Battling Depression: What Can We Learn from Robin Williams?

depressionBy now, we have all heard the tragic news of the passing of the great Robin Williams – actor, comedian, husband, father, man. As is perhaps typical in such situations, many of us turn to media reports to learn about what happened, what the underlying causes were, and, ultimately, how this situation will affect our understanding of who he was.

But isn’t the more important question, how can this situation affect our understanding of who we are?

Yesterday morning, Jessica*, a talented young actress, told me that the untimely death of Robin Williams had caused her to rethink how she had been functioning at a very core level. His passing had made her realize that depression was an all-too-real problem in her own life, and she needed to do something about it as soon as possible.

She emailed me on Monday – the day the news broke — and by Tuesday morning was sitting in my recliner.

Jessica knew exactly what was plaguing her. Her mind was shrouded in negative thoughts and feelings – she described it as a cloud of darkness that comes and goes. A highly intelligent woman, she knew that her self-destructive habits were hindering her on a personal and professional level, but she couldn’t help but find herself a victim of her emotions. Like a teeter-totter, she found herself soaring to a major high while on set, and plummeting to a crushing low when not working.

This is a pattern I see regularly, regardless of the industry in which we make our livings. More often than not, we are able to distract ourselves with our work and busy lives, but the moment things quiet down, the negative self-talk creeps back in, and we find ourselves once again face to face with our innermost demons.

It is then that we turn to something outside ourselves to snap us out of our distress. Drugs, alcohol, food, more work… All these can all be deceptively numbing. But even so, there is something always missing, and outside vices will never fill the void.

Robin Williams himself told Entertainment Tonight, “It might have been helpful just to learn certain things about how to, you know, deal with stress. I dealt with it with alcohol. Then you realize no, that does not help you my friend, that does not help deal with the situation.”

The same day Jessica came in, Lauren* uttered very similar phrases: “I think I’ve been feeling this way a very long time. I think I got used to it. Robin Williams’ death made me realize how negative I’ve been feeling.”

For these women, feeling depressed felt so normal and natural that it  had become a part of everyday life. This reminds me of how pattern-oriented the mind is – once a pattern is set, our subconscious minds go back to it, regardless of whether the pattern is harmful or not.

Tragedy affects all of us, and sometimes it can be difficult to know how to respond. By coming in for hypnotherapy, both Jessica and Lauren took the first steps toward re-training their subconscious minds and overwriting the scripts of negative self-talk. They took a tragic moment in time as an impetus to break similar cycles in their own lives, taking concrete steps toward freeing themselves from the depression that has been crippling them.

George Santanyana said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

What will you learn today?


*Names have been changed to protect patient confidentiality.

PHOTO: HD Wallpaper Inn

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