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Ask the Rock Doc: 
Dr. BLT offers advice for a song to music-minded youth and adults in crisis. 

The following inquiry has been paraphrased, with certain details omitted and/or altered to protect the confidentiality of the subject.

Ask the Rock Doc 
Sound Advice for the Musically Minded 
by psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. B.L.T., The Rock Doc 
 
Dr. BLT offers advice for a song to music-minded youth and adults in crisis.

 
The details contained in the following letter may be altered and the medium of expression disguised in order to protect the confidentiality of the distressed party.
 
 
Dear Rock Doc:
 
I am a 52-year-old mother of two. I have a twenty-two year-old daughter who is a single missionary in Russia who has never caused us a problem. My 20-year-old son is another story altogether. He is the lead singer of Crushed Pearls, a band that recently opened up for one of Canada's top "screamo" rock bands (I think that's what they're calling it these days). Even though my husband and I can't stand that particular style of music (we prefer to hear old gospel greats like George Beverly Shea, The Blackwood Brothers, and The Florida Boys) our son is basically living out his dream and my husband and I have always supported him. At the same time, we are painfully aware that he suffers from Manic Depression and his doctor told us that he's been self-medicating, (a polite way to say that he's abusing illegal drugs as a way of dealing with emotional problems). When he came to visit last Christmas, I confronted him on his drug problem and he became so enraged that he tried to strangle me. My husband had to have him arrested! He hasn't spoken to either of us ever since with the exception of last night, when he called to tell us his favorite hockey team, the Calgary Flames, were going to the Stanley Cup playoffs,. The only way we can find out whether he's dead or alive or what's happening with him is to watch the headlines on the entertainment pages of the newspaper. Can you help a family in crisis? 
 
Mother-of-pearl 
 
Dear Mother-of-pearl: 
 
It takes a great deal of unconditional love to support a son in the center of the "screamo" scene, particularly when you and your husband couldn't be further apart from your son in terms of your own musical tastes. I fall between the ages of you and your son and although I hate to admit it, I am a little closer to your age than that of your son. My dad used to play those old Blackwood Brothers records all the time when I was a kid, and I grew up loving that stuff. Much to my state of utter bliss, I recently found my very favorite Blackwood Brothers record in perfect condition at a thrift store---an autographed copy no less! Being the parents of young adults, I'm sure you'll know what I mean when I say: The Blackwood Brothers rock! I've never heard anyone nail those extreme low notes like the late J.D. Sumner.
 
Back to your problem. Although "screamo" music isn't my favorite either, I have interviewed certain bands that tend to fall into the arena of either "emo" or "screamo" music. Since your son apparently suffers from an inability to control his rage, the music he is involved with may be providing him with some measure of release. It may represent a form of catharsis. To some degree, it may be a therapeutic outlet for him, much like Primal Scream Therapy (as "out there," as it may have seemed), undoubtedly was for so many distressed teens in the sixties. On the other hand, I have found that with certain individuals, particularly those suffering from the form of mental illness you said your son suffers from (now, formally referred to as Bipolar Disorder), "screamo" music may be an emotionally and spiritually revolving door, especially when the lyrics are marked by hopelessness, fear and despair and offer no way out. When you throw illegal drugs into the equation, things obviously take on an even more chaotic dimension.
 
It doesn't sound like your son is really "living out his dream." It sounds like he is living out his nightmare, and it is now becoming your nightmare. Since he is no longer under your roof, and he seems to have chosen to keep contact with you and your husband at a minimum, there is little power or control at your disposal to redirect him towards a more positive, constructive path. That's where what I call "psychoPRAYERapy" comes in. I believe that the stress associated with a son who is out of control is so intense that it requires parents to undergo therapy just to cope with the stress.
 
Without seeing any of you in a therapeutic setting, I can only throw out unconfirmed hypotheses concerning the dynamics of your family. There may be some biochemical, genetic factors involved, but this also feels like a control issue. I'm not sure what styles of parenting your son was exposed to, and I don't automatically blame you for the direction your son seems to be taking. However, if this, in any way, is about your need to control him, your husband's need to control him, and his apparently failing attempt to wrest control away from his parents and take it into his own hands, this issue will need to be resolved. No matter how infrequent your contact is with your son, the control issue, if there is one, will interfere with progress if it is not adequately dealt with.
 
An appropriate level of emotional involvement with your son will need to be negotiated, preferably with the aid of a trained, highly skilled psychotherapist. If you and/or your husbands are believers, as many gospel-music fans are, then prayer will ultimately be your most powerful means of reaching your son. The spirit of God intervenes in mysterious and powerful ways that should never be underestimated. Hold your son up in prayer, do what you can to settle core family issues (especially those centering around control) and then, under the direction of your therapist, devise a plan of action for intervening in your son’s life. If he can be stabilized with regard to his mood disturbance; if he can be spared from mercilessness of drugs and the demon of despair; his music will begin to become more of a source of therapy for him. I believe that with the power of prayer, the undying support of family and friends, and the possibilities associated with good therapy, "crushed pearls" and crushed mothers-of-pearls can be completely restored.
 
Furthermore, I believe that "screamo" music is ultimately transformed into "dreamo" music when the artist is liberated from his or her nightmare and shown a vision of a promised land-one that begins and ends with the free gift of eternal life and the abundant life that Christ came to offer all who will humble themselves before him. That is what I am praying for as it concerns you, your "crushed pearl," and the undoubtedly imperfect, but well-meaning family that I believe he belongs to.
 
If you are a musically-minded person in distress, write Dr. BLT at drblt@drblt.com
 
 

Special Announcement:
Dr. B.L.Trivia Contest Winner

Last month, Dr. B.L.T. invited readers to identify Rolling Stones song titles appearing in subheadings and embedded in the body of his article, When the Stone Rolled from the Tomb.  This month we have a winner and he is:
DARRYL ENS of RICHMOND, BRITISH COLUMBIA.  DARRYL is a solo guitarist, and former member of the Canadian Christian rock band, Samson.   Congratulations, Darryl!  As the winner of the Dr. B.L.Trivia contest, you will recieve a CD copy of When the Stone Rolled from the Tomb, the one-song soundtrack to the article from the forthcoming CD, Stone-ground Dreams, a CD containing songs about the Stones, written from a Christian perspective by the author of the article. 

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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