Tag Archives: personal narrative

Why Robin Williams’ Passing is a Lesson for us all

As a new blogger, one of my biggest hurdles to face is my own personal demons as I write each post. I get to touch upon some aspect of what makes me happy, sad, angry, bitter, content, excited, and all sorts of other human emotions. It is an emotional outlet for me.

Some people turn to family, friends, sports… whatever makes them at ease. Sometimes, these vices are overtly self-destructive and hazardous; drug and alcohol abuse is an overt expression of unhealthy ways to deal with emotion. But, strangely enough, these vices are likely less destructive than what, according to a recent Cracked.com article states is behind the death of Robin Williams, and so many others who seem happy-go-lucky: being funny.

It seems really counter-intuitive. Happy, humorous, socially adept people have for time immemorial, suffered from strong, devastating bouts of depression. 

On the surface, we can understand the irony of the situation, and perhaps even be initially confused by the seemingly contradictory emotions being present in one and the same person. After all, if you spent much of your childhood in the late 80s and early 90s, like myself, you can recall movies like Mrs Doubtfire, Hook, and Dead Poets Society, where Robin Williams plays a relatively chipper character. 

His Inside the Actors Studio interview was simultaneously the most entertaining and the most frustrating one I have ever watched. One anticipates James Lipton just about to burst saying “Damn it, man! Why must you torture me thus!” 

And yet, considering what has transpired, it isn’t surprising to see that even on a television show where actors are required to bare themselves he was still “on”.

And this brings us to the issue at hand, which is such a convincing case brought to us by Cracked.com: he used humor, or legalized insanity, as Williams put it, to deflect personal issues from being raised. Comics, alongside many people who have been praised for their strong artistic or academic skills, have used their gift–in this case, humor–to push people away. 

The scariest thing about this article, and what raises alarm bells, is that many of the funniest people in our own lives, past or present, are using these very same techniques to keep us at bay. We may think that some have their life figured out when in fact they are just at the brink of their own breaking point. They hide it because they are afraid of others’ reactions to their condition.

However, if you are one of those people who using humor to deflect, please talk to someone. Do not shrug it off or laugh it off. You, just like any other human being on this crazy planet, are not alone in your anguish; many times we feel like the victims, or make ourselves the martyrs for a greater cause (in Williams’ case, his depression stemming from perhaps the Parkinson’s that was debilitating him… or some other deep-seeded reason). 

Williams was a beloved actor, writer and comedian; but he was human. He was prone to the same shortcomings that we all are. Let’s remember to good he did, but not forget why he passed away, nor lose sight of the lesson his passing can impart on us. 

I am not someone who believe that everything happens for a greater good; but I do feel that we can make good out of a poor situation depending on the narrative we tell ourselves. Make it a point to reach out and talk to someone who keeps themselves guarded: and damn well be prepared for them when they open themselves up! 

When asked about death
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13. Having a Personal Narrative

Canadian author Thomas King once said “The truth about stories is, that’s all we are.” In other words, we are all made up of the stories of our past and the stories we tell other people.

This is very true when you think about how often the stories we tell other people reinforce our own emotions, motives and paths in life.

In Romeo and Juliet, by Shakespeare, the play opens with our lovelorn protagonist pining over  the beautiful Rosalind, who has rejected Romeo; he spends the day moping about convincing himself that he will never know so beautiful or perfect a woman.

Or consider the heroic Harry Potter who, upon learning of his past, his magical abilities, and his destiny, embodies the role of magical super-sleuth.

These stories we tell ourselves become internalized, and, just as Romeo and Harry are convinced of their fate, so, too, can we lock ourselves in by accepting a narrative about us, good or bad.

How do we go about (re)writing our own story about ourselves? Well, there are three things that need to happen: we have to live it, we have to say it to ourselves, and internalize our narrative. We have to build a story about ourselves, one that is cohesive, and can guide us in our goal setting.

How do you flip the switch from negative to positive?

I remember a few years back there was a celebrity (I think it was John Meyer) who had a video leaked of his own private Positive Affirmations. He sounded a bit like a narcissist saying things like (and I paraphrase) “you are beautiful! You are perfect!” And while I do think that he was going about it the wrong way, I feel like he was onto something. Keeping a personal journal (one that preferably does not get leaked) where you write our your goals, efforts, improvements, and accomplishments is a great way to see how much you have improved!

This in turn helps you to begin writing out, living, and eventually internalizing your narrative, that is, your personal story about yourself.

Begin with small improvements: “Working out at least 4x a week; make bolder claims: “Impress the boss this month”; write out your ‘destiny’: “Retire with enough to travel every year.”

Please note that this is not junk self-help like “The Secret” or some similar pseudo-scientific “Power of Positive Thinking”/wish fulfillment. This is actually having goals in mind and taking the steps necessary to making them manifest.

Even Romeo resolved to go to a party where he would meet the girl of his dreams (forget how they both died… you cynics); and the Great Harry Potter was just another student of magic before fulfilling his destiny.

We all have trials and tribulations; it’s how we view them, and if we keep track of the improvements we are making that will ultimately determine our perspective.

Here are some other perspectives on Personal Narrative:

Elan Morgan: Personal Narrative and Self-Doubt

Robert Tercek: Reclaiming Personal Narrative (picks up at 8mins)

Susan Conley – Power of Story