Charlie Sheen’s Rant and the Power of Destructive Narcissism

Charlie Sheen’s recent rant on The Alex Jones Show offers a perfect illustration of my earlier post about defenses against shame, as well as many features of narcissistic personality disorder.   Although I wouldn’t classify Mr. Sheen as NPD per se, he exhibits a great many features of pathological narcissism.  If you haven’t seen or heard the full radio interview, you might want to watch this YouTube video.  It’s astonishing, deeply upsetting and sad.

From the beginning of the interview, Mr. Sheen makes clear we’re dealing in the territory of shame.  “Dude, I’m 0-for-three with marriage and nary an excuse.  Like in baseball, the scoreboard doesn’t lie.”  At first, this quote makes it seem as if he’s putting himself in the “losers” camp (to use his own terminology); but he rejects any sense of shame in the next sentence while discussing the current women (the “goddesses”) in his life:  “What we all have is a marriage of the heart … of the hearts.  To sully or contaminate or radically disrespect this union with a shameful contract is something I will leave to the losers and the Bible-grippers.”

This is what I hear Sheen saying:  “I’m not a shame-ridden loser in marriage because marriage itself is the loser.  People who get married are the losers.  Rather than contaminate myself, I’ve engaged in a superior polyamorous form of relationship, where we exist on the level of gods and goddesses, peering down with contempt upon you pathetic mortals.”  As I’ve discussed, this kind of contempt is a classic defense against unbearable shame; poor Mr. Sheen must be drowning in it.  Brittle and defensive, he next reports that one of the women in his menage-a-quatre has decamped; he wishes her luck in her new life because “she will need it.”  Unable to bear the pain of rejection, he treats his former goddess with the contempt he feels for everyone outside his “family”.

In Charlie Sheen’s quotes, he continually exhibits a kind of grandiose narcissism, another primary defense against shame. “I’m so tired of pretending that my life isn’t perfect and bitchen and winning every second and I’m not perfect and just delivering the goods at every second.”  That’s a verbatim quote, difficult to decode exactly, but he clearly wants to convince everyone, especially himself, that he has a close-to-perfect existence that’s the envy of the contemptible losers around him.  “Look what I’m dealing with, man — I’m dealing with fools and trolls.  … I don’t have time for these clowns, I don’t have time for their judgment and their stupidity.  They lie down with their ugly wives in front of their ugly children and just look at their loser lives and they look at me and they say, ‘I can’t process it!’  Well no, and you never will.  Stop trying.  Just sit back and enjoy the show.”  From Sheen’s heavily defended viewpoint, he’s a godlike spectacle the world should simply watch and admire.  Beneath that surface, he has to feel confused, out of control and shamed of what he’s done with his life.

The stream of contempt continues as he refers to the producers and writers of his show as “clowns”, “turds” and  “little homunculus losers”; while he has “real fame”, he explains, “they have nothing, they have zero.”  The language of winners and losers permeates his ramblings:  “They will lose the rest of their lives as they think about me. … Bring me a challenge somebody, bring me a frickin’ challenge you know, because it just ain’t there.  Winning!”

Blaming, the third defense against shame, pervades his quotes about Chuck Lorre, the creator of Two and a Half Men.  “I’ve spent the last ten years magically and effortlessly converting your tin cans into gold.  And the gratitude I get is that this … this charlatan chose not to do his job, which is to write.”  Incoherent but full of blame and contempt.  His grandiosity once again comes through when he tells Alex Jones that “I’ve got magic, I’ve got poetry in my fingertips … most of the time, and this includes naps.”  Even while I’m sleeping I’m superior to anything you can do! When you hear him express this kind of arrogant contempt, it’s helpful to imagine the very opposite experience, and how awful he must feel about himself and his own life.

The ultimate defense against unbearable shame, when nothing else works, is violence and destructiveness.  Sheen cannot bear to acknowledge that he’s damaged or troubled in any way; instead, he projects his shame into others, treats them with contempt, and if they continue to question his mental health, he threatens to annihilate them.  “I’m an F-18, Bro, and I will destroy you in the air and I will deploy my ordinance to the ground.”  The violent splitting characteristic of more psychotic disorders begins to appear:  “My motto now is you either love or you hate and you must do so violently. …  And you have to hate everyone who’s not in your family because they’re there to destroy your family and they will come at you in all forms and shapes.  And therefore there’s nothing in the middle.  I don’t live in the middle any more.  That’s where you get slaughtered, that’s where you get embarrassed in front of the prom queen.  It’s just not an option.”

