Maria Laquerre LMFT, RPTS
Incredible Ways to Manage Stress
"No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. Sometimes I just want it to stay saved, you know!" – Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible
Do you ever feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders? The Incredibles nostalgically demonstrates this uneasy feeling through Bob’s character. Stress is a normal human reaction that happens to everyone, whether we like it or not. When we experience challenges, our bodies produce physical and mental responses that we recognize as stress.
Bob Parr, or Mr. Incredible, is a loving husband and father of three. Bob's personality is that of the classical superhero we all know and love. He is nice, friendly, strong, brave, fatherly, heroic and overall a pleasant human being – just with incredible strength. But as shown in newsreels, Bob is physically invulnerable and all too human in his flaws. He is the type of family man to put his children’s and wife’s needs before his own. It seems that Bob’s life stressors are always present throughout the film, much like our own stress. Although life’s stressors often feel too heavy to carry, there are always alternatives to work through this challenging feeling of apprehension.
Bob's commitment to doing what is right is so strong that he displays it even when not involved in heroics. When the film first begins, Bob is comically shown working in too small of a cubicle in a mundane and borderline depressing office. This is shown when while working for Insuricare as an insurance claims agent, where he constantly found legal loopholes to help his customers, which often earned him the ire of his greedy boss, Gilbert Huph.
These disagreements eventually came to a head when Huph prevented Bob from helping a man that was actively being mugged; Huph was glad Bob didn’t help the man on company time. Bob reacted to this selfish remark by grabbing Huph by the neck and throwing him through several walls, leaving him in a full body cast. This, in turn, caused Bob to lose his job. It is important to note that Bob is also calm, collected, and polite, but occasionally exhibits an intimidating and ferocious rage, such as what he did to Huph.
Although Bob is fundamentally a good human being, he is hot-tempered and often acts accordingly depending on the situation. Bob’s character is a fantastic example of what can happen when we contain our emotions and stressors. Stress should be acknowledged before catapulting our boss through a dozen walls, but that’s just our opinion.
When we are stressed, we often crave solitude. Bob is shown consistently in the beginning of the film to be working in his dark and desolate home office away from his family until dinner is served. Even then, Bob takes his plate back to his office and continues working. Sometimes remaining alone can feel like the safest option, and that is completely normal; alone time is healthy and aids in personal independence. Although asking for help or recognizing your stressors isn't always easy, recognizing your family's needs and reaching out to them for support is a sign of strength. Studies show that advocating for your family can increase your self-confidence and your ability to be persistent. Sometimes stress can feel suffocating, so lean on your loved ones for that breath of fresh air.
Reliving the Glory Days
Bob has a tendency to try and solve the world’s problems on his own, refusing and actively dismissing help from anyone in his life, even from his wife and his best friend, Frozone. He grows weary of a world that cannot stay saved for more than five minutes; and later, shows a streak of arrogant pride, seeking to relive his glory days at the expense of his family life.
One night when Bob was feeling stressed from his work and family responsibilities, he decided to listen to his stolen police radio and act as an officer when a crime occurred. He and Frozone drove to a local bank that was actively being robbed. Bob instructed Frozone to stay in the car so he could fight crime on his own. The remaining events that followed are a refreshing example as to why we should never experience huge events on our own. Fifteen years of unhealthy eating and coping mechanisms set Bob up for failure in this attempt at a heroic situation when he fails to defeat the thieves.
Without being asked, Frozone stormed inside the bank and, as his name suggests, froze all of the delinquents before they could escape with any money. Stressed that things didn’t go to plan, Bob and Frozone were forced to sneakily flee the scene once the police arrived.
It can be comforting to live in the past, thinking about your glory days. We’ve all been there and done that from time to time in our lives. There are instances when we all think “Huh, I can’t believe that I really did those things! How can I live up to that again?” Usually, this sort of reminiscing happens when things aren’t going well and we’re facing unusual challenges. Glory days are an excellent reminder that we are skilled, capable, competent, action-oriented individuals who can achieve our own results. Reliving one’s glory days can often be a bit too romanticized – we forget about the downfalls of these past experiences and often only remember the positive aspects. Negating these aspects of one’s glory days can directly impact one’s stress. When we decide to try and relive said glory days, like Bob, we are disheartened when these once incredible moments now leave a dreaded feeling of hopelessness behind.
We’ve all had our share of glory days, as well as our share of non-glory days – failures, setbacks, and unexpected occurrences that change our outlook on life. Living in the past is similar to giving up on the future opportunities and successes that the future holds. Onward and upward!
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
After Bob is fired from Insuricare, a woman named Mirage secretly offers him a mission to subdue a dangerous giant robot called the Omnidroid on “Nomanisan island.” Eventually, Bob succeeds by tricking the machine into ripping out its own power source. Rejuvenated by the adrenaline rush and higher pay, Bob improves his relationship with his family and trains to get back into the masculine shape he used to be in while awaiting another assignment from Mirage.
A villain named Syndrome seeks revenge against Bob for not including him in his heroic adventures as a child. Syndrome intends to send a rebuilt Omnidroid to attack Metroville, where he will secretly manipulate its controls and be seen as a superhero himself. Bob defeated this giant robot, but not on his own. Teams are always more likely to be successful together as individuals, whether in an incredible situation like the Parrs’ or when stress seems to be ever present in our daily lives.
Helen, or Elastigirl, borrowed a private plane from their costume designer to fly to Nomanisan. Their powerful children, Violet, and Dash, stow away and follow their mother, leaving Jack-Jack with a babysitter. Syndrome shoots their plane down with missiles, but Helen and the kids survive and make it to the island by collaborating and simultaneously enacting all of their powers. Helen and her children, although frightened, worked together and kept each other safe from additional missiles until they arrived at shore.
Once in Metroville, the Incredibles and Frozone defeat Syndrome not once, but twice! Managing your stress as part of a team is always going to be more successful than doing everything in your life alone.
To bring it full circle, teamwork really does make the dream work and it took Bob many near-death experiences to realize this for himself. Just look at the incredible things that can happen when people work together - especially when that teamwork includes a family with inhuman superpowers. It’s important to have a support system in your life to lean on in times of chaos. By dialing in on healthier outlets to manage your stress, you can be incredible too!
A self-described geek, Maria Laquerre-Diego is a CEO and Owner who is committed to increasing access to mental health services and breaking down the stigma surrounding therapy services. As a therapist turned CEO, Maria has developed a unique perspective when it comes to mental health and the barriers surrounding mental health treatment. Influenced by her time at New Mexico State University in the Family and Consumer Science department, and University of New Hampshire’s Marriage and Family Therapy department, Maria has turned her dedication to giving back and supporting future generations of therapists. In addition to supporting mental health providers, Maria takes an active role in addressing the continued stigma of mental health services through the use of pop culture – everything from movies and television shows to superheroes and Disney characters. Maria has spoken about mental health at several local events, has served as an officer on professional boards and has provided training to clinicians all over the country while maintaining her and her family’s roots as Aggies! Outside of the office, Maria can be found spending time with her family and loved ones, exploring the world through travel, and creating cosplays for herself, her husband and their two little ones. Maria is always happy to talk about Star Wars, Marvel and mental health and can be contacted through her practice website www.anewhopetc.org