I had just started college when I discovered BoJack Horseman. I had moved from a small town in Western Uttar Pradesh to New Delhi. Having grown up in a constricted place with minimal to no freedom, Delhi seemed like a maze. I was not adjusting well. I hated everyone in college. Somehow, everyone on campus was friends with each other except me.
Anytime I went to college, it felt like they all shared a secret that no one wanted to let me in on. To me, I was lacking something they all had. Anytime someone tried to talk to me, I felt they were doing it out of sympathy.
I felt inadequate so I secluded myself more. I knew something was wrong but I couldn’t figure out what it was. It was then that I stumbled upon Netflix’s BoJack Horseman and had my epiphany.
BoJack Horseman is the bible for understanding the impact of family on mental health, depression, human behaviour, and life. He is the protagonist of the show who has high-functioning depression. He is a product of his traumatic childhood and a lack of emotional support.
His high-functioning depression is manifested in a form where he doesn’t realise he has it, like most people who have it.
BoJack wants love but is too afraid to receive it. He has built a wall around him and he makes sure it doesn’t get breached. It is a self-defence mechanism he probably adopted as a child and continues to stick by it even as an adult.
People can’t push you away if you push them first. He doesn’t think he deserves love. It’s not a surprise that he comes from a family of mental abuse and negligent parents. He’s hurtful and mean to people who care about him. This brings us to a very important part of understanding such behaviours.
Sometimes such negative behaviours are ‘learned behaviours’ and present themselves in the form of a cycle. It is important for us to recognise and break our cycle before we begin to hurt others.
Absence of love and care in one’s childhood often reflects in their adulthood. It is manifested in forms of low self-esteem, extreme self-preservation tactics, pushing people away for fear of getting hurt, little to no faith in oneself, and other deviant ways.
When one finds themselves on the ‘My Life is Out of Control’ station, the first train to stop is ‘Addiction Express’. A lot of us also board it because what more harm can come to a life already devoid of direction. BoJack is an alcoholic and also has a drug problem.
An addiction has less to do with the substance itself and more to do with the statement it makes. It is an action of rebellion, a false sense of control, a feeling of momentary satisfaction, and a sneer at a constraining society.
We see this pattern in not just drug addicts but also serial killers and other people involved in harmful compulsive behaviours. It is born of a need to control at least one outcome in all the chaos.
Sadly, the only hand extended in their direction is one to push them and not to help them. Attempts are actively made by governments and their citizens to punish the affected instead of rehabilitating them.
Owing to his childhood circumstances, BoJack’s relationship and life experiences have been negative and thus that’s the view he’s adopted of the world. His character exemplifies the aversion of the society to people it considers ‘pessimistic’.
Despite the constant social media chatter on mental health, we’re often quick to label anyone ‘toxic’ or ‘cancel’ people’s entire careers in the flinch of an eye.
Now, the need is to be empathetic towards other people, whenever possible instead of simply shutting them out. We don’t have to put up with problematic behaviour but we can always try to be understanding of other people’s situations to gain a deeper insight in our own life.
At the same time, it is also important that those in need get proper help from professionals. Considering this, therapy needs to be made affordable by structuring it effectively. We also need a central body to hold therapists accountable for their practices.
Moreover, it is important we identify our own traits of self-sabotage and take responsibility for ourselves. It’s not easy being an adult, constantly fighting the ghost of our childhood but a wise baboon once said, “It gets easier.”
As I navigated the show, I also understood why certain things were the way they were. College did not become easier but confusion gave way to clarity which empowered me to sort out things. Even when I could not, I learned to empathise with others but more importantly, with my own self.