Where There Is Love… Michael Jackson

from the viewpoint of a compassionate therapist, Adele Tartaglia

It is with a heavy heart and a prayerful mind that the world is mourning Michael Jackson, the musical genius who gifted us with so much happiness and love but was unable to realize it for himself. His self image prevented him from seeing himself as we saw him no matter how much public adoration he received. Some of his long time friends believe he suffered from body dysmorphic disorder.

Michael was a true humanitarian, so empathetic that despite years raising money and donating millions through his Heal the World Foundation, it was still not enough to ease the pain he felt for the suffering. His heart of love resonated with other anguished souls, especially children, as he explained in his interviews. If you listen to his songs, you cannot fail to realize how much love he had for mankind. He was a leader in the unity consciousness movement realizing early in life that if one is suffering, all are suffering.

This is an effort to bring the compassion and understanding to his memory which he should have had during his life. People don’t act in a vacuum. There’s a reason for every behavior that makes sense in the mind of the person. As we now know, Michael Jackson had more than enough trauma and loss of identity to explain his ambivalence, confusion, and the challenges in his decision making process.

Being brilliant at publicity kept him number one in the minds of his fans but eventually backfired on him. The press couldn’t resist cashing in on his stunts by publicizing what they labeled scandalous and weird behaviors.

We remember him in adulthood as a shy man child with a sad soul who in his own pain, reached out to help children throughout the world and was misunderstood. The media exacerbated and complicated things for him by sensationalizing his fondness for childish things, his Neverland park that brought joy to so many sick children, and his love for children. From a therapeutic point of view, it is more reasonable to recognize all this as his attempt to recover the lost childhood he had waited to experience his whole life. Adults who have never been allowed to be children very often go back in adulthood and create the childhood they were deprived of, including the innocent thinking and behaving in childlike ways. He felt keenly the need to give less privileged children a wonderland experience they would not have had otherwise. Because he was able to, he created lost childhoods for sick children who had little hope left and we bless him for that. His consideration for others is well known, an example being the attention he paid to providing facilities for the handicapped children who came to Neverland. 

Even at this time of grief, everyone is still appalled at his interviews where he says it is loving to share your bed with someone. Is this belief that far off his real life experience as one of nine children living in a two bedroom house where all the children probably slept in one room and the boys perhaps in one bed? What is normal to a child used to that standard of living, being taught how loving it was for his siblings to share their bed with each other, is not normal to the average American family. Did his critics even take the time to understand families making the most of their circumstances in that way? What right have people to project their beliefs about what they would do in similar circumstances from their vantage point on to someone they didn’t even begin to know or understand.

Even more poignantly for him personally, there was his deep seated and constant need for the love and affection that he was offering others who never had enough love. Wasn’t that the point he kept trying to get the reports to comprehend?  Isn’t that what he showed to every friend in his life, a pure and unconditional love? Well known spiritual leaders and celebrities trusted him to spend time with their children. None of his friends even considered there was any validity to the false charges levied against him. Is it possible the accusations were nothing more than extortion from a trusting person who had been set up for victimhood early in life?

He fell prey to victimhood and never realized that was not his true identity. When you are conditioned to accept abuse in childhood, you not only allow abuse in adulthood, you attract it to yourself. If the self loathing is severe enough, you will abuse yourself in one way or another including through addictions and self mutilation. The body mind system is in constant dialog, signaling, accepting, and internalizing every message from all its components. When you have lived a life of abuse and punishment, the mind adopts beliefs that you deserve punishment and self sabotaging behaviors become subliminal life patterns. Auto immune diseases are believed by some to source from abusive environments. His further contributed to the attack on himself. Self destruction is standard behavior for people who hate themselves but this should elicit sympathy rather than mockery.

When condemnation and rejection are impressed on the psyche with sufficient fear and pain, these imprints become the strongest programs in the subconscious mind. It is there the mind goes first in response to life events. Today we have protocols to remove the triggers to the pain stimulus as well as resulting repetitive life patterns that cause obsessions and impulses control issues. The emotional trauma he exhibited from the PTSD he experienced can be deleted. Michael Jackson was completely set up for self sabotage being physically, mentally, and emotionally abused. In addition to the kind of physical abuse inflicted on him, there was the demeaning treatment of denial of his rights as a human being. He was not being allowed to have his own feelings, have a normal life, or even express his desire for a different reality. He lived in too much terror of his father to insist on fairness or preferences.

This is not about blame and fault finding. His father learned his behaviors and precepts at some point in his life or had personal proclivities for violence that were not taken care of. This is about understanding and appreciating how Michael got to be who he was rather than labeling him with no comprehension of his formative years. The constant barrage of assaults on his developing ego structure created an inferiority complex that explains why he continued to live the identity of a victim as a grown man, instead of living as the dynamic luminous person he was. 

There isn’t even anything extreme about his addiction to cosmetic surgery. He went way too far because of the dysmorphic disorder. But it appears he got started for normal reasons. He injured his nose in a fall and had to have surgery to repair it. With the Pepsi video accident and the progressing Vitiligo, his need for cosmetic surgery became even more legitimate. The obsession with it also makes perfect sense for a child whose understanding of how to be loved and accepted, how to be valued in life was to look different than he looked and work relentlessly to win approval. Why wouldn’t a shame based person who had been ridiculed by his father and friends for his nose become obsessive about changing the shape of that nose? Why wouldn’t he spend his life trying to get the love, approval and validation he wanted and needed so much from his fans? He spent his life compulsively trying to change his image and the way he looked hoping one day to have an appearance that would win him love. The heartbreak is that he was a beautiful boy who was not allowed to recognize that there was nothing wrong with his looks or who he was as thousands of adoring fans have testified to. He spent his life trying to get validation from his father and without it he could not accept it from others.

