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Tune-Up Tips
Transforming Your Spirit into a 6-String Weapon of Mass Construction:
A Music-psychology SongTalk by the Rock Doc, psychologist Dr. Bruce L.
Thiessen, a.k.a. Dr. B.L.T. 

“You are the sun, I am the moon
You are the words, I am the tune
Play me...”
Neil Diamond

Tuning In to the Touch of the Tune-Up Master
The guitar and the human spirit share a great deal in common.  In the hands of a master, both can make beautiful music, both can be transformed into a "weapon of mass construction."  I have bungled many a performance by merely allowing myself to become deaf to how grossly out of tune my guitar had become.  Tuning the human spirit, like tuning the guitar, is the first step in making beautiful music.  As a musician and a psychologist, I will take you through a string-by-string lesson in tuning up the psyche and the soul.

Before you continue, I must warn you.  There are strings attached.  Be prepared to stretch your soul and your psyche as you submit to the touch of the master tuner.  Let's begin with the top string, the sixth string, also known as the E string.

E is for Eyes on Eternity

In psychological terms, the E stands for eternal locus of control.  You won't find the term in any psychological journal, book, or magazine.  Sadly, with the exception of works from the profoundly influential Carl Jung, Viktor Frankl, and others of their ilk, the eternal dimension is conspicuously omitted from scholarly treatments of the psyche.  Freud set the trend when he made it clear that in his view, religion was a crutch for the weak and psychologically unfit. 

No, apart from what you are reading at this moment, you won't find a thing on the eternal locus of control.  What you will find are innumerable articles and copious studies on internal versus external locus of control. That has to do with a person's orientation and how a particular person explains events.   It has to do with cause and effect, and how much control, if any, you as an individual have over your life.  If you are a person who blames your problems on your parents, your circumstances, or other events and people who make up your external world, psychologists would say that you operate according to an external locus of control.  If, on the other hand, you look within when things go wrong, accept responsibility for your mistakes in the key of life, and see yourself as an agent of change in the world, you operate according to an internal locus of control. 

A person with their eyes on eternity, a person who operates according to an eternal locus of control, believes that God is ultimately in control of people and events.  When things go wrong, when things go right, or when things look uncertain, an eternally oriented person doesn't worry or fret (pun intended).  They don't complain or blame.  They pray and wait with faith and optimistic anticipation. 

An eternally oriented, balanced person believes that he/she as well as circumstances and other people play a role in shaping his/her experience, but he/she understands that ultimately God is in control.  God will not let a sparrow fall from the sky without his knowledge. 

The human spirit can easily slip out of tune if it is not grounded on an eternal focus.  I recently performed a song that required a special guitar tuning known as drop-D tuning.  That's a type of modern rock tuning in which you lower the top E string to a D.  The next song I performed required a regular tuning, only I forgot to switch back.  My guitar sounded absolutely awful because the type of tuning didn't fit the tune.  To be a "6-string Weapon of Mass Construction," you must know when to look within, when to look without and when to look above.  Consider your internal and external dimensions to be your peripheral vision.  You must never ignore them, but you must keep your eyes centered on eternity at all times.  St. Peter, when attempting to walk on water, forgot to do this and his E string subsequently slipped.  He took his focus off of Christ and onto the tumultuous waves surrounding him.  Needless to say, he sank.  Jesus reached out and offered him a tune up to keep his head above water. 

A is for Abundant Living

“Save me from mediocrity...”
Somethin' Worth Fightin' For: Thiessen/Sisco, © 2003

Jesus came to offer the abundant life.  If you are sharp or flat on this string, don't expect anything good to come out of it.  To be flat is to be mediocre, to settle for a life that falls below the mark of abundance.  Many circumstances can lead to psychological and spiritual starvation that blocks the entry to the promised land and the abundant life: childhood abuse, an emotionally or physically abandoning parent or set of parents, marital discord and divorce, alcoholism, rape, a genetic predisposition, or an unfortunate set of environmental conditions that presages mental illness.

