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Posted at 10:13 AM ET, 06/ 4/2007

Analyzing Britney


Britney says her life is "crazy and surreal." (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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  | June 4, 2007; 10:13 AM ET
Categories:  Britney Spears  
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Not to pick nits, but Paris is in jail for activities that could be described as "flouting" the law, not "flaunting" it.

Posted by: byoolin | June 4, 2007 11:34 AM | Report abuse

You are correct. Thanks for the catch, Byoolin.

Posted by: Editor's note: | June 4, 2007 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Byoolin, you're not only right, thank you for not giving us your normally wonderful description, laden with words that paint undeniable mental images, of what Paris normally would be "flaunting." That would've just been too much for a Monday morning!

Posted by: AG | June 4, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Actually, I'm a bit tickled by the ideas of celebrities "flaunting the law". It gives rise to mental images of paparazzi watching actors with radar guns ("My god, he's going exactly the speed limit!") and actresses in the midst of press conferences whipping out copies of their tax returns ("See? Not only was I early with my return, but I took very few itemized deductions."). :D

Posted by: CentrevilleMom | June 4, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

It's nice to see some intelligent analysis of famous wackos (although like Dr. Bonior admits, who knows how much of this was publicist-driven), as opposed to just declaring things like "that girl is crazy/insane/whack/moronic/freakish/etc..!"

Posted by: ClaudeH | June 4, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

AG thanks me for "not giving [my] normally wonderful description,laden with words that paint undeniable mental images, of what Paris normally would be "flaunting.""

I'm a little freaked out because I had a number of such images in mind when I posted my earlier comment, and chose not to include them.

Anyone else listening to my thoughts? Do I need to make a new tinfoil hat?

Posted by: byoolin | June 4, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

byoolin: The tin foil hat might not be such a bad idea.

My boss, on the other hand, needs to use a tin foil chair seat.

Posted by: SoMD | June 4, 2007 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Wow, is her face in that picture on the web Photoshopped or what? It hasn't looked that thin in years.

All that letter proves is what a case of arrested emotional development she is. I feel sorry for her kids.

Posted by: b | June 4, 2007 2:49 PM | Report abuse

It surprises me that the shrink didn't latch on to this last line:

"...That's God's job. I can't wait to meet him...or her."

When someone starts talking about meeting God, especially if they have shown past erratic/quasi-suicidal behavior, wouldn't bells go off for a mental health professional? Just saying. When I read the letter last week that was the main thing that jumped out at me.

Posted by: logan | June 4, 2007 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Oh would you stop.... Britney, Paris, Lindsey, Nicole these are the girls that we love to hate. We envy them their star power and yet run to the news to see what they have done next.

Doesnt anyone try to help anymore? Or are we just going to stand back and wait until they hit rockbottom and then cluck our tonuges at them?

I found this site by accident, and read the Docs report.... come on guys give Britney a break. Dont you remember what it was like to be young??? And make mistakes???? Are you so bloody perfect?

From this point on I will NEVER buy another rag magazine nor read entertainment gossip ever again! Instead of learning from mistakes these stars have to hide them and live them over and over again. Hardly fair...

Posted by: Angela | June 4, 2007 5:14 PM | Report abuse

no matter what anyone says you have had your ups and down you got there in the end back with your kids well done

Posted by: kirsty | June 4, 2007 5:34 PM | Report abuse

she's out of her damn mind. Wll i think shes going to get passed this. If she could go through what she did. Then she can get passed it with no doubt. i wish her lots luck! stay strong!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 4, 2007 7:07 PM | Report abuse

she is the best and all we know that how is to be blamed so dotn blame someone when you didnt get with your life?she will be famous like forever and for all who thinks that she is dumbed they just to stupied to understend that she is perfect 25 years mother.Who of ours presios stars does have child in those one so shut up and dont speak?Love U Brit

Posted by: erkan | June 5, 2007 5:05 AM | Report abuse

I feel that she is trying and she really wants to be the way she used to be..and i really think she can manage..and have even more succes..she will be of course more mature..but just look at madonna..but that all depends on her..i would really like to hear her sing again,and have a good behaviour..because i loved her songs and she was really admired by fans..and it's a pitty if she doesn't show who she is and what she can do..if i'd be in her place i'd stand up and be what i am..a superstar..GO BRITNEY ! :*:*

Posted by: Andrada | June 5, 2007 6:31 AM | Report abuse

I changed my mind. I had to come back to read this rag and see what y'all are saying 'bout my precious Britney. Would y'all just stop? Cain't you see this girl going through some trying times? What were y'all like when you were her age? Dare ya try it again with a camera in yer eye?

Britney is a good, God-fearing woman who loves her sons, Sean Preston and, uh, ...what's his name? Jayden James! She loves them both dearly, and she loves us, her fans. Give her a break!

Posted by: Angela | June 5, 2007 7:08 AM | Report abuse

Wow. I can't help but notice that as her fans make the scene, grammar and spelling and syntax go right out the window.

That's right, Brit-fans: U rok!