At first, it might not make sense, this pairing of the two risks you run by living in the middle (ambivalence):  you will be either slaughtered or …  embarrassed.  I think he means that if he were to stop splitting, to give up his grandiose and contemptuous defenses, he’d feel unbearably ashamed (embarrassed) of himself and the life he’s led … and that, to Sheen, is tantamount to death.  Instead, he must insist that he has completely cured himself — without the aid of a therapist or Alcoholics Anonymous:  “I have cleansed myself.  I closed my eyes and in a nanosecond I cured myself from this ridiculous model of disease and addiction and obsession.  It’s just … it’s just the work of sissies.  The only thing I’m addicted to now is winning!”

In the end, as we see throughout Charlie Sheen’s quotes, his world view comes down to winners and losers.  The winners are superior and contemptuous, the losers pathetic, shame-ridden and full of envy.  Because his own shame is so unbearable, because he’s desperate to escape from it, he resorts to the most powerful defenses he can, and if they don’t work, he threatens to resort to violence and destructiveness.  Sadly, the life he destroys may very well be his own.

Finding Your Own Way:

Watch the video.  See if you can trace his defenses and how they operate.  What do you make of his paranoia?  How would you  understand it within the terms discussed above?

I surely hope that Sheen’s contempt doesn’t resonate deeply for you; but maybe there’s a place where you can identify with his feelings.  Have you ever felt humiliated by someone and wanted to kill them?  Maybe someone deliberately meant to make you look or feel like an idiot and you so badly wanted to retaliate.  Have you ever known someone who behaved in a superior fashion, who acted as if he or she were better than you, and you wished for a way to make them feel small and humiliated?

I think Charlie Sheen constantly lives in such a state, continually warding off shame and a sense of his own damage, filled with feelings of inferiority, and so heavily defended against those feelings he can’t go anywhere near reality, either psychic or external.  It’s important to remember that, as offensive as his speech can be, it’s actually defensive.  On some level, he’s in unbearable pain and coping with it the only way he knows how.

[NOTE:  I HAVE MORE TO SAY ABOUT SHEEN'S MOST RECENT INTERVIEWS, OVER ON MY 'MOVIES AND MENTAL HEALTH' BLOG AT PSYCHCENTRAL.  CLICK HERE.]

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Joe is the author and the owner of AfterPsychotherapy.com, one of the leading online mental health resources on the internet. Be sure to connect with him on Google+ and Linkedin.
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37 Responses to Charlie Sheen’s Rant and the Power of Destructive Narcissism

  1. Conrad Sileo says:

    Needless to say you’ll find nothing wrong with Mr. Sheen – independent of the proven fact that he gets drunk or drugged, loses his job, enters rehab, gets clean and then gets drunk or drugged, loses his job, enters rehab, gets neat and then gets drunk or drugged, loses his job, enters rehab, gets neat and then gets drunk or drugged,loses vhis job, enters rehab, gets clean,etc,etc —— and his awesome life is not uncontrollable !!!!!!

  2. Laptop Batteries says:

    WHYYY is everyone calling charlie sheen incoherent and crazy!!???? honestly half the shit he said on alex jones I agree with. he’s not crazy

  3. Janie says:

    Thank you for this insightful article. A while back, I lost a dear friend to alcohol-related death. What you describe in Mr. Sheen mirrors what I saw in her the last years of her life. I will miss her forever.

  4. Stephanie says:

    Wow! I am speechless by first his speech and secondly your astute analysis of it. My impression regarding Sheen’s statement ‘ I don’t live in the middle anymore- thats where you get slaughtered’. Is that he is telling us he no way back to stability, indeed to attempt to return would be (in his eyes) impossible due to the charges that would be hurdled against him and the consequences which would result. He has given up trying therefore and will remain in this violent extreme area of existence where he simple con’t afford to care about others. The greatest shame here is horrendous damaging effect he is having on his children who are learning by example (from the most important/influential person in their life). I have in the past been in a confused, revengeful place but fortunately for me I never lost sight of the value of other people’s opinion in the matter.

  5. JTWallace says:

    It’s obvious Sheen either believes his tirades or, he’s dilusional. Anyone with so much work history as a certain character and with so much money as to make any dilusional believe he’s the character he plays, has got to be burned out on drugs and alcohol. He probably believes he can afford it. And it’s true. But the bottom line seems he’s running around in circles so to speak. There seems no structure in his personal life and the walls keep enclosing him in his dilusions. Reminds me of dogs chasing their tails when they become too house-bound and frustrated.

