Most people remember Dolph Lundgren as the actor who played the role of Ivan Drago, the Soviet boxer in the movie Rocky IV. He has had a successful and lengthy career as an action movie star, including appearances in the recent Expendables movies. As an actor, his films have been nearly all violent action spectacles. His most famous screen lines are, “I must break you”, and “If he dies, he dies.” Few people have as pure an image as the classic tough guy whose roles are meant to be entertaining but not particularly thoughtful or intelligent. Somewhat surprisingly, he is the author of one of the most interesting and insightful TED talks in the history of the series.
At the height of his Hollywood stardom, Dolph Lundgren lived with the fashion and music star Grace Jones, was very rich and famous, and even attended MIT on a scholarship. Few people can say that they “had it all” to any greater degree in the eyes of the world and its standards of success. He had money, mansions, clothes and cars, good looks, intelligence, status, and “success” in every form in the way the world tends to measure it. And yet, as he tells it, he was completely miserable in the midst of all of it. Having all of these things did little or nothing to prevent this. Like many other famous people, his life was plagued with insecurities, frustrations, fears, and destructive patterns of behavior.
Dolph Lundgren’s story could have ended up being just another feature for tabloid television, but it took an unusual turn, which is where the story gets interesting. As his problems got worse and worse, he came to a surprising, life-changing personal conclusion, one he never expected to reach. With his career spiraling downward and his destructive behaviors taking hold of his life more and more, he finally sought therapy on the advice of his girlfriend. He didn’t really want to do it, because he thought, like many people, that therapy was “for sissies”, and that to express emotional pain in any way was somehow wrong or weak. But, once he went through the process, he began to realize that blocking out the problems that started during his childhood was not an effective way of dealing with them. The suffering and misery that he was inflicting on himself and the people around him were real, and he needed to face up to the reasons why if he was going to make things better.
Therapy helped him to understand himself in a way he never had before. One of the things that he learned is that certain parts of the body “freeze” when people go through traumatic emotional experiences, especially during childhood, and they will carry the energy of trauma until the trauma that is buried is brought back to the surface and resolved. He realized why he couldn’t be at peace with himself, and why he kept inflicting suffering on the people around him, continuing a cycle that seemed to be out of his control. Once he was able to connect with the painful childhood experiences that were at the heart of his patterns of thinking and behavior, he was able to shift and transform them.
Once the pattern of that energy was revealed and transformed, he was no longer trapped in a cycle of thinking and behavior that he could not seem to free himself from. He also understood who he was and why he acted the way he did as never before. This is the key to transforming addictions and other negative patterns of thought and behavior that imprison so many people. Without going back to the true cause of the issue, healing and change are monumentally difficult. Willpower alone is almost never enough.
Now, Dolph Lundgren has a new sense of purpose in his life and a new and better way of relating to the world that is focused on doing good for others. He has found a better and far truer sense of personal fulfillment through doing something that serves the greater good, instead of chasing the strictly selfish gratifications that modern society glorifies and promotes. As a believer in therapy, meditation, and improving himself by examining his life, he has found a much better way to relate to the people and the world around him.
Learn more about Dolph Lundgrens TED Talk at the Tedx website.