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Finding Nemo and Making Friends with Uncertainty

Written by Layla Mofrad

At the IAPT service Talking Helps Newcastle, we have developed a transdiagnostic group intervention focussing on building tolerance to uncertainty across different anxiety disorders; the Making Friends with Uncertainty Group


I have happily found some cross over in my life as a parent and my involvement with the development and delivery of the group. The film Finding Nemo is a firm favourite in our house and the more I have watched it, the more I have come to see it as a journey of coming to face and tolerate uncertainty. Others have commented on the film as an allegory exploring how humans interact with the environment in the face of an uncertain future, and noted its usefulness in thinking about uncertainty and risk taking with children


We have shown clips of the film in our group sessions and it has led to many helpful discussions. At times when it has been difficult to look at very personal examples of uncertainty, it has sometimes been helpful to look at examples from the film with some humour, external characters and distance. 


The film is the story of a clown fish called Marlin. He is an anxious parent, he worries a lot about his son Nemo, and is very overprotective of him and tries his hardest to avoid any danger. One day Nemo is taken by a diver and kept in a tank in Sydney. Marlin sets off to find him and along the way makes friends with Dory. She is extremely tolerant of uncertainty and always expects that things will work out well. She has short term memory loss, lives very much in the moment and does not get flustered when faced with a crisis. 

In one example exploring uncertainty Marlin discusses parenting with Crush the sea turtle, questioning how he could possibly let his offspring go off on their own. Marlin, in his search for certainty, is keen for a definite answer, and is met with a lovely example of Crush having a little faith in his decision without knowing for sure. 


Marlin - ‘How do you know when they are ready?’

Crush - ‘Well you never really know, but when they know, you’ll know, you know?’

When faced with new situations Marlin initially panics, but as the story progresses, he deals with many dangerous situations and finds that he is more able to cope than he thought he was. He does have good problem solving skills and increasingly as he learns to approach his goals, he starts to enjoy the thrill and excitement of his adventures. He finds that these new experiences, although unpredictable,  also bring him friends and confidence.

I want to end this post with my favourite and most referenced scene. After Marlin and Dory are swallowed by a whale, they hang on for dear life to its tongue, expecting to be eaten, when the whale starts to give them some instructions:


Dory: He says its time to let go, everything is going to be alright

Marlin: How do you know? How do you something bad isn’t going to happen?

Dory: I don’t! 


They let go, falling into the whale, are shot out of its blowhole safely into Sydney harbour, and one step closer to finding Nemo. 


You can follow our research on our website or on Research Gate

Email us on intolerance.uncertainty@newcastle.ac.uk

Tweet us @Covid19Study



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