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  • Deric Hollings

All Right

[DISCLAIMER]


When practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) I remain hesitant to tell clients everything will be all right. While reassurance may help someone feel better, I’m not convinced it contributes to a person getting better.


Nonetheless, I’m aware of the widely accepted practice of prophetic guarantees geared towards improving other people’s moods. Even if I think, “Well, how do you know everything will be all right?” others simply accept the encouragement.


This reminds me of a song entitled “All Right” from hip hop group Visionaries. Featured on the album We Are the Ones (We’ve Been Waiting For) and reportedly produced by the late J Dilla, the track features a soulful vocal sample from the late Laura Nyro’s song “Once It Was Alright Now (Farmer Joe).”


For the true hip hop heads who are interested in seeing how “All Right” was composed, DJ Shoji’s video rendition may be worth your time. Herein, I’ll focus on the version of this song from Visionaries.


With the melodic sound of Nyro’s voice, the chorus states, “Listen, it’s all right, all right, baby,” repeated a number of times. It’s quite reassuring.


One member of the group raps:


“After love’s lost, nature took its course when mom and dad announced they’re getting a divorce. Can’t force a bond they both used to cherish, got me thinkin’ twice about the institute of marriage.”


This isn’t unlike an issue many people bring to therapy. Experiencing a significant romantic relationship crumble before your eyes may be met with any number of self-disturbing beliefs.


Some people remain convinced by the nonsense their minds concoct, as they believe they should, must, or ought to never allow a romantic relationship to dissolve like their parents’ marriage. This narrative then places an irrational demand upon the relationship.


Telling oneself, “I must never get a divorce; because it would be so awful that I don’t think I could stand it,” increases one’s level of suffering. How does telling oneself, “It’s gonna’ be all right,” alleviate this unpleasant experience? It doesn’t.


Another group member states:


“Got things goin’ on in the family tree. Holidays ain’t the same; it’s like missin’ a beat. Either be a mediator or take sides like a hater. Never liked goodbyes, rather say, ‘See you later.”


For those who experience turmoil within family systems—and let’s be honest, who doesn’t?—everything may not seem all right. Working with clients regarding instances such as these, I find it useful to assess expectations.


As an example, Christmas is in ten days. Holidays are the only time of year some people see their families. Mediating family feuds or taking sides in familial discord isn’t always festive.


Rather than lying to themselves about being able to control tension within their families, I invite clients to consider whether or not they can tolerate distress. For the person who says, “Christmastime ought to be free from family drama,” ‘tis the season for disappointment.


We may prefer, hope or wish for, or appreciate our family members more if they would place aside matters of conflict. After all, it may be rational to favor unity over conflict.


However, when our rigid rules aren’t met and desire turns to disturbance, unconditionally accepting others as they are may be a helpful practice that could lead to a healthier outcome. Otherwise, how is it beneficial to receive reassurance about how everything will supposedly be all right when it clearly isn’t? It’s not.


A separate member expresses:


“My parents getting older and they never got a house, and they’re still in an apartment tryin’ to work it out. Findin’ a way to survive with what they’re all about, tryin’ to shine for them without a diamond in my mouth.”


I appreciate this contribution to the song, because it indicates the rapper’s parents found a way to work with what is, not disturbing themselves by what they think ought to be. Even if things aren’t all right, he has an example of people who’ve found a way to endue suffering and find meaning.


One member says:


“I look into the eyes of my daughter, my heart gets slammed. She may be the only one who loves me for who I am. Damn, I know when it’s the darkest the light turns the sharpest, so I know that we will stand.”


I find it refreshing to hear hip hop artists who promote parental participation. Still, the group member makes an unverifiable prediction about the future by saying, “I know that we will stand.”


The reality of life is that not everything will always be all right. For instance, we all will one day die. If we prescribe to the universe, “I must not fall; I ought not to die,” we can create immense suffering for ourselves.


When we change our beliefs—not seeking for everything to be all right, though acknowledging that we can endure adverse events—this practice can lead to improved functioning and quality of life. Without doing so, everything truly won’t be all right.


One group member suggests:


“My grandparents wanted to see me do more with my degree than own a struggling company. I gotta’ take care of my friends and family, feelin’ the stress and pressure with multiple mouths to feed.”


Here, the rapper uses the phrase “gotta’,” which is a form of should, must, or ought. Aptly, he then highlights the consequence of his unhelpful belief.


REBT uses the ABC Model to demonstrate how the narratives (Beliefs) we tell ourselves about events (Actions) lead to unpleasant experiences such as a disturbed mood or harmful behavior (Consequences). It’s as straightforward as A-B-C. Here’s how it works:


Action – The artist has friends and family members who require assistance.


Belief – He thinks, “I gotta’ take care of my friends and family,” likely accompanied by some extreme statement such as, “If I don’t do it no one will, and people will die without my assistance!”


Consequence – The entertainer experiences “stress and pressure,” which people tend to associate with fear or anxiety.


If I saw the rapper for mental health treatment and this A-B-C connection was outlined, I’d work with him at disputing his unhelpful belief so that he could establish an effective new belief. I’d also recommend journaling so he could practice this technique on his own time.


