I experience joy when being able to share elements of hip hop culture with others, especially when people are unfamiliar with anything other than hip-pop rap (drivel often heard on the radio) though they remain open to trying something new.
One instance of such satisfaction occurred when I shared lyricist Locksmith’s Lofty Goals album with nitape’skw not long after the album’s 2015 release. Recently, I was able to share with a client a track from the album, “For Now,” as it related to our session.
Though I won’t divulge information from the session, I think matters related to the song may benefit others. As is the case with rap content I think is worthy of praise, I will address more than a single line and how it relates to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).
Rather than segmenting the verses, I’ll comment after the reader has gone through each block of the artist’s verses. Without further ado, this is “For Now.”
I know where I belong. I know it’s hard, I know where I went wrong. Now, gotta look and find a way to go on. I know where I belong. Find me (x6). I know where I went wrong. Find me (x6). I know where I belong.
The sentiment conveyed in the hook is an outcome I hope all of my clients may one day achieve. It’s sung as one who has undergone REBT and grasped the meaning of the technique.
Acknowledgement of one’s belonging in the here-and-now, admission of the challenges one will face in life, ownership and acceptance of mistakes, exploration for solutions, and discovery of one’s identity are all matters with which I assist clients and have written about in my blog.
[Verse 1: Locksmith]
Have you ever been so frustrated you could give up? So terrified where you end up? So many expectations that you place on yourself, they’re too much for you to live up? The friends that you once had switch up. The wool on your eyes, you could lift up. The people in your life criticize and advise you to quit, but you really don’t give a fuck. Forget about the troubles that you own. Forget about the mortgage on your home. Forget about the job that they force you to get and you ‘bout ready to quit, ‘cause it won’t pay off your student loan. You alone but you long with an appetite. Everything that you’re after, right? My mom passed away with some credit card debt and them motherfuckas is still looking for her in the afterlife! My God! Can a nigga find peace in death? Exhale from a decent breath? Just when you thought there was nothing in the respirator you found air when you least expect. My grandma still got hope for my uncle, strung out, locked up on a recent stretch. So, you can find faith in yourself and escape what is felt when you’re faced with your deepest threat. Yes, Lord!
Who among us hasn’t been so frustrated that we’ve considered giving up on a situation, relationship, job, or perhaps a more permanent exit from which one may not recover? Locksmith opens his verse by appealing to the relatable circumstances of his audience.
When helping clients, I use the REBT ABC Model to demonstrate how it isn’t a particular action or event that results in frustration and a desire to give up. Rather, it’s our perception and beliefs about the action or event that leads to emotive and behavioral consequences.
Locksmith correctly identifies the belief-consequence connection by stating, “So many expectations that you place on yourself, they’re too much for you to live up [to].” We are often the cause of our own suffering. This is known as self-disturbance.
When getting in our own way, it isn’t uncommon to compound this experience with input from sources in our environment. Locksmith highlights this by expressing, “The people in your life criticize and advise you to quit,” as we sometimes listen to impairing advice from others.
When left unchallenged, our self-disturbing narratives, or advice from others, can aid in the derailment of our success. Moreover, “Everything that you’re after,” as Locksmith states—our desires which contribute to disturbance, can sometimes seem like a dauntingly impossible mountain to climb.
This is when disputing irrational beliefs that cause unpleasant emotions and ill-adjusted behavior becomes necessary. It isn’t an easy process. In fact, in can be incredibly uncomfortable.
Still, for those who are willing to push through the discomfort as a means of achieving growth, hope for an improved outcome is possible. I assist people with understanding how to use REBT in their day-to-day lives so that they may grow and tolerate distress.
One element of Locksmith’s first verse that I find particularly valuable is the reference to his mother’s inability to find peace even after death. When our thoughts spiral out of control and we believe the nonsense we tell ourselves, it can sometimes seem like there’s no purpose to life or death.
In my practice, I work with clients regarding purpose and meaning achieved through use of an existentialist lens. While I have no idea what comes after this life, I’ve been able to assist many people with improving their level of functioning and quality of life here-and-now.
This process can be akin to Locksmith’s reference, “Just when you thought there was nothing in the respirator you found air when you least expect[ed].” Still, I’m not selling hope for hope’s sake, because my aim isn’t to simply help people feel better.
As an REBT practitioner, my objective is to help people actually get better. Or, as Locksmith so eloquently stated, “[Y]ou can find faith in yourself and escape what is felt when you’re faced with your deepest threat.”
