How I Relate to Sheldon Cooper in Big Bang Theory

I started watching the Big Bang Theory about a month and a half ago. I found myself able to relate to Sheldon Cooper.

Sheldon is an unique character with quirks and nuances. While he is a scientific genius, he engages in OCD behaviour, ignorant to other people’s thoughts and feelings, finds it hard to gives out compliments and so much more.[1] He is not mentally ill as he states multiple times throughout the show that his mother had him tested.

What him and I have in common is our tendency to fall into regressive behaviour patterns.

Regression is defined as a “return to a former or less developed state.”[2]  In adults, regression involves taking the position of a child in some problematic situation, rather than acting in a more adult way. This is usually in response to stressful situations…” It is a way for adults to escape the reality of situations by psychologically “going back to a time when the person felt safer and where the stresses in question were not known, or where an all-powerful parent would take them away.”[3]

Sheldon shows regressive behaviours frequently in the show. His regressive behaviours include “his tending to be a ‘child in a man’s body,’ his need to be cared for by a mother figure whenever he is ill or afraid, and his tendency to throw temper tantrums whenever he doesn’t get his own way [or when routine changes]. In fact, another character on the show, Bernadette, credits her experience working with children for her ability to manage Sheldon’s stubbornness.” He also loves trains and playing in costumes.[4]

I show regressive behaviours too. I cry at inappropriate times, mostly seeming as I’m doing it to get my way. I love Frozen: I have frozen dolls, posters, blankets, hats etc. Whenever I’m in a frozen section at a store, my face lights up and I have to stop myself from buying like, anything. I can get clingy and needy. I claim to be helpless and hopeless, when I really should know how to do something. I need one of my comfort objects (my blankie or monkey) during anxious/stressful situations. I love stuffed animals. I sometimes act or talk childish to avoid feeling anxious. There are probably more things than that but you get the point. I’m not like this all the time but it happens. I think I’m mature, but there are some days where I’m just, not.

I used to think it was weird. And that something was wrong with me. When I “snapped out of it”, I would be embarrassed and ashamed about how I acted. I would think, “why would I do that?” or “did I really do that?”

When I started watching Big Bang Theory, I noticed Sheldon would frequently act the way I sometimes did. I found comfort in that. Even though it’s a fictional show, I realized I’m not the only one with child-like behaviours. I didn’t feel alone anymore.

I did a quick Google search for “child-like behaviours in adults” and learned the word “regression”. Finally, I had a way to describe how I was feelings.

One particular episode stood out to me the most. In the episode, Leonard and Penny (boyfriend/girlfriend, and Sheldon’s friends) are going through a rough patch. Because Sheldon hates fighting, and it appears to make him anxious, whenever they argue, Sheldon blocks it out by creating loud noises or redirects them to play a game with him. At the end of the episode, Penny and Leonard fight in front of Sheldon again, he runs away. The couple finds him isolated in the corner of the comic book store, reading. He is cross legged and visibly upset. Leonard tries to snap him out of it by shouting at him, Sheldon turns on a loud robot toy to block it out. Penny then feels has to take the role of a parent:

Penny: Sheldon, please, try and understand. Look, Leonard and I are in a relationship, and occasionally, we’re going to fight. But no matter what happens between us, we will always love you. You know, how about we buy you this robot, and then we all go home?

Sheldon: I want that one.

Penny: Okay, you can have that one.

Sheldon: Can I get this comic book too?

Penny: (baby talk) Yes, you can

Sheldon: (smiles, runs to the counter)[5]

It reminded me of the time, just a couple months ago, when my dad and I were out, and he did something that upset me and make me anxious. We went in a store, and I grabbed a rainbow Minnie mouse stuffed animal, held it tightly, and refused to let it go. It brought comfort to me for some reason. My dad ended up buying it for me. I told my best friend and the next day, I felt embarrassed and didn’t even care for it anymore.

But now I get it. I understand why I act the way I act sometimes. Now that I know why I do it, I no longer think of myself as crazy or weird and I no longer feel embarrassed.


References

[1] “Personality Disorders: The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper”. (2016). Reel Rundown. Retrieved from https://reelrundown.com/tv/Sheldon-Cooper-PDs

[2] Oxford University Press. (n.d.). Regression. English Oxford Living Dictionaries. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/regression

[3] Changing works. (n.d.). Regression. Changing Minds. Retrieved from http://changingminds.org/explanations/behaviors/coping/regression.htm

[4] Vitelli, R. (2016). Dissecting Sheldon Cooper. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201607/dissecting-sheldon-cooper

[5] Prady, B., Rosenstock, R., Reynolds, J (Writers), & Cendrowski, M (Director). (2009). The Guitarist Amplification [Television series episode]. Lorre, C. & Prady, B (Producers), Big Bang Theory. United States: Warner Bros. Television

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