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Ask the Rock Doc:  Sound Solutions for a Song 
By psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. B.L.T.  

Details, and, in some cases, the method of communication associated with the following letter may be altered, to protect the confidentiality of the distressed person.  

Dear Rock Doc: 

I am 21 years of age.  I'm a superman freak.  I've been collecting Superman stuff since I was about 6 years old.  That was how I escaped, until I got my guitar. Then I started writing songs, and most of them were happy songs. One day I went to a workshop in L.A. for songwriters. I submitted one of my songs to a group of judges and they told me how they felt about the song.  It was a song called, "Up." It was based on my Superman theme.  It was about flying up in the sky, in the clouds, on top of the world. I thought it was cool.  It kind of sounded like a Sum 41 song.  They said that there was something insincere about my song. They said that in order to be better as a songwriter, I needed to be more real.  That really bummed me out, but since then, I've been trying to get to the bottom of how I really feel about things.  

Sometimes I get really bummed out for weeks at a time, so writing happy songs was an escape for me.  Now I try to face everything head-on, and I write about even the bad stuff, instead of trying to escape from it.  I found that out in a therapy session that there are horrible things in my childhood that I had forgotten about.  Even though I had blocked it all out of my mind, suddenly I had a rush of memories.  All of them had to do with my mom beating me up, ripping my hair out, and screaming things at me that made me feel horribly ashamed, just like in that movie, Mommy Dearest, (except it was a girl in that movie, and I was a little boy).  I've been trying to write songs about these memories, to help me deal with them, but I've very confused.  Sometimes I think the therapist planted these thoughts in my head. I heard that you might be able to help me.

S. Cape 

Dear S. Cape 

The "S. Cape" nickname I've come up could stand for "Superman's cape," or for "escape"-apparently your way of coping with painful memories.

If we were all like Superman, we would never need to escape, but reality is sometimes too much for any person to take in all at once.  While there are some very destructive ways of escaping, escape is not always a bad thing.  Skiing can an escape, traveling can be an escape, and riding a motorcycle can be an escape.  Listening to music can be an escape, and certainly writing music can be an escape.  In short, escape is not always a mistake.  Facing difficult issues and exploring traumatic memories is necessary for emotional healing to take place.  But to face those issues and explore those memories every minute of every day is just too much-it's overwhelming.  So I suggest that, in between writing those songs that address real issues in your life, you give yourself permission to write fun, happy, escapist songs that may or may not match your reality.  Feel free to fly high above your problems, where they can't touch you.  But don't stay up there with your head in the clouds. When you feel like you are ready to face those problems, look at the ground below, and then, after saying a prayer (if you are a praying man), descend upon them.  Explore the problems and the distressing memories with your therapist by your side, to help you draw meaning from them, and strength to move ahead with your life.  

My fellow shrinks seem to disagree on the issue of whether or not memories like the ones you've described, can be false.  Most psychologists believe, like I do, that memories that are forgotten can resurface.  That seems to be the case with you.  I have worked with patients who experienced sexual abuse during childhood.  They are clearly unaware of the memories in the early stages of therapy.  Then, as they begin to build trust in me, and in the therapeutic relationship, things emerge that they have repressed.  Something may come up in the course of our conversation that triggers those memories.   

Some would say that the recovered memories are false-that somehow therapists, either consciously or unconsciously plant such memories in the minds of patients. 

However, while I believe that memory errors may exist in certain cases, I also believe that, in most cases, when such memories emerge, they emerge because they reflect a real event, or series of such events.  

If you have doubts about your therapist, and suspect that he or she may be unduly influencing the emergence, or even the existence of these newly discovered memories, use your God-given intuition.  Ask yourself: Does this person strike you as an otherwise reasonable person?  If the answer is yes, but doubts about the realities of your memories persist, I would recommend getting a second opinion.  

No, you are not Superman, but that doesn't mean that you aren't allowed to fly the friendly skies of your imagination every once in awhile. The rough terrain of your painful and disturbing memories looks like a scary place to land, but I encourage you to land directly on that place, and explore that territory with your therapist until it loses its power over your mind and your emotions.  

Take it from me-Dr. B.L.T. 

P.S.  Dear S. Cape: I know of a powerful, comforting song that I believe could be at least a small part of your healing process.  It will help you flight the dread of those daunting memories, and cause you to feel better about the "real" you.  If you've already heard it, that's O.K. Take some time with your therapist going over the lyrics and applying them to your life.  The song is by Five for Fighting, and it's called Superman.  

If you are among the musically-minded in distress, write Dr. B.L.T., the Rock Doc at     

Dr. BLT, aka Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, is a Christ-centered licensed clinical psychologist and university instructor who specializes in the psychology of modern music.  He uses his original songs as well as those of other artists to address the problems of his patients, including his biggest, sickest, most challenging patient--society.

His face and name recognition, particularly with teens, comes from his short part on a long Cake music video--the Cake video for “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” that earned the band a nomination for Ground Breaking Music Video of the Year on the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards. 



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