“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world. – Robin Williams, actor
“If Robin…couldn’t figure out why his life was worth living…?”
Bart (Bartholomew) was a confused, depressed, pain-riddled, man. But, he portrayed himself a casual, easy going guy, full of fun and humour. He said he contacted me because of some self destructive thoughts, which really scared him.
Bart was 35 years of age and conducted training seminars in a large organization. He was married and had two kids, and devoted to his family. His current physical pain was a broken shoulder, from his his third auto collision this year…and it was only October. He decided he needed help to figure out what was going on. And so, he called.
Bart was a quick study and had a quick wit about him. He easily befriended others and had a large circle of people with whom he interacted. But, he said, he had very few people with whom he felt close. Then suddenly, kind of out of context, he blurted out that the recent suicide of Robin Williams had ‘thrown him for a loop.’
Then he added, “If Robin, with all the resources at his disposal, couldn’t figure out why his life was worth living…what chance do I have?”
I thought about this for a moment, then I said, smiling, “Bart, have you ever wondered why people go into a specific job or career…such as Robin’s choice of the entertainment industry?”
“There is something great and terrible about suicide.” – Honore de Balzac, writer
“Why do we applaud entertainers when they perform for us?”
“I suppose, they’re just like me…trying to make a living, pay the bills…that sort of thing.” he replied.
“Actually, it is more profound than that! The things you mention can be important factors, but, the underlying motive is often hidden, yet always certain…and, interestingly enough, always the same, for everyone.”
“Are you suggesting there is some deep psychological reason each of us chooses a certain job?”
“Yep! The choice, whether conscious or unconscious, is to raise their level of self love!”
“Let me ask you another question, why do we applaud entertainers when they perform for us?” I asked.
“Ken, I have always thought it was because they had showed us their talent…do you think it is something else?”he asked.
“Yes, Bart, I think we clap our hands, scream, yell and whistle to acknowledge their courage at risking our rejection.”
“How so? I don’t follow!”
“You have probably figured out by now, anyone can learn just about anything, if they focus and persist…whether it is playing Mozart on a piano, singing with a guitar, acting, dancing or anything else. But most of us don’t make the time. And, even if we did, we would not necessarily want to do it in front of other people to collect their opinion of our efforts.”
“In America they really do mythologize people when they die.” – Robin Williams, actor
“To prove to themselves they have value.”
“So why do they do it?” he asked.
“Bart, entertainers chose entertaining, either consciously or unconsciously, to prove to themselves they have value. They use it to raise their self worth. And so does everybody else in any job, whether carpenters, plumbers, bakers, grave diggers, surgeons…and also, psychologists and psychiatrists!”
“Ken, are you saying I am a human resource trainer because I use it to raise my self esteem?”
“What do you think Bart?”
“I never thought about my job in that way before…but I do know there are some magic moments in it, when I feel like I’m really connecting to my attendees…my audience!”
“What does it feel like to you when you have one of those special moments?”
“Ken, the recurring thought I have had repeatedly is, ‘I’m in the right spot…this is as good as it gets…or something like that, pops into my head!”
“Would it be fair to say, that’s when you feel the most valued, for being you?”I asked carefully.
“That’s exactly it, Ken…it really makes up for all the other stuff I don’t like so much about my job…like the paper work.” he replied thoughtfully.
“Are you suggesting Robin Williams was seeking self esteem by being an entertainer?”
“Comedy is acting out optimism!”– Robin Williams, actor
“How can his death serve others…I don’t see it!”
“Suicide is often considered ‘the last act of personal power’…when someone perceives themselves as powerless (HUH – Hopeless, Useless, Helpless)…then, their long term solution to their short term challenge, is suicide…their only perceived option at that moment in time. It’s basis is invariably, low self esteem!”
“Ken, I remember you saying one time there are no mistakes in nature…if so, given we have all lost Robin’s presence, where are the gains, …what are the benefit to his death…how can his death serve others…I don’t see it!”