  6. JJ Shag says:

    Sheen sounds like he’s in the throes of a manic episode, possibly either from a severe mental illness such as Bipolar Disorder, or some type of stimulant intoxication or both; given his history of heavy cocaine use I suspect the latter. If so, it is an excellent example of the way in which substance abuse affords the user only an illusory relief from the painful shame, and actually ends up reinforcing the shame-based defenses. Take narcissistic defenses and add either substance abuse and/or more severe mental illness to the mix, and you have a very deadly combo. From this point on, Sheen will be lucky to survive without aggressive legal and family interventions.

  7. Declanp says:

    Those who live their lives under a microscope as does Mr. Sheen, almost forces you to have this attitude. When you’re constantly being dragged through the mud by those you trust and everything you say or do is misconstrued, it’s difficult to just sit back and take it. I applaud Charlie for finally stepping up to thes trolls and finally giving them what they deserve.

    • Karen says:

      That sounds like enabling, Declanp. There are thousands of actors and celebrities that are not like Charlie Sheen and don’t go off into these pathetic rants and have so for years and years at varying times. It’s not like Sheen’s behavior is new. He has to own his mental issues that he himself has brought on and if he can’t handle it, i.e. speak sanely, get off drugs, etc. then he shouldn’t be in the business or put himself under the microscope. He makes himself so easy for magazine fodder and press. He’s seeming to say that since he’s always “winning” it doesn’t matter if he has any problems or sounds nutty.

      I’m equally surprised at the commenter above who thinks Charlie doesn’t sound incoherent and crazy. If crazy is a lazy term, then disturbing isn’t. Alex Jones was sucking up to Charlie and is a supposed friend? What friend doesn’t realize he’s going off the rails in what he’s been saying? All Alex did was coddle Sheen and thus enable him and his behavior. I find it disappointing that people would give Charlie a pass; it’s good that they cancelled the show. But then I guess Sheen’s personal life doesn’t really matter to any of us because we don’t have to live with him, but it does matter to his kids and close family.

      And the thing is, it’s not just famous people who act and think like this, so if it were your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse or family member acting this way, how would you deal with it? The notion of their being famous and under the microscope doesn’t hold water, not when he flagrantly does and says things when no one is holding a gun to his head. I feel sorry for his kids.

      I’m curious what Dr. Burgo has to say about those who defend his behavior even when it’s gone on for years and he sounds so disturbed. What does that say about them? Narcissists will be attracted to narcissists, or do many feel a bit of the same feelings or have had problems that Sheen has and thus feel they can’t sound judgmental?

  8. Wow says:

    Talking like that in front of the public can turn winners into losers! Poor Charlie! He used to be so cool!

  9. Bumble says:

    Though narcissism seems to play a role, I think the overarching problem here is addiction and some hidden shame. A family member of mine addicted to heroin erected defense mechanisms simply to validate his need for drugs and to hide internal shame from childhood. In the end the only answer was, when everyone abandoned him, to seek help (and not everyone is as lucky). He dropped his life and started anew. Sheen is returning to the same circle of friends, is surrounded by people who validate him, and his addiction will likely be lifelong until he drops them for good.

  10. Dr bob dick says:

    after 45 years in the biz, i’m not sure i can differentiate between a saint & a psychotic-still i gotta say mr sheen’s behavior & speech are dangerously self-destructive & likely to kill him &/or someone else before much longer. dissussion of defenses aside, this poor guy is suffering deeply , & i sure hope he finds peace somehow. dr bob

  11. Crysus says:

    Excellent article on a very difficult subject. The interviews I’ve seen have been jaw droppers and not in a good way. Mr. Sheen, as “special” as he thinks he is has just signed his unemployment check. That’s right, being a TV or Movie star is only just so much employment regardless the size of the paycheck and producers and backers want stable employees working on their scripts. I think that Two and a Half Men is one of the best written shows on air and for the first time in my watching history I’ve invested in owning the CDs…. BUT it has been an entire cast that has brought success to this show, not just Mr. Special. The entire cast and how they play off one another has been a joy to watch because it just doesn’t happen that often. The success of this show is not just Mr. Charlie Sheen. Perhaps the time has come to close the door on this TV series, it’s become harder and harder to accept Mr. Sheen as the boyish rouge at 45 years of age when he looks ten years older. It’s a terrible shame. I hope he’s able to use that self professed great mind of his to really get the help he obviously needs.

