Comedian Pete Holmes on depression and negative emotion


Everyone’s experience with depression is different,
but for comedian Pete Holmes the key to living
with depression has been to observe his own thoughts in an impartial way. Holmes’ method, taught to him by psychologist
and spiritual leader Ram Dass, is to connect to his base consciousness and think about
himself and his emotions in the third person. You
can’t push depression away, but
you can shift
your mindset to help better cope with depression, anxiety, and negative emotions. If you feel depressed, you
can connect with
a crisis counselor anytime in the US.

100 comments

  1. Love Pete. Such a wholesome dude. I have certainly had my bouts throughout my life, and I can attest that Pete is right in saying that when you are in it, it can be such a blinding fog that only until you have distanced yourself from it can you start to process that you were/are depressed. I moved to LA to pursue a career in comedy and 8 weeks later my mom passed away. I was living in a 25 person home, I was unemployed, and life was a fucking nightmare. It took me almost 2 years to feel like I fully closed that chapter. And any advice I can try to add is do your best to exercise. That is nature's anti-depressant and going for a jog or doing some pushups can be the catalyst to get your mind off things. Also the human brain tends to amplify it's emotions the more it thinks about them. Complaining to your friends/family about your coworkers or whatever is eating you works you up into a more heated state. I think depression works the same way where the more you think about how out of control life is, how worthless you feel, or you compare yourself to others and feel like you will never catch up, those cycling thoughts can be like getting pummeled with bats and life feels easier to just give up and go to sleep. One thought that has been keeping me going lately, is the idea of how many generations of ancestors had to go through terrible conditions to get you where you are today. Life is hard, and the challenges you face are far different than anything that has come before. You are stronger than you think, believe in yourself, set goals, and stay motivated.

  2. praying for an earthquake…that’s what I have named it…when you realize that you are middle aged in the 21st century and there is no war, no immediate danger, no immersion that can distract you from your own pitiful, pointless existence…and you pray for that catastrophe to hit and enable you to run and scream for your life.

  3. This brought me to tears. I’ve had chronic depression for 14 years and just recently have started mindfulness and stoicism practices. Been trying to explain to my mother about it too because we have been so ignorant of our shared traumatic experiences, anxiety, and depression in a society that historically shuns you for speaking openly about it. Really liked this vid and I will definitely be reflecting upon on it again!

  4. Wonderful representation of how it’s a daily and everchanging struggle that shows and hides itself when it pleases. My parents never understood why I dont “stay better” and still have bouts of depression. It’s an ignorance that makes me want to cry, they won’t even watch this educational tool.

  5. This man's smile makes me want to murder people.

    Jesus christ. You just assume everybody's on the same new age/psychiatric nutwheel you're on.

  6. In portuguese we have different verbs for permanent states (I am tall, I am human, I am a teacher) and temporary states (I am hungry, I am late, I am depressed) but that has absolutely no influence in making people less suscetible to depression. People can "get depression" even if they don't know the word depression. This notion of getting out of depression using semantics tricks is absurd.

  7. Pretty sure this came up in my suggested videos because I've watched a few clips of Bill Burr on Pete's show…and not because I've been having a big WWE-style rumble with depression for about 2 years. Anyway, this is helpful, and I think when a person is in that quicksand it's important to listen for encouragement from all angles and places. Sometimes help comes quite unexpectedly…if you're able to receive it.

  8. Great perspective. Here's one that helped me: what is the evolutionary purpose of these "negative" emotions that come up for all of us? They are called "social emotions" for a reason. They are there to more closely connect us together. The biggest mistake we all make is to turn our negative feelings into a solo mission. We either minimize the negativity or try to work through it on our own. Don't get me wrong—there is value in doing that, but it only works to some extent. The only way to truly process these emotions is to connect with a compassionate person who supports and validates.

  9. This is an amazing advice..didnt expect it from the comedian guy(love him tho)very spiritualy deep&wise!Much love to all💞

  10. Fantastic. This "multiple selves" aspect is a key part of Amy Alkon's science-help book Unf*ckology. A great read.

  11. What about being depressed about having chronic illnesses which are making it harder and harder to function? That is an unfortunate reality.

  12. Next level dissociation there. Trauma and suffering aren't who you are. It's what is happening to YOU…so maybe that's what you were trying to say?

  13. Came here to say very happy Pete prefaced this with saying talkimg about and around depression with someone in a depressive episode is unhelpful and often patronizing. Do like Pete said. Be supportive and take them out for noodles.

    Also, Pete’s podcast is excellent and I hope he makes his way back to a talkshow that is conversation based.

  14. Why do we care about the past and the future? Our imaginations and consciousness can imagine things once were and will be and we extend our values to any point in time. It is why we feel sad and horrified by tragedies like the holocaust, plane crashes, and any death. It is because we all hopefully keep on enjoying the gift of life and consciousness. Maybe a soul forms over time as we become more aware of the world and love around us.

