Life Lessons From Grey’s Anatomy: An Argument for (some) TV Watching

This summer, I’ve been catching up on my TV dramas. That’s what summers are for, right? Relaxing. For me, TV shows are a great way for me to do that. As superficial as it sounds, sometimes my brain is just moving in too many directions to focus on anything else. And trust me, you do not want to let my brain run all on its own. Chances are you’ll end up with a situation similar to when you try and untangle a ball of yarn, but the more you pull the tighter the knot gets and the more confusing it becomes and eventually you are stuck with a bigger mess than in the first place. And then all of a sudden a random volcano erupts next to you and you are left chasing random lava and wondering where the heck it came from (yes, I use random in the most literal sense here). Welcome to my brain left without a leash, people.


To get that leash back on, there are many things I can do. I can read, do yoga, go for a walk, etc. etc. etc. But sometimes, even those aren’t enough. Sometimes, I need something else to hold my attention, or rather, take away my attention so that I can slowly, somewhat unconsciously, untangle that knot before it becomes an impossible task.

That’s when I’ve learned to turn to the TV. It’s also why I take no shame in admitting that I watch TV in my free time. We all do it, but it’s generally “frowned upon” in society. Yes, the couch potato is a real thing. But in considering the concept of self-awareness, if unwinding on a couch with a drama on Amazon Video in front of me is what I need for balance and mental health in that moment, then bring it on.


If I had to describe my taste in TV entertainment, I would have to call it an eclectic mix of Food Network competition shows like Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, Cupcake Wars, and Food Network Star with Intense crime shows like Law and Order SVU, Criminal Minds, and CSI and the occasional Dance Moms. Oh, and this summer, Grey’s Anatomy. So much Grey’s Anatomy.

Okay, I’ll admit it: I watched the entire show, all 12 seasons. If you’re wondering, it was fabulous. The only downside is that now I have to wait until September to pick up where I left off.


The odd thing that I’ve noticed about myself when I watch dramas like Grey’s though, is that I’m never truly vegging out. I approach shows with the perspective of a director. As I grow to know characters, I predict what they are thinking, what may happen to them, or how they will react to a certain turn of events. I become attuned to the small aspects of their personalities that give clues to the upcoming drama worked into the storyline. I assess relationships and sometimes even play matchmaker (I’m actually really good at it). I appreciate how the director organizes the episodes around single themes, connecting the main cast to the situation in that specific day. Most of all, however, I take back lessons from the episodes.

Custom Bar Height Directors Chairs

Custom Bar Height Directors Chairs

I know what you’re thinking: No, Rowena! TV is not like real life! Don’t trust that, there’s no good lessons to learn. I will respond: wrong, my friend. Wrong. Just like a good book, a well-written show can teach just as much as a star novel.

Take Grey’s Anatomy. Each episode begins and ends with a short voiceover from one of the characters. It sets the tone for the story and ends it with a message. All of the events in between analyze the idea, showing how the different characters and personalities treat the moral or value being tested. I caught onto this pattern early on in my viewing, and beginning around the middle of season one, I started to actually write down these statements. I recognized that I related to them. After this post, I’ve compiled all of the “quoteables” from seasons 1-12. Take the time to read them, because they’re worth it!


I recognize that it may be hard to find a relationship between your living, breathing life and a fictional one on screen. I’m not oblivious to the fact that the situations in crazy crime shows or medical dramas are often more than overly dramatized and not completely realistic. It isn’t reality that matters, however, in the broad overview of the situation. What matters are the ways that the metaphors can be applied to our own experiences.

The majority of Grey’s viewers are probably not surgeons. They likely haven’t had to have a life in their own hands, or held a drill to a man’s skull. But the emotions associated with these actions are still accessible. That is what I tune into when watching. I’ve never held a life in my hands, but I’ve felt the feeling of great responsibility in other ways. I have never drilled holes in heads, but I have been fearful of the next move I will have to make in a situation, one that I know will be irreversible once I start. This is where TV bridges real life. This is where lessons can still be learned.

