Michael Jackson and the High Cost of Fame

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