Helping Kids With Shame & Self-Harm and the Parent Message in Pixar’s Soul

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Show Notes

Shame & Soul

How do you support your children who feel shame very intensely? They feel shame so intensely that it might include self harming practices. What do you say when children say “I feel no worth?” Or “I can’t believe I did that,” or “I’m so stupid.” How do you support your children who handle their mistakes in such a way that’s self-punitive, and they’re unforgiving with themselves? Also, we watched the movie soul and there is a message in that movie that we want all parents to hear.

26:00 Lynn and Robin discuss Pixar’s latest movie Soul and the teaching opportunities in it for kids and parents.

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Episode Transcript

Robin Hutson  0:00 

How do you support your children who feel shame very intensely, they feel shame so intensely that it might include self-harming practices? What do you say when children say I feel no worth? Or I can’t believe I did that or I’m so stupid. How do you support your children who handle their mistakes in such a way that are self-punitive and they’re unforgiving with themselves?

We’ll answer that question in this week’s episode of Flusterclux with Lynn Lyons, the show for real talk about worry and other big feelings in parenting.

Lynn Lyons  0:30 

Hi, I’m Lynn Lyons. I’m an anxiety expert, speaker, Mom and author. I’ve been a therapist for 30 years,

Robin Hutson  0:36 

you’re here because your family has some anxiety issues, or you want to prevent them. I’m your co-host and Lynn’s sister in law Robin and I’m here to ask your questions.

Lynn Lyons  0:45 

Parenting can be a Flusterclux, and I’ll help you find your way.

So, Robin wanted me to watch the movie soul, which I did twice. And you know, I will tell you, there is a message in that movie that I want all parents to hear.

Robin Hutson  1:04 

Okay, Lynn, I have a listener question for you.

Lynn Lyons  1:07 

Okay, I’m ready.

Robin Hutson  1:08 

Our 10 year old son has struggled all his life with strong emotions of shame and worthlessness when he encounters situations where he sees himself as failing, he does not seem globally depressed is mostly happy and upbeat and often experiences joy with an unbridled enthusiasm and delight he is described by not just us but also teachers and friends as exceptionally kind and empathic towards others. I truly do not think my husband or I are demanding or strict parents and we are careful to always offer unconditional love and support.

We’ve worked with two therapists in the past and tried ourselves to instill the concept of self-compassion, but to no avail. The situations that may trigger his storms of negative thoughts may vary from something small like forgetting to wash his hair before turning off the water in the shower or larger like struggling with math.

Recently, my son confided to me that he started self-harming behaviors like biting his own arm or banging his head against the wall when he feels upset. And he has made a stupid mistake. When he is upset, he will say incredibly dramatic things like he should just rip off all his skin or throw himself out a window, an online parental screening portal we used just identified that he did a Google search last week for I have no worth I am depressed kill me, we are beyond alarmed. How do we find the needed care for him and convince him that he is worthy and wonderful?

Lynn Lyons  2:31 

As I often say, Mom, you’re very smart to be on top of this, to be paying attention to this. And it sounds like you’ve already taken him to two therapists. What did the therapists do? And what were the targets that the therapist had, because what’s not going to work at this point, is just continuing to tell him what you feel about him, because you love him.

And you think he’s amazing, and other people think he’s amazing. And he’s really empathic, and he’s got all these great qualities. And clearly, he is getting a lot of messages from you, that love that he’s cared about that you enjoy him, right, you are giving him all of the messages about being worthy, etc., etc.

So, continuing to do, I don’t think you should stop doing that, of course, because those are wonderful things that you’re doing. But it’s not getting to the core of what’s going on, you’ve got a perfectionist, and when somebody is a perfectionist, and I don’t know if that’s something that either parent sort of struggles with themselves, because it’s not an uncommon thing.

But when somebody is a perfectionist, it means that they are incapable of accepting that they have made mistakes. And that’s what mom said in this that when he makes a mistake, and we could all say, oh, what it doesn’t matter if you don’t put shampoo in your hair.

For a perfectionist. There’s no real differentiating between little mistakes and big mistakes, because the very nature of being a perfectionist is that it’s all or nothing thinking. So, perfectionism, as we’ve talked about in other episodes, is a global way of viewing yourself. So, either you are perfect, or you are nothing.

