Story of Erica
Story of Erica
To familiarize the reader with the track, one source describes it as follows (grammatical errors untouched):
“Erica” is the story of a young Instagram Model who lives a lifestyle of lavish abundance and travels to luxurious destinations at the expense of her “Sugar Daddies”. She is a high profile escort. The song’s narrative to begin with seems as if it’s just there bash on women who lead this sort of lifestyle until the chorus kicks in and we find out why Erica feels that this is the only way she can communicate sexually with men. We find out that she was sexually abused by her Uncle since the age of seven. She hangs out with famous people, rappers/models etc. And one of her friends invites her to a hotel party in which she sleeps with one of the men attending [Rob] and becomes impregnated with his child […]
Even though she’s on a new path, she is struggling to raise her son on her own so she has a child support claim sent to the father. He doesn’t receive it well and calls her up cursing her over the phone about it and she explains that she cant do it alone. He then shows up to her door drugged up in which the third verse gets recited back and forth between her and her son’s father. The father pulls out a gun and aims the gun at the son. Erica steps in the way and theres a struggle in which she gets shot. Realizing what he has just done, he says his last words apologizing to the son before taking his own life.
Listening to the track for the first time, a number of issues stood out to me. Rather than what I imagine others may say about child abuse, sex work, intimate partner violence, abortion, fatherlessness, child support, homicide, and suicide, I’ll offer a slightly modified take.
Reviewing Erica’s Behavior Therapeutically
Suppose that prior to Rob murdering her, I was Erica’s therapist. Practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I’d address each of Erica’s issues chronologically presented in the song (extracting direct quotes).
“My daddy buys me what I want, when I want, and how the fuck I want it! Believe that.”
Erica’s mention of a “daddy” concerns a sugar daddy. Boasting about the benefits of this arrangement, Erica appears proud of the fact that her desires are fulfilled from a man who provides monetary resources for the resource of her time, attention, and perhaps body.
There may be a misperception related to the sugar daddy-baby relationship, as one qualitative source states of sugaring—the “mutually beneficial relationship between two partners where one, the sugar baby, is compensated by the other, the sugar momma or daddy, for his/her time”—“Contrary to the assumption, the women interviewed did not come from broken, poverty-ridden or abusive homes.”
Not all sugar babies, such as Erica, engage in sex work due to the trope of having no other option after enduring a childhood of mistreatment. Some people simply choose a path to quick monetary gain.
When working with Erica, I would assess whether or not her behavior is in alignment with her interests and goals. Erica may be interested in obtaining material wealth and her method of pursuing these desires relates to a goal.
As a psychotherapist, it isn’t my role to judge my clients. I don’t determine what is good, bad, right, wrong, or otherwise. That is up for Erica to determine.
Suppose that as our sessions progressed, Erica expressed displeasure with her chosen path of employment. Though fulfilled by attainment of possessions, Erica begins to consider that her life lacks meaning associated with the purpose of sex work.
“These days, making love ain’t been fun, ‘cause making men cum has been her only income.”
One source states that “most sugar arrangements in the United States qualify as prostitution ‘since most involve either direct payment or material compensation and center on a mutual understanding of the arrangement.”
If Erica expects to have fun, though disturbs herself because her only role in sex work involves “making men cum,” this would be a matter worth addressing in our sessions. Does Erica think she should, must, or ought to experience fulfillment as well as monetary gain by entertaining suitors?
If so, upon what is the belief based? Is it rational to demand “fun” from the practice of sex work? Though this type of arrangement may be enjoyable to some people, surely not all who function as sex workers will enjoy the experience.
“All the other girls wanna ball out like Erica—LA to NY, queen of America. But all of this can’t cover up what she has never told her uncle was abusing her since she was only 7-years-old.”
There is a common stereotype of the lowly abused child who is inevitably re-victimized through the recreation of traumatic experience which may be true in some cases, though not all. Not every girl who is molested at age seven will find her way to sex work.
Regarding this matter, one source states, “[T]he impulse is that all people […] in the sex industry are victims of their situation who are disempowered and have no autonomy and no other skills. That’s really damaging.”
Rather than resorting to use of a cliché, I would inquire about whether or not Erica wants to continue forward with her current behavior. We have no control over the past, as I would invite Erica to consider unconditional life-acceptance about her history which cannot be changed.
