Life-Sustaining Teachings of Robin Williams
“Isn’t it funny how I can bring great happiness to all these people but not to myself.” ~ Robin Williams
Sometimes an event happens that has such inherent power it dramatically impacts the psyches of people worldwide. The August 10th suicidal death of comedian Robin Williams was such an event. Unsettled by Robin’s death, people have been driven to share their feelings. News of his death has been the focus of conversations throughout the world – conversations that were personal, deep, and life changing. Why is this so?
Robin Williams is like a mirror: when we look into it, we see that he is us, you and me, and he is giving us an opportunity to choose a different path. In this mirror, we recognize ourselves.
We are impacted by Robin’s emotional and spiritual pain because his pain is akin to our own. Most of us have experienced depression and despair at some point in our lives; perhaps we are experiencing this pain right now. Robin Williams is like a mirror: when we look into it, we see that he is us, you and me, and he is giving us an opportunity to choose a different path. In this mirror, we recognize ourselves.
Robin’s death felt personal, as though we were participating in a drama just like our own. Our inner self emerged from the depths of our unconscious and seemed to say, “Pay attention to your reaction to this event….it represents a vital teaching for you. If you imbibe this teaching, you will know its truth will have the power to heal you.”
I decided to examine my response to Robin’s death by acknowledging that I felt his death was by despair, not by suicide. What seemed key to me was the depth and intensity of his longstanding depression and anguish. For days after his death, I had images of my former, desperate self – feelings that began in my early life and extended well into my 40s. I had been depressed for years, but not until the depression became despair did I realize I was in trouble.
"Why does the gift for great performance seem
to go hand in hand with unshakable
depression?" ~ Dick Cavett
Depression and despair are points on a continuum. Depression begins to develop when, over time, we fail to notice how we really feel, emotionally and spiritually. We separate our psyches into two selves, the personality self and the spiritual self. The face we want to present to the world (our personality) becomes our truth rather than the face of our True Self (our inner spiritual reality). This split produces anxiety and self-hatred because the energy of our psyche is pulled apart. When our energy is used in this way, we descend into depression because we no longer know who we are, where our safety lies, what meaning our life has, and where we stand in the world. As we become increasingly separated from our True Self, we spiral into despair, a state of utter meaninglessness, helplessness, and hopelessness.
Despair is inert energy that resides at the very bottom of our belief in separation from our inner spiritual reality, our True Self. The pain of this belief is unbearable. We become so separated from the awareness of our True Self that we believe there is nowhere to go but out – out of this life, either through numbing by addictions or through suicide.
How do we start climbing out of the abyss of despair? Hands reach out to help us, but we often decline them, or don’t even notice their presence. We are the ones who must “wake up” and choose to begin the long climb out of the depths of despair. There is only one way to begin this climb: admit the truth of our condition and then, with humility, pray and ask for help from the Divine and from all of the Angels and High Beings who are imbued by the sacred. It doesn’t matter if we believe this is so – it only matters that we have a little willingness to ask for help. Once we are sincere about asking for help and are willing to accept it, help will come. How it will come is inevitably a surprise. Synchronicity is the method extended to us by the Divine and our Helpers. We MUST look for synchronicities, as they WILL come. It could be something someone says to us or a book someone hands us. Or a book that falls from the shelf. Or a dream. Or a loving pet. Or a beautiful nature scene. Or the impulse to call a Hot Line. Or someone describes a healing method that has helped her and we recognize it might also help us. As we begin to climb out of despair, we will have an urge to use what we have learned to help others. We will refocus our life. We will finally find meaning and purpose for being on planet earth.
When I was in the depths of despair, drowning in self-hatred, I noticed that a colleague seemed much happier than she had been in recent weeks. I asked her why. She said she had taken an est training and also learned to meditate. I didn’t have a clue what est was about but I respected her opinion and took the training. I was extremely miserable until a woman stood up and told her story….and it was my story she was telling! Listening to her story, I suddenly saw my situation clearly and knew what I needed to do. I understood in that moment that I had a choice to change how and with whom I lived my life. I was not the victim of my circumstance – in fact, I had helped create it. That being true, I could create something different in my life by accepting responsibility for my choices and making choices that were healthier and wiser. In this moment, I recall literally dancing with joy and chanting over and over: “I have a choice! I have a choice!”
Later, this same colleague said to me, “Someday you will look back on this time in your life and see all that you have learned. Then, you will naturally want to give away what you learned by taking the hand of others in pain – you can do this because you have been there and know it is possible to make different choices and heal your life.”
"One man with a thousand voices brought
joy to millions – but could not sustain it
in himself." ~ Richard Corliss
Robin reminded us that we have a choice. By his actions, he taught us not to give up in despair and neglect our souls, but to search for another way to look at our pain and despair – an inner way, a soul-oriented way. Inner peace is not something we find in our personality and its attainments in the world. Inner peace is found within as a spiritual quest, as our soul’s journey. Why are we on earth? We are here to heal our emotional traumas and learn how to create a meaningful, soul-focused life.
What is the gift of remembrance that Robin extends to us? It is not what we do in the world that matters but the love and the spirit we experience within that nourishes our soul and allows us to fulfill our life’s purpose on earth. Our life has meaning when our personality becomes infused with our soul’s essence. This wholeness, this integration, is where our true happiness resides. We are not strengthened by how much money we make or don’t make, how hard we work, how many relationships we have, or how much we make people laugh. It is the energy we receive by connecting to our soul that sustains us. In the intensity of silence that is the soul’s domain, we experience the depth of our strength.
Sit in silence and reflect on your personal reaction to the news of Robin Williams’ death by suicide. Ask yourself: What have I learned? What changes in my life am I now considering? How am I going to use what I have learned from this experience to help others?
Photo Attribution: Robin Williams, 2004, Bar at Canada. Author: Darsie. GFDL 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.