The Intelligent Divorce

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How Media Can Exploit People

When reporting becomes hurtful

This Olympics featured a phenomenal performance of the competitors in the men's super-G. Many of us were riveted and delighted by the competition.

In the end, Norway's Kjetil Jansrud won the gold medal, Andrew Weibrecht brought home the silver, and Bode Miller rounded out the podium tied for the bronze with Canadian, Jan Hudek.  It was an awe inspiring show of the world's best athletes.  

Finding Pain in Victory:

At the end of Bode Miller’s run, in the moment of victory and realizing that the sacrifice, sweat, and tears were all worthwhile, an NBC reporter, Christin Cooper saw an opportunity for raw emotion. Instead of reveling in the moment of Mr. Miller’s triumph, she greedily played on the emotions of a grieving man.  

In case you missed the interview, here it is…

  • Miller: “This [medal] was a little different. I think, you know, my brother passing away—I really wanted to come back here and race the way he sensed it. So this was a little different.”
  • Reporter: “Bode, you’re showing so much emotion down here, what’s going through your mind?”
  • Miller: “A lot, obviously. Just a long struggle coming in here. Just a tough year.”
  • Reporter: “I know you wanted to be here with Chilly really experiencing these Games. How much does it mean to come with a great performance for him, or was it for him?”

Miller began to cry.

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  • Miller: "It’s just a tough year. I don’t know if it’s really for him. I just wanted to come here and, I don’t know, I guess make myself proud."
  • Reporter: “When you’re looking up in the sky at the start…it just looks like you’re talking to somebody, what’s going on there?”

Grief Overwhelms:

Most of us understand the power of grief. It sits inside taking a long time to overcome. We must greive with people that care about us. And, when triggered, grief can overwhelm, like a tsunami overwhelming a shoreline. It is to be done with loving people around.

In my mind, Cooper drew blood, as Miller broke down in tears, hiding his face from cameras. Clearly, he was overwhelmed by the reminder of his brother's untimely death.

This great athlete's guard was down. Fueled by the moment, Bode Miller was open for the praise and accolades of his win—not confrontation with possibly the worst loss of his life. In psychological terms, it's called cognitive dissonance. He experienced polar opposite feelings at the same time. It is a confusing and disconcerting experience. Typically, the most powerful feeling surfaces, trumping all others.

Grief Can Heal—Or Open Old Wounds:

A human being with the ability to empathize would have recognized the change in Mr. Millers's tone of voice, the absence of a smile and expression of joy, and the welling up of tears in his lower lids well before this point. The moment of joy was stolen from him. Despite his medal winning run, he is a grieving man. And an honorable one. His response to the fury of tweets against the reporter were as follows -

"I appreciate everyone sticking up for me. Please be gentle w christin cooper, it was crazy emotional and not all her fault. #heatofthemoment"

"My emotions were very raw, she asked the questions that every interviewer would have, pushing is part of it, she wasnt trying to cause pain."

Was this reporting or exploitation?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, empathy is the, "ability to imagine oneself in another's place and understand the other's feelings, desires, ideas, and actions. The empathic actor or singer is one who genuinely feels the part he or she is performing. The spectator of a work of art or the reader of a piece of literature may similarly become involved in what he or she observes or contemplates."  

If this existed in this interview, why continue the questions about loss rather than gain? The moment was about victory, accomplishment, and the successful finale of a career.

Regrettably, this was missed.  

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This piece was a contribution by guest blogger, Heather Edwards, MA, LMHC, who is a therapist and life coach located in New York City. She can be reached for consultation at:

http://newyorkpsychotherapyandlifecoaching.com/

 

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Mark Banschick, M.D., is a psychiatrist and author of The Intelligent Divorce book series.

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