Home » Blogs » Movies and Mental Health » Charlie Sheen and the Allure of Manic Flight

Charlie Sheen and the Allure of Manic Flight

In a post on my blog, After Psychotherapy, I’ve discussed how Charlie Sheen’s behavior and comments in recent interviews illustrate the defenses against shame I’ve written about in detail.

In yet another interview, this one on ABC’s 20/20,  Sheen continues in the same grandiose and contemptuous vein; eventually, however, he gives us some insight into his mania.

The interviewer asks if he ever feels that his wild lifestyle gets “too close” to his kids and might hurt them, referencing the out-of-control party in a New York hotel room last year, with his girls asleep just across the hall.

“You don’t normally think about that in the middle of it,” he replies.  “Then people remind you of it and of it’s ‘Oh. SHAME. Oops. Move on.’  I mean, what are you going to do, change it?  Move their room?  Can I go back in time and move their room?  No!”

Because he has no sense of how to make up for what he’s done, he can’t bear to think or feel anything about it.  In a manner characteristic of bipolar disorder, all he can do is take manic flight into his vision of a perfect, “winning” and shame-free life.  The Interviewer then asks whether he feels bad about that night.  Yes, he acknowledges, but he’s the kind of guy who apologizes and moves on.  Again, he can’t bear the shame he feels about himself and his behavior and must quickly distance himself from it.

At another point, the Interviewer asks whether he worries about the influence of his past upon his children  “I could worry about it,” he tells her, “or I could say, ‘Kids, look at your dad, he’s rock star!” Here, in a nutshell, is the manic response to pain, a perfect, magical answer to a problem felt to be hopeless (as discussed in this post).

Because Mr. Sheen can’t bear to confront the emotional catastrophe of his life, he takes refuge in a grandiose view of himself.  He continually refers to himself as a rock star, envisions himself living on a superior plane with “goddesses” and even seems to see himself as god-like: “When you’ve got tiger blood and Adonis DNA, it’s like … you’ve been given magic, you’ve been given gold!”

This is the same consolation he seeks to offer his children:  Don’t feel bad that your childhood has been a chaotic and painful mess due to my wild lifestyle, drug addiction and violence — your dad is rich and famous! You have to grieve for these children, and even for Mr. Sheen, though the aggressive, contemptuous style evident in these Charlie Sheen quotes makes it difficult to glimpse the pain behind his defenses.

Now Mr. Sheen has lost custody of his two young sons. Following their removal by the police, he gave another interview on The Today Show, seated beside his lawyer; while the same defenses against shame are in evidence, the mania seems to be cracking and the pain breaking through.

With dark circles under his eyes, his face drawn, he looks depressed; the charges which he levels at his enemies seem far less strident than in other recent interviews.  Mr. Sheen needs to feel depressed.  He needs to grapple with the intense shame he feels about himself and his life, hopefully learning to bear the guilt and remorse.  Sadly, it’s hard to imagine he’ll get the help he needs, with the Goddesses and others within his circle supporting his mania.

While it may seem like “magic” to be a rock star, a closer look at these Charlie Sheen quotes shows that for this “rock star,” it’s a curse.

Charlie Sheen and the Allure of Manic Flight

Joseph Burgo PhD

19 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Burgo PhD, J. (2019). Charlie Sheen and the Allure of Manic Flight. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Mar 2019
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.