Thoughts on the tragedy of Cory Monteith.
Having been a “Gleek” for the first few seasons, I was really saddened by the news of Cory Monteith’s death. I don’t use the word “untimely” because I have never really liked that word paired with death. Exactly what makes a death “timely”? It never made sense to me. Perhaps it is meant to soften the blow of the following word, death but death comes as a shock, no matter what. I am always a little amazed at how news like this effects me. I was surprised at my sadness…I know that sounds bad but hear me out. I didn’t really have a strong connection to him, I watched the show and liked his character but wasn’t a huge fan or anything. Yet, I was stunned by his death. And as someone who spends their life studying human psychology and behavior, that intrigued me. I don’t think I knew about his substance problems and his time in rehab recently so perhaps that contributed to the surprise. What made me the most sad was the story I concocted of his last few days. I can only credit his very industry for filling my imagination with dirty motel rooms, scattered clothing and furniture, drug paraphenalia on a glass coffee table, some broken items on the floor, and him, alone and sad in this mess. That is what made me the most sad, the alone part.
My “job” is to help people and when I see someone who was not help-able, it makes me feel empty and deeply sad. Martin Seligman, Ph.D., the father of Positive Psychology and past President of the American Psychological Association described the state of psychology in a great TED talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/martin_seligman_on_the_state_of_psychology.html). He said something to the effect of psychology’s job was to make people less miserable. Humph, really, ONLY to make them LESS miserable. Not really something that makes me leap out of bed in the morning. What he was really getting at was psychology’s past and how focusing on the positive was the direction in the future. And he is right and psychology has turned into a science-based profession that definitely helps more and more. But reading about Cory Monteith’s death made all of that seem a little too little, a little too late. What was significant to me was the pain…the pain he lived with for some terrible reason, the pain he couldn’t “cure” or get rid of that sent him searching for how to numb it, and the pain he must have died in. That is what makes me sad, the pain. That is what keeps me up at night, how to help people have less pain. I know it’s possible, I just don’t know how to help everyone yet.