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Monday, March 30, 2009

Nobody Said It Was Easy

Not to overdo it with the music videos, but sometimes video gives a whole new meaning to a song. It's like doing therapy. As soon as you get the rest of the story in therapy, a person's life makes more sense. You get it when you get the whole truth, the history.

ColdPlay has a song that I like, The Scientist.

I listened to it over and over again, which I do, like a four-year old, if I like a melody. After the tenth time on this one, I thought I had it figured out.

A couple has a fight, The Big Fight, and in The Big Fight they break up. ColdPlay bemoans the break-up in the ballad.
Nobody said it was easy

It's such a shame for us to part

Nobody said it was easy

No one ever said it would be this hard

Oh take me back to the start
.
He wants to try again, go back to the start. Take Two.

It's what we do in therapy, really. We go back to the start, take a look at what went wrong, try something different. Generally the try something different is called an intervention, a part of a treatment plan. We determine which intervention by putting our heads together. It helps to have a therapist armed with dozens of these things different.

Trying something different, being somebody different is much harder than it sounds. Change is packed with difficulty. And it feels like a risk, usually. We like things the same.

But I got it wrong, the meaning of the song. It's not about The Big Fight, the one that you never forget, hard as you try.

The Scientist by Cold Play

Come up to meet ya, tell you I'm sorry
You don't know how lovely you are
I had to find you, tell you I need ya
And tell you I set you apart
Tell me your secrets, and nurse me your questions
Oh let's go back to the start
Running in circles, coming in tails
Heads on a science apart

Nobody said it was easy
It's such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard
Oh take me back to the start

I was just guessing at numbers and figures
Pulling the puzzles apart.
Questions of science, science and progress
Don't speak as loud as my heart.
Tell me you love me, and come back and haunt me,
Oh, when I rush to the start
Running in circles, chasing tails
coming back as we are.

Nobody said it was easy
It's such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy.
No one ever said it would be so hard
I'm going back to the start.



Surely about regret.

And whether or not it was his fault is immaterial. He wants to roll back time.

When something bad happens, something unexpected, something out of the ordinary, life threatening perhaps, there are emotional stages of grief. We think that for most of us, these are unavoidable, quintessentially human emotions.

We want to turn back the clock, do something different.

Forget ColdPlay for a moment.

Say you've been told you have cancer and have only so long to live (not the norm, that kind of news, but it happens). You'll grieve your future loss of life. Even if you've been told that your prognosis is good, that you'll be fine, that it is not life-threatening, your mind will play tricks on you. You'll still worry. You'll regret not having lived your life to the maximum, you'll think you've done something wrong, that you're being punished for the disease.

Forty years ago Elizabeth Kubler Ross (1969) let us in on the ways we grieve, even when we haven't lost anything yet. Anticipating loss can make us sick, just as having lost someone or something (money, for example) can make us sick.

I read her wonderful little book, On Death and Dying, in high school, and felt as if I had been let in on some big secret. Someone recommended it to me when I was dealing with my brother's death. It is probably still required or recommended reading for most graduate students in mental health fields, for mental health is all about holding it together. And loss wrecks our equilibrium. Maybe by now undergrads read it, too, high school students even.

Kubler-Ross defines the five stages of grief work, but there are more. We can thank my son-in-law for reminding me about guilt and self-blame. Kubler-Ross would have filed those under depression:

denial (this can't be happening, it isn't true);

anger (this is SO wrong, I don't deserve this);

bargaining (I'll give more charity, I'll be a better person, just change the decree!);

depression (no point in even trying to be happy here, life is meaningless now);

and acceptance (It is what it is, keep cool and play it out, stay in the moment, don't catastrophize, don't make it what it isn't just because you can, just because you have an imagination).

Acceptance tends to be the baseline for emotional management, but it's a goal, not a given. That's why Kubler-Ross puts it last. I would call it a mediating variable. Without it, no matter the intervention, the resolution of the problem isn't likely to happen. We'll still feel we're in the grieving process.

Acceptance underlies one of the lesser known cognitive-behavioral treatment modalities, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) . Here acceptance is the springboard, the starting point, the place from which the real work in treatment begins.

Obviously you can't rush it, you're going to have to feel all of those bad feelings first, you have to, it's the way we're made. If you don't, you will eventually. They come back to bite you. But the idea in either case is to shoot for accepting things as they are.

Impossible. It really feels that way. Impossible.

So in therapy we try to make it possible. You work through the stages, the emotions, try all kinds of interventions, and at some point, miraculously, over time, if you don't rush it, you're there. Or you accept that you can never accept. That's accepting, too.

We'll talk more about ACT another day. It can wait.

But let's go back to the start, to ColdPlay. The fellow in the video, the one who regrets his part in the accident, is going to be stuck feeling bad for quite awhile. By making a video, turning grief into something creative, he has worked a fabulous intervention, something therapists forget to recommend sometimes. Stimulating another part of the brain like that, creating something new, if only for a little while, relieves some of the pain.

Unless. . .

he took Ecstasy the night before the accident, or maybe had some other drug in his system at the time. In that case, in therapy he might be encouraged to work a program* of some sort, commit to changing something about himself. We would stress behavioral change in this case, shoot beyond acceptance. Some kind of program.

I'd say, one that puts his science where his heart is.

therapydoc

*Working a behavioral program is not exclusive to the Anonymous programs for individuals with substance abuse problems. The 12 steps are really just a form of treatment protocol. You can see how they "work if you work them" at The Second Road).

6 comments:

Midwife with a Knife said...

(Blogging when I should be working... oh well).

I think this is fairly similar to what I do with women with diabetic stillbirths from their uncontrolled diabetes. When they're diagnossed with the stillbirth, we primarily focus on the here and now (this is where we are...). And then, when they come (if they come) for the followup visit afterwards, we talk about why the stillbirth happened (really high blood sugars are really bad for babies), and how to avoid having it happen again. And the way to avoid it is keeping the diabetes in control.

Hm...

Syd said...

I read Kubler-Ross's book years ago. I think that acceptance is a great part of the Al-Anon program. It's acceptance with boundaries though. I don't accept unacceptable behavior. And that's where the different behavior has to come into play.And it's like Step Nine--an amends is not an apology but a commitment to a change in behavior. Thanks for all that you write.

Anonymous said...

It is funny you should post this ...I had this dream long ago but it still fresh in my mind about this fight/problem I had with a friend and his fight/problem with now ex -wife)( that i deeply loved and in the dream, the scene plays backwards and the song the Scientist is playing as it goes backward becomes whole again. The one scene in the forest makes me think of enya;s return to innocence.

Dreaming again said...

Been thinking about your blog post all day.
Wasn't able to watch the video this morning ... just did. You're right, it completely changes the 'story'

how many of us wouldn't go back to the start if we could ...

porcini66 said...

I like that we can start our days all over again if we screw up...at least that is one thing that my program has taught me. The only caveat is that we need to own OUR parts in what went wrong and make an amends - as Syd said, an amends is not an apology, but a commitment to a change in behavior. This is how life is supposed to be - nobody is perfect. Hopefully, if I do things according to that program, I won't lose the things that are near and dear to me after all...

blognut said...

I did a post last week - Would I, Could I? - about going back in time. I wouldn't. I can't. I guess I'm at acceptance now... mostly anyway. Eh, what do I know?