Tag Archives: self-help

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

14. Charming

My apologies for this extremely late addition to my blog. A combination of being occupado at work and being under the charm of the television show Once Upon a Time have delayed this posting. But fear not! For I come bringing an excellent resource!

But first… have you watched the television show Once Upon a Time? It centres around a small town full of fairy tale characters trapped without their magical abilities, like casting charms on people, nor any recollection of their backstories; characters include Snow White, The Evil Queen, Rumplestiltskin, and Prince Charming. The show is a guilty pleasure, with good writing, and a good mix of campy and enthralling acting. It has a certain Charm about it. Speaking of “Charm”, what is  “Charm” exactly?

Looking at its word history, “Charm” is related to the word “Chant“, which in turn, comes from Latin “Canere” meaning “to sing”In English, it means more of a monotonous repetitive singing, like those of monks’ prayers. Prayers and other repetitive chants and charms came with magical baggage. So it is no wonder that we come to see charm as a mysterious force with supernatural properties. 

The Secret Behind the Magic

But let’s ground it in reality. In Brian Tracy and Ron Arden’s book, The Power of Charm, they state “True charm…[is] that ability some people have to create extraordinary rapport that makes others in their presence feel exceptional…[with] an engaging quality to which we respond…”

The book is a short (only 145 pages), and powerful read (you can implement the changes immediately). There are nitty-gritty details such as eye movement/eye contact and body language cues which can be practiced and implemented to maximize comfort for whomever you converse with. But the more advanced techniques which could always stand to be perfected and tweaked include when to stay quiet, and when to speak; and most importantly what kind of feedback to give back to your fellow converser.

Make It About Them

One of the most powerful nuggets of wisdom found in the book is the let go of the need to control the conversation. Most often, when we have an agenda, we have this push from within to direct the conversation to what we wish to talk about. Part of charm is being a selfless conversationalist and allowing people to express their thoughts. One of the most interesting insights after reading the book is that often people who find us charming may not know much about us; this is because those with charm enthrall others by allowing others to express themselves around the charming individuals and not overpower their conversation partners with their own opinions. Think about someone who you find charming. Can you understand why you feel so comfortable around them?


12. On Not Caring and Letting Go of Control

Living with family has its perks; no rent, home-cooked food, the company; but there are things that can also irritate you. These include excessive noise, little personal space, and having to guard things you find valuable from people who do not hold the same opinion of those same items.

I once came home to find the entire living room rearranged, the television moved, and with that, my video game system dismantled and the console and wires carelessly tossed into a storage closet buried under items much heavier than it, that could easily damage it. I spent nearly $400 of my own hard-earned cash on these things, yet it did not faze those living with me. They justified their actions by simply stating that loose wires didn’t look nice just laying about. Try as I might, I could not convince them that a sophisticated and expensive gaming system was anything but loose wires unaesthetically strewn about. This made me upset because I could not communicate to them that my opinion also mattered and that they could not simply dictate their decisions with no consultation with me. Out of frustration, and an argument brewing, I gave up. Even now, writing this, it makes me upset knowing that my opinion mattered little.

But…that must have been 3 or 4 years ago.

Today, I came into the living room, much like that distant afternoon, and saw the couch and television rearranged. And, you know what? I didn’t care. In fact, a part of me appreciated the change, not because of the resignation that it’s something that I expect from those living with me, but because I tried to see the positive in the rearrangement. The sectional couch had been changed from a t.v.-centric L-shape to a much more conversation friendly U-shape.

I have tried during this past year to let go of my incessant need to care about what others do. In her book, Defining Decade, clinical psychologist Meg Jay, PhD, talks to people in their 20s and early 30s about how the economy has somewhat stunted our emotional and socioeconomic growth.  Many of us are currently struggling to start our careers, and become independent. This leads us to living with and depending on family well up to and sometimes even past our 30s. In terms of the human animal, this is unnatural and unhealthy. Many of us are struggling to gain ownership of our destinies while having to live under our parents’ roofs. Many have sworn off relationships until we gain autonomy. Some of us, out of frustration, lash out at those closest to us. But this will ultimately not gain us anything.

Keep your eye on the prize

We need to know what our ultimate goal is, and gain, what Dr. Jay calls, Identity Capital and Social Capital. The first lets us take inventory of what we have: friends, dreams, choice of career, etc; the second is required to fill in the gap to achieve our dreams and careers and gain social connections to that end, such as meeting people with common interests.

Back to the U-shaped couch

The couch, much like the video game system, much like any minor nuisance in life, is a symptom of this much larger lack of ownership of one’s life. We lose focus of our path and focus instead on tiny, side issues because, really, the major issue is personal fulfillment, which is hard to achieve. By looking at Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs, we can gain some insight as to why we allow ourselves to lose focus of the end-game. We wish to be Self-Actualized, but we have not climbed the mountain past Love and Belonging (some of us, sadly, start even lower than that!)

Stop caring about that U-Shaped couch and focus on what matters. You can buy your own couch and another gaming system one day (or whatever you want out of life). In order to gain independence you have to start living for yourself!

This does not mean becoming an uncaring jerk; on the contrary, you have to care, but about yourself first and foremost! Put yourself first; give yourself permission to say “I love me first, then I love others.” Make decisions that you feel right with and that are right for you! Let other people gossip if they wish. It is no use trying to control others’ opinions (see the Anthony Hopkins quote below). At the end of the day, you and only you can take care of yourself! You are your most important priority!

*I have talked about this topic before, but I wanted to share the couch story and the resource of Dr Meg Jay’s Defining Decade. Here is a WikiHow on some great advice about how and when not to care.*

For anyone who is between 16-30, please do read Meg Jay’s Defining Decade.  Better you read it sooner than later. It is an essential for gaining insight as to how to go about directing your 20s and not end up in an existential crisis at 30.