Less than a day after he spent 36 hours behind bars in connection with an assault case in Washington D.C., Chris Brown appears headed for a serious stay at a rehab facility in Malibu, California to deal with his anger issues.
Brown, who was ordered to undergo anger management training as part of his guilty plea to felony assault in connection with his 2009 beating of then-girlfriend Rihanna, has a history of violent outbursts. According to his lawyer and spokesperson, his trip to rehab is an attempt to deal with those tendencies, "gain focus" and get them under control. (Spokespeople for Brown, including his lawyer, could not be reached for additional comment at press time.)
This latest incident, however — in which he is accused of punching a man in the face after the victim allegedly photobombed a picture Brown was taking with two female fans — has reportedly set off an investigation by the Los Angeles County Probation Department. If that probe turns up evidence that Brown violated his probation from the Rihanna case, the singer could be headed to prison for up to four years.
That seems like plenty of reason to get help with anger issues, but just what does anger management look like and how can it help someone deal with their rage? MTV News spoke to a pair of California-based experts on the benefits of anger treatment. "There's a starting point with all this stuff and it comes from your belief system and what we saw and heard as a kids," said Ron Konkin, who runs the Relationship Bootcamp program. Konkin does a four-day inpatient anger program that he likened to a detox in which the patient spends 12 hours a day trying to probe the childhood experiences that might be triggering rage. TMZ reported on Wednesday (October 30) that Brown could spend up to three months in rehab.
Brown has spoken in the past about the impact of seeing his mother allegedly being beaten at the hands of his stepfather. "If you experience violence [as a child] then anger is the tool you might use," he said. "And you only developed that because you need to protect yourself. That's the normal reaction to outside stimulus that might hurt you and it happens in an instant. That trigger point is that of a little boy who feels he needs to protect himself."
Konkin, who has no firsthand knowledge of Brown's history or his current treatment, said what he does is help his clients connect the dots to find out where their anger started and acknowledge that trigger, which is often the hardest part. "That's your story, that's what happened and you can't change what happened," he said. "But you can change the way you see it."
The next step is to forgive, not necessarily the people who wronged you, but yourself and "release that noose around your neck and set yourself free." Konkin, who has been treating anger-related issues for two decades, said there is something "magical" that happens when patients let go of that anger and make a decision to change their lives. Different therapists have different methods, and "Taming Your Anger" author Steven Wolf, Ph.D. said his is about retraining the brain. Wolf offers a money back guarantee on his services, which he said he's used to help "extremely" violent two-strike offenders in California and prisoners at New York's Rikers Island jail.
"There's no such thing as an in-patient anger management program," said Wolf, who also had no firsthand knowledge of Brown's case. "You can hire someone to help you privately, but what it takes is training the brain to identify the signal, which is always the same thing, [regardless] of the external circumstances. The reason you react is that you don't identify that signal of anger before it comes out of your mouth." Wolf has developed his own method to change that behavior by recognizing those signals and putting a plan together to replace them, which begins with a basic breathing exercise and includes removing yourself from the circumstance. Another factor that often plays a role in violent outbursts is alcohol, which Wolf said affects decision making and impulse control and makes it hard to remember the lessons he teaches. Unlike Konkin, Wolf said he does not believe that you have to deal with precursors first. "It doesn't matter where that [impulse] came from," he said. "The first task is to learn to do no harm. You can't help what you feel."
Both men agreed, however, that change is possible, but that it takes hard work and an acknowledgement that there is a problem.