As the world grapples with the news of Robin William’s passing, I find myself thinking about the nature of depression and on negative thinking in general and feel compelled to offer something.
Very few people really know what goes on inside another person’s mind. As a psychologist, I often have more insight into my patients than their partners or their parents do. It is in fact very scary to me how alone we all are in our minds and how hard it is to share one’s demons, even with the ones we love the most.
And there are demons, believe me. We all have them. Some of us just have bigger and scarier ones! The symptoms of depression are no joke. The depressed mind is a very dark and hopeless place to get lost in.
And so we need to reach out. Whether you are clinically depressed or just a little blue, the common thread that joins all stories of unhappiness is a pattern of negative thinking and self-doubt.
You’re walking down the street and you see a friend on the other side of the road. You wave but she looks on and doesn’t respond. You think: “Oh my gosh she’s ignoring me. Why is she not greeting me? Perhaps she is angry with me or maybe she doesn’t like me and doesn’t want to be my friend”
There are many ways to appraise this situation. You could just as easily have thought to yourself: “Oh she didn’t see me, maybe she was distracted or it’s because she has her earphones in so she can’t hear me or maybe the hum of the traffic is drowning out the sound of my voice?”
Now imagine how differently you would feel depending on how you thought about the situation. In the first instance you would probably feel quite crappy, you might feel bad about yourself, and you might form beliefs about yourself as inadequate. In this scenario, you are the “badness” and you’re being rejected, which will obviously leave you feeling sad and hurt.
In the second scenario you might not feel anything negative at all. Perhaps you will feel slight annoyance that she didn’t see or hear you but you wouldn’t take it personally and you couldn’t use it to justify negative self-beliefs.
You see the point is that the event is neutral. It is your attitude to the event and the way you think about it that causes you distress. And it is the same WITH EVERYTHING IN LIFE.
I think that it is very important to remember that Robin Williams was the most magnificent actor, a great comedic talent, and a wonderful human being. He was someone who touched lives and made people feel good. But even he, even this great man, had his moments of doubt. He probably had moments when he felt like an inferior actor. He probably had moments when he felt like he was losing control, like his life was over, like his career was over. He probably had moments staring into the mirror when he felt old, when he longed to be different in some way.
We all are susceptible to self-doubt. It is a very real part of the creative process and is 100% unavoidable for some. But can you talk to someone in those moments when you feel like a failure? Can you reach out to a part of yourself that is more forgiving? Whether it is via the support of others or through your own self-talk, please use this opportunity to address the demons inside your mind.
If there are negative thoughts lurking there, try to reason with them. Kill them with logic! If you can list 3 or more reasons why 1 negative thought is implausible, it will shrivel away. If you can list 3 things that invalidate the thoughts of self-doubt then you cannot believe the voices that say you’re a failure. Do not go the way Robin went. You are a beautiful mess and deserve to live a happy life in imperfect harmony!
I have to sign off now but there is definitely more to say on this subject. Please drop me a line if you would like to share some of your negative thoughts and perhaps together we can try to work out how to save your mind from those negative demons. Please feel free to stay anonymous. It would be helpful for others to hear about your struggle because we all have moments of negativity and need to be reminded how to shed those demons!