This Is Us - Behind the Scenes

It is common for an adult child of an alcoholic to have the desire to raise his or her family in a completely different way than they were raised. Sometimes alcohol or other addictions grab hold of them and sometimes they don’t, but almost always the adult child of an alcoholic falls into traps they probably didn’t even know were there. There is much more than alcohol at work in a family with an alcoholic. We see this happen in two generations in This is Us. Obviously Jack had zero desire to create the same family he was raised in. We see him try really hard to create a healthy family and be a good dad, and in a lot of ways he is successful. But, alcohol still gets a hold of him in some seasons of life. We then watch the same thing happen for Kevin. Early on he is ashamed of his dad’s struggle and then we watch him try to use some of the same coping strategies that Jack used, like working with his hands to avoid his addiction. But again, addiction grabs a hold of him as well.

There are four rules that are often kept in the home of an alcoholic (or really a dysfunctional family in general) that lead to the cycle of being sucked into addiction. 

1. Don’t talk

2. Don’t feel

3. Don’t trust anyone outside the family

4. Always make this family look good

In Season 2 episode 4 we watch Kevin struggle with all four of these rules. He has re-injured himself on the set of his movie and he is reminded of his football accident. He thinks about how proud he made his dad and we see Jack giving him a pep talk at an even earlier age to resist the urge to scratch his chicken pox. Kevin decides he needs to be tough, push past the pain, and get back out there. 

Kevin doesn’t talk about his injury or the pain that he is experiencing. He stuffs it down and tries to be stronger than the pain. He sees pain as weakness and thinks if he admits that he is in pain he will be letting people down. 

Kevin doesn’t let himself feel. He denies his emotions surrounding the pain as well. It would be natural to feel frustration that he had experienced the same injury that brought so much disappointment to his life already. He probably felt a lot of sadness due to the loss of time and experience. He may have felt fear that he would have to be cut out of the movie. We don’t see him let himself experience any of this. 

Kevin doesn’t trust people outside his family. He lets Kate and Toby see him in pain but he isn’t honest with anyone else. He isn’t honest with the other people on set nor his doctors about his previous injury. He down plays his pain to try to get back out there and keep filming. He doesn’t believe that people will have his best interest in mind if he really lets them in.

Kevin is dedicated to making the family look good. We see that first through football. He is very aware of how proud he makes his dad and he wants to make him even prouder. Now that he has been given a second chance in acting he has poured all the same energy into this movie. There is no room for mistakes because of everything that is on the line for him.

Following all of these rules makes life more difficult that it needs to be. When we don’t talk, issues don’t get resolved. When we don’t feel, we stuff emotional energy inside of us which causes depression and anxiety. When we don’t trust, we don’t have others to lean on. When we are dedicated to making the family look good above all of these other rules are kicked into high gear. Kevin’s life, as well as Jack’s would have been very different if he broke these rules.

Some things to consider:

1. Which of these rules did you follow as a child? How did that impact your life growing up?

2. Which of these rules do you currently have the tendency to keep? How could you break this rule on purpose?