  15. I always described my depression like this: there are 2 versions of me – one who's in the room with everybody, the other is outside the window. The guy inside is the one everybody sees – it's the version of me that influences and creates their perception of who I am. The guy outside is the real me. He's banging on the window, trying to tell the one inside that he doesn't need to be that way. That it's not who he is and he should stop. But the guy inside can't hear. He carries on as he has been. And the me who's outside feels like he'll never be heard or be able to fix it. But that whole realisation can be key to dealing with it all – taking a step back, looking at it and understanding that depression is not who you are. It's an affliction that does not define you. You may not realise it, but admitting that you suffer from it is actually a huge step in getting to grips with the condition, and never blaming yourself for it. You are recognising that it is a thing that HAPPENS to you – that it came from the outside, not the inside. You weren't born with it, it's not a part of you, and you CAN fight it.

    So I totally get what Holmes is saying here.

  16. Great take on the subject Pete and thank you for sharing. I differ some on the thought controlling the feeling. I believe it is more so the feeling at least initializing the thought and bringing it to the forefront of our conscioisness for is to react. Our body speaks to is. Whether it be sleep, eating or emotional and spiritual recharging. It is our job to listen. We would not let our bodies go without food or sleep. So why should we let it go without recharging our being as a whole???… Not debating or nothin. Just sharin my take on it from my own personal experience.

  17. Is this a first world problem? I mean, way too many things and way too many unregulated choices in our lives contribute to our depression?

  18. It's the practice of not being held hostage by your thoughts and emotions – not feeling the need to chase after them or be dragged around by them. Be the observer. I very much like the way Pete Holmes describes it here as well. Great video.

  19. I have a very hard time coming to grips with the possibility that Pete Holmes has ever been depressed.
    He seems like he would make Mister Rogers say, "Dude, you're just TOO happy…"

  20. Antidepressants aka ssri's cause suicidal ideation and violence. Fact. Proven by their makers. 2-5 % of people in recovery don't relapse. Antidepressants aka ssri's are deadly without alcohol. Antidepressants aka ssri's are addictive to 1/3 who take them. Antidepressants aka ssri's are proven by their makers to be placibo. (They got sued for hiding that). So…yake your placebo that causes suicidal ideation and violence…oh…and buy a gun to play with because that's your right within current law…to pack on pills.

  21. Disassociation is a tool that can be valid even for those with clinical (not temporary) depression – read: my case.

  22. wow he explained these ideas in a very easy to understand way. i’ve heard what he’s trying to say a million times in eastern spirituality and books like the power of now, but he explained it in a way that made me understand a little more.

  23. You should be so lucky to be an active artist, and also be able to implement these tools of awareness in daily life…. Go Pete!

  24. I literally don’t understand depression. I didn’t believe that it existed at 1st but from the huge amounts of people that complain about depression it became alarming and wanted to learn and understand more of it . My only thing is what if it’s the doctors creating the depression effects ; kinda like a placebo effect of depression and maybe the pills make it worse or even real .

  25. I am 54 and have lived with clinical depression all of my life. It has impeded everything. What helped me immensely was learning philosophy, but there is a personality trait of philosophers which I have, while others may have no interest. Philosophy has helped me learn to check my premises and eliminate cognitive contradictions. Cognitive contradictions cause anxiety through the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis in the brain. This creates anxiety and neurosis.

    I also have learned to live in the moment after being homeless in India. This is now a normal state of mind for me. If one allows themselves to ruminate in the past or fantasize about the future, one is projecting their consciousness outside of the present moment.

    Setting the philosophy aside, I also spent a great deal of time studying neuroscience. This has allowed me to connect what I am feeling to brain activity. Now my thoughts and feelings aren't intrusive mysteries. I also take three different medications at the minimal effective dose. However, there remains a persistent component, like a hand holding me back wherein simple tasks like, bathing, preparing meals, doing laundry feels overwhelming, but I rarely have the self-loathing and or suicidal thoughts due to my medications.

    Robert Sapolsky makes a good point about depression. When people get cancer or another terminal disease they often remark how it has changed their life for the better. Depression does exactly the opposite, and in that it may be one of the worst diseases humans face. People with serious illnesses fight to live while depression invites death to relieve it's exquisite pain.

  26. I love you Pete for your openness and honesty. Loved your book too! Your journey has enlightened me in so many ways.

  27. Hey, Pete! You rock! Thanks for this. It makes sense (sometimes) when I can find that neutral place. It’s hard because life moves a million miles an hour. Your videos are beautiful.

  28. This is really cool. But, who speaks on the behalf of this neutral observer/consciousness? If it is the neutrality speaking from it essence, how would it be able to describe itself, if it is completely neutral? This is the first option. The second option is that we lend our voice to the neutral observer. But how can we then prove, that it exists on its own if it cannot make an appearance of its own? How can we prove that this quiet place is not merely an element of our story – our ego? This does make sense, because you can apply something, that is believed to be a fundamental principle of existence – thus not requiring any further or external evidence to prove its existence – to everyone.
    I adore the idea and I believe anyone can make it work. Then you might say, if it is efficient, why does it matter, where it comes from? I don't think it does, if we manage to conceal it so cunningly. I just had a thought. You know, what if we as conscious beings don't extend so far as we do by this explanation? What if this is simply our little bubble and we haven't tapped into something eternally redeeming? This is our default and outside of it there is a way to percieve ourselves and everything else that is to us completely inconceivable. I understand there is no utility to this – at least not one I could think of.
    I just had a thought.

  29. Thank you for this Pete Holmes. I appreciate the sincerity with which he talks about depression. This is a very good take on mental health that I think should be heard. Love you Pete!

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