By Mike McMahan
Legendary rap group NWA is set to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame on April 8. I’m not going to pretend that I’m the world’s biggest rap fan or expert. I’m neither, and I like very little hip hop. Though my survey results are, ahem, non-scientific (pretty much limited to my friends and angry commenters on the news articles), it seems that there is some resistance to this decision. Some of this may be about race; I’m going to ignore that aspect in this post, as it is a problem that is larger than the HOF, as success in rock music has been primarily limited to white males throughout its history.
But, as to whether rap music belongs in the HOF and those who say it doesn’t. To be exact, some people have said “it’s the ROCK hall of fame, not RAP. NWA shouldn’t be in there.” Respectfully, I completely disagree. In fact, I’ll even employ some legal jargon and say that this is a settled issue with a firmly established precedent. Not only does rap/hip hop belong in the R ‘n’ R HOF, it’s already there.
In 2007, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first rap/hip hop group to be inducted. In addition, the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy were inducted in 2012 and Run DMC in 2009. So the debate whether rap belongs is now meaningless. It’s there, and that’s that.
But beyond that, I don’t believe that the line between rap and rock is particularly clear. In the heyday of MTV, they played rap videos despite being a “rock music” channel. Both Run DMC and Public Enemy released high profile collaborations with rock groups (Aerosmith and Anthrax, respectively). Public Enemy also toured with Anthrax, and have also shared concert bills with legacy rock acts like Primus and U2. The Beastie Boys have never been exclusively a “rap” group having reached across genre lines with their embrace of punk rock, metal and even released an album of all 70s style funk instrumentals (2007’s The Mix-Up).
Even more to the point, the HOF has never been exclusively rock. Miles Davis was inducted in 2006. I believe that his “electric albums” (including masterpieces like Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson, two personal faves) are way more “rock ‘n’ roll” than much of what passes for rock in the public consciousness. His spirit was absolutely rock ‘n’ roll, and I would argue the same for NWA. So kudos to them. Hopefully there is truth to the rumors that Ice Cube will reunite this seminal outfit at Coachella (a festival which will also include the Guns ‘N’ Roses reunion). I still find it hard to believe that a guy who began his career as a member of NWA is now a family movie star.
To me, the person who says “rap doesn’t belong in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame” is engaging in a sort of “all or nothing” thinking that I sometimes see in clients, and which can lead to obstacles in life and mental health. Let us take people who feel they are depressed. When they begin to tell their story, I often hear phrases like “everything in my life is a total mess” or “I fail at everything.”
Oftentimes, the first task of a therapist can be to find exceptions to these absolutist statements. While I understand how easy it is to feel overwhelmed, it is generally not hard to find exceptions to absolute statements. For example, if a client has found their way to my office, there is likely an exception to the above. The client is able to recognize that there is room for improvement in quality of life and take steps to begin that journey. They are able to make an appointment and keep that appointment. They are able to pay the fee for psychotherapy. Oftentimes this means the person is able to secure and hold a job, hardly a sign of failure at everything. As a therapist, you can’t just jump right in and point this out. After all, you don’t go to a therapist to have a Pollyanna-ish type tell you that life is sunshine and rainbows. But it does allow an opportunity to begin creating a new narrative with the client, perhaps including slightly more optimistic phrases like “a lot of things in my life are a total mess” or “I feel like I fail at everything.” These statements begin to create a sense of possibility, often the first step in making real and lasting life changes.
So what about you? Are there times in your life when you make an “absolute” statement that doesn’t really hold up to closer scrutiny?
Mike McMahan is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Antonio, Texas.
There’s the old adage that opposites attract. In my experience as a counselor (and as, you know, a human being), I don’t think that’s the case. Whatever we might have seen on TV and in movies, it turns out people often marry people who have similar interests, backgrounds and so forth. In fact, this is often something I like to explore when I meet a couple for the first time. By the time a couple comes in for counseling, they may be at their wits’ end, fighting all the time. They may even have forgotten why they got married in the first place.
I notice that in discussing the background of the situation, couples often smile when remembering how they met, what they liked about each other initially, or their first date. Sometimes, collaboratively, we can work together to figure out what used to work about their relationship that is no longer being utilized or recognized. Other times, we are able to find new common ground.
