Back when I cared about such things, I was on Team Jen. I thought Angelina Jolie was a thieving husband-stealer and Jen was a hapless, kind gal who happened to marry one of the most desirable men in the world. Looking out on the other side of the ordeal, along with maturity and a more disconnected feeling from celebrity news, I don’t really think too much about it all. Jen is marrying a sexy, sexy man and so is Angelina. Life happens the way it’s supposed to happen.
Angelina Jolie is beautiful and talented. There’s no getting around those two statements. She’s also done some things in her life that some might consider… crazy? Granted, my threshold for crazy is quite high (mostly because I think it’s such an abstract term at this point and no one is completely ‘sane’), but Angelina has done a few things I find impressively dysfunctional. However, I think there’s plenty of reason behind that.
Angelina Jolie is the daughter of actor John Voight and model/actress Marcheline Bertrand. When Jolie was just 1 year old, her parents divorced as a result of her father’s infidelity. With little support from her father, Jolie’s mother abandoned her acting career to support her two children. At some point, she remarried and the family moved to New York. Angelina became interested in acting because of her mother’s influence taking her to movies as a young child and she enrolled in a theater program where she starred in several school productions. All the while, Jolie was estranged from her father.
In 1988, Jolie attended the Academy Awards with her father (she was 13). Shortly after, Jolie reports she began cutting herself at 14 and began an intense and serious long-term (2 years) relationship with her then boyfriend where her mother allowed them to live in her house.
“I was either going to be reckless on the streets with my boyfriend or he was going to be with me in my bedroom with my mom in the next room. She made the choice, and because of it, I continued to go to school every morning and explored my first relationship in a safe way.” — Angelina Jolie
She dropped out of school with the ambitions of becoming a funeral director and began modeling. While the relationship with her boyfriend ended at 16, Jolie returned to school and lived in a garage apartment a few blocks down from her mother, eventually graduating. Jolie reports this time as the beginning of her ongoing battle with depression that lasted through her early twenties. This is also when Jolie began experimenting with drugs and by 20, she reports she had tried just about every drug.
Relationship with Father
Jolie’s relationship with her father has been rocky. They have been estranged on-and-off for most of the actress’ life, citing Voight’s infidelity to her mother as the primary reason for the rift. They reconciled long enough for him to appear in the Lara Croft movies, but shortly after the relationship deteriorated again after Voight spoke with a media outlet about his belief his daughter was mentally unstable. Good job, Dad. Definitely go to the press if you’re worried about your daughter. *high five* As a result, Jolie severed ties again, citing Maddox (her first adopted son) as the reason she no longer wished to have her father in her life. They reconciled again after her mother’s death in 2007, but I’d hazard a guess the relationship is probably still quite chilly.
Relationship with Mother
By all accounts, Jolie adored her mother and viewed her as a saint. She named one of her biological children in honor of her mother shortly after her death.
Jolie’s romantic relationships were always newsworthy. She married at a young age to her Hackers co-star, Brit Jonny Lee Miller. At the wedding, she wore black rubber pants and a white shirt with his name written in her blood upon it. The relationship dissolved because they were “too young,” according to Jolie, but she believes he was a great husband and the two parted amicably.
Jolie is also known for dating actress Jenny Shimazu, whom she has said she would have married if not for marriage to Miller. By all reports, Jolie’s relationship with Shimazu lasted on and off for several years and Jolie has said she identifies as bisexual.
Her most intense relationship was her marriage with Billy Bob Thornton. After a two month courtship, the two wed in Vegas in 2000. Their relationship was marked by outlandish public displays of affection and lust, along with the more notable habit of wearing vials of each other’s blood around their necks. After Jolie adopted Maddox in 2002, the relationship ended suddenly in 2003. It was obvious Billy Bob did not want a child.
“It took me by surprise, too, because overnight, we totally changed. I think one day we had just nothing in common. And it’s scary but… I think it can happen when you get involved and you don’t know yourself yet.” — Angelina Jolie
Then there was Brad. They are engaged now. I won’t go over it because unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know what I know. They love each other, they are not outlandish, and they live a pretty quiet and unremarkable existence with a million kids and lots of humanitarian work.
The Case File
I don’t know where anyone in psychology who believes people are not primarily affected by their past gets their supporting information. With the exception of some cases, I believe most people dealing with typical life challenges that inspire one to seek counseling, are caused by past wounds or experiences in one way or another. Angelina Jolie is no different.
While I can’t be certain (the internet is only so reliable), I don’t think it’s surprising that Angelina Jolie was estranged from her father most of her life and then a year after attending the Academy Awards with him at 13, her life became much more sensational and her relationship with her boyfriend began (which she has compared to the emotional intensity of a marriage). She was trying to make sense of everything that happened with her mother and father and because she had little evidence to go on (remember, she was 1 when it happened) other than her mother’s reports, she had to experience a relationship herself. She had to love someone a lot and then find a way to let them go. It made her father human.
Her self-harm and depression was likely a manifestation of her own emotional turmoil trying to make sense of her life and her father’s abandonment of her. From Jolie’s humanitarian work and her choice of profession, it’s obvious she’s capable of caring a lot. When that energy is focused on things like children and do-gooding, it’s reflective. When it’s focused on the self (like most things are in your teens and early twenties) it can be damaging. We can sit and ruminate, never really finding a sensible answer for the wounds of our past, or we can put value on our lives and existence, proving we’re worthy to ourselves, by being good people and doing good deeds.
Which is why Jolie’s evolution from wild, drug-experimenting, blood wearing sex vixen happened almost in direct correspondence with her evolving relationship with her father. Her relationship with Billy Bob almost directly corresponds to her fallout with her father. It’s no surprise that the two reconciled while she was with Brad and at the peak of her humanitarian work. We’re like magnets for what is going on inside of us. If we’re at peace, we attract the things that bring us more peace. If we’re in internal chaos, we do things that create more chaos because we can’t see what will be right. We’re too busy focusing inward.
I also find that in some ways, our partners and children help us heal whatever past hurts we’ve experienced – especially those from our parents. Jolie fell in love with a married man (Brad). She refused to pursue a relationship with him until his marriage to Jen ended, but it’s obvious something happened (emotional affair are real). I think this experience created an empathy for her father’s indiscretion that Jolie had not been capable of having.
So now, she’s in a good place. Her emotions and energies are put to good use, so when she looks at herself, she sees a person worth loving. She is a good mother (something she’s idolized from her own mother from the beginning), she is a successful actress and director, she advocates for humanity, she’s in a loving and supportive partnership, and I think she finally has a really good grip on the person she is and the person she wants to become. She also loves herself, which is always a recipe for happiness.