DC Facial Emotions

I know this is a controversial idea. It’s really just a silly parallel between TV and teaching morals. But in many ways, it’s true. I’m not encouraging you to binge watch a show 200% of the time when you could be doing things like reading and walking and doing yoga, but I’m not telling you never to watch either. When you need it to untangle your knotting brain, by all means it has my therapeutic approval. Just give me a chance and try to see if you can learn something from it.

Start here, with the quotes from Grey’s Anatomy. Then, take it wherever you want. But not before you watch all 12 seasons of Grey’s. That’s an order, from a Grey’s addict.



Grey’s Anatomy Quotes!!!!!


“We lie to ourselves so much that sometimes the lies look like the truth.”


“Maybe being grateful means recognizing what you have for what it is. Appreciating small victories. Admiring the struggle it takes simply to be human.”


“Most wounds run deeper than we can imagine. We can’t see them with the naked eye. The trick with any wound is to dig down and find the source of the injury. And once you’ve found it, try like hell to heal that sucker.”


“Sometimes, the glass is half empty. Sometimes, it is half full. Sometimes, we just want a taste. But sometimes, the glass is bottomless, and all we want is more.”


“No matter how hard you fight it, you fall. And it’s scary as hell. Unless when there’s an upside to freefalling—when you give your friends the chance to catch you.”


“Change. We don’t like it. We fear it. But we can’t stop it from coming. We either adapt to change or we get left behind. But sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Sometimes change is good. Sometimes, change is everything.”


“Forgive and forget; that’s what they say. It’s good advice, but it’s not very practical. When someone hurts us, we want to hurt them back. When someone wrongs us, we want to be right. Without forgiveness, old scores never settle. Old wounds never heal. And the best thing to hope for is that someday, we can forget.”


“God made the skies and the earth and the animals, and everything was great. Then God made man, and it all went downhill. All man makes is struggle.”


“We like to think that we are rational beings. But when things fall apart, even just a little, we’re no better than animals. There’s a little animal in all of us. Maybe that’s okay. Our animal leads us to seek comfort from a pack. Sometimes we may feel caged. We may feel trapped. But still, as humans, we can find ways to feel free. We are each other’s keepers. We are the guardians of our own humanity. Even though there’s a beast inside all of us, what sets us apart from the animals is that we can think, feel, dream, and love. And against all odds, all instinct, we evolve.”


“There’s this person in my head. She is brave. She is capable. She is me. Only better.”


“The only way to get rid of fantasy is to remind yourself of the reality.”


“Don’t wonder why people go crazy. Wonder why they don’t.”


“I am a rock. I am an island. We like to think we’re independent. Loners. But the truth is, none of us can do it alone. Life is a team sport. Eventually, we have to get off the bench and decide what team we’re playing for. Choosing teams in real life is nothing like in gym clas. Sometimes being chosen first is terrifying. And being chosen last isn’t the worst thing in the world. So we watch from the sidelines. We lean into isolation, because we know that as soon as we let go of the bench, someone comes along and changes the game completely.”


“We all remember the bedtime stories from our childhood. The shoe fits. Sleeping Beauty is awakened with a kiss. Once upon a time. Happily ever after. Fairytales. The stuff of dreams. The problem is, fairytales don’t come true. It’s the nightmares that always seem to become reality.”


“When you’re little, nighttime is scary because there are monsters right under the bed. When you get older, the monsters are different. Self doubt, loneliness, guilt, regret. And though you may be older and wiser, you’ll always be afraid of the dark. But once we face our demons, dace our fears, and reach out for help, nighttime isn’t so scary because we realize we aren’t all alone in the dark.”


“We have to constantly change our perspective. Look at things from every possible angle. Uncover new information. Then try to figure out what’s actually wrong.”


“Every day we experience moments of peace. The trick to to know them. Embrace them. Live in them. And finally, let them go.”


“We all assume the really serious changes in our lives happen slowly over time. But it’s not true. They happen in an instant. We don’t realize it is a big day until it is.”


