Updated: Nov 25, 2022
Nujabes and REBT
During his lifetime, one of my favorite chillhop producers was Jun Seba, better known as Nujabes—the backward spelling of his birth name. Particularly, I enjoy his collaboration with Shing02 concerning the “Luv(sic)” collection.
Of the assorted joints, my preferred jam is the extended version of “Luv(sic) Part 3.” Before I began practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) and thought that events led to how I felt, that song helped me through some difficult breakups.
Now familiar with the REBT ABC Model, understanding that what I told myself about breaking up with someone was what led to an emotional and behavioral response, I no longer disturb myself over such matters.
The ABC Model teaches us how to dispute irrational beliefs which lead to undesirable consequences. This Model is framed as follows:
(A)ction – What occurred
(B)elief – What you told yourself about (A) that resulted in (C)
(C)onsequence – What you felt (emotion or bodily sensation) about what happened and what you did (behavior)
(D)isputation – How you might challenge (D) what you told yourself (B), which led to (C)
(E)ffective new belief – What (E)ffective new beliefs you can tell yourself rather than using unhelpful or unhealthy narratives (B).
In the current blog entry, I won’t dive into how disputation works. If you would like more in-depth understanding about my approach to REBT disputing, I invite you to review entries listed under the Disputation portion of my blog.
Though not a recognized mental health condition, one source describes lovesickness occurring when “you may become consumed by thoughts or feelings of yearning for the romantic love of someone.”
A separate source expands upon this by describing lovesickness as an “ailment [that] involves all those unwanted feelings you might experience when your passion doesn’t play out as planned.” This explanation, whether intended or not, highlights the connection between one’s interpretation and resulting emotions.
I suppose one could argue from a materialist perspective, declaring that the chemical composition of attraction—or what many refer to as being “in love”—is comprised by fluctuation of dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin, and phenylethylamine.
Essentially, we get ourselves high when romantically attracted to others. However, this process isn’t solely a biological matter. The consequence of our beliefs may have a lot to do with it.
When editing a written work, use of “sic” indicates a spelling or grammatical error (e.g., “He runded [sic] fast.”). Nujabes entitled his musical series on love by purposely misspelling “luv” and correcting it in the title with “sic.”
I liken Seba’s clever wordplay to how a person may alter unhelpful beliefs in order to produce a different outcome. Rather than maintaining that an action produces a consequence, we can correct our framing of the matter and reduce the level of suffering we experience.
Instead of telling oneself, “She left me, though she shouldn’t have, and I don’t think I can stand this misery,” a person can correct the error (i.e., “sic”) by thinking, “Though she left me and I’d prefer that she didn’t, I can tolerate this experience.”
I don’t intend to downplay the biological effects of what some refer to as being “lovesick,” because this experience isn’t that different from the condition of being “dope sick.” It can be quite unpleasant. Still, it can be treated.
If you’re willing to consider a healthy alternative to emotions, bodily sensations, and behaviors you experience when telling yourself about how catastrophic or awful a breakup can be, I invite you to continue reading.
Albert Ellis, creator of REBT, is noted as having stated, “There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.” In my blog entry entitled Should, Must, and Ought, I expand upon these self-disturbing demands.
Regarding lovesickness, Ellis wrote a piece entitled Unhealthy Love: Its Causes and Treatment that serves as a reasonable place to begin our exploration of the topic. Ellis begins his assessment by declaring:
“People who love ‘neurotically’ or ‘psychopathologically’ (or, at times, ‘psychotically’) do not merely want or prefer to be involved intimately with another person; they demand, dictate, insist, or command, in a highly absolutist manner […].”
Thinking about how I used to approach romantic attraction, I realize that I told myself, “I must find someone who loves me and whom I love in order to be a fully developed person.” When placing this unreasonable condition on myself, what was inferred about times when I was alone?
Was I worthless, no good, and incapable of being loved, all because my rigid prescription of the world wasn’t being met? Have you, too, placed ludicrous demands upon yourself regarding love?
Ellis continues addressing the matter of those who fall in love:
“They may, in addition, have various other demands, such as, that this person whom they discover and whom they intensely love be available (that is, not legally tied to someone else), live nearby, have similar values and goals to their own, be a great sexual partner, et cetera.”