One group member says:


“If my grandparents could restart their lives twice then they know everything’s gonna’ be all right. The small fight in a bigger battle; the small light at the end of a tunnel for all hope to channel.”


The slight quibble I have with this verse is within the first sentence. I think it’s inspiring for couples to work towards successful restructuring of their lives.


Still, I question the statement, “They know everything’s gonna’ be all right.” How do they know this? Are all life’s mysteries suddenly revealed once a couple overcomes an adverse event, displaying the path that lies ahead?


If we tell ourselves that we know the future, can we also acknowledge that we are lying when we say such a thing? We may prefer, hope or wish for, or pray for a pleasing future, though we certainly can expect uncertainty.


This objection aside, I appreciate the rapper’s hopeful framing in his follow-up sentence. As long as our hope is described and not prescribed—wished for and not demanded—we can remain free of self-induced misery.


I can rationally say, “I hope everything will be all right,” which is a description of my wish for the future. It’s when I irrationally demand, “Everything must be all right,” that I commit the unhealthy prescribed demand by which I will suffer.


A separate group member raps:


“Life’s full of challenges for the young and talented, with balances due; the world that we’re travelin’ through. Try my hardest to be a good father when I’m a starvin’ artist, but some won’t even bother. Ya’ know this!”


It appears as though the group member arrives to a fork in the proverbial road. Down one path awaits peril and along the other is growth through having tolerated discomfort. Here’s how I see it:


“Try my hardest to be a good father when I’m a starvin’ artist, but some won’t even bother, because they’re a bunch of shitheads who won’t buy my music. Ya’ know this!”


…or…


“Try my hardest to be a good father when I’m a starvin’ artist, but some won’t even bother, yet I realize I’m not entitled to the resources of other people. Ya’ know this!”


Still, I don’t want to present a false dichotomy, so I’ll propose a third option. The rapper could say:


“Try my hardest to be a good father when I’m a starvin’ artist, but some won’t even bother. In all honestly, I think it’s a shitty thing that more people don’t support Visionaries, though I accept people as flawed humans, because I, too, am imperfect. Ya’ know this!”


Another member states:


“Maybe this time we’ll get things right. The struggle never ends and it sure won’t tonight. Every single day that I get to see my folks is better than the bling, and the wheels, and the spokes.”


I have very little critique of this verse, as I wholly appreciate it. It’s rational to hope that we will “get things right,” acknowledge that the struggle of existence never ends, and express gratitude for one’s family.


One group member expresses:


“Communication, workin’ it out; understandin’ what it’s really about. It’s tedious and demanding, all families en route. Holidays, packed house with good food to eat and everyone on beat.”


Similar to the previous verse, this one is on point. Purposeful use of open, honest, and vulnerable communication as a means of achieving understanding isn’t easy. Nonetheless, the artist appears to acknowledge the value of fulfilled purpose.


A separate member states:


“This is a leap of faith. I won’t cheat the race. With Christ as my trainer, I’ma be in first place. Learn from mistakes and live out the plan. With one wedding date, God keeps eye, bless a man.”


Even if I don’t subscribe to the same religious belief system underlying this verse, I appreciate it as much as the two preceding it. If we can achieve little more than learning from mistakes in this life, I personally consider it a life well-lived.


In all, I understand how telling a person that things are or will be all right can lead to temporary relief. After all, some people are convinced that they need such reassurance during difficult times.


For those with whom I work, using REBT, it’s my hope that they understand that even if things aren’t currently all right—or perhaps won’t be in the future—they can tolerate the discomfort of their experience. They can build resilience when things aren’t all right.


Moreover, I aim to demonstrate how refraining from further disturbing oneself during a perceivably stressful event may be the more helpful, healthy option. Of course, if one chooses to induce suffering and wallow in agony, their choice is all right by me.


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 a psychotherapist, and hip hop head from the old school, 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


Photo credit, fair use



References:

Bandcamp. (n.d.). We Are the Ones​​​.​​​.​​​. (We’ve Been Waiting For). Retrieved from https://thevisionaries.bandcamp.com/album/we-are-the-ones-weve-been-waiting-for

Borda23. (2012, November 1). The Visionaries - All Right (produced by J Dilla) [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/FkIziw7GL3I

Discogs. (n.d.). Shoji Suzuki. Retrieved from https://www.discogs.com/artist/1322823-Shoji-Suzuki

Discogs. (n.d.). Visionaries – We Are the Ones (We’ve Been Waiting For). Retrieved from https://www.discogs.com/release/1321053-Visionaries-We-Are-The-Ones-Weve-Been-Waiting-For

DJ Shoji. (2010, August 31). Visionaries “All Right” remake, made with Korg Electribe ES-1 [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/INvN-sdj4Zo

Dwyer, K. (2016, August 1). Laura Nyro- Once It Was Alright Now (Farmer Joe) [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/a4p2xgufC7o

Enriquez, A. (2021, October 25). Q. How does fair use work for book covers, album covers, and movie posters? Penn State. Retrieved from https://psu.libanswers.com/faq/336502

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Hollings, D. (2022, September 3). You gon’ die: The existential window. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/you-gon-die-the-existential-window

Wikipedia. (n.d.). J Dilla. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J_Dilla

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Wikipedia. (n.d.). Visionaries (hip hop group). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visionaries_(hip_hop_group)

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