  12. linda says:

    I hope X- Denise keeps him away from the kids, Charlie is having a psychotic break. He and those around him are not safe.

  13. scavenger333 says:

    I had a co-worker that suffered from anorexia, laxative abuse, prescription drug addiction (Adderall) as well as BiPolar Disorder. She was also a performer (theater/performance art/television). She displayed many of the same traits and behaviours that Charlie Sheen is displaying now: The grandiose claims of superiority, the blaming, the contempt, the recasting of her failings as being the way “really smart people behaved unlike the losers chained to convention,” claims of others being envious, thus their objections to her disturbing behaviour. Nothing and no-one could pierce her bubble of self-reinforcing mental constructs (and believe me, many, many co-workers tried to help her). It all just bounced right off her and/or got funneled into proving her delusions via labyrinthine justifications and rationalizations. She became more and more manic, incoherent and generally untenable.

    I still remember her (on the day she was fired for being, well … exceptionally unstable) angrily wailing to anyone who would listen about how she wasn’t appreciated for being the genius she was and how everyone was so below her that they couldn’t possibly comprehend her brilliance. She was, however, being fired from a restaurant hostess job, nothing involving her supposed genius — very out of proportion reaction, to say the least. She was, I guess, declaring her every breath and fart an act of sublime genius (inclusive of hostessing) equal with the brilliance of any genius C.V.

    She was dead within a month. Godspeed, Charlie, godspeed.

  14. Kim says:

    There’s a cognitive dimension to Sheen’s problem. He’s sympathetic to the nihilistic philosophy of Alex Jones, and the essential key to Jones is that he uses the logic of Hegel, such that there are no contradictions or natural limits. As a result, the mind is systematically detached from reality, and so the mind races on because there are no natural stopping points for thought. Reality appears to fold in deeper and deeper. That is the paranoid conspiracist mindset that Alex Jones conveys to his listeners.

    Since all knowledge entails a relation between a knower and what is known, reality detachment also implies a loss of ego boundaries. Loss of self esteem and grandiosity are symptoms of not having a known relationship between the ego and reality.

    • Heidi says:

      I’ve tried to converse with someone who lacked a “known relationship between the ego and reality” It was a combination of extreme criticism/ shaming from the mother, drug use, and delusions turning into a self-perpetuating downward spiral. Sheen needs an intervention but is in a loop. It’s pretty much impossible to break them out though because they don’t listen to anything you say – and what you say they re-interpret to be something completely different and completely about them. I wonder what the psychologists did for treatment in the rehab facility, it obviously wasn’t effective. He needs to befriend his shame and also try to see reality. Maybe heal the childhood wounding which probably split him away from reality in the first place. He needs taken out of his self-reinforcing environment for an extended period of time. Sigh – this society has a long way to go in terms of handling mental illness effectively, but then probably in this case it’s impossible to treat.

      • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

        “Befriend his shame” … nicely put. And I agree, we have a long way to go. I’m not sure if it’s impossible or not, but in an environment where so many people and so much of his experience merely confirms his defenses, it’s not easy.

        • Heidi says:

          The Sedona Method is a nice tool for accepting difficult emotional states but I couldn’t imagine Charlie Sheen in a workshop with Hale Dwoskin – ha ha that would be a riot. Thanks for the great blog. It’s amazing how complex the human consciousness is, if you listen, Charlie Sheen is inventing new phrases and new words even, I believe?, not necessarily found in the English language. Someone needs to do a research project on him!

  15. zardoya says:

    Mr. Sheen appears to have a simplistic outlook: people are either winners or losers. He doesn’t acknowledge anything in between. He’s showing a classic case of “black and white”, “good and bad” type thinking which is a fallacy. At the moment, it seems he has lost a grasp on logic and reason. Some of his dialogue is a non-sequitor; a tossed “word salad” of inconcruous thoughts. I’m absolutely convinced he needs help. His expansive, wild gesturing and expressions are also a give away that something is “not right upstairs.” He may have drug and alcohol induced mental illness. Did anyone else notice when he appeared on TV recently that he looks gaunt? I hope he doesn’t have AIDS. He’s awfully thin and unhealthy looking. His wild sexual escapades are practically legendary. If he was smart, he would shut his pie hole and go back to re-hab or become an inpatient at a mental health facility.

