Ascension Behavioral Health

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Insecure S2E1: Hella Great

So. Season 2 of one of my favorite shows, Insecure, created by and starring Issa Rae, started back a few weeks ago and it is nothing short of all the relationship messiness that I expected and have been craving since fall 2016! There has already been so much commentary about the events of the season so far, so I know that I'm behind. (My goal is to keep on track weekly after dropping these 1st three #PsychReviews). But, I'm here now! And ready to talk about some of the things we're NOT talking enough about, from a relational psychologist's perspective. What I (and many others, given the popularity of the show, so watch it) immensely appreciate about Insecure is how culturally relevant and realistic the storylines are. Centered around three young professional black characters (Issa, Lawrence & Molly), the plots exhibit the complexities of friendship, dating and work distress in environments and a world that isn't necessarily reflective of these complexities in black people with understanding or support. Insecure takes on the nuances of black girl friendships, sex & sexuality in the black community, racism, sexism and even....THERAPY! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. 

First of all. The music. THE MUSIC! The soundtrack is unmatched, seriously. It's creative, lyrically relevant, unique and really connected to the moments and themes of the show, all throughout. The soundtrack also features artists of color that aren't mainstream but deserve play and are now in heavier rotation. 

The opening scene is (of course) Issa imagining Lawrence forgiving her for cheating on him. What's happening here is that she's fantasizing about this scenario vs. addressing the grief she's experiencing in reality. Oftentimes when we're experiencing a relationship loss (not only through death), we might have thoughts of how things could have been different; how we wish things didn't happen that way they did; what we would have/could have done differently; so that we wouldn't be feeling the way we are now. This is one of the five stages of grief: the "bargain," which momentarily allows us to skip over the negative feelings linked to loss. It looks like this season, we'll also witness Issa skipping over grief by attempting to date when she's really not ready to. We've all seen this happen or done this ourselves--find distractions from the emotional pain that we're feeling or look to feel the positive feelings we had with one person, elsewhere & through another person, to avoid loneliness, anger, regret, etc. Issue? Issa hasn't done much of anything to ACTUALLY make sense of the relationship, how she reacted, and what she needs now, which leads to more reactive behaviors, even MORE regret, and more mess. You see her face and body language on these dates? Look familiar? (side eye) She's disinterested, distracted, not engaged, and clearly passing the time. Her loneliness has gotten the best of her and without clearly planned and healthy alternative behaviors and actively sitting in her grief, welcome to this new phase of Issa. Though not malicious, Issa's attempts to get back with Lawrence are indeed selfish & grounded in wanting to feel better about herself and to absolve herself of guilt or shame if he can forgive her, which doesn't take into account his pain, his grief, his needs.

Cut to...Dr. Rhonda Pine & Molly, in her FIRST therapy session! My obvious initial reaction is "Wow, I could LIVE in her office, it's so beautiful and book-heavy." But Molly's initial reaction? Distrust, skepticism, lack of openness; giving short answers, making limited eye contact and just...awkward. Sessions like this are painful for both parties involved and it's hard to get any traction when a client doesn't give you much. However, in her silence & hesitation, Molly is very clear about not feeling ready to get unpack her life. She comes across as "having it together," and not really needing therapy because things are "cool." I gotta give it to Dr. Pine; she was trying HARD! But therapy takes time and not all clients show up and drop everything in our laps. It may take weeks, even months, of a therapeutic relationship for someone to feel safe, especially if they identify with the negative stigma surrounding mental health care or have a history of trauma. I chuckled at Molly's recap to Issa post-session: "She tryna get all deep; tryna get all in my business."....Sweetheart, just.you.wait! I have faith that Dr. Pine is just what Molly needs and just as patient as she needs. I was super warm & fuzzy seeing this relationship displayed on television, with it's accuracy and with the dialogue around it from first season to now.

For clients of color, finding a therapist who looks like them, may have shared experiences or can even understand and not question lingo, i.e. "explaining being 'woke' to Dr. Rosenberg,' are major players in getting them into the office and on the path to healing. Black women face several barriers to treatment, specifically, finding a black woman therapist who they have some sense they can trust. For Molly to even make the phone call, let alone make the appointment AND keep it, is the biggest step, so kudos to her courage. Once therapists get clients into the room (and it's actually a good fit) we can typically be who our clients need us to be for them. Which is just...there, available, nonjudgmental, curious and open to them.  

And then there's Lawrence & Tasha...come ON. The episode makes it pretty clear that Tasha is more attached to Lawrence than he feels to her. Those same behaviors mentioned above re: Issa--absolutely apply to Lawrence. What becomes messy here is that Tasha is attached to Lawrence with no rhyme or reason, and hasn't required him to be anything more than just...there. And this is only Friday through Sunday! Lawrence doesn't have to make any commitment, state any intentions, express what he feels for Tasha in order to be granted access to her affection, her body, her time & her home. She has demanded NOTHING from him so he gets to bring NOTHING to her but romantic/sexual company and attention, sorta. The levels of distraction he displays are on 10. Even his statement of, "You'll be here," to her shows his sense of entitlement to her time and affection, so that he doesn't have to sit in his pain, his confusion, his grief, his long-term depression. Lawrence KNOWS that Tasha will be there, enough to arrogantly say it to her face! He describes his "situationship," with Tasha as "fun, no pressure." Well....yeah. Even when Tasha notices him tune out at dinner, she doesn't really challenge it. I sense that she knows where he disappears to in his head, but confronting this risks ending the convenience of it all. When inconvenience rears its head (as I'm sure it will) let's see what these two are able to come up with. 

Another major plot this season will still be Molly at a predominantly white & male firm, now (knowingly) contending with the historically large wage gap between white men and black women. Shout out to Black Women's Equal Pay Day, which was just July 31st. Widely known fact, whether this country is willing to acknowledge or take responsibility, is that black women get paid only 63-67 cents to every dollar that non-hispanic white men receive. Black women experience slower wage growth, class inequality and are up against racism AND sexism ingrained into our culture. More than halfway through the year, July 31st, 2017 was the day this year that black women's pay finally caught up to white men's pay from LAST year. Unacceptable and Molly is NOT here for it. Interested to see how she handles this with coworkers and management; people with more privilege than Molly.

And finally...the sex scene SEEN 'round the Insecure world! Did NOT expect this, but again, also not surprised. Neither Issa nor Lawrence have actually dealt with what has happened, individually or together. They've avoided, misplaced anger/affection/grief, and now see each other, in their once shared together apartment, and reactively and lustfully did what they have done the past 3-4 years...AVOID their issues. Not only was the sex reactive, it was aggressive, unprotected (if this unfolds like this....) and again, unresolved. Issa's smile at the end tells me that she takes this experience as a cue of some kind of positive attachment that Lawrence still has to her but I'm pretty sure she won't be feeling this way for long.

Whew! I could say a LOT more but I'd have you folks here forever. Stay tuned to my analysis of S2E2 - Hella Questions, and S2E3 - Hella Open, before S2E4 drops Sunday at 10:30p EST! Please, like, comment & share! The conversations about Insecure have been thought provoking, insightful and even healing for many. So thanks, as always, for reading and until then-Dr A.