Laughter is the Best Medicine

The funny side of fear — conquering anxiety through comedy | Daniel Hardman | TEDxDouglas

Translator: Adele Mikoliunaite
Reviewer: Muhammad Abdullah Rewind five years to 2009. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was developing
a severe issue with anxiety. A part of the problem was, I was completely unaware of anxiety
as an ongoing condition. The main component, however, was I felt like there was
something I needed to do to feel worthy. Not only that, I didn’t know
what that thing was. The journey I was about to embark on was to teach me some major life lessons, that I’d like to share with you today. And these have drastically improved
the way I see the world. So what does anxiety look like? It begins with negative thinking patterns, such as catastrophizing. It’s viewing situations as far worse
than they actually are, or anticipating things to go wrong. Black and white thinking: thinking either I’m amazing
or I’m rubbish, and nothing in between. Perfectionism: the need to do
everything in the correct way. Anxiety rejects the rational thinking that combines both positive
and negative aspects of the situation. In its extreme form, it can result
in avoidance and withdrawal. This instigates a cycle of guilt and shame that further reinforces the anxiety. On a biological level,
a threat is recognized and the emotional center
of the brain called the amygdala instigates the fight or flight response. This is absolutely necessary
if you’re running away from a bear, for instance. But the problem is when
the threat is imagined. Full of adrenaline,
you may feel short of breath, tight-chested and raised heart rate. One-third of people
will suffer from anxiety at some point in their lives. However, could it be
that it has gone even beyond that? In a world that’s getting
faster and faster, we’re overworked,
we’re overspending, and so on. Could it be that more and more of us are existing in a mild
but perpetual state of angst? From media reports, as well as
from those I know personally, I know this is becoming an epidemic, especially among my generation,
known as the Millennials. We’re the most educated generation
there has ever been. However, we’re the most
materialistic, in debt, obese. Celebrity and media culture
have convinced us we can have everything instantly. Many say they feel frustrated not being able to find employment
that motivates them, if employed at all. So how do we tackle anxiety? Is what’s needed nothing more
than acquiring some rational perspectives? Back to 2009. I was at university, and anxiety
was beginning to take a strong hold. A further year passed, and I was beginning to become
significantly withdrawn. From the lad who would be
the life and soul of the party, I’d got to the stage where I didn’t even
want to come out of my room. There was an instance when a flatmate
invited me out for the evening, and, as usual, I declined. He shouted at me,
“Would you just come out for once?!” It was those words that hit me. I had to make a change. That night, turning on the TV,
I saw a comedian named Russell Kane. I watched as he confidently
commanded the stage, and I wondered what it would be like
to feel that sense of freedom. Sometime later, I was given a book
called “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.” The title itself says enough.
However, this was a big turning point. I discovered that confidence
isn’t something you’re born with. It’s something that comes to you
after you’ve made the jump. Something united in me, I was excited. So I did what any self-respecting
agoraphobic would do, and I put myself on stage
at stand-up comedy night. (Laughter) Two days later, I canceled. My mind went frantic
with imagined consequence, fear of situations that had never
and would never come into fruition. Weeks would pass
where I kept telling myself, “I’ll book it after
that exam is finished,” or, “Once Christmas is done,
then I’ll book it.” Eight grueling months later,
I’d had enough. I resolved that feeling anxious was just as bad as making
a complete fool of myself. I had nothing to lose. I’d submit to imperfection
and I would face failure. That night, I waited
patiently for my turn. As the act before me
made his exit, terror struck. The fear I felt as I was introduced
to the stage was so extreme, I genuinely felt
as though I was going to die. I felt as though I had a belt
around my neck and chest. Baffled by my own name
as the MC called it, shell-shocked by the honor and applause, I made my way through the dense crowd. A sea of faces flickered with candlelight, and hundreds of eyes
followed me to the stage. My cheeks spasmed, I forgot lines, I mumbled words, the audience looked at me
like I was a madman. I ran out of material, I ran offstage, and to my amazement,
the sky didn’t fall in. It had gone terribly, but the only thing I felt was relief. I didn’t have to be perfect. The acclaimed teacher
of comedy improvisation by the name of Del Close famously said, “Follow the fear.” It seems counterintuitive, but if you accept the anxiety
and act with it, the anxiety will go down. I found that putting myself
in feared situations has helped me recognize
destructive thinking patterns that could seem so automatic
that they seem normal. In my first ten gigs as a stand-up, I’d do well, and then halfway
through it, I would eject, I’d screw up and I’d run offstage. Then one night I realized why. I caught myself thinking,
“I can’t do this.” I’d never noticed
that I was sabotaging myself. And it was in that moment
that I made a conscious decision to ignore my own internal dialogue, and I pushed through, and I kept going. That night, I made the final
of a weekly comedy competition, and the triumph was immense. I came away with a genuine appreciation
of the failure and hardship that had come before. Three years and 40 gigs later, I hadn’t conquered comedy, but I had conquered anxiety. Through constant trial and error, I was able to observe my thinking
and re-frame anything that wasn’t helpful. I was able to decipher
my own unique emotional language. You decide what you think, and ultimately, you decide how you feel. It’s a long-winded process, but if you commit to it,
the wonders can be amazing. So, here’s three points
to take away with you. Let life happen. Control is an illusion. There’s a Buddhist proverb
that says “Those who grasp, lose.” Focus only on what you can control
and leave the rest to life. Secondly, self-investment — the idea that only you can
approve of yourself, and no one can tell you
what you do is good or bad. This last point came from a psychology
author called Mark Manson; he’s given me his permission
to cite this to you today. He asks, “What pain do you want?” For instance, everyone wants
the great physique without the pain
of going to the gym every day, to start the business without the risk, the amazing job
without the 60-hour work weeks. He says, “What we get out of life is not determined
by the good feelings we desire, but by the bad feelings
we are willing and able to sustain to get to those good feelings. You can’t win if you don’t play.” So back then, I never felt
as though I was quite there, but the truth is, you’re never there. So this is the idea
that I believe is worth spreading: You don’t need to be anything
or do anything to be deemed as worthy. You make that decision
at any moment you please, and I invite you all to do that right now. Have you done it? Nice. We all have the same human potential, and all you need to do is move. Move towards the thing
you instinctively feel is the right course of action. And if that path is wrong, then good. You can eliminate focus, then carry over what you’ve learned
to the next course of action. I’ll leave you with a quote
by Frank Herbert; it’s called “Fear.” “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death
that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it
to pass over me and through me. And then when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” Face your fears, folks. Thank you for listening. (Applause)

