5 Lessons from Robin Williams

5 Lessons from Robin Williams

5 Lessons from Robin Williams

First a quick update:

“Robin Williams dead of suspected suicide”
 Are comedians more plagued by depression than other stars? – Read my insights

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Now, let’s talk about the 5 key lessons that can be gleamed from the life of Robin Williams.

“I lay on my back, frozen, unable to avoid thinking the darkest thoughts. Then, at an especially bleak moment, the door flew open and in hurried a squat fellow with a blue scrub hat and a yellow surgical gown and glasses, speaking in a Russian accent. He announced that he was my proctologist, and that he had to examine me immediately…it was Robin Williams…for the first time since the accident, I laughed. My old friend had helped me know that somehow I was going to be okay.”

– Christopher Reeve, who was paralyzed in 1995 following a horseback riding accident, says he “wanted to die” but credited Williams for inspiring him to live. Christopher Reeve and Robin Williams were roommates at Juilliard School of dance, drama and music.

Robin Williams was a man who brought so much joy, laughter and inspiration to millions of people around the world with his comedy and acting. He sadly and tragically took his own life on August 11, 2014.

People close to Robin Williams loved him more for his kind, gentle and generous soul than for his talent.

Of course, the news that he took his life is shocking, particularly since few people really knew the darkness, pain and suffering of Robin Williams.

For decades, he suffered and battled addiction, alcoholism and depression. He was sober for 20 years and relapsed in 2006 and then entered rehab and became sober again. He assigned his fall back into alcohol as “It’s trying to fill the hole, and it’s fear.”

He attributed the deterioration of his second marriage to alcohol:

“You know, I was shameful, and you do stuff that causes disgust, and that’s hard to recover from. You can say, ‘I forgive you’ and all that stuff, but it’s not the same as recovering from it. It’s not coming back.”

So what can we learn from such a gifted and talented actor and comedian?

1. Comedians, actors and celebrities all suffer
Depression and sadness are common experiences for comedians, as I will explain further below! We fool ourselves into thinking that the more success, the more talent and the more fame a person has, the happier they are. Not so. Every human will experience suffering, loss, sadness, anger, disappointment and every other emotion. There is nothing we can do to escape from feeling the full spectrum of human emotion, experience and suffering. And, as Robin Williams revealed in the quote above about the cause of the collapse of his second marriage, even the attempt to escape or diminish the pain such as with alcohol or other substances or habits, only creates more problems, suffering, guilt and regret.

Like the rest of us, Robin Williams had other problems as well –

Robin Williams found himself increasingly prone to depression since open-heart surgery in 2009
Friends say Robin Williams was wrestling with cancellation of ‘The Crazy Ones,’ fought to maintain sobriety
Robin Williams, big paydays behind him, had to contend with tens of millions of dollars in divorce settlements

His wife revealed that Robin Williams had also recently been diagnosed with Parkinsons

2. We teach what we need to learn
A woman becomes a hairstylist because she never felt beautiful and wants to make others beautiful.

A man becomes a personal trainer and health coach because his mother was weak and ill his entire childhood.

A woman becomes a hypnotist because she says she felt weak and helpless all of her life.

A woman becomes a therapist because her father was an alcoholic.

A woman becomes a counselor for abused teens because she was abused as a teen.

A man becomes a successful entrepreneur amassing a fortune because he grew up poor.

All of the above are true stories from my clients.

Ultimately, we teach what we need to learn and we unknowingly choose careers to help heal ourselves.

Boy George became a flamboyant, androgynous singer because he was never heard or noticed when he was a child.

Jim Carrey spent his childhood “being a monkey” and entertaining people, specifically trying to relieve his mother’s excruciating physical pain:

“And I wanted her to be free. And I wanted her to realize that her life was worth something because she gave birth to someone who’s worth something.”