Hearing this, I imagine someone saying, “Deric, it’s awful to suggest that Erica accept the vile acts of her perpetrator!” What other option does she have?
As a therapist, I do not function as a time traveler who can venture to the distant past and alter the experience of my clients. I’m also unable to erase their memories, as though I have supernatural capabilities.
Use of REBT affords me the opportunity to assist clients with tolerating distress in the present so they may lead more productive lives now and in the future. This requires that Erica challenge unhelpful and unhealthy beliefs which cause suffering.
Considering this approach, one source reports that symptoms relating to depression and anxiety from survivors of childhood sexual abuse were reduced through use of REBT. This is accomplished by consideration of the Epictetiannotion, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
A separate source states, “The use of REBT and other therapies will in no small measures help not only the rape victims, but the entire society to appreciate the need to open up in such circumstance.” Rather than perpetual victimhood, REBT could help Erica thrive despite her unpleasant past.
“She only 21, damn, she act like a big girl. She looked him in the eye, then she winked; that’s a signal. Bathroom! Took him to the bathroom! Erica give dome like a motherfucking vacuum. She said, ‘Where the condoms? You better have the condoms!’ He say, ‘I can’t find them! Is that a problem?’ ‘Not a problem.’ Hitting from the back, thinking, ‘Damn he didn’t pay again.”
Working with Erica, I would address personal responsibility and accountability. Concerning this matter, one source states, “Sex workers embody risk because they too see it as a fundamental part of negotiating the sex trade.” Erica has agency related to her actions.
If Erica contracts a sexually transmitted infection or her negotiated sex transaction results in pregnancy, Erica provided consent and she owns whatever consequences of her actions which result. Erica is accountable for her behavior.
In the song, Erica becomes pregnant and Rob rejects responsibility for the child. While it may be tempting to point the finger at others when searching for blame, if I were working with Erica I’d invite her to consider her role in the event.
This is contrary to the normalized societal shaming of parents who choose not to participate in the rearing of children. I would encourage Erica not to disturb herself with what she demands others should, must, or ought to do since others may disagree with her expectations.
Because I wouldn’t have access to Rob in a session, I couldn’t address his behavior. Likewise, since I have no leverage over the Supreme Court of the United States and cannot influence decisions regarding abortion, it wouldn’t be a wise use of Erica’s time to address such matters.
Instead, I could discuss with Erica how her belief about her situation impacts her emotions and behavior. By changing her beliefs about the event, Erica could enjoy an improved quality of life.
“Shit, it’s been two years. Little man is growing up, but momma’s gotta cope without his daddy showing up. She can’t believe it, she’s gotta raise this kid unassisted. Thinking, ‘Here we go, another black daddy—a statistic.’ And she vowed she would never have a son or a daughter to a man with resemblance to her own fucking father.”
Concerning single motherhood, I would address empirical findings to challenge Erica’s belief system. According to one source, “slightly more than half of black children live in homes headed by one parent—which is usually, but not always, the mother.”
Per a separate source, “While 74.3 percent of all [w]hite children below the age of 18 live with both parents, only 38.7 percent of African-American minors can say the same.” Still, another source highlights how cohabitation isn’t an essential factor of fatherhood.
If Erica “can’t believe” she has to raise a child after two years of already having done so, I’d invite her to consider the validity of her narrative. How does she not believe what she’s clearly indicated as being her daily norm for the past two years?
Thinking to herself, “Here we go, another black daddy—a statistic,” Erica has already realized that her situation isn’t statistically significant. Rather, it’s that Erica tells herself she shouldn’t, mustn’t, or oughtn’t to endure single motherhood which results in frustration—not the fact that she’s raising her child alone.
Additionally, it may be worth addressing with Erica the processes of projection (attributing positive or negative characteristics to a separate entity) and transference (repetition of past behavior projected onto new subjects). What benefit is there in using these techniques?
Conflating her dad’s behavior with Rob’s actions may provide the benefit of familiar circumstance, though it also results in the cognitive distortion of overgeneralization (viewing a pattern of behavior as an invariable rule).
Might Erica’s assumptions about all men behaving in the same manner be inaccurate? How is comparison between her dad and Rob beneficial to Erica’s interests or goals?
