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Struggling with choice? How Loki Season 2 offers a great insight for mental health.

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

A doll of Marvel's Loki is shown against a blurry green background. He wears the gold and green robes of Asgard and holds a broken dagger. He has a soft smile on his face, as if confident he knows what choice he must make.
Counseling often involves choosing our burdens, much like Loki had to do in Season 2.

WARNING! LOKI SEASON 2 AND FINALE SPOILERS AHEAD! GO NO FURTHER IF YOU WANT TO AVOID SPOILERS!


But feel free to come back and check out this article once you've finished the season!


Are you struggling with choice? The power of metaphor provides insight for mental health.


If you've looked at my About Me page you've probably noticed that I love to reference nerdy stuff like sci-fi, fantasy, and such when working with clients that also enjoy those things. It's a handy way to create a shared language and take complex problems and turn them into relatable ideas. I once had a client who experienced a radical change in their outlook based on a reference we made to Loki Season 1. Of course, that's a pretty special case, but it still stands out in my memory as showing how sometimes big changes can come from just the right shift in thinking. And Loki Season 2 offers something similar.


In the season finale, Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston) is having a conversation with Mobius (played by Owen Wilson). This comes at a point when Loki has tried, and tried, and tried to resolve a problem by doing the same thing over and over and over - only faster and a little earlier thanks to time travel. But each time his solution met with disasterous ends. This goes on and on for a few centuries (again, a lot of timey-wimey stuff happening here).


Loki feels trapped between two choices and is struggling to see alternatives. He's trying to find a comfortable solution. During a conversation with Mobius, Loki learns that Mobius was once faced with a hard choice and asks him how he lives with the choice he made. Loki gains a moment of insight when Mobius states,


"There's no comfort. You just choose your burden."


This seems like a pretty bleak statement, especially in the context of the choice Mobius had to make, but it offers an important concept when it comes to therapy.


We often fall into the patterns that bring us to counseling because they offered us comfort at one point but now are distressing enough to seek therapy. Substances like drugs or alcohol can bring a sense of comfort in the short term but cost us in the long run. Constant worry and rumination is our mind trying to find comfort by solving a problem that may not be solvable in the ways our minds work. Staying in a difficult relationship can feel more comfortable than leaving it, because the idea of being on our own feels scary.


But, in the end, we often have to pick our burden to get the relief we seek.


This idea is also described in "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A counterintuitive approach to living a good life" by Mark Manson. It's a great read from both a personal and therapeutic standpoint. In his book, Manson talks about how any choice we make comes with its own set of problems.


He gives the example of living in an apartment versus buying a home. An apartment offers some conveninences such as having repairs covered and maybe even some utilities but has the burden of being limited in how you can change the place and whether or not you can have pets. A home means that you can have pets and make any change you want, but comes with the burden of now having to fix things yourself or pay for repairs.


With that in mind, let's look at the situations described above.


Choosing your burden.


  • Using drugs and alcohol may bring relief from the things that cause you distress but also presents the burden of hurting your mind, your body, and your relationships.

  • Going to addiction counseling, on the other hand, presents the burden of opening up about the things that are hurting and possible physical discomfort of withdrawl, but in exchange for improving other areas of your life.


  • Staying frozen with the burden of constant worry and rumination might cause you distress, affect your sleep and appetite, and might spill over into other areas. It's natural to choose this burden because choosing to do something, even if something small, can be scary. The worry and rumination seem more comfortable than the fear of taking action.

  • Choosing the burden of action, on the other hand, might help you get a better idea about what to do next. It may be scary, and definitely not comfortable, but it might help you get unstuck from the repeated thoughts and worries. Plus, even if you decide what you did didn't work, you now have more information for making a new choice.


  • Staying in a difficult relationship creates the burden of feeling stuck in something that's just not working that causes you stress and may even be a source of abuse. Chosing to end a relationship can be uncomfortable, scary, or even involve thinking about our safety. But it's familiar and something known, so it's natural we might often choose to stay in a relationship rather than end it. That familiarity is actually a kind of comfort.

  • Ending the relationship, on the other hand, presents the burden of doing something very hard. You might have to have uncomfortable conversations with the other person and tell them how you really feel. You might have to set boundaries and even start looking for a different place to live. In situations involving abuse, you might need to come up with a plan to stay safe and prepare a "bug-out bag" with things like clothes, money, prescriptions, and other important things. But this can also lead to being free of the distress the relationship causes you.


Therapy often involves choosing a burden first and finding comfort later.


While going to therapy is done in the hopes of finding comfort from your challenges, it does involve choosing your burden as well. It can be hard to learn new ways of managing our thoughts and feelings and learning new behaviors. It can be scary to recall past traumas in order to reclaim your power and break the hold they have on you. Dealing with the questions that arise and exploring new things about your gender identity and presentation are definitely a challenge.


But with choice comes power.


You claim power by making a choice about which burden you're willing to have, because making that choice means you're starting to assert some control over your situation. While it's true that we can't really control our thoughts and emotions, we can control how we react to them. By choosing our burden, we begin to consciously respond to our thoughts, our feelings, and our situation in intentional ways. Any choice we make, or don't make, brings discomfort. By making a choice, we at least choose which discomfort we accept in the hopes of something better on the other side of it.


Have you chosen a burden before? I bet you have.


What have been your moments of choice from the past, big or small? Did you choose one school versus another? Did you accept one job instead of another? Did you choose to deal with the sweaty palms and racing heart that came with going to a social event or asking someone to hang out? Heck, did you choose from several options for lunch?


What did you gain by taking on that burden? If that choice didn't turn out well, what did you learn that helped you later? Did you learn you really don't like minestrone and should have gotten the salad instead? Important information for next time!


Whatever burden you're faced with now, you can make the choice. You have the power in you. It probably won't be comfortable, but you choose power when you choose your burden.


You've got this. I believe in you.

Quinn


 

Are you struggling with your burdens and not sure which path to take? Let's connect to help you claim your power!







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