Wednesday, August 13, 2014

It's not your fault

I love reading all the tributes to Robin Williams. Celebrity tributes don't ordinarily interest me all that much, but I've gotten so much comfort from hearing how his talent affected people.

I wanted to share how one scene in Good Will Hunting affected me. When this one particular scene happened, it hit me hard. And I mean hard. Not exaggerating. It really threw me for a loop.

See that little quote up there? When Robin Williams delivered those lines (actually he said that same line over and over because the character played by Matt Damon was having a hard time letting it in - seven times, I think), I doubled over crying and almost couldn't stop.

I'll be honest and say it was pretty scary because I never, ever have these kind of reactions to things like this. But, man, it hit me deep. And I mean deep. It was one of those very profound moments when something touched me deep inside and I let out a lot of pain. I didn't go through the same trauma the Matt Damon character did, but I related to his pain nonetheless.

Let me give a SPOILER ALERT before I proceed any further. If you've never seen this movie and plan to, it's up to you to decide whether to read the following section. I've blocked off the SPOILER section beginning with a series of ======= and ending the same way. EVERYTHING in this block can be considered a spoiler because it contains the "climax" of the tension in the movie.

The following is from the script:


{MY NOTE: Sean (the psychologist played by Robin Williams) finally got Will (the character played by Matt Damon) to open up about some trauma in his childhood.}

Will: My father was an alcoholic. Mean fuckin' drunk. Used to come home hammered, looking to whale on someone. So I had to provoke him, so he wouldn't go after my mother and little brother. Interesting nights were when he wore his rings...

[more dialogue.....]

Sean: ........ Wanna talk about it?
[Will shakes his head, stares off]

Sean: Will, you see this, all this shit?
[Holds up the file, and drops it on his desk]

Sean: It's not your fault.
Will: [Softly, still staring off] I know...

Sean: No you don't. It's not your fault.

Will: [Serious] I know.

Sean: No. Listen to me son. It's not your fault.

Will: I know that.

Sean: It's not your fault.

[Will is silent, eyes closed]

Sean: It's not your fault.

Will: [Will's eyes open, misty already] Don't fuck with me Sean. Not you.

Sean: It's not your fault.

[Will shoves Sean back, and then, hands trembling, buries his face in his hands. Will begins sobbing. Sean puts his hands on Will's shoulders, and Will grabs him and holds him close, crying]

Will: Oh my God! I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry Sean!

[Will continues sobbing in Sean's arms]


The trauma I experienced (and thus allowing me to relate to Will's trauma) was the ambush and attack in high school. For years I was convinced it was my fault. That I somehow caused it and deserved what I got. If I had just not been born gay, this wouldn't have happened to me. If I had just not come out, this wouldn't have happened to me. If I had just not...... and on and on and on and on.....

From the reading I've done, this is not an uncommon response to trauma. You blame yourself. It must be your fault. Something must be wrong with you. Somehow you feel you deserved what happened. It awful! You feel shame. You feel rage -- at YOURSELF for allowing this to have happened. And on and on and on and on and on....

After years of trying to figure things out -- after all the writing I've done about it on the blog -- after all the talking I've done with friends -- and most recently after opening up more and more to my doctor -- I've finally understood in my head that what happened was not my fault.

But now the work is focused on what I feel inside, you know? Even though I know in my head that what happened was not my fault, it sometimes still feels that way inside. Not as much as it use to, but it's still there. I guess this is what "healing" looks like. At least that's what they tell me.

So the other day when I heard Robin Williams had died, my brain flashed back to that one scene in Good Will Hunting. "It's not your fault... It's not your fault...It's not your fault...It's not your fault..."

And I cried all over again. Hard.

I cried for Robin Williams because he was is so much pain -- probably deep pain inside.

And I cried for everyone who has been through -- and is going through -- so much pain inside.

And I cried once again for the pain I've been through, and the pain that's still there, even though it's not as prominent.