“Then she opens up the door to see the father of her child. Socks her in the jaw, says, ‘You wanna make demands with this letter in my hand? Who the fuck are you to try to put me on a stand!? Shoulda went down to the clinic!’ And then she said, ‘300 fucking dollars, that’s the cost to be a living—a living, breathing human? Instead, you’re just assuming. How the fuck can you say that shit? He’s got your blood flowing through him! Shit, you gonna mentally and emotionally leave him fucking ruined! Do you even know the impact of the shit you doin’? Try to make me understand! ‘Cause ain’t no way that in the mirror you can call yourself a man!”
Allow me to unequivocally state that Rob’s behavior is unacceptable. Not only are his actions illegal, I find them morally and ethically reprehensible.
This stated, I wonder about the utility of Erica’s decision to open the door to Rob. I can imagine someone decrying my critical analysis by stating, “Deric, you’re victim blaming!”
Questioning whether or not a client’s actions that lead to the escalation of violence isn’t only reasonable, it may be necessary to help reduce future instances of violence. The barrier of a locked door serves as a healthy boundary that when breeched could result in an unhealthy hazard.
Additionally, provocation could be discussed with Erica in regards to strategies for de-escalating violence. In an ideal world, we may prefer others not to aggress against us though I work with clients about what is and not what we think ought to be.
As well, the American Psychological Association defines shame as “a highly unpleasant self-conscious emotion arising from the sense of there being something dishonorable, immodest, or indecorous in one’s own conduct or circumstances.”
Erica stating to Rob, “‘Cause ain’t no way that in the mirror you can call yourself a man!” is an example of shaming. In “Story of Erica,” Erica is murdered after emasculating Rob. How does provocation serve Erica’s interests or goals?
Again, I disavow Rob’s despicable behavior. Similarly, I would invite clients to consider how others who do not practice REBT may think there’s an action-consequence connection rather than a belief-consequence relationship.
Because Rob may irrationally conclude that Erica’s words lead to the consequence of anger, he reacts with disproportionate force. If able to work with Erica prior to the event, I’d encourage her to choose behavior that would better serve her interests and goals.
If securing the safety of her and her child’s life is a priority, it would be my hope that Erica could use rational thinking in order not to allow irrational emotions to sabotage her success. Erica could then make healthier decisions.
All the same, I anticipate criticism related to how I would approach Erica’s situation. I imagine someone clinging to the cudgel of victimhood with which beating the narrative of infantilized victims results in passionate cries for validating the experiences of women like Erica.
“Deric, how dare you hold Erica responsible for her behavior?” I foresee a person questioning. “Didn’t you listen to the end of the song in which Erica was murdered by Rob?” the individual may say.
What I heard was a series of unfortunate decisions made by Erica which resulted in catastrophic violence. Rob wasn’t justified in his behavior. Legally speaking, Erica shouldn’t have been murdered. On this point, I do not disagree.
Nonetheless, there were a number of unhelpful beliefs Erica maintained which led to unhealthy consequences. She is personally responsible for and accountable to the actions she took.
As indicated herein, this form of psychotherapy has been demonstrated as effective in helping survivors of violence lead more productive lives. While perhaps contrary to popular victim-coddling, I’m interested in helping Erica get better, not simply feel better about being a victim.
“Story of Erica” provides a narrative with which many people are all too familiar. While it may be tempting to treat the Ericas of the world in a delicate manner, handling them as fragile victims, doing so may not assist in the process of building resilience.
Use of REBT can help a person like Erica to endure the harsh realities experienced in life rather than irrationally demanding that the world must treat us in a particular way. For the Ericas I’ve assisted thus far, they no longer inflexibly insist that life should be as they expect.
Rather, they disturb themselves less and move forward from whether they are, not dwelling on what’s behind them. Would you like to know more about how to do this in your life?
