Amy Winehouse
by Dana Segall

Amy Jade Winehouse was an English singer-songwriter who became known for her powerful and captivating vocal talent. She created a whole new genre of music by integrating R&B, soul and jazz during a time period that praises pop music. She was born on September 14, 1983 to a cab driver, Mitch and his pharmacist wife, Janis. Amy’s parents introduced her to music when she was very young. Their tastes ranged from Carole King and James Taylor to the jazz classics that her father preferred. After her parents divorced, Amy and her brother lived with their mother in Southgate, England. At twelve, she entered the Sylvia Young Theatre School. After attending the school for two years, Winehouse was expelled for “not applying herself” and piercing her nose. She decided to drop out of conventional school to pursue a part-time job singing in a jazz band. At sixteen, she landed a deal with a management company. In 2003, Amy met Blake Fielder-Civil, a music video production assistant, at a local bar. Their relationship quickly spiraled, and she tattooed his name over her heart. Her debut album Frank was released in October of that year. The jazz-based album focuses on the pain of a previous break up. In 2006, the British press began to speculate Winehouse’s rapid weight loss. Later that year, her album Back to Black was released in the U.K. The album’s first single “Rehab” is based on her record company’s attempt to force her into a treatment facility. The following year, Winehouse’s music starts to take on the United States by storm. During this time, she abruptly wed Blake in Miami. Within the next few years, Amy continues to struggle with drug addiction, alcoholism, arrests for possession of marijuana and allegations of adultery. Two months after returning to rehab and cancelling her European tour, Amy Winehouse was found dead at her London apartment on July 23, 2011. It was later discovered she died from having more than five times the legal limit of alcohol in her system. As Mitch Winehouse once said of his daughter, “She was always very self-willed. Not badly behaved but… different.”

Psychoanalytic Perspective
The Psychoanalytic approach was based on the writing of Sigmund Freud. His past work with hysteria led to his theory’s focus around unconscious. Based on his model, Freud believed that the mind is divided into conscious awareness, unconscious repressed material and preconscious material. In this theory, Freud concentrates on the underlying sexual desires of an individual. His theory shows how each person’s personality consists of three parts: the Id, the Ego and the Super Ego. The Id centers on primitive desires, drives and emotions. The Super Ego, however, serves essentially as an individual’s conscience to ensure their actions meet social standards of morality. The Ego balances the Id and the Super Ego by realizing there is an appropriate way to respond to the real world. Freud believed that all individuals seek to relieve this tension of psychosexual energy in every aspect of their lives. Freud’s theory highlighted pathological development and suggested methods of addressing dysfunction. He understood the importance of childhood experiences on adult behavior and personality. His assessment techniques consisted of psychotherapy, free association and dream analysis.

Freud would say Amy Winehouse’s personality consisted of an over active Id. Instead of playing closer attention to her conscience, Winehouse tended to focus on her primitive desires. From a young age, Amy avoided following what was considered socially acceptable. At twelve, she was given the opportunity to enroll at the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School. She was expelled long before her graduation. Her mother, Janice, even once mentioned, “She was very bright but she was always messing around.” Winehouse was finally expelled when she pierced her nose. Early on, Winehouse strived to do exactly what she deemed important to her. Her life only continued to draw attention to her personal desires as she aged. She wrote an entire song called “Rehab” based on her record company’s pushing for her to seek rehabilitation for her alcohol and drug abuse. Instead of obliging to their wishes, Amy continued to avoid going to rehab until she hit rock bottom. Her relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil centered on a mutual reliance on drugs and alcohol. Rather than accepting her actions did not meet social norms, Amy allowed her actions to be driven entirely by pleasure. She once admitted in 2007, “the more insecure I feel, the more I drink.” Freud would say that her actions show her impulsivity and selfishness. She was constantly driven by sex, hunger and aggression. Her insecurities and depression led to her aggression, especially when she was under the influence of drugs and alcohol. She was arrested in London for assault. Reports declared she allegedly head butted a man outside a London pub. In addition, Winehouse admitted to adultery during divorce proceedings with Blake. These aspects of Winehouse’s life show how her personality is driven more so by her instinctual desires than her conscience.

