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Posted at 10:13 AM ET, 06/04/2007

Analyzing Britney

Last night Paris Hilton checked into jail to begin serving her punishment for flouting the law. But I say the biggest punishment for Paris would not be jail, but to take the spotlight off her and put it on someone else. So today, let’s focus on her former friend Britney Spears and her recent letter to her fans that was posted on her Web site last week.

In case you missed it, Britney basically says she’s sorry y’all but it’s not her fault. Brit blames her missteps on the tabloids, the people in her life, and ADD. What do you expect from her when her life is crazy and surreal? And, consequently, she hasn’t figured out the meaning of life yet but I’m hoping she’ll tell us when she does. Hopefully via a song and/or dance.

On the surface it seemed like just another one of the many stream-of-consciousness letters from our Britney that are sort of amusing and slightly disturbing. But to see if there was more to the letter, we decided to ask a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of young adults, Dr. Andrea Bonior, to examine her writings and behaviors. Here are her findings:


  • Britney declares that she’s not looking to blame anyone but she can’t help but note that certain people “made more of some issues than was necessary” and that the “whole problem” basically involved others.
  • She doesn’t think that depression was involved but she says that she was feeling “so sad,” “so lost,” and “so overwhelmed”.
  • It wasn’t about “alcohol,” but it WAS about being “bad” and “running around.”

Splitting these hairs might mean that Britney is still unsure of what to make of the past few months, and perhaps she’s not quite as transformed as she’d like to be. It could also be a sign of defensiveness, in that she doesn’t deign to be associated with people who have problems with depression or alcohol abuse, despite their being the most common psychological disorders in the United States.

Struggling with Motherhood

  • Her relatively new role as a mom continues to seem a bit of a struggle, as she appears caught between wanting to mother and wanting to be mothered.
  • She seems awestruck by the depth of her love for her sons, yet they are implicated in her “insecurities” and the “crazy” and “surreal” -- mentioned twice -- nature of her life.
  • Navigating between the roles of girl and woman (sounds like a song!) appears to be painful for her, as evidenced by her repeated reminiscences into the simpler times of her childhood, and her description of herself at present as a “young girl.”

It makes me wonder if she’s struggling with her own mother as well, as she talks of how having to cut people out of her life is particularly sad because she is a “family person,” making one imagine that some of those on the chopping block are very familiar indeed.

Rehab: Pedicures or Psychotherapy?

  • Interestingly, she doesn’t address what happened in rehab other than that the experience was “humbling.” Surely the past year of media scrutiny was even more so!
  • It does make me wonder what went on there, what kind of rehab it was (the pedicure/lip-service type or the real mental health type?).
  • Was she truly open to treatment, especially since she seems so interested in talking about what it was NOT about (an argument which, again, seems more about semantics).

This could single-handedly be the factor that most determines if Britney will continue down the crash-ridden path of Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Nicole Richie, who seem less interested in attempting to emotionally connect with their fans and more interested in trying to escape the consequences of their mistakes. Britney talks a better and more sympathy-inducing game, but will her words prove meaningful the next time she’s in Vegas?


It's difficult to assess the letter’s sincerity with any degree of confidence, especially since we don't see her talking and don't know how much a publicist had a hand in it. We'll probably have our verdict with how her actions play out in a few months, however!


Britney’s Future

Nonetheless, aspects of her perspective sound like she is trying to reintegrate parts of her identity and, quite simply, get it together. No one can argue that the unique pressures placed on someone of her celebrity status are extraordinary. Her acknowledgement that she cares what people think even though she tries to be numb to it seems reflective and honest, along with her vulnerability when admitting her propensity to make mistakes.

  Perhaps this is indeed a glimpse into a newer, more wholesome Britney. Maybe she really is cutting out some of the unhealthy influences and exploitation in her life -- though posing nude next to the declaration of such makes that a slightly tougher sell -- and one can hope that the love of her sons really will carry her through.

  But it’s hard to ignore that she had just declared herself “finally free” and “mature” after some “enlightening” times just weeks before her latest round of self-destruction began anew. Psychologists like to say that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. With that in mind, we can hope that these latest words mean she’s getting back on track -- but we’ll just have to wait and see.

  If she were my patient, we would be working on a tangible action plan in order to put her newfound insights into practice behaviorally. We'd be building up a support network of trusted individuals who have her best interests at heart, and coming up with coping skills and healthy alternative behaviors to keep her on the right track when her feelings became overwhelming. We'd also continue to develop insights into the roots of her problematic behavior and relationships, and work on establishing ways to keep her from repeating past patterns that didn't work out so well.

Dr. Andrea Bonior is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of young adults. She writes Baggage Check, the mental health advice column in the Express .

Guest Celebritologist Frank is a developer at who spends way too much time on Britney's Web site.

By  |  10:13 AM ET, 06/04/2007

Categories:  Britney Spears

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