Where Was Heaven?
Where was heaven?
Towards the end of my tour of duty while assigned to Okinawa, Japan in 1999, rap group Wu-Syndicate released a self-titled album that featured a song called “Where Was Heaven.” Group member Myalansky performed the vocals.
As a side note, the video adaptation, “Where Wuz Heaven” has slightly different lyrical content than the album version, as I enjoy both renditions. Though I didn’t enjoy most releases from Wu-Tang Clan affiliates, something about Myalansky’s joint resonated with me.
Noteworthy, I was raised under Judeo-Christian doctrine and once believed in heaven. If you’d asked me whether or not I knew heaven was a real in 1999, I would’ve affirmed the premise. Currently, I simply don’t know.
Assessing Myalansky’s verses
On the intro of the track, the rapper states:
Shit. Sometimes, man, I just get stressed out and be like, ‘Damn, yo, I wanna go over here and just wanna’ smack a nigga up, you know what I’m sayin’?
At 23-years-old, when my brain wasn’t fully developed and before I knew of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), my mind functioned in a similar way. Back then, I didn’t understand the Belief-Consequence (B-C) connection of the ABC Model.
Instead, I thought in the way of an Action-Consequence (A-C) connection. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so I mistakenly believed my stress was the product of other people’s actions and that my reflexive behavior was warranted.
Imagine believing that because people utter syllables from their mouths in a particular way, physically retaliation is an appropriate response. That’s an A-C connection and not only is it irrational, it can be quite unhelpful.
An ordinary cat from outta projects since I was younger, though mom raised her children, pops dipped a long time ago. In my mind, I see flashbacks. I had no fancy clothes—skinny, ugly, knotty head nigga, crying with snotty nose. Even though my father neglect, he paid the child support. Hadn’t seen him all these years, I hug his ass in court. Always saying, “I’m coming to get you,” and I be waiting, too. Holiday and birthday presents was never coming through.
When a song expresses content familiar to my own upbringing, it hits different than songs to which I can’t relate. As the entertainer describes, I was mostly raised in poverty and predominately to a single mother.
Empty promises were made, paternal gifts weren’t exchanged due to religious beliefs, and I used my experience as fuel for an A-C connection in early adulthood. This misinterpreted cause-and-effect relationship went something like, “BeCAUSE I had a difficult childhood, the effect is anger.”
In reality, I merely projected my unreasonable emotions at others who hadn’t participated in my upbringing. Had I understood the B-C connection, I would have benefited from knowledge regarding what I believed about my childhood which was the mechanism that created my anger.
The rapper proceeds:
‘Member at the age 13, I started smoking weed. Hangin’ out wit’ cats that was older, I start to run the street. Dropped outta high school, selling drugs, impressing chicks. Spent most my cheddar on gear, my mans was buying whips.
Though use of drugs was never of interest to me, I did hang out with knuckleheads who pushed weight on the blocc. Many of them dropped out of high school, or were kicked out, and a few of my friends came to my high school graduation in support of an “untouchable” who was down with the team.
At that time in my life, I thought I had nothing to lose, because the life I’d led up until that moment was essentially considered pointless. Without unconditionally accepting myself, I was ill-prepared to take personal ownership of my behavior.
Myalansky carries on:
Niggas got bust. I’m a kid with a grown man’s mind, turning corrupt. Playing innocent in front of my elders, I was running with them cats that be robbing, too, I couldn’t tell ‘em. If my name was up in any type trouble, my moms would tell me, “Just like you brothers, into some shit, go get a job or something. Just a little bum on the street, not working hard for nothin’.”
I recall a number of my friends going in and out of incarcerated status, as I ignorantly thought something like, “BeCAUSE the po po hates us, the effect is they harass us.” Not only was I deceived through use of an A-C connection, I lied to myself about why police were frequently involved with my friends.
Myalansky admits, “Playing innocent in front of my elders,” which also speaks to how I behaved. If one perceives the need to play innocent, one also likely understands that one’s behavior isn’t acceptable.
I knew that what was being done in the streets was illegal, as well as morally and ethically questionable. Rather than Myalansky’s allusion to his mom criticizing the rapper’s behavior for similarity to his brother’s, my mom often compared me to my incarcerated uncle.
Using the ABC Model, and properly describing the B-C connection, here’s what actually occurred:
Action – My mother frequently said I would end up in confinement like my uncle.
Belief – I believed, “A mother shouldn’t treat her son like this and because she does treat me so terribly, I can’t stand living with her!”
Consequence – BeCAUSE of my unhelpful belief about the action, the consequence of my irrational demand was sorrow and anger. As well, I acted out—promoting a self-fulfilling prophecy by which I could at least take control of the circumstances attributed to my mom’s proclamation. Ultimately, I was locked up for my behavior—not due to my mom’s prediction, though because of a self-sabotaging belief.