It's rare that success (for me at least) comes from reminding an arguing couple that they are, in fact, complete opposites.
But this new study, brought to my attention via Wired, takes the similarity thing to a whole new level. The study, conducted in Sweden, found that “People with psychiatric disorders were more likely to end up with someone with a psychiatric disorder, and the chances were higher (marginally) that they’d share the same illness.”
How many single readers just felt their heart skip a beat?
Now, I’m certainly not suggesting that you head to your nearest mental health facility and study their census for that special someone who mirrors your own neuroses, delusions and “quirks.” But it is certainly something that might be worth keeping at the back of your mind, especially if you have a history of problematic long-term relationships. It might be worthwhile to ask yourself “is this someone who’s just like me in a bad way? Is there a red flag here in this relationship that might keep me from being the best ‘me’ I can be?” And if the answer is yes, maybe that’s something to give you pause. I don’t believe that there is a “perfect” significant other for anyone. It’s all about compatibility and working together. But red flags are red flags, and many of the couples who encounter problems may find themselves wishing that they had heeded those nagging doubts, as hard as that is during the rush of a new relationship.
Perhaps we need to all internalize just a slight bit of the old “opposites attract” adage in the interest of preserving our own sanity!
Mike McMahan is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Antonio, Tx.
Luigi is back for his third session. In today’s session we find that Luigi’s mood has brightened considerably and we see that sometimes getting “unstuck” in one area (in this case starting to design his own game) can lead to positive changes in other areas of one’s life. In addition, Luigi shows increased self-confidence.
In case you missed it, his first session is available here.
His second session is here.
Therapy Goes POP: Nice to see you again, Luigi. Tell me, what’s gotten better since our last visit?
Luigi: I knew you were going to ask that! So I kept my eyes open.
Luigi: Well, I’ve noticed that it’s been way easier to get up in the morning. I’m not feeling so blue all the time.
TGP: Back to your normal green?
Luigi: Haha, touche! But yeah. I’m having more energy and I realized I was doing a lot of complaining. I don’t think I’m doing that as much anymore?
TGP: What tells you that you’re being more positive?
Luigi: Well, I spent some time with Princess Peach and Yoshi on a picnic. Bowser didn’t kidnap her either, which is rare.
TGP: Wait, I thought that was just part of the game plot.
Luigi: Guy’s a complete nut. I’ll leave it there. But the picnic was nice. Peach said “you seem very pleasant today, Luigi.” Which I appreciated.
TGP: That is nice. What do you think she noticed that was different about you?
Luigi: I’m not sure. Maybe it was because I commented on how good the food tasted and it being a pretty day. I just said it because I noticed it, but maybe I haven’t done that stuff before, or lately, or whatever.
TGP: What was different that day that helped you notice those things?
Luigi: I’m not sure it was just that day. I think I’m feeling energized about my game project and trying to think back about what was the most successful level that I designed.
TGP: How did you go about that?
Luigi: I looked back at the scripts, the blueprints, everything. I have a keepsakes cabinet where I keep things from my projects. I’m a bit of a pack rat.
TGP: What sorts of things did you notice that had been successful?
Luigi: The main thing I noticed is that I’ve been in some stone cold, classic games. But I kept coming back to a level most gamers call Luigi’s Purple Coins that’s in Super Mario Galaxy. It’s kind of a famously tough one.
TGP: What’s good about it?
Luigi: There’s just a combination of tough stuff. Tiles, acid…all kinds of stuff.
TGP: What do you have there that you could carry into a new game?
Luigi: I think it’s the combination that makes it good. I’m not sure there’s enough games that require the player to best multiple challenges at once. I think that’s something I’d really like to use going forward.
TGP: How would that be described? Integrated challenges?
Luigi: Maybe. I’ll have to think about that. But it definitely gives me something to base the game on. Kind of a premise of “things have never been so tough.”
TGP: Nice! Almost sounds likes the catchphrase for the game.
Luigi: It will sell itself.
TGP: What about some of the other stuff we talked about. Like meeting someone to be the female lead.
Luigi: I haven’t had a chance to really go out and do that, but I’m definitely considering it. Being excited about the game has kind of lit a fire under me, so it doesn’t seem as daunting as it seemed last time.
