The WE-I Intelligence of Ted Lasso: Part 3 (Last)

coach as instrument coaches life lesson newsletter ted lasso we-i intelligence Feb 12, 2024
Learning In Action, The WE-I Intelligence of Ted Lasso: Part 3 (Last)

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve written about the WE Intelligence (or relational intelligence) of the fictional character, Ted Lasso. It’s been so fun that I’ve taken a deep dive on it (as I tend to do) and think I could continue with topic for several more newsletters. However, I’ll be wrapping it up this week to move on to other topics. So, let’s get to the meat.


Ted’s WE-I Pattern


The pattern etched in Ted Lasso’s psyche, the domino fall of thoughts, feelings and instincts that are triggered under stress, is the result of the trauma from his father’s suicide. And the echo of that trauma is revealed in his moment-to-moment reactions and behaviors throughout his day-to-day life.


So what? Ted Lasso is a fictional character. What’s the point of analyzing something that’s made up? Well, sometimes, perhaps many times, art imitates life.


At Learning in Action, we’ve seen Ted’s pattern show up in thousands of coaches and their clients who have experienced trauma and have developed nonconscious ways of coping with it that negatively impact their long-term relationships.


In the last two newsletters, we focused on Ted’s access to a range of distressing emotions. We explored how Ted has low access to core emotions like anger and fear. (While we didn’t discuss it, he also has low access to guilt/shame.) And we revealed why and how not fully accessing these core emotions can negatively impact key relationships.


What fills in the void left by not accessing these core distressing emotions is over abundance of love and joy.


Wait! What?! You can over access pleasant feelings like love and joy?!!! Yes.


Love and Joy – HIGH Access – Ted over-accesses love and joy as a form of coping with distress. You might imagine that any form of distress reminds him in some way of his greatest and most unprocessed distress, the death of his father. And so, he distances himself from anything that touches into distress by over accessing love and joy and positivity.


The Cost of Over Accessing Love and Joy – Over accessing any emotion, even love and/or joy, comes at a cost to relationships. Many people with the same pattern as Ted, report (and my own experience of them confirms) that others often experience them as inauthentic.


Distressing emotions, however uncomfortable they may be, ground us. They let other people know we are real, we are like them, we feel the pain of our lives as they do. When we don’t access our anger or fear or shame and over access love and joy, we can be experienced as not altogether real.


Clearly, in the series, Ted wins over pretty much everyone (except initially Dr. Sharon, who he eventually wins over – after he becomes a patient). What saves Ted from being experienced as not real is his easy access to sadness. He can feel loss, at an almost subliminal level, and can connect with people in their own loss.


That said, Ted’s over access of Love and Joy can be almost manic. He is a bundle of energy that, I can imagine, is charming in small doses, and overwhelming in full measure.


Ted’s defining characteristic is his positivity. Next, we’ll get to how Ted’s positivity, along with his low access to distress, likely cost him his marriage.


Positive Orientation – HIGH – Ted over accesses Positivity. He is positive to the point of being blind to risk. What US college football coach in their right mind would take a job coaching soccer (a game they know nothing about) in country storied for their allegiance to the game?


While Ted’s positivity is played off in the series as overwhelmingly – well – positive, it’s extraordinarily rare that it works out that well in real life. (Of course, the suspension of disbelief is critical for most any TV series or film.)


IRL, people who are as positive as Ted, often lose the trust of those around them. The people around them see risk, they have access to their distress. And when they experience someone who doesn’t see risk, who doesn’t feel the full range of their distress, they lose trust in them.


People like Ted are routinely fired from positions that require even the smallest amount of detail and/or assessment of risk. People with that kind of positivity have extraordinary difficultly with details simply because they don’t allow themselves to imagine what could go wrong.


A significant part of attention to detail relates to an innate ability to discern what could possibly go wrong. When we don’t allow ourselves to imagine anything bad happening, we only go an inch deep in what we do. And Ted is clearly a very big picture guy, leaving the details to everyone else.


“As we age, the weight of our unsorted baggage gets heavier and heavier.”
Bruce Springsteen


The Cost of Ted’s Pattern In His Primary Relationship


Ted’s low access to distress and high access to positivity (shaped by the loss of his father) is likely at the root of the dissolution of his marriage. A vital aspect of a loving relationship is emotional intimacy. And when we aren’t intimate with our own feelings, we can not be intimate with the feelings of another.


Ted unconsciously distances himself from his own feelings and in doing so, he distances himself from Michelle’s feelings (and from Michelle). People who can’t tolerate their own distress will tend to ignore, silver-line, dismiss, or minimize the distress of others. They don’t do this with intent. They do this out of an unconscious need to stay at a safe distance from their unprocessed trauma.




When we see someone with the characteristics of Ted Lasso, on TV or in real life, we can tend to idolize them. They tend to make great motivational speakers. They can tell compelling stories of overcoming hardship or trauma (which is likely quite real). They can present themselves as untouchable and untouched by the discouragements of the common person.


And upon closer examination and extended experience of them, we can see someone who may (unconsciously) be doing something like a “spiritual bypass” in which, instead of working through and processing their distress, they go around it and only access the “good”, the pleasant, the positive.


While many of us (myself included) may wish for a different answer, in this life, the only way out is through.


The root of WE Intelligence is about our capacity to connect deeply and meaningfully with others. And to do that, we must connect with ourself and the fullness of our emotional experiences.



If you’d like to learn more about WE Intelligence, join us for WE-I Certification training starting soon, we’ll teach you how you can use the WE-I Profile to discern the WE Intelligence of your clients.


If you are a WE-I Practitioner and want to refresh your certification for as little at $395, learn more here.