My loved ones and I, like a lot of the world, have been watching the series Ted Lasso. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Ted is an American football coach who gets hired to coach a British soccer team in the UK, even though he has no experience with soccer. Ted’s unshakeable optimism and kind heart made season one utterly heart-warming, something we all need a bit of right now. This season, Ted’s back story is being explored. We discover that behind this cheerful, optimistic, “can do” persona lurks a deeply traumatized man.
SPOILER ALERT – If you haven’t watched Season Two yet, then maybe skip the rest of this until you do!
At the end of episode 11, we were all shocked when Nate, the insecure water boy whom Ted promoted to assistant coach in season one decides to tell a reporter about Ted having a panic attack at a recent soccer match. It was appalling! How could Nate do that to someone who has been nothing but kind to him?
An initial response might be to write Nate off as an idiot and wait for him to get his inevitable comeuppance when the repercussions of his actions rain down on his head (I haven’t seen the last episode yet, so perhaps that gets resolved then). For those of us who like to look a little deeper though, this interesting set up gives us a chance to learn a lot about relationship dynamics, and the gifts that come from their challenges.
So let’s start with Ted. We know from Ted’s work with the Team therapist, that Ted’s father committed suicide when he was a teenager. While Ted is angry at his father, he’s also angry at himself, feeling that if he’d only made his dad feel more understood, he wouldn’t have ended his own life. With Nate, Ted tried to make up for Nate’s lack of recognition and respect from Nate’s own father, by seeing what he had to offer and giving him a chance to shine. The result – Nate’s unresolved issues lead to him humiliating Ted, just as he is working through this old, deep trauma around his father’s death. The gift? Ted has an opportunity to truly release the believe that he is responsible for his father’s actions or for the actions of others, including Nate. He can give himself permission to do what’s best for him, instead of being driven by this subconscious need to prevent others from hurting themselves. Ultimately, this will free him to help others in a balanced way, one that is both nurturing to himself and the other person.
Next, we have Nate. In Season One, we see Nate as someone who is picked on, put down, and shamed both by his father and many of the other characters in the show. His insecurity and deep subconscious need to feel better about himself, controls him, even after he begins to get the recognition and respect he’s seeking. Instead of him being kind to others who are struggling, he instead treats them, as he has been treated, using anger and shame to dominate and control. For him, there is a desire to pull Ted down, so that he can climb on top of him and feel better. No matter how many others he pushes down though, it will not change the internal belief he holds about himself. Hopefully, the writers will have Nate get the help he needs to move beyond his deep wounds, instead of setting himself up for more pain.
How about you? Can you resonate with one or both of these characters? Have you experienced a relationship that pushed your buttons? I know I have!
Perhaps we can all learn from Ted Lasso, finding a way to be grateful for the wonderful opportunity for growth that challenging relationships provide!