TGP: That’s great. Have you thought about what the story in your game will be about?
Luigi: Not too much. I have been thinking about a heist theme, kinda like a Nintendo Oceans 11. But it’s all in the planning stages in my head right now.
TGP: Have you thought any more about how you will approach Mario?
Luigi: I have. I’m thinking I meet just kind of consult with him on it, and take the idea directly to the execs myself. He has been the star, but it’s not like I’m the new kid on the block. I’ve been a co-star for 30 years now. I think they’ll recognize me?
TGP: So it seems like you’re feeling more confident.
Luigi: I think so, yeah. Speaking of which, I may need to split a little early today. I’m going racing with Mario. Is that OK?
TGP: Of course! It seems like you’re doing really well. Did you want to schedule another appointment or call me if you need to come in again?
Luigi: That sounds good. I don’t want to totally fall out of the habit of this, as I think talking has been really helpful. But I’m not sure I need to schedule another appointment just right now.
TGP: Understood. That’s how it works with a lot of clients.
Luigi: Thanks for everything! Keep an eye out for my new game.
TGP: Will do!
So, today, we saw a very typical case resolution. When Luigi first came to therapy, he was frustrated with his brother, but was able to set a goal of developing a successful video game franchise. He has not met that goal yet, but he feels he is taking steps towards that goal. Once clients have achieved this mindset, sometimes they feel that further therapy is not necessary. Other clients may continue to feel that they need the emotional support provided by a strong therapist/client bond. Or as one problem is solved or one goal is met, others may become apparent or may even be created by the first solution or set of solutions. Luigi may very well return for more therapy as he continues to work on bettering himself. Only time will tell…!
Mike McMahan is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Antonio, Texas.
Kudos to Alissa White-Gluz for being one tough lady. Need an example? Check out her performance of “War Eternal” with her band, Arch Enemy. In this video, she does not seem like someone with a lot of anxieties.
However, in a new interview conducted by Revolver and partially transcribed by blabbermouth.net, White-Gluz states that she has social anxiety and adds “it was crippling at one point.” Her quote “I’m counting the people, I know where everyone is standing” sounded familiar to me, as this type of hypervigilance is common for people struggling with any sort of anxiety. And while many people face the challenge of social anxiety, not many are fronting an extreme metal band. In fact, in the interview, White-Gluz identifies her social anxiety as “the one thing people would be surprised to learn about me. I have to fight against it whenever I’m meeting people… which is often, because I meet people every day.”
White-Gluz left The Agonist, her former band, in 2014 to join Arch Enemy, a well-established, veteran metal band. This entailed not only leaving her previous band, but also joining an entirely new band located on a different continent, as Arch Enemy is based out of Sweden, while The Agonist is a Canadian band. It’s fair to say that the culture of extreme metal is (at least on the surface) a very aggressive, macho culture. Which means that, despite dealing with the challenges of social anxiety, she still managed to move internationally to front an already successful band with a huge following—a situation that undoubtedly threw her into all sorts of new social situations. This must have been especially challenging considering the international relocation.
It is important to note that White-Gluz states that social anxiety does not affect her performance. This is something that seems so common in performers, it’s almost a stereotype—something White-Gluz acknowledges in the interview. It’s something that’s nice to keep in mind as well, if you are a person who considers themselves shy and avoids public speaking. Sometimes people can come to life in new and exciting ways in the right circumstances. Perhaps you haven’t found yours yet.
White-Gluz does not say in the interview whether she has sought treatment for her social anxiety. But, if she did/does choose to seek mental health services, both medications and therapy are effective treatments. Part of an effective treatment for the hyper vigilance that can be associated with anxiety that I have used is the application of unused strengths. These “exceptions” to the anxiety situations may identify skills that the client is not applying to the situation that causes anxiety. White-Gluz is able to give powerful performances apparently unimpeded by anxiety, which suggests an opening that could be explored by a therapist for coping skills not being used as widely as they could be.
What about you? Do you ever feel confident in situations that would intimidate others? If so, what are you doing in that situation that other people don’t see or aren’t aware of? And how can you use those skills to overcome challenges in areas where you are not as confident?
Mike McMahan is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Antonio, Tx.
Therapy Goes POP
Perspectives on therapy and mental health as viewed through the lens of popular culture