  16. Meredith says:

    After I read some of his statements, I didn’t need to listen to Charlie Sheen’s diatribes to know he was a pathological narcissist. I was married to one. My former husband had a personality that was vulnerable to that sort of problem, possibly because he’d been severely abused growing up and his mother died before he became a teen. Given loving parenting and the setting of moral and ethical boundaries by his parents, he might not have turned out that way. I don’t really know. But the havoc my children’s father wrought within our family was astounding so I can only feel sorrow for Sheen’s former wife and for his children. The likelihood that he’ll get help or stick with any he receives is slim. It’s just sad.

  17. Z says:

    You are probably aware that the next DSM doesn’t use NPD as a category any more. Do you have thoughts on this?

    Also, is it really possible to diagnose people you have only seen on tv / haven’t met in person?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Yes, I wrote a post about the removal of NPD from the DSM-V called “The Fallacies of Psychological Diagnosis”. I don’t find much value in attaching diagnostic labels since they seem to put an end to thought and move a psychological problem to the realm of medical syndrome, with its model of medication for “cure”. As for diagnosing a person you’ve only seen on television, Mr. Sheen obviously demonstrates some features of bipolar disorder, some features of pathological narcissism, but I won’t give him a diagnosis. I would say without a doubt that he struggles massively with shame and his defenses are clearly organized around denying it. Some things are clear even it’s only in a televised interview.

      • Z says:

        Thanks for these comments. I see the point on shame. The whole thing is quite interesting.

        Having been raised by a compulsive shamer, I do believe, and having been to ACOA and Alanon which use shaming techniques (you’re arrogant if you think you can live a normal adult life despite having had alcoholic parents, etc.), I (a) can’t help liking Sheen for wanting to get straight by some method other than the 12 steps and (b) am fascinated by these shame based defenses and I am about to start looking for them, learning to name them, in the family including perhaps myself.

  18. TheEnemyIsProfit says:

    I agree with the article’s analysis. On some level Charlie may be aware of his current psychological problems but chooses to act this way anyways. It certainly sells and as he has put it he is “winning television.”

    Narcissism aside, I have some sympathy for his diatribes against the “corporate trolls.” There could be validity to his perceived mistreatment. Corporate America is about the bottom line, i.e. profit maximization, and other considerations go by the wayside. His bosses certainly tolerated his destructively excessive “epic” partying for a long time, concerned foremost with the highly lucrative sitcom. It wasn’t until he hurt their fragile egos that they threw the contract clause at him. I can relate to Charlie in this respect, but not to his disparaging remarks aimed at common folks.

    Healthy or not, anger and resentment really liven me up. Otherwise I am emotionally numb and indifferent to my current life, which includes the rigors of graduate school. I have little to no motivation. But when I have such an outlet I can tap into huge reserves of energy that didn’t seem to be there before. This gives me a mountain of motivation to do things for me and not care what others think (or do it in spite of them). But I usually take the higher road, forgive and move on, and fall back into passivity. A counselor found my sharpening and warrior-like intensity fascinating and potentially positive. (I don’t see her because we didn’t really see a point to our visits after a few weeks. Counselors have not yet told me anything I didn’t already know about myself.) When I am that way I can move mountains. But nothing is really pushing me and I’m not pushing myself…yet.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      It’s an interesting phenomenon you’re describing. It sounds as if there’s something “manic” about your “warrior-like intensity.” You might want to look at this post I wrote and see if any of it feels pertinent.

      • TheEnemyIsProfit says:

        Thanks for suggesting the post. I reviewed it and it does not feel very pertinent to what I was getting at in what I wrote before. I would not deny, however, that the “magic” described sometimes happens in my life. But for me, I am aware of when I have little escapes and do not completely forget my dysthymia or learning disability (ADD). And I would be willing to talk about it.

        Just because I am livid and motivated on rare occasions does not mean that I’m not also a little sad and lonely. (I don’t forget.) I’ve tried to cope with those feelings. It’s not easy having friends but almost never being able to hang out with them because either you are busy or they are. It’s not easy when I date someone not even once a month. I stop trying (with this particular person) because it’s not worth it to me at that point.

        Something similar to the anger I described before happened in high school when I decided to not care what others thought about me. I used to be very concerned with how I was perceived. (I actually do care now to a degree, enough to think about my facial expressions and body posture. Good impressions are important!) But then I had an attitude shift. I started doing things without this concern. I continued to get almost straight As and just did what I wanted in life, regardless of if it was cool or not. I did a lot of things. I won the high school talent show for best band even. And I ended up becoming popular (among a lot more people). My reaction: really? I still didn’t care what people thought of me. For me, this illustrates how a little bit of “f@#k it” oomph shakes me out of being static and into action.

