Author:Paul Gilmartin

Lia McCord

What happens when a naiive Texas cheerleader from an abusive home tries to pay for college by smuggling heroin in Bangladesh?  Probably not what you think.  Though her story has been seen on National Geographic’s Locked Up Abroad, it only scratched the surface of who she was and who she has become.

0
0

Doug Benson

The standup comedian, star of Super High Me, co-creator of The Marijuanalogues and host of The Benson Interruption and Doug Loves Movies stops by to talk about his history with Paul, pot, parents and heartbreak.  And of course the special role that movies play in his life, especially in dealing with his sometimes smothering, worry-filled mother.

0
0

The Ego’s House of Cards

I mentioned in a previous blog that there was a time in my career when I thought if I could get my face on a billboard on Sunset Blvd. I would know I had officially made it in show business.

Before I had a t.v. show, Sunset Blvd. was like a candy store and I was looking through the window.  I could almost taste the candy.    It looked so fantastic to be that person on the billboard – huge – everyone looking up at you.   I was absolutely convinced there must be no greater feeling in the world than to be on one of those billboards, having your success broadcast 24 hours a day to the residents of Los Angeles, the capital of show business.

I eventually got a job co-hosting Dinner and a Movie on TBS.   A couple of years into the show’s run they put on a pretty big ad campaign; People Magazine, the Today Show, our faces on the side of a building in Manhattan, and yes, a billboard on Sunset Blvd.

I lost respect for Sunset Blvd.

I was living the old Groucho Marx joke “I’d never want to belong to a country club that would have someone like me as a member.”

What I didn’t realize at the time is I was experiencing a game the ego loves to play that can best be described as a house of cards.

The ego, which loves fantasizing about the future (and regretting the past), paints a picture that we can feast on because the present moment is too painful.   It tells us if we can just get this person place or thing we will be okay.   We will be happy.  Our anxiety will disappear.

We place so much value on this future happiness that we think of the present moment as something to get through.  We are impatient, easily aggravated and tune out the needs of everyone around us, except those we think can speed us towards our promised happiness.

It’s like we’re so fixated on our life having an orgasm of success, we forget we’re giving it a cold, mechanical handjob.

Floor by floor we are building the house of card and one of two things happens.

One: We fail to reach the fantasy/goal, and sadly we may live our whole lives thinking it would have saved us.  So we hold deep grudges against those who “got in our way”, our peers who achieved it, and ourselves for not attaining it.

Two: We achieve it and for a few seconds, maybe even a few months, there is a brief moment of ecstasy.  We stand back and admire the house of cards.   Our ego has gotten what it wanted.   We are temporarily satisfied.  We mistake the temporary glow of ego as true peace, true happiness.

But now that the ego is done building, it goes about its other natural activity – destroying.  It begins to shake the table holding the very house of cards it worked so hard to build.

It picks apart the person, place or thing we “won” – and with precision, because it built it.

Some of the thoughts that passed through my brain within 24 hours of seeing myself on a billboard on Sunset Blvd.: It’s on the wrong part of Sunset, it’s not near the nightclubs; my show isn’t on a major network; my show isn’t listed in TV Guide so its not even a real show.  I’m sharing the billboard with two other people so that’s not as good as being up there alone…

On and on, my ego shook the table until the house collapsed and I fell into a deep funk.

Years later, I learned that this is the game the ego plays and there is no winning with it.   There is no sense in trying to protect the table, though some people do.  Think of celebrities who engage in Twitter spats with complete strangers, or Bernie Madoff who went to unfathomable lengths to cling to his image as a trading guru.

Years ago, I remember watching Denzel Washington win his second Academy Award and thinking if I had a life like his I would be happier.    He then closed his acceptance speech by mentioning that he still had fewer awards than Sidney Poitier and will always be chasing him.  It struck me as odd at the time, but now that I know more about the ego it makes perfect sense.

