Emerging Adulthood, Anxiety & the Defense of Randall, This Is Us, episode 6

Emerging Adulthood, Anxiety & the Defense of Randall, This Is Us, episode 6

I wasn’t ready for this episode. I just wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for the Jheri Curl wig they found for Randall’s Michael Jackson costume. I wasn’t ready Beth & Rebecca being called out for being horrible whisperers (lol moment). I was not ready for Kevin trying to take his roomie Zeek’s part. I didn’t know what to do with Kate’s bangs or her creepy customer. I wasn’t ready for Kevin to protect his sister with the Halloween bribe or those darn Larsons telling Randall things they should keep to themselves! I definitely was not ready for Miguel to find Rebecca on Facebook. And I wasn’t ready for the mention that Kate sits and eats at the particular spot where her father died! Where was she and where was Jack?? Most of all, I wasn’t ready for all the tears. So many tears.

My favorite part of this episode was watching how The Big 3 navigate the life stage of Emerging Adulthood. Kevin and Kate are fitting the classic picture of Emerging Adulthood.  They are still working on their identity, their future and their adult-ness. They tell each other they are “crushing the twenties” until we find out what this means: Kate is a waitress in night school and unclear why she is sleeping with men who are obviously married, and Kevin is washing hair, hasn’t had an audition for a year and is behind on rent in an apartment he shares. They both are unsure of where they are going, what they are doing, but they are filled with optimism that they are still on their way to “crushing it.” They are ready to be successful adults… as soon as they figure out how to get there.

Life has a middle too, and middles can be hardest because you can get really lost. But middles can be a beginning sometimes.
— Rebecca Pearson

We also see one of The Big 3 who seems to have it figured out: Randall. Kate even says that now that Randall has figured “his crap out”, they will only be 5 years away from figuring out their own. They have been watching Randall literally map things out since childhood while they were ok to “improvise.” Jack notes that Randall is “anxious and rigid” and that this is a problem. But is it? Is Randall’s anxiety a benefit or a drawback? I thought it’d be worth looking at the good and bad side of anxiety.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling that we all have felt. It can be intense fear, worry, or apprehension and can include nervousness or an overall sense of dread. This feeling can be just somewhat distracting and unpleasant, or it can be all consuming and crippling. Anxiety usually includes not just the emotional impact and negative thinking, but can also lead to uncomfortable physiological sensations.

The Bad Side of Anxiety

There is no secret here. The bad side of anxiety is what’s most often talked about. We have compassion for those who feel overwhelmed by their anxiety and make sure to be sensitive to their needs. Why? Anxiety can cause some serious distress. Sometimes anxiety can get so strong that we become irrational and can’t focus on reality or think clearly. This is what Beth sees when Randall is obsessing about the fan and can’t seem to enjoy Halloween fun or the excitement of welcoming a new child. Anxiety can get so strong that we can’t shake the worry. We find out that Randall can’t let the broken fan go because he is actually deeply worried about a potential threat he read about – crib death. He honed in on one possible solution to crib death – air circulation – and could not rest until this potential problem was taken care of. Not being able to solve that issue made his overall anxiety about having a baby unbearable – he needed to remove as many dangers and threats as he could. High amounts of anxiety can impact appetite, relationships, sleep and job performance. We’ve seen Randall experience all of that.

But the other possible (dare I say worrisome) part of anxiety is that in high doses it can cause symptoms that look just like various serious medical conditions. People who have panic attacks often rush themselves to the emergency room because they think they are having a heart attack, an asthma attack, an allergic reaction, and more. In the episode, we find out that two months earlier, Randall’s physiological anxiety symptoms got so strong that it impacted his vision. Beth was shocked to find Randall weeping and reporting that he couldn’t see. Anxiety can certainly cause double vision, blurry vision or even visual hallucinations. It can even SEEM like blindness, but it’s not actual blindness. Either way it’s terrifying in the moment to feel as though you cannot see, especially when you have no idea why.

The Good Side of Anxiety

So certainly, sometimes anxiety can get the best of us. But it would not be correct to say anxiety is bad. Anxiety is natural and normal! It has a purpose. Anxiety is our built in way of dealing with potential dangers – it kicks in our fight-or-flight response and allows us to respond faster in times of threat. In a way, anxiety keeps us safe! Don’t believe me? There is evidence that anxious people have fewer fatal accidents, mainly because they’re thinking ahead and avoiding risks. There is an evolutionary benefit to anxiety as well: 

 “While excessive worry is generally seen as a negative trait and high intelligence as a positive one, worry may cause our species to avoid dangerous situations, regardless of how remote a possibility they may be. In essence, worry may make people ‘take no chances,’ and such people may have higher survival rates. Thus, like intelligence, worry may confer a benefit upon the species.”  ~Dr. Jeremy Coplan

We already know that Randall is intelligent. Two studies mentioned here found an interesting relationship – people with high anxiety often have higher intelligence. Randall used his intelligence and his anxiety to dig into every potential threat his new baby girl could face and try to avoid them. People with anxiety are often very cautious, they try to think of everything that can go wrong and they are very careful decision makers. Anxious people are great problem solvers! And we have seen that Randall will always find a way to think through and solve a problem. He always thinks about what could potentially go wrong and then tries to correct for it…even on Halloween night when the only task is to get a pillowcase full of candy.

Anxious people may often spend extra time looking for solutions and are actually more likely to seek help. What better example of this do we see than when Randall is so overcome by his anxiety about his new daughter that he thinks Garuda Singh’s employee nametag with “Please ask me for help” is an invitation to discuss new parent jitters.  BUT, as odd as it looks for a stranger to ask an employee how they can prepare for a baby (or as Randall calls it “to be in charge of a universe”), we see that it actually helps.  Garuda tells Randall that babies will arrive with all the answers. This is all Randall needs to resolve the dread that he couldn’t shake. 

In the end, while Randall’s anxiety has certainly overwhelmed him to the point of impairing his functioning, we see that this anxiety actually got him to where he is today: happily married, with a new daughter, a stable well paying career and a beautiful home – most likely from doing more than his fair share of research, preparation, problem solving and mapping. His anxious trouble shooting and planning gave him the confidence and readiness to take on life’s challenges – something that even Kevin and Kate have come to appreciate. Every quality can be a benefit or a hindrance – anxiety is no different. It’s just a matter of finding the right amount that actually propels us forward, and seeking the support we need when we get overwhelmed.

What do you think of Randall’s anxiety?

Do you wish you were named after a ceiling fan?

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