According for Freud’s Psychosexual Stages of Development, Amy Winehouse was last in the Genital Stage. This stage begins at adolescence and continues into adulthood. In this stage, an individual’s attention is supposed to turn away from masturbation and toward heterosexual relations. He considered any deviation (i.e. remaining single, childless, homosexuality or other sexual behaviors a flaw). Winehouse seemed to agree that her life was meant to follow a certain course in terms of relationships. In spring of 2007, she wed Blake in Miami. Winehouse admitted at this time that she “wasn’t put her to sing. I was put here to be a wife and a mom.” Despite her troubles with adultery and addiction, she believed that the next chapter in life was supposed to be motherhood. Winehouse seemed to be in denial not only in terms of her addiction issues, but also within her relationship with Blake. Based on Freud’s view of this defense mechanism, an individual refuses to acknowledge anxiety-provoking stimuli. In some instances, people will distort a terrible fight with a spouse as a lover’s quarrel. In 2007, photos surfaced of a bruised, bandaged and blood-soaked Amy and a scratched-up Blake. The couple got into a very heated fight at a hotel the night before. Amy insisted her husband did not hit her. Instead, she created a story of Blake finding his wife cutting herself before doing drugs. Amy added, “He said I was rightly not good enough for him. I lost it.” In instances such as this, Amy was lying to herself. Instead of realizing the destructive relationship she is in, Amy viewed Blake in a positive light. The previous year, Amy was sent to the hospital for a drug overdose. At this time, she insisted her husband “saved” her. She was constantly in denial in regards to seeing how unhealthy her relationship was with Blake. Winehouse’s state of mind only continued to spiral out of control when Blake was arrested and in jail for trying to pervert the course of justice. Amy could have chosen to use her emotional distress to further inspire her musical abilities at this time. Rather than showing signs of sublimation, she displaced her emotions at inappropriate times. She had unacceptable emotions that needed to be released. Unfortunately, she chose to show up at her own concert drunk and upset. She was stumbling across the stage and cursing at the audience. As a result, she cancelled her further appearances. She added, “I can’t give it all on stage without my Blake. My husband is everything to me and without him it just isn’t the same.” Based on Freud’s model, this shows how dependent Winehouse is on her heterosexual relationship. She struggles as she watches her life going on a different course than she had hoped. She yearned to be a wife and a mother by this time, but without her husband present that was not as plausible.

Trait and Skill Approach
Hans Eysenck believed that biological factors influence a person to behave in certain types of ways, but that these types can be subdivided. Eysenck’s Big Three theory was developed to show that two or three of Gordon Allport’s Big Five trait dimensions are a core part of an organism. In this way, Eysenck implies that the other two or three traits are not as prevalent in the organism. According to Eysenck, the three underlying biological systems include: extroversion, neuroticism and psychoticism.

Based on Eysenck’s theory, extroversion is used to describe the characteristic of being fairly sociable, active, assertive and outgoing. In terms of Amy Winehouse, Eysenck would have most likely viewed her persona as high on extroversion. Some psychologists, such as Carl Jung, might have viewed Winehouse as introverted based on how she used her songwriting to deal with her feelings and experiences. At the same time, she was extroverted in the sense that she aggressively stood up for her own troubles. She was unashamed to speak her mind despite how controversial her words were. In past interviews, she openly expressed that she felt her management company was trying to have her go to rehab when she didn’t feel it was necessary. She admitted to drinking to help cope with a break up, but that it was not necessary for her to have treatment at the time. In addition, she utilized her appearance to assert herself. A person who is more introverted would try to make him or herself appear more inferior and less noticeable. Amy said to the press, “the more insecure I feel, the bigger my hair has to be.” She adjusted her physical appearance to make herself feel more superior than she actually felt. Extroverts are considered to have a relatively lower level of brain arousal. As a result, they tend to seek further stimulation. Amy consistently abused drugs, sex and alcohol in order to preoccupy herself from the underlying depression she was going through. She struggled to maintain healthy relationships with her spouse, Blake, because each of them had their own addiction issues they needed to cope with. She was extroverted in the sense that she did not mind exposing she went to hospital for “drug overdose” while the press initially reported her arrival there as due to “exhaustion.” Eysenck would label Amy as an extrovert based on her insensitivity of her nervous system. She surrounded herself with people and engaged in activities that constantly promoted stimulation, including her stimulation and draw attention, including her performing. Her actions showed that her nervous system is not very sensitive and is seeking arousal from the outside; she yearned for attention from others in her life, including in her love life.

