Losing your Sheen

Published Dec 20, 2015, 12:00 am IST
Updated Mar 26, 2019, 4:20 pm IST
What we can learn from Excess Express Charlie Sheen, and his tribe.
Charlie Sheen, when he was asked on live TV about his HIV diagnosis
 Charlie Sheen, when he was asked on live TV about his HIV diagnosis

For Charlie Sheen, it could be too late for a resolution ahead of a new year. 2015 seems to have brought to a halt a career that has dangled off the ragged edge, for far too long� all that’s left is ten lawsuits, a furious community of friends and a damning, no-going-back-from-this diagnosis.

It certainly was the charmed life though. Born to celebrated actor Martin Sheen and actress Janet Sheen, Charlie was destined for stardom from the absolute start. Trouble is, he grew up knowing that. He may be one of the few out there with Oliver Stone (Platoon, 1986), Francis Ford Coppola (1979) and an appalling Scary Movie sequel (2003) all in the same resume. For years, Charlie was of the distinct belief he was top dog.


That was the 80s though — when the father and a few friends were eager to get Charlie some help. By the mid-2000s however, the family had given up hope and a circle of trusted, caring individuals were replaced by fame-hungry hangers-on.

Despite a career that was in the sunshine for a while (he was earning $1.8 million for every episode of Two And a Half Men) by early 2011, Charlie had suffered a full Chernobyl. As of December 2015, Charlie faces losing part of his fortune to the ones suing him for putting them “at risk of contracting AIDS”.

The lack of control

Debauchery lies within. In fact, we’re all susceptible to that downward spiral. In a strange 2011 study, published in Psychological Science, experts claimed people taking vitamin supplements were prone to a “false sense of invulnerability” which could translate into “a greater tendency to head down the path of risky behaviour”. And you don’t have to be a catalogued idiot to qualify. An internal audit carried out by America’s elite National Science Foundation revealed the country’s humanity-furthering Antarctic research stations — filled with some of the smartest brains on the planet — were “rife with drunken debauchery”.


“NSF officials acknowledged that alcohol consumption within the US Antarctic Programme can create unpredictable behavior that has led to fights, indecent exposure, and employees arriving to work under the influence,” the report claimed. “You see, the brain is a fascinating organ. A single thought triggers 10,000 neurons and when we’re dealing with people who have this devil-may-care attitude, sealed off with that false sense of entitlement, that can lead to utterly shocking behaviour.

This usually happens with people who are born into money... who have no respect for the source of that cash or the hardwork it had taken a predecessor to earn it,” explains Bengaluru-based life coach and counsellor, Ian Faria. Faria runs Talk Temple and has been in the business of troubleshooting human ties for about three decades now.


“This behaviour is not limited to celebrities. I had this client — a woman who was being mentally and physically tortured by her husband. The man was even forcing her to be part of orgies — to join prostitutes who he would bring home. After months of mental agony she approached us and we noticed there was no easy way to bring the guy around. He even challenged her to go ahead and do whatever it is that she pleased and soon the woman found herself stuck — in between parents who were trying to get her back into the relationship and a husband who didn’t care for her.


“This decadence, this collapse of familial systems, substance abuse, debauchery is more commonplace than we think. We have more money now, there’s a certain detachment within families due to reliance on technology... everyone’s on some group or the other... and children are not getting enough time from parents,” Faria adds.

Lack of early role models

Experts agree such behaviour is often triggered when there’s an absence of proper early guidance. “One of the key aspects to such behaviour is the absence of an early role model,” says Hyderabad-based consultant sexologist, Dr Venkataramana. “An early role mode provides a certain guidance and outlook towards life. In the absence of such guidance, the individual could lose his or her focus and it would then be too late to inculcate certain intrinsic values around life. Then, there’s an individual’s need for instant gratification which is both a way to deal with troubles and a way to delay facing those troubles. The need for instant, immediate sexual gratification can cause havoc in one’s life.”
Which is why many are suggesting parents take up charge to stop their children from falling prey to early, erratic behaviour. Lack of robust family support could send children down the wrong path in an instant.


Those troubled child stars

Perhaps the most visible victims of early fame are child stars. Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Shia LeBouf, Justin Bieber, Amanda Bynes, Macaulay Culkin... the list is long. Between these names, we have at least 50 visits to a rehab clinic and over a dozen traffic offences and other crimes. “Because they are just not able to take in all the attention,” says Sonali Malhotra, a former image consultant. “Both women and men are prone to such behaviour. Also, there’s trouble with instant fame, instant anything. Today, we have our child stars aiming for the kind of celebrity lifestyle we’re seeing in the media. But they fail to gauge the hardwork that has gone behind that persona. They sincerely believe that level of fame is instantly attainable, which is wrong,” says Malhotra.


Then, there’s the inherent need of self-actualisation (the very peak of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, first suggested in a paper in 1943). It explains that each individual will try their best to become something more. “What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualisation... It refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualised in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.” Maslow notes that self-actualised people have “realistic perceptions of themselves, others and the world around them”.


Spontaneity is another characteristic of the self-actualised — self-actualised people are spontaneous in their internal thoughts and outward behavior. Malhotra adds: “But the search for fame needs a filter. We need to learn what’s permissible and what’s acceptable. It’s perfectly fine to look for fame but there’s also a requirement to stay grounded. Which is why I tell people that traditional parenting is still very important and there needs to be a “right idol”.

“As far as individuals go — learn to make time to know yourself. In this day and age, when it’s possible to instantly connect with friends... it’s equally important you take out time to ponder crucial questions about yourself. It’s also important that we develop a very realistic view about who we are and what we need to do — to become idols for society around us. Because yes, we are being watched and it’s best to convey a positive impression.