The Case Files: Chris Brown & Rihanna

Does anyone like Chris Brown anymore? I wanted to like him, I really did. With his MJ moves and his catchy tunes, I really thought he and Rihanna were the best couple. Then that whole thing happened where he beat her up before the Grammys and I changed my tune. Then he threw a chair out of the window on Good Morning America. Then, I really felt bad for Chris Brown. I won’t excuse him for what he did or has done, but it’s obvious he’s got some emotional stuff going on.

Then there’s Rihanna. I’ve loved Rihanna forever. Funky style, fun music, and awesome tattoos. She’s got a lot of sass and doesn’t seem to really care about anyone’s approval. Whether it’s dying her hair red or smoking a joint on the beach of Barbados, girlfriend does what she wants for the most part.

These two people have compared their love to Romeo & Juliet. Rihanna has been quoted about her relationship saying, “The s–t is magical and it’s real”. Poetic? Maybe. But it’s clear the two are back together, between the tweets and photos on Instagram. On one hand, I want to ball up my tiny hands (it’s true, they’re very small) and shake my fists at the sky,  asking the gods of music, “Why?! Why do this?!” but it must be done. It makes sense, strictly from a clinical perspective.


Both Chris Brown and Rihanna grew up in some version of domestic hell. Rihanna’s father was addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine. Chris Brown’s step-father regularly beat his mother throughout his childhood. For these two people, their family-of-origin has strongly influenced their love lives. It’s no surprise they are so drawn to each other. Let’s review why:

  • Eighty-one percent of men who grew up in homes witnessing domestic violence turn to abusing their partner’s as adults. Violence teaches violence.
  • As violence against the woman becomes more severe and more frequent in a home, the children experience a 300% increase in physical abuse by the adult male abuser. Violence provokes violence.
  • For children of alcoholics, co-dependency is a common issue.
  • Issues of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem also accompany both issues.
  • The most important: Between Chris Brown’s background, Rihanna’s background, their careers, their age similarities, and shared interests, it’s likely Chris Brown and Rihanna feel that they could never be understood by anyone else as much as the other can understand them. These two fought through hell to get where they are today, meeting someone else who filled voids they had from childhood.

Think about it. Chris Brown’s background dictates that he should always protect a woman (his mother). Rihanna’s background dictates that she should find someone to protect her and fill the void left by having no male influence in her life. Both of these people have emotional wounds the other perfectly fills.

Unfortunately like many couples with these issues, their individual problems and past hurts bump up against each other. In traditional couples (or those who have worked on these issues) these problems are solved through counseling, deep discussion, and practice. Because Rihanna and (what seems to be mostly) Chris Brown have seemingly not resolved their childhood traumas, they fight. Rihanna stands up for herself because she’s scared and Chris Brown beats her when he’s too angry (flooded) to react any other way. He learned to beat women long before he knew it was right or wrong. Rihanna loves him outside of the knowledge that he hits her, most likely because the proportion of time he spent hitting her was infinitely smaller than all the other times he spent trying to love her.

“Because as angry as I was, as angry and hurt and betrayed, I just felt like he made that mistake because he needed help, and who’s going to help him? Nobody’s going to say he needs help. Everybody’s going to say he’s a monster without looking at the source, and I was more concerned about him.” — Rihanna, telling Oprah about how she felt in 2009 after the ordeal at the Grammys.

The Case File

So these two have reunited again and there’s even discussion about marriage. Let’s all remind ourselves of a few things:

  • Back in 2009 when the ‘incident’ happened, Chris Brown and Rihanna were 20 and 21 respectively. Think about the relationship you were in when you were that age. Probably not a good one, maybe a dysfunctional one. Depending on your background and your emotional wounds, maybe a really bad one. You were young.
  • Think about the ego that goes into being such influential pop stars. They don’t need no stinkin’ help. Well, at least that’s what I suspect to be the dominant thought process here.
  • Think about Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston. Yes, it’s sad. I think everyone saw the connection those two had, even if it was toxic.
  • Remember: Most of us are Rihanna’s distant fans, not her personal friends. We have no right to tell her what to do.

All in all, the right approach here is to be cautiously optimistic. Berating Rihanna for returning to Chris Brown won’t solve anything. At the end of the day, when she feels alone, scared, and misunderstood, she’ll turn the one person in her life that accepts her choice – Brown. To alienate her, to bully her, because of her choice isn’t just wrong, but it’s counterproductive to her ultimate well-being. With Chris Brown, there’s the possibility of change, but it’s not evident by his public persona and his statements about women. He’s trying to be famous in a music genre that does not champion the well-being of women. That’s going to be a difficult life of competing ideologies to lead.

If you want to read more, I’d recommend this article and all the other ones I referenced in my sources. Domestic violence is a huge issue in our society that is rarely dealt with in the media like this. I encourage you to educate yourself about the issues surrounding this problem. Vilifying either party will not help. This is a time for empathy.

Sources (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Friday Loves

After my little wah-wah session yesterday, I went home and worked on some artsy projects. I feel much better today and I have decided that I will approach this blah feeling by sharing some things that make me happy, make me grateful, or I just plain love right now. Here it goes:

  • This drawing by Sherri Dupree-Bemis. I’m sure you’ve noticed I just love her – she’s married to my music crush (Max Bemis), talented beyond belief (see below + singing + guitar playing), and stylish as all get out. Jesse said he thinks I have a full-blown girl crush on her. I agree. Oh, did I mention she’s a Harry Potter fan? I’m sure you could tell by the picture. Gah, I want it. I also want to draw like that. One day.

