Believe it or not, I can be an almost articulate speaker. That's what the old guy told me at the place where crazy people hang out. I was asked to speak in front of a group of 50 people who have a problem with being crazy but surround themselves with money to take the edge off. This group of crazies also likes to fight within themselves. Just so you know I'm not talking about the voices in my head, although that description would work.
People are crazy. They say, "Let's get all the crazy people and put them together in one room, then they can help each other." Sounds like a great idea! Half the crazy people like to think they're not crazy. These are the craziest. In fact I think if you are legitimately crazy you don't know it. The people that are honest about being crazy are the normal ones. This is "Duke psychology" so don't use any of it.
At this speaking engagement for the insane I decided to talk about thinking. Crazy fucked up thoughts that come into my head. About 12-13 years ago my girlfriend (Who is now my wife) and I were holding hands, walking around the block in San Francisco. I looked down at the sidewalk and noticed that someone left a car battery there. I started laughing. I told my wife,"Wouldn't it be hilarious if I took that car battery and smashed it over your head?" I thought that was the funniest thing in the world to say at the time. I couldn't stop laughing. My wife made it clear that she didn't think that was funny. Why would such a random crazy thought pop into my head?
I have an old friend in his late 70's named Ben. I said,"Ben, I have crazy thoughts that pop into my head sometimes. Does this ever happen to you?"
He said,"All the time. One time I was carrying a hot cup of coffee in one hand and I kneeled down to look at this baby in a stroller. I told the mom,'Wouldn't it be hilarious if I through this hot cup of coffee in this baby's face?' She got very upset and left."
Thanks Ben for sharing that with me. I'm not alone. At this point it's 7:10 am and as I'm sharing this story in front of 50 crazy people they are staring at me in silence. Why does sharing thoughts have to be so controversial? OK they're fucked up thoughts but why can't we just say, "Hey I had a crazy thought." and then not be judged so harshly. I think everyone thinks fucked up shit. We all probably have dark, strange or plain weird thoughts that we tell ourselves, "No one can ever hear this. People will think I'm crazy!"
We keep telling ourselves this and we say, "We shouldn't even be thinking this." And we try our best to stuff the thoughts down. Deeper down until they lie just below the surface. This way our thinking above the surface can be clean, like the Stepford wives. The only problem is we end up going to meetings for crazy people at 7am and then getting offended when anyone begins to discuss those things we thought we hid deep within us. We tell ourselves, "I can't wake up that monster within." So we get angry and we sit in silent resentment as we shoot daggers at Duke.
Sometimes I'll get a thought that pops into my head that says,"You suck Duke!"
Where did that come from?
Second thought,"I do suck."
Next thought, "You should die."
Other voice,"I should die, but how? A gun? A rope? A mob of crazy people that go to meetings for crazy people?"
I don't stop this line of thinking I just plow ahead. I know this might be a good time to stop thinking like this but I can't help myself I want to keep thinking like this.
Follow up thought,"Who's going to be at my funeral? Probably a lot of people."
I'm looking at them from above. They're very sad. But then I see her!! That fucking bitch is not my friend. I'm looking at this girl that I despise. She's telling people how close we were as she cries. I do not like this person at all.
Next thought,"Fuck her I'm not going to die!"
These thoughts are very uncomfortable. My muscles have all tightened, my stomach is in knots, and my headspace is on the "I'm fucked up" side of mental health.
This is the point I'm trying to get across to these crazies listening to me talk:
We are not responsible for the first thought that pops into our head , but we are responsible for entertaining that thought thereafter.
I suggest that when the first thought pops up, consider writing, talking to a friend, or thinking about something that we enjoy thinking about. My first mentor encouraged me to learn the difference between thoughts and feelings. A feeling is like the weather, it's hard to change the weather. It's either cloudy, rainy, or sunny. That's that. But a thought is something you can change.
So instead of saying,"I feel like I suck and want to die." try saying, "I think I suck and I'm thinking about dying." Then you can easily say,"Why don't I just think about something else, that didn't make me feel that good." There's two real emotions: Pleasant and unpleasant. If you're feeling unpleasant then try doing something different, something that makes you feel better. That's another thing I've heard:
It's hard for depression to hit a moving target.
Back to the crazy meeting. I've finished my share and the group seems to be split. Apparently I'm a polarizing speaker. Half the room is thinking, "Hot coffee on a baby's face? Duke is out of line!" And the other half is thinking, "I have crazy thoughts too and I appreciate hearing some solution."
One lady shared about how she was driving down the highway the other day and she saw a jogger up ahead. Her thought,"I wonder what it would feel like to run this guy over?" Not a good thought, but hey it's just a thought. She also explained that by becoming aware of her thoughts she knows when she has to do work on herself.
Then about halfway through the portion where the audience makes comments a gentleman, a very uptight gentleman, says, "I don't like what Duke shared. You shouldn't talk about those things. You're going to scare people away." He went on and on basically saying that I'm wrong.
Now there's a strange thing about being attacked in front of a group. As a comedian you have to go through all kinds of painful stuff in front of people. The awkward silence when you want them to laugh is the worse, then there's is the times when no one listens at all, and then there is the most jolting, being booed by 150 people on a Monday night at the Auld Dubliner, but that's another story.
The room is silent and this guy is disapproving of me in front of the group.
I've got to back track for a second and let you know that the guy who asked me to speak gave me a big Starbucks coffee. I'm high on caffeine. I'm in my head and I'm staring at this disapproving gentleman as I'm getting called out at group level. Then my body slams into a different reality.
God damn panic attack!
Sweaty palms, heart palpitations, an out of this world craziness flowing through my veins. A panic attack is like an acid trip gone bad. A panic attack is like the scariest part of a nightmare movie only it's going on in your head.
I ride it out but now I'm in a different realm. I'm tripping in a different dimension and panic attacks can do that. Maybe they make you hyper aware or bring you smack dab into the moment, but either way your thinking is different and so is your reality. They say it's the same feeling your body would give you if you were about to be attacked by a lion. The fight or flight response. The only problem is it's a feeling out of context. You are in no immediate danger. And this is why I say it's trippy.
After this meeting I strangely walk over to an old man sitting by himself. He has white hair, looks like he's someone who was successful in life but there's something a little off about him. I sit down and start talking with him. Turns out he was a motorcycle racer and he recently got in his fifth accident. The man starts crying right in front of me.
I don't know what it is but I do have a strange ability that allows people to share their feelings with me. Sounds weird because I share my feelings with no one.
So I'm on the after effects of what was a bad LSD trip and now an old man is crying in front of me. The doctors have told him he has an aneurism and he will begin to quickly fade away and die shortly. I let him talk for twenty minutes. I told him that sometimes in life something happens which gives us the ability to see what's really important. He said his wife was mad at him for dying. Turns out she's his 4th wife. He said it's his great grand kids that are important but he's never met them. He apologizes for crying in front of me but says he feels better and we go our separate ways.
This makes me want to focus on what's important in my life. Sometimes I feel directionless but lately I feel some order sweeping into my life that feels right. I think that's your best gauge, Does it feel right? If not make the course correction until it does.