The Brangelina divorce: Bringing out the worst in us

Do hardships of the rich and famous intrigue us, sometimes to the point of revelling in it?

Deepak Kashyap | Posted on 24 Sep 2016
The Brangelina Divorce: Bringing Out The Worst In Us | Bonobology

One would assume that the mainstream media would show us what matters and in a way that it matters, but while competing with the entertainment industry for advertising revenues, what it really ends up showing is stuff that thrills us. And little thrills us more than a celebrated couple breaking up.

Divorce and break ups are hard, regardless of the socio-economic status you come from. And yet, hardships of the rich and famous intrigue us, sometimes to the point of revelling in it.  The fiendish delight we get when we see people fall from grace is quite understood and perfectly used by the media to their end of grabbing eyeballs.

I don’t wish to attack media for attacks sake, I am an active part of it as a columnist, albeit a psychology columnist. However these headlines are less than savory in their approach of ‘Hunger Games’ style of journalism. It speaks volumes about our thirst of seeing gladiators fight till death like animals, for our pleasure. What irks and invigorates us, speaks volumes about ourselves than the trigger itself. 

Speculations, aspersions and quick runs to “dethrone” the divorced Hollywood royalty, sounds anything but an empathetic understanding of the pain and hardship a couple with six kids would go through. This crass, almost orgasmic interest in the couple’s divorce would have been reviled and criticized if they weren’t so famous.

Fame is anything but protection against hurt and criticism. Fame makes you a victim of the inevitable patterns of scrutiny and unending judgment from countless faceless individuals, who know nothing about you other than roadside gossip and deems it fair to judge on that basis from behind the masks of anonymity. For the same reasons I think philosopher Alain de Botton says, “Fame makes you more vulnerable not less.”

There is another curious thing that happens when we see the high and mighty fall, it somehow makes us feel okay about ourselves. This happens for a very simple reason; for the longest time we had felt inadequate and incompetent while we inadvertently and subconsciously compared ourselves to their status, their perfect bodies and their love lives that we found enviously desirable. 

And when these apparent Gods show their clay feet through their hardships and failing, we take a sigh of relief, sometimes even treat that as a license to make merry, because it gives us ‘hope’ of the worst kind. ‘Hope’ that is derived from misery of the other, but ‘hope’ nonetheless.

Low self-esteem that gives rise to irrational levels of envy, may leave very little room for empathy for others. One age-old golden rule to raise empathy is asking oneself the question; what would I need if I was getting divorced from my partner of 12 years whom I have six children with? May be a little room to breathe and some flowers with a feel-better card.

Let not the collapse of our empathy be another casualty in the face of an already painful situation.


Deepak Kashyap

Deepak Kashyap is a counselling psychologist and a certified life-skills trainer with a private practice in Mumbai, India. He is also a published columnist in national newspapers and magazines, writing about issues related to sex, mental health, relationships, and emotional disturbances. He also serves as a counselling expert with Bonobology.

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