Robin Williams: was anybody listening?

By Dr. Frank Carter

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The tragic news over the death of Robin Williams has drawn world attention. By no stretch of the imagination, his talents have been lauded as genius. On the surface, when watching Robin Williams perform, people experienced an interaction with Robin Williams the performer. Most people didn't think of it as a two-way conversation, between him and them, yet that's exactly what it was. We call this a dyadic experience.

Your first and second dyadic experiences take place with your mother and father. And as I discussed last month, what if they set the stage for your expectations of every dyadic experience thereafter?

While it is not my intent to sit in judgment of any person so revered and loved as Robin Williams, I feel that there is something to learn from his passing at his own hand. Instead of presenting accusations, conjecture, speculation, or subjective opinion without having all the facts, I'm going to attempt to color my point in a "what if" format. What can we derive from understanding the experience of growing up as Robin Williams, who became one of the world's foremost entertainers, only to take his own life?

Robin Williams was raised in an affluent family where his father was a senior executive in a major American automobile company, and his mother was a working fashion model.

What if

his father wasn't home very much to provide a model of masculinity for his son to imitate?

What if

his mother wasn't

around very much to provide Robin with the dyadic experience of physical love, intellectual attention, approval and nurturance that every child needs in order to develop a clear sense of safety and a resulting sense of belonging in the world?

What if

Robin Williams was attended to by the family maid and didn't have many friends?

What if

his early childhood reflected a lot of loneliness and isolation?

What if

he spent so much time alone, engaged in his fantasy world, in an effort to feel what he could not feel in real life, that he became trapped in that fantasy world like an addiction?

What if

this fantasy world became his escape and altered his perceptions and expectations of life in an effort to help him control an expanding and pervading sense of loneliness?

What if

Robin Williams figured out how to get the world to approve of him?

What if

audiences were the only people who would, in effect, listen to him? This would mean that the audience successfully provided the dyadic experience that was supposed to be fulfilled by his mother and father.

It is a fact that he left The Juilliard School of Music in New York City, where he had received a full scholarship, before graduating because they said there was nothing they could teach him.

What if

Juilliard helps creative people compartmentalize their talent, and Robin Williams could not compartmentalize himself.

What if

compartmentalizing felt like losing his voice or control over his body?

What if

along the way, in an effort to cope with feel bad behavior and feelings, Robin Williams discovered drugs, alcohol, and continued to rely on comedy to combat and essentially distract himself from his loneliness?

What if

his frenetic work ethic was a desperate child reaching out to the world to pay attention to him?

I read that on the TV show

Mork and Mindy

, they let him improvise most of the script, and that the script from the movie

Good Morning Vietnam

was also almost all improvisation. While most actors require/crave structure, Robin Williams had to create his own.

What if

he created his own structure to reflect his desperation because he could not share the stage with the writer?

What if

it was a cry for help and no one listened because everyone was either laughing or making money?

Although Robin Williams' career was long, extensive, varied, and overwhelming compared to the typical one-dimensional celebrity, he also fought life-long depression. Plenty of depressed people discover alcohol, and some even integrate their depression and their addictions into their celebrity lives, but

what if

his drug addiction and his depression were tied to something deeper: something he never got from his mother and father?

What if

this laughter was the connection he always craved?

And finally, we come to the diagnosis of Parkinson's. Parkinson's is a disease that progresses over time to affect movement and speech. For a man with a secret,

what if

such a diagnosis meant that Robin Williams would no longer be able to cover up his inner pain because both his frenetic movement style of entertaining and his quick witted speech, which was his conveyance to the world, would be slowly taken away from him. There would be no distraction from his reality.

The act of suicide is controversial and confrontational because one who exercises suicide exercises a moment of control. In effect, they wrestle control away from the forces of nature, which are supposed to dominate the creation and termination of life.

What if

Robin Williams' sense of self-hatred that he learned from an ambivalent mother and father became so strong that it overwhelmed the biological forces of nature and his unstructured reality?

What if

Robin Williams' act of control was his final testimonial to the world?

What if

he became convinced with the diagnosis that he would never get what he ultimately needed from the world, so he decided to take it?

Depression is a complex, serious and all-to-often ignored sickness. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, seek help from a qualified practitioner. Visit my website:

www.peaks-coaching.com

or give me a call at 858-454-2828.

I am also available to speak at your group or organization.

   
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