Country Music Therapy

Gosh, I haven’t written in eons. Just as well, because the entries would have been just as dull as the others. I volunteer at the library and compiling newsletters for Master Gardeners, I reupholster chairs, I knit baby blankets, I put in a fall garden of lettuces and greens, I set up a SEP-IRA, exciting stuff. But now I’m overwhelmed with more freelance work than I can handle, so of course I feel inspired to blog and do housework instead of face the tedium of editing a new edition of a not-well-written social policy textbook.
So I think I just had a thought. I think country music fulfils a therapeutic function. (I mean real, good country music, not what you can hear on the radio, unless you’re listening to 93.3 or a few others in Athens.) What I’ve learned in therapy group is that some people have “negative self-talk,” where they hear negative comments about themselves in their head over and over, such as, I’m such a failure, Nobody would want to be my friend, I’ll never find anyone to love, etc. (Clearly I do not suffer from this problem, since I sing songs to myself like “I Am So Beautiful to Me” and “Courtney Is So Awesome”–but so far evidently this is not a sign of insanity or psychological disorders, surprisingly.) Anyway, to combat this negative self-talk, a person is supposed to employ “fighter statements,” or basically say the opposite to themselves whenever the negative self-talk starts running. So if they think “Nobody likes me,” they should counter with a fighter statement such as “I have some very close friends” or maybe “I’m a likable person.” (Stuart Smalley, anyone?) By doing this over and over, eventually they quiet or defeat the negative self-talk. (Or as my mother simplified it when I tried to explain it to her, they have a more positive attitude.)
[Editor’s note: I know I’m mixing singular and plural pronouns and antecedents. I figure you can all handle it.]
So I think country music does sort of the same thing as fighter statements. But instead, it undermines negative self talk by making it so extreme that it becomes humorous, therefore pointing out the ridiculousness of it, and overcoming it that way. For example, one of my favorite country songs of all time, Junior Brown’s “What’s Left Just Won’t Go Right.”
What’s left of my life is so unkind,
I think I’m going out of what’s left of my mind.
What’s left of my body is too tired to fight.
I’m a goner.
What’s left just won’t go right.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
My car’s broke down on the side of the street.
What’s left runs better than what’s left of me.
Ain’t nobody fool enough to hold me tight.
I’m a goner.
What’s left just won’t go right.
See, the extreme, poor-me lyrics are always undercut with the humorous pun at the end. So the poor-me part is shown to be ridiculous and silly. Therefore nullifying the seriousness of the negative thoughts. Does this make sense to anyone but me?
Other great examples are themselves spoofs of typical country songs–anybody remember Hee Haw?
Gloom, despair, and agony on me.
(Woe!)
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery.
(Woe!)
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.
(Woe!)
Gloom, despair, and agony on me.
You might have to hear/see this one, the exaggeration, to see the amusing aspect. And of course there is the classic
Where, oh where are you tonight?
Why did you leave me here all alone?
I searched the world over and thought I found true love.
You met another and (pphffttht) you were gone.
So if the world listened to truly good country music, everyone would be happier. QED.

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