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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings





When viewing music through the lens of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I typically write about rap or electronic dance music. The reason for this is because those were the two genres of music I predominately mixed when DJing while in the Marine Corps.


Nevertheless, I’ve also enjoyed other categories of music throughout my lifetime. One example of a musical genre I’ve appreciated relates to heavy metal. Herein, I’ll discuss the band Disturbed and how music from the artists influences my clinical practice.


Reminiscent of rapper Brotha Lynch Hung’s 1995 album Season of da Siccness, I was fond of Disturbed’s 2000 album The Sickness when it was first released. In particular, I liked the song “Down with the Sickness.”


Initially, I didn’t pay much attention to the lyrics. Rather, I enjoyed the hard-hitting instrumentation as the lead vocalist, David Draiman, made what appeared to be a primal monkey noise by yelling, “Ooh, wah-ah-ah-ah!”


Once I got past the novelty phase of the track, I paid closer attention to the bridge. On the album version of the song, Draiman aggressively states:


No, Mommy, don’t do it again

Don’t do it again, I’ll be a good boy

I’ll be a good boy, I promise

No, Mommy, don’t hit me, ah

Why did you have to hit me like that, Mommy?

Don’t do it, you’re hurting me, ah-ah

Why did you have to be such a bitch?

Why don’t you? Why don’t you just fuck off and die?

Why can’t you just fuck off and die?

Why can’t you just leave here and die?

Never stick your hand in my face again, bitch

Fuck you, I don’t need this shit

You stupid, sadistic, abusive, fucking whore

How would you like to see how it feels, Mommy?

Here it comes, get ready to die


One understands why the bridge wasn’t included in the official YouTube video. Listening to the lyrical content of “Down with the Sickness,” I’m reminded of my late mother.


Personal anecdote


I don’t hide the fact that I endured physical and psychological abuse from my mom. Throughout my blog, I’ve addressed this fact. As well, I’ve written about my experience with having been a resident in a children’s home.


What I haven’t discussed is how it came to be that I was placed in residential care outside of my familial home. My mom sent me from Amarillo, Texas to live with my dad in Aurora, Colorado halfway through my fifth grade educational year.


Her expressed reason for doing so was because she didn’t want me to become a “faggot.” At the time, I lived with my mom, an older sister, and a younger sister. As well, there was no male influence in my home after my mom and dad divorced when I was three-years-old.


Throughout childhood, I had a number of “big brothers” assigned to me from the non-profit organization Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. The final big brother appointed to me was gay.


My mom took issue with what was a healthy male role model and sent me to live with my dad. One may argue that there were several steps she could’ve taken rather than opting for such an extreme measure.


However, my mom repeatedly expressed to me in childhood that she wished she would’ve aborted me, said that she loathed my existence, and on many occasions my mom attempted to beat whatever element she hated about me from my very existence.


Unsuccessful at being able to batter me enough to love me, and even with unsuccessful attempts to excise a “demon” from me, I was sent to live with my strict dad. In Aurora, I endured abuse though the mistreatment was more tolerable and predictable than what I experienced from my mom.


Halfway through my seventh grade year, my mom inexplicably threatened my dad. She commanded that I be returned to her care; otherwise, she would press charges. I never understood her reason for doing so, as much of her behavior is interpreted as unreasonable.


Back to Amarillo I went, as my dad expressed fear of incarceration if my mom followed through with her threats of claiming that my black dad kidnapped me from my white mom. The following photo was taken shortly after my return to Amarillo:


One morning, I awoke to an all too familiar sound of my mom yelling at someone. Down the hall from the room of the apartment unit in which we lived was a room shared by my sisters.


According to one source, “Tachypsychia’ is a neurological condition that distorts the perception of time, appearing to make events slow down or speed up.” On that morning, I experienced this trauma-influenced phenomenon.


Noteworthy, I was used to taking beatings from my mom. Still, just as Draiman expressed in “Down with the Sickness,” I often pled with my mom to stop abusing me. Likewise, and in accordance with the song, I wanted my mom to die.


However, I never took actions towards ending her life; although, she made an effort to kill my sisters and me on at least one memorable occasion. Nevertheless, when I made my way down the hall on that significant morning, I observed my mom plunging my older sister’s head through a closed glass window.


In my memory, the event happened in slow motion. For context, I loved my older sister more than any other person in my life at the time. She wasn’t merely my sibling; she was my most trusted confidant.


On a number of occasions, my older sister and I would tag one another out of severe beatings administered by my mom. For instance, the night I returned from Aurora, my mom issued a beating to me whereby she was stomping and kicking me as I curled into a fetal position after she closed-fist pummeled me to the ground.


My older sister burst into the room and jumped in harm’s way so that I could crawl out of my room. Therefore, when I witnessed the blood gushing from my sister’s head and face on the morning in question, I was self-disturbed into action. More on “self-disturbed” is forthcoming.


I darted the kitchen and withdrew a chef’s knife from its location. Sprinting back to my sisters’ room, I recall having told my mom something like, “Get off of my sister or I’ll cut your fucking head off, bitch!”


Slowly, my mom dismounted my sister and maneuvered herself along the wall furthest from me. She stated, “You’re crazy! You’re fucking crazy!” When hearing this tale, those who knew me as a child haven’t asked whether or not the threat issued to my mom was serious.


I was fully disturbed to the point whereby I would’ve decapitated my mom right where she kneeled while repeatedly punching my beloved sister. My communicated threat on that morning was akin to Draiman having stated, “Here it comes, get ready to die” to the mother depicted in “Down with the Sickness.”