  19. Z says:

    Recovering Borderline, I admire you. I’ve got a relative with your situation who isn’t as lucid. Your perspective helps me understand what it’s like.

  20. Kooki says:

    Recovering Borderline, I also admire you (don’t let this get to your head though ;-) )…As someone who is recovering from dating someone who reminded me so much of Charlie Sheen, it’s great to hear acknowledgment of distorted thinking patterns on the part of people who are also willing to admit their vulnerabilities, imperfections, struggle and effort in improving themselves. My ex used to exhibit this potent kind of arrogance and superiority much like Sheen and I couldn’t understand it, I initially wrote it off as immaturity and enabled his behavior (which was highly abusive by the way.) I was desperate to get him to therapy (didn’t work) because, of course, I loved him and wanted to be with him in a healthy relationship. And I empathized with his inner pain (internal shame, which he sometimes would give me slivers of in confession, but then quickly bounce back to his usual thinking patterns).

    I always love listening to people who have transformed or are in the process of transforming, tell the story of THE TURNING POINT at which they saw that they needed help. Was there some kind of hitting of rock bottom? Epiphany? Is Sheen ever going to get there?

  21. Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

    Based on the way you talk about yourself, it sounds to me as if you have an excellent analyst. I definitely relate to the language you use, and I like what you say about the transition from unbearable to bearable shame: one (because it’s unbearable) leading inevitably to defensive maneuvers, and the other motivating you to keep addressing your difficulties. Thanks for your personal, very thoughtful comments.

  22. sisinont says:

    Sheen is a lunatic! How this merely average looking, nasal, bird-legged actor ever achieved such fame & fortune eludes me. Before he fell off the rails, I (& my friends) questioned why anyone would be attracted to him. On his show, he is irresistible to women in his tacky shirts & boney knees, dishing out ridiculous cliche’s that beautiful, educated women find charming: Now that’s real fantasy! He became famous as Heidi Fleiss’ best customer & somehow, this translated into Sheen being perceived as some kind of sex magnet. If he were so fatally attractive to women, why did he have to buy sex? Down here in the south, we’d consider him just a ridiculous ole’ bubba with a sinus condition, & I don’t know a single southern belle who would be caught dead with him. The damage he has done to his children is Biblical & he will pay for this. Also, the parents of the boy (now a young man) who has grown up on Sheen’s show will live to regret exposing their son to such immoral, degenerate, vulgar scripts & making him a member of that sleazy sit-com. The fact that people buy tickets to see Sheen rant & rave is no different than visiting the zoo to watch the animals — except the admission fee at zoos helps to support our caged wildlife; Sheen’s ticket sales benefit only the leeches who live off of him & further his disillusion that he contributes anything to this world.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I like hearing from someone who doesn’t hold back and says exactly what she (?) believes! While the therapist in me tries to understand what’s going on with Sheen and empathize with his suffering, another part of me completely agrees with you.

  23. Jeff says:

    You mention shame as a driving force in Charlie Sheen’s current behavior. What happened in his life that causes him to feel shame? Also, could you comment on what appears to be mercurial tendencies in his personality? He seems to be the classic “Batterer.”

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Jeff, it’s hard to know what went exactly went wrong in his childhood; so many things can leave you with a sense of shame. As for his “mercurial tendencies,” he obviously has some features associated with bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness (although I don’t like using diagnostic labels to “explain” someone). I’d also say he has very little ability to tolerate frustration; when he does, he seems to fly into a rage that becomes physically violent. You might want to take a look at my recent post on narcissistic rage and the sense of entitlement.

  24. me says:

    man it was epic!

  25. J says:

    Joseph,

    I experience jealousy rather than pity (as you do) or outrage (as many other commenters have expressed)? Intellectually I know that you are right, yet watching him appear so confident makes me feel painful shame about my own inability to do so. I feel he really is enjoying himself, regardless of the psychological reasons for it.

    What does it say about me that I have that reaction, despite my knowing that it is a) socially wrong to react that way; and b) analytically wrong (given that you are an experienced, skilled psychologist, although for some reason even here, even though I know that statement to be true, I keep saying to myself, “he’s wrong about this one” ). Thanks!

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      My guess is that it’s about shame. People who struggle with shame tend to believe in those defensive self-images projected by people like Charlie Sheen. They so badly want to take flight from shame, and when they see someone who appears to have succeeded in doing the very same thing, they feel diminished.

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