I Wanna Get Better

The Bleacher’s “I wanna get better” is first and foremost a great song.  It inspires hope while avoiding trite platitudes – that was what initially grabbed my attention.  Intrigued, I looked up the music video and was titillated to see that the song was about psychotherapy.  I had mused as much –  after all, that’s my job and the themes seemed relevant. I was blown away by the creative, connected feel the video elicits.  I have wondered, myself, about a common refrain that either I hear or that I want to hear from my patients…. Something like the refrain “I wanna get better.” I can’t say that’s the resounding refrain in my office – maybe more like, ‘I’d like to get better but at what cost, anyway?!’  Regardless, the song is an evocative masterpiece that deserves its place in the therapy rock cannon.

Mostly people think bifurcately: I am (at once) deeply important and utterly irrelevant.  The oscillations between these poles – and the distances involved – define the undulating rhythm of our lives.  Here’s what I mean – we are all oscillating between poles, along spectrums and the physics of said dynamic oscillations are, at this time, only accessed in exceedingly small qunata of insight.  Typically, such insight emanates piecemeal during development as children gain exposure and then insight (in that order) iteratively and thus, in small but steady amounts, they accrue emotional competence.  On one night, if an average parent is able to engage a few different important cognitive functions in connection with simple emotion recognition, like the strict embryology we love and admire, functional emotional brains develop competencies that are generalizable and generative.  So given the glacial pace of development, it is unsurprising that therapy takes forever – in serious treatments, we are tinkering with vestigial brain functions fused with archaic modes of unconscious defensive posturing that have worn out their welcome, but only in part.  Working on this project has been called ‘the impossible profession’ – understandably so.

This autobiographical tune encapsulates the seriousness of this struggle and in its exalting, crescendoing echoes personifies the types of resilience, rapidly expanding insight, and artistic tenacity that I view as sublimation.  Sublimation is the crowning accomplishment of human kind.  When healthy, people are able to invest energy into producing valuable contributions to humanity.  When people are able to straddle artistic and emotional domains, this sublimation really starts to feel sublime.  It’s one thing to work on yourself in therapy its another to write appealing, accessible songs about it without trashing the whole thing!

I am also a musician, in addition to a therapist, and so the artistry of the composition, the tastefulness of the production, and the grit Antonoff deploys – millennial ennui be damned – make this song and video an instant classic.  I don’t think you’ll meet many psychotherapy types who don’t think fairly seriously about music.  Music heals the chafing pain of chronic mental illness and has few, if any, side effects.  We are enamored of this positive attribute.  While I conjecture that the structure – lyrically and musically – of this tune reflects the content of the struggles Antonoff characterizes so elegantly, such an analysis is beyond my pay grade.

I, too, wanna get better.  I join, completely, in the bettering, the reflecting, the trying, the connecting, the starting again, the accepting, the soothing, the reassuring, and the better feeling.

Thanks, Jack.  Sorry it took me four years to find you.