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Single Serving 
By psychologist Dr Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr BLT 
Single being served: 19th Nervous Breakdown 
Artist/band: The Rolling Stones 

It’s a song that is timeless in its theme, memorable in his lyrical and melodic hooks, and versatile in terms of what can be done with it.  

The song inspired me to experiment with, and coin a term for a new style of music I call Hip Rock.  Check out the hip rock flavor in my cover of this Rolling Stones classic:

19th Nervous Breakdown 
Dr BLT cover of Rolling Stones 
Words and music by Richards/Jagger 
http://www.drblt.net/music/nineteenthml.mp3

You're the kind of person
You meet at certain dismal dull affairs.
Center of a crowd, talking much too loud
Running up and down the stairs. 

These first few lines scream “bipolar disorder” and “borderline personality disorder,” but a seasoned psychologist never, or, if ever, rarely, falls into the trap of diagnosing someone he/she has never sat down with face-to-face in a clinical session or psychological test administration.  Nevertheless, whenever somebody seems to be “talking much too loud,” or doing anything much too much, it smacks of emotional and mental instability.  

Doing too much, in most cases, signals overcompensation for feelings of inadequacy.  It signals crying out for attention, out of a marked sense of a dearth of a self-worth.  But it could also signal passion.  

One must temper every urge to “psycho-pathologize” with an awareness that there is a silver lining behind every cloud of dysfunction.  If one can take the negative energy, turn it around, and transform it into something creative, one has effectively harnessed the storm, and calmed the warring factions within.    
 

Well, it seems to me that you have seen too much in too few years.
And though you've tried you just can't hide
Your eyes are edged with tears. 

The observer in this song sees sorrow beyond the social butterfly persona.  We often project the very opposite of what is going on---what is really going on within.  Such is often the case with those who project a sense of exuberant energy, social self confidence and poise.  Hence, the warning: 

You better stop
Look around
Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes
Here comes your nine-teenth nervous breakdown. 

Having seen many patients go through the throes of just one “nervous breakdown,” I can’t imagine how immensely painful it would be to have 18 more.  It is not only hard on the person going through it, it is hard for a loved one or loved ones, to witness such a breakdown in somebody he/she/they love.  You want to make them happy, but you can’t. 

When you were a child
You were treated kind
But you were never brought up right.
You were always spoiled with a thousand toys
But still you cried all night.
Your mother who neglected you
Owes a million dollars tax.
And your father's still perfecting ways of making sealing wax. 

These lines reflect a lay person’s attempt to make sense out of something chaotic by turning towards possible antecedents.  There’s nothing wrong with raising hypotheses about the causes of a suffering person’s suffering, as long as one holds to such hypotheses as tentative, and in need of a second, hopefully professional opinion. 

Oh, who's to blame, that girl's just insane. 

It is human nature, when a person is suffering, to look around for somebody to blame.  Even in the time of Jesus, people would observe a person stricken with illness and ask Jesus whose sins caused the illness to take hold.  Jesus would often suggest that it doesn’t necessarily have to be anybody’s fault in particular.  It is a part of the aftermath of the fall of humankind.  

Well nothing I do don't seem to work,
It only seems to make matters worse. Oh please. 

This line in the song, along with the urgency in Mick Jagger’s voice at this point in the song, aptly conveys the sense of utter helplessness one feels who lives with a person who is losing all vestiges of his/her sanity. 

You were still in school
When you had that fool
Who really messed your mind.
And after that you turned your back
On treating people kind.
On our first trip
I tried so hard to rearrange your mind. 
But after while I realized you were disarranging mine

When we try to fix people, we end up getting broken ourselves, or we end up that we may be the ones in need of fixing. 

You better stop, look around
Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes
Here comes your nine-teenth nervous breakdown.
Here comes your nine-teenth nervous breakdown
Here comes your nine-teenth nervous breakdown 

Still, when a person is clearly heading towards that 19th nervous breakdown, it doesn’t hurt to put out a warning.  The Rolling Stones put out the warning in a song, and it’s a song that is clearly a classic.

It is a story of an undoing, an unraveling, and a tragedy.  With the proper treatment, and the appropriate follow-up, a person never has to go through 19 nervous breakdowns.  They shouldn’t have to go through even one more after the first.  And, better yet, if you can be the one to warn them early enough, they may be able to avoid even that dreadful first one.  

Though the woman depicted in the song may truly be unstable, and the observer in the song may be in the process of “losing it,” in a co-dependent struggle for intimacy and control, the song itself is stable, solid as a rock (or at least as a Stone), and showing no signs of breaking.  

* Are you a psychology student, a psychologist, or a mental health professional of any variety? Then take this to the next level at:

Psychology Comes Alive
http://www.psychologycomesalive.com
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
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