And it’s also incredibly rigid, right? So, you have to do things exactly correct. Or it’s a disaster. One of the things you want to start talking to him about is his perfectionism. And it is really important that parents just say to kids directly, you’ve got a problem with perfectionism. You have this belief inside you that you have to do everything perfectly or it’s a disaster.

That’s called all or nothing thinking. And we’re going to start to work on you being able to tolerate when you make a mistake, it doesn’t feel good, but your reaction and your response internally As if you have done something horrible, because the only two choices you are giving yourself is that I did it perfectly, or I’m horrible the language that he’s using where he’s saying, you know, I should just die, or I should rip my skin off, or I wouldn’t be all that concerned about the content of that language he is expressing to you that he feels so distressed with himself, and that he can’t live up to his own expectations.

Again, I am not saying that mom or dad are putting these high expectations on him. And it sounds like that’s actually not the case. And it sounds like since this has been going on that mom, you’ve been working really hard to make sure that you don’t have those expectations at home. But I think much more important for you to look at what you’re modeling for yourselves. Rather than what you’re telling him,

Robin Hutson  5:55 

what I hear you say is that we have to remember that our children, there’s that very powerful modeling going on, that’s happening very unconsciously done by the parents. So, the parents have to really focus on each other and help each other. It’s not a not an accusatory process, what are all the ways that we’re modeling this, and our son is taking it to a much more extreme place.

Lynn Lyons  6:20 

Correct. And it could be that you don’t have high expectations of him. It’s not like you’re saying, Oh, you have to get all A’s in school. But it could be that you say, you know what, I feel so much better when the house is perfectly picked up. Or you say I am, so I can’t believe I didn’t do that, right. Or even just kids watching their parents in the way they talk about achievement, and their own levels of achievement.

So, if you are somebody who holds yourself to a high standard, if you are somebody who may be not about your own children, but sort of subtly gives off messages that other people’s behavior or the way other people do things are not the way that you would do them, all of those messages are indicative of your own perfectionism, that that’s the way that you view yourself. And you really, you know, one of the best things that you can do as a parent is to say, How do I view myself? And how am I projecting that, not that my child should be perfect, but I am showing my child how to view themselves in this perfectionistic way.

Robin Hutson  7:33 

So, if the couple then work together, and try and think through the traits of perfectionism that they are modeling, and one of them says, Oh, I do this, because I probably talk about my work this way, or I probably Model A rigidity, or all or nothing about this. So, then they have the data that they’ve figured out together, what’s the next step?

Lynn Lyons  7:59 

To talk about it directly with their son. So, if you’re going to try and help him get out of this pattern, and you wouldn’t be able to do this with a four year old, but you can do it with a 10 year old, I would be really direct. So, if I had this family in my office, I would say, look, here’s the thing, you have a really hard time making mistakes.

Now, I don’t know whether or not your mom and dad have that same thing going on inside of them. But they could. And it’s not something that anybody’s doing on purpose. But I think what this family needs to work on is talking very openly about how do we manage when we make mistakes? How do we manage disappointment? How do we manage when even we let somebody down? So, we do something that hurts somebody else’s feelings, or we accidentally break somebody’s favorite plate.

You know, when I say that, my husband, we got these really great Italian pottery plates for our wedding. And he was standing in the kitchen drying them as if they were symbols, but the symbols weren’t hitting, you know, so you got the image. He’s swinging them in the air. And then he crashed the two plates together as if they were symbols. And both plates as you can imagine, exploded. I love those plates, right? So, he felt terrible. He stood there in front of me and smashed two of our plates.

How do we manage when we do something that doesn’t feel good, either to ourselves or to somebody else? So, you begin to talk about emotional management when you have a child or an adult who’s experiencing such powerful emotions that they are doing self-harm. That is indicative of target that I want to go after the place we want to work is how do we tolerate strong emotions?

How do we manage those emotions in a way that we don’t turn them on ourselves or decide that we deserve it? For them, or sometimes self-harm is a way to distract from our emotions. So, it can go both ways.

But whenever anybody is self-harming, that is an indicator that they need some work in the emotional management department. So, coming up with him, I would go online and I would download one of those lists of emotions and have him begin to talk about all these different feelings, there are nuances and feelings. Remember, if he’s an all or nothing thinker, if he’s a perfectionist, then he either feels fabulous, like you say he can have unbridled joy or he feels horrible, and that it’s a disaster.

