Pop Psychology 6 – Better by Maggie Rose
The invitation to eavesdrop on Maggie Rose’s intimate conversational reflection is a sublime privilege.
Here’s a link to the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWIyAqT4DEY
The personification of the bottle enticing her to imbibe its contents so that “We can make it through this lonely night together” offers a timely reminder that as human beings we are designed for relationship. Strange but true; we can experience relational connection with a substance.
The trigger for the songsmith’s musing is her desire to “feel better”, “good”, “alright”, indeed “anything but what I feel tonight”.
The source of her discomfort is “the way he left”, of which she is reminded by the “pictures running through [her] head”. We are not told how he left, whether he died, or moved on to another relationship. It is apparent that contemplating the leaving tips into distress as she contrasts it with “the way he loved”; as she recognises that what she once enjoyed, she no longer has. To put it another way, she comes to a realisation that she has experienced loss. And the natural human response to loss is grief – deep, if not, overwhelming sadness.
Writing, as I am, at the turn of the year, I am conscious that many will be making new year’s resolutions, perhaps targeting a ‘Dry January’. It transpires that this is not the first time our lyricists have experienced the flirtatious call of the vial’s essence. But as vocalist Maggie plaintively intones “that’s a road I don’t wanna go back down”. It appears that merely imagining rekindling attachment to an object of fixation causes her to “hate myself for what I’m thinkin’ now” as she gets in touch with shame arising from dependence on a substance. Perhaps she is recalling the hangovers of the morning after as the body is desperate to rehydrate. Or, maybe, the nausea and blackouts as memories of the night before leak back into consciousness. Or, possibly, the difficulty concentrating and being able to perform at work. But the flask has not yet given up on its seduction “Hey,” it attention grabbingly interrupts her pondering, then whispers, temptingly, “it’s just one night, it’s not like it’s forever.” And the liquor’s coup de grace is it’ll make you “feel better”. And, temporarily, it may well, but her twin aims of wanting to “feel better” and “move on with [her] life and put the pieces back together”, are curiously at odds with one another, because the chaos of intoxication impedes this picture of ordered progress.
The grieving process cannot be rushed. It takes as long as it takes. Each individual’s grief is unique to them. So, reaching out to “kill the pain with a stranger’s touch” “when the lonely gets to be too much” driven by the need to “feel better” ends up being counter-productive because the pain needs to be experienced as the loss is processed, in order to “feel better”. And the songwriters seem intuitively to be aware of this “I know there’s gonna come a day when he’s still gone and it’s okay.”
The yearning to “feel better” while sparked by the aching void of absence is also fuelled by how the artist feels about themselves. As observed earlier, the composer’s shame springs from addiction to a substance (alcohol) or process (sex addiction) but could also have been exacerbated by the leaver choosing to go rather than being taken, involuntarily, by death, leaving the bereaved feeling somehow ‘not good enough’ and unworthy.
A registered therapist or counsellor or a trained pastoral carer can support and accompany you in your grief as you process your loss. They can also work with you to overcome addiction to surrogate relationships with substances or habits by helping you rewire your neural pathways as you come to a realisation that you are unique, precious and worthy in your own right with no need to be trapped by shame.
David Sinclair is a registered accredited psychotherapist, counsellor and supervisor.
He is the Pastoral Care Director of the Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC), a faith- based soul care agency.
David is also the Service Manager of Wessex Psychotherapy and Counselling CIO (WPC), a registered charity dedicated to relieving psychological and emotional distress.