There’s no excuse for dangerous temper tantrums, but after talking to anger-management experts, I’m convinced Chris has made progress and sincerely wants to be a better person.
When word spread like wildfire that Chris Brown had freaked out after his on-air interview with Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, the chorus of voices condemning him — including some here in our Hollywoodlife.com office — couldn’t have been louder.
“He’ll never change,” ‘he’s a jerk,” “he’s a thug,” “he’s just a brute” were a few of the more damning comments I heard.
And while I believe that Chris’ assault on his then-girlfriend Rihanna was unforgivable, I’ve always felt that everyone — especially a young person — deserves a second chance. People make mistakes especially teens — and Chris was just 19 at the time of the assault. He was a baby. It’s also a fact that when someone like Chris has grown up in a household witnessing domestic violence, they can learn terribly destructive behavior.
I’m as letdown as anyone that after a year of court-mandated domestic-violence counseling and six months of community service, Chris exploded after he was questioned by Robin about the Rihanna assault. But as I watched him apologize on the BET show 106 and Park on March 23, a day after freaking out, I felt that he truly was ashamed that he lost control again.
When he said that he was “disappointed in my actions,” I took him at his word. But what do experts who treat people like Chris with anger-management issues, say? Would they say that Chris is irredeemable?
“There’s no question that he overreacted to the interview and didn’t handle the situation well. It’s a red flag for Chris that he needs to do more work. He needs to add psychotherapy to deal with the deeper issues that are causing his anger,” says psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere, a contributor to healthguru.com. “But I know he was disappointed in his actions. When people like him calm down, they become very guilty, embarrassed and disappointed in themselves because they know they lost control and did things that were very inappropriate.”
But Dr. Gardere also thinks it was unfair of Robin to push on the Rihanna subject: “I really believe Robin should have been a little more kind. He’s 21, he’s got anger issues, he’s a little immature. He came on to promote his new album. She didn’t need to push him quite so hard.”
Dr. Gardere also believes that the stress of being a public figure, carrying around the stigma Chris has and being in a cutthroat business, all puts Chris under even more pressure. “He’s also a kid who witnessed his mother and father in extreme domestic-violence situations. He’s been very damaged. I’m disappointed by how he handled this. But with more therapy, he can get better.”
Psychologist Dr. Lyle Becourtney, a specialist in anger management, agrees. “I believe he can learn to control his anger if he has the motivation to change. But he must stay in therapy until he has complete confidence in himself, that he can control his anger.”
Anger expert Steven Stosny, Ph.D. and author of Love Without Hurt, believes that Chris’ anger is triggered by shame and that he was flooded with that feeling when his assault on Rihanna was brought up on GMA. “He was overwhelmed by feelings of shame, powerlessness and inadequacy,” he explains. “He doesn’t know how to cope with these feelings still, so it comes out like a temper tantrum.”
Stosny believes that because Chris feels shame, he is very treatable. He can learn a different way of behaving. “He violated his own values because he hurt someone he loved — Rihanna.”
Unfortunately, Stosny points out, Chris’ childhood led him to make a connection between powerlessness and anger. He believes he felt powerless watching his stepfather attack his mother and that mad him angry as a child and frustrated because he couldn’t stop it. Now as an adult, when he feels powerless, he still responds with anger. Unfortunately, he’s surrounded by people in damage control mode focusing on his career and they’re not thinking about his emotional well-being.” But Stosny adds that he believes “Chris Brown doesn’t want to be an angry, violent person. He wants to be loved and be loving. He needs to go beyond traditional anger-management treatment and get more therapy,”
A fourth therapist, Dr. Gilda Carle, of www.drgilda.com, believes Brown has made progress. “During his interview with Robin, Brown held it together and even controlled the direction of the interview — he was gentlemanly, but he was not able to sustain it,” she says. “There’s hope for him but he’s got to continue to work at this. He needs people around him saying ‘This is not OK,’ and who will give him lots of love and support and will drive him to his appointments, too!”
So what else should he do that could be positive for him?
Dr. Gardere thinks Chris should take up GMA‘s invitation to go back on the show right away.
“My professional advice would be that this would be an incredible opportunity to have a corrective emotional experience. Go back and do another interview with Robin, where he can apologize and have that apology accepted, and then perform again. He would feel redeemed emotionally and personally,” stresses Dr. Gardere.
I believe Robin Roberts is actually on the same page. When she said “we wish him absolutely the best”, on GMA after doing a segment about his apology on March 24, I think she was very sincere.
When Chris apologized on BET, he ended by saying “I have to show them (his fans) twice as hard how I’m going to be better.”
If that is true, Chris– and I’m willing to accept that you mean it — then I hope you take the advice from the experts here. Get yourself into serious therapy with a counselor that you can respect and open up to and work hard. You can get over your anger-management issue and move on with your life in a much happier way.
And consider taking up that GMA invite to re – do your interview and promote your album, F.A.M.E.. You can do it and be gracious and impress the critics who didn’t want to give you any more chances!