“We have to constantly reinvent ourselves. Because life changes in an instant. And we have to move forward. Sometimes the changes are forced on us. Sometimes, they happen by accident. And we make the most of them.”


“Maybe the more we try to will ourselves to states of bliss, the more confused we get, to the point where we don’t recognize ourselves. Instead, we just keep smiling, trying like hell to be happy people. Until eventually it hits us—it’s been here all along. Not in our dreams or hopes, but in the known. The comfortable. The familiar.”


“We push ourselves. It doesn’t matter you much you achieve. If you’re a climber, there’s always another mountain.”


“Every cell in our body regenerates, on average, once every seven years. Like snakes, we shed our skin. Biologically, we are new people. We may look the same; we probably do. The change isn’t visible, at least not in most of us, but we’ve all changed. Completely. Forever.”


“Change is literally the only constant in all of science. Energy. Matter. It’s always changing. Morphing. Merging. Growing. Dying. It’s the way people try not to change things that’s unnatural. The way we cling to the old. Change is constant, but how we experience change is up to us. If we open up our fingers, loosen our grips, go with it, it can feel like at any moment we can have a new chance at life.”


“There can be reward in risk. There can also be fallout.”


“The brain is the human body’s most mysterious organ. It adapts. It tells us what we see. What we hear. It lets us feel love. When it’s hurt, when the Human Brain is traumatized, that’s when it gets even more mysterious.”


“You can seek the advice of others. Surround yourself with trusted advisors. But in the end, the decision is always yours, and yours alone. And when it’s time to act and you’re all alone with your back against the wall, the only voice that matters is the one in your head, the one telling you what you probably already know. The one that’s almost always right.”


“We’re trained to be vigilant. To chase down the problem. Ta ask all the right questions. To find the root cause. Until we know exactly what it is, and we can confront it. But sometimes, we can also create problems where they don’t exist.”


“We’re all gonna die. We don’t decide how we die, but we do get to decide how we live. So do it. Is this the person you want to love? Is this the best you can be? Can you be stronger? Kinder? More compassionate? Decide. Breathe in. breathe out. And decide.”


“Sometimes things are simply out of your control. You can’t bend them. You can’t change them to your will.”


“Do you know where you are? Do you know what’s happened to you? Do you want to live this way? All it takes is one person, one moment, to change your life forever. It can change your perspective. One moment that forces you to reevaluate everything you know.”


“We never know what kind of day is coming. We can stand there trembling, afraid to move forward. Or we can step into the unknown and assume it will be brilliant.”


“It’s scary to reveal everything about ourselves. Fear makes us hold ourselves back. Is that so wrong? Maybe. Probably. But still, it helps to be a little sneaky. A little protective. It’s not safe to just blurt out all our secrets. We can’t just lay out the truth out there. Expose ourselves. Because once the truth is out, we have to face it ourselves.”


“When you’re faced with the tough choices, it comes down to you. What can you live with? What can you leave behind? Overall, you have to decide what you’re going to fight for. The choice is yours.”


“There are some things in life that simply can’t be avoided, no matter how uncomfortable they make us. And there can be rewards in stepping outside your comfort zone, even when the thought of it makes you want to puke, even when we want nothing more than to run for the hills. That’s why people love to say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But sometimes, those people don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”


“When we stay in one place, we get stagnation. Complacency. A limited mind.”


“It’s human nature; no one wants to be left out in the cold, rejected. Alone. Affection, acceptance, and unconditional love. We all want it. We all look for it. But when we find it, it’s flat out terrifying because just as quickly as we may have found it, it may disappear, and we’re back outside in the cold. Alone.”


“We cover up injuries with tape and gauze to protect the injury and prevent infection. The hard part comes when you have to rip the bandage off, because that can hurt like hell. It hurts to tear that off. We don’t want to see what’s underneath. But maybe it’s not the fear of the pain that holds us back. Maybe, we’re really afraid to see if the wound underneath is still open. Or, if it might actually be healing.”






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