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
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Overgeneralization. Retrieved from https://dictionary.apa.org/overgeneralization
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Projection. Retrieved from https://dictionary.apa.org/projection
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Shame. Retrieved from https://dictionary.apa.org/shame
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Transference. Retrieved from https://dictionary.apa.org/transference
Backstage. (n.d.). ‘The Story of Erica.’ Retrieved from https://www.backstage.com/casting/the-story-of-erica-274884/
BMikeMusic. (2019, April 29). Bmike - Story of Erica [official music video] [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/Q4xNFButGLU
Enriquez, A. (2021, October 25). Q. How does fair use work for book covers, album covers, and movie posters? Penn State. Retrieved from https://psu.libanswers.com/faq/336502
Famous Birthdays. (n.d.). B-Mike. Retrieved from https://www.famousbirthdays.com/people/b-mike.html
Genius. (n.d.). Story of Erica [Image]. Retrieved from https://genius.com/B-mike-story-of-erica-lyrics
Goal Chaser, The. (n.d.). Epictetus quotes – The power of our own thoughts. Retrieved from https://thegoalchaser.com/epictetus-quotes/
Hall, C. (2014, September 5). Is one of the most-cited statistics about sex work wrong? The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/09/is-one-of-the-most-cited-statistics-about-sex-work-wrong/379662/
Hollings, D. (2022, August 28). Change ur beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/change-ur-beliefs
Hollings, D. (2022, October 24). Chosen suffering. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/chosen-suffering
Hollings, D. (2022, May 17). Circle of concern. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/circle-of-concern
Hollings, D. (2022, June 25). Controversy and challenges to REBT. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/controversy-and-challenges-to-rebt
Hollings, D. (2022, October 31). Demandingness. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/demandingness
Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/disclaimer
Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/
Hollings, D. (2022, December 2). Low frustration tolerance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/low-frustration-tolerance
Hollings, D. (2022, June 23). Meaningful purpose. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/meaningful-purpose
Hollings, D. (2022, November 7). Personal ownership. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/personal-ownership
Hollings, D. (2022, March 25). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/rational-emotive-behavior-therapy-rebt
Hollings, D. (2022, November 1). Self-disturbance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/self-disturbance
Hollings, D. (2022, December 1). Self-sabotage. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/self-sabotage
Hollings, D. (2022, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/should-must-and-ought
Hollings, D. (2022, November 9). The ABC model. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-abc-model
Hollings, D. (2022, November 2). The formula. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-formula
Hollings, D. (2022, November 15). To don a hat. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/to-don-a-hat
Hollings, D. (2022, July 11). Unconditional acceptance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/unconditional-acceptance
Hollings, D. (2022, November 25). Victimhood. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/victimhood
Idoko, I. B., Happiness, I., and Yakubu, M. (2019, September). Overcoming stigma-threat motivated non-disclosure of rape victims through rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT). International Journal of Education. Retrieved from https://airccse.com/ije/papers/7319ije01.pdf
Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). Provocation. Cornell Law School. Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/provocation
Lenze, T. A. (2020, December). Student sugar dating: Sugar babies’ perceptions of their decisions to begin, continue, or desist. Graduate College of Bowling Green State University. Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/apexprod/rws_etd/send_file/send?accession=bgsu1604742197983985&disposition=inline
Levs, J. (2020, June 5). They’re dragging out the ‘absent black fathers’ myth again. Can we give it a rest? | Opinion. Newsweek. Retrieved from https://www.newsweek.com/absent-black-fathers-myth-racism-1509085
Nair, A. S. and Srivastava, A. (2022). Efficacy of REBT-based intervention on mental health disorders in adolescent survivors of CSA. Journal of Positive School Psychology. Retrieved from https://www.journalppw.com/index.php/jpsp/article/download/10434/6747
National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. (n.d.). The myth of the missing black father. Retrieved from https://www.fatherhood.gov/research-and-resources/myth-missing-black-father
Prince, Z. (2016, December 31). Census bureau: Higher percentage of black children live with single mothers. The Black Media Authority. Retrieved from https://afro.com/census-bureau-higher-percentage-black-children-live-single-mothers/
Scull, M. T. (2019, September 16). “It’s its own thing”: A typology of interpersonal sugar relationship scripts. Sage Journals. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0731121419875115
Sibley, M. (2018, November). Owning risk: Sex worker subjectivities and the reimagining of vulnerability and victimhood. The British Journal of Criminology. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328553257_Owning_Risk_Sex_Worker_Subjectivities_and_the_Reimagining_of_Vulnerability_and_Victimhood
Thesugarmeister. (2016, September 16). Sugar daddy. Urban Dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Sugar%20Daddy
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Epictetus. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epictetus
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Victim blaming. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victim_blaming