By Mike McMahan, LPC
Galactic Empire, a metal band that specializes in metalizing (you guessed it) Star Wars soundtrack numbers just released a self-titled, full-length album. Though this is a novelty record through and through, it’s a pretty fun one. Their take on the Cantina Band theme is especially cool. Multiple music critics have made the assertion that heavy metal is rooted in classical music, especially the European classical tradition, and this album makes a pretty strong case. If you’re still not convinced, there’s a whole history of this type of metal/classical stuff, most successfully Apocalyptica plays Metallica.
OK, you may be asking yourself, what does this have to do with psychotherapy? Well, it turns out that telling your story in a different fashion can really make a lot of difference. On one hand, the notes, rhythms, chord changes, etc. from the original Star Wars soundtrack are the same when an orchestra performs the score or when Galactic Empire rips it up. But, wait a minute. It sounds almost completely different when Galactic Empire does it. So is it the same, or not?
This “retelling in a different way” is something that can be helpful for postmodern therapists. When clients tell me a story, I will often tell it back to them, but sometimes in a more positive way or in a way that suggests there may be further action for them to take. To give a simplified example, a client might say “I spend a lot of time and money learning how to knit and I can’t even make a scarf!” which I might summarize to them as “you’re working really hard to learn how to knit but you’re not quite there yet.” No one has ever come to therapy to talk about knitting (yet) but people often are frustrated when they’ve tried to master something and are not succeeding. Once a therapist opens up a sense of possibility, the client can start building from there, in collaboration with the therapist, of course.
I might end up moving the talk along: “so you were making some progress with the scarf and you were able to knit a one-color scarf really well, but when you decided to make a three-color scarf it got pretty tough, right?” Clients will agree with this as the facts are still the same, but there is a different tilt to the story. Then it becomes possible to open up a discussion of possibilities, what has gone right with the knitting and how to apply those skills.
So when you’re checking out Galactic Empire, ask yourself: “what story have I boxed myself in on?” “What have I wanted to do and given up on prematurely?” It may be that you ended the story too soon and a re-telling may take it from an orchestral score to a full-on metal assault. Rock on, friends.
Mike McMahan, LPC is a psychotherapist based in San Antonio, Tx.
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Therapy Goes POP
Perspectives on therapy and mental health as viewed through the lens of popular culture