We want him to be more nuanced, we want him to get into the gray area of all the different ways that he feels and all the different ways that other people feel. So that’s what I would go after with him. But I would talk very directly to him about the fact that there is some all or nothing thinking, some global thinking, some perfectionism going on.

And listen, if you’re listening to this, and you’re thinking, well, he’s not a perfectionist, his room is messy. People aren’t perfectionist in every area of their lives. And sometimes it can show up in sort of emotional perfectionism is that I have to make sure that I don’t have bad feelings, or how can make sure that I don’t give somebody else bad feelings have to make sure that I don’t make a mistake. I don’t know exactly the ways that it shows up.

But he’s, it sounds like he’s very sensitive to criticism. Right? So, if he gets out of the shower, and you say, Hey, did you wash your hair? Oh, I forgot. Right. So being able to talk very directly about rigidity, and perfectionism, and being able to tolerate strong feelings, I wouldn’t get so concerned about the language that the actual words that he uses, I don’t think he’s going to do those things.

I think that’s just indicative of him not being able to express what’s going on inside of him and not being able to tolerate that everybody screws up. But I would really pay a lot of attention to the subtle or maybe not so subtle ways that perfectionism is conveyed around him. And it could be in school, too. He could go to a school where there’s a lot of emphasis on achievement and getting good grades and that kind of stuff. It’s pretty pervasive in our culture.

Robin Hutson  12:26 

If parents find themselves in a situation like this, our response is, but we love our kids. This isn’t about love and affection. This is about something else. It’s really about how are they handling these daily emotional experiences and emotional management.

Like you said, it’s about how do they handle uncertainty? How do they handle mistakes? How do they handle all of these things, and the patterns and habits can really go askew? Even if they’re in a very loving household where there’s a lot of affection and love. Here’s my question. I know you say to talk to them directly. But when parents recognize certain things that are being modeled, and then exacerbated or amplified by the child, give an example of that conversation. Let’s say that one of the parents says, you know, what, I probably model perfectionism in the way that I talk about x and y. So, what do we do about that?

Lynn Lyons  13:26 

So, you say to him, you know, we’ve been really concerned, and we’ve had a lot of conversations about how you feel so badly about yourself, and how you have these big emotional reactions. And we feel terrible. And we tell you that it’s fine that you didn’t wash your hair, or we tell you that it’s fine that you screwed up, and you don’t believe us.

So, what we’re really going to pay attention to, because we still want you to have that message. But we’re going to pay attention to maybe how we give that message to you in other ways. And so, I wonder I would say, you know, to the parent, I would say to him, I wonder if sometimes I get upset when I make a mistake. I wonder if it’s really hard for me not to have, you know, the house perfect or not to have my work perfect or not to not to feel like I’m always doing the right thing. I wonder if I have a hard time making mistakes.

Robin Hutson  14:32 

Can you recall a time that I that I might have felt the way you do where I had a hard time?

Lynn Lyons  14:37 


Robin Hutson  14:38 

Because you hear them parrot back what they observed and how they internalized it.

Lynn Lyons  14:42 

It’s sort of the same question that I asked in my office. When I say to the kids, which one of your parents is the warrior, I might ask the child which one of your parents do you think has a really hard time with criticism? or which one of your parents really tries very hard to do everything perfectly? it’s sometimes hard for the parents to hear that.

But sometimes when the children pointed out, it’s incredibly powerful. And so, I think you’re exactly right, Robin that this isn’t at all about not providing love. But as I said at the beginning, it this is not about him feeling unloved by you. Because this is an internal process that he’s got himself stuck in, you know, it’s sort of that expression, it’s not what you say it’s what you do.

And so really paying attention and opening this conversation about how is it as a family? How do we handle mistakes? not criticizing other people, but how do we do it ourselves? And what are the expectations that we have of ourselves, but I would absolutely leave it open ended, and have that discussion and see what he comes up with, for sure.

And he may say, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. And that’s fine, too. But parents, I would, I would really pay attention to what you’re modeling. And of course, I would look at how you were parented. Because these things go generational. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize it in ourselves, but look up a few generations, and see if there’s any perfectionism swimming around up there too, because it’s a powerful pattern conveyed in ways that can be absolutely inadvertent, and sometimes subtle. Sometimes it’s really direct, but sometimes not so much.

