Wu-Tang is for the children
The chorus to Wu-Tang Clan’s song “Method Man,” performed by rapper Method Man and featured on the group’s 1993 album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), states, “M-E-T-H-O-D Man” several times in a row. In my younger years, I considered the repetitive hook annoying.
As I aged, I understood the importance of repetition in learning. For instance, since the ‘80s, I’ve remembered the chorus of “867-5309/Jenny,” sung by Tommy Tutone, though I can’t recall other lyrics of the song.
Without saying the digits, ask anyone who grew up listening to this ballad if they can recall Jenny’s number. Likely, the repetitive chorus is embedded in the person’s psyche.
Also, since first hearing the Empire Today catchy jingle in my youth, I’ve not forgotten the company’s telephone number. This repetitive learning effect has been studied using Hebbian theory and the phonics method to memory retention.
According to one research paper, “Every time a newly presented memory set is encoded, its current representation in working memory acts as a potential retrieval cue for similar experiences in episodic memory.” What does this mean?
Per my understanding, if someone currently asked me to repeat the number for Jenny or Empire Today, I could recall the information from a distant point in my youth. I may even be able to recall where I was when having heard these verbal melodies.
A separate research paper states, “The recall performance of participants who were aware of repetition was much higher than that of participants who were unaware of repetition.” What does this mean?
Using my interpretation of the data, when people are aware of repetitive patterns, they tend to remember the sequence of information. This phonic method can be used to implicitly memorize something by repeatedly using a pattern.
This method was used in my childhood when teaching various topics. For example, to safely identify a serpent in North America, I was taught to repeat, “Red touching black, safe for Jack. Red touching yellow, kill a fellow.”
Whether or not members of Wu-Tang Clan understood that repeating Method Man’s name would encode the information into a listener’s memory is unknown to me. It could be that those who heard “M-E-T-H-O-D Man” as a child may not have forgotten the chorus.
What is clear is that during the 1998 Grammys, Wu-Tang Clan member Ol’ Dirty Bastard proudly stated, “When it comes to the children, Wu-Tang is for the children. We teach the children.” As well, repetitive methods of learning can be useful for adults.
REBT as a method
In blogposts entitled Useless Tools and More Tools for the Proverbial Toolbox, I likened the technique of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) to a tool. Still, I’ve given more thought to what this comparison implies.
Suppose I occasionally need a claw hammer for various tasks around my home. Hanging a framed photo and removing a nail from the wall are jobs which require this tool.
However, how often do I actually need to use a hammer? Personally, not often. Therefore, when it comes to proficiency with this instrument, I may be lacking. I could even injure myself when mindlessly mishandling the tool.
How often do you use a hammer, saw, or screwdriver? Unless your profession or hobby requires frequent use of hand tools, you may rarely ever use them.
Therefore, instead of conceptualizing REBT as a tool, I’ve begun to consider it as a method—a particular form of procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, especially a systematic or established one. The reason for this distinction is simple.
I often remind people that the tools we use less are useless, because it isn’t uncommon for clients to tell me they forget to use REBT outside of a psychotherapeutic setting. We practice the technique in sessions, though they put the hammer into a mental toolbox and let it slip from memory.
Approaching REBT as a method that requires repeated use may allow a person to become more proficient with this technique. In other words, use the M-E-T-H-O-D, man! (If you’re stuck on my usage of gender-specific language, the REBT method may be appropriate for you.)
In my personal life, I improve my competence with this method through repetition. This is consistent with a Hebbian theoretical perspective.
I’ll watch a series, read an article, or listen to input from various others sources while thinking, “How might the ABC Model apply to this situation?” I also invite clients to do the same for their negotiated homework activities.
Additionally, I regularly incorporate unconditional acceptance into my personal and professional life. This is particularly useful when encountering most of the things in life over which I have no control.
In spite of the fact that the topic discussed in this post is merely a semantic issue, and though REBT could be considered a tool or method, repetitive use of this technique can embed into one’s psyche a valuable alternative to self-disturbance. Just like Wu-Tang Clan, this is a method for children and adults alike.
Strengthening use of a tool through repetitive use isn’t always easy. In fact, it can be quite uncomfortable to dispute the irrational beliefs we tell ourselves.
Nonetheless, just as repetition associated with the challenge of physical training can increase muscularity, recurring use of the REBT method may improve one’s level of functioning (i.e., behavior) and quality of life (e.g., capacity to tolerate distress).
Do you find that your current mental health provider helps you to feel better though you have yet to get better? Have you never had psychotherapy before and now you’re willing to give it a try?
Are you ready to practice the M-E-T-H-O-D addressed in this blogpost? I may be able 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, 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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