“We are told that love is meant to involve the almost total merger of two lives. We expect that a loving couple must live in the same house, eat the same meals together every night, share the same bed, go to sleep and get up at the same time; only ever have sex with—or even sexual thoughts about—each other, regularly see each other’s families, have all their friends in common, and pretty much think the same thoughts on every topic at every moment. It’s a beautiful vision, but a hellish one, too, because it places an impossibly punitive burden of expectation on another human. We feel the partner must be right for us in every way, and if they’re not, has to be prodded and cajoled into reform.”
Who among us hasn’t been on the giving or receiving end—or both—of this unhelpful dynamic? Saying, “You ought to be as I think you should be, otherwise I will rate you, myself, and perhaps life itself as unbearable,” may not be a reasonable approach to love.
“If the individual’s goals, aims, and purposes about loving and being loved are wishes, that is fine and healthy. But if they are, as they ever so often are, absolutist dire needs or mandates, if they are incorporated in the utter necessity that they should, ought, or must be achieved, then that is not fine or healthy; that is the essence of emotional disturbance.”
I may say to myself, “I wish my partner would be everything I could hope for,” while also truthfully adding, “It’s virtually an impossible request for such an occurrence in life.” Use of rigid dating standards may not serve me—or even you—well at all.
In a separate video from The School of Life, entitled “Why We Should Expect Less of Love,” the narrator explains:
“Our collective, inherited Romantic culture likes to imagine functioning couples doing more or less everything together and being the center of each other’s lives. The good couple is, we are told, one in which two people mean more or less everything to one another. In a sound relationship, we are supposed to meet each other’s needs in every area of existence—from sex to intellectual stimulation, cooking styles to bedroom habits. We’re supposed to lead our social life in tandem, be the primary sounding board for one another’s problems and complete each other in spirit and in matter.”
How often have you told yourself that an ideal romantic interest must meet a litany of qualifications in order to be considered worthy of your time? Moreover, how often would you meet the very standards you demand of others?
What are the consequences of the rules we place on others, notably when people reject our inflexible demands? How do you feel when it isn’t you—though your expectations of others—that results in rejection? Lovesick, perchance?
“Although sorrow over not relating might prod you to do more to relate, depression normally won’t: it will cause you to be inert, to give up, and to feel that you can’t possibly relate. Hence, it is dysfunctional or self-sabotaging. Moreover, depression almost always includes self-downing or self-pity.”
If disappointment results when telling myself, “I’d prefer to love and be loved,” this is a reasonable outcome. I can carry on throughout my activities of daily living and function at a relatively typical level of productiveness when disappointed.
However, what happens when telling myself, “I should be with someone, or else I’m unworthy of existing?” This is the depression-inducing narrative Ellis addresses.
Moreover, it is the consequence of what I tell myself—not simply that I have no significant love interest in my life—that causes this sort of situational depression. Unlike organic or chronic depression, self-disturbed situational suffering can be resolved relatively quickly.
“[W]hen you call a thing awful you mean (1) ‘It’s very inconvenient,’ and (2) ‘Because it’s very inconvenient, it shouldn’t exist!’ Well, is there anything in the universe that, because it is terribly inconvenient to you, should not, ought not, must not exist?”
Of the notion that being alone is awful, in another video from The School of Life, entitled “The Terror of Being Alone,” the narrator highlights information pertaining to couples we imagine are happily in love:
“They will for the most part be together, but still alone. They will still be talking, but largely not heard. Isolation and grief are not unique to us; they are a fundamental part of the human experience—they trail every member of our species, whether in couples or alone, life is a hellish and anxious business for all of us. We’ve chosen to experience the pains of existence by ourselves for now, but having a partner has never protected anyone from the void for very long.”
If you are currently in a romantic relationship, I ask, do you suffer? Is your love interest capable of diverting your attention long enough for you to forget that an inevitable death awaits you? What about being in a partnership prevents you from pain inherent in this life?
If you have no romantic person of interest at the moment, I ask, do you suffer? Do you somehow believe that adding another fallible human being—who also operates as a complex system with unique problems and suffering—will alleviate the discomfort in your life?