29 thoughts on “The funny side of fear — conquering anxiety through comedy | Daniel Hardman | TEDxDouglas

  1. I had the same story with anxiety but my struggle with it ended the day I learned the fact that anxiety is not bad itself but the negative thinking patterns we associate with it ,in fact anxiety is good for you its providing you with the energy you need to deal with the situation

  2. many of the ted talk should be called ted story ,..because they tell their stories but not techniques or ideias they had …they should tell their techniques and just then the story following ..

  3. The Litany Against Fear has helped me many a time. It helped me cut my way through a dozen phobias, along with a few other tools.

  4. That was very helpful, Daniel. Battling anxiety and depression I know all the feelings. Yet I also know it's rewarding once you're on the other side of fear. Also, I haven't seen anyone mention that you're also very cute 🙂

  5. Are his hands shaking? So im the the only who does it. Actually my hands develope a mind of its own, watch the anime Parasyte, its like that but without the protection.

  6. I can relate to him very much. I used to be very shy and quiet in my high school, but I would always look up to some of my friends who could confidently come on stage to perform their talents or speak to the entire school while I had a stagefright every time I made a presentation in class.
    One fine day I just decided that I was sick of my current self and I was going to change, and I joined the school's public speaking club. It was, back then, the stupidest thing I could have done because I would screw up so hard, or so I thought, but of course it was the best thing I could have done to myself.
    After I conquered the fear of signing up, came the fear of my first speech in front of 20 friends in the club. Then the 2nd, and the 3rd, and a competition with 10 other schools. The fear is still there every time I make a public speech now, but I am more aware of it and I know how to handle it just a little better every time. I'm in college now and I realize the tremendous difference compared to me in high school.

    I still got last place in that competition, though, but all I felt was relief that I could stand up and speak to so many "scary strangers", and I made many friends.

  7. Babies/toddlers should be forbidden in the audience. It is disturbing. They don't understand much of what is said anyway, or do they.

  8. 1. Let life happen. Control is illusion. "Those who grasp lose" (Buddhist proverb)

    2. Self-investment. Only you can approve of yourself. No one can tell you what you do is good or bad.

    3. What pain do you want? What we get out of life isn't determined by the good feelings we desire, but by the bad feelings we are willing and able to sustain to get to those good feelings. (Mark Manson)

    You don't need to be anything or do anything to be deemed as worthy. You make that decision at any moment you please, and I invite you to do that right now. Have you done it?

  9. You say that “you decide what you think you decide what you feel. Do you decided to start re-frame you’re thinking “my question is how??? What are the daily activities that you do, whether it’s writing or meditation or what, what is it that you do to re-frame you’re thinking? I understand that you made a decision to do that but what is it that you were doing???

    I am lost!

  10. I was recently with a group of men. We were sharing how we met our soulmates. I got to the part where I was once a professional clown. My sharing my story basically stopped because the men in the group couldn't control themselves at poking fun at my being a clown. I intuitively knew it was fear of clowns and not knowing how to react socially to that, especially in a "man group". I never realized how deep fears run in men on this subject.

  11. I'm afraid, scared all of the time night and day every second that goes bye. I've started new meds for the time in my life.49 now.sufferd stroke from food poisoning 3yrs now. I've no1

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