In psychology, the concept of maturation may be defined as “the changes in thinking, sense of responsibility, and better ability to adjust to meet successfully the daily issues.” This process is said to result in a person “becoming functional or fully developed.”
While the way we think “has the potential to evolve over the course of adult life,” I find it interesting to hear a concise, non-academic account of a person’s development over time. If set to a soulful beat and manifested in rhyme, even better!
Madchild’s outlook using an REBT lens
When considering growth of this sort and from a hip hop perspective, I think of rapper Madchild’s song “Cold Crush,” the title presumably paying homage to the Cold Crush Brothers. Shout out to the old school!
I think the track represents an individual grappling with issues I have also encountered in my personal and professional life. Perhaps you, too, may identify with some of the lyrics.
Using a Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) lens, I’ll examine Madchild’s existential struggle. The artist’s approach is outlined as follows:
“Kids ain’t ready for the style I got. My life’s a fucking horror movie with the violent plot. And I can feel my thoughts cracking and bending, no turning back and there’s no happy ending. I’m climbing walls with anxiety, walking zombie, I’m not going quietly.”
Suppose I have a hypothetical client named John Doe. John describes his life as horrifically violent. His thoughts are so impactful it’s as though John can literally feel them.
This isn’t an uncommon admission in my line of work. Clients express how their beliefs affect their bodily sensations, cognitive functioning, emotional experience, and behavior.
This uncomfortable disturbance is mistakenly believed to be caused by various situations. For instance, John may conclude that because his life hasn’t gone as expected he’s now riddled with anxiety, walking around like a zombie.
It’s understandable how one may come to this conclusion, because much of the content we encounter from various sources clearly identifies a cause-and-effect relationship in life. We learn that because the wind blows, the effect is that leaves will fly through the air.
However, using the REBT ABC Model, I could demonstrate to John that his beliefs about his circumstances are what lead to unhelpful or unhealthy consequences, not the events themselves. This forms a beliefs-consequences connection.
Unlike the rules of physics that apply to the external world, our mental processes are often self-influenced. We create our own dysfunction.
“Smoke tobacco, shining with stars to a black hole. That’s what I get for being such an asshole. Want to put a rope around my neck like a lasso. Rain’s coming, clouds rolling over head, words pouring from my head. Be a warrior ‘til I’m dead, but I don’t want to meet Joe Black, I’m not ready yet. Long black box with roses and poinsettias.”
If John told to me that he considered himself an “asshole,” I’d invite him to consider the utility of the self-attached label. Imagining that John truly believes he’s a no good, low down, despicable human being, I’d shift to use of the elegant solution.
Maybe John is as he says he is. Can he tolerate remaining this way? If his answer to the question includes contemplation of suicide, especially with a plan and perhaps a means to carry out the act, I would assess for safety.
Imagine John clarifies by letting me know he has no intention to complete suicide. He simply finds it overwhelming to experience the barrage of unpleasant beliefs he likens to a storm in his head.
John tells me he’s unprepared to be placed in a coffin with decorative poinsettias. Instead, he would like a sunshiny day within his mind.
I’d manage John’s expectations by inviting him to consider that building resilience to weather the storm may serve him more than wishfully desiring a pleasant atmosphere. To some people, my method may seem appalling.
After all, I have little doubt that many individuals have heard the saccharine claims of supposed therapists on social media platforms that promote a “good vibes only” approach to mental health. Unlike them, I don’t promote toxic positivity.
Lying to clients about my or their ability to control the mental and emotional storms they experience may help them feel better, though instead I aim to help clients get better. By working with John to sort through his problems, he may delay a meeting with Joe Black.
“Hit the stage with radicalized battle cries, unintentional role model with bad advice. Between a rock and a hard place, my favorite movies were Goodfellas and Scarface and Godfather. Guess I took that shit too literal, wasted twenty years of my life rolling with criminals.”
I relate to Madchild’s mention of being an “unintentional role model with bad advice,” as that’s how I began my practice of coaching in the ‘90s. I had no idea what I was doing by trying to help others navigate the complexity of traumatic experience.
Likewise, and comparable to Madchild, the knuckleheads with whom I associated had similar appreciation for films which glorified organized crime. Thankfully, I was able to dissociate from the path that led a number of my friends to incarceration and meetings with Joe Black.
“Snort coke; get a dirty and perverted mind. It’s not a good look doing coke at thirty-nine. Put that lame shit to bed. Change the chapter, ‘cause when my head’s clear you’ll still feel my rapture. Plus, there’s so much out still to capture. I’m recharged, ready to go, be an adapter.”
Suppose John tells me that at 39-years-old he struggles with substance abuse. I could use REBT to demonstrate that it isn’t necessarily the substance, or the use or abuse of it, which causes John’s suffering.
Rather, John’s low frustration tolerance (LFT)—the belief that he couldn’t bear life without some form of escapism—is likely impacting his behavior which results in unpleasant thoughts and emotions, as well.
This reminds me of a time when I met a social worker who used a paradoxical intervention for smoking cessation by encouraging his clients to smoke, though to do so mindfully. Does this seem counterintuitive?
Instead of the five or so minutes it may take to smoke a cigarette, the therapist’s clients were encouraged to slow down the process and smoke a cigarette while focusing on what occurred in the mind, body, and environment. Smoke unhurriedly while remaining aware of the process.
By choosing to smoke in a conscious and methodical manner, rather than mindlessly checking out, clients could recognize their behavior as a voluntary action and understand that they had the ability to stop or alter it. If they continued to smoke, it was a rational decision.
The outcome may not be desirable though clients wouldn’t continue tobacco use due to some unknowable force pressuring them to smoke. They could realize that they weren’t victims to use or abuse, they were volunteers.
