Yep, Ted has some fears of compassion, and actually, we all do! Let me show you what I mean about fears of compassion through the show’s clever and Emmy award winning script writing.
Ted is masterfully compassionate as a coach and leader, and as a friend. From the moment he arrives at AFC Richmond, Ted shows his kindness and positivity, getting started straight away at building relationships amongst the team and management, and sticking a crooked “believe” sign above his door.
He is sensitive to suffering and committed to trying to alleviate and prevent it. So, that’s compassion, isn’t it? Why would I say he is afraid of compassion?
Compassion can be tricky!
Well, fast forward to season two. Things are a bit tricky for Ted. His marriage has ended, he misses his son, and he’s started drinking to cope. And then, in episode 6 of season 2, Ted has a panic attack at a big game and rushes from the field.
Now it is Ted who is suffering. And remember, the definition of compassion is sensitivity to suffering in self and others, with a commitment to try to alleviate and prevent it. Compassion flows in three directions, towards others (Ted has that one nailed), but also receiving compassion from others and offering compassion to ourselves. Not so easy. In fact, these two flows where compassion is being directed towards us can be very scary.
He knows he needs help, so he visits the club psychologist, Dr Sharon. On that first occasion, the anxiety overwhelms him and he takes flight, leaving the session before it could even begin.
Then, on a second occasion, the anxiety goes the other way, and he gets angry, lashes out, and storms out of the room. Remember, people can respond with fight or flight when they feel threatened, and Ted is feeling threatened by the idea of receiving her compassion.
We can all find compassion scary.
This script writing is actually very clever here, because we all can find compassion scary sometimes. Even being compassionate towards others can trigger certain fears, blocks and resistances, but certainly opening ourselves up to receiving compassion from others can be very scary indeed. It can make us feel vulnerable or exposed, or it can make us feel weak or even ashamed. “I should be able to cope with this on my own!”
But Ted pressed on, turning up for more sessions with Dr Sharon. And this is a courageous act! When we recognise our own suffering, it takes enormous courage to let people in to help us. And he does it in the end!
He is able to work through some of those fears, blocks and resistances, and engage with the psychologist in a way that allows her to help him. And he lets others in as well! And, he starts to treat himself with more compassion, stepping away from drinking to cope, and instead connecting with others and feeling soothed in the process.
Dr Sharon has fears of compassion too.
But compassion isn’t easy, and receiving compassion is hard for all of us. A very clever twist in the plot occurs when Dr Sharon is hit by a car while riding her bike to work! It was awful for her, traumatic, and really rattled her and her joy of riding!
Ted, of course, contacted her immediately, visited her in the hospital, gave her a lift home after she was discharged and so on…but then she became very reluctant to accept any of his help! She wanted him to leave, she didn’t want to answer his follow-up texts and calls, she just wanted to hunker down and hide away. But he persisted and eventually she became more open to receiving care and kindness from him.
Check in with your own fears.
No matter who you are, fears, blocks and resistances to compassion across the three flows will be there to some degree or another. Maybe you will have reservations about being compassionate towards others. Or perhaps you will feel very reluctant to let others be compassionate towards you. And maybe you find it very difficult to offer yourself the same kind of compassion you might find easy to offer everyone else.
It’s useful to check in with this. And it’s useful to persist with it, work with it. Cultivating compassion across the three flows can be really helpful, especially when trying to cope with Life’s difficulties. We cope best, and thrive, when we help and support each other.
If you would like to hear more about living a compassionate life, please subscribe to my YouTube channel! I post videos on compassion, self-compassion and compassion focused therapy every week! Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCujCvGkc_TFF7KmA0Sk4E7A