A Conversation With Blurryface
One of my fave bands, Twenty One Pilots, write songs and lyrics that very directly and beautifully give voice to emotional sources of suffering. Their lyrics give expression to doubt, existential angst, fear, confusion, anguish and of course shame. Topics of mental illness, suicidality, loneliness and alienation are addressed. While many topics appear dark, there is also a sense of hope, purpose and even joy embedded in their message.Their newest album, Blurryface appears to contain (whether intentionally or not) many lyrics that give voice to the experience of shame.
The following is a conversation with “Blurryface,” a character depicted in their album of that name, while imagining him to have come in for an initial evaluation/psychotherapy session. All his responses contain lyrics taken from songs in all four of their albums.
Therapist; Hello. Welcome, please make yourself comfortable. May I ask, how would you like me to address you?
Blurryface: My name is Blurry Face.
Therapist: OK, very well, nice to meet you Blurry Face. That is a rather unusual name. So tell me, where do you currently live?
Blurryface: I’m fairly local. I’ve been around, I’ve seen the streets, your walking down.
Therapist: However I sense this is not your place of birth. Where are you from originally?
BF: Where I’m from, there’s no sun, my hometown’s in the dark.
Therapist; I assume you mean that metaphorically. So tell me, why have you sought counseling at this time?
BlurryFace: Can you save my heavy dirty soul? ….I’ve been thinking too much, help me!
Therapist: Is that how you feel? Like your soul is heavy and dirty? Sounds like you may be carrying a great deal of shame.
BlurryFace: Am I the only one I know? Waging my wars behind my face and above my throat?
Therapist: Though it can certainly feel very lonely and isolating, I have been increasingly finding that you are far from alone with the experience of shame.
BlurryFace: You say I’m not alone, but I am petrified.
Therapist: What thoughts do you entertain that may emanate from the experience of shame?
BlurryFace: I’m a pro at imperfections and I’m best friends with my doubt.
Therapist: Has this experience gotten more difficult for you? Why at this time are you seeking help?
BlurryFace: I was told that when I get older all my fears would shrink. But now I’m insecure and I care what people think.
Therapist: So you also stated that you are thinking too much. Can you tell me more about that?
BlurryFace: I have these thoughts so often I ought to replace that slot with what I once bought.
Therapist: So you’re saying you try to distract yourself from your thoughts. What do you use?
BlurryFace: My car radio.
Therapist: Does that seem to help?
BlurryFace: Somebody stole my car radio and now I just sit in silence.
Therapist: How is that for you…to sit in silence.
BlurryFace: Sometimes quiet is violent. I’m forced to deal with what I feel. There is no distraction to mask what is real.
Therapist: Indeed, ultimately, we all do…. have to deal with what we feel that is. Though we do go to incredible lengths to distance ourselves from our internal realities.
BlurryFace: I liked it better when my car had sound.
Therapist: Yeah… I get that. But it’s important to face our shame, fear, and whatever demons we are running from on the inside. Our suffering comes not from the demons but from our resistance to facing them. But that can be real scary.
BlurryFace: I thought I heard demons yelling. Those crazy words they were spelling. I thought I kicked them out.
Therapist: Sounds like you may be in a control war with your thoughts and feelings. Sounds also like you try to distract yourself from them. And thus silence may feel threatening.
BlurryFace: Sometimes quiet is violent.
Therapist: yeah, when not distracted we can be forced to feel rage, doubt, fear, shame, sadness and so on. Do you allow yourself to give expression to feelings?
BlurryFace: Fear may be the death of me. Fear leads to anxiety.
Therapist: So you are afraid of your feelings. That is pervasive in our culture. You know, Franklin Roosevelt once famously stated that “Man’s greatest fear is fear itself”. Fear is the signal for danger, but is not in itself dangerous. It is our conditioning that leads us to believe that such feelings are dangerous or perhaps weak.
Can you ever let yourself feel deep sadness or let yourself cry?
BlurryFace: No one looks up anymore cause you might get a raindrop in your eye. And heaven forbid they see you cry.
Therapist: Sure sounds like you have been trained to hold in feelings for fear of upsetting people around you. Perhaps you even feel responsible for the well being of others. I wonder what kind of parental messages you may have internalized in that regard…
BlurryFace: (My mother) asked me, “Son when I grow old will you buy me a house of gold? And when your father turns to stone, will you take care of me?”
Therapist: Wow, that’s a pretty heavy burden to carry huh? Certainly such traits as thoughtfulness, care, and compassion are wonderful qualities. But conditioning through guilt and shame can actually rob us of true compassion and can serve to remove us from being true to our own selves. Or even knowing our selves.
BlurryFace: I’ve been travelling in the deserts of my mind and I haven’t found a drop of life.
Therapist: Yeah…I hear you. We can become pretty empty when we are threatened by our internal thoughts, feelings, desires and so on. But all this results from conditioning and learning. Anything that is learned can be subject to change and modification. That’s the good news. But it will require the courage to visit places that may initially be difficult to face. But if you are willing, I can help show you that your mind and soul is not a desert but an abundant and vibrant landscape.
to be continued another time…..