  • This hummus from Trader Joe’s. Heck, just Trader Joe’s. I went there and got SO MUCH FOOD (66 items) for $131. I stocked our home for 2 weeks. Winner, winner, tempeh dinner.

  • Shaun-T. I don’t love Insanity, but I do love the way my body is looking. I also appreciate that Shaun-T, while he is someone who talks in the third person, is less annoying than P-90X Tony. We decided to loop through the second month while we figure out what we’re going to do for working out next (we’re contemplating martial arts). I have the vague taunting of visual abdominals and really, it’s so convenient. Less than an hour, we both get home from work and just blow through it in the living room, cook dinner, and then the evening is open. I can’t work out in the morning. I can barely breathe in the morning. My bed is my best friend.

  • Aveda Relief Hand Cream

Along with every other Aveda product, ever. My hairdresser convinced me to just bite the bullet and get legitimate hair products. Then she gave me all these samples, including Aveda hand cream. My hands have been so dry here in Seattle because I don’t drink water as much (I don’t sweat anymore, my signal to drink water) and the air is nippy. This stuff is perfect and non-greasy. It also smells heavenly and relaxes me.

The Wire

Oh my goodness, why have I never watched this show before? We’re going through it slowly, but holy moly. I love how much it makes my mind work. It’s so excellent.

  • Passafire

My friend Michelle got me into this band at the beginning of summer and I proceeded to listen to them incessantly throughout the summer. With the dreary days now certain here in Seattle, listening to something that so strongly triggers memories of sun, sand, and spending long days with my friends in my car… it’s just a good, warm, feeling in mah bellay.

  • Friends & Family

These people are my tireless supporters. They believe in me when I don’t believe in myself, they encourage my wildest dreams, and they speak to my heart and soul. I’ve worked hard in the past few years to find my core group of lovies and I’ve found them. Even though most of them are far from me, I always feel the love. Always.

Life is great.


A Mini Case File: Taylor Swift

I am an unabashed Taylor Swift lover. Taylor has some of the best music for when you just want to get down to the basics of human emotion – happy, sad, loved, heartbroken, scared, jealous – you know. The usual suspects.

Taylor’s angst and simple, yet incredibly catchy songs got me through a really tough time in my life. I was angsty, I was heartbroken, and I didn’t need some deep indie record. I needed to just yell-sing in my car,  “Oh, and it rains in your bedroom/Everything is wrong/It rains when you’re here and it rains when you’re gone/Cause I was there when you said forever and always”

Right? Those lyrics are bad. It rains in your bedroom? I mean, it’s so bad it’s good. It’s the way I feel about every single show on Bravo (except Top Chef, that’s just good, period).

Taylor Swift’s album “RED” came out last week. I immediately rushed to find it on Spotify, no luck. Apparently there’s some sneaky plotting by her people to keep the album off of all social media listening services. Fine. I’ll just use YouTube.

As I was enjoying my T-Swizzle fix, with lots of songs about Jake Gyllenhaal (who is apparently a raging indie music snob and philandering jerk) I professed my love of Swifty to my best friend. I asked how she felt about Taylor Swift (because it’s an important question, it’s practically a religious view, amiright?) and she said, “Meh, she’s fine. I can’t get over her victim mentality.”

ZING! My Taylor? A victim?

Upon further reflection, I agree with my friend. Sure, I still love Taylor and I know why I loved her so much more in my past. I used to play the victim in my life. Playing the victim is an extremely handy defense mechanism. It’s something I see in most people I work with in a mental health setting. It’s very sneaky and it’s something cultivated through a lot of time and a lot of nurture. So what is it?

In essence, it’s when someone views their life as being acted upon. A victim rarely believes they have control over their life and often believes that they are powerless to stop the bad things that are happening to them. A victim blames everyone else for their unhappiness and misery and takes little to no responsibility for the roles they play in their choices and life outcomes. Victimization is a common thinking pattern in mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, and addiction.

I am a recovering victimized thinker. A huge piece of my depression and distorted thinking was this belief I had that people were responsible for making me happy and treating me well. Sure, that’s true. I should be treated well and I should likely find happiness with my relationships. But, no one is responsible for my happiness. In regards to being treated well, especially in romantic relationships, I am responsible for finding a person who does that and I am also responsible for walking away if they don’t.

It’s the victim who says, “I can’t walk away, I love him/her too much,” when really it’s a choice. You can walk away. You’re choosing not to because you believe your situation won’t change/you can’t get anyone better/you’ll never have happiness like you have when it’s good/etc. You have an external locus of control.

I admire Taylor Swift. It takes some serious balls to air your feelings so directly out in the open. She unites a lot of us in our most extreme emotional highs and lows. It’s OK to have that victim feeling sometimes because it can get you through a lot of necessary grieving or other rough life stuff. Defense mechanisms aren’t globally bad, but they are something to consider. Too much blame on every one else ultimately gives you a lot less power over the outcome of your life.

Taylor needs to pick better guys and walk away from the ones who suck. She needs to take responsibility for picking up the phone and enabling some guy ::cough:: Jake Gyllenhaal ::cough:: to continue treating her poorly. Her albums have gotten much more empowered and I’m seeing that with “RED”. She’s 22. I wasn’t nearly as evolved at 22, so I’m cutting her some slack. I still love her, but she’s a great example of someone who very often plays the victim. A helpful teaching tool for this whole “mental health” thing I’m trying to espouse.

What do you guys think? Does Taylor play the victim in her relationships?