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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

The Bad Hand

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

I recently posted a blog entry describing my approach to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). Subsequently, I drafted a post describing my intent to highlight hip hop elements which relate to the REBT technique. For context, I encourage people to review those entries before proceeding with the current written submission.

As the REBT ABC Model maintains the Epictetian notion, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters,” I would like to use a recent event that may serve as a fitting example of how I approach therapy sessions. This event relates to Will Smith allegedly slapping Chris Rock.

In 1989, when I was in middle school, an uncle by marriage told me about a tape he thought might interest me, as an alternative to the rap acts I favored at the time. This was following my attendance at LL Cool J’s Nitro World Tour, which also featured Eazy-E, N.W.A, Slick Rick, De La Soul, and though he was scheduled to perform, Too $hort was unable to attend the Denver concert.

That tape was of Will Smith, The Fresh Prince, following his 1988 release of an album with DJ Jazzy Jeff entitled He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper—a personal favorite of the artist’s discography. At the time, Smith offered less explicit content that I thought was fun to listen and dance to. Since then, I’ve enjoyed many of Smith’s shows and movies.

For the current blog post, I have no intention of discussing whether or not Smith’s purported slap incident was staged, legally justifiable, morally righteous, or otherwise. While it may be easy to sit back and judge others, declaring what is good, bad, right, or wrong for others is largely what I address in psychotherapy sessions.

When working with clients, I listen closely for rigid and extreme narratives. These demands often manifest in the form of should, must, or ought (SMO) statements. Maladaptive cognitions (SMO narratives) are those with which I assist clients through active and persuasive challenge.

People often maintain that an action (A) leads to a consequence (C). Someone telling a joke about a spouse (A) is said to lead to anger (C). However, REBT maintains that rather than an A-C connection, we disturb ourselves with beliefs (B)—B-C connection.

In Smith’s alleged case, he hears of how Rock seemingly disrespected Jada Pinkett Smith by telling a joke about her hair (A), Will Smith presumably thinks, “This shouldn’t happen, and because it has, I look weak for not defending Jada,” (B) and as a result of this unhelpful belief, Smith likely disturbs himself to an angry disposition and apparently strikes Rock with an open-handed strike to the face (C). This is an A-B-C connection that could use disputation (D), leading to an effective (E) new belief (B).

Before I get into a semi-comprehensive ABC Model breakdown of the reported event, I think it’s important to share some hip hop background information. Much like the southern region from which I hail, street gangs with which I once interfaced, and the United States Marine Corps in which I served, hip hop retains a long tradition concerning a culture of honor, also called honor culture.

Per one source, “A culture of honor is a culture in which a person (usually a man) feels obliged to protect his or her reputation by answering insults, affronts, and threats, oftentimes through the use of violence.” I disagree with the use of “feels,” in this regard, because it relates to cognition.

Language policing aside, I agree with the aforementioned content. Another source opines, “An honorable man will not hesitate to use physical force to combat any assault, theft, insult, or other attempt at subordination of himself or his group (family, gang, or nation).”

People within honor cultures likely maintain use of maladaptive cognitions related to rigid demands for respect that could lead to extreme consequences. Rap music is not excluded from depictions of violence, nor is the musical genre’s content base exempt from use of actual violence. This is not to imply that all rap is violent.

While not all actions are equal when it comes to violence (e.g., self-defense vs. manslaughter), here are a number of slap-related rap examples to elucidate the point of rap honor culture and overall violence:

“So gold-diggers head south, ‘cause I’ll throw the bad hand and knock the slob out’cha mouth.” – Ad Kapone of Totally Insane, The Bad Hand

“I know it’s strange, but my brain’s gone really insane. And I’m off the chain, sipping on a fifth of the Golden Grain. I feel like slappin’ a nigga today (slap, slap), slappin’ a nigga today.” – Ludacris, Slap

