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RESOURCE PERSPECTIVES: The Whitney Houston tragedy

Editor’s note: Resource Perspectives features articles written by members of Lovefraud’s Professional Resources Guide. Rebecca Potter works as a licensed mental health counselor in West Palm Beach, Florida.

I’m every woman … It’s all in me …

By Rebecca Potter

Rebecca Potter profile in the Lovefraud Professional Resources Guide

Sadly, on February 11, 2012, the world lost another woman’s voice when Whitney Elizabeth Houston died in her hotel room. The press talked about her drug and alcohol use, her bizarre behavior, etc. Reporters briefly mentioned her tumultuous marriage. Did we lose another beautiful woman’s voice to the tragic, permanent, emotional and physical side effects of leaving an abusive marriage, and/or the struggle of trying to protect her young child from a dangerous man in the legal system?

A quote from a news article reads:

“When Whitney Houston decided to end her marriage with Bobby Brown, the thought in many minds was why did this decision take so long in light of the history of infidelity, scandals, drug and alcohol arrests, and marital problems during their marriage?”

It appears that Whitney’s life took a turn for the worse when she entered into a relationship with Bobby Brown

Although I can only offer a hypothetical opinion as a therapist, her struggle seems hauntingly familiar. Is it possible that Whitney Houston suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Those of us who have left an abusive relationship understand the fear and anxiety we developed in the relationship. We know it is hard to leave, and repeated exposure to the trauma creates Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The neurological and biological effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms affect our ability to clearly identify what is happening. The powerful biological responses of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may cause an abused woman to under react (dissociate) or to overreact (perhaps explaining some of Whitney’s bizarre behavior). What we also know is that the mere exposure to a dangerous man in a relationship causes a continuous roller coaster of biological and neurological reactions that affect our brain chemistry and create anxiety. This biological reaction from post traumatic stress disorder can be triggered instantly by any environmental cue (where the abuse occurred, angry voices, displeasure from someone, etc.), long after leaving the abusive situation.

Lack of effective medical treatment

Sadly, many women medicate this anxiety with drugs and alcohol. The medical community, governed by insurance corporations, will allow and cover drug and alcohol treatment usually only for 30 days. Drug and alcohol treatment is ineffective with patients who have suffered trauma and betrayal bonding. Still, the standard approach is to use prescription medication to treat the substance abuse. These professionals know all too well that an addict is going to relapse. Professionals know that recovery involves a desire to heal, to attend meetings, and professional therapy, for much more than 30 days of treatment.

Whitney went to treatment and possibly in treatment she was given her prescription medications. She left treatment early, but continued to be given the prescription medications, continued to abuse substances and possibly continued to be triggered by trauma symptoms. It is unlikely that she was informed and educated about the permanent and pervasive effects of a dangerous relationship.

What if Whitney would have been able to seek treatment to understand the betrayal bonding that occurred in her relationship with Bobby Brown?

What if …

  • she had been treated with biofeedback
  • she learned to recognize the trauma triggers
  • she had connected with a group of other women who could have supported her
  • she had heard from other professional women who had given so much of themselves to a man who was not able to love and return love because of a serious mental illness and genetic disorder
  • she heard from others that they endured the emotional , financial, mental traumas, who stayed because they were trying to live by God’s law and supporting an erratic husband
  • she heard that many women feel relief when a husband finally hits them, because they are able to recognize physical abuse, but have become numb to verbal, mental, and financial abuse
  • she knew what to expect when she went to the court system, that she would then be abused by attorneys who wanted what was left of her money and the fear she may have felt from a legal system that could award her child to an abuser
  • she knew that due to mere exposure to the trauma and domestic violence her daughter could marry the same type of man
  • she understood that personality disorders are an enduring pattern of behaviors; stable and long duration that are inflexible and pervasive across a broad range of personal and social situations
  • she knew that the abuser could appear so supportive and caring to groom and gain her trust
  • she knew that the sexual intensity between them was part of the betrayal bonding component
  • she knew that many women begin substance use to try to connect with these abusive mates
  • she knew that exposure to these kinds of people would leave her emotionally and physically ill and leaving him would expose her to devastating financial harm
  • she knew that these abusers looked for injured folks and put up a mask to draw them in, usually with intense personalities and sex, only to take everything and leave them
  • she could have let go of the fear and shame that haunted her

A tragedy

The world lost a beautiful musical voice. My hope is that the world learns from the tragedy of Whitney. To all other beautiful voices who may currently feel or have felt the pain of betrayal, I encourage treatment with professionals who understand the complex treatment of trauma, professionals who clearly understand the effects of abusive betrayal bonds used by so many in our society to take and pillage from innocent people.

