The Characters We Play


There is no shortage of drama or bad emotional habits at Grey-Sloan Memorial, so why not turn it into a learning opportunity??

Yes, the Grey’s Anatomy Theme remains in full effect for the next explorations of Emotions and Emotional Intelligence. I mean, who else is better for this?!

These are patterns we all participate in, doesn’t make us horrible or bad humans. But, a little self-awareness and insight can go a long way.

I clearly haven’t had time design a research study around the use of Shondaland characters as a form of Narrative Therapy to identity problematic coping skills and behavior patterns, ain’t nobody got time for that. But I do know people… So don’t be one of those people who become entirely to concrete about stuff. It’s not a label, we’re just looking for habits, default settings, patterns. Be cool…

We often will see another person demonstrate some problematic or shady behavior and it will be clear as day. However, we remain completely oblivious to the fact we do the same thing or become defensive debbies when someone draws attention to it.

I think there aspects of  Narrative Therapy sprinkled through here. The magic behind Narrative Therapy is that people are often significantly less defensive when they are able to examine themselves through a story or something else that makes it less “about them.”


The Manager

The manger doesn’t like to messy or uncomfortable emotions, but they really can’t take it giphy (37).gifwhen people close to them are upset either, it stresses them out. The second they’re too upset or stressed, the Manager will either go directly into Solutions Mode to fix your issue immediately or they may say something to Shut You Down. Whatever needs to be done to end the threat.

People who are naturally empathetic have to watch out for this pattern of behavior due to the fact they may feel tempted to manage or shutdown others emotions when they become overwhelmed by them.

Some of the nicest and sweetest people you know may turn into emotionally invalidating bullies when they aren’t emotionally in a great place.

Miranda Bailey does not like dramaaaaaa! But if you have watched the show since the begin of time like I have, you learn where her control issues come from.

Bailey feels what the people close to her feel, which can become very chaotic. She is the clear maternal figure on the show and tries to protect her “children” from the endless messes they get themselves into.

Depending on what is happening and how severe it is, will determine if she goes into problem solving or demanding you SHUT IT DOWN. Holding emotional space for someone isn’t exactly her strong suite, but she always means well.

The Nuke

giphy (6)

One second they are stable, fine, no issues. But it only takes one minor incident or stressor and they have gone full nuclear.

This person may be little unpredictable and may take their feelings out on those close to them, often leaving their support people completely confused as to why they are getting chewed out.

Nukes are experts at displacing their emotions and frustrations on those they have Secure Attachments to. Usually that nuclear heat is meant for someone else but we tend to lay into or show out on those closest to us. That’s a nasty nasty habit.

Talk about swinging an emotional mace… Izzie left the show years ago, but I am pretty sure she still managed to generate more tears than anyone else to date. Time and time again, those close by got burned when Izzie didn’t fully process something.

At times her sensitive nature seemed to indicate a healthy relationship with her emotions; however, Izzie had a habit of not fully processing or being honest with herself about how she felt. This bad upkeep created a classic nuclear instability and several eyes rolls from me.

The Projector

giphy (7)

“I’m not angry, you’re the angry one.” The Projector hates feelings any type of unwanted emotion and the second they feel it, they will project it on anyone who is an Emotional Threat to them.

Projectors are often people who have learned to fear or avoid their emotions.

When confronted, it’s often easier for them to blame whatever tension or instability present on the person confronting or checking in on them. Again, the goal is to avoid any consequences of that emotion, so if you’re that person trying to help them out, you’re a threat.

More than a few times during the first half of the series, Meredith gets hit with a curve ball and her defense mechanism doesn’t quite save her in time. This results in an emotionally devastated and temporarily crippled Meredith.

Do we need to talk about the Season 3 “drowning.”

Meredith isn’t known for showing vulnerability or even genuine happiness at times. She could be visibly depressed, but if asked what was wrong, she would immediately duck, dodge, then flip the entire situation on the sympathetic party.