Of this, I’m reminded of a quote by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. He stated, “Marry, and you will regret it; don’t marry, you will also regret it; marry or don’t marry, you will regret it either way.”
Whether you do or do not have a partner, try to imagine being the second half of a meaningful romantic relationship. Envision the other person irrationally demanding that you must absolve your lover of misery.
You may say to yourself, “Deric, aren’t you a therapist? You aren’t making me feel any better right now.” As an REBT therapist, I have little interest in helping people feel better. Rather, my goal is to help my clients get better.
I do this by being honest. I’m not the sort of clinician who will lie about how you supposedly “deserve” love from those whom you desire. Simply because we prefer, would like, or hope that others may want us doesn’t mean we’re entitled to their affection.
Nor am I the type of social media-esque therapist who will promote use of cognitive distortions—by which you you’re given a broad stamping device with which to label those who reject your demands as being “narcissists.”
At some point, personal responsibility and accountability are required when addressing the matter of lovesickness. When we realize that our inability to relate with the person we desire isn’t what causes an undesirable consequence—though our belief about the event is what disturbs us—we can then do something about it.
Elucidating my point, Ellis addresses a client with whom he worked:
“At the same time that I was showing this woman that her lack of relating was not causing her to be severely depressed but that she, with her irrational Beliefs about this deplorable state of affairs, was depressing herself, I also showed her that her anxiety and anger were similarly self-caused. To make herself anxious, she was rationally, again, saying that it would be most unfortunate if she failed to relate; but, irrationally, that she had to relate and that she was an utterly worthless person, a no-goodnik, if she didn’t. She was risking her entire worth as a human, her respect for herself, on the possibility of her not relating; and naturally, with such a great stake, she was making herself inordinately anxious.”
I could deflect all blame, shirk all responsibility, and never stand accountable for my flawed perspective that leads to an unpleasant emotional experience. I could equally place my value as a human being in the care of another person.
How would such behavior serve my interests? If you’ve made the unfortunate mistake of behaving in a similar manner, what was it like to pretend as though others were always the issue—not you?
While tormenting yourself with a devalued perspective when left alone, who was to blame? I could sit in an empty room for a year and convince myself that it’s the fault of someone else that I was there.
However, how would such behavior serve my interests? Furthermore, how would it help me in any verifiable way to rigidly and unreasonably demand that others must ease my suffering?
“Like my unrelating client, people dogmatically order that the world conform to their love goals. By this kind of Jehovian fiat, they make themselves unusually insecure, anxious, or jealous when they may not be loved by someone they have selected; they induce feelings of depression, despair, hopelessness, and suicide when they are not adequately loved; and they frequently bring on anger, hostility, and rage at specific people who refuse to give them the love they demand.”
In “Luv(sic) Part 3,” Shing02 states, “True words seem to rise to the lips, take hold of a poet in me, most powerfully. I feel free when the world doesn’t owe it to me.” Think about how freeing it is when we can understand we aren’t owed love and when we tell ourselves true narratives.
In Unhealthy Love: Its Causes and Treatment, Ellis carefully describes various types of demandingness with which we disturb ourselves in relationships. There elements include:
· magical identification
· narcissism (notably different from pop culture narcissism)
· romantic illusions
· caretaking needs
Ellis expands upon these traits by saying:
“The lover wants some advantages of an intimate relationship; he or she then arbitrarily and absolutistically establishes some characteristic which must exist if an ideal love relationship is to exist; this characteristic is then either discovered or invented in another person; and the lover usually becomes utterly convinced that the beloved (1) really possesses this exemplary characteristic; (2) will continue to possess it forever; (3) will use it for the advantage of the lover; and (4) will have a glorious ongoing relationship with the lover in spite of any other disadvantageous characteristics the beloved may possess or handicapping conditions under which the relationship will probably exist.”
Momentarily removing oneself from examination, think of someone you know who uses the aforementioned framework. Anyone come to mind?
Not if, though when others aren’t able to abide by the rigid terms of service (TOS) of the person you know, what are the eventual results you’ve observed? Now, place yourself in the position of the one administering the TOS, or who receives the TOS.