The other thing too, which I talk about a lot is that this is a process issue, not a content issue. say he gets upset because he lost something, if you go into a conversation with him about how it’s okay that he lost it, and it doesn’t matter, and you’ve got five other pencils that he can use, instead of that, one, you’re getting caught in the content and trying to talk him out of the way he feels about that situation, it is much more important that he begin to recognize the process of his overreaction, it’s much more important that you have a conversation with him about his overreaction now.

And I don’t say that in a way, like, oh, you’re overreacting, but that the reaction that he feels internally is big and strong and powerful. It doesn’t feel connected to the content of it. I don’t care about the content of it. I want him to begin to recognize what a difficult time he has managing this feeling called blank. And I want him to be able to put words to it. This feeling of disappointment, this feeling of I screwed up this feeling of I’m terrible, have him begin to be able to talk about what’s going on inside of him internally. It’s not about this shampoo. It’s not about the pencil. It’s not about this. It’s about his reaction when he feels blank.

Robin Hutson  18:01 

So, I just want to ask one more follow up question, when you recognize that you’ve got a child or a teen doing any kind of habit that is concerning, right? Because this could be applied to this sort of self-shame, this intense self-shame. It could be extreme disconnection from an isolation from a team, right? It could be a lot of the different things.

But if you’re the parent wanting to admit that you’re modeling the seeds of this that’s grown into a different category with the child, what do you say about this is something I have to work on and it makes, it makes me feel bad. I think this makes you feel bad, too. We’re going to work on this together, I’m going to tell you, if it’s okay with you, I’m going to tell you, when I have done something, and I recognize it, I want to own that, but I want to I want to do it less. And I’m not going to do it less until I recognize that I’m doing it. And you can do that with me too. And together, we’re going to recognize that we have a habit that makes us feel very bad.

Lynn Lyons  18:26 

Yeah. Where I have the families talk about the unexpected thing of the day, because I really just want to normalize talking about mistakes and problem solving.

But say one of the problems that you’re dealing with is explosive anger. So, say you’ve got a kid who has a really hard time when they get angry, they throw things or they hit or they punch in you recognize that maybe you’ve been modeling that. And maybe you even say in this family, we all are working on trying to manage our anger in a different way and it doesn’t mean deny it or suppress it, etc., etc.

But I’m going to work on this and I’m gonna you know, when I when I have to deal with something, you know, there are times at work where my boss makes me so mad, I just want to throw my water in his face. Talk to your kids about that. Always make sure that the content that you are using as examples is not something that’s going to frighten them or overwhelm them or that developmentally is inappropriate for you to share. We don’t want to cross boundaries in that way. But it will Really is helpful when grownups talk to kids in a very genuine way about the patterns that we’re all working on.

Robin Hutson  20:09 

What would a boundary crossing line be that would be bad?

Lynn Lyons  20:13 

So, say you’re working on anger. And so, mom says, Oh, you know what, I had a tough time with anger. Today, I got so angry at your father that I started fantasizing that I was going to call a lawyer and divorce him and that we were going to move out of the house, but I got over it, you know, that would be pressing? Yeah.

It is always okay for you to change the facts a little bit to make it developmentally appropriate. So sometimes you can come up with an example of something. And if there are, you know, there’s a part of it that you feel like your nine year old doesn’t really need to hear, then just change it up a little bit.

Because it really is about the process, you want to let kids know, we want to open the door enough for them to see the internal processes that we go through in a way that’s helpful. Rather than keeping them separate from that they’re only seeing what oftentimes leaks out and not very productive ways.

So just talking through it, like, Look, I get really frustrated when I was a kid, this happened to me or the other day, when I was driving, this happened to me. And I really just had to take a few breaths, and I had to tell myself, I’m going to feel better. This feeling that I’m having is temporary, it will pass, you know, like just walk them through it.

We teach kids so many things. But we really don’t teach them emotional management in a direct way that we teach them how to zip up their coats and tie their shoes. We teach them in a lot of indirect ways. And sometimes that’s fine. And sometimes it’s not. But we really want to start talking very directly about how do we handle these strong feelings when they come up?

Robin Hutson  21:50 

As we talk about that family’s question, it really hits the point home, that emotional management from the parent, it’s just the foundation for really keeping the family healthy. It makes me think of the anxiety audit. And what a critical tool it is for parents, right?

Lynn Lyons  22:09 

And that’s what we really wanted it to be. That’s what I wanted it to be. Because, as I say, so often, we can get caught up in the psychobabble of things and pathologizing things of worrying about what’s wrong with our kids.