His house of cards didn’t even survive the two minutes of an acceptance speech.

There are countless examples of people realizing their dream, and soon after becoming incredibly depressed.  I’m not surprised at all.   How can it not happen when your sense of self is wagered on a building that will be condemned?

Eric Clapton tells a story about reading the first bad review he got in Rolling Stone magazine.  Up till that point people were literally spray-painting “Clapton is God” all over London.   His ego bought into it.  Rolling Stone critic Jon Landau said his style was full of blues clichés.  When Clapton read the review, he fainted.

We all look at the driven billionaire and think, “Why are you still an angry workaholic?”

Because no material accomplishment can ever fully satisfy what the human being really wants which is to feel loved and connected to other human beings, not better than them.

I think fame makes true love more difficult, because most people equate fame with importance.   So subconsciously we feel famous people are more important. Being loved by strangers who are impressed with your accomplishments isn’t real love. It’s adulation but that’s the only kind of love the ego can comprehend.

I’m probably lucky I’ve never been genuinely famous.   I would have to hire someone just to catch me when I faint.

I can’t win with my ego, so I try to recognize where it injects itself into my life, and it’s pretty much everywhere all the time.

As I type this, my ego hopes it goes viral.   I wrote that last sentence to bust myself – to shine a light on my ego as it started to unroll some blueprints.

Adulation fills in for love the way a great song is represented by Muzak.   It kinda sounds like it, but it ain’t it.

I have never found any profound, lasting peace from recognition or adulation, but our media keeps making it look so awesome.

I’ve found peace by connecting to people; by laughing about how alike we really are and how ridiculous we look trying to prove otherwise.

What house of cards are you building right now?

What fantasy or obsession do you cling to so you can escape feeling your life at this moment?

0
0

Karma (Voted #8 Ep of 2011)

How do you cope when you are convinced your life is constantly in danger as a child?  First, you band together with your siblings and form an army, then you learn about the sweet oblivion of addiciton.  Paul’s friend Karma witholds her last name and picture so she can fully reveal the family life that nearly killed her, but ultimately forced her to grow.    A fairly heavy interview so Paul throws in a little something after the interview to hopefully make you laugh.

0
0

Buzzing In

I’ve fucked up a lot in my life.  I’ve embarrassed myself, hurt others, been selfish, self-centered, grandiose, irresponsible and manipulative – you name it – I’ve done it.

I didn’t realize at the time – and sometimes still forget – that this is how my mind compensates when my spirit sags. I try to inflate my deflated spirit with ego-based actions, created by my mind and not my soul.

My mind would be a terrible game-show contestant.

It always buzzes in first, never with the right answer.   My soul always has the right answer, but it doesn’t answer as quickly, and that is not convenient for someone who is prone to impatience, selfishness and fear.

When I’m self-centered, I’m acting on the belief that I am separate from you, we cannot help each other, I’ve got to do things on my own, and your success is my failure.  You are there for me to compare myself to, and then decide if I’m winning or losing.

When I feel I’m losing I become even more selfish; my mind yells, We’re not doing enough, We don’t have enough and We’re not enough.  So my actions become desperate, ironically making my life worse, when all I was trying to do was make my life better.

But I was trying to live my life intellectually, not spiritually.  And I don’t believe we can achieve true, lasting serenity unless our spirit is allowed to buzz in.

When I ignore my spirit, or soul, or whatever you want to call it, and ignore principles like love, honesty, patience, faith and compassion, I am pitted, in my mind, against everyone.  And this is exactly what my brain wants, because then it HAS to be in charge.

It has created a phantom workload that only it can work on.

The brain and ego are constantly trying to claw their way into the driver’s seat.

When our spirit is ignored; when “stuff” becomes more important than principles, we stop caring about other people because we’re too busy catering to the panic the brain and ego have created.  We become sad, lonely and left behind, even if we’re financially successful. Our spirit sags.   And if we’ve never used our spirit, we just think we need more stuff.

