The Most Important Thing is to Remember the Most Important Thing
Back in August, while gathering my thoughts for September’s article on, “Happiness,” I wondered how useful it would be to the Networker readers. In the midst of my pondering, the shocking news of Robin Williams’ suicide splashed all over the news. That week, a lot of my patients, as well as the rest of the world, were shocked, saddened, and bewildered at why someone so successful and funny would take his own life. On the outside Robin’s life seemed perfect; an enviable career, fame, family, friends, and gifted with an abundance of talent. He was revered by his peers and by the public. How could all those accolades not be enough to make him want to continue living? Unfortunately it wasn’t. I don’t know the internal workings that led Robin to make such a tragic decision to end his life, but it was obvious that all the glitter on the outside did not come close to squelching the pain he must have felt on the inside.
Some actors are lured to the entertainment industry with the illusion that it might cure what is ailing them on a deeper, personal level. That kind of thinking is dangerous and completely untrue. In fact, bringing your personal issues to the business makes you more susceptible for further hurt and disappointment. Any unfinished childhood or mental health issues should not be worked out on a stage or set, they must be worked through with professionals in the mental health field. No amount of money or fame will ever make up for any leftover pain and emptiness from your past. You’ll be happier when you can separate the personal need to be loved and respected by the people in your life from your professional need to have your work loved and respected. You are more than your work. Your self-worth should be based on who you are, not what you do.
If along your journey, you notice that you or someone you know seems to be stuck in something they cannot get out of, like depression, get help. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, “Depression affects 5-8 percent of adults in the United States. This means that approximately 25 million Americans will have an episode of major depression this year alone. Without treatment, the frequency and severity of symptoms tend to increase over time. Some of the symptoms of major depression are: depressed mood (sadness), poor concentration, insomnia, fatigue, appetite disturbances, excessive guilt and thoughts of suicide. Left untreated, depression can lead to serious impairment of daily functioning and even suicide, which is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Researchers believe that more than one-half of people who die by suicide are experiencing depression. Devastating as this disease may be, it is treatable in most people. “ For a more detailed description of depression including how to talk to a friend or family member suffering from it visit NAMI’s website.
For the rest of you, it’s important to keep things balanced and in perspective. Happiness does not require millions in the bank, 300,000 likes on Facebook or a groundbreaking Twitter following. On a basic level, what it does require is unconditional self-love, real not virtual connection with people, and passion for your work. These goals are worth striving for because they will bring you closer to your happiness faster than anything money can buy. Any obstacles getting in the way of fulfilling those needs must be addressed, understood, and worked through. It takes courage to truthfully face your life and take responsibility for your wellbeing. You’ve got to fight for it with all your might and even after you find it, you’ve got to work hard to hold on to it. Being good and doing everything right does not guarantee you a happy life.
You’ve got to make peace with the fact that sometimes life is unfair for everyone. Thinking that someone has it easier than you just because they have a great career and you don’t is a fairytale you’re telling yourself. The truth is that you have no idea what that person’s life is really like because you don’t know their whole story. Stop projecting your fantasies onto other people. Instead, stick with what you know…yourself. Comparing your life to someone else’s is a sure way to create feelings of deprivation, which on a continual basis, lead to sadness. Instead, start taking responsibility for the thoughts in your head. When they’re going into a dangerous neighborhood, redirect them into a good one. Remember, where your thoughts go, your emotions will follow.
Get used to the idea that everything of value and meaning comes with the price tag of hard work. The silver lining of struggle is gratitude. Ever notice how you appreciate the sunshine more after a storm than a sunny day? When you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel you will be filled with gratitude because you know what it feels like to be in darkness. Remember, “Without the dark we’d never see the stars.” Hitting bumps on the road builds mental muscle and resilience. Every time you get through something, you are stronger and better equipped to deal with the next challenge.
Your happiness is precious and needs tending too. It’s not enough to stay in a waiting mode holding out for good things to happen to you. You’ve got to be actively creating a healthy environment for them to blossom. If your goal is to be happy, then make sure your behavior and the decisions you make lead you to that destination.
Bonnie Katz, MFT is a licensed therapist in private practice. Her goal as a therapist is to help clients reach “optimal mental wellness”, so that they can feel happiness, fulfillment and joy in their everyday lives. For more information on Bonnie’s therapy practice, visit her website. Like The Conscious Actor on Facebook
I’ve created The Conscious Actor Inspiration Journal; to help actors develop awareness of what inspires them. Beautiful pages filled with inspirational quotes to help keep you strong minded. For New York actors, the journal is available at Drama Book Shop Los Angeles actors may pick up the journal at Samuel French Bookshop
Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.