Here was a little boy who took on a huge responsibility of trying to remove his mother’s pain. Consider the range of emotions he felt at the time, masked by his role as the clown and comedian – sadness, guilt (that he couldn’t save her), helplessness, powerlessness, anger and so forth.
Read more about Jim Carrey in my article “Children absorb your emotions”

Comedians above all, set out to relieve suffering – their own and others. The comedian needs to hear the laughter for himself as much as he needs to know that he is making people laugh and be joyful. Beneath the mask and comedic persona lie deep sadness, despair and depression.

3. We all have the capacity to help others and make a difference despite our own setbacks, issues and pain
Self-doubt plagues all of us. We often forget that we all have individual talents and gifts which can help others. Yes, we are all humans and we are all imperfect; yes, we all have issues, insecurities and flaws, but, we can all help people; we can each make a difference. Robin Williams was tortured by alcohol, depression, sadness, feelings of being overwhelmed, and substance abuse. And yet, he saved Christopher Reeve’s life and Christopher went on to help and support millions of others as a result of his charity, The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.

4. We all doubt ourselves and feel that we are not good enough
“While I’ll never, ever understand how he could be loved so deeply and not find it in his heart to stay, there’s minor comfort in knowing our grief and loss, in some small way, is shared with millions.”
– Zelda Williams responding to the death of her father Robin Williams.

Again, the greatest challenge for every one of us is to believe that we are worthy, we are good enough and we are significant. Is it possible that someone would end their life if they truly knew not just to what extent they are loved, but more importantly, if they knew the extent of their significance and the power of their love?

A goal for each one of us is to truly become aware of the value of our love – that the expression of our love is priceless and that it, too, gives value to other people’s lives!

5. There is always hope – embrace the message
Finally, as people mourn the loss of Robin Williams and the way he ended his life, remember that what is always eternal is the message.

Robin Williams personally, and in his many roles, gifted the world with such powerful quotes, messages and lessons which are life-changing, should we choose to hold onto them and apply them.

Here are some Robin William’s quotes:

“To live would be an awfully Big Adventure.” – Hook

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change this world.” – Dead Poets Society

“You have this idea that you’d better keep working otherwise people will forget. And that was dangerous. And then you realize, no, actually if you take a break people might be more interested in you.”

“It’s a wonderful feeling when your father becomes not a god but a man to you — when he comes down from the mountain and you see he’s this man with weaknesses. And you love him as this whole being, not as a figurehead.”

“And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel and to have that love for her to be there forever; through anything. Through cancer. You wouldn’t know about sleeping sitting’ up in a hospital room for two months holding her hand because the doctors could see in your eyes that the term visiting hours don’t apply to you. You don’t know about real loss, because that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself. I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much.” – Good Will Hunting

“You’ll have bad times, but it’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to.” – Good Will Hunting

“Call her up” [to Will Hunting]

‘This girl’s perfect. I don’t want to ruin that’ [Will Hunting]

“Maybe you’re perfect right now. Maybe you don’t wanna ruin that. I think that’s a super philosophy, Will; that way you can go through your entire life without ever having to really know anybody.” – Good Will Hunting

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may…Carpe Diem…Seize the day!” – Dead Poets Society

Learn more insights about Good Will Hunting here in my article “It’s not your fault”

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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4 replies
  1. Avatar
    Jennifer Rodriguez says:

    His death shocked me too. I was completely saddened by his passing. I wish he would have gotten help. He was one of the nicer guys in Hollywood and he made it a better place. Now there’s less people like him in Hollywood.

  2. Avatar
    nena says:

    so sad that a person with mental disease does not know that their very existence is a miricale. to not be aware that we all are connected with the family of mankind. when i heard the news of robin williams it was as if i lost a famly member. is such a tragedy that one does not know his self worth and how much he is truly loved. the mind is so complex and is a scary thing when we can not control our thoughts that will cause one to end his own life. robin williams rest in peace the world has lost a beautiful person but heaven has gain a beautiful angel. god bless

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