Anger Management Expert on Chris Brown’s ‘GMA’ Incident & the Charlie Sheen Comparison

By: Amanda Hasaka / March 22, 2011

Brown's 'GMA' Rage
See Chris and his shirtless morning exit.
Expert on Sheen
An addiction specialist talks about Charlie's troubles.
Chris Brown‘s violent Good Morning America outburst is definitely one of today’s hot topics, with a number of questions arising from the altercation.

Given the nature of the incident and Chris’ obvious issues with anger management, Celebuzz decided to speak with expert Dr. Lyle Becourtney of Anger Management Groups and ask his thoughts on how this can be avoided in the future, as well as what steps the singer should take next.

Does it make sense for Chris Brown to keep doing interviews if people keep bringing the Rihanna incident up? He obviously had a very violent reaction, so do you think it’s smart for him to continually be interviewed?

It would seem that doing interviews is an important part of Chris Brown’s career. The interviews help to generate important publicity for his music. The key is figuring out how to manage his anger so that the publicity that he receives can shift from negative to positive.

Chris needs to adjust his expectations and realize that the questions regarding his relationship with Rihanna are going to continue for some time. Rather than run away from these issues, Chris needs to be more prepared for these types of questions. One helpful anger management technique that he could use is to give himself a “stress inoculation.” By giving himself an imaginary shot, he could mentally prepare for the most stressful and anger-inducing questions. The more prepared he is, the better he will be able to brace himself for what is to come. Just as presidential candidates prepare for their debates, Chris should prepare for these difficult questions. He could have one of his publicists or an anger management professional prepare the most difficult, provocative questions they can think of and have Chris practice answering them in front of a mirror.

Chris should then step back and analyze how he appears. He should ask himself, “Am I comfortable with my reaction? Do I feel that my response will be well received by others? Will it result in greater understanding and empathy or might it make matters worse? If in doubt, this would be the time to modify his response. Chris should use this opportunity, while calm and relaxed, to prepare and practice how he will respond. He should keep rehearsing and critically examining his own reaction until it feels right.

The more he rehearses, the easier it will become to respond to these difficult questions without exploding. The key is for Chris to avoid getting caught off-guard because that is when it will be most difficult to use any anger management strategies that he may have already been taught.

The questions were pre-approved, so why do you think he still had such a strong reaction?

My guess is that Chris did not adequately prepare for these questions and as a result was caught off-guard by his own intense emotional reaction.

What would you recommend he do next?

The first thing that Chris needs to do is to take responsibility for his actions. He needs to come to terms with the idea that his behavior in the past toward Rihanna was unacceptable and that outbursts like the one exhibited today are also unacceptable. Chris needs to go beyond completing an anger management program in order to meet a court mandate. He needs to really make a commitment to change. As the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Chris can be provided with all of the best anger management techniques, but they will only be meaningful if he fully commits himself to changing. He needs to commit to giving up his old harmful patterns of communication and replace them with the new ones that are taught in his anger management program.

A few additional suggestions would include:
• Trying to put himself in the shoes of others and seeing things from their perspective. The more that Chris is able to do that, the harder it will be to feel such intense feelings of anger. In the case of an on-camera interview, Chris needs to recognize that the interviewer is just doing his or her job. By understanding that it is the interviewer’s job to ask these difficult questions, perhaps Chris can learn to take it less personally.
• While the stress inoculation, if performed correctly, should prepare Chris well, there is always the chance of getting caught off-guard by a question that he finds inappropriate, rude, or disrespectful. In such a case, the emotional part of his brain will likely activate before the thinking part does and put him at risk of overreacting and lashing out inappropriately. Thus, in the heat of the moment, he will be more apt to act on impulse than to think things through about the consequences of his actions. Although Chris may be completely justified in how he feels, it is imperative that he find a way to allow the thinking part of his brain to catch up to the emotional part. This is a time when relaxation techniques can be extremely helpful and allow Chris to slow the pace of his breathing. By doing so, he would give the thinking part of his brain a chance to catch up to the emotional part and help guide his behavior in a more rational manner.
• Chris should also work on replacing his angry thoughts with those that are peaceful and tranquil. Relaxation and anger are incompatible. Thus anything he can do to help relax is going to significantly reduce the chances of an angry outburst.
• Finally, Chris should pay attention to his own warning signs that indicate he is beginning to get agitated. If necessary, Chris should remove himself from the situation before he becomes explosive. Just as an interviewer has the right to ask him personal questions, Chris has the right to end an interview that he feels is not going well. It is important, however, that Chris use good assertive communication and refrain from expressing himself aggressively.

Charlie Sheen has a history when it comes to domestic violence (which Chris brought up on his Twitter), but it seems that people are almost glorifying his behavior, yet won’t stop bringing up the Rihanna incident when it comes to Chris. Why are people so quick to look over Charlie’s violence toward women as opposed to Chris?

I believe that people view Chris Brown’s behavior as more within his control than that of Charlie Sheen. They can identify more with Chris and perhaps believe that just as they are able to inhibit their aggressive impulses, Chris is capable of doing the same. However, in the case of Charlie Sheen, I believe that people view his behavior as being so erratic that it can’t possibly be within his control. Instead they may attribute his behavior to his substance abuse problems or possible mental illness. Charlie Sheen’s behavior has been so outrageous that people can’t seem to take their eyes off of him, sort of like a train wreck. He has almost become like a cartoon character that they root for despite some questionable behaviors. In addition, there are probably many who experience pity for Charlie Sheen and view him as in need of much more help than Chris Brown. It may come down to people viewing Chris Brown’s behavior as more of a choice than Charlie Sheen’s behavior. Whether or not this is in fact true, it does seem apparent that Charlie Sheen is viewed as the more sympathetic figure.