And I really just want to simplify it, I really want to put it in language that says as plainly as I can say there are patterns that we get caught up in that we don’t know that we’re even doing it that they are not uncommon at all, particularly after the year that we’ve just had. And it really is so important for us to take a step back, look at our own patterns, figure out how we’re perhaps transmitting our own stress and anxiety to our kids, and to figure out how to interrupt that. That’s what the anxiety audit is about.

Robin Hutson  22:59 

It’s for parents to go through to really recognize those anxious patterns for themselves. Right?

Lynn Lyons  23:04 

You know, I meet with so many families and the parents that I talked to love their children adore their children want the best for their children. And so, they come in saying I need to help my child.

And sometimes the first step is really, how do you look at your own patterns, so that you can help your child because a lot of what we do as parents comes from the most wonderful place, it’s just that we all come into parenting, certainly with our own baggage, but also just with the remnants of what life throws at us.

And it really is so important and so helpful, and should be so normalized, that we step back and look at our patterns so that we can do what we want for our kids that we’re not modeling for them not on purpose, what it is that creates stress and anxiety in families,

Robin Hutson  23:57 

Right. And you can’t even talk about this without the context of 2020 as well.

Lynn Lyons  24:01 

Of course!

Robin Hutson  24:01 

Almost every parent had a very challenging year for a variety of reasons. And those anxious patterns probably intensified. And so, the goal of the anxiety audit is to say, Okay, I got in more trouble with these patterns and these patterns. I’m aware of them now. And these are the ways I’m going to disrupt that pattern so that the lingering behavioral culture of the family kind of gets back on track, but 2020 if you think about it,

Lynn Lyons  24:29 

How many parents would say, Yeah, no, everything went really smoothly, or No, we didn’t have to change our routine at all. We went through 2020 being challenged to handle big emotions, being more flexible than ever having to adapt, feeling overwhelmed, sometimes even feeling panicky.

And if we remember that anxiety wants certainty and comfort 2020 was not that year, being able to just get a reset and you know, maybe You said anxiety has been around for a long time. And the numbers are not good. I keep writing about that I keep talking about that. And maybe what 2020 did serendipitously if we want to use that word, but maybe what 2020 did was sort of help you recognize patterns that had been around for a long time. That now it’s really okay for you to look at. And for you to interrupt.

Robin Hutson  25:26 

I’m excited that we’re going to do the anxiety audit live on January 23, as a small group workshop,

Lynn Lyons  25:33 

Right, so we have the recorded version. And then we also have this live event so that if you have questions, you will have access. So, it’ll be interactive, which is pretty cool. I think,

Robin Hutson  25:44 

As I know this, all of your workshops always fill to capacity. So, people should buy their tickets for the live anxiety audit, if that interests them. Yeah, because we’re purposely keeping it small. I want to be able to interact with the people who are attending.

So, Lynn, I saw a lot of my friends start sharing on social media, their positive reaction to Seoul, and I watched it with my family, we had a little movie night, and it was so much better than Wonder Woman 84. I had a lot of high hopes for that movie, but it was terrible. I like certain parts of soul. But I had to watch it three times because I kept falling asleep.

Lynn Lyons  26:24 

So, I watched soul. And then I watched it again, because it was interesting to me. The plot was so all over the place that I wanted to go back and watch it again to try and figure out what they were actually saying. So, I liked part of it. I like the message.

I’ll tell you this. The animation, particularly when they were in New York City, is just uneffing Unbelievable, isn’t it?

Robin Hutson  26:51 

I don’t think you watch as many animated movies anymore to see how much but it’s true. I mean, the animation just keeps topping itself.

Lynn Lyons  26:59 

Yeah, yeah, it’s true. I don’t watch a lot of animated movies, because my kids are older. But Holy moly. I was just like, Whoa, I was impressed with that.

I have kids, but we’re still in the phase, you know, all the Disney movies that come out we still watch. And you have not seen Inside Out? Correct?

Yes. But that’s a secret. Because I tell people that I’ve seen it. Didn’t I tell you that? So, all these kids were coming into my office and saying like, Oh my God, have you seen inside out? And I say No, I haven’t seen it yet. And people were so appalled that now I just lie. But now I’m not going to be able to lie anymore. You just outed me.

Robin Hutson  27:32 

But I also got you a Disney plus subscription. So, you’re good.

