Nurturing Resilience

Raising children to be competent and caring.

Hey, Justin Bieber, Call Me. I Can Help.

Is Justin Bieber squandering an opportunity for real happiness?

The story is always the same: just the characters change. Justin Bieber admits to drinking, doing drugs, driving without a licence, and drag racing, while his entourage stands back and helps him self-destruct. If happiness was just money and fame, then Bieber would be the happiest person on earth. Instead, he looks like a train wreck happening in slow motion, each day another disastrous episode in his derailment.

Justin, call me. Please. I can help. Nobody needs to know. I don't live in L.A., New York, or Miami. The paparazzi won’t even know where to look.

Bieber: “And if I did show up, what then? What would we talk about?”

Ungar: “Well, I'd start by asking you what was it like, racing your car? High? Without a licence? I promise, I won’t judge you. But I won't ignore the facts either.”

Bieber: “It was amazing. A total rush.”

Ungar: “And that feeling, the rush, is that’s what you’re chasing?”

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Bieber: “Why not? I’ve got everything else. Sex, money, fame. What else is there?”

Ungar: “Some might say that your life doesn’t have enough meaning. Not religion. And you don’t have to give up all the other perks of being famous and join an Ashram. But happiness tends to come when our lives have purpose. It looks to me like you may have lost your life purpose?”

Bieber: “I’ve got a purpose. It’s to have fun. Nothing wrong with that.”

Ungar: “No, but when I think of the stars who really seem to survive fame, they have one thing in common. They contribute. They’re in the news for their art and for their philanthropy. They get attention. They grow their following. They look, well, happy. People don’t laugh at them. They celebrate with them.”

Bieber: “I don’t care if people laugh at me. Let them. I’ve got everything they want.”

Ungar: “Maybe. But, that’s not what the research says. People mostly want family. And to feel useful. And to like their work. Those kinds of things. After a while, no matter how much money people have, their life satisfaction doesn’t increase.”

Bieber (pouting): “So you think my life is meaningless.”

Ungar: “I’m not sure. How about you convince me it has meaning. Whose lives have you made better? You used to inspire your fans. Who is looking up to you as their role model now? You used to make people believe they too could succeed despite any odds. That's why they loved you. Does anyone around you really love you now? When we’re loved, it’s usually a sign that others need us. That our lives have meaning.”

Bieber (shrugs): “It’s all too much fun to give up.”

Ungar: “Maybe it has to get worse, much worse, before you’re willing to give up finding that rush by playing at being the bad boy.”

Bieber: “My life's not that bad. At least not yet. But I’ll think about what you’ve said.”

Ungar: “Sounds good. I’m here. Come by anytime. Who knows, you may even get to feel as happy as you felt when you first got noticed years ago.”

 

Michael Ungar, Ph.D., is a family therapist, a researcher at Dalhousie University, and the author of The We Generation: Raising Socially Responsible Kids.

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