You Vs Me!… Or Is It Me Versus Me?

Let’s play a game! …

And no, it is not in the “Jigsaw” voice from James Wan’s 2004 film Saw (or what feels like every year since).


What I would like you to do is take a moment and gauge how you are feeling on a scale from 1-5 after you read each word listed below, independent of the word listed before or after. Once you have completed the list, we will circle back. Okay… GO!




















How did you do? Were there any words on the list that elicited a stronger response than others? Did I lose any of you and you jumped ahead? So, what was the point of this “game?”

If you go back and reread the list, all the words listed are ambiguous AND depending on your relationship with the word as well as perspective, it can hold more meaning or feelings for you. I will preface, this is NOT a political article, and it will feature some issues that may speak to topics that can cause discomfort. For instance, on the list, you will see the words “new,” (not news), “cancel,” “state,” and “fox.” Depending on what is happening in your own life, either on a subconscious or conscious level, these words may cause discomfort (or comfort) depending on your relationship with the current political climate. Whereas anyone who has hypervigilance (a heighted sense of danger), trauma or excitement surrounding events with “water”, or “cars” may have a different experience when thinking of those words and understandably ranking it in a higher range of discomfort. If you have almost drowned or recently been in a car accident, those will hold more distress for you. Or maybe the words are just words, so you remain indifferent throughout the whole list.

Depending on how old you are, you may or may not be familiar with a time when the news on TV was, to put it blatant, boring, compared to today’s theatrical standards. The new anchor’s delivery tended to be monotone, calm, and not overly excitable. I have memories of watching both of my grandfathers sleeping in a reclining chair while the news played in the background. It was a particularly “fun” day when my dad would harmonize with his snoring. If you cannot relate to this “luxury,” if you watch a movie that has a broadcast scene from early 1990s and earlier, you will probably see something similar.


Okay, neat! We have set the scene. You may wonder how does the news relate to our “game” you participated in above? If you recall the time when the news was less “dramatic,” and your family member may have fallen asleep during the broadcast, there was a law that was established in 1949 until 1987. It was called “The Fairness Doctrine.” The law it outlined that, in layman’s terms, a news service or program would need to dedicate some of their allotted time to controversial issues that were regarding public importance and if they were to report one side (conservative/liberal) they would be required to report the opposing side. Over the years, the act was challenged. People became more upset by the act since it did not offer people the allowance to exercise their “rights” to the First Amendment, free speech. In 1987, it was repealed; or withdrawn.



Again, why are we taking this history lesson about something that feels very political, if this is not a political article? Stay with me. It will come together! Once the doctrine was revoked, it gave way to the “mainstream news” as we know it. Our current polarizing “news” sources are no longer obligated to state the opposing side, especially without editorial commentary. The “news” is no longer objective, or fact-based. In many cases, it has morphed over time into opinions being presented as “news.” We went from news anchors such as Walter Cronkite who was polled as “the most trusted man in America” who signed off stating, “And that’s the way it is” (see the YouTube video in resources) to anchors being… well…you know…the way they are now. Dramatic! Over the top. OPINIONATED! “Newscasters” have veered far from reporting only the facts to reports containing opinions, speculations, and subjective ideas. Depending on how you lean (I, personally, do not have judgment in what your political standing or beliefs – my job as a “good” therapist), you, as the consumer, know which “source” to tune into to have your ideas and values validated or less therapeutically sounding; agreed with or supported.

Despite popular opinion and a misconception about validation; per Cambridge Dictionary the term is defined as, “proof that something is correct.” Where in the prestigious Cambridge definition, does it mention anything about validation applying to only positive things?? If my sister (for the record, I don’t have a sister) had a negative thought/concept about herself that she is the “worst cook in the United States.” Then she cooked for me, and I said, “Psh, yeah you are a bad cook!” This is me being a “good sister” and validating her ideas of self. Now, if I said, “No! That meal was decent.” The odds are good there would be push back with my imaginary sister. I am no longer validating her world belief that she is the worst. Although I am saying something “nice,” this may cause her more discomfort because it would challenge an identity, she has about herself. I no longer agree with her.