Perhaps unaware of the B-C connection, Myalansky ponders:
Growing up was hell, no doubt. I wonder, “Where was heaven?” Always look for that place called heaven. It’s never there. I seen my man’s an’ ‘em gets… just get blasted on the block. Know what I’m saying? I go in the crib, I got stains all over my shirt, know what I’m saying? And my moms knew the type of shit I was going through, ‘cause I was a project kid.
When we fail to understand that we are responsible for the outcome associated with our beliefs, it’s easy to fall into a pit of victimhood. Realizing you hold the keys to metaphorical hades, you can save yourself by ascending from that pit of despair.
Myalansky advances his perspective:
Now, I’m a grown man. Still, it’s like life dealt me the wrong hand. Cat’s that was my man be frontin’ or either found dead—sound sad, incarcerated, just turned a new dad. Remembering them long ten months from slingin’ crack bags. Mom put me out with the quickness, “Carry your black ass.” But still coming back to the crib. “Oh, so you back?” Yeah. Ma, I just came to holler at you, see how you doing. Nothing’s changed after all these years, still hustle for some gear—smoke weed; still drink beers. I tell you from my heart, yo, times I’m like. “Yeah.”
Initially, the entertainer described his experience with suffering from a child’s perspective. Now, he continues the discussion though from an adult’s worldview.
Noteworthy, Myalansky laments live having apparently dealt him the “wrong hand,” as though there is an unmet expectation alluding to a right hand. I, too, carried a chip on my shoulder for so long that one person from my past jokingly nicknamed me “Chip.”
What purpose is there is pledging devotion to a victimhood narrative? What utility is there in whining, moaning, bitching, and complaining about how unpleasant an action or event is?
These forms of verbal protest are associated with the actual cause of discomfort—one’s belief about actions or events to which one is exposed. Myalansky progresses his narrative by describing how unhelpful maintenance of irrational beliefs actually is.
Like Myalansky, I observed friends from the blocc experiencing all manner of tribulation. And though I never served ten months in incarceration from drug distribution, the relatively short amount of time I was on the inside wasn’t pleasant.
Truth told, long before I wore a pair of matching bracelets, my mom kicked me out of the house. As such, the rapper’s description of his mom’s apathy was something that resonated with me.
However, my mom’s indifference and my failure to course correct for many years wasn’t due to some invisible force within life dealing me a hand of cards. Rather, my unhelpful and unhealthy beliefs were what kept me from winning at a proverbial poker table. I own that.
Myalansky concludes the track by stating:
I wonder if heaven was a place on this planet, you’d find me right there.
As a sample from musical group Slick’s song “Harmony” gently fades to the conclusion of “Where Was Heaven,” the listener is left to contemplate matters addressed in the song. Was it that Myalansky was trapped in a literal hell or did he perhaps create hell on earth by way of his beliefs about his situation?
Presently, I remain agnostic in regards to whether or not heaven is an actual place. Not long after “Where Was Heaven” dropped, I began to favor the el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz perspective of the juxtaposed concept of hell:
Although I’m still a Muslim, I’m not here tonight to discuss my religion. I’m not here to try and change your religion. I’m not here to argue or discuss anything that we differ about, because it’s time for us to submerge our differences and realize that it is best for us to first see that we have the same problem, a common problem—a problem that will make you catch hell whether you’re a Baptist, or a Methodist, or a Muslim, or a nationalist. Whether you’re educated or illiterate, whether you live on the boulevard or in the alley, you’re going to catch hell just like I am.
Like el-Shabazz, I’m not here to discuss religious faith. In regards to suffering, there have been many times in my life when I’ve caught conceptual hell here on earth.
On the intro of the track, Myalansky states:
You know what I’m saying, religion’s all good, but where was heaven, yo?
Could it be that an underlying should, must, or ought-type statement is inferred in the question? Perhaps a belief such as, “If heaven were real, I shouldn’t catch hell here on earth,” is insinuated. However, are the actions experienced in life what lead to our suffering?
As illustrated herein, through assessment of Myalansky’s verses, I was the culprit of my own demise. My beliefs about events are what led to uncomfortable, unpleasant, unhelpful, or unhealthy outcomes.
For many of the clients I’ve served throughout the years, use of the REBT method has resulted in people no longer functioning as their own tormentors. They no longer catch hell on earth, because the diabolically irrational beliefs they once used are banished into the bottomless pit of despair.
Would you like to know more about how to stop disturbing yourself with unhelpful beliefs? Are you prepared to undergo an uncomfortable process of self-challenge in order to lead a more fulfilling life? 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, hip hop head from the old school, and foremost REBT hip hop therapist in the world, 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
(This is a photo of me the year “Where Was Heaven” dropped, as many of my beliefs led to the experience of catching hell for a significant number of years. Looking at the picture, I imagine I knew everything there was to know about life. Oh, how wrong I was!)
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