Posted by: Bogota | June 5, 2007 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Bogota, here's a brit fan that is articulate and can use proper grammar...
Brit critics, how did you act when you made your 1st million @ 17 and were worth $130 million by 25? What was it really like when you had and lost your 1st love on the cover of every magazine, and gave birth to 2 babies back to back by 24? That's right, you didn't. But I would be willing to bet that you do remember what it was like the first time you got wasted at the bar and vomited in the bathroom. It might not be the paparazzi but i bet your friends got some pretty good shots. You are all a bunch of hypocrites b/c none of you were complaining when she was the hottest female performer around but as soon as you realize she's a real 20 something w/ everyday issues, you turn judgemental and act like she slapped you in the face. She's not trying to be a role model for your children, that's your job. But I'm sure if she was in the rolodex of your sidekick and called you up to go boozing in vegas, you'd beg her to send the private jet. Envy is and always has been a big green monster, and you people would trade places w/ her in a second. The problem is you'd crumble under the pressure. You think she already has? Watch...

Posted by: Jlynn0052 | June 5, 2007 12:55 PM | Report abuse

"you people would trade places w/ her in a second." (Jlynn0052)

I might not have made $1-mil by the time I was 17, be worth $130-mil by the time I was 25, fathered 2 kids, or had my antics displayed for all the world to see. Guess what? I still wouldn't want to trade places with her this second or any other second.

Britney screwed up. She continues to screw up. That makes her human. Now it's time for her to grow up... stop blaming her issues on her manager, her mom, her ex-husband, the media, or the "surreal and crazy" life. We're each responsible for our own lot in life.

You might trade with her in a heartbeat. You might think others would. The difference between me and Britney is, I accept the consequences of my actions.

Can you say the same for Britney? ...She can keep her life, I like mine just fine.

Posted by: Ken | June 5, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Ken, you seem like a reasonably intelligent person. Therefore I'm sure you may agree that an average 25 year old, these days, is not "grown". What defines growing up? A college degree and a 9-5? 2 kids, a dog, and a white picket fence? I'm pretty sure 25 is still a reasonable age to be learning from your mistakes in order to build a substantial future. On the other hand, I am 25 yrs old myself and happen to be quite proud of my accomplishments. However, if i was handed my 1st million at 17, I might not have been forced to "grow up" so quickly. It's all relative, Ken. It is ken, right? Not britney? All I'm saying is, it's not your life to judge. And when it comes to our "lots" in life.. I wouldn't say she drew the short straw.
As for you and all the other britney anti-fans, there are many celebrities or other public figures i do not care for, but I have never taken a second out of my day to post negative comments and/or opinions. So the life your so happy and comfortable w/ might need to find room for a hobby. Either that or google things you do like. Free time on the computer the problem? Play solitaire. As for me, I'll continue to support her and yes even wish I was living in a $13 million Malibu mansion w/ 2 beautiful children and a pocket full of cash. Nanny for the weekend? Vegas, here i come.

Posted by: Jlynn0052 | June 6, 2007 1:42 AM | Report abuse

For me, at least, "grown up" is the age that we stop blaming others for our problems. I know "grown up" 16-year-olds, and I known "not-grown-up" 40-year-olds. I wouldn't define "grown up" as a resume or a list of accomplishments.

People are free to support Britney or bash Britney. Lest you forget where Britney's vast fortunes came from, they came from her fans. If you live in the public eye, make your fortunes from the public eye, guess what? You will succeed and fail, be praised and damned, in the public eye.

With celebrities, politicians, and public figures, there is no wrong in posting negative opinions or clucking your tongue. If Lindsey drives her Mercedes into a tree after two previous accidents, people are free to comment. If Bush declares war on another sovereign nation under the pretense of WMD, then tells the public "oh, I meant 'free for democracy and free from despotic leadership'", people should comment too.

Commenting on public figures keeps society in check. Liz Kelly serves a check-and-balance on Hollywood. Her readers and commenters no less.

Posted by: Ken | June 6, 2007 7:25 AM | Report abuse

Ok, Ken, point taken. If Britney was running for office, you wouldn't vote for her, got it. That would be a debatable topic, but she's not trying to run a country or increase your taxes.

And this hasn't been directed soley at you. It's really for all anti-fans who constantly waste time out of there day slamming somebody b/c they haven't been perfect and/or always smart in the game of life. Nobody is asking you to be on her side. As far as her fortune, absolutely agreed, her fans did it. All I'm saying is if you're not a fan, and did not partake in the creation of her fortune, why would you want to be part of the demise.

Bottom line is, nothing nice to say? maybe you should say nothing. I guarantee no matter what happens to her tomorrow, even if you think she's a jackass, her life will go on, and yours will too. That, my friend, is not debatable.

Posted by: Jlynn0052 | June 6, 2007 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Well, she does always have the option of committing suicide.

Posted by: mikie44 | June 8, 2007 11:41 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Bill | June 12, 2007 4:04 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Bill | June 12, 2007 4:04 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Bill | June 12, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

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