How can Britney Spears help you to find yourself? Understanding the “physics” of our emotional needs – Part 2

Britney and her relationships: The story of unfulfilled needs

Britney and Justin: The dream couple

“Awww, they are so cute together!”

britney-spears-and-ex-justin-timberlake
Britney and her ex Justin Timberlake AP Photos

Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake were Hollywood’s most adored dream couple at the time.

Although their relationship showed the typical signs of a puppy-love, the deep connection between the two souls and their fate was almost palpable. No wonder that many fans are still convinced that they belong together.

One could not miss the genuine gestures of affection towards each other during their interviews and shows. They shared caresses, looks, giggles, and jokes.

Justin spoke about his girlfriend with obvious excitement that shone through his introverted nature. There was a video of them, I saw years ago where he proudly told that he was the luckiest guy for having the most stunning girlfriend, Britney. As she heard the compliment, she broke into embarrassed laughter. He seemed to be the slightly clumsy twenty-year-old Prince Charming of her dreams.

But what happened to the dream? What went wrong?

The breakup with Justin

As you may recall, our emotional needs drive our behavior.
If you look at the events before the breakup, you can put together piece by piece, the picture of Britney’s unmet needs getting stronger and slowly taking over control.

When the pop princess entered the music industry, she was practically a child. Her unique energy soon infected the music industry, and she was turned into a money-making machine.

But a precious asset like her cannot go and do whatever she liked.

Perhaps that is the downside of showbiz that people know the least about; the industry has very sophisticated control mechanisms over their celebrities to maximize the income and the influence over the public. Many stars need to fight for their rights to have the freedom they desire.

So it was apparent from the very beginning that Britney’s management set up a very delicate controlling mechanism over her.
(Feeling sad? Let’s go to a fancy shopping mall type of thing.)

They recognized her talent for instinctively getting a hold of her audience, so they gave her enough creative freedom to “do her thing.” On the other hand, all other aspects of her life had to correspond with the machine of which she became a part.

Some of that control the management exerted for her own sake, some for the sake of the material gain.

As I have mentioned already, the sense of control over our lives is essential.

When we lose that perception of control, we start to feel hopeless, and helpless. We might become convinced that our life has lost its meaning and it can quickly lead to depression.

That state is called “learned helplessness.” That is a state where we learn not to be aware of the control we have over our lives.
You might know the classic example of the little elephant who grew up tethered to a pole. Even after growing up this elephant will stay within the circle of its rope, not knowing that it already has the power to break free.

Fighting the learned helplessness

When Britney reunited with her childhood love, Justin Timberlake in 1999, she instinctively discovered a new aspect of her life: the relationship loosened the strings of control over her. As an insider put it in the Rolling Stone cover story:

“[Justin] became the great force in her life, but it started a pattern — she began to look for guys to help her get away from the people who control her.”

So this puppy-love was the first step toward having a sense of control, and of course a really intimate relationship.

But things were not that simple.

The first warning signs of Britney lacking attention and a sense of security

Both Britney and Justin were in a hamster wheel. The tours, shootings, interviews, and the distance had their toll. The stakes and expectations became higher and higher, and the insecurities of the pop princess grew stronger with each day. She desperately needed attention and support.

As Darrin Henson, her choreographer told the Rolling Stones Magazine in 2008, Britney gradually started to lose her confidence.

“Britney would come offstage after performing in front of 15 to 16,000 people and start crying because she thought she was terrible,” Henson said, “The girl doesn’t know who she is.”

According to rumors, Britney started thinking about getting married to Justin. If that is true, or not, we can’t tell, but if you look at it from a distance a pattern becomes visible; she seemed to try to use marriage as a means to “get away.”

Justin’s career evidently absorbed most of his time and energy, and what was left was not enough for his partner.

And then the hell broke loose. The couple broke up in 2002.

Rumors spread that she had cheated on her boyfriend. According to the Rolling Stone, Justin discovered a mash note from Britney’s choreographer in her suite. That was allegedly the reason behind the nasty breakup and a retaliation campaign on Timberlake’s part.

Now, let’s not give in to the temptation to judge any of the parties. What we see here, although played out by a famous Hollywood couple is a typical situation.

“She deserved what she got,” many commented, “She shouldn’t have cheated on him.”

If we really want to understand why such things happen, we must look deeper.
There we can find those basic emotional needs that are working in a destructive mode.

The need for attention

In the case of Britney Spears, we have to base our assumptions (and I emphasize that these are assumptions) on the songs she wrote and the interviews she gave.

There is a song called Guilty. It is considered to be a reply to Timberlake’s “Cry me a river,” where he accuses her of infidelity.

In this song she says:

“You’re always too busy
Why don’t you go with me
Don’t act like you don’t hear me
neglected
you’re guilty
He noticed no one was with me
I started getting so friendly
He told me I was so pretty
I flirted
I’m guilty
I have no reason to lie
I told you a thousand times
I needed you by my side, but you were nowhere to be found

And if losing you is what I gotta do to satisfy all my needs
Then I guess that makes me guilty.”

We can call this a tell-tale song.

How does the unmet need for attention feel like?

Britney put it this way in the documentary “Britney: For the record”:

“I’m angry.” The people around her were trying to laugh her comment off. “I’m very angry. I’m horribly angry. No, I’m smiling right now because I think it’s funny how you all are laughing,” she continued.

Later she explained:
“And when I tell them the way I feel its like… that they hear me, but they are really not listening. They hear what they want to hear, but they are really not listening to what I’m telling them. It’s like… it’s bad. I’m sad.”

“All eyes on us.”

Again, we might come to the rash conclusion that a person in the spotlight must have all “eyes on them.”

In fact, fame can make people utterly lonely. It makes it hard to create and maintain meaningful, close and intimate relations and substitutes them with superficial adoration. Such public’s favorites can find themselves immensely isolated and unheard.

Britney Spears was lonely.

She became vulnerable and unstable. Her relationship failed to rescue her, and meet her primary emotional needs.

Any caring attention concerning her as a person and not as a subject of overall adoration seemed to promise relief.

We must remember, it only seemed to meet the need, but it never promised a real solution.

When we have a “hole in our soul,” let it be a lack of attention, a lack of feeling loved and cared for, a lack of belonging somewhere or a lack of security, which naturally interweaves with the first three, we become vulnerable.

That is when we feel tempted to drink salt water for a moment’s relief.

“Yes,” you might say, “I’ve also been lonely, yet, I never cheated on my husband!”

The extent of our emotional needs is different. Our background, self-awareness, beliefs, and personality are different. And of course, our pain threshold is also different. Different people create different ways of compensating for the lack of emotions that they need.

After the breakup

After her breakup with Justin, she did what many women do to cope with the loss; she started partying and seeking substitutes. As she put it: “I would go out just to keep my mind busy. Just to keep going.”

The pattern gets imprinted in the subconscious mind

Her divorce from Kevin led to the same escape mechanism. “I never really faced it, and I just ran,” she confessed.

Unmet emotional needs always generate a response in our subconscious mind that seeks to move us away from pain. When it finds a solution that gives the sensation of immediate relief (even if it’s destructive) the brain will repeat the pattern and stick with that attitude.

Britney’s unconscious emotional drives made her jump into actions (and relationships) that were not nurturing and even harmful to her, just because they gave a sudden illusion of being loved, accepted and cared for.

Sounds familiar?

If these drives pull our strings, we can quickly become self-destructive puppets in the hands of our demons.

Okay, but how can we escape that vicious circle?

We need to learn a new, more fulfilling way of meeting our emotional needs. That’s crucial if we want to have more control over our lives.

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