Why are we so adverse to discomfort? Through the centuries of people being on the planet there has not been that much change in our brain development. We have a very small part of our brain that is called the Amygdala (located within the limbic system) that acts as a part of the control center for the “fight, flight, freeze, or fawn” which is commonly called your “lizard/reptile brain.” We perceive “threats” or even non-validation, as a means of discomfort and our body can go into response mode (see the four F’s listed above for options). Since our beliefs are often so tightly wound with our own identity, we can see it as an attack. Our “lizard” then goes into survival mode even though there is not a physical threat nearby. Our brain has not been able to sort out the difference between a physical or a mental/emotional attack. That lizard treats threats all the same! Think of it this way: in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 movie Jurassic Park, the scientists responded to other scientists challenging their belief system that they should not be “playing God/creator” and bringing dinosaurs back into existence with defensive, anger, stealing, etc. aka fight. They responded in the same fashion when they were faced with the physical threat of an actual dinosaur trying to eat them. Sorry if that is a spoiler alert... it has been out for 31 years after all.


In one recent finding, Kaitlin Woolley (Cornell University) and Ayelet Fishbach (University of Chicago) performed five studies involving 2,163 adults. During one of the tests, the test subjects were informed to use their discomfort as a means of growth to engage in an improv class and other expressive arts. This group was to learn about “hot topic” subjects such as COVID-19, opposing political views and/or gun violence. In the series of studies, the outcome yielded that the test group, who had been informed to embrace discomfort were more motivated than the control group. The test group, “persisted longer in improvisation exercises, engaged more in an expressive writing exercise, and opened themselves up to challenging but important information.”

What I get often in therapy is, “Okay great… so now what?” Theories and understanding are great AND what do you do with this newfound information? Well…

Yes, it is unpleasant to have a belief or part of you challenged. It may also cause emotional or mental discomfort. Sitting in your (ugh, gross) feelings will not be your downfall. How many of us have seen a Pixar movie? Those movies will get you in every emotion, every time! Am I right? At its worst, discomfort will leave you with a moment in your life that caused livable distress. At the best, maybe you will be like the test group listed above and get to use discomfort as a motivation to grow. Do/believe/hear something different. As both Ted Lasso and Walt Whitman proposed, “Be curious. Not judgmental.” Knowing both sides of an issue will assist, at a minimum, to expand your ability to debate more efficiently.


I will leave you with this: As Stephen Covey who spent much time with Victor Frankl, holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, described Frankl’s work: “Between stimulus and response lies a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose a response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.”




Cambridge dictionary. Validation. (n.d.).

CBS Evening News (Ed.). (2014, March 6). “And That’s The Way It Is”: Walter Cronkite’s final sign off. YouTube.

Cleveland Clinic. medical. (2023, April 11). Amygdala. Cleveland Clinic.

Fairness doctrine. Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. (2023, April 7).

Federal Communications Commission Record: Before the Federal Communications Commission Washington, D.C. 20554, 17 Rcd § 2 (1987).

Frankel, V. (1959). Man’s search for meaning.

Lions Gate Films. (2004b). Saw [Film].

Sudeikis, J., Hunt, B, et. al (Producers). (2020). Ted Lasso [TV]. Apple +.

Troncale, J. (2014, April 22). Your lizard brain. Psychology Today.

Universal Pictures. (1993). Jurassic Park [Film]. Vesely, F. J. (n.d.). Alleged quote. Viktor Frankl Institut.

Walt Disney Pictures Pixar Animated Studios. (1995-current). Any of them [Film].

Woolley, K., & Fishbach, A. (2022). Motivating personal growth by seeking discomfort. Psychological Science, 33(4), 510–523.