Is this who or how you want to be in this life? Do you want to be bound—or bind others—to a TOS, only to disturb yourself when (1) the person doesn’t fully understand the implication of your terms, (2) tires of your demands, (3) ends up being incapable of following all terms, or (4) proves to be imperfect in some way?
In “Luv(sic) Part 3,” Shing02 continues “I admit, my thinking is wishful, like a star upon a child gazing up to the ceiling. How far do we have to stretch the truth to fit the lifestyles borrowed and overdue?”
How far are you willing to take a wishful—or more appropriately, demanding—narrative with your romantic pursuits? While maintaining healthy standards and boundaries is a reasonable element of a romantic relationship, inflexible demands may need to be rethought.
In Unhealthy Love: Its Causes and Treatment, Ellis identifies the consequences of not using a rational approach to healthy, loving romantic relationships:
As well, Ellis provides a number of psychotherapeutic approaches to lovesickness, critiquing the merits of these methods. I strongly encourage you to read his analysis, starting on page eight of Unhealthy Love: Its Causes and Treatment, and to review pages 10-11 to understand my approach.
Ellis’ methodology for love is further addressed in a video entitled “Conquering Need for Love, Albert Ellis.” Clients who work with me can reasonably conclude that I will use similar humor and a direct approach when working with them.
Ultimately, Ellis concludes:
“The goal is to help the client maximally accept reality (even when he doesn’t like it), stop whining and wailing about it, stop exacerbating it, and persist at trying to actively change it for the better. The therapist tries to show the client how to surrender her dictatorialness, with its concomitant compulsiveness, fixation, and fetishism, and to maximize her freedom of choice and be able to fulfill her human potential for growth and happiness.”
REBT is largely focused on self-empowerment, not self-victimization. Taking ownership of how we disturb ourselves, we retain the ability to alter the sickness we create when falling in and out of love.
Perhaps Shing02 is onto something in “Luv(sic) Part 3,” when he states, “Like your moves that I can’t predict, like your look that I can’t resist. The ting-a-ling feeling was oh so mutual; the lingering appeal was so unusual. Herbally, what is medicine to a lone soul can become poison to some—with the whole body fast asleep, out cold. True vision seems to come to the eye, take hold.”
What we perceive as a remedy to loneness—the elixir of love—can become toxic to some people. Approaching love with a rational perspective, despite the concoction of chemicals surging through our bodies, can help regulate whether or not we become lovesick.
Demand vs. Desire
Unhealthy demand –
Premise 1: In order to have worth, I must love or be loved by someone.
Premise 2: I don’t have a romantic partner.
Conclusion: Therefore, I don’t have worth.
The logic follows, albeit flawed, so people who convince themselves of this conditional axiom will inevitably suffer when their condition isn’t met. When we apply rigid rules to life, discomforting consequences will likely follow.
Suppose that instead of demanding, a person alternatively uses a desire. I can say that I desire a great number of things though when I don’t get what I would like, I can simply shrug off the usual outcome and continue on with my life. Here’s how it goes:
Healthy desire –
Premise 1: I wish to have someone with whom I can share life, though if this isn’t possible my life still has worth.
Premise 2: I don’t have a romantic partner.
Conclusion: Hence, my life still has worth.
Though I’ve worked with people throughout the years, attempting to persuade them to adopt a healthy desire versus an unhealthy demand, some people simply refuse to give up their unhelpful should, must, and ought statements. At that point, a person chooses suffering and lovesickness.
Though the underground hip hop legend died at age 36, the memory of Seba’s work carries on. I’m reminded of how my time in this life is relatively short and if I want to spend it disturbing myself regarding beliefs about events, I can choose to do so.
When making that decision, I’m no longer a victim to misery; I’m a volunteer. On the other hand, I can opt for a healthier path by correcting errors in my beliefs. I’m empowered to change my outcome.
What consequences will you choose? Will you wallow in suffering, whining about how someone did you wrong while reeling in agony from lovesickness, or will you highlight your miscalculation (i.e., “sic”) and continue through the discomfort with a destination to the other side of a breakup?
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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