Behind Closed Doors

Posted on March 27, 2014 by Robert Ringer


There is much truth to the axiom “No one knows what goes on behind closed doors.”  Why do we assume that people in high positions lead charmed lives?  Lacking perfection ourselves, I believe we have a psychic need for perfection in important people.

From O.J. Simpson to Aaron Hernandez … from Paris Hilton to Justin Bieber … from Bill Clinton to Anthony Weiner … it’s amazing the things we common folks hear about what goes on behind the closed doors of the rich and famous.

I think the topper for me in this regard was the revelation that Tom Wolfe’s “right stuff” people — U.S. astronauts — aren’t perfect after all.  That closed door opened to the whole world back in 2007 when astronaut Lisa Nowak was arrested and charged with attempted kidnapping of U.S. Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman, the girlfriend of astronaut William Oefelein.

When Tom Wolfe wrote The Right Stuff, I don’t think he had valedictorian/astronaut-turned-stalker Lisa Nowak in mind.  And, for sure, he didn’t have wigs, diapers, rubber tubing, and serrated knives in mind.

What in the world would cause such an all-American woman to flip her wig?  (Pun intended.)  The first thing that comes to mind is Buddha’s admonition that “All unhappiness is caused by attachment.”

It’s healthy and wonderful to fall in love.  No argument on that point.  But when a person’s love is so desperate — so irrationally based — that she is willing to commit acts of violence in order to keep the object of her affection in her clutches (which, of course, never works anyway), her psyche is definitely in outer space.

It is somewhat self-evident that anyone who would go to such extremes is lacking in self-confidence and self-esteem.  Again, love is wonderful, but when it becomes a life-or-death matter, I believe it reveals a neurotic — and possibly psychotic — insecurity.

As David Seabury put it, “Love is not so simple and malleable as many suppose.  Put it in prison and it dies.  Restrict it and it turns into hate.  Force it and it disappears.  You cannot will love, nor even control it.  You can only guide its expression.  It comes or it goes according to those qualities in life that invite it or deny its presence.”

Your happiness should never depend on how another person feels about you.  Happiness results from feeling good about yourself.  You cannot hold anyone emotionally captive, and you should never allow anyone to do it to you.

But lack of self-confidence and self-esteem aside, Lisa Nowak’s antics reminded me yet again how true it is that “No one knows what goes on behind closed doors.”  In this vein, I recall being on a national talk show some years back, hosted by a famous television personality (“Mike”).  We subsequently became good friends, and often socialized together.

Mike and his wife (“Barbara”) were portrayed as the ultimate glamour couple, often appearing on magazine covers together.  They were the poster couple for the media’s idea of “beautiful people,” and were frequent guests themselves on other major television shows.  Their specialty?  Giving advice on how to sustain a healthy marriage.

On one occasion, my wife and I went with Mike and Barbara to a concert at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles.  Even though it was long ago, I remember that evening vividly.  After getting out of the car, Barbara and my wife walked ahead of Mike and me, giving us an opportunity to chat privately.

At one point, I made a comment about what a lucky guy he was to be married to such a beautiful and sweet woman like Barbara, and how happy they seemed to be.  I was stunned when he replied, “Robert, I’m not happy at all.  In fact, I’m miserable.  I thought when I built the house for her (a little $5 million+ extravaganza in Beverly Hills), it would improve our marriage.  But, instead, things are totally unraveling.”

Soon after that evening, rumors began flying around Tinsletown about Mike’s catching Barbara in bed with a ski instructor on a vacation in Aspen, followed shortly thereafter by his finding her in bed with their gardener!  Pretty ugly stuff, even for Beverly Hills.

Mike and Barbara have been divorced for many years now, but their sad situation still has an impact on my thinking.  I long ago started taking media hype with a grain of salt, and I’m never overly impressed with titles, awards, commendations, and the like.  (Remember, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Yasser Arafat, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, and Barack Obama!)

But it’s not just famous people whose personal realities are often far different from the perceptions they convey.  There are many individuals in everyone’s micro-world who are perceived to be important — civic leaders, church leaders, school officials, wealthy individuals, and those with impressive titles (e.g., “doctor,” “lawyer,” “judge,” “director”).

There’s nothing wrong with being respectful to those who have earned their way to top positions in society, but it’s a mistake to assume that they live pristine, automaton-like lives when out of public view.

Whenever I hear a sordid tale about a famous person, it just reaffirms my long-held belief that many people in the highest stations of life (e.g., those who have the authority to press the nuclear button!) may very possibly have less emotional stability than you or me.

