Over the past week and a half, many of us have experienced intense emotions regarding the series of events surrounding Jian Ghomeshi’s dismissal from the CBC. Feelings of betrayal are surfacing, as we are facing a difference between his public persona and what we are hearing happened behind the scenes.
Jian wasn’t only a “celebrity” we invited into our homes through the radio. Many of us have been interviewed by him, hung onto every word he said at keynote addresses, hugged him at his book signings, and engaged with him during exciting times like the Canada Reads programs and Giller Awards.
Recently, we mourned with Ghomeshi at the loss of his father. Because we feel emotionally invested in him, we are now experiencing a wide variety of intense feelings while this person we held in esteem is being accused of shocking and appalling activity.
My own interactions with Ghomeshi leave me feeling stunned, upset and angry as I read the recent articles posted about him. I checked in with friends who have spent time with him during their professional lives, and as I expected, I heard words like, “devastated” and “disgusted.” A dear, very calm friend even said, “I just want to walk up to him and punch him in the face.”
In chatting with people about their feelings around Jian Ghomeshi, one shared that the current story is triggering her experience of domestic abuse: troubling scenes from the past are making their way back into her mind.
Another woman I spoke with said she has been thinking about the times in her early twenties when she found herself in sexual encounters, which she had originally consented to, that went beyond her comfort zone. Shaking her head, she said, “The forty-year-old me wishes I could tell that younger me, ‘You don’t have to do that. He’s not worth it’.” This event has rattled many of us for a wide variety of reasons.
In order to reconcile our feelings about Jian Ghomeshi, there are a few points to consider. The first is that our feelings aren’t wrong—we don’t need to judge how we feel about this situation. Our feelings are like balls of energy that are created through a combination of our life experiences and current events. They are unique so how we interpret and feel about something may be very different than how the next person feels about the same event.
Next, finding a way to process our feelings will help them flow through instead of getting stuck. If you watch a young child who is scared or angry, you see the immediate, physical reaction they have (before they have grown old enough to develop negative coping strategies to repress the feelings).
Shaking, jumping, stomping, and shouting are ways our natural fight-or-flight system reacts to stressors. Allowing that reaction to happen will facilitate our body’s natural emotional-processing system to engage. Please make sure you do so in a way that doesn’t hurt yourself, other things, or property.
Some strategies to releasing big emotions are: writing, dancing, drawing, playing an instrument, singing, exercising, and spending time in nature. Talking with trusted friends, colleagues or mental health professionals is an excellent way to process big feelings. I recommend that if you are having a tough time absorbing the information regarding Jian Ghomeshi, reach out to someone for help. If you know me, I’m happy to hear from you!
Part of the process of allowing emotions to move through is considering the person whom you feel betrayed by as a wounded soul, too. Pausing to see the person we have lost trust in or who has hurt us, as someone who is broken and in need of healing can help us feel better. We can empathize with that person’s behaviour to some degree without condoning it.
In my experience as a therapist, I have not encountered a person who has engaged in any kind of extreme violent behaviour, particularly if it is sexually oriented, who has not been at the hands of extreme violence him or herself. It is not appropriate to assume Jian Ghomeshi has gone through traumatic childhood experiences, but if the accounts we are hearing are true, it is possible that his behaviour is rooted in strong negative core beliefs developed during a traumatic experience early in life.
When I counsel adults who have experienced abuse at the hand of a trusted adult in their childhood, I invite them to see the aggressor as a scared, wounded young child. Part of our minds stop developing when a person’s focus goes on survival rather than self-actualization. It is hard to learn, be confident, or thrive when scary situations are happening that we need to recover from or try to make sense of.
It’s interesting though, that many who have experienced strong childhood challenges, develop keen skills to get them through those times, which carry on into adulthood. It is common for adults who have gone through tough stuff as kids to be very charming and possess an extreme push for greatness.
Some of the qualities that help kids endure painful events, although driven by negative core beliefs, can help that adult person achieve great success. It isn’t unusual for adults in this situation to appear almost Jekyll and Hyde in their behaviour: extremely charismatic and extremely violent.
As I mentioned earlier, we can retain the excitement of our positive interactions with Jian Ghomeshi, and at the same time, feel anger as current events unfold. Giving ourselves space to acknowledge these feelings can help them move through.
My last suggestion is to take good care of yourself. Use self care and self-regulation as you look for the latest report in this saga: is staying on your computer screen, searching the latest story helping you? Perhaps limiting your reading time or choosing one or two periods during the day to look for new stories (not just before bedtime) is best. Ask yourself this question: what do I need to feel better?
Something important to consider is that someone who has experienced the level of loss like Jian has, even though his alleged behaviour is unacceptable, is at a high risk of harming himself. My hope is that Jian Ghomeshi has someone to help him heal right now.
I also hope that all the people who are experiencing intense emotions, whether directly or indirectly involved, are also getting the healing they need. Perhaps we can use this unfortunate circumstance as an opportunity to make positive change.
-Photo: from the official Canada Reads website