[Verse 2: Locksmith]
And they say, “Go to school, get a job, a certificate.” Feed into it, now you significant. But you hate where you work and your manager’s a jerk, and you only stay, ‘cause you need the benefits. What good is having health insurance when you ain’t got no self-assurance? Then they say, “Lock, you better watch what you say in these songs. Being honest is a wealth deterrent.” I don’t give a fuck! I just speak how I feel, ‘cause I feel it’s needed. Y’all know I’m for real, ‘cause you see I’m bleedin’. They deprive us of hope, consuming until we broke. When you try and reach for it, you cannot retrieve it. Conceit is the language of the fallen. Everybody worried ‘bout ballin’. Everybody steps on the necks of each other, try to get out the gutter. You be out for a second, then you fall in; lost in a cloud of emotion. Screams from a crowd of commotion; all they do is force feed people what they want to. Sort of like these rappers and they album promotion. Not just you, nigga! Thousands are broken. Millions are hurtin’. Billions are searchin’. If you can find faith in yourself and escape from yourself, you can find life and its purpose, I know!
Locksmith comes in swinging on his second verse, highlighting how the demands of life and actions we take to meet these challenges don’t necessarily lead to fulfillment. This is likely because the things we or others believe should, must, or ought to occur may not be aligned with what actually is.
For instance, I may tell myself that I should have a job that makes me happy, provides enough money with which to live, and that my boss must treat me well. When these demands on life are unmet, I may mistakenly conclude that I’ve been wronged.
However, disputing my irrational beliefs, I may consider what Phonte said in his song “The Good Fight,” by suggesting, “Five dollar gas and poverty rates are rising much higher than your hourly rates. So, if you thinkin’ ‘bout quittin’, you should probably wait, ‘cause everybody gotta’ do a fuckin job that they hate.”
If one needs the benefits of a job, as Locksmith mentions, what is the benefit of also telling oneself a belief that isn’t true? The reality of life is that the overwhelming majority of us need to work, whether or not our rigid demands from others are met.
Albert Ellis, creator of REBT, once stated, “There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.” These are demands with which we disturb ourselves and impoverish our perceived security in life.
Locksmith addresses this matter by asking, “What good is having health insurance when you ain’t got no self-assurance?” Nevertheless, rather than helping clients improve their self-esteem, I assist them with building their frustration tolerance so that they may endure the struggles they experience.
Doing this, I incorporate understanding that each of us has limited control in this life. As well, I introduce the concept of unconditional self-, other-, and life-acceptance.
I imagine an activist-oriented individual challenging my approach, saying something like, “Deric, you’re teaching people to accept oppression!” On the contrary, I’m inviting clients to consider that the illusion of control results in a belief with which one disturbs oneself.
When we accept that our “manager’s a jerk” and that the sole reason for participation in a particular job is because we need benefits, we can set aside the improbable notion that we are owed respect. While we may prefer otherwise, our manager doesn’t have to treat us according to our rigid demands.
I suppose the imagined activist would then state, “Well, what you’re selling isn’t worth buying, because I must be treated with respect!” To this, I say not everyone will appreciate REBT. Some people are willfully stuck and will remain perpetually self-disturbed.
Unlike content I’ve observed from many psychotherapists, promoting a one-size-fits-all approach to mental health, I’m telling the truth as I perceive it. Just as Locksmith states, “Being honest is a wealth deterrent,” I’m willing to take a financial risk by advocating realistic measures.
In part, I agree with Locksmith when he says, “Conceit is the language of the fallen. Everybody worried ‘bout ballin’. Everybody steps on the necks of each other, try[ing] to get out the gutter.” I’m not in this field to function as a huckster of snake oil. REBT isn’t appreciated by everyone.
Likewise, I’m not interested in metaphorically stepping on the necks of my colleagues in order to get out of the gutter that is the competition for clientele. I make no guarantees with use of REBT and I’m not trying to stop other therapists from shilling ineffective treatment modalities.
Rather, for those willing to embark upon a pragmatic approach to dealing with life, I offer discomfort and growth. I realize that “[t]housands are broken. Millions are hurtin’. Billions are searchin’,” and I’m here to help.
The hope I offer isn’t because I read some books, skimmed research articles, and paid for degrees. Instead, I use REBT in my own life, because I, too, got out the gutter largely from my own actions and with the assistance of many people throughout my life.
As Locksmith declares, “If you can find faith in yourself and escape from yourself, you can find life and its purpose.” Escape from self-disturbing and defeating belief systems can empower you to adopt more helpful and healthier beliefs, which can foster “faith in yourself.”
To the spiritual and religious readers out there, understand that my humanistic approach isn’t necessarily synonymous with rejection of other faith-based beliefs. Rather, I’m offering a commonsensical approach to living that could actually support spiritual or religious beliefs, as well.
[Bridge: Rebecca Nobel]
No matter where you are, so as long as you go on
No matter where you go, as long as you find me
[Hook: Locksmith and Rebecca Nobel]
Locksmith concludes the song using a duet with Rebecca Nobel, as the pair offers a hopeful message. No matter where you are or where you go, are you prepared to find a healthier you? If so, I’ll be here…“For Now.”
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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