By Mike McMahan, LPC
You may have heard of Metallica. The thrash metal legends been in the news quite a bit lately, between announcing a massive stadium tour and performing on the Grammys with the amazingly awesome Lady Gaga. That performance, of course, was marred by vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield’s mic being unplugged. An enterprising fan restored the audio through some sort of computer magic and it totally rocked—though that video seems to be down now, presumably due to Metallica’s metal militia of lawyers.
ANYWAY, they’ve been in the news. Late last year they put out a pretty damn good album, too: Hardwired… To Self-Destruct. Metallica hasn’t put out a good album in years, though their 80s classics are undeniable and highly influential. To be fair, they’re in a difficult position. Their early success was about being hungry and doing something new. Now they are multi-millionaires with families. It makes the angsty lyrics reek of self-parody. Still, Hardwired brings it in a major way for the first time in years. How, exactly?
Guitarist Kirk Hammett shines some light on this matter in a way that serves as a nice example of how therapy can work, too. “If you can call 2008's Death Magnetic a return to form,” he says, “then you can call 2016's Hardwired… To Self-Destruct more of that. We reached backwards in the intentions of creating something new, first with Death Magnetic, and we did this again with this album — looking backwards in the attempt to create something new. And, as a result, when I listen to this album, it has elements of Kill 'Em All, Ride The Lightning, Master [Of Puppets], …[And] Justice [For All], Black album — I hear all that stuff — but it's still unique and it's still different.” This is a perfect example of how Solution Focused Brief Therapy can work. The premise of this approach is that past solutions are being overlooked and that this lack of recognition is preventing a solution to the current problem.
One of the key elements of this school of therapy is that solutions to current problems lie in past successes. It’s fairly obvious how this works in relation to Hammett’s statement. They took a look at their old records and asked themselves “what was good about that?” But, and this is the important part, they didn’t just copy those old records. They asked themselves what worked, and then recast it for where they are now. For my money, Hardwired took a lesson from Kill ‘Em All in that the riffs are not as complex and don’t sound as forced. The band sounds like maybe, just maybe, they were actually having fun.
But how would this work in therapy? In a simplified example, let’s say a client comes to me and says “I’m having trouble meeting women and I’d really like to be in a relationship.” This is actually a relatively common therapy concern—for both genders and for any sexual orientation. The obvious thing might be to do the thing the client’s friends have no doubt done—suggest places to meet people: bars, the grocery store, bookstores, activities, whatever. But maybe the person could, instead, think back to other times when they’ve been comfortable meeting people and interacting with them. Then perhaps they could consider why they were comfortable in that situation. Was it work, and they felt confident with their competence on the job? Was it school and they felt good about an academic subject? This might be followed with a question about what is a situation now that would make them feel this way? Again, this is very simplified, but it illustrates the point: what was a past solution that you aren’t considering and how can you apply it in a new way? Remember, you frequently have the means to solve these problems within yourself. You’ve likely done it before.
Mike McMahan, LPC, is a psychotherapist based in San Antonio, Tx.
Therapy Goes POP
Perspectives on therapy and mental health as viewed through the lens of popular culture