Author: Kuster, Ted

More Therapy

This is a second set of papers I came across while rifling through my therapistís files while she was out of the room. It summarizes some of the methods therapists can use to help bluegrass pickers make a clean break and get their lives back, if they want them.

Journaling is a useful way of helping bluegrass pickers clarify their thought processes and release their feelings, and to explore ways to recover some social acceptance after weeks spent practicing in the woodshed.

Basically, instead of letting tunes buzz around in their head, they make journal entries. At first, such entries tend to rhyme and mention cabins a lot, but that effect dissipates over time. Since, as we have observed in clinical practice, practicing an instrument almost always requires both hands, journaling becomes a form of self-help as subjects must stop picking to hold the pen. Of course, many subjects no longer know how to use a pen after years of bluegrass exposure, but that is a separate issue.

We should not forget that bluegrass picking, as strange a practice as it may seem, represents an attempt to meet a legitimate need. Emotional tracing is an intervention that is designed to identify and appropriately respond to off-beat musical needs. I simply ask them to explore what they were playing prior to their bluegrass addiction. Often, they report feelings of boredom, depression or literacy. I have them re-experience what it was like to play clarinet in the fifth grade, and i remind them that theyíre no better at the banjo today than they were on the clarinet. Soon enough they see that all is folly, all we are is dust in the wind, and they might as well go back to KFOG 94 Classic Rock Radio.

Detuning is an intervention related to emotional tracing but more active. Its purpose is to help the bluegrass picker experience his picking the way others do: as an intolerable cacophony without any redeeming value. To do this, we secretly replace the subjectís electronic tuner with one that has been purposely mis-calibrated. After a week of this, the subject loses his confidence in his own ear. Free-floating tuning anxiety takes over and the subject begins to see the futility of it all.

A clear majority of bluegrass addicts I have treated have a deep sense of religious guilt. They feel terrible about sleeping late on festival Sundays and missing the morning gospel stage for the last 8 years straight. I require these subjects to set their alarms for 6:00 on Sunday mornings, and wake up and watch TV preachers until they canít stand it any more.

Many of my subjects report experiencing a new sense of peace and fulfillment when they escape their bluegrass addiction, and say they are eager to help others do the same. Some of them get together in bars, church basements and living rooms more often than one might expect. They say they are helping each other stay free of bluegrass temptation, and Iím proud of their commitment to their healing journey.

Posted:  8/20/2013

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