Britney and her relationships: The story of unfulfilled needs

Britney and Justin: The dream couple

“Awww, they are so cute together!”

Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake were Hollywood’s most adored dream couple at the time.

Although their relationship showed the typical signs of a puppy-love, the deep connection between the two souls and their fate was almost palpable. No wonder that many fans are still convinced that they belong together.

One could not miss the genuine gestures of affection towards each other during their interviews and shows. They shared caresses, looks, giggles, and jokes.

Justin spoke about his girlfriend with palpable excitement that shone through his introverted nature. There was a video of them; I saw years ago where he proudly told that he was the luckiest guy for having the most stunning girlfriend, Britney. As she heard the compliment, she broke into embarrassed laughter. He seemed to be the slightly clumsy twenty-year-old Prince Charming of her dreams.

But what happened to the dream? What went wrong?

The breakup with Justin

As you may recall, our emotional needs drive our behavior.
If you look at the events before the breakup, you can put together piece by piece, the picture of Britney’s unmet needs getting more potent and slowly taking over control.

When the pop princess entered the music industry, she was practically a child. Her unique energy soon infected the music industry, and it turned her into a money-making machine.

But a precious asset like her cannot go and do whatever she liked.

Perhaps that is the downside of showbiz that people know the least about; the industry has very sophisticated control mechanisms over their celebrities to maximize the income and the influence over the public. Many stars need to fight for their rights to have the freedom they desire.

So it was apparent from the very beginning that Britney’s management set up a very delicate controlling mechanism over her.
(Feeling sad? Let’s go to a fancy shopping mall type of thing.)

They recognized her talent for instinctively getting a hold of her audience, so they gave her enough creative freedom to “do her thing.” On the other hand, all other aspects of her life had to correspond with the machine of which she became a part.

Some of that control the management exerted for her own sake, some for the material gain.

As I have mentioned already, the sense of control over our lives is essential.

When we lose that perception of control, we start to feel hopeless and helpless. We might become convinced that our life has lost its meaning, and it can quickly lead to depression.

That state is “learned helplessness.” That is a state where we learn not to be aware of the control we have over our lives.
You might know the classic example of the little elephant who grew up tethered to a pole. Even after growing up, this elephant will stay within the circle of its rope, not knowing that it already has the power to break free.

Fighting the learned helplessness

When Britney reunited with her childhood love, Justin Timberlake in 1999, she instinctively discovered a new aspect of her life: the relationship loosened the strings of control over her. As an insider put it in the Rolling Stone cover story:

“[Justin] became a great force in her life, but it started a pattern — she began to look for guys to help her get away from the people who control her.”

So this puppy-love was the first step toward having a sense of control, and of course, an intimate relationship.

But things were not that simple.

The first warning signs of Britney lacking attention and a sense of security

Both Britney and Justin were in a hamster wheel. The tours, shootings, interviews, and the distance had their toll. The stakes and expectations became higher and higher, and the insecurities of the pop princess grew with each day. She desperately needed attention and support.

As Darrin Henson, her choreographer told the Rolling Stones Magazine in 2008, Britney gradually started to lose her confidence.

“Britney would come offstage after performing in front of 15 to 16,000 people and start crying because she thought she was terrible,” Henson said, “The girl doesn’t know who she is.”

According to rumors, Britney started thinking about getting married to Justin. If that is true or not, we can’t tell, but if you look at it from a distance, a pattern becomes visible; she seemed to try to use marriage as a means to escape.

Justin’s career absorbed most of his time and energy, and what was left was not enough for his partner.

And then the hell broke loose. The couple broke up in 2002.

Rumors spread that she had cheated on her boyfriend. According to the Rolling Stone, Justin discovered a mash note from Britney’s choreographer in her suite. That was allegedly the reason behind the nasty breakup and a retaliation campaign on Timberlake’s part.

Now, let’s not give in to the temptation to judge any of the parties. What we see here, although played out by a famous Hollywood couple, is a typical situation.

“She deserved what she got,” many commented, “She shouldn’t have cheated on him.”

If we want to understand why such things happen, we must look deeper.
There we can find those basic emotional needs that are working in a destructive mode.

The need for attention

In the case of Britney Spears, we have to base our assumptions (and I emphasize that these are assumptions) on the songs she wrote and the interviews she gave.