Lynn Lyons  27:36 

I was saying that. We’ll have to follow up with that.

Robin Hutson  27:38 

Because the reason why I wanted to talk about it is that I think that there are certain elements in these movies that are really great talking points for parents to have with kids. Because the movie modeled an example that sometimes is a really creative and great way to show something that’s really complicated.

Lynn Lyons  27:57 

Yeah, the premise of the movie, and sort of what they were going after, I thought was really great. Here’s what I experienced. They had the premise of this movie. And it was almost like they said, Okay, so here’s the message that we want to convey, how are we going to convey it? And then they kept having to sort of add things and change things. So, it got a little convoluted. I agree with you. There are some great talking points for kids. I just think that if a kid under the age of I don’t know when you have one. So, you could tell me. I thought it was really hard to follow.

Robin Hutson  28:29 

My nine year old son totally loved it. But I would say that it’s not worth it for the eight and under crowd.

Lynn Lyons  28:35 

And did he love it because of the message or did he love it because it was so well done in terms of watching it and there was a lot of funny things? Like did he do you feel like he really got all of the things they were trying to convey?

I don’t know. I mean, I could just jump to it. There was there was one specific part that obviously my ears really perked up because it really overlapping with the things that you and I talk about on the podcast and you talk about as a therapist.

Robin Hutson  29:01 

And so, there’s this area of Lost Souls. And these lost soul creatures, they’re defined as lost souls because they become obsessed with something that they become disconnected from their life. They have obsessive thoughts that keep them in a rumination and ongoing rumination of negativity.

And so of course, like then it was like Okay, so now we’re going to talk about anxiety and rumination. And this this really interesting manifestation of this big gray blob character with long arms and you know, that walks around with its head down. So, I liked that they created that, and I liked that those characters were considered lost.

But the part that really got me excited as a parent to have a conversation, which we did after the movie is that— sorry for spoilers— if you haven’t watched the movie yet, you know, you can skip to the end if you don’t want to know.

What happens to me the real crux of the movie, that’s a learning example is the climactic scene where the primary character is chasing soul 22 into her rumination. And the rumination has consumed them like a big monster, like just jumped into them and inside are made of you know, silhouettes and dust. Creepy pixie dust is the figure of all of the past negative sayings said to that soul, yes, you’re not worth it, you’re worth nothing, you can’t do this, you ruin everything. And so, she’s walking through this path of all of these ghost like sayings of negativity that were said to her, to me was really brilliant. Like, that’s the part that I loved.

Because we’ve talked about this before. And I think that every adult human being, and child has this catalog, we have these beliefs that we create about ourselves, the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, either because we have created them, or because someone has told us them. And it takes effort to identify these false beliefs and to tell them to go away. And I think that that whole scene was very powerful of showing everyone is lives with these, and you got to know that they’re there and that they’re not real. And you’ve got to not listen to them.

Lynn Lyons  31:19 

So, I thought that was a powerful moment. Yes, and I definitely agree with you there. Here’s what I thought sort of the whole movie was saying that I think they did a pretty good job with but again, I thought it was kind of convoluted, but there were so many scenes in which they kept trying to say, Alright, so let me just say this. I don’t care whether kids watch this movie or not. I’m sure that they’ll find it enjoyable. I’m sure the part where the character picks up the cat and sniffs his butt and drops as the cat, I think they’ll find that funny.

But the thing that I liked about this movie, I feel like parents should watch it because the message was, let’s stop doing this whole thing about you need to find your passion.

Robin Hutson  32:01 


Lynn Lyons  32:02 

And it was this whole thing like, what’s this thing that makes you worthwhile, and the little soul 22 couldn’t figure out what the thing was, that would make her worthy of being on Earth. Right? And there’s one line and it says you can’t crush a soul here. That’s what life on earth is for. And I thought, ooh, hello, that scene where after he has the big, great performance with the saxophonist. And she tells him the story about the ocean in the water.

Robin Hutson  32:34 

Right? That’s the pivotal scene of the whole movie.

Lynn Lyons  32:36 

It’s just over and over and over again. And I think that this is I was listening to somebody now. And I Oh, you know, it was Elizabeth Gilbert. And she was in some interview. And she was talking about how she used to talk about how it was so important to find your passion, find your passion. And she said, I’m done with that, because it has become this quest to find the unique thing that will make you special in this life.