I know Robin Williams was primarily known for his genius as a comedian -- and in my opinion that was richly deserved. But I guess I wanted this to be my own very personal tribute to his other gift. The gift I received of how he touched me in a very deep and important way.

I wish I could have met him and told him this in person.

I will miss you, Mr. Williams. Thank you.


  1. Wonderful post, Matt. Tears in my eyes while I'm writing my comment. Robin Williams was one of those amazing artists who managed to touch virtually everybody who watched his movies at some point and in one way or another. For you it is Good Will Hunting, for me (and for reasons I won't go into here) it is The Dead Poets Society. The world has lost one of its brightests lights but I believe the glow is strong enough to keep on warming and inspiring us for a long time to come.

  2. {{{{Matty}}}. This was such a touching tribute to Robin Williams! I can understand how that scene so deeply affected you. Intellectually, you can always tell yourself it's not your fault, but until you truly accept it, heart and mind, will you be able to heal. I'm so angry at society in general and those asshole attackers specifically that made you feel shame or guilty about being who you are.

    Even though most of us did not know Robin Williams, the man, we mourn for his death. And how lucky we are to celebrate his life through his amazing body of work that made us laugh, cry, and feel. May his memory be a blessing. ❤️

  3. This is so profound Matt. I'm glad those words helped you purge those dark feelings. It's also not your fault that you thought it was your fault. Our society has a 'blame the victim' mentality. It's pure laziness as it's easier to blame the victim than to fix what's wrong. I was a psych major because I wanted to know what makes people tick and do what they do. Somehow society has evolved that into 'poor John or Jane Doe', it's not their fault they did this heinous thing because...

    I know crying that hard is scary but if we suppress those feelings they manifest themselves into physical issues like difficulty sleeping and coping in general. Let Robin be your touchstone. I can't think of anyone better than this generous, loving, comedic genius. ((Hugs))

  4. Matty, I wish I could hold you on my lack of lap and just squish you to pieces. I too cried hard when I heard the news. I knew it was suicide before they said so. It was his eyes. They always had such a profound sadness in them. I noticed that way back when he was Mork on that episode of Happy Days. His eyes always touched my heart and I cried too for his pain and now I'm weeping for yours. Hugs darlin'.

  5. Wow Matt, what a lovely tribute to Robin Williams and a profound sharing of how scenes in Good Will Hunting hit so very close to home for you . This is one of those days when either your post or Brad's post almost makes me cry on my earky morning hour commute train to work in San Francisco. Or forget about "almost" - does make me cry. It is so clear why you were able to relate to that movie. This is a lovely rib ute, thanks. May you continue along on your journey of healing that you so richly deserve. There is another Robin Willisms movie - way before your time & Brad's time I believe - that I think you might relate to: Dead Poet's Society. While an unusual premise & different story, I think it might strike some of tge same chords for you. You might want to check it out sometime. Robin Williams talent, who he was, and all that he did will be sorely missed. As someone said, we are fortunate that he has such a body of work that people can remember him by & celebrate his life.
    David Eaton
    San Jose, CA

  6. Thank you so much for this post, Matty. Not just for your tribute to a truly talented, and by all reports, kind man, but also for sharing your own experience and journey as a result of it.

    In regard to the loss of the bright light that was Robin Williams, he was an amazing comedian - fast-witted and genius - it was those strong, quiet portrayals in films like Good Will Hunting, The Fisher King, Dead Poet's Society and One Hour Photo where he showed how brilliant he truly was.

  7. I can relate very well to what you're describing. I suffered my own childhood trauma, and experienced those same range of emotions. If only I had said no, run away, fought back. If only I wasn't so weak. Now that I'm an adult, I understand that it wasn't my fault, but it's hard to unfeel those feelings all the same. Luckily for me, time has healed those wounds. I hope you get to a place of healing, too. xoxo

    I loved Good Will Hunting. It's a beautiful movie.

  8. Matt, this is such a beautiful and heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing this with us. We often say that a movie or a book affected us but this is proof that "entertainment" can be so much more for a person. I am, as always, sorry that you were attacked but glad to see that this movie and this man had the ability to help you through some of the outcomes of the attack.

