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By Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. and Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D.

Coming from a family of entertainers with a demanding stage-dad, Michael Jackson had been in the limelight since he was a young boy. Super stardom was all he knew. Although talented, famous and adored, his was a lonely life - one full of contradictions. He tried to create his own private reality around castles, theme parks and pet chimpanzees. In his own mind he was a modern-day Peter Pan. In the mind of others he was “Wacko Jacko” and his bizarre behavior often overshadowed his musical brilliance.

Jackson was living proof of the emotional cost of a life spent in the public eye, often experiencing the psychological turmoil that can accompany global fame. He was fragile and, because of his sensitive nature, delicate personality or preexisting emotional problems, it was hard for him to handle the pressure.  

You may have been entertained by Michael Jackson, as so many were. But, more important, you may understand how he could be affected by the strain of it all. Pressure - about finances, work, family or health - can really get to you. Follow some of these tips and learn what to do when you feel your life is spinning out of control:  

1.Give yourself an emotional break. You may be building up feelings of frustration, anger or disappointment, even despair. Take a deep breath and free yourself from negative thoughts. Although you can’t necessarily change what happens to you, you can change how you handle it. Reframe pessimistic ideas into neutral or optimistic ones. By learning about constructive responses to difficult situations, you’ll have access to more choices about how to react.

2.Get the help you need now. Work with an individual therapist or a life coach who will guide your healing as you decide how to move forward. It’s important to develop positive self-regard, confidence and the life skills for this. The therapy should focus on areas like anger management and stress reduction. Stay in treatment as long as you need in order to figure out why you‘re having these feelings and what to do about them.

3.For a problem with drug addiction, get help through a treatment center. Abusing prescription drugs can be medically dangerous, so be sure to find a center that specializes in prescription drug withdrawal and rehabilitation. A treatment program that confronts addiction directly will also address other problems you face and help you find solutions that will prevent a relapse.

4.Focus your thoughts on what you can accomplish rather than on what you cannot. Release your mind from worries and try to work on feeling more empowered. Be grateful for what you have by getting outside yourself and focusing on others in need. Set goals and then begin to follow through with your plans by taking small steps.

5.Honor your body by noticing what makes you feel better, both physically and emotionally. Pay attention to your exercise routine, what you eat, your sleeping habits and what gives you pleasure. Reduce the situations that cause stress and increase the ones that make you feel healthier and more alive. Spend time relaxing and rejuvenating as you counteract burnout. Attend to your mind and your spirit - set aside quiet time to practice your own form of meditation.

6.Implement what you know about resiliency. Recognize how your character strengths support what you do. Integrate your values and ideals into how you view the world. Knowledge is power, so use it to your advantage. Gather information about ways to deal with how you are feeling - explore Internet search engines or the self-help section of bookstores. Release tension through laughter and watch yourself begin to bounce back.  

There’s something wrong when our society sees fame and celebrity as core values. The intensity of the public spotlight can be traumatic in and of itself. And it’s sad that the power to create and destroy is in the hands of pop culture and the media. A gentle soul and vulnerable, Michael Jackson’s life was open to public commentary and scrutiny. It looks like perhaps it was just too much for him.

Don’t let anything like that happen to you. If you‘re having a hard time coping, develop the tools and strategies that can make a difference in your life. And trust yourself as you look inside for greater self-understanding and answers to your problems. Use any emotional discomfort you may feel as the signal for a chance to grow.

© 2009, Her Mentor Center

Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. & Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. are co-founders of [Link Removed] a blog for the sandwich generation. They are authors of a forthcoming book about family relationships and publish a free newsletter, Stepping Stones, through their website.  As psychotherapists, they have over 40 years of collective private practice experience.

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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Monkish wrote Jul 31, 2009
    • I wonder if he ever went to a sleep study. I was so depressed from not getting sleep and pain in my hands, etc until I went to Scripps.  I have Sjogrens an autoimmune disease and I finally found good doctors.  One told me after over two years of hand pain on my second visit, that I have tendinitis.   Although I do nothing repetitive it is from the Sjogrens.  I also had night and more important a day sleep study.  They had me laid down four times during the day in a quiet dark room and I fell asleep each time.  I jerk at night and so I do not get the deep sleep I need and I have mild sleep apena.  I am sure he could have been treated better for his sleep problems.  Everyone, if your doctors are not helping go to a teaching hospital for treatment.  The doctors there know the latest information and treatments.

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