There is a song called Guilty. It is considered to be a reply to Timberlake’s “Cry me a river,” where he accuses her of infidelity.

In this song, she says:

“You’re always too busy
Why don’t you go with me
Don’t act like you don’t hear me
you’re guilty
He noticed no one was with me
I started getting so friendly
He told me I was so pretty
I flirted
I’m guilty
I have no reason to lie
I told you a thousand times
I needed you by my side, but you were nowhere to be found

And if losing you is what I gotta do to satisfy all my needs
Then I guess that makes me guilty.”

We can call this a tell-tale song.

How does the unmet need for attention feel like?

Britney put it this way in the documentary “Britney: For the Record”:

“I’m angry.” The people around her were trying to laugh her comment off. “I’m very angry. I’m horribly angry. No, I’m smiling right now because I think it’s funny how you all are laughing,” she continued.

Later she explained:
“And when I tell them the way I feel its like… that they hear me, but they are really not listening. They hear what they want to hear, but they are really not listening to what I’m telling them. It’s like… it’s bad. I’m sad.”

“All eyes on us.”

Again, we might come to the rash conclusion that a person in the spotlight must have all “eyes on them.”

Fame can make people utterly lonely. It makes it hard to create and maintain meaningful, close, and intimate relations and substitutes them with superficial adoration. Such a public’s favorites can find themselves immensely isolated.

Britney Spears was lonely.

She became vulnerable and unstable. Her relationship failed to rescue her, and meet her primary emotional needs.

Any caring attention concerning her as a person and not as a subject of overall adoration seemed to promise relief.

We must remember, it only seemed to meet the need, but it never promised a real solution.

When we have a “hole in our soul,” let it be a lack of attention, a lack of feeling loved and cared for, a lack of belonging somewhere, or a lack of security, which naturally interweaves with the first three, we become vulnerable.

That is when we feel tempted to drink saltwater for a moment’s relief.

“Yes,” you might say, “I’ve also been lonely, yet, I never cheated on my husband!”

The extent of our emotional needs is different. Our background, self-awareness, beliefs, and personality are diverse. And of course, our pain threshold is also different. Different people create different ways of compensating for the lack of emotions that they need.

After the breakup

After her breakup with Justin, she did what many women do to cope with the loss; she started partying and seeking substitutes. As she put it: “I would go out just to keep my mind busy. Just to keep going.”

The pattern gets imprinted in the subconscious mind

Her divorce from Kevin led to the same escape mechanism. “I never really faced it, and I just ran,” she confessed.

Unmet emotional needs always generate a response in our subconscious mind that seeks to move us away from pain. When it finds a solution that gives the sensation of immediate relief (even if it’s destructive), the brain will repeat the pattern and stick with that attitude.

Britney’s unconscious emotional drives made her jump into actions (and relationships) that were not nurturing and even harmful to her, just because they gave a sudden illusion of being loved, accepted and cared for.

Sounds familiar?

If these drives pull our strings, we can quickly become self-destructive puppets in the hands of our demons.

The Need for Control

I don’t wanna lose control – I wanna lose control

Would you have thought that control would be one of the main issues in Britney Spears’ life?

As for me, it didn’t dawn on me until I started to look deeper into her story.

Feeling in control of our lives is crucial for all of us.

In 2004 as an act of taking back the control over her life, Britney married Kevin Federline.

She learned from her short marriage with Jason Alexander. This second time she planned her escape with finesse and determination. Her strategy was based on the element of surprise and involving her family in a way that they had no other choice but to accept her decision, and take her side.

The couple caught the press, the public and I guess the management as well, by surprise.

Britney finally started a family life, in the hope that it would cure her emotionally and give her the fulfillment she needed.

A marriage for the wrongs reasons

“I married for the wrong reasons,” she later confessed, after her divorce from her second husband.

Just how many of us say the same words.

We often jump into relationships and marriages in the hope that they would fix us.
Secretly we hope that if we have a loving partner or an unconditionally loving child, we will feel loved. We believe that if we create a lovely family, we will feel worthy or fulfilled.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. As soon as we place that responsibility on our family, we start losing control.

Our partner will probably be the subject of our projections, and as soon as those illusions start to crack up, we might find out that we are living with a complete stranger, who is unable to make us feel happy.

As a result, we usually feel disillusioned, betrayed, disappointed, hurt and helpless.