These are the sorts of external events and internal states that can pull your strings dreadfully out of tune.  Sometimes we can go directly to prayer and to the reading of the word of God to make up for what we have been deprived of.  Other times we need people-friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, pastors, and/or professional helpers to assist us in penetrating the dark clouds that block the healing rays of the sun.   Whatever it takes, we must ultimately align ourselves with the music of the kingdom.  Its motif is the abundant life and all that such a life affords to the spiritually and emotionally deprived psyche-soul.

We miss out on so many of God's rich blessings by merely passing by the abundant fruit that lies upon the table he has prepared for us.  If the fifth string on your psyche-soul is sharp, it may be because you regard yourself as above anything abundant that might come from God.  You see yourself, not your father in heaven, as the sole source of happiness.  You are above turning to the Tune-up Master.

Beware!  Your symphony will rapidly deteriorate into a maddening cacophony of chaos.  In the words of the apostle Paul, you will become a "sounding brass or a tingling cymbal." He wasn't referring to a sweetly sounding brass or a tantalizing tingle either.  He was, without a doubt, referring to a brazen, boastful and otherwise baneful brass and a tragically terrible tingling that haunts you like the merciless ringing in your ears after a rock concert marked by deafening decibels.   Human beings invariably settle for fool's gold over real gold. If you won't take it from a shrink, take it from the Tune-up Master. Take a moment to tune. Allow the A-string on your psyche-soul to be aligned to all the abundant life that flows from the almighty.

D is for Divine Appointment

“You've been granted a divine appointment
In the presence of a holy king
You've been granted a divine appointment
To a place where the angels sing...”
Words and music by B. Thiessen, © 2003

The story of Jesus, Martha, and Mary illustrates the price you pay when you rush through your day.  I always forget whether it is Martha or Mary who scurries about, trying to make sure the house is in perfect order for Jesus, who arrives as an unexpected guest.  And I forget who is the one, Martha or Mary, that Jesus ultimately blesses--the one who simply considers the visit a divine appointment and makes herself spiritually and emotionally available for the abundance that Jesus is about to offer.  Forgive me, but I'd rather be like Mary (or is it Martha?) and make myself emotionally available to you, rather than getting obsessive and detail-dominant on you.  So, if you happen to be like Martha (or is it Mary?), then you'll just have to look the story up for yourself to discover who is who.

Mental health (and ultimately physical health) is not something that happens naturally.  We must continually cultivate positive mental health habits if we are to keep in tune with all that is divine.

Our bodies and minds are meant to operate at a certain pace and when we push them beyond that pace, we suffer from all sorts of physical, psychological, and spiritual symptoms.  Every moment is a precious gift.  For those who are appointed to be the sons and daughters of the living God, every day, every hour, and every moment is a divine appointment with the Tune-up Master.

G is for Godly Guidance

>From the affable Dr. Phil to Dr. Laura's jagged bitter pill, everybody seems to be offering advice these days.   Some is gratuitous, as is so often the case with Dr. Laura, but much of it is reasonable and appropriate, as is the case with more respectable members of the helping community, the ones you rarely see on television or hear on nationally syndicated radio.

The Bible teaches us that it's better to give than to receive, but when it comes to Godly guidance, receiving should play a decidedly more significant role.  However, I'm in a giving mood, and I'd rather not focus on myself right now.   So I'll pick on an otherwise witty, rhythm-wise master of pop.

Let's pick on Sisqo.  After all, he could sure use a little advice.  Not on his groove, his moves, or his ability to make a million off of women's underwear without ever selling a pair, but in his apparent inability to elevate his mind above the level of a mere troglodyte or caveman in terms of the content of his songs.   This G's popular Thong Song is a catchy, guilty pleasure for many men, but it seems to me that it glorifies the wrong sort of G-string.  Instead of focusing on underwear and what's underneath it, Sisqo would be better served and would better serve his fans by focusing in on the latest outerwear fashion--the full armor that comes in the form of Godly guidance and advice.  Some of it comes from people and some from books or magazines.  The book with the most G is The Holy Bible.  Take the Song of  Solomon for example.  Solomon was no Sisqo, but he was no prude either.  No Old Testament figure celebrated the human figure more than Solomon.  Yet his wisdom went well beyond the scope of sensuality to encompass the spiritual world and all of the treasures it contains.  It's the type of wisdom that guides us as it protects us from slipping out of tune and slipping into the world of the flesh.  Instant gratification comes with plenty of glitter, but underneath that glitter is nothing but litter.

