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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings



In 2001, a film called The Wash was released and I decided not to watch it, because I didn’t want it to spoil my memory of the 1976 film Car Wash. Although I had no evidence of my suspicion, I thought the hip hop-inspired movie The Wash may be an unwelcomed knockoff of the disco, funk, and soul music-inspired film Car Wash, so I simply said “no” to the film.


Nevertheless, I appreciated The Wash soundtrack. In particular, I enjoyed the song “No” which was performed by rapper Joe Beast and produced by Mel-Man. The track uses a style popularized by Dipset, whereby an artist relies on background statements incorporated with foreground verbal content. As an example from “No”:


Oh, y’all niggas don’t [Know]. Do y’all really got flow? [No] Did you live half that life in the streets, guns and red lights, sellin’ white in the street? [No] Can I roll wi’chu, Beast? [No] No, you can’t come wit’ me [No].


Although the lyrics aren’t particularly meaningful to me, I value the model of assertiveness presented on the track. According to one source, “Assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive to defend a right point of view or a relevant statement.”


I practice this tool with clients when using Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). Sometimes, clients inform me that when telling other people “no,” clients maintain irrational beliefs about how they may perceive themselves or how others may interpret this assertive response. As an example:


Client: If I say “no,” it’s like I’m rude or closed-off. I don’t want people to think I’m being aggressive, so I usually wind up just going along with things I don’t really want to do.


Me: Is it possible that you’re overthinking a one-word reply?


Client: What do you mean?


Me: “No” is a full sentence. No?


Client: Well, I guess, but it’s limiting. Like, if someone asks me to attend a music festival and I know I don’t have the money to go, saying “no” may prevent them from asking me in the future. I don’t wanna be rude and then not receive another invite.


Me: So your belief is that you should say “yes,” which causes fear, when in actuality the rational response is to say “no”?


Client: But they may think I’m agro and not wanna talk to me anymore if I’m always saying “no.”


Me: Again, your self-disturbing belief is that you must say “yes,” and this induces fear, so you wind up over-committing, putting yourself in financial strain; and this serves your interests and goals in what way?


Client: It doesn’t.


Often, I find that it isn’t the act of saying “no” that leads to unpleasant consequences (i.e., emotions, bodily sensations, behavior, etc.). Rather, it’s a person’s belief about saying “no” that leads to unproductive outcomes.


Just as Joe Beast relied on background responses to punctuate foreground commentary in “No,” people tend to allow unhelpful beliefs within their mind to influence how they respond when declining an invite to a music festival, for instance. Things don’t have to be this way.


Because avoidance is a consequence of an unfavorable belief, I challenge my clients to push through discomfort by practicing the very behavior they unreasonably believe promotes this response. Using homework, I’ll have clients practice telling people “no” when appropriate.


If you don’t have enough funds to attend a music festival, say “no” and see what happens. Someone asks you on a date and you don’t have romantic interest in the individual, say “no” and find out whether or not you can tolerate the moment.


When at a family gathering and you’re continually being asked whether or not you want to have children, and you know you’ve made up your mind to forego parenthood altogether, say “no” and discover whether or not it’s as awful as you thought it would be.


While using this tool, it’s important to understand that sometimes the reactions we experience from other people may be disappointing, unpleasant, discomforting, annoying, or even downright frustrating. Saying “no” doesn’t miraculously induce a joyous or pleasurable experience.


Rather than seeking best-case scenarios, it may be useful to see if you can achieve a good enough outcome. To put a final point on this matter, do I consider the track “No” by Joe Beast to be a groundbreaking work of art? No. All the same, it’s good enough to influence this blogpost.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




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