= What Really Killed Whitney Houston: The interview


What Really Killed Whitney Houston: The interview

The two famous psychologists, Jim Sniechowski and Judith Sherven, both PhD scientists, the very authors published “What really killed Whitney Houston” a few days ago, are back here, talking to us. When I emailed that my book review is ready, they asked about my next move and I said “Well, interviewing you of course”! Skype got involved beautifully and one night I “sat with them” and had a fantastic conversation. They’ve been to Paris, they were there for a congress and when I asked them how Paris was, Jim said “It’s Paris, how bad can it be”? We laughed a lot, we chilled and got into the book details. What the two distinguished authors want us to know is that the book is not another biography about the GREat singer. It is what it is! It’s a book about what REALLY killed her. It is beyond drugs and Bobby Brown, beyond the obvious that Press and Media were playing over and over again. It is focused on words such as “unconscious”, “hold back”, “drive”… As delicately Judith put it, it was an opportunity to tell a huge audience what to do to lead a better life. As long as this audience – you and me amongst – is willing to listen… A million thanks to Kevin Curl!
How did you come up with the idea to write a book about Whitney’s death?
Judith: When Whitney Huston died I saw that the media was so quick to assume that the cause of her death was the drug abuse and they were all pointing the finger at Bobby Brown… As psychologists, Jim and I know that when people go into drug abuse or they are married badly, that they are much deeper in psychological issues going on. So I started researching, Jim did as well but I did most of the research, on what was her background, what would have let her to the ultimate self-destructive life style that she engaged in and that produced all of the information and we thought “Wow! This is a way to redo her story, to help people understand the power of the unconscious”.
Jim: The simple formula here is that in almost one hundred percent of the cases the obvious are symptoms, they are not causes. So, in this case, the obvious was drugs; that was not a cause, that was a tool in the symptom. Bobby Brown was not a cause, he was a tool in the symptom; for unconscious content was already driving her. She didn’t know about it.
I understand you’ve been working on this project for a long time, thus my question is “Why Now”? Why did you decide to make this book and release it now?
Judith: Because her story was so powerful! People were so moved around the world, she had a huge group of followers, it was a way to reach a large audience of people who need to understand the power of their own unconscious hold back; but they are not likely to read an academic book, not likely necessarily to read a self-help book, but they will read a book about what really killed their idol. Whitney Huston.
Jim: And we’ve been working on this material for a long time, we have other publications and we have other programs around it… Basically “Why Now”? Because the door opened! And she, through her death, she opened the door, that’s why!
How easy or not easy was it to find the information needed and wanted, in order to proceed with the writing of the book?
Judith: It was amazingly easy! We certainly bought all of the publications that were on the newsstand, the magazines, you know, “The National Enquirer”, “People”, but a lot more information was available on line. Most of it during the time of her death but a lot of them going back, years ago, that once I started to google for what I was looking for, I found amazing information that has been online for a long time, but it hasn’t been used in the news media at all.
Jim: And the beauty about that information is that it was third-party endorsed. It wasn’t us saying it, it was already out there! So that we had validity for what we were talking about because it was already out.
How long did it take to finish what you started?
Judith: I didn’t keep track exactly but I’m betting no more than three months.
That must be a new record, gathering the material and writing all about it!
Jim: The writing about it… Essentially it wrote itself, once we had the material! It was the gathering of the material, that was step number one and as a writer I’m sure you know of what we’re talking about. Then we had to organize the material, because the material was not organized, vis-à-vis the theme of what really killed her and how we looked at it. So we had to take this material and organize it in such a way to make this presentation.  
Judith: I think the better piece of it was that I was upset. I was upset! I was watching all the videos of her, when she was young and fresh and I would just weep! I was sad. And the momentum inside of me was… I wouldn’t stop! Once I started searching for things and things would show up… My emotional push was so intense that it was practically effortless!