John could employ this method and understand that he isn’t irrationally compelled to snort cocaine. Rather, he likely consumes the substance expeditiously, because he hasn’t dealt with LFT.
John could clear his mind of the central nervous system stimulant and also of self-disturbing beliefs which lead to self-sabotaging behaviors. Becoming a metaphorical adapter to recharge his life, John could adapt his unhelpful narratives to those of a healthier function.
“Through the storm to the path of illumination, even if you feel like you’re half of a wrong creation. My whole life been babbling gloomy statements, but now feel like my brain’s unravelling doom and hatred.”
Continuing the storm motif, Madchild’s expresses growth from “rain’s coming, clouds rolling over head, words pouring from my head” while transitioning “through the storm to the path of illumination.” This is the maturation process at work.
One thing I appreciate in this portion of the track is how the artist expresses that even though he perceives his own flaws, he’s able to carry on. He admits to lifelong unhelpful narratives as his growth occurs despite mental doom and gloom.
This is akin to REBT use of unconditional acceptance. There is no evidence that we shouldn’t, mustn’t, or oughtn’t to have discomfort in life. A “no bad days” approach seems like an impossible standard, because it is.
Acceptance isn’t analogous to liking or loving something. We don’t have to pretend as though suffering is fantastic.
What we can do is be honest with ourselves. Even if we convince ourselves that we’re the “assholes” we think we are life as a whole isn’t as shitty as we may think it is.
And if it is, could it be that our unraveling of “doom and hatred” remains inconsistent with our interests and goals? Though the anal sphincter has a function we can choose not to dwell on the shit we produce.
“Blow my brains out and drop to the pavement. What if there’s more, then I’m locked up with Satan? Burning for eternity does not sound appealing, so now I’m kneeling, looking up past the ceiling. Ask God’s forgiveness and please start the healing, ‘cause if you mean it, I swear you could feel it.”
Madchild holds little back towards the end of the song. Beyond contemplation of his own mortality, the rapper considers eternal consequences of his earthly actions.
Though I have no idea what comes after this life, if anything, I can appreciate the perspectives of those who critically examine their actions. This is one of the major benefits of the REBT formula, as people can rationally track steps associated with unpleasant outcomes.
While not unique to REBT practice, I interpret Madchild using the “playing it through” psychotherapeutic technique with which people are invited to visualize consequences associated with behavior. Doing so, the entertainer seemingly concludes suicide isn’t appropriate for him.
“Tears drop, leaving stains on this paper I’m writing on. You can’t give up, you just keep fighting on. Mad the destroyer or Madchild the healer? Don’t be afraid, let your love out. Reveal it. Feeling chained to my list of regrets. So many barely move, breaking into a sweat, and everything’s dark and gray. I see no color. Break free from my past, need bolt cutters. Unless it’s family or blood, don’t trust others. I’m getting older, but still cold crush, brother.”
A judgmental cursory glance at Madchild’s appearance may lead one astray. Seeing him as a complete human being who experiences fear, anger, sorrow, and disgust—like the rest of us—allows me to conceive that tears were likely shed while writing “Cold Crush.”
Madchild expresses consideration about who he wants to be in this world: “Mad the destroyer or Madchild the healer.” His guidance? “Don’t be afraid, let your love out. Reveal it.”
Like Paul Wall said, “It’s chess moves, not checkers,” because by the end of the song Madchild has matured to use of higher order thinking that his younger self in the beginning of the track probably couldn’t fathom.
Suppose John tells me life for him is like being chained to a list of regrets. His experience with rigid and extreme attitudes about his past results in the freeze stress response and is accompanied by profuse sweating.
John describes life as colorless and envisions the need for proverbial bolt cutters to free him from mental and emotional bondage associated with the past. Additionally, his perspective creates difficulty with trusting others.
I would introduce John to the teaching of Albert Ellis, who created REBT. Specifically, I would invite John to consider Ellis’ following statement:
“You are a constructivist and largely upset and un-upset at the ability to un-upset yourself. And then your childhood and adulthood and adolescence happen to you, and out of those events you construct a pattern of how you react to it. So Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy shows you how to reconstruct your thinking and your feeling and your behavior, and thereby get to a point where you think and feel and practice differently, and take a much different basic philosophy towards the adversities that happen to you. And you stubbornly refuse to upset yourself no matter what happens.”
John and I would then proceed with any number of belief disputing techniques aimed at challenging the unhelpful or unhealthy philosophy John has constructed for himself. This would also include unconditional life-acceptance, as we cannot change the past.
I appreciate being able to go through Madchild’s lines and relate them to the imaginary client, John Doe. I hope the process is helpful for others, as well. Even if not, I unconditionally accept the outcome.
Seeing some of my personal experiences described in “Cold Crush” has earned my respect for the rapper’s offering and I like that he ended the song by stating, “I’m getting older, but still cold crush, brother,” because I appreciate seeing old school hip hop heads receive their accolades.
Describing maturation, one source highlights the “bringing [of] a person’s various motives together into a purpose in life.” In my opinion, psychological maturity is on full display in Madchild’s “Cold Crush.”
Though it’s apparently fashionable to avoid, suppress, or reject supposed “negative” emotions or experiences, I appreciate that Madchild doesn’t shy away from grappling with the reality of suffering inherent in life.
As one source states, “Yes, cultivating a positive mindset is a powerful coping mechanism, especially in tough times. But positivity needs to be rooted in reality for it to be healthy and helpful.”
Perhaps you desire growth expressed by Madchild. Maybe John’s perspective relates to that of your own life. Are you ready to get better rather than simply feeling better in the short-term from pseudo-remedies espoused through toxic positivity advice?
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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