God bless you and keep you Whitney Elizabeth Houston and ALL OTHER VOICES who struggle with healing from trauma bonding.

Rebecca Potter, LMHC is a licensed therapist in Florida who has also suffered trauma from a former abusive husband and a corrupt, abusive family court system. She can be reached at: tlc211@gmail.com.

For more information, read: Inside Whitney Houston’s violent marriage to Bobby Brown on TheDailyBeast.com.

Watch Whitney Houston’s last performance.



189 Comments on "RESOURCE PERSPECTIVES: The Whitney Houston tragedy"

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  1. skylar says:

    Star and Athena,
    That’s a great trick, Star. In fact that is what my hypnotherapist asked me to do under hypnosis.

    You might consider hypnotherapy, Athena. I went in for my “addiction” to my parents’ love. I do believe it has helped me. The hole is still there, but not as painful.

    Since then, I’ve read a lot about the right brain and I think that’s where the innerchild resides. It’s just an earlier version of yourself and the emotional experiences you had which shaped your perceptions.

    All those early fears made you decide certain things about how you were going to get your needs met. But the problem is that you were too young to know all the options out there. The decisions were made from a limited repertoire and a naive perspective. Unfortunately, once we begin using certain crutches we tend to stay in that pattern.

  2. Stargazer says:

    Thanks for the link, Oxy.

    I don’t know if I’m more upset about the yahoo who is keeping all these hots (venomous) snakes in plastic containers or about the media that calls venomous snakes “poisonous” and doesn’t know a bearded dragon from a venomous animal. (The lizard pictured is a common housepet in the US – a bearded dragon. They are about as harmful as a bowl of fruit). Guys like this yahoo give responsible reptile owners a bad name. But I don’t always trust media stories because they often call a ball python a boa constrictor or a burmese python an anaconda. I really wish the people who write these articles would do a little research before writing the wrong information.

    BTW, the correct term is “venomous” (also a misnomer of the media). “Poisonous” refers to an animal that carries toxin on their skin. If you touch or eat a poisonous animal, you will get sick or die. A venomous animal is one who injects venom through a bite or sting. I am unaware of any “poisonous” snakes. I wish the media could get this straight.

  3. callmeathena says:

    Stargazer

    Oh my, I love your suggestion – give her the validation that she needs.

    I am writing this down on a little piece of paper to carry with me.

    So when I am feeling pained, and tempted to go peek on my spath, which only ends up hurting me anyway, I can do this instead.

    Sounds silly, but it feels to me like a good mental exercise to go do.

    Love!

    Athena

  4. callmeathena says:

    Oxy,

    I know, I know that there isn’t a Santa Claus or a Tooth Fairy, but wow, he acted the part, and he looked the part.

    Of course, there were those OTHER periods where he said,
    a) “you think I’m this suave guy, and I’m not!” or
    b) “I’m evil”
    c) “somebody’s gotta die!”

    I told him he was a spath very early on – of course, I didn’t even really understood the depth of what I was saying, because I would also say stuff like, “Spath, have a conscience!” – LOL, as if it was that easy and he’d just pick up a conscience at the grocery store on the way home?? What was I thinking??

    Anyway, it *IS* hard to work through the difference between what I thought was there, what I hoped was there, what appeared to be there, and, then, what was actually there.

    I am trying.

    Athena

  5. Ox Drover says:

    Athena, As long as you stay NC you will make progress each day, baby steps maybe, but if you break NC you go back to “square one” so stay NC whatever it takes to do it!@ (((hugs))))

  6. callmeathena says:

    Ox, yeah, So this lesson for me is this:

    NO CONTACT in person is good, but even more important is NO CONTACT IN MY HEAD.

  7. Stargazer says:

    Athena,

    I doesn’t matter what he said to you. They all talk a good game. What matters is how he has treated you. Is this how you want to suffer for the rest of your life?

    The inner child work is the crux of therapy, and you can save yourself years of therapy if you can learn to do this work yourself. Not that a good therapist cannot be helpful for some.

    The other part to healing is to improve your self-esteem by taking on things you enjoy and having accomplishments. You may need to clear some of the pain out before you take on anything else. But once there is a clearing (the inner child work will help), you can add hobbies, jobs, people, or anything healthy and constructive into your life as a distraction. This will help you move on more quickly – to have your own life.

  8. Vidya says:

    That was weird, my username did not exist and I had to create another account. Has this happened to anyone else? Was it because I put an excerpt from a book here and linked a couple of websites?

  9. callmeathena says:

    Vidya, it might be because the site had technical difficulties recently.

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