What Glee Taught Me About Resilience

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I have to admit that I have asked that question…what is resiliency in mental health and psychology?

It’s a concept that is mentioned in mental health all the time.

Here’s what I knew before tonight:

  • It’s something we’re supposed to build
  • It’s something that can protect us from experiencing mental illness in some cases
  • Having resilience can help us cope with the ups, downs, traumas and tragedies in life

I knew these things. But I didn’t really know what resilience looked like.  Until tonight.

Gleeks will know that tonight was the season premiere of Glee; and the first episode after the death of it’s star Cory Monteith.  We all knew it was going to be a tear-jerker. But what I didn’t anticipate is that we would get to see psychological resilience personified in Lea Michele as she opens the show by singing Yesterday by The Beatles.

It must have been difficult; returning to work after her co-star and boyfriend’s death.  And it must have been a struggle to sing; let alone sing a sing so filled with meaning.  And I can’t even imagine the strength it took to do it all, in front of all of us.

But she did.  And that’s resilience.

Thank you Glee and Lea Michele for teaching me something about psychology tonight.



Teen Sex and Glee

Oh boy.  Last night’s Glee was a good one, and chock full of great potential blog topics: love triangles forming, childhood dreams dashed, and underage

Image: Glee on Fox

drinking.  For those who devoured watched last night’s episode though, it’s obvious that the most important topic was teen sex.  Rachel and Finn (Finchel) and Kurt and Blaine (Klaine) both “did it” for the first time in the episode – storylines that are burning up the blogosphere at this very moment (read some of the buzz here here and here).

Here’s my two cents:  In the best of all possible worlds, teenagers wouldn’t be thinking about such weighty topics as sexual relationships, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and sexual orientation.  Instead they would be busy singing and dancing, running and playing, reading and writing.  But, we don’t live in a fantasy world: we live here.  And where I live, teens have sex on the brain.  Almost all the time.  And guess what?  It’s been that way for a long time – generations in fact.  To deny this is dangerous and narrow-minded, and can lead to some scary consequences for teens and parents (unwanted pregnancies, life-threatning diseases, sexual abuse, and more).

So while I would have liked to see at least one of the couples decide to wait to have sex (in the interest of showing both sides of the argument), I think the folks over at Glee did a nice job portraying Finchel and Klaine’s first times.  Safe sex was discussed, the pros and cons of sexual intimacy were presented, and no hot-and-heavy scenes were shown.  Moving forward, I hope the writers include the heartbreak and regret that can – and often does – accompany a teen’s first sexual experience.  In the interest of showing teen sexuality as it really exists, I think this is essential.  Perhaps Rachel might begin to regret the event, Blaine might become jealous of Kurt’s other friends, Finn might realize that sex with Rachel isn’t all that much fun, or someone posts details of the event on Facebook.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what’s in store in the episodes to come.

In the meantime, here are some ideas for talking to the teens in your life about sex:

Mayo Clinic

Dr. Laura Berman

Psychology Today

Theology and Glee

Last night’s Glee was one of my all-time favorites.  Not only were the songs (by The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Barbra Streisand, REM, and Billy Joel among others) fantastic – so was the storyline.  Last night the characters tackled spirituality and religion; and so by default many aspects of human psychology.

Specifically, the cast (led by Kurt Hummel) grappled with some of the most difficult and confusing questions in theology:

  • Why does God let bad things happen?
  • Since we can’t prove the existence of God, how do we know he exists?
  • How do you pray? What should you pray for?  Who should you pray to?
  • How do we have relationships with people who believe differently from us?
  • If our prayers are answered, does that prove (or disprove) God’s existence?

It’s rare to see these topics discussed in pop culture in serious, thoughtful ways.  And it’s refreshing to see them discussed outside of politics, religious institutions, and talk shows.  Seeing life’s tough questions through the eyes of our favorite TV characters makes the questions more accessible to the rest of us.  And invites us to actually participate in the discussion – rather than just take sides.