The spiritual bankruptcy of high achievers

Why are so many celebrities unhappy? And why do so many of their marriages break up? In The Sunday Times, Giles Hattersley talked to Donna Lancaster, a therapist in LA who treats “high achievers”. Lancaster says the pressure on celebrities to appear “perfect” isn’t just about business; it’s a psychological need, too.

“When you have everything and are thinking, ‘We should be grateful for this perfect life’ and it isn’t perfect, then it is tough. They feel miserable with each other and then guilty for feeling miserable.”

Sometimes the problem is the wife who marries a rich, much more successful man – a footballer, for example. “Often the woman – and I know it’s a stereotype, but it’s certainly my experience – is thinking, ‘Is this it? Do I have my nails done, and have people to cook, and fly on a private jet and, actually, I never see my partner?”

Then there are the two high achievers who marry, but have no time for one another – a recipe for what Lancaster calls “spiritual bankruptcy”.

In fact, all the day-to-day things ordinary people argue over, such as the washing up, can be “the keystone” of happiness. “Successful people,” Lancaster tells Hattersley, “can face a deeper disconnection, not only with their partner, but also with the world at large.

Once the everyday tasks of life are removed through wealth – shopping, cooking, using public transport – people can easily slip into a state of disconnection and shut down.”

Adam Furnham, professor of psychology at University College London, says there are two problems associated with fame. “One is to do with people watching you the whole time… so you become paranoid. The other is imposter syndrome.

Having achieved great wealth, people somehow feel that they don’t deserve it, that they are an imposter and unworthy. Then they self-harm in some way, perhaps through drugs.”

How Manchester United won over David Beckham

Whether you’re rich or not rich, small things matter. In The Times recently, Matthew Syed told the story of how the young David Beckham chose between signing with Manchester United or Tottenham Hotspur. Ted, his father, was a United fan, while his grandfather lovedSpurs. The London club was nearer Beckham’s home, too.

When David and Ted turned up to see Terry Venables, the Spurs manager had his feet on the table. “What’s his name,” he asked his scout. “It’s David Beckham.” “Is he any good?” “Yes, we rate him.” Venables turned to Beckham. “We’d like you to join Spurs,” he said.

United’s Sir Alex Ferguson took a different approach. He phoned Ted at home and discussed David’s strengths and weaknesses. He knew them. (“I mean really knew them,” says Syed.) When David turned up at Old Trafford it was his birthday. Ferguson had organised a cake.

It was typical of him: he knew everyone at United by name. “I love United because they treated me like a player, not a number,” says Beckham. It’s a timely reminder that, even in football, it’s not always just money that makes the world go round.

Tabloid money: Two Jags has a change of heart

• “Your local high street might be dying, but there is one business that is booming. The tattoo parlour,” says Tony Parsons in The Sun on Sunday. Five years ago there were 402 high-street parlours in the UK, now there are 1,014. Customers are inspired by the likes of David Beckham who “cover themselves in body art”. But “you don’t look like Beckham by having a bad drawing of a butterfly… on your nipples”.

• John Prescott is about to go down to “one Jag.” The former deputy PM writes in the Sunday Mirror that he currently has one Jag in Hull and a sporty XJS in London – hence the “two Jags” nickname. He’s now going to sell the XJS, while keeping his other Jag in Hull.

Prescott is “passionate” about climate change and thinks it’s time to “practise what I preach”. What’s more, he can get round London for free using his pensioner’s travel pass. Prescott’s wife is “delighted. She always found it difficult to get out of the sports car.”

• There could be some social awkwardness at Apple HQ after Apple’s purchase of Dr Dre’s Beats headphone company, says Ephraim Hardcastle in the Daily Mail. Apple CEO, Tim Cook, is gay, while Dre, a hip hop mogul, “Is something of a homophobe, who croons about ‘faggots’ in his often-unedifying ditties”.

• City centres are full of “luxury apartments for the super rich”, says Sarah Beeny in The Sun on Sunday. The blocks lack outdoor space, “a basic human need”. If you end up in one out of choice “you might be mad – especially if you have children”.

Merryn

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