If memory serves, my younger sister and I were sent to live in the children’s home within a week of my communicated threat. I believe our official reason for being there related to the inability to financially sustain childrearing requirements. To my knowledge, children’s home staff was unaware of the abuse aspect.


My oldest sister was of an age to where she could move out of the apartment without having to seek residence at the children’s home. This is the story of how I wound up in residential care.




I imagine esteemed colleagues in the field of mental, emotional, and behavioral health care wondering why a clinician would share a personal traumatic experience with the world. Some may even claim that I have poor personal boundaries for doing so.


However, I see things differently. Understanding the practice of REBT, I know that the disturbance I experienced wasn’t the result of my mom physically assaulting my sister. Rather, I disturbed myself. Allow me to explain.


REBT uses the ABC model to demonstrate that when an Action occurs, it isn’t the event that leads to anger, a rapid heartrate, and preparedness to decapitate one’s mother. Although in the physical world there are cause-and-effect circumstances, matters are different from a psychological standpoint.


When I observed my mom push my older sister’s head through a window (Action), I irrationally Believed something along the lines of, “My mom shouldn’t abuse her kids and I can’t stand to see her hurt my sister!” Because of my unhelpful assumption, I experienced anger, an elevated heartrate, and took measures to commit homicide.


Using REBT, my emotional, bodily sensation, and behavioral response relates to a Consequence. Rather than an Action-Consequence (A-C) connection, which a person may experience in the physical world, REBT maintains that there’s a Belief-Consequence (B-C) connection present with one’s psychological interplay.


Therefore, the Action – Belief – Consequence connection is how I disturbed myself into a potentially homicidal bout of rage. In “Down with the Sickness,” Draiman sings, “Looking at my own reflection when, suddenly, it changes – violently, it changes (Oh). No, there is no turning back now; you’ve woken up the demon in me.”


The “demon” awoken within me when I was in seventh grade was the destructive influence of my irrational belief. Unlike the historical moments in time when my mom rebuked what she expressed was a “demon” inside of me, I now know how to eradicate unfavorable assumptions of this kind.


The ABC model entails Disputing irrational attitudes as a means of achieving Effective new beliefs. Still, there’s no need to be hyperbolic about such assumptions, because these beliefs aren’t malevolent spirits which torture a person.


Instead of unhelpfully believing, “My mom shouldn’t abuse her kids and I can’t stand to see her hurt my sister,” I could’ve instead believed, “Although I’d prefer that my mom didn’t abuse her children, we’ve tolerated her mistreatment for years, so I can once again help my sister by tagging in to draw my mom’s attention towards me.”


I imagine some of my professional peers gasping at this Effective new belief. Perhaps they may argue that by not outright condemning my mom’s behavior I essentially condone her actions and thus encourage the experience of victimhood. I disagree.


REBT practice doesn’t commit naturalistic and moralistic fallacies by violating the is-ought problem. This irrational belief phenomenon occurs when one attempts to derive an ought from an is – when a person demands what ought to be when faced with what simply is.


Although it was illegal for my mom to have behaved as she did, and I could even argue that her actions were immoral and unethical, I would only disturb myself by maintaining that she ought not to have behaved in such a manner. This is because my mom was a violent and at times ruthless individual (what simply is).


I had no control and little influence over her behavior. As such, had my mom not adhered to my rigid demands for better treatment, not only would my sister and I have continued to be abused – I would’ve disturbed myself with irrational notions of how I supposedly had the ability to change my mom.


The physical and psychological abuse from my mother was difficult enough to endure as a child. Therefore, adding a layer of self-disturbance to the problem then or now wouldn’t serve my interests and goals.


Importantly, I value truth and reality. For this reason, I appreciate that REBT works within the confines of actuality. Many parents and caregivers abuse children, even though the law and other entities maintain that such crimes shouldn’t, mustn’t, or oughtn’t to occur.


Because I couldn’t permanently prevent or stop abuse from occurring within my home, I now understand that I have the ability to impede and halt further damage that occurs through the process of self-disturbance. In other words, the Action was difficult enough to endure without aggregating matters with unproductive Beliefs.




The final line of “Down with the Sickness” is, “Madness has now come over me.” Madness may be defined as the state of being mentally ill, extremely foolish behavior, or the state of chaotic activity. In other words, madness is the experience of being disturbed.


Herein, I’ve provided a personal anecdote regarding a time when I momentarily experienced madness. Remarkably, it wasn’t the physical and psychological abuse experienced from my mom’s behavior that drove me mad. There was no A-C connection to explain my experience.


Rather, I disturbed myself with an unhelpful B-C connection. Without excusing or condoning my late mother’s behavior, I understand that irrational beliefs about childhood abuse left me disturbed.


True, my mom could’ve chosen other outlets for her rage. However, in reality, she abused me and my older sister throughout childhood – until I was placed in a residential care setting outside of my home, never again to return to live with my mother.


Violence was my mom’s natural state of functioning. Although I could’ve disturbed myself with unfavorable beliefs about how she oughtn’t to have behaved violently, the fact remains that intensity of force upon children is how things were in my household.


It’s been many years since I last self-disturbed regarding the abuse I endured in childhood. In fact, while writing this post, I’ve remained unbothered by self-disturbing beliefs. For this, I remain grateful for REBT.


In conclusion, I suspect that there are many people in the world who could also benefit from the practice of REBT. If you are one of these individuals, I remain ready to help.


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—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging 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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