And I think that was the message is that there’s not this one unique thing that makes you special that you have to discover. And how many parents have I heard talk about how it is that we can get our kids to discover their passion, which to me is code words for how can I have them develop this unique talent so that their resume looks really good as they apply to college we have in our family,

Robin Hutson  33:32 

We have this discussion a lot. Actually, I completely agree with you. And I think that you miss the mark, when you think that your life’s purpose is a talent, right? And that’s what’s so great about that scene is that he finally performs in a quartet at this really esteemed jazz club. And he’s waiting to feel fulfilled at the end of the show, and he still feels empty.

I’ve had a career surrounded by incredibly talented writers. I know those writers aren’t even though despite the fact that they will win tons of awards and sell a lot of books. They’re still not happy. The action of exercising your talent isn’t what brings you joy, right? It isn’t what life’s purpose is. life’s purpose is the lens with which you look at the world and have the ability to make these micro moments feel connected to your world.

Because the whole thing is about if you’re suffering from an inner dialogue and suffering from rumination of thoughts, it’s preventing you from the simplistic connection of the world around you in those moments. They showed in the instead of a romance montage, it was a mindfulness montage.

Lynn Lyons  34:41 


Robin Hutson  34:42 

Here are happy moments playing piano with your dad here, happy moments when you touched the ocean on the beach with your toes. And so that I think is a really great message.

And it’s funny because you actually just wrote a blog article about this about moving away from an achievement metric as parents And how critical that is. Because just because we raise people who were talented that isn’t, you know how many parents say in my family overused the mantra, I just want you to be happy, right? I just want you to be happy, right? But do parents really know what that means?

Lynn Lyons  35:14 

And that second, only two, I just want you to find your passion. And I think they use the word Spark Interestingly. Yes, you have to find your spark. And it was this the passion, the thing, right? Is it soccer? Is it singing? Is it whatever. And I think that what you came to understand was that sparks happen all the time, there are all these little sparks that make your life worth living.

I also think that there was a lot of emphasis on connection, a lot of emphasis on relationships. So, if you think of all the times in which they were putting the emphasis on relationship, so when he went when they went to the barber, and the barber didn’t become a vet, because his daughter got sick, and he went to barber school, instead, they said, Oh, that that’s too bad. And he said, No, man, I have this great job. People tell me things I learned about people, he found something where he was able to connect.

The whole scene, with the little trombone player was all about connection, the whole scene where he was with his mom, when they were making the suit was all about connection. And I think they did a good job of conveying that. It’s not talent, it’s not your life’s purpose.

Sparks aren’t this thing that you’re supposed to discover about yourself, that’s going to then make you fabulously happy. It’s all these little moments of connection, I had this memory actually, while I was watching the movie, the second time, which it was sort of like this little emotional moment.

For me, I was remembering when I had graduated from college, and I went to a really good school, and I did well in school, etc., etc. I did all the things I’m supposed to do when I went to school, and I was leaving school. And I was thinking to myself, What am I going to miss most about this place.

And the thing that just sort of, you know, like brought me to tears was that I was going to miss all the times when I was sitting with my friends. And we were laughing so hard that tears were running down our face. And I was going to miss that my friends weren’t going to be available for that. Because when you’re in college, you can go to your friend’s dorm or when we had apartments, you go over and you just hang out. We just laughed; I had such funny friends. And I had that memory as I was watching the movie, which I haven’t thought about, you know, I’ve been out of college for a gazillion years, I think they did a good job of that in the movie, conveying that.

 The thing that I didn’t like about the movie, because I had to watch it twice in order to sort through all this is I thought it was a weird mixed message. And maybe you got this when they went into the Hall of Everything. Like the whole thing was about finding your spark. And they were going to these places, and there was the Hall of everything. And they had these mentors that they were supposed to help you find your spark. And then at some point late in the movie, one of those Jerry figure said, you know, oh, you, you people with your purpose, and you’re this or you’re that and I was like, Wait, you’re changing everything that you just did for the first half of the movie. I feel like they sort of got themselves into this place that they didn’t know how to get out of

Robin Hutson  38:26 

the whole premise of the personalities, assigning the souls a single adjective for the personality. That part was also really lame. Yeah.

Lynn Lyons  38:35 

But the whole movie was sort of going in that direction. Like she, when you’re talking about her as a lost soul and all that inner mindfulness. Those were all the mentors that she had that were trying to help her find her purpose. And then they just completely sort of said, like, Oh, no, no, that’s not what this is about. Why don’t you just show us that was what it was about.

