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Being Hollywood’s self-described “Black shrink” comes with a price. And in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Chris Rock shared how emotionally expensive that tab is.
“I get it, I’m a lot of people’s Black shrink, or their Black whisperer,” said the 55-year-old comedian. As he reflects on his upbringing in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant, he recalls being bussed to a school in a different neighborhood where he was the only black student in his grade. Rock was greeted with balloons filled with pee thrown at his head to signs that read “N—r, Go Home.” As the oldest of seven kids and his parents’ high expectations set on him, he knew better than to share these traumatic events with them; “No matter what I was going through, it paled in comparison to what my mom or my dad went through; so, there wasn’t a lot of dealing with it.”
The Everybody Hates Chris creator and executive producer thought that after four seasons of joking about his upbringing that he had healed from the events that took place in his childhood. But in reality, he never dealt with the issues head-on.
“I thought I was actually dealing with it, and the reality is I never dealt with it,” he said. “The reality was the pain and the fear that that brought me, I was experiencing it every day.”
Due to his big ego and low self-esteem, fear served as his leading motivator. “And the ego gets you out onstage, but the low self-esteem is the thing that makes you practice so much because you don’t believe in yourself at all,” he shared honestly. “You think you’re a total f—g fraud — and you don’t think anybody could love you for being you, so you have to be good at this thing.” Nonetheless, when his motivator for decades became his own enemy, he knew it was time for a change; “It just depletes you. I had to let it go. I was just dying, dude.”
Rock’s decision to seek therapy came shortly after a friend suggested that he may have Asperger’s – a form of autism that affects social skills. Doctors diagnosed him with a condition called nonverbal learning disorder. Since 80 percent of communication is nonverbal, his ineptitude with nonverbal signals and only being able to understand the words results in him taking things too literally.
“And I’d always just chalked it up to being famous,” he said. “Any time someone would respond to me in a negative way, I’d think, ‘Whatever, they’re responding to something that has to do with who they think I am.’ Now, I’m realizing it was me. A lot of it was me.”
The Fargo actor also shared that he learned how to swim as part of his new fitness routine. In the interview, he acknowledged “the absurdity of having a pool that he couldn’t previously use at his Alpine, New Jersey, home” but the difficulty in learning how to swim as an adult is not being scared to die. Through swimming lessons, he gained defined abs and a metaphor of his life.
“The other day, this guy says to me, ‘OK, you’re going to dive into the deep end and swim to the other side,’ and I’m like, ‘Are you f—g crazy?’ But then I dove into the deep end and I swam to the other side, and it’s a metaphor for what I’ve been trying to do during this time.”
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