There’s not a whole lot you can do about that, but you can do a lot about your own psyche by not being overly impressed with the elites on an international, national, or local level.  Never lose sight of the reality that no one knows what goes on behind closed doors.  You know you’ve become a mature adult when you reach a point in life where bombshells about those who appear to lead charmed lives no longer surprise you.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

32 responses to “Behind Closed Doors”

  1. Logan says:

    One of your finest observations. An appropriate reminder to all of us.

  2. jurgy says:

    " … many people in the highest stations of life (e.g., those who have the authority to press the nuclear button!) may very possibly have less emotional stability than you or me." YIKES!!!

  3. BlankReg says:

    I don't begrudge Jimmy his Nobel. He got Sadat and Begin in a room at Camp David, and when they left it again, they had a peace agreement that has stood the test of time. Carter was a broker, and he helped carve out a deal that made both sides happy. Of course, it cost us commitments of $$ and military hardware, so the spectre of Kissinger was in the room…still…

    Think Obama could do something like that? His attitude is "if at first you don't succeed, call in an air strike"

    At least Carter got his Nobel for actually doing something, as opposed to Barry, who got his just for existing.

  4. BLH557 says:

    Back in the 90s I tried my hand at screenwriting. I had a run of competition finalists and even won a contest. During that time I went to Hollywood from my small Texas town (less than 3000 population) several times to meet with producers and pitch my scripts. The first time out I expected to be the "rube" in the room, believing errantly that in order to make it in the "Movie Business" you had to be in a class that was above my station.

    Guess that's what I get for watching too many movies in the 70s.

    To my surprise, after only a few hours, I realized I was a freaking GENIUS compared to these no-brainers. Most couldn't carry a coherent sentence without interjecting a "y'know", "dude" or expletive. A few, and I mean a very few, were genuine people who just happened to do something at the right time. Most were self-serving, bitter and narcissistic to the point of nausea.

    At my last conference I was standing at the back of the auditorium about to leave to return to Texas when a short guy with big sunglasses pulled up next to me and started a conversation. We talked for a good ten minutes about family, kids, grandkids, dogs and life in general. I wasn't paying much attention to the MC who was busy with an introduction of Robert Evans, the man primarily responsible for the production of "The Godfather" as I wouldn't be able to stay for his presentation. When the MC finally said, "Now let's get Robert Evans up here to tell us about his experiences with The Godfather", The man standing next to me held his hand out to shake mine and said simply. "That's me. Gotta go."

    After that I started looking at that industry with newly-opened eyes and as a result began writing for myself and my friends. I believe the substance of my stories gained as much insight as I did. Since that time I've written another ten to fifteen scripts that I enjoy reading on my own. I haven't sold anything, yet, but I am presently working on two novels, one a retelling of one of my favorite scripts and the second a story gleaned from a dream I had a couple of months back.

    After working hard for about ten years to impress those guys in Hollyweird I realized most of them weren't worth impressing and the ones that were, likely weren't even working anymore.

    And now, I'm a happier guy for it.

    • David says:

      No way!

      I caught the last third of his documentary/bio on tv and promptly bought the dvd so I could see the rest. Then I bought the book version and it's one of my favourite reads ever.

      I'd love to meet him.

  5. Virginia says:

    As an individual, I do not impress easily. I do respect and appreciate and enjoy someone's talents and skills. My admiration for these attributes is of a good quality but I don't think they are better than others, rather they are just using their gifts. You, like myself when I am told, contribute more than you realize. Acknowledge your abilities and continue sharing them.

  6. Peter says:

    Very true, a current example of this is the poster boy paraplegic Oscar Pistorius. He was loved and admired by millions for his remarkable feats in the athletics arena until he shot his girlfriend on valentines day in 2013. To the public at the time he was uber human. As the trial continues here in South Africa the public have a totally different opinion of the once loved hero. From hero to zero. We are all subject to the human condition, and experience the same emotions regardless of our status, fame, wealth etc.
    Billy Joel song describes it perfectly for me, "well we all have a face that we hide away for ever and we take them out and show ourselfs when everyone has gone"
    So dont believe the tabloids and magazine because that is not reality .

  7. Marte Cliff says:

    What I don't understand is why we pay any attention to what those folks are doing. While it's true that murder is "news" I don't think it's true that who is dating who, divorcing who, marrying who, cheating on who, attending what event, wearing such and such a dress, etc. is news.

