After Chris Brown’s explosion on Good Morning America, many people were jumping to the conclusion that he would never change, that he hadn’t really learned anything from his past escapades. But an article on the Huffington Post made an interesting point, saying that although the assault on Rihanna was unforgivable and should have ended badly for him (as it did), there might be a little room for change yet:

“I’ve always felt that everyone — especially a young person — deserves a second chance. People make mistakes, especially teens — and Chris was just 19 at the time of the assault. He was a baby. It’s also a fact that when someone like Chris has grown up in a household witnessing domestic violence, they can learn terribly destructive behavior.”

I tend to agree with this line of thinking. It’s why I believe most relationships can be saved. It’s why I think that many of the problems we so easily judge or sweep under the rug – anger, shoplifting, infidelity – comes from the same place a addiction. And so – while we wouldn’t let, say, an alcoholic run amok in our life – we would tend to be more sensitive toward their weaknesses. I’m not suggesting Chris Brown or any of his predecessors or successors be given a pass, but rather that we should better understand what in part causes the problems they face. The problems of a Hollywood star may be larger than life but they aren’t necessarily that different from things everyone else faces.

To start with, it’s helpful to understand the need for risk, and the thrill that comes from this risk-seeking behavior, when looking at an addict. In this situation, Chris Brown is also a very powerful, influential figure and with more power comes more risk, and more time spent looking for that thrill-seeking high. When someone gets such highs in their normal, day-to-day life (ie, as a powerful music figure, getting endorsement deals etc.), it’s easy to up the ante when looking for the next thrill.

While it’s of course not excusable that Brown apparently might think of himself as “above the law,” he can still address, manage and yes – even change – this behavior he’s become addicted to. This narcissistic tendency causes people to go into a situation – whether that be with a girlfriend or on national television – thinking they’re above the law and that the rules don’t apply to them. For these types of people, the hardest thing for them is to apologize and take responsibility since for the first time they’re experiencing adverse consequences of their behavior, as we saw from Brown’s failed attempt at an apology.

Clearly he’s got a long way to go if he does want people to take him seriously, or think he’s changed at all, but I do think he can change, just like someone who struggles with any one of a number of types of addiction.

Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil (Dr. Bonnie) is a relationship expert who was named by Psychology Today as one of America’s best therapists, and by New York Magazine as one of New York City’s best therapists. Her book, Make Up Don’t Break Up recently won the New York Times “Relationship Book of the Year” award.

Known as “The Adultery Buster” and the “No. 1 Love Expert,” she is the best-selling author of Adultery: The Forgivable Sin (adapted into a Lifetime movie starring actress Kate Jackson), Make Up Don’t Break Up, Finding and Keeping Love for Singles and Couples (Revised edition Feb 2010, including DVD How to Fall in Love and Stay in Love for Singles and Couples), Can We Cure and Forgive Adultery?, Staying Not Straying, How Not to (S)mother Your Man and Keep a Woman Happy, and Financial Infidelity (Making Money Sexy).

Dr. Bonnie has appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America, a three-day series on NBC’s The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show five times, a four day series on Fox TV regarding dating, Discovery Health documentary “Infidelity” and A&E on addictions. She appears frequently on ABC, Fox, CBS and NBC News, The View, 20/20, and CNN. Visit Dr. Bonnie at


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