Eysenck would also declare Winehouse as high on neuroticism based on her emotional instability and apprehensiveness. Neuroticism may be related to brain activity relevant to the detection of threats. In 2008, Winehouse was very unstable during the time period in which her husband, Blake was incarcerated. She felt lost without him present in her life. Her actions during her concert performs displayed her struggles with maintaining stability. Her songs in her album Back to Black even features a song “Wake Up Alone,” which shows her fear of being single. During this rough time period, Amy was arrested for attacking a man outside a London pub. Apparently, this man was only trying to hail her a taxicab when she head butted him. On the same night, Winehouse apparently attacked two men, kissed another, trashed a bar and smoked drugs on the sidewalk. It appears she viewed all these men as threatening figures to her relationship with her husband. Her struggles with alcohol abuse and drug issues only worsened after the incarceration of her husband over claims of witness tampering. Due to her constant worry with what was occurring in her life, Winehouse used alcohol as an escape. As a result, she was in and out of rehabilitation for the next year.

Winehouse showed high signs of psychoticism based on Eysenck’s model. This dimension includes a tendency towards psychopathology, involving impulsivity and cruelty, tough-mindedness and shrewdness. Eysenck’s psychoticism involves low agreeableness and low conscientiousness. After meeting Blake in 2003 at the beginning of their on-and-off relationship, Winehouse showed signs of impulsivity by promptly tattooing his name over her heart. Amy’s behavior was irrational when she explained her drastic weight loss was due to cutting back on her marijuana use. In a magazine spread in 2007, Winehouse displayed even more extreme signs of impulsive behavior. She was seen posing for a photographer wile scratching her exposed midriff with a shard of broken glass. She said, “I wrote ‘I love Blake’ on my tummy. It’s just chicken scratch.” She told another magazine, “If you suffer for something it means that it is not unimportant.” In addition, Amy was very impulsive in her relationships. She married Blake very abruptly after breaking up with her previous boyfriend, Alex. Her behavior demonstrated few signs of clear mindedness and rationality.

The Psychoanalytic Approach and Trait and Skill Approach further an understanding of Amy Winehouse’s behavior. After the British singer passed away, there was little knowledge regarding her mental issues other than her battles with alcohol and drug addiction. Based on this research, it appears Winehouse may have actually suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder. The diagnosis includes patients with a pattern of emotional instability, extreme difficulties in interpersonal relationships, problems with impulse control and disruptive cognitive processes. This sense of instability can disrupt an individual’s family and work life, long-term planning and their perception of self-identity. Winehouse’s behavior displayed several signs of this disorder. Her on-and-off relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil showed frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. She had continuously been involved in unstable and intense relationships that switched between extremes of idealization and devaluation. She was an impulsive individual who appeared to suffer manic depression and inflicting pain on herself. The talented singer suffered chronic emotions of emptiness, intense anger and displacement of thoughts. If this well-accomplished artist had received more proper rehabilitation treatment for extended periods of time, she may have been more knowledgeable about her personal issues. As a result, she may have surrounded herself in an environment that would have been more beneficial to aiding her mental health.

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