Jim: Once you make a commitment, to doing something, information virtually falls out of the tree, that you never saw before, but it suddenly shows up in the process. And it was a pleasure to see Judith just, essentially, become a magnet for the information that it was trying to find its way to her. It was really quite fascinating!
So I can only assume that Judith was a Whitney Huston fan, right?
Judith: No! (laughs)
No? (laughs - it's nothing disrespectful to the singer, it's just a human response)
Judith: Actually, I was not familiar with her, other than the name and other than the horrible headlines, when they wrote that she and Bobby Brown had troubles or that she had another drug relapse. I really didn’t follow her at all, so it was remarkable, when she died, that I felt so compelled to learn about her, it was quite “strange” in a very moving, compelling way…
Jim: In a purely practical and self-serving perspective, the tragedy of her death, which was dealt by Judith in a weeping perspective, was absolutely a perfect platform, to what we wanted to say to an audience that was already in place, wanting to hear this kind of information.
When reading your book, there was basically one thought that came to me. Would you say that Whitney never managed to actually grow up?
Judith: Yes! That is absolutely accurate! She never managed to grow up.
Jim: And the phrase we used for it is that “She never left home”. And I don’t mean she never moved out of the physical home of her parents. She never left that early environment. And she never grew up to be a woman of her own. She was possessed… As it says in the book, she wanted to be ghettoed. And that’s not a critical statement or a supportive statement, it’s the description. That’s what she wanted, unconsciously. And that’s what she created. She was a very powerfully creative human being. She was physiologically unaware of what was driving her.
Before reading your book, I had a totally different idea about Whitney’s death. Now that you have brought a whole new dimension into it, would you say the readers are going to be shocked when start reading your book?  
Judith: Yes! That’s what we are hearing from people who have read it. They are saying exactly what you’re saying. And it’s so important the people have this experience, to have a brand new lense to look through, to understand what happened to Whitney and, in that regard, is that it helps them to look at their own lives and their own frustration, their own hold back, in a brand new life. And that is thrilling!
Jim: I’m going to be academic here for a moment. The idea of the unconscious, as a real aspect of our overall psyching, has been discussed in one way or another for, I would say roughly, three hundred and fifty years. It even goes back to Plato! When Plato talked about life is nothing but a remembering of what we were… Regarding the unconscious, until Freud in – roughly – 1900-1910, it was not a topic for common discussion; it was only among physiologists and philosophers. Since Freud it’s become common enough, to be able to use the word “unconscious” to people that have some idea of what you’re talking about. And this particular document is an articulation of what all that means in real practical terms. And yes, it’s gonna be a shock because Whitney, although very dramatic and very tragic, was only a tragic and dramatic figure… We all live by this, being driven by the unconscious.  
You are both very experienced psychologists. You’ve written books, you’ve done thousands of hours of sessions with people… What is the most intriguing thing, in order to start thinking about writing a book?
Judith: Bottom line is that both Jim and I come from backgrounds that were much then supportive of our being fully expressive and fully successful in our lives. The therapies that we originally had individually, we books we’ve read, the workshops we attended, didn’t go deep enough to help us with our lives, to know what rightfully belongs to us. And so, always, the book topics, the books that we choose to write, stir from an awareness that most people can be much richer, much fuller in their lives.
Jim: And that’s a very elegant way to answer your question. My way is not going to be as elegant. We were in a hole and we have crawled our way out. And the hole is, to give you a metaphor, covered with spider webs, that are sticky, and you have to fight your way out, sort of an Indiana Jones kind of way. In my early life that I had to run at top speed to get to the starting line. Initially it was survival. As Judith said, we saw therapist after therapist and they were inadequate and I’m not saying that out of disrespect, they just weren’t here, for whatever reason. And so we had to find a way to do this. And we were doing it individually, before we met. And then we met, in our early forties and the click was really good and that’s how we developed it. It is a survival gut.
Judith: But it’s more than that. You have to unlock your full potential. Whether in your relationship, your business, your house, anywhere that people are hold back.
Costas Koulis
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