Robin Williams' Suicide Explained – Part 2: Downward Cycle of False Negative Beliefs & Depression


Depression comes in many forms and levels. It can be more temporary when brought on by external events like death, loss of some kind, or trauma. These forms of depression can typically last for approximately 6 months, more or less, but the point is that they are not a part of the person. But for the purpose of explaining Robin William's suicide and his degree of depression, we will consider deeper, more intense, and biologically involved forms of depression–that are part of the person.

In part 1 we explored how someone like Robin Williams–who seemingly "had it all," whose life was "filled with laughter," and whose career was spent entertaining and bringing joy into the lives of millions world wide, (none of which comes to mind when we think of depression)–could commit suicide. Dr. Rob Dindinger helped to explain how lack of trust in others (onset by abuse or simply lack of development in childhood) can lead to developing masks–a false persona created to protect the true self. Masks are used as an emotional shield to protect a person with depression by taking the brunt of potential hurt.

In Part 2, Dr. Dindinger helps to explain what life can be like for someone with depression, and how the cycle of thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and biology–when not accurately managed–can exacerbate the depression by affecting the core beliefs, or what we really think of ourselves.   

Becoming One Dimensional Creates a Lack of Fulfillment

A common issue among those suffering from depression–along with trust issues and false masks to protect themselves–is those who are depressed often become one dimensional. They focus nearly all their effort into one area of life–career,or acting and entertaining, in the case of Robin Williams, for example–because this gives them a sense of worth. "I am a great actor." "I am a tremendous CEO." The problem is that depressed people don't adequately develop other areas of their life, family, other pursuits, and relationships, so they are not actually generating a true sense of fulfillment. Their effort is focused on this solitary area that gives them some sense of worth. An example of this can be workaholics. Their life is defined by their professional performance. When they retire, they have lost their meaning in life. Some may become depressed, and some even commit suicide.

Terrible Irony–What is designed to protect, actually harms. A mask is created to protect from hurt others may cause, because to a person with depression, "People cannot be trusted." This mask becomes the one-dimensional, and often false, representation of a depressed person's worth. So when an entertainer performs and impresses and amazes (literally) a depressed person sees these accolades as only attributed to the false mask....and down another level we go. They delve deeper into their performance > praise and awards are presented > they reject the praise because it is not targeted to the "real me," only my mask...and down even further. A truly vicious cycle. 


Core Beliefs and False Negative Beliefs

So someone like Robin Williams may not have felt true worth during his career and life.  At least not the true worth others had for him. This is because the cycle creates False Negative Beliefs–a DISTORTED interpretation of events that shape what we really think of ourselves. To a healthy person, they accurately apply praise and accomplishments to their efforts. To a depressed person, their true self is "a horrible person" and praise is only for the mask. This may be completely unbelievable for some, because how can anyone reject millions of dollars, the industry's top awards, friends and praise galore and reject it all or not accept it is as valid and genuine? "Completely irrational," you say. Well, in a sense it is irrational. People with depression are not in a healthy state of mind, and it may not necessarily be their fault, or in their control–for now. If the depression is intense enough, the depression is in control. It is like a cancer of thought and emotion. And with every performance comes new praise and attention–all, irrationally, food for the tumor. 

Cycle of False Negative Beliefs Compounds Depression

The cycle of depression - Dr. Rob DindignerTo help communicate about how false negative beliefs exacerbate depression, consider this table created by Dr. Dindinger. The reality is that all these areas: Thoughts, Feelings, Behavior, and Biology are interacting with each other to form the Cores Beliefs. For the sake of explanation, we'll take a more linear approach.

A False Negative Belief (brought upon by a lack of trust) of oneself creates negative thoughts. These thoughts create negative feelings. These feelings are motivation for behavior (avoidance), and all these culminate into negative biological responses–stress, being tired unable to get out of bed, etc., explains Dr. Dindinger. In the case of someone like Robin Williams, the negativity in these areas are compounded by drug use.

"As a matter of fact, prolonged drug use can create depression on its own," states Dindinger.

How Can We Solve Depression?

Dr. Dindinger explains at this stage, the goal of therapy is to safely remove the masks– originally generated to protect from pain and being hurt. Removing the masks help those with this level of depression develop an accurate sense of self, so they can enter into relationships as themselves–authentic. And as they continue on this new path, with the support of a trained counselor, they can more capably face issues–previously defended against by the creation of a mask–as themselves and learn how to overcome these issues–developing more control over their thoughts and feelings.


The Healing Process

While some are born with a predisposition for depression, others experience some form of trauma that affects their ability to trust. Lack of trust and the resulting fear of being hurt leads to the creation of a mask for protection. In both cases, the "true self," or core beliefs, is negatively and inaccurately defined by negative thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and so on. Whether you were "born with depression," or developed it from trauma or drug use, the key is to readjust how you think and interpret events so your feelings are accurate. This accuracy leads to positive behavior and feeling better (biology), which then affects and redefines who you really are at the core. And a sense of control is restored. 

Dr. Dindinger explains the process a little like this: People begin to judge or test their negative (and inaccurate) thoughts–"Are these events truly harmful, or am I being "negative" simply because I am scared, even though there is no evidence of them being harmful?"  As they challenge the negativity in their thoughts, and begin to establish more control in their ability to accurately define a situation, they begin to have more control of their feelings. And as the cycle goes, if you can develop positive/accurate thoughts, this leads to positive feelings, then positive behavior, and because I act happier (from feeling happier) I have more positive biological manifestations, which allows for more positive thoughts–reversing the cycle of depression. Now the core beliefs are accurately shaped: "I am a good actor, because I work my butt off to be." "I am a good mother, not because my mask is a good mother, but because I AM A GOOD MOTHER."

This may be a mild over simplification for the purpose of explaining the process. The reality is that people going through this process need a guide. I can know that I need to go from point A to point B, but I really need a guide to explain the steps, caution the pitfalls, and pick me up when I stumble. But what is most important, is that it is possible. Many are succeeding on this path, and you can too. You just need the right help at the right time.



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