For the first half of the movie. I just felt like they were sort of on a track, right? And then they were then they were sort of like, Oh, wait, it’s not working. Okay, so how do we figure this out? And then then I thought the plot got confusing.

Robin Hutson  39:07 

Agreed. I think they had the premise of an entree. And then to get there, they sort of had a lot of filler to do.

Lynn Lyons  39:13 

They’re not shying away from really big things. They’re not shying away from really big emotions and really tricky topics, and how do we convey that life is more than just finding your purpose? One of the things I was thinking about, you know, I knew we were going to talk about this was writing things down. And I have circled that life isn’t that big moment. It’s all the little moments.

And that at one point, I guess the soul 22 says, maybe I’m not good enough for regular old living. And I think that that’s sort of the message that we want to give our kids. And also, this idea, I come across this all the time is that you’re supposed to know what your purpose is, at least by the time you go to college.

So there are so many high school freshmen that I’ve talked to and certainly sophomores and juniors and as they’re applying to college, and there’s a lot of discussion with guidance counselor’s with school counselors, there’s a lot of discussion when you go to your freshman year in college, that you’re supposed to have this figured out that you’re supposed to know what your career path is going to be that that’s really a badge of honor that like, this is what I want to be, this is what I’m going to do.

And there’s a lot of language in our culture that promotes that, as you know, sort of that that’s where you’re supposed to be, kids get super stressed out about that I have this conversation with kids all the time, about the fact that you’re not supposed to know who you are and what you’re going to be. And you’re not supposed to find this singular purpose, by the time that you’re 14, or 16, or even 18, or even 25, or even 37, that you’re allowed to switch and change.

And I think that’s maybe what the movie was really trying to say. And I think they kind of succeeded, I don’t think kids are gonna get it. I really think like, all parents should watch this movie, and really pay attention to the message, I think the kids are going to like it because it’s really amazing to watch. But I think that the message was over their heads.

Robin Hutson  41:09 

If you were told at a younger age, Be really careful about what you tell yourself about yourself because everyone tells stories about themselves that aren’t true and that make you feel less than. Everyone gets those messages  to different degrees; you can tell them to stop. I think that’s a pretty cool habit to make them aware of at a young age.

Lynn Lyons  41:32 

Yeah. And I can even imagine giving this watching this movie as a homework assignment to one of the families I work with and say, Now I want you to look for all the times when they are talking about connection or look for all the times when you get somebody gets stuck in some story that they’re telling themselves or look for all the times when I mean, I think there was a real tension between sort of being flexible and open and connected and experiencing things at the very beginning of the movie.

When the principal comes up and says, “Hey, I’ve got some great news. You are now the permanent band director.” Right. He recoiled at that. There’s a lot of opportunities to have conversations as you’re watching this movie, I think for sure. I mean, I think I’ll probably use it as a pretty helpful therapeutic tool and homework assignment. The other thing too, and we’ve been talking about this a lot we did the episode on silliness and playfulness right before Christmas is that there really was a good message about play.

Robin Hutson  42:02 

Lynn, I have a movie that I think I would use therapeutically with you. Ratatouille.

Lynn Lyons  42:39 

I’ve never seen it.

Robin Hutson  42:40 

It’s a movie about rats. You have an irrational fear of rats, you might warm up to the rodents.

Lynn Lyons  42:46 

Well, I thought that I was doing pretty well until my son sent me a picture of an albino possum. There was a story in the New York Times around Christmas where I guess in one part of New York, I think was like the Upper West Side near Central Park. They’re having this rat explosion, and the rats are living in the trees in Central Park. I don’t think it’s an irrational fear. I think it’s totally warranted. They’re disgusting.

Robin Hutson  43:15 

Yeah, the tone of voice of yours I don’t hear often.

Lynn Lyons  43:21 

That was the real me.

Robin Hutson  43:23 

So, join the Facebook group so that you can ask Lynn your question on an upcoming episode.

Lynn Lyons  43:29 

And thanks for joining us for another episode of Flusterclux. Bye Robin!

Robin Hutson  43:34 

Bye, Lynn!

Flusterclux is a production of Luxe Recess, LLC, a family travel magazine and advising service. Let me book and design your family a vacation of connection and rejuvenation.

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