    Perhaps it's good to know that politicians are unfaithful to their families – my take is that if you'll lie to the people who love you, you sure as heck won't hesitate to lie to rest of us.

    But otherwise… why does anyone care?

    • Phil says:

      Good point.

    • Jean says:

      Sad to say, too many people care about so-called celebrities. because they represent something that the minions believe they can never achieve and they live vicariously through these people. If the fans would pay more attention to their own business rather than focusing on that of other people, then they might have lives worth living – or at least realize they are better off than they imagine themselves to be because they are so focused (and envious, deep down) of other people.

  8. Murray Suid says:

    When I was in high school, the headmaster of a private religious school was caught having sex with a number of girls who attended the school. The headmaster had been "prominent" in town, frequently speaking on matters of morality. After that, I no longer was easily fooled by folks in "authority." I know assume that most of them are plain people like the rest of us–more or less immoral because of many factors, but certainly not more moral because they have high office, tons of money, good looks, or coverage in the media.

    I'm going to guess that most people are not shocked by the crimes and immoral activities of the rich, famous, and powerful. However, most people enjoy learning about scandals. It's voyeurism–more than naiveté–that causes the media to celebrate bad boys and bad girls.

  9. Robby Bonfire says:

    And don't forget Johnny Carson's rather sick "Carnac The Magician" joke: "Behind The Green Door" = "Where is Wayne Newton's bedroom?" ~Behind the green door.! (Thanks Ed).

  10. Serge says:

    The not so elite or unpopular folks on the Jerry Springer show have their love triangles and lack of morality issues, just like the stars and people in authority. I only wish that Jerry would invite guys like Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, Preachers, Teachers and all the rest of them. What a show that would be with the highest of ratings.

  11. In my view, every system has to have two opposites in commensurate measure to be functional healthily- like a good automobile. Mind is no exception to this law of energy.

    When you occupy high positions or attain high popularity, the authority you enjoy ( including the power to press the nuclear button), makes your mind’s engine- accelerator far more potent and your mind’s brake far less. The situation is something like having a truck engine – accelerator fitted with a brake of a small electric car. Obviously such people are on a crash course and it happens – sooner than later.

    Even strong family values, the only ones than can act as a sufficient brake , are thrown to the winds if such an awesome engine power is acting on the mind. We cannot blame them for them. If we were them, ( the ones you mention) we would in all likelihood done the same thing as they did. How soon and with what intensity we crash is controlled only by the family values that are inculcated in us right from early childhood. As these are laws are laws of energy, no one can violate them.

    In your brilliant article, you have mentioned that we should not expect in them a morality that is higher than in ourselves. I am saying we should expect in them a morality that is lower than the less popular souls in this world. I recommend more empathy be shown for them than blame or criticism.

    What do you think about this explanation?

    I discuss this in detail in my ebook “ Success thorugh Opposites” available at and in India.

  12. Rudy Denham says:

    I love that quote from David Seabury!

  13. Phil says:

    Excellent piece.

    I have a request. Is it possible to post some of your Facebook posts on this website? I closed my FB account after learning how they mine data for the Left and other lissues, but noted at the side of this page you seem to have some unique posts to that social networking service.

    Just wondering. Thank you.

  14. Reality Seeker says:

    "Pretty ugly stuff, even for Beverly Hills."

    Nope. Pretty tame stuff, actually.

    I wonder how the ignorant masses would react if they knew that actually went on between Nancy and Ronald's White House door?

    Slowly—slower than a tortoise's pace—-the half-lit light-bulbs ( aka average amerikans) are starting to get access to the truth about what really happens behind closed doors. Hints are being dropped and documentaries are being made and original series are being filmed: for example, even I was surprised by the "hints" being dropped, when somebody whom I respect advised me to watch the Netflix original, "House of Cards ". As I watched the series, what was even more surprising to me than the level of truthfulness found in this fiction was that the psychopathic Vice President and his psychopathic wife were both Democrats. So it's not just the neo-cons who have to worry about being exposed as neurotics, sociopaths and psychopaths………

    …….Warning: The Vice President's bisexual threesome found therein might be more truth than some of you can take.
    By the way, when I close my door "I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude." ~ HDT

    • laird hamilton says:

      aye… “All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” ~ blaise pascal

      just recently bumped into something interesting, touching on hdt, & others…from the back cover:

      "a scathing satire, set on a new orleans-bound riverboat, "the confidence-man" exposes the fraudulent optimism of so many american idols & idealists – ralph waldo emerson, henry david thoreau, & p.t. barnum, in particular – & draws a dark vision of a country being swallowed by its illusions of progress. here the "confidence-man" moves through a boatful of unusual characters, tricking everyone he meets, yet remaining so well disguised as to avoid clear identification even by the reader.

      the culmination of herman melville's brilliant career as a novelist, & considered by many to be america's first "postmodern" novel, "the confidence-man" creates an elaborate masquerade that asks: who in this world is worth our confidence?"

      dense, ornate, & allusive as can be, my dalkey archive copy has a preface by daniel handler, & intro & annotations by h. bruce franklin. very necessary, those annotations, for me anyway. daedalusbooks is moving remaindered stock at a very good price, right now.

