“HIMYM”: The Therapist’s One Helpful Contribution

So now that I’ve managed to get all caught up on HIMYM (How I Met Your Mother) I can weigh in again on what’s happening with Kevin, the therapist, played by Kal Penn.

  • Between him and his girlfriend Robin—very little chemistry. One can only hope it turns out to be an ill-fated romance because of his boundary-less choice to date a client.
  • As an individual character—nope, not much there either.

The most involvement he’s had, in my opinion, was in the HIMYM episode that aired on 10/24 entitled “Noretta” (a word blend of the names of “Nora,” Barney’s girlfriend, and “Loretta,” his mom).

Although the actual series title is How I Met Your Mother (the point of view of the single male character Ted who has yet to meet the mom of his future kids), this episode is sort of a “How I Married My Mother/Father—as in the translation “I married a woman/man who’s very much like my mom/dad” as opposed to incest. Then again, no one’s actually married except Lily and Marshall. So never mind. We’ll stick with “Noretta.”

Toward the beginning of this HIMYM episode, Kevin makes the general observation that people tend to pick romantic partners who are like their parents. We then witness the regulars proceeding to get grossed out by recognizing the similarities between their mates and their parents.

Regular character Robin, however, and her new beau Kevin are (wisely) excluded from this exercise. I mean, think about it—would the writers have had to make Robin’s father the perpetrator of incest? (Along the lines of Kevin crossing boundaries by dating Robin.)

Kevin’s insight is actually based on some solid ground, psychologically speaking. The work of Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., for example, is useful if you’re trying to figure out your patterns of choosing your mates and how you relate to them—and goes significantly deeper than just the idea of picking someone who subconsciously reminds you of a parent. Two relevant books of his are Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples (also in Workbook format, co-authored by wife Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D.) and Keeping the Love You Find: A Personal Guide.

If you’ve been an avid Oprah fan, you may already know that she in turn is an avid Harville fan (as well as a You fan, in case you thought and/or hoped that’s where I was headed) and big believer in his Imago Theory. Her online Lifeclass “How Your Childhood Affects Your Adult Relationships” gives us a clip of a pertinent therapy session conducted by Harville. The set-up:

For Oprah, Harville Hendrix was the best teacher of validation. Harville developed the Imago Theory, which is that you end up imaging in your adult relationship what you most need to heal from, whether physical or emotional wounds, received in childhood at the hands of your parents or caregivers. In 2006, Harville facilitated an Imago therapy session for Louie, who was abused as a child and was verbally, emotionally and physically abusing his wife.

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