Wisdom Workout


Lessons from Whitney Houston


By Susan McNeal Velasquez

A few days after Whitney Houston’s death, I received a phone message from someone who wanted to express her sadness and concern about the probability that prescription drugs played a part in her death.

She believes many women who use antidepressants are less aware of the dangers they face if they become too dependent, take more than prescribed, or add alcohol to the mix.

Her concern was that prescription drugs have become so commonplace in coping with stress and anxiety that it is accepted and the price minimized. Friends avoid the topic and in general, it may be ‘the elephant in the room.’

A meeting triggered her thoughts and she wondered how many present were themselves on prescription drugs but still didn’t seem to identify with Houston’s plight because the pop star was also known to have a problem with illegal drugs.

I’m not qualified to speak on the issue of prescription drugs, but the call got me thinking about some of the other aspects of Whitney Houston’s life experiences.

Since show business is one of the most competitive careers imaginable, it is easy to imagine the kind of jealousy that Whitney Houston’s beauty and extraordinary talent fostered.

Admiration and resentment may seem like opposites but the truth is that they sit very closely together. Was she admired? Absolutely. Did she have to deal with resentment, envy, mean-spirited gossip and the negatives of being in the limelight? Constantly. The difficulty comes when we don’t know that those two sentiments, admiration and resentment, are actually kissing cousins.

Think about it. Can you recall a time when you accomplished something that you were really proud of? And then were surprised and hurt when someone who you expected would be excited for you, responded in a less than enthusiastic way? That is precisely when admiration became contaminated by jealousy and delivered a slap of thinly disguised resentment.

These behaviors get dismissed as simply a part of human nature but the admiration-turned-resentment dynamic causes a lot of confusion and pain in interpersonal relationships. Even parents often send mixed messages to their children, proud of their accomplishments or beauty, but harboring unconscious resentment because they lacked similar opportunities or support. Knowing this information can help to better understand experiences that might have left you confused.

The comments made by Houston’s friends included statements that “she cared about other people, was compassionate, and she worried about being liked and being enough. She wanted to be loved.”

The probability is high Houston was such a clear and powerful talent because she was an open channel. Receptive. Sensitive. Emotional. Charismatic. Exuberant. Passionate. These are some of the words that describe creative and innovative expression in any field.

Here is another paradox. The need to belong, to love and be loved, is a driving need in all of us. Our belonging needs are met by connecting and fitting in with others and feeling that we are a part of a family, a community and society.

Our self-esteem needs are met by becoming the best that we can be in our careers and in our lives. Self-esteem needs are met by standing up and standing out as individuals.

Anyone who becomes an icon in their field has most likely had to sacrifice being liked and part of the crowd in favor of standing alone and ahead of the game. What makes them brilliant can also leave them profoundly isolated and alone.

Houston was spirited out with abundant love and expressions of admiration for her talents. Thankfully, death seems to bring about human kindness and understanding along with its mystery.


Susan McNeal Velasquez writes and facilitates on-going personal development trainings locally and is the author of BEYOND INTELLECT: Journey Into the Wisdom of Your Intuitive Mind. Learn more at: susanvelasquez.com or (949) 494-7773.

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