      • Reality Seeker says:

        Reply to Laird:

        The post which begins with "Over the years" was meant you. I'm not sure what happened…..

  15. Reality Seeker says:

    Over the years— and my, my how they've flown by— your reading list has never once— nay, not once– failed to inspire me.

    Harken back to the day you suggested, "My Wicked, Wicked Ways" by Errol Flynn? Remember that? I must not only thank you, but I also must congratulate you, too, for your literary acumen.

    Remember that superfine mini-series "the Thornbirds"? Back when it was produced, I thought, wow!, this is surely a revelation! Surely, this naked display of "ambition" found therein and embedded deeply in the heart of Father Ralph De Bricassart shall wake people up to what "goes on behind closed doors"!!! Nay! Nay! Nay! The half-lit light bulbs preferred not to have more enlightenment in their lives than the Prince of Darkness allows! They love the darkness!

    Fast-forward from the "Thornbirds" to the "House of Cards". Wicked, wicked and very wicked is now right IN YOUR FACE, aMERIkA! Will your wattage increase?

    Kevin Spacey is no George Chamberlain; nevertheless, the psychopathic ambition Spacey projects as an actor is far and away more realistic than what Chamberlain projected in "Thornbirds". I give "House of Cards" a very rare two thumbs up!

    And I give you, laird, a two-thumbs-and-two-toes up. Salute! I shall get to reading "The Confidence-man", by Melville within the next few months. I have so much on my list right now that I can't even read, write or think well. I don't think that my head has ever been so full…….

    By the way, the real Laird Hamilton used to be my neighbor. He lived about two miles down the road from me. I watched him surf "Jaws" twice.

    • Reality Seeker says:

      The above post was a reply to laird hamilton.

    • laird hamilton says:

      vaguely…but a search of where the reference should be did not turn it up, so maybe it was before i began retaining my riffs (& that was a long time back!).

      similarly "thornbirds". main memory there is gorgeous rachel ward (she caught my eye earlier, in "sharky's machine"). in reviewing it just now, the confidence games people play are evident (saw "american hustle" last night – good flick, ties in…). in a better real life, bryan brown got the girl, or she him, or both each other.

      "house of cards", i don't think i could stand. have skipped such as "west wing", spielberg's "lincoln", too. there's more than enough political machination in most stories w/o belly of potomac beast settings (for me). for a perfectly realized "anti"hero (right up until the very end, at least), check out matthew mcconaughey's "rust cohle" in "true detective". for a teaser, see "rust & martin car conversation scene" on utube (oh, man!).

      • laird hamilton says:

        hamilton’s neighbor, too…you’ve been all over the place. when your biography comes out, i’m down for a copy. return salute. better yet, salud!

  16. Common Sense says:

    I remember when I first heard "No One Knows What Goes On Behind Closed Doors" by Charlie Rich, I couldn't help but think of one thing…sex.

  17. R Van Der Voort says:

    Yes, I have deluded myself many times thinking that I could "buy love". Like my mother before me. My father did "rescue missions: and ended up with my mother, to his detriment in many if not most ways. I am currently IN LOVE again, but, it seems to be mutual and unconditional. SEEMS is the key word. But this time I am giving with no expectation of return. And she gives back , not because of what give or do for her. I am older. Much older, and she is younger, much younger. I live in the eternal NOW. And enjoy what IS. And she SEEMS to love and value me. Time and experience will tell the story. But I like to think I am getting it right… this time. In accord with Ringer's correct and perceptive insights into such matters. The Buddha was correct also regarding ATTACHMENT and NON-ATTACHMENT. But, KNOWING is one thing. LIVING is another matter. So, ONE DAY AT A TIME as the AA People like to say, and LIVE AS AUTHENTICALLY as we know how as the Existentialists admonish.

  18. antilles says:

    Youtube video link… it's an old commercial but it ties in to the theme of "behind closed doors" in a more poignant way.

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