Why comfort shows are like crack to anxious people

Fact – I identify as an introverted extrovert

As an introverted extrovert, my personality usually presents itself in one of two ways. 1. I’m the life of the party. OR 2. I will stay in my room for days on end and you will barely hear from me. This tends to mean that on any given day I can either make friends with anyone and everyone around me OR my anxiety is ruling my life and I assume everyone in the world hates me – including but not limited to that lady at the grocery store that gave me side eye and the neighbor I only met once in the elevator but shuddered when I said hi across a room. ANYWAY – I’m an introverted extrovert, and so when the panoramic started in March of last year and rumors suggested that it would last 3 months, I wasn’t too pressed about it. Instead, I figured I’d keep my head down and shoulders up, I’d break in my jeans and wear out my sweatpants and then I’d get right on back to the real world.

OBVIOUSLY – THAT DIDNT HAPPEN.

So what actually happened was that I spent the next year and a half in a daze, only able to quantify the day of the week by scheduled weekly or bi-weekly meetings or by the scheduled Amazon shipments I had ordered. And during that time the isolation that I thought I would enjoy dragged out to the point where I was constantly anxious and depressed. and this lead me to two things, an expansion of my comfort shows and an unhealthy addiction to Amazon (which I know, many can relate to).

Forget Amazon, What is a comfort show?

While everyone knows about Amazon, not everyone knows what a comfort show or comfort characters are – so, allow me to explain.

A comfort show or comfort characters are, as the name implies – shows that you’ve watched multiple times, for the sole purpose of knowing what is going to happen, in order to bring yourself comfort.

Now, according to the internet, psychologists have found actual data that suggests a correlation between someone re-watching a familiar or favorite show and stress reduction. Most common in depressed or anxious people, comfort shows and characters allow us to feel more at ease and relaxed because we know exactly what is going to happen or have a connection to the characters. For some this experience is even or commonly therapeutic.

In other words, if you are someone who, while having a bad day, finds comfort or comedy in rewatching old shows like FRIENDS, or The Office, or ____________, ect. Then maybe you are using it as a form of escapism or relief to something that is obviously wearing you down. AND TO BE CLEAR – THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT.

Fact – My comfort shows are like crack to me

In the past year and a half, I cannot quantify the number of shows and movies I’ve binged. (This might be problematic – but I accept it). Being so isolated in quarantine, away from family and experiencing strained relationships with friends – I really found myself turning to shows as an outlet for dealing with traumas and self discoveries.

In fact, I think what draws me specifically to rewatching shows is obviously, the comfort, but more so the ability to watch someone else experience something I thought was unique to my life and realize that I’m really not alone. And while, on the surface I know I’m not and while I believe myself to be someone who doesn’t subscribe to the belief that the world revolves around me or the idea that no one could possibly understand my life and it’s events – as humans it’s really easy to get caught up in the bad days and convince ourselves that some things can’t be helped or fixed – when in reality we are just so comfortable in the misery or the belief that we don’t deserve to be happy that we continue to sabotage and define ourselves by the things that hurt us.

So, you see, for me, there’s something about relating to a character and allowing myself to identify with their faults that is and was so much less aggressive than deliberately calling myself out for my short comings. For example. It’s much easier to look at a character that puts themselves in toxic relationships than it is to look at my own relationships and realize they might be toxic. It’s easier to see the normalization of queer characters and say – hey maybe I identify with aspects of their journey – than it is to flounder around wondering if anyone actually understands what I’m going through.

So, in seeing these characters come to the realization that maybe their significant other or friend etc. is toxic, I give myself permission to start questioning my own relationships – opening me up to the idea or the internal conversation of – “is this happening to me” or “is this happening BECAUSE of me” and “if yes, what can I or should I do about it”. Then if I ultimately come to the conclusion that there isn’t a problem, or that the problem is something I need to continue to work with – then I can create the space to work with my emotions or have constructive conversations that might get me away from those situations.

“Enough commentary! What are you watching?”

So growing up my comfort shows were limited to shows like:

  • The Vampire Diaries
  • Stargate Atlantis
  • Lost Girl
  • Terra Nova
  • Arrow (seasons 1-2)

And while I could talk your ear of on the why those shows spoke to me, let’s just say if you know the shows and you’ve read my blogs, you can pick up on the themes that resonated with me as a teen/young adult. But as an adult now, while I still often go back to those shows – there has been a shift in my life perspective and even with some of my anxieties and so the shows I truly identify with now are more along the lines of:

  • The 100
  • Wynona Earp
  • Arrow (all seasons)
  • Legends of Tomorrow
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Station 19
  • Motherland Fort Salem

And while the list could go on, as could the details – this is getting long so I’ll try and wrap it up.

My addiction to comfort shows taught me… I’m where I’m supposed to be

As someone with anxiety and depression and… everything else most millennials/gen zers have, finding a way to sift through myself in the past year has been a huge part of my personal growth. And I’d argue that the themes in these shows have played a huge role in that as well.

So, I guess what I’ve learned from hearing about the concept of comfort shows and what they mean to people – aside from the fact that I have a slight Netflix addiction …. is that, while a lot could be said about the impact of these shows and my favorite characters and even shows in general and how they effect the masses – more can be said about the evolution of what kinds of story arcs are being mass produced and being made accessible and how that can allow people like me to find ways to bridge the gaps in their identity and find comfort within themselves. Because, honestly, sometimes it takes more than others accepting you to accept yourself and sometimes finding company or not feeling alone isn’t about walking into crowded spaces as much as it’s about better filling the spaces were in.

So what I’ve learned is that I’m where I am meant to be. And I’m not perfect – nor do I pretend to be, but I’m finding ways to work with that and in the mean time, if characters like Jessica Day (New Girl) or Maya Bishop (Station 19) make the struggle any easier and the weight a little lighter, well then I’m gonna share some brain space with them and hopefully make the world a little less crazy for a bit.

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