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Dr. Jane Greer Headshot

A Change of Grammer: Empathy for All

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From out here Kelsey Grammer and his estranged wife Camille both look like people behaving badly. Some might say he is the bad guy because he phoned in that he wanted a divorce while he was in New York performing on Broadway. When Camille reached out to him to see if they could talk about it, he told her to grow up and get over it. From where most of us stand, it seems that a marriage of more than 12 years would deserve more caring and consideration.

But now Camille is also making a spectacle of herself on Bravo's The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. She has feuded with a guest on the show and said hurtful things of her own, notably on a recent episode of the show called "Dinner Party from Hell."

It is so easy to point fingers at these people, judging them for being so mean and seemingly thoughtless. But it isn't always that simple. From what I can tell based on what I have read and what is known about his history, Kelsey is behaving the only way he knows how to. This divorce is not the first tragedy in his life. When Kelsey was a teenager, his father was killed. About eight years later his sister was raped and murdered after leaving a restaurant. And then five years after that, Kelsey's twin half brothers were killed in a scuba diving accident. That much trauma is going to take a toll on a person and impact the way he deals with any sadness and loss that comes his way. The fact that he was abrupt and cold toward Camille, that he told her to "grow up," is most likely how he had to handle the devastating deaths he endured at such a young age, which was to be stoic. However, stoic can also come across as remote, detached or uncaring. He dealt with the death of his marriage in the same way as all the previous ones he experienced. He soldiered on, and so his past became his present.

Although Camille's behavior appears dreadful, she too is doing what people who have been emotionally wounded typically do. They lash out and hurt other people, sometimes intentionally but often times not, because that is their way of coping with their pain. She is wreaking professionally the degree of chaos that she has had to live with personally. On my Shrink Wrap radio segment at www.healthylife.net, I have talked about how frequently in the media everything is typically one-sided. Too often there is a good guy and a bad guy in every story and every divorce. But in reality there usually is no bad guy--there is just a sad ending to a bad marriage that isn't working because of two people's limitations.

You don't have to be a celebrity for your past to dictate how you cope in the present or how you manage your anger by taking it out on others. If instead you try to take a minute to understand where each person is coming from it might help to make things more clear and to give you the opportunity to choose to cope in a different way, and hopefully have a better outcome. A little understanding can go a long way.