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Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard Defamation Trial: The Worst Psychological Outcomes

At least those that I could think of…

I did not want to write about this.

In fact, I did not want to know about this.

Yet, here we all are. The subject is everywhere, bits of testimonies make it to every corner of the online environment — what I’m saying is that you cannot really escape it.

Now that it’s been brought to my attention in such an obsessive manner, I gave up and looked into the topic a little bit, even watched parts of the trial.

And I have thoughts.

I want to be clear about one thing though: This is not about discussing the private life of the two individuals, that’s their business. But since they decided to or had to make certain parts public, it becomes justified to have a reaction to what we are witnessing as a society.

My article will address the broader theme — if this were to happen to a couple, to any other individuals, public figures or not, what would the psychological outcomes of such an agitated and emotionally charged context be?

That is what I want to list below.

What a situation like theirs could trigger or lead to. What the aftermath of it all could look like.

Please note that this is not an extensive, or even well-structured psychological analysis of the context, just my main thoughts on it.

“Worst Psychological Outcomes” sounds rather dramatic, and works for a brief title, but what I mean to list is a set of truly unpleasant psychological possible effects of contexts similar to the one we’re witnessing in the public arena.

Here is how I think the context can impact a person’s psychological experience.

  • It’s permanent. The worst thing of it all is the simple fact that the context exists. It becomes part of the narrative for both parties, and for everyone else involved. There’s no undo button.
  • Private things become public knowledge. They are forced to talk about incredibly private elements of their life. Even when someone’s level of comfort regarding disclosure can be considered higher than the average person’s, things become more and more difficult when you lose control over what is disclosed. For argument’s sake, one may end up disclosing what otherwise would’ve chosen to keep private.
  • The recordings. I am sorry, but if you are in a relationship where you record audio or video of your partner without their knowledge, I cannot see that connection as a strong or healthy one. In some contexts, it can even be illegal, especially when linked to the reason why the recording happened in the first place.
  • People will judge. The information is out there now. People will rightfully have reactions and thoughts about it. Some may choose to share them in less than sensitive ways.
  • Retraumatization. Remembering moments of intense distress is additional trauma in itself.
  • Delayed healing. Since the parties relive traumatic events from their past, the healing is rather delayed or put at risk by the whole context that requires unpleasant feelings to be evoked once more — the trial in this case.
  • Delayed closure and detachment. In most cases, we want to move away from an adverse context as soon as possible. Distance in time and space allows analysis and restoration of well-being.
  • You’re trapped in a story you cannot escape. Not until the story itself is done with you. They cannot just decide to call everything off and return to a somewhat normal life. There are legal and social implications, on top of personal ones.

The short version: This sucks.

On so many levels.

Really, if you can keep yourself away from traumatic contexts such as this one, do everything in your power to achieve that.

I think we should pay attention and attempt to at least prevent those bits that we have control over.

How we choose a partner is one such bit of life.

Thank you for reading.

Note: Originally published on a different platform on May 18, 2022.

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