I’ve had money coming out of my ass and been suicidal.

I’m currently unemployed and much happier.  Not because I’m unemployed, but because my spirit is happy and active, and I don’t feel defined by my job or income level.   Some days I catch myself slipping back into it, and know it means I’m being too selfish.

How is the body affected when the mind is in charge?

Think of people you know who are trapped in their heads. They intellectualize everything and can’t talk on an emotional level.   Most of the ones I know are usually filled with tension and worry; furrowed brow, hunched shoulders, awkward eye contact, obsessive, isolated, lacking self-esteem or compensating with arrogance.

The mind is leading and the body and spirit are suffering.

When I help others, I feel peace.   When I feel peace I don’t panic.   When I don’t panic I make good decisions.   When I make good decisions things work out.

I don’t engage in spiritual practices because it’s the right or moral thing to do.  I do it because I have no other sensible choice.   Without it, my depression and addictions would take over and kill me.  I do it because it works.

It seems so completely backwards, but the first thing I need to do when I feel like life is passing me by, is to do something nice for another person, with no strings attached, nothing expected in return.  Sometimes it feels like pulling teeth.   But the relief from anxiety always comes at some point after doing it.  And that calms my mind and relaxes my body.

When I place my spirit first, my mind and my body benefit.  I get sick less often, I’m a better listener, and I connect to people on a deeper level.   It improves my self-esteem and gives me spiritual momentum, which makes it easier to keep doing the right thing.

But my brain always protests the helping of others.  It always tells me There isn’t time!   It tells me, We’ve already fucked up too much!  We’re behind schedule and we need to get more money, power or recognition or we won’t survive!

I’ve started ignoring that voice and I am more able to enjoy my life no matter what happens.

Some days it wins, some days it doesn’t.   I sat down to work on a comedy project about two hours ago, and instead started writing this.   The ENTIRE time my brain kept chiming in, that, We are blowing our career!  We’re doomed.   Why are we writing this?  We’re UNEMPLOYED, we need MONEY!  On and on.

I ignored that voice and listened to the one that told me this was the better choice; that working on this would bring me peace, and make me feel more connected to people.

It did.  I feel good.

And hopefully, after reading this you feel a little less behind schedule, a little less trapped in the past or future, a little more normal, and a little less alone.

0
0

Paul F. Tompkins (Voted #3 Ep of 2011)

The talented stand-up comedian, podcaster (Pod F. Tompkast) and writer/actor (HBO’s Mr. Show) talks about the role therapy played in helping him turn his pain and rejection into being a happier person and a better artist.  He opens up about the shame of having parents who didn’t find him funny or necessarily interesting, and the beauty of being given a second chance by a peer who was ready to write him off for his past bitterness.  A bitterness fueled by unrequited, irrational love.   Holy shit, this sounds Shakespearean!

0
1

Mike Phirman

His mom has been married 8 times, his father 4.   How’s that for a good place to start?  In addition to performing with Chris Hardwick as the comedy/music duo Hard n’ Phirm, Mike also performs solo.    He’s really talented and also really nice.  Really, really nice.   That’s right.  Full on people pleaser.  Mike and Paul get into the fear of disappointing loved ones, strangers and fans.   Also a little post interview excerpt from the great Ram Dass, regarding a man and a dolphin that will move you to tears or creep you out.  Or both.

0
0

Alycia Schlesinger

Even though Alycia has a Masters in Spiritual Psychology, her raw experience in a chaotic home has been the “gift” that has really allowed her to understand the dynamics of her own self-hatred, fear, and low self-esteem. She shares how facing that pain allowed for the eventual transformation to it being an experience that gives her life purpose.   An especially powerful episode (for Paul at least) as Alycia played a part in one of the most transformative days in his life.   They also discuss Victor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning and John Bradshaw’s book Healing the Shame that Binds You.

0
0