“You have already demonstrated one of them…we are here discussing him, his genius, his challenges, his life…while learning to appreciate our own challenges and our own life. But let’s be more specific. You said earlier what brought you here was three auto collisions in the last year and your painful recovery from the last one. What have been your gains from your pain?” I asked.
“That’s a sneaky question!” he said, smiling for the first time, “are you suggesting my pain and Robin’s pain are somehow connected in my head?”
“Tell me what you think?”I asked.
“Suicide sometimes proceeds from cowardice, but not always; for cowardice sometimes prevents it; since as many live because they are afraid to die, as die because they are afraid to live.” – Charles Caleb Colton, writer
“You have kept your head above the waterline…”
Bart thought for a moment, looking down at the floor. Then he raised his head and said softly, “Ken, Robin’s death shocked me…I just never expected it from him…he seemed so smart, together…so insightful with his humour…I guess, I expected him to be able to figure out his challenges. Where as, me, on the other hand, I felt like I have been groping in the dark, and barely keeping my head above the waterline.”
“But, Bart…you have kept your head above the waterline…your presence here proves that…so what are the benefits to noticing Robin’s pain and your own?”
“I kind of hesitate to say this out loud,…but, when I heard about Robin, it motivated me to get my act together…to figure out my life now, instead of later!” he replied with a hint of guilt.
“Tell me what forms your motivation took, since you heard about Robin.”
“That’s the interesting part, the different ways really surprised me…for example, suddenly, I felt stronger in spirit, more determined to figure why I had all these disasters this year…and, I starting noticing how much I liked the training part of my work, while despising the administrative stuff…and, appreciating my family even more…and becoming more health conscious, and on and on.” he said, beaming for the first time.
“If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide.” – Mahatma Gandhi, social activist
“Much more grateful now…and I owe it to Robin’s passing!”
“Bart, they all sound very important, was there one that really stuck out for you?” I asked.
“Actually, there was! I kind of had Robin on a pedestal, …I assumed he was smarter than me, more successful than me, more something…than me. I kind of used my perception of him, and his genius, to lessen my perception of myself. So when I heard what happened to him, I realized, I have a lot more going for me than I thought…it reminded me of how fortunate I am, to be who I am, doing what I get to do, and having the people I have who love me…I’m really very lucky, and, much more grateful now…and I owe it to Robin’s passing!” he said, his eyes watering briefly.
“Bart, I’m wondering if your auto collisions may have had a similar purpose for you, as Robin’s death? And, I also wonder if your insight, could apply to a lot of people,…so maybe Robin gets the last laugh anyway…maybe he served us to the very end?” I offered.
“You know Ken, I think he did,… if I decide to honour my life as it is, and, people decide to honour Robin for who he was…not just what he did for a living, we honour him and ourselves, simultaneously!” Bart replied, reflectively.
“They tell us that suicide is the greatest piece of cowardice… that suicide is wrong; when it is quite obvious that there is nothing in the world to which every man has a more unassailable title than to his own life and person.” – Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher
Until Next time…
We have now dealt with seven forms of STRESS, ANXIETY & WORRY: spiritual, mental, vocational, financial, social, familial and physical (today’s topic). Remember to look for the connecting videos for each of the stress topics. Our September’s theme is RESOLVING RELATIONSHIPS. Watch for contributions from our growing list of global experts.
And, please remember to send us your feedback and monthly theme suggestions…we love to hear from you! If you have a specific question about dealing with RESOLVING RELATIONSHIPS or are looking for strategies for dealing with yours, contact me.
POINTS TO PONDER AND REMEMBER are:
- You physical pain is always about learning opportunities, not mistakes.
- Your heroes are just learning opportunities in self appreciation.
- Everyone, without exception, has equal, support and challenge.
- Suicide is a long term solution to a short term challenge.
- Suicide is a final desperate act of self empowerment.
- You will choose careers which enable you to grow your self worth.
- You choose purposeful careers, consciously or unconsciously.
- Taking heroes off pedestals honours them and you.
- Every person serve others, consciously or unconsciously.
- You serve others, however you start, live, or end your life.
Further information: www.kenpiercepsychologist.com