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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Book Covers

Book covers

In 2015, lyricist Oddisee released an album entitled The Good Fight that featured a track called “Book Covers” which will serve as the foundation for the current entry. Noteworthy, Oddisee remains as one of my all-time favorite emcees and The Good Fight is one of my top five most-recommended albums for others.

The chorus of “Book Covers” states:

Don’t judge a book by its cover if you don’t even read

There’s no shame in saying that you’re not up to speed

This hook reminds me of a recent conversation with a friend whom I’ll refer to as Matilda. Discussing unconventional beliefs regarded as having little or no scientific basis, especially those relating to spirituality, mysticism, or alternative medicine—or woo-woo content—Matilda made a comment that surprised me.

As I challenged Matilda’s irrational belief in woo-woo dogma, she stated something to the effect of, “Deric, I haven’t read the book, I just looked at the cover.” Matilda clarified that she didn’t seek a deeper understanding of her beliefs, because the idea of woo-woo systems of belief were appealing in and of themselves.

During the conversation, I paid close attention to my automatic should, must, and ought-type statements associated with Matilda’s worldview. As a Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) psychotherapist, I have no shame in admitting my bias.

In fact, I think it may be useful for others to learn about how I disputed my unhelpful beliefs regarding Matilda’s admission. Herein, the reader may better understand how I prevented myself from using self-disturbing beliefs and instead simply accepted Matilda’s ideas without attempting to change or control her chosen ideology.

I began with the question: Why do I think it is that Matilda must read a book rather than simply enjoying its cover?

Disputing myself

For those unfamiliar with how REBT works, you may want to first read my blog entries entitled:

Also, since I’ll be disputing myself, and it could be somewhat confusing for the reader to differentiate from my irrational versus rational inner-voice, I’ll refer to the former as Irrational Deric (ID) and the latter as Rational Deric (RD).

Without further ado, here’s how I disputed my irrational beliefs associated with Matilda:

RD: Why do I think it is that Matilda must read a book rather than simply enjoying its cover?

ID: Don’t oversimplify this. We aren’t talking about a book. Matilda believes in woo-woo nonsense and I think she’s more intelligent than to fall for dogmatic absurdity.

RD: What does her intelligence have to do with this issue?

ID: Simple; intelligent people don’t succumb to ideological rubbish.

RD: Isn’t it true that from childhood and into your early adulthood you believed a donkey once spoke?

ID: That’s not fair, because I learned biblical teachings when I was naïve and knew no better. I no longer believe donkeys can talk.

RD: Don’t play! You maintained that belief for three decades, 12-years of which you were an adult.

ID: Ok, fine. I didn’t know then what I do now. Besides, I’m not making the claim that I’m particularly intelligent. Matilda, on the other hand, is.

RD: Are you making the claim that you maintained an ignorance-informed perspective, which somehow excuses your past woo-woo beliefs, and that Matilda should not behave as you once did?

ID: Yes, ignorance excuses my behavior. If I knew better, I’d do better—and since knowing better, I changed my ways. As far as Matilda is concerned, her ignorance isn’t an excuse, because she has me to challenge her. I didn’t have anyone challenging the notion of talking donkeys.

RD: Let me make sure I understand this correctly. Are you claiming that because you changed your beliefs about woo-woo matters, and because Matilda has the benefit of you assisting her by challenging her woo-woo beliefs—even though she hasn’t asked for your help, she ought to be grateful that her friend is trying to change rather than accept her?

ID: I know what you’re doing. Fine. Yes, it’s true that I’m inserting myself where I haven’t been invited. I JUSTify my behavior to myself. I say, “I’m JUST trying to help Matilda so she doesn’t one day bear the burden of embarrassment for having believed in nonsense.”

RD: I’m sure you’re aware of how I’m going to respond, and I’m going to say it nonetheless. First, you’re using a condition with acceptance. “I’ll only accept Matilda’s viewpoint if it matches mine,” is what you’re likely telling yourself. This isn’t indicative of unconditional other-acceptance. Two, it sounds like you haven’t used unconditional self-acceptance by forgiving yourself for past irrational beliefs. Thoughts?

ID: You’re right. Seeking to alter Matilda’s philosophical or theoretical foundation—especially when not asked to do so—isn’t entirely helpful. Wait, let me be honest. Forget “entirely.” It isn’t helpful (period) I accept her for who she is, our history, how she treats me, and the fact that we enrich one another’s lives. She doesn’t need to keep the same thoughts in her head as I do. After all, I’m sitting here talking to myself about talking donkeys. Who does that?

RD: Keep going at this rate and I’m gonna’ change your name to Rational Deric. Continue.

ID: Likewise, holding onto the fact that I once believed woo-woo content isn’t embarrassing. I need to let go of any belief to the contrary. With new information, I modified my beliefs. This is my goal where knowledge, wisdom, and understanding are concerned. Still, it isn’t my place to project my goals onto Matilda, making my goals her values or aims.

RD: Correct. If Matilda chooses to simply admire a book cover rather than read the contents of the text, who are you to say she shouldn’t?

ID: No one.

RD: Additionally, let’s make a point not to hold onto guilt for believing as we once did. Besides, we’ve embraced and subsequently rejected a number of irrational ideologies since the days of talking donkey conviction.

ID: Oh yeah. Feminism comes to mind with its conspiracy theory related to “the patriarchy.”

RD: Ugh, don’t remind me.

ID: You know; Matilda can believe whatever she chooses.

RD: And there’s our effective new belief. Well done!


In “Book Covers,” Oddisee states the following:

I got a real bad habit

I think I know everything ‘fore it happens

Few times, I was right; didn’t help

And it only made a know-it-all know without askin’

To the point if I didn’t know the answer

I would make it up, like the meaning of a canvas

Another pseudo-intellect with a guess and I’ll go off on a rant

If you say I ain’t correct

But that got real old, real fast

I think I had a fear about bein’ on the outside

Or the in while everybody out

I just wanna be the first yellin’ out, “It’s about time”

I don’t have a clue what I’m doin’ most times when I wake up in the mornin’

Being fake in the mix? Nah, I’d just rather be a real, not knowin’

The lyricist admits his ignorance (lack of knowledge or information), which in my opinion is a refreshing anecdote to the bravado and hubris demonstrated by many who practice the art of rap. In keeping with Oddisee’s wise example, I, too, plead ignorance.

Who am I to rigidly demand that Matilda believe as I do? Why do I think it is that Matilda must read a book rather than simply enjoying its cover? The answer to these questions is simple. I hold no authority over Matilda and she can conduct herself as she pleases.

Matilda can believe whatever she chooses. She can admire a book cover without reading the published document.

It is my hope that the reader has benefitted from discovering the inner-workings of my mind. As I inform clients, REBT isn’t solely something I use in my professional life; it’s a technique I employ in my personal life, as well.

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


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