’t posting to forums, reading blogs, dissecting every aspect of each episode, etc. So, I’m not sure whether I qualify as a “Lostee” or not. Maybe the fact that I’m now posting about it, I am!

This brings me to the reason that I’m posting about Lost. The show weaves very heavy subject matter within the story – about freedom, choice, faith, fate, philosophy, spirituality, religion…you name it. I’ve never seen or experienced a show that has so boldly, deftly, and successfully tackled such subject matter. The writers are clearly extremely brilliant…and well-read!

But at the heart of the show, I would say that the relationships among the characters are front & center. I’ve posted about how our relationships with others are inextricably linked with our own happiness and well-being. How does watching a TV show enhance our relationships with others, you might ask? As these characters in Lost grow and change over time, you come to really care about them…and what happens to them. There is such mystery in the show…layers upon layers…that, as a viewer, you want to connect with others and talk about these things.

For people who insist that all TV is dumbing down viewers…well, they probably haven’t watched Lost. My mind was doing cartwheels as I tried to do figure out aspects of the show. But I didn’t do this alone…millions of others were experiencing these same feelings.

In a way, the impact that Lost has had on people is not about the show itself. It is about the relationships with others we have in the real world that are strengthened as we connect with them about these mysteries and our favorite Lost characters. We share our ideas, hypotheses, frustrations, joys, and sorrows about the show. Lost has created endless fodder for conversations amongst viewers. Thus, like the relationships that are the heart of the show, we connect with other fans of the show, causing our own relationships to grow in the process. Happiness resides within our relationships  – none of us are truly lost when we are connected with one another.

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Dr. Brooks is a Licensed Psychologist and the Director of the Austin Psychology & Assessment Center (ApaCenter). He provides therapy, consultation, and coaching services to adolescents and adults. His areas of specialization and professional interests include mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy,solution-oriented therapy, feedback informed treatment (FIT), positive psychology, positive computing, empirically-supported treatment, and existential issues.
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