Britney Spears is yet again at a personal-crises crossroad after losing custody of her two sons.
All people see themselves as having various identities. The importance of each identity may shift over time, but having something central that you feel competent in is of great importance. As a young woman, Britney has been a daughter, professional performer, wife and mother. Her career has fallen by the wayside, as has her marriage. She is not getting along with her parents and about the only identity she had intact was mother. With the removal of her children she has been publicly and humiliatingly told that she has failed as an adequate mother.
This is a big blow to self-esteem in a person who already appears to be struggling with mood problems and alcohol and substance use. Such a blow could lead in one of two directions; either this is the wake-up call to say to herself ‘I have made poor choices and I am deciding to seek treatment and change my behaviors and life,’ or she may feel so overwhelmingly despondent that she seeks “relief” in further drug or alcohol use, self-destructive behavior and could even contemplate suicide. I would be greatly concerned about her mental state and consider her to be high risk.
Sadly, the really big losers in all of this are her children, who no doubt love her despite all the tumult and recklessness. They will need tremendous reassurances that she loves them just as much and that she will spend all the time she can with them. They also need to know that both their mother and father will always love them and be there for them.
Of course, words can be empty without action. Seeking treatment and setting her life back on track is the best way to show her children how much she loves them. Real rehabilitation takes very hard work and a lot of time. Real treatment is painful and a very long road. A person who was able to be so highly successful clearly possesses great drive and ability. Let's hope she can turn that drive toward getting help, recovering and giving those boys back the mother they deserve.
Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to TODAY. Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie,” by Dr. Gail Saltz. She is also the author of “Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts,” which helps parents deal with preschoolers’ questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, www.drgailsaltz.com.
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