“Talkin’ smart to a pimp, you done broke the first rule. I’ma come on your job, I’ma act a damn fool. When ya’ boss walk in, I’ma play it off cool. If he step in our biz, I’ma slap his ass, too.” – Project Pat, Gorilla Pimp

“I never got that part, nigga, know you my man. But every time you wanna’ talk bad about me, come to you and you come to me like a hoe-ass nigga. I should slap the shit out you.” – Meek Mill, Blue Notes 2

“Ayo, I said I smack ‘da shit out’cha if ya mouth outta’ line.” – Redman, Slap Da Shit Outcha

“Used to be my homie, used to be my ace. Now I wanna’ slap the taste out ya’ mouth.” – Dr. Dre., Fuck Wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)

“Somebody go hit the coroner, it’s been a mishap. This one’s a real altercation and no fucking diss rap. Thinkin’ about phonkin’ with us, and you takin’ a big nap. All of the drama, because of the sauna. You got it, because of the bitch slap.” – Tech N9ne, Bitch Slap

“Listen, this Smack Muzik, you sucka ass niggas get smacked to it. For no particular reason, just ‘cause you rap stupid.” – Rock of Heltah Skeltah, Smack Muzik

“I slap niggas, kicking that wack nigga shit in my ear. My vision is clear; we see the same shit every year.” – Talib Kweli, Slap Niggas

“Yo, y’all niggas will never see my level. Rap so hot I slap box with the devil. Tap a jaw, slap a bitch do what I like.” – Keith Murray, Slap Somebody

“And niggas know they ain’t fuckin’ with that. Like, what did the five fingers say to the face? Slap!” – Ras Kass, Slap Season

When conducting these fictitious ABC Model examples, there is no disrespect intended to the artists, writers, DJs, producers, music executives, or anyone else. For more information, see: DISCLAIMER. In the case of Will Smith and Chris Rock, I will pretend as though I was speaking to Will about the alleged assault.

Using my imagination, this is one approach I would use if I had a client reporting a similar maladaptive cognition (belief) with unhelpful consequences (emotions, behaviors, etc.).

A (Activating event) – According to one source, Chris apparently “made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith being bald,” which led to Will reportedly “slapping Chris Rock,” and after which Smith can be heard stating, “Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth!”

For the sake of an ABC Model example, this is where imagination plays a part. When practicing REBT, I find it useful for clients to highlight precisely what Action they find most relevant. Pretend Will responds with, “Chris had Jada’s name in his mouth, disrespecting her for her appearance.” (A)

With the (A) established, we move to (B).

B (Belief) – Following the perceived slight, Will is said to have slapped Chris, which constitutes an A-C connection. However, there was likely a maladaptive cognition (B) that preceded the physical act of punishment. In Will’s case, I suspect the SMO narrative functioned as a musterbatory demand (e.g., “Chris must not disrespect Jada.”).

Albert Ellis, the creator of REBT, was said to have 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 session, for Will’s imaginary SMO statement, suppose he says, “Chris must not disrespect Jada, and if I don’t respond with force if he does, my love for her will be questionable. I must defend her honor!” (B)

With the (B) expressed, we move to (C), as there is a B-C connection.

C (Consequences) – Pretending aside, video coverage of the reported slap is readily available. Generally, I find it helpful to assess the level of Consequences my clients find most significant. The alleged physical assault is evident, serving as its own Consequence, and I’d want to familiarize my client with other consequential elements from self-disturbed Beliefs, as well.

Perhaps in my imagined session with Will, the rapper expresses that anger (C) he likely experienced is also accompanied by a warm sensation in his head, tightness in his shoulders, shallow breathing, and an elevated heart rate (C). These bodily sensations along with emotive (anger) and behavioral (slap) elements all comprise the Consequence of Will demanding that others must not violate his rigid demands of the world.

With the (C) identified, before going to (D), I ask my client for a goal.