Some psychologists, and philosophers such as Otto Rank, believe that the pursuit of all that glitters with grandeur and glamour is spawned by what is referred to as ontological anxiety.  It represents an escape from the knowledge that this life is fleeting and that we all must face death one day.  The G string is often the hardest note to tune because it would prefer to remain sharp, partly because of pride.  We want to believe that we are above guidance.   We are socialized to crave self-sufficiency.  But that is not the Godly way.  That is not the way of the cross.

B is for Belief

This brings to mind another Neil Diamond song, “I'm a Believer.”  He made believers out of the Monkees when their cover of this pop gem climbed all the way to the top of the charts.  But to really feel the power and depth of Diamond's belief, you must travel down that humble sawdust path to “Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show.”  If that song doesn't make a believer out of you, no song will.  The Bible clearly teaches that without faith, without belief, it is impossible to please God.  The B string is the one that easily slips to a D for doubt.  Walking by faith means taking positive and decisive action without a guarantee that everything will turn out the way we want it to.  I have observed patients high on prescription pills but low on belief.

The lack of belief ultimately leads them to defeat.  It becomes their nemesis.  Nothing is more powerful in eliminating the paralyzing power of depression than the cultivation of belief.  Need to tune the B string?  The old hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” is a good place to start.  Reflecting on all of the times when you were tempted to doubt God's faithfulness, and yet he was there time and time again demonstrating that very faithfulness will bring that note up to exactly where it needs to be, to B.

The High E Stands for Everlasting Love

The high E, the bottom string or first string on the guitar, should take you right back to eternity, completing the circle of inner peace that comes from humbly submitting to the nail-scarred hands of the Tune-up Master.

Andy Gibb, kid brother of The Bee Gees, took “Everlasting Love” to the top of the charts without fully grasping the power of the everlasting love of God to or allowing such an unconditional love to wholly penetrate his faint heart.  You might say his high E string was woefully flat and that he tried to sharpen it with the wrong kind of tuner.  Illicit drugs used to hide the pain of a broken heart and to escape the shock of too much fame too fast caused his heart to fail.

Sadly, the world recently also lost Maurice Gibb. Unlike his younger brother, Maurice apparently drew more earnestly upon the everlasting love of God. It was that higher power that put his heart in tune with an addiction-free lifestyle.   That string, deftly tuned, became his greatest ally in a turbulent battle with alcoholism.


With your eyes fixed on E.ternity, a heart hungry and open for receiving the A.bundant Life, a calendar filled with D.ivine Appointments, the humility to accept G.odly Guidance, an unshakable B.elief in the God of miracles, and the courage to jump off the high diving board into the warm pool of God's Everlasting Love you really can't go wrong.

There you have it--six strings.  Live wires.  Six notes, played in multiple combinations, some simple, some complex, some soft and gentle, some swift and aggressively delivered, have resulted in some extraordinary melodies over the years. But never before a proper tune-up.

Life may be a stage, but you are more than just a performer.  If you have turned your instrument, your soul over to the Master-tuner, you are a child of the living God, made in his glorious image for the purpose of fulfilling his divine will and glorifying his name through your words and deeds.  You may not always be in the center of the spotlight's beam, but what you do on that stage of life will have an impact on all observers.  Your song will become their song and will move your brothers and sisters in Christ to take positive actions in the world.

So go ahead, step up to the mic.  Belt out every note with passion and confidence in the grace of the almighty God.  At the same time, don't stop listening for those occasional sour notes and don't forget to call upon the savior to sweeten every one of them.   When your soul is played like a finely tuned instrument, it will resonate with power.  It will become your 6-String Weapon of Mass Construction.  It will be the force you draw upon to put the pieces of a broken world back together and to shape the world in the image of its almighty creator.

“You are the sun, I am the moon
You are the words, I am the tune
Play me...”


 Copyright © 1996 - 2003 The Phantom Tollbooth