    I agree with Deedles, there was always a sense of sadness in Robin Williams's eyes. It's horrible that the manic humor he used to hide that was so effective that he didn't get the help he needed in time. My heart goes out to his family and friends as well as those whose lives he had such an influence on.

  9. I cry for him as well. I cry for anyone who lives with the pain. I cry for a world that thinks its Ok to let people think that they deserve pain and they ask for horrible things to happen. I cry for the victims of people whose sense of entitlement make them unable to empathise with anyone else

  10. Thank you for this post, Matty. A loving tribute. Robin Williams was a comic genius and a dynamic serious actor. He could make us feel strongly in either venue. I'm glad you can and did cry. That is an important part of your continuing healing process. And each time you do, the words will feel truer that nothing that happened to you was ever your fault. Love and tight hugs.

  11. You made me cry, matt. Beautiful wording. Beautiful tribute.

  12. What a beautiful tribute to a truly talented person Matt.
    Thanks for sharing something that was obviously painful for you and very personal.
    I'm glad your starting heal and that you're realizing its NOT your fault. Or anyones who has ever been the victim of abuse or assault. Your right though, we always think "what if" or "if only".
    It's amazing how sometimes a line from a book or movie, or even a lyric from a song can rock you to your core and evoke such strong emotions. Takes you by surprise and then the damn of emotions just breaks..its good for the healing process though.
    Take care of yourself Matt, and big {hugs} to you today.

  13. I just want to say thank you to everyone. This was an extremely hard post to write and I feel a little shaken even now. I know the post was very intense (at least for me), but I felt it was important for me to put it down in words. Thank you so much for the love. It means the world to me.

  14. It is not your fault that you were beaten up by homophobic bullies, nor is it my fault that I was abused by a father who was a homophobic bully.

    It is not our fault that the planet is inhabited by louts, the homophobes, bigots and bullies of the world. It is a sad fact of life. The best we can do is wall them off as best we can, as far outside our own lives as possible. If you are successful in doing so and surround yourself with people who give you love and support, you will eventually realize that simply being yourself is never any reason for being at fault

  15. I loved Robin Williams, because he could make me laugh. He was more serious in Good Will Hunting than some of his other movies, but I know I laughed hard at him in The Bird Cage and even Dead Poet's Society, which is a very emotional movie in itself and lord did I bawl when I saw a What Dreams May Come. He was a very funny many battling a very serious disease. I think that's the way it is sometimes, you know? They say laughter is the best medicine. Perhaps sometimes those who laugh the most are simply trying to self medicate.

    Matty, I know it may feel that way sometimes, like it was your fault. I would even say that's probably a normal reaction to being attacked, but it's not your fault. It was never your fault.

    1. Wow, I really need to edit my comments before I hit publish! Sorry!

  16. I remember that scene. Vividly. Robin Williams was a comedic genius, but his dramatic parts were incredible, too. Dead Poet's Society remains in my top ten movies of all times. As well as Good Will Hunting. Doesn't leave a lot of room.

    I can certainly understand how you felt. You are correct, it is very easy to blame yourself for things clearly out of your control, as adversely as they may affect you. I am glad you are coming out of this mindset over time!

    Peace <3

  17. *tears* I don't remember a lot of that movie, but I do remember that scene. Very powerful. And so true. I think we are probably all guilty of putting blame on ourselves for how other people treat us. The funny thing is, we all know better. A girl doesn't get raped because of how she is dressed. Parents don't divorce because a child is "bad". You didn't deserve to be beaten for ANY reason. Brad isn't responsible for how his dad deals with his son's sexuality. We humans are so inter-connected though, it's extremely hard to remember that we aren't responsible for other people's actions.

  18. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this Matt. Good Will Hunting was a powerful film. Also Dead Poet Society. Both effected me deeply, although for different reasons. And reading your post made me cry all over again.