Goal – I encourage my clients to discuss a preferred, though pragmatic, outcome if they were able to again experience the (A). In this example, rather than the detrimental emotive, bodily, and behavioral experience (C), Will tells me he would rather simply shrug off the perceived slight with a degree of acceptance and mild annoyance.

With a goal in mind, and (C) having been identified, we move to (D).

D (Disputation of belief) – While Disputing maladaptive cognitions (B) may occupy more time in my sessions than any other element of the ABC Model, I won’t go too far into detail about the finer points of Disputation herein. Still, I think it’s worth consideration of the following.

I use inference chains, empirical disputes, Socratic questioning, role reversal, role play, dialectic and didactic techniques, and other methods to Dispute unhelpful and unhealthy cognitions (D). Suppose for the sake of this example I challenged Will by assessing from where the notion stems regarding others not disrespecting his wife.

Imaginatively, Will tells me no one is allowed to disrespect him or his wife, especially in front of millions of people. I ask where it’s written that others should not, must not, or ought not to disrespect him in such a manner.

Perhaps Will uses the “Philly” (Philadelphia) reason, stating that people from his place of origin wouldn’t tolerate perceived disrespect, so Will was obligated to respond with violence. After all, in Eve’s song Philly, Philly, Beanie Sigel openly states of those from the locale, “We from P-H-I-L-A period, P-A period. Eve, they hearing it. Believe, they fearing it.”

To this, I would inquire as to whether or not Will once performed a song (The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air) in which he stated of his time in Philadelphia, “When a couple of guys who were up to no good started making trouble in my neighborhood. I got in one little fight and my mom got scared, she said, ‘You’re movin’ with your auntie and uncle in Bel-Air.”

Wasn’t the case that even people in Illadelph (Philadelphia) could be disrespectful, not simply comedians at an award show? In the aforementioned song, wasn’t relocating—placing time, distance, and shielding between yourself and a threat—deemed as the healthiest option? With similar consideration, couldn’t staying in one’s seat at the Oscars achieve a more helpful safety effect?

I would ask if Will could highlight other instances in which he was disrespected and didn’t apply physical violence. I think of incidents such as people joking about so-called entanglement of Will’s marriage, whereby fans were simply blocked on social media.

Also coming to mind is when he was said to have laughed at people’s responses regarding the entanglement debacle. I would ask, wasn’t it you, Will, who once stated, “Stop letting people who do so little for you control so much of your mind, feelings, and emotions,” or did I imagine that?

I’d ask if it has occurred to Will that Chris making a joke wasn’t the actual problem, though Will’s reaction to an unexpressed demand was what led to self-disturbance. It was only after the alleged slap that Will shouted to Chris not to remark about Jada. I would invite Will to consider what he may say to himself if he could go back in time and give himself advice prior to the purported slapping incident. What might be said?

For this Disputation example, suppose Will states to himself the very thing he expressed when giving a speech following the alleged slap, “I know, to do what we do, you gotta’ be able to take abuse. And you gotta’ be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you gotta’ be able to have people disrespecting you. And you gotta’ smile, and you gotta’ pretend that’s okay.”

With (D) complete, we move to (E).

E (Effective new belief) – Suppose Will determines that while it may be desirable to have others not say things with which he disagrees, even if it regards his wife, the world simply doesn’t function in such a manner. Physical violence isn’t warranted for perceived verbal slights, at least according to the law governing jurisdiction of the Oscars venue. Rigidly demanding otherwise isn’t in service to Will’s expressed goal for the session.

In this fictitious example, Will thusly concludes, “People have differing opinions about what is and isn’t funny, and I’ll be just fine if people like Chris—a professional jokester—differ with my perspective.” (E)

That’s essentially how I approach REBT using a hip hop example.

One of the reasons I appreciate REBT is that it may be used for many of the challenges people experience on a day-to-day basis. The ABC Model allows us to take ownership of our circumstances, empowers us to focus on change from within, and serves as a method to reduce the amount of suffering we may otherwise endure.

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!

If my approach to REBT sounds like something in which you may be interested, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW


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