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Ask the Rock Doc:  
Sound Advice for the musically-minded 
By psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. B.L.T., 
the Shrink-rappin' Rock Doc 

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 Dawg House "Dawgter" B.L.T.: 

What's up, dawg?  My name is Jack.  I've been reading your Ask the Rock Doc column on Phantom Tollbooth.  Even though I have to admit, the column rocks, I have to tell you, I'm suspicious of shrinks.  I'm sorry for dumping on you, but as I say in one of my songs, "I'm at the end of my rope and that ain't dope."  I'm 15 years of age, and I'm from Sacramento, California.  I've just had what those shrinks call a "nervous breakdown."  Let me tell you, G, I'm tore up.   I live with my mom and my 8-year-old sister.  My parents divorced last Christmas, and my mom couldn't stand to live in the same small town of Modesto and constantly run into my dad, so we moved in January.  I had to leave a school I loved, I had to leave my rap group, "DJ Dawg and the K-9-5," and I was DJ Dawg.  We were just about to release a CD called Dawg Pound Cake.  I also my girlfriend, Ester, and I have to settle for a long-distance relationship, and it's not working.  You might say I no longer have an identity.  Coming to think of it, I don't think I've ever really known who I am.  

I don't do drugs or nothing, in fact, I'm a Christian, but nothing seems to make sense anymore.  My mom said that the problem is that I have too much time on my hands, and I'm my own worst enemy.  She's a workaholic.  I never see her.   She goes to school at night and works during the day.  She said that after school I do nothing but veg out by the TV and think about how horrible my life is.  I guess I'm just going to have to fill up my schedule so I'll have less time to think and to self-destruct with my thoughts.  

I applied for two part-time jobs last week and got both of them.  I'll be starting both jobs next week.   I'll be working 30 hours a week plus going to school.  But still, it's hard for me to even get up in the morning because I'm so depressed.  I'm having a hard time picturing myself working so many hours.  Don't worry, I'm not suicidal or nothing, I'm just all stressed out and thinking that if this is all life has to offer, I'd rather just hurry up and get it over with.  My mom believes work will solve all my problems.  Is she right?  Have parents always been expected kids to work, plus go to school.  It's a lot to keep up with, especially when you are in the middle of a nervous breakdown.  I really need to see a shrink, but I hate the idea of lying on a couch and having someone with spectacles analyzing my every thought.  Please help. 

Dawg in the Dumps 

Dear Dawg in the Dumps: 

Let me begin by saying it is a distinct honor to be called a "Dawgter in the Dawg House."  This is Dr. B.L.T. in the house and I'm available to address your concerns as best I can.  

You don't have to apologize for "dumping" on me.  It's not "dumping" to me, because this is my job.  Moreover, it sounds like what you're feeling is much more than a "dawg" who is down in the dumps.  I want you to be sure to let someone know if that despair has brought you to the point in which you are considering suicide.  If that is the case, make sure you tell somebody who is concerned about your personal welfare.  Also, make sure the person you tell is someone who is connected with the resources in your community.  You are right, the first thing you need is a psychologist-one that you can trust, one that you feel comfortable with.  First you will need to let go of your stereotypes of psychologists.  Just a minute, let me see what I can find in my doctor's bag.  Yes.... This looks like the perfect musical prescription for you.  It's about a shrink who raps.  In fact it's called "Shrink Rapped."  This song is sure to lead you from your stereotype to your stereo.  I'll even let you download this musical prescription for free via this link, if you promise not to make copies and sell a million copies of it.  Before you check it out, though, let me remind you that I'm a white guy.   And let me warn you, I'm no Eminem.  Coming to think of it, I'm not even as good as Vanilla Ice (That was a joke).  So with that warning in mind, here you go, bro:

Shrink Rapped 

Once you've allowed the words of the song to begin altering your preconceived notions about shrinks, we will be free to explore your identity problem.    

Your identity is your foundation.  Since you tell me you don't know who you are, it's no wonder that you feel your world is caving in all around you. 

A researcher named James Marcia helped shrinks like me understand identity by breaking it down into three areas:  occupation, ideology (values and beliefs) and interpersonal relations.  

Let's start with occupation.  Identity has always been closely associated with one's work.  However, It sounds like you were raised in a family where a person's identity was almost solely based on this one aspect, at the expense of sacrificing the dimensions of ideology and interpersonal relations.  I would encourage you to make more time for play, perhaps trading in one of your new jobs for time spent revisiting your rappin' aspirations.  Let's see if I can find another musical prescription in my doctor's bag that will help you understand the role of occupation in relation to identity and the need to balance it with play...  I'm digging a little deeper.  Here it is.  See if you can dig this:  

Hard-earned Play (15 in 1925) 

You may have noticed that the song not only introduced the idea that you need to spend more time relaxing.  It also provided you with a history lesson on teen employment, and its relationship to the education of our youth.   

Let your mom know that a highly respected shrink at Phantom Tollbooth told you to back off a little on the workload.   Working is good in the sense that it will distract your mind from all those things that are bringing you down, but those things must also be reflected upon so you can learn from them.  

Let's move on to ideology, your belief system.  We've addressed part of it already in the occupational category.  You will need to change your beliefs about work.  Work is good for you, but too much work is not.  Second, I wonder how strongly you believe that Jesus loves you and that you are a child of God.  As a child of God, you automatically inherit all of his riches in glory.  The bible says that anything we bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and anything we free on earth shall be bound in heaven.  Bind the thoughts in your mind that suggest that you are not worthy of receiving God's riches.  Free your mind from negative thoughts that keep you from experience what the Bible refers to as the "abundant life."  Remember who you are in Christ.  You are a child of God.  If you claim this, along with your birthright as a child of God, you have taken a step towards knowing who you are.  You have made a movement in the direction of securing your identity.  There may be thoughts and disturbing emotions like dark clouds blocking the light of these biblical truths.  That's where a good shrink comes in.  Ask your mom if she can help you find one.   Hopefully, if you go to church, you will find one who shares your beliefs about Jesus.   You may prefer to see another type of counselor-perhaps a pastoral counselor, especially after the emotional crisis has lessened somewhat.  

That leads us to the third and final category-that of interpersonal relations. In addition to professional help, you may also seek guidance and support from friends and family members.   I know that you are new to Sacramento, but try to find at least one homeboy to hang out with-one who will encourage you in your walk with Christ and be there for you throughout this difficult trial.   I'm very sorry to hear about your parent's divorce and about the break-up between you and your now ex-girlfriend.  These are losses are huge and it will take time to heal.  Will you be able to visit your dad on a regular basis?  I certainly hope so, especially if your father is a loving father and he treats you well.  

To sum it all up, professional help, prayer, friendship and reaching out to those whom you trust most can go along way towards bringing about emotional healing in these areas.  Reading God's word and learning about your special place in God's kingdom as His child will help to secure your sense of identity.  Finally, you are likely going through what us shrinks refer to as an Adjustment Disorder.  Time will take care of a lot of these adjustment issues if you find meaningful ways to pass the time.  Please forgive me if you think I've got a "bad rap" (pun intended).  Please get beyond any need you might have for me to have the street credibility to be a real rap artist.  Just pay attention to the lines in the songs, and to the words of advice contained in this letter.  In the meantime I will pray for you.  I believe something good will happen to you, and that it's just around the corner!  Take it from me, Dr. B.L.T.

If you are a musician-in-distress, or a parent of one, please share your concerns with me via this e-mail address: 

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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