The Minimizer

giphy (9) - Copy

Similar to the robot, but instead of being general detached from their emotions, minimizers have a nasty habit of being overly involved in the feelings of others, therefore minimizing their own. However, eventually they blow.

Careful being a people pleaser, Harmony Keeper, or Caregiver Type. There is a cost to constantly attending to the emotional messes of others. This is a dangerous game because now you aren’t managing your own emotional upkeep and the people you are trying to manage aren’t usually the type who are going to be able to reciprocate.

When tapped out, the minimizer can cycle into a number of unhealthy ways to release the emotional pressure.

Much like her big sister, the late Lexi Grey doesn’t particularly enjoy focusing on her own emotions and will often prioritize running around the hospital to dive into the problems of others. Little Grey doesn’t like a fuss being made over her and tries to avoid being a burden at all cost.

This was a theme with her and Meredith for a while. Lexi did her best to let her grumbly big sister have her emotional space and in the beginning Meredith was not very nice about it. Finally, Lexi snaps and puts Meredith in her place.

However before successfully confronting Meredith, it wasn’t uncommon for her to lash out at others or not prioritize her self-care needs.

Yes these are fictional characters, but the writers were really on to something here. The Grey sisters both have textbook hot mess childhoods that explain both of their problematic coping patterns.

The Pit Viper

giphy (13)

Instead of explosions or breakdowns like , A Pit Viper has the tendency to strike out at you with a few well-placed words that leave you stung, dazed, and confused.

But this is something you have come to expect from them and their general sour mood. Pit Vipers go through the day, leaking negativity  either through aggressive outburst or sometimes random “Debbie Downer” moments when their toxicity is expressed via a passive emotions instead.

When a Pit Viper is stressed, prepare yourself and start practicing the art of not taking any of it personally. Even though their strikes seem incredibly personal, it has nothing to do with you. They are just in bad head space that day.

Alex is mean. He started off super mean, often saying some of most uncalled for and hurtful comments to grace TV. He rarely needed to be vulgar to cause damage.

Being raised in a toxic environment often teaches a person  just where to hit you to make it really sting, usually going after insecurities. But he progresses and you realize Alex is just another person trying to control his hurt by causing hurt, which is the blueprint of abuse.

The meanest person on the staff, later grows into being the King of Pediatrics, dealing with soft and sensitive kids all day long.  Alex still has his demons, but they are more under control these days since he is more open about them. He still real mean…

The Robot

giphy (8) - CopyThe Robot is generally very detached from their emotions and become overly reliant on logic and hard facts. They might have some issues relating to the feelings of others, which causes some barriers in interpersonal dynamics.

Robots are often very good at their job, school, or maybe a certain hobby. They love things that are concrete and can be controlled, decreasing uncertainty. However, their ability to successfully engage with people can is limited due to their avoidance of emotionally complex situations. I’ve also seen this Robot persona show up in an otherwise very pleasant person as a defense mechanism when things get hairy or there is conflict.

Cristina started off as laser focused, no nonsense, and dangerously ambitious. However, her unbalanced and often robotic ambition came at the price of her conscious and the relationships she valued, which landed her in a number of internal and interpersonal conflicts.

But before her exit from the show, she grew the most as a character, learning to be both emotionally present and absolutely focused on being the best cardiothoracic surgeon in the world. She’s kinda the best thing ever.

All done!

So what did you notice? Any new insights or observations about yourself? I bet you have ton to say about the folks around you!

Are you following, you should definitely be following!

I would love to hear back  and see some comments on this. Or you can keep taking those sophisticated Facebook quizzes..

giphy (39).gif





Author: Patrick Henderson LPC

I'm a licensed counselor working to try and stay sane while creating more resources and awareness for mental health services. I love my job so much, but I need a change of pace. I want to continue creating resources but why not have a bit of fun while I'm at it right? Come check out my blog where you can have access to a ton of rambling from me that should be definitely be educational and hopefully humorous as well. Come check out my "Pro Bono Adventures" and ways to help support mental health!