By Mike McMahan, LPC
What if LOST had really gone out with a bang?
According to this recent article, the producers of LOST wanted to include the eruption of a volcano in the series finale of the show. The final season tends to be heavily criticized, but I am a LOST fanboy and think they did the best they could considering it was, in all likelihood, made up as the series went along. To me, this was apparent while viewing it, and there was no ending that was going to tie up all of the loose ends. The volcano would have been better than the golden light (which was kinda hokey, truthfully).
What fascinated me about this LOST revelation was that the producers and writers had hinted about the possibility of the volcano playing a role and were forced to abandon it due to budget constraints. Generally when writing fiction, the developments in the story should pull towards the ending. Otherwise, the creator runs the risk of having a deus ex machina moment and annoying readers/viewers.
To get existential for a moment, all of our lives have the same literal ending. No one lives forever. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. If we view our lives as a series of interlocking stories, inevitably new pieces will begin and others will end. It’s the natural ebb and flow of living 70+ years.
But how the story of our lives and events in our lives end is something else entirely. Frequently when I meet with a client for the first time, they may feel that they have hit a dead end. “I can’t solve this problem because this and this and that happened, so I’m stuck with this situation.” As a therapist and creative person, I totally understand this line of thinking. Many of us group things that happen in our life into stories, and if you notice things (like hints of a volcano, say) it’s no surprise that you expect a volcano at the end. But are events and outcomes in our life inevitable? I don’t think they are.
My first thought upon hearing that someone feels that a certain outcome is predetermined is to ask “what would you like to see happen?” Inevitably, the client is going to say something different than whatever they feel is the predetermined outcome. Helping a client set this goal is the job of a therapist. It’s funny… we may sit around our house thinking that we want something to be different but not sure what it is or how to make it happen. Then you get in a room with a therapist and you’re able to articulate a goal. Like magic!
And it is a bit like magic… but not really. That “someone I don’t know” is a big part of the reason that therapy works. When you’re talking to a mental health professional in an office or clinic, it’s totally different than talking to a friend or family member. You don’t have to ask yourself “why is this person giving me this advice?” because a therapist is not involved in your life personally and you recognize that they have no personal stake in the outcome. This is, of course, the value of therapeutic services being very private. It’s a literal sanctuary. A place where the ending is not predetermined and where you can collaborate to work on the steps to get to that all-new better ending.
Unless… 4 8 15 16 23 42 means something to you. In which case, maybe it is all predetermined.
Mike McMahan, LPC is a psychotherapist based in San Antonio, Tx.
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Therapy Goes POP
Perspectives on therapy and mental health as viewed through the lens of popular culture