Your Gateway to Music and More from a Christian Perspective
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Ask the Rock Doc:
Sound Advice for a Song
By psychologist Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. BLT
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**Certain details in the following correspondence may be altered to protect the confidentiality of the inquiring person and to illustrate key principles.
Dear Dr. BLT
Help! Please! My family scares me to death. Who needs Halloween when you have a family like mine!? I’m a freshman in college and a singer/songwriter in a band called Gothic Goblins. I recently took an introduction to psychology class to find out more about myself problems. I was told by other students that psychology would help me understand why my parents act like they hate me and my music whenever I’m around and why they never come to any of my performances.
I wanted to be able to describe the situation to friends who just don’t understand. I wanted to be able to look for the triggers that set my dad off so I could predict when he was going to blow up. And, I really wanted to be able to gain control of my life. I also wanted to understand myself better, and learn how to deal with stress. So far, it’s not working for me. First of all the instructor’s name is Mr. Fechner, and let me tell you, this dude is creepy. He looks like death warmed over, and he always jokes about how he must be related to Gustav Fechner, the dude he tells us performed the first scientific experiment that led to experimental psychology, or some garbage like that. I mean please, didn’t the guy have a life?
The first week, all Fechner talked about geeky Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Plato and their views on the body and the soul, oh yeah, and some dude named Descarte who looked at the world like some type of freaking machine and thought the seat of the soul was in some gland at the base of the brain. The second week, all he talked about was some old foggie named Wilhelm Wundt from the 1800s and his stupid laboratory--and about how one of his students (I think his name was Techner) took his so-called findings about objective introspection and ripped those ideas off the old guy. He just changed the name or something. I think Fechner said it was functionalism or some wierd thing like that. Now I’m ramblin. I guess that’s why they call me Ramblin’ Ralphy. I guess what I’m really trying to say is that I’m beginning to lose hope in this class ever helping me solve my problems. I heard you were a Christian doc, and I’m a Christian, so I thought I’d look you up and see what you could do to help.
Dear Ramblin’ Ralphy:
It seems like you live in a world of chaos and you want to make sense of it, and gain control of it, so you won’t feel so out of control. First of all, an introductory psychology course will only scratch the surface of what there is to know in the field. Second, even if you knew everything there is to know about psychology, that wouldn’t be enough to make the fundamental changes that need to be made in your personal life and in your family. Knowledge is one thing. Application is quite another. Unfortunately, making theory practical to this century, this decade, and this millennium is extraordinary challenging, even for the best of instructors. These old fashioned “dudes” you write off as irrelevant may not be so irrelevant after all. You and your family are experiencing a disruption in homeostasis, or balance. Those “Geeky Greek” philosophers you’ve mentioned were keenly aware of how the body, mind and spirit could easily become unbalanced or thrown into a state of disequilibrium. They just wanted to know how everything worked together in order to better understand how to keep it all balanced. When people brought their sick relatives to Jesus, he often addressed their emotions, their minds and their spirits, and this was enough to relieve their physical suffering. On the other hand, sometimes, he would heal their bodies, and their minds and emotions would, in turn be wholly restored.
I admire you for your goals, though I don’t think taking psychology courses will be a panacea. Actually, your goals for yourself and your family sound just like the goals that psychologists have as it pertains to their field. They what to describe what they observe, provide some sort of reasonable explanation, make predictions based upon their observations, and finally, they, like you, want to control their environment.
I would recommend that you see a mental health professional, hopefully one who shares your Christian perspective. I would suggest that you invite the whole family to participate.
And I would encourage you to start at journal where you record your experiences, past and present, and write about your thoughts and feelings related to those experiences. Actually, I’m asking you to engage in a certain variation of what “that old foggie, Wilhelm Wundt” described as “objective introspection.” Bring those journal entries to your therapist if he agrees to include this as part of your therapy. Then you can study the structure of your own mind, just like the Titchener did back in the turn of the 19th century.
You could even get a little more practical and employ the an alternative method introduced by William James and known as functionalism, in which you try to how the actions of your parents, and your actions in response to them and independent of them, dysfunctional as they may be, allow you to adapt to a chaotic environment. Once you know what is being employed as an adaptive strategy, and understand why it is not an effective one, your therapist can introduce you to more effective strategies and have you and your family try them on for size. I’d also encourage you to take the feelings you express in your journal, and incorporate them into the songs you are writing for the band. Neil Diamond (someone else you may consider an “old foggie,” once said in a big hit of his called Song Sung Blue, “...when you take the blues and make a song, you sing the out again...” He was right. I hope this will help, in terms of getting your feelings out on paper and then singing them out.
It looks like if you are willing to take my advice, you’ll really have your homework cut out for you. Also, don’t forget to pray about your situation. God knows more than all of these “old foggies,” put together. Let me know how it goes.
*** If you’re a musician
in distress (or a parent, brother, sister, or friend of one) feel free
to write the Rock Doc at: firstname.lastname@example.org