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?

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