Life From The Box: George Costanza (Seinfeld)

I thought I would start popping an article in every month that concerns TV/Movies and everyday life. Movies and TV shows often have relatable characters, situations and storylines whether set in a fantasy land or based on real people and the real world. I’m sure we all have a screen character that we can relate to in some way whether through their actions or lived experience, some even inspiring us to look at ourselves and how we would deal with a similar situation they are facing.

Through specializing and working with clients experiencing stuck-points, the first idea that came to me for this post was looking at Seinfeld character George Costanza in the episode “The Opposite” (s5, e22). George, feeling miserable and dejected about his life, greets Jerry and Elaine in their favourite coffee shop and proceeds to tell them that he believes every decision he has made and every instinct he has followed in his life until now has been wrong. He then decides to do the opposite of everything he would naturally do, leading to a series of gains culminating with a dream job at his beloved New York Yankees.

Now, I am certainly not condoning or encouraging some of the drastic measures George enacts to alleviate his existential crisis, but as a general idea, it is certainly something worth exploring when we encounter points in our life in which we feel 'stuck'.

One quote that circulated a lot during studies for my degree was ‘Do what you’ve always done, get what you’ve always got”, which I think is quite relatable here. This is the realization George comes to in this episode which sees him change his strategy in life by doing 'the opposite' to what he would usually do. Situations that evoke consistent ill feeling in us can make us continually ask a ‘why?’ question that can lead to a circular thought pattern that never really seeks an answer. Therefore, these ‘why?’ questions are always best coupled with a ‘what?’ and a ‘how?’.

Those who are familiar with the Seinfeld series would agree that George quite often symbolizes a martyr of flawed existence, questioning yet expecting and accepting he will end up with the raw end of the stick in most situations. Yet in this episode, he adds the ‘how?’ and the ‘what?’ question, discovering that by following his natural instincts and making decisions based on these, it has not led to the outcomes he had desired. This assessment allowed him to uncover a plan that suggested maybe using an alternative decision-making process would lead to alternative (desired) results.

But acting on this plan is where George shines. Whilst being hesitant and dismissive at first, he realizes that the only way to see if this works, is to try it. He starts by changing his usual lunch order, assertively asking a lady out he would never dare approach before and even states flat-out to her that he is unemployed and lives with his parents. For every act he follows through with, he gets the desired outcome (including the girl), turning his initial motivation of desperation into a lifestyle of confidence. In a similar way that negative circular thinking maintained his 'stuckness', the positive action and move for change he enacted led to more positive circular thinking that maintained his desired lifestyle and confidence.

When we find ourselves in similar ‘stuck’ situations, it is helpful to not only spend some time asking why, but also how this may have happened and what we can do about it. The ‘why?’ may be helpful in identifying reasons, but these are generally only a personal theory. The ‘how?’ can help identify what we may have done, the processes involved and includes evidence that can back-up or dismiss our theory. The ‘what?’ question of course, helps us uncover what we can do about it, the resources we have to achieve it and what potential outcomes may arise. In acting on this, we may be able to move forward from our stuck-point and into our own desired ‘New York Yankees’ outcome.

If you know of another character in film or TV you think may be interesting for me to write about, please contact me through the form on the website and I will be sure to add it to my list. Of course, if yourself or someone you know may need support in dealing with a stuck-point or any other concern, confidential appointments can be made by calling 0481 291 132.

Take care


*This post is a discussion on a fictional narrative and identifying similar aspects within it that we may be able to apply to our lives. It is acknowledged that these aspects may not suit every person in every situation at every time.

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