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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

The 'Rithm, the Rebel

The rhythm, the rebel

In 1988, rap collective Public Enemy released an album entitled It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back which featured the hit track “Rebel Without a Pause.” Thereafter, many artists sampled the song as a form of homage to the legendary hip hop crew.

Opening the anthem, group frontman Chuck D stated, “Yes, the rhythm, the rebel without a pause, I’m lowering my level. The hard rhymer, where you never been, I’m in.”

Interpretively, the artist began the track by acknowledging one of the most adored beats of the ‘80s which featured an eerie treble tone played in conjunction with a rhythmic bassline. If you were around during that moment in hip hop history, you likely can envision the beat without external assistance.

Presumably, Chuck D described himself as a rebel without a pause—one who refuses to obey or conform. Of this, one source states, “Public Enemy encouraged social activism and often condoned revolutionary tactics of resistance.”

The rapper added that he was “lowering” his level, perhaps an allusion to the act of establishing relatability with those who didn’t operate at a similar degree of understanding. Rather than assuming Chuck D is pretentious, one presumes he alluded to common knowledge in game theory.

Public Enemy’s lead rapper then professed himself to be a “hard rhymer,” and if you’re familiar with the work of the group, this element needs no explaining. Ending the quote, Chuck D perhaps suggested that in the realm of understanding from which he operated, the listener may not have experience.

To me, Public Enemy was a quintessential part of rap’s transformation from a novel musical genre to a medium through which knowledge, wisdom, and understanding was spread. For that, I’m grateful for the rhythm, the rebel.

The ‘rithm

Aside from disseminating information along melodic lines, an algorithm is a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer, and can be used as a means to describe, prescribe, or facilitate awareness about a given topic.

For instance, one source suggests:

A social media algorithm is a compilation of rules and data that make decisions about what users want to see on the platform. The social media sites create unique algorithms for every person who uses the site which means no two people will have the exact same social media news feed.

In my approach to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I consider the two pillars of this psychotherapeutic modality as a type of algorithm—or simply ‘rithm. The first pillar relates to the ABC Model and the second concerns unconditional acceptance.

The ‘rithm is also influenced by personal responsibility and accountability, stoicism and existentialism, and purpose and meaning. Using this method of mental, emotional, and behavioral health treatment, I seek to meet people at their level—much like Chuck D.

Though clients may never have walked in my shoes, or I in theirs, we can use the ‘rithm to find common ground and resolve self-disturbance. This is accomplished through the disputation of irrational beliefs and without placing unhelpful conditions on tolerance and acceptance.

The rebel

Often, I encounter resistance to the ‘rithm from rebels of a different sort than Chuck D. These people tend to favor an idealized version of mental healthcare in which attendance at sessions leads to catharsis—the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from strong, suppressed, or repressed emotions.

Unlike many other psychotherapeutic modalities, REBT practitioners aren’t as focused on helping people feel better. Rather, we favor the challenging and often uncomfortable process of self-change that allows people to get better.

Some rebels have told me, “Deric, REBT makes sense analytically or intellectually, though not emotionally.” To this, I wonder who on earth said that a difficult course of change should, must, or ought to be emotionally appealing?

For a rebel of the ‘rithm to demand that treatment must fit a particular paradigm, one imagines the individual’s circle of control is self-deceptively larger than one’s spheres of influence and concern can accommodate. Dear rebel, you simply don’t have as much oversight as you believe.

The ‘rithm aims to alter core irrational beliefs which people use throughout their lives. Practicing new ways of viewing the world and incorporating this information into new belief systems may be likened to use of one’s primary language in juxtaposition to learning another way of communicating.

Having learned English from a young age, I was informed about nouns, subjects and predicates, verb conjugation, and other linguistic rules. Once I began leaning Brasilian Portuguese, I had to restructure sentences, adopt masculine and feminine rules of speech, and respect other grammatical heuristics.

In order to speak differently than I was taught in my youth, I had to think differently as an adult. This wasn’t an easy process for me, largely because I never fully mastered my native language in the first place.

Without changing my old way of thinking, when asking for a glass of water I sounded something like, “Water, me have please, much you thank.” By enduring discomfort and learning to tolerate the embarrassment of mispronunciation, I achieved a conversational grasp of the language.

I changed the ‘rithm and learned a new way of interfacing with the world. However, suppose I was to rigidly demand that others should have spoken English so I didn’t have to learn Portuguese when in Brasil.

How would that rebellious mandate have served my interests and goals? It wouldn’t have. Likewise, the rebel who willfully refuses to apply the REBT technique—or who requires that others and life ought to operate according to the individual’s will—may not achieve success from this psychotherapeutic ‘rithm.


“Yes, the rhythm, the rebel” taught me more in the ‘80s than I understood in that moment. Applying Public Enemy’s lesson to my approach of therapeutic practice, I liken an algorithm to the pillars of REBT.

Some rebellious individuals reject this technique and willfully demand other methods to resolving interpersonal conflict. To them I say, “I’m not lowering my level. The hard process, which you’re stuck in, I’ve prob’ly been, though didn’t stay trapped in again and again.”

It may’ve taken a nation of millions to have held back Public Enemy, though it only takes one person to keep you ensnared in irrational belief which impacts your emotions and behavior. What will you do about your situation—“fight the power” of your unhelpful beliefs or rebel against a useful ‘rithm?

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 the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, 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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