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Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, and Buddhism

Linda enjoys analyzing current events and exploring lessons learned from an emotional and behavioral perspective.

You may wonder what Buddhism has to do with the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard trial. Indeed, many in the popular press consider the trial to be a waste of space and a waste to time.

The Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial was, from gavel to gavel, a singularly baffling, unedifying and sad spectacle.

~~[The New York Times]

Personally, I found the trial, as well as the social media/online explosion of interest to be deeply fascinating. I believe that there is much that we can learn from this culturally significant event, especially when viewed through the lens of Buddhism.

Johnny Depp is immensely wealthy, famous, talented, and successful.

Johnny Depp is immensely wealthy, famous, talented, and successful.

1. True Happiness Does Not Come From External Sources

Johnny Depp is immensely wealthy, famous, talented, and successful. Many also consider him to be quite good looking. While Amber Heard is not quite in the same league as Depp, she is certainly very beautiful, and much more famous and wealthy than most of us mere mortals. However, despite all of this wealth, fame, talent, and beauty, happiness continues to be a very fleeting guest.

As was shown by the trial, both Depp and Heard were tormented by the same types of demons as everybody else, including jealousy, fear of abandonment, fear of aging, fear of financial loss, and more. We see clearly that all the external things we commonly strive for do not banish our inner demons, nor do they bring us anything close to true happiness.

Buddhism teaches us that the true source of happiness comes from within. The pleasure that we get from external sources is temporary and dissipates soon after we acquire them. This has certainly been my experience. When I finally achieved all that I wanted to at work, I found myself more unhappy and unmotivated than I had ever been.

Buddhism teaches us that the true source of happiness comes from within.

Buddhism teaches us that the true source of happiness comes from within.

2. Craving Causes Unnecessary Suffering

One of the main goals of the Buddhist Path is to minimize unnecessary suffering. Craving is identified as one of the key causes of suffering, so we want to understand and moderate it.

What is craving?

The Oxford Dictionary defines craving as "a powerful desire for something." There are many examples of craving in the Depp-Heard trial. For example, Johnny Depp talked about his addiction to or craving for drugs and alcohol. Based on the audio recordings and texts, there were also many instances where Amber Heard craved for Johnny Depp to come back to her or to stay with her. The video below shows one such instance.

Amber Heard Bombarded Johnny Depp with Texts After He Asked For Space

Where does craving come from?

In my experience, craving comes from fear. For example, many of us, including Depp, fears emotional pain and suffering. To escape from that pain, we may start taking drugs or alcohol, and later become addicted to them.

Fear of abandonment caused Amber Heard to crave for Depp's "love" as represented by his time, presence, and priorities. This very narrow and outsized desire quickly morphed into blame, anger, verbal abuse, and destructive action. My mother has that same fear of abandonment, so she was very controlling and verbally abusive during my childhood. In adulthood, I have unconsciously repeated similar behaviors with my romantic partners.

Johnny Depp Details His Struggles with Substance Abuse

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3. Ignorance (Self-Deception) Perpetuates Suffering

Ignorance is another key concept in Buddhism. In this context, ignorance does not mean lack of knowledge but rather self-deception. We all want to be the heroes of our own stories. This makes sense from a survival and status standpoint, because nobody wants to collaborate with a villain. For this reason, self-deception is a useful mechanism that has been preserved in our genes. However, self-deception also blocks our awareness of problematic fears and the ensuing destructive actions.

As was shown in the trial, Amber Heard has a great desire (craving) to be loved and to be perfect. When reality did not match with this desperate desire, she created stories or illusions to help soothe the underlying fears. This self-deception may help in the short term, but it also led to unhealthy behaviors that ultimately ruined her relationship with Johnny Depp, destroyed her credibility, and caused her to become a mega online villain.

When we believe that we are perfect, we can do no wrong. When we can do no wrong, we never learn. When we do not learn from our mistakes, we repeat the same destructive behaviors over and over again, thereby perpetuating our own suffering. Even when faced with overwhelming evidence, we may not want to see the scary parts of reality, the mistakes we have made, or the less than heroic parts of ourselves.

Summary of Inconsistencies in Amber Heard's Testimony

Buddhist meditation techniques help train our minds so that problematic emotions are brought into conscious awareness and handled in a healthy way. Practice of these techniques have helped me to catch repressed emotions, identify and evaluate them, moderate their effects, and keep my rational mind in the fore-front. I have noticed clear improvements in my life and relationships as a result.

4. Openness of Mind

One very common question from supporters of both Depp and Heard is this - are we watching the same trial?

Everyone watched the same trial, with the same witnesses, and evidence. However, the perspective of Depp supporters is very different from the perspective of Heard supporters. Others find the whole event to be a waste of time and space. Some think that both are equally culpable, and some assign different percentages of fault to Depp and Heard.

So who is right and who is evil?

Buddhism teaches us to see that our own view is merely one perspective out of many. This perspective arises based on our senses, past experiences, likes, dislikes, affiliation, current mood, what we attend to, and much more. Different people will have different perspectives because they have different past experiences, likes, dislikes, affiliation, mood, priorities, etc.

Our tendency is to believe in our own rightness and to consider the other views to be wrong, misguided, bad, or evil. We may even attribute such qualities to those who disagree with us. However, no perspective is inherently (absolutely) right or wrong.

The wise will keep an open mind and consider a variety of perspectives. By taking different points of view, we get the most comprehensive picture of the event. A comprehensive picture will help us make more effective decisions and take more skillful action. When new information arises, we are unafraid to update our views.

On the other hand, when we believe that we already know the right answer, we dismiss all other perspectives and develop a very narrow point of view. This more limited picture will also limit our decision making process.

Different Perspectives

The Way Forward

In my younger days, I thought I knew everything. I was very confident in my own identity as well as in the rightness of my views. Now, I realize that I was quite mistaken. Much of what I thought I knew are illusions, my identity is always in flux, and my views are merely one perspective out of many. Nevertheless, it is good to be an empty vessel, because we have that much more room to learn and grow.

© 2022 Linda Wright

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