Because of his loathing for who he thought he was and his urgent need to alter that perception, he has been labeled as a person who made “bizarre choices.” The part of him that felt undeserving did do things, probably unconsciously, against his own best interest. His childlike innocence that had no comprehension of how the world would take his simplistic attitudes about things further sabotaged him on many levels.

There was a great ambivalence in Michael Jackson as there is in all men, but having a public persona he was excessively penalized for his. He needed the love of the masses so he kept himself in the spotlight. At the same time he needed the privacy every shy and insecure person craves to hide away and not be seen. He wasn’t able to fully integrate and merge these two oppositional parts of himself so he could make judicious decisions that would compensate the needs of both identities.

Added to this, some of his inappropriate choices and actions bespeak his lack of training to deal effectively with the demands of everyday life that most of us take for granted having received this preparation from our parents. Michael, who bemoaned never having formative years, never had an everyday life. It appears there was no attention given to the development of a healthy self image, his ability to take care of himself, or a sense of worthiness that would serve him. His training from his earliest years, enforced with an iron hand, was to make more and more money and become more and more famous.

Instead of life skills, that was what Michael was taught, was his obligation and the main focus of life. In deference to having a real life, to playing, learning about life and himself, to enjoying the simple things in life, he was taught only to work hard for the family. Everything was to be sacrificed for this goal, including self esteem and a sense of decency when the children were made to perform in bars and strip clubs to support the family. His life in effect was stolen from him. Contrary to his adult persona, he was a man in a child’s body forced to grow up too soon. How evident is his mental confusion about who he was when in his interview as a young boy, he says he means everything he sings or he wouldn’t sing it when he was made to sing sophisticated lyrics he should never have understood about adult relationships. Not having lived a normal life, how unrealistic is it for society to expect him to behave in normal ways.  

Ironically as an adult he was called a child man by many who knew him well. A child stops growing emotionally and psychologically at the time of their most severe trauma and then remains locked in that developmental stage until and unless they resolve and release the resentment and anguish attached to that trauma and delete it from consciousness. We do not know if he received psychological or spiritual counseling so necessary to recover from the abuses of his childhood. With the removal of sabotaging coping mechanisms, addictions, and destructive identities he could have freed himself from his painful memories, moved on and finished the maturation process to find happiness and balance as an adult.

We haven’t seen much evidence that Michael was able to take time off from work to find his own identity and resolve his issues so he could finish growing up, and the world has judged him for it. Instead of compounding his problems, rather than condemning his choices and behaviors, let our hearts go out to this quiet soul so driven to perfection without regard to the mental, emotional and physical damage to himself. Perfectionism is said to be the personality trait of the insecure that believe they are unlovable if not perfect, an identity that insures failure. Was it this belief or was it the beatings he and his brothers received when they were less than perfect? This was his programming and this was his legacy. It probably helped make him successful beyond measure but certainly hampered his emotional and mental health and happiness.

As to his need for relief from insomnia, several things come to mind from reading his biographies and listening to his interviews. An anxiety based compulsion to work harder and harder, to do everything perfectly would explain why he may have chosen Oxycontin, the drug of choice for anxiety ridden self medicators, and the escalation of anesthetics to bring him down from the opiate if reports are accurate. The use of the drug to relieve the pain of his various injuries and surgeries is the usual way people get hooked on this addictive drug. Psychologically speaking, there is a childhood incident that  traumatized him to the point that he associated sleep with fear, which unless handled, would stay with him throughout his life as it indeed did according to him. It is purported that his father climbed in the children’s open bedroom window with a fright mask on, screaming and menacing. For years afterward he was terrified of being kidnapped from his bed in the night. Adult sleep disorders follow nighttime attacks on children unless they release the trauma under the association and reframe the basic premise. We see him still terrified of his father as an adult and it is not unreasonable to believe all these associations wired together creating a belief that sleep is dangerous resulting in a self preservation program created to prevent going into a deep sleep. This is not uncommon in childhood abuse victims. Is it any wonder he had double security on his bedroom and a panic room installed at Neverland?

The icon he is, his leadership in changing the entertainment industry, his dedication to changing the world through love, and his brilliance came at much too big a price. We love and honor this very special person whose goodness emanated from him and whose stunning talent which would not let him rest.

Oprah talked with him about his life’s purpose.

“To give in the best way I can through song and through dance and through music,” Michael said.  “I believe that all art has as its ultimate goal the union between the material and the spiritual, the spiritual and the divine. I believe that that’s the reason for the very existence of art, and I feel I was chosen as an instrument to give music and love and harmony to the world.” …. “What I remember about Michael the most is that he was a person who was passionate about life.  He was really passionate about his work … and [passionate about] his desire to try to be a good force in the world.”

Michael Jackson was here to change the world and he knew it. He was a leader across the board both in the music industry and in his personal life. He co-wrote We Are The World to aid the cause of African famine long before it was popular to lend star power to relief efforts. He integrated the air waves and MTV while making the music video a viable product. The world fell in love with the choreography of his moves, the clearness of his voice, his spectacular productions, and the sweetness of his soul. 

We pray that he realizes he is through with the creation of this lifetime, that there is nothing that can be said about him that can touch him or harm him in anyway, that nothing negative being reported has any connection to the truth about who he was. It’s time to let go of any attachment to this life. His divine essence is love and will always be love as we see him happy and peaceful at last.

Go into the light Michael and release any concerns you have about this lifetime. It is no longer your business as you begin your new existence. From love you came and to love you have returned.

Knowing sorrow well, I learn to succor the distressed.– Virgil