If we start blaming our partner, our life, the circumstances or even God, and if we try to find a solution on the outside we further lose control over our lives. We become the hostages of our unfulfilled emotional needs and our compensations.

(That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask for help. On the contrary. Others can help a lot, but no one can save us from ourselves. That is our job.)

Britney’s ride through hell

Unmet needs create vulnerability.

We heard that already, but what does vulnerability mean in this case?

It is a loss of creative control over our energy. Our feelings, behavior, and thoughts slip out of our hands.
Why do I call it a creative control? Because many people confuse the rigid overcontrolling of things with capacity, although that is more of a compulsive fear of losing control than real power.

Our energy is our responsibility. If it goes uncontrolled, then it usually leads to disasters.

We all know that Britney possessed an immense flow of creative energy, which affected people. She could influence millions with as much as a smile or a silly statement (which is not something a teenager wouldn’t typically do).

Some people think that it was the showbiz machine that gave her that power. I see that the other way around; the apparatus used and abused the energy that she naturally had.

Her greatest weakness (and her very young age didn’t help) in my view was that she didn’t learn to control that massive power, and that was an open invitation to unscrupulous people to get their share.

Our unmet needs are like hooks for others, and that is a crucial aspect of our vulnerability, so those calculating people who are looking for power over others will soon knock on our door.

Britney Spears had vast experience with that kind of parasitic people. She used to be an excellent magnet, given her energy, financial success, celebrity status, and a massive load of vulnerability.

A man named Sam Lufti, “Hollywood most famous svengali,” built up a parasitic influence over the pop singer and perhaps not many people know that he played a tremendous role in Britney’s breakdown.

Who is a Svengali?

Initially, Svengali is a character in George du Maurier’s novel Trilby (1894) who trains a talented girl’s voice and then takes her to the stage, while controlling her singing hypnotically. Now this word refers to a malevolent person who manipulates, controls and dominates a celebrity.

Of course, it’s not just the stars who become a target to such predatory people, but anyone from who they can gain something, whether it is money, a sense of control, energy or anything else.

How do such manipulators work?

Everything comes down to gaining control over their victim.


  1. First, manipulators (narcissistic people among them) do anything to make their victims believe that they can meet that dire emotional need that their subject is struggling with.
    They can show affection, infatuation, overwhelm their victim with love, attention, and care. They can promise the Earth and the Moon. As they are very flexible and unscrupulous, they will take on any form on which their target can project their illusions.
    These people will be the “one and only / twin flame,” “the savior,” “the soul mate,” “the best friend,” “the only one who understands you,” the list is endless.
  1. Parasitic people make their victims depend on them. It is a crucial part of their job. They make the other person believe that only the manipulator can fill their need. Nothing else and no one else can do that.
    “Without me you are nothing.”
    They ruin what is left of the victim’s confidence with emotional or even physical abuse, using his or her weaknesses.
  2. To stabilize the control over the victim, manipulators alienate them from family, friends and the outside world. To do that they fan the suppressed emotions and the tension within their victim and then direct the blow towards everyone who could contradict them.
    With that these people close the vicious circle on their subject, isolating it, implanting the feeling of dependence and helplessness.

There is a lot of evidence that Britney went through these stages of emotional manipulation and control. Together with the drugs provided by Sam Lufti, it destabilized her psyche to the extreme.

The rehab

As a means of stabilizing Britney, her management and family agreed on sending her to rehab.

Although it was well meant, and rehabs can provide invaluable help, in this case, I’m not convinced that that was the right decision.


Because Britney already felt alienated, out of control and disconnected. Due to the suggestions that Lufti gave her, and her previous experiences of being used and controlled, not to mention her failed marriage, she had severe trust issues.

The rehab only reinforced those feelings. It was a renewed attempt to regain control over the desperate popstar. That made Britney even more defiant and bitter. She was again not heard and not listened to.

At that point, she basically had no relationships that she could trust.

Her most precious asset, her connection to her family was severely compromised by the hidden pressure of her management to control her.

Very sadly many participants in the story actually had good intentions and thought they were doing what was the best for her, but they unknowingly contributed to those feelings of helplessness and isolation.

“You end up becoming a prisoner,” Britney said in the “For the Record” interview.

Okay, but how can we escape the vicious circle?

We need to learn a new, more fulfilling way of meeting our emotional needs. That’s crucial if we want to have more control over our lives.

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