Dan Knoepfler, MC, LMHC
Individual, group, and family therapy
Thoughts for the Day
October will be posts related to music and songs.

If you want to provide a guest post with or without attribution email me.

Links to archives of previous months are at the bottom of the page.

"Proud Mary" is a great song.   It talks about slaving away at a job and getting up the courage to quit and do something different.  It may not pay as well, but if you are part of a community it doesn't matter because people will look out for each other.     People talk about golden handcuffs all the time that  keep them connected to something (mainly a job) that makes them money and miserable.   But if you are part of a community and give to the community , the community will look out for you too.  Maybe this is an old-fashioned concept and people may feel cynical about whether it remains true.   While the method of connecting and supporting one another has changed,  there are still ways we all look out for one another.  But the point is that this will only happen  when you are connected to others.

One of my favorite love songs is "Intimate Friends" by Eddie Kendricks.  I remember falling in love 19 years ago and this is a song that made me happy during that time (and to this day).   If you haven't heard it before take a listen.   You may not know the song, but the instrumental of it has been sampled a lot and you probably have heard other people using it.

One of my favorite songs is "Killing Me Softly".    Music has always moved me, and this song is all about that.   Some musicians have a knack for writing and performing music that we can relate to.  Furthermore, there is something about music having the ability to penetrate even the most guarded person.   Musicians  sing about love, lost loves, pain, suffering and sometimes even joy.   This song captures the magic that music can create in all of us.

Although I haven't seen Hamilton, I have heard the soundtrack and I like it.   It's refreshing to have musicals use more contemporary music in shows.   It will help draw in new audiences to the medium.

As a person born in Salt Lake City as a non-Mormon, I was interested when hearing that there was going to be a musical on Broadway about being a Mormon missionary.   There are many funny and interesting parts to it.  And I believe that the Mormons have been good sports in general regarding this.  In some respects, many aspects of their religion were explained to the general public who would never have been exposed to Mormonism otherwise.   There are so many good songs from the show it's hard to pick one.  "I Believe" is the show-stopper.  But they all have some cleverly written lyrics.    If you haven't seen the show, it is worth going to a live performance.

Growing up my dad was always playing music in the house.   This wasn't what everyone else's dad was listening to however.   As a person who was born and lived in Europe for the early part of his life, he was raised on classical music.    In addition to Mozart, the three B's as well as other classical composers, he listened to the soundtrack to Candide.   I remember the song "The Best of All Possible Worlds."  It took me a long time to understand that this song was sarcastically making fun of people who viewed this as the best of all possible worlds.   I didn't and don't want to be a cynical person, but then I don't to be naive either.   At the end of the song, it is punctuated by the statement Q.E.D., as if somehow he has proven that this is the best of all possible worlds.  There is always a funny irony when people proclaim their answer to be THE answer, when they are so off base, or it is an issue or problem with no simple answer.   Life is so complicated.  Q.E.D.

Jimi Hendrix's "Bold as Love" is a great song representing different emotions with colors.   Many colors have come and do represent emotional states.   And as a whole human being we all have a rainbow of colors within us.    We don't always all recognize or know a name for things we are feeling.  And sometimes we will try to suppress or avoid certain emotions, but they are there.   Embrace your emotional rainbow and live a fuller life.

There are some songs that even though they are poppy and fluff have great messages.   I got hooked on a One Direction song "The Story of My Life."   Love is a risk.  And each of the guys has his take on it in their verses.  The constant and what is most of our foundations are our families.   We bring our approach to love in our present lives from our experiences of love and affection growing up.  We gravitate to what is familiar.   This is how we can find wonderful and supportive people.  But it also how multi-generational abuse can occur in spite of how bad it felt to witness or be on the receiving end of it.   If you come from an abusive or neglectful family, work at not repeating the patterns that are the story of your life.

Carrie Underwood put out the song "Before He Cheats" which became wildly popular.  It appeals to everyone, but women in particular,  regarding getting even with someone who hurt you by hitting the person where it hurts.  In this case she trashes her ex's prized possession, his truck.  While our instinct is to lash out when hurt that is only a short-term way of trying to feel better.  It really accomplishes very little and causes a lot of problems instead.  It's hard to sit with pain, disappointment, hurt and most of all betrayal.  The solution is to surround yourself with people who are loyal and will support you through the hard times.  The empowerment Rod Argent was speaking of in "Hold Your Head Up" wasn't trashing your ex or his things.  It was to take control of one's life.  It's being assertive, not aggressive.   "Before He Cheats" feels good for people to sing in the middle of feeling wronged.  And singing about all the things you want to do can be cathartic.   But doing them is criminal, and not the best way to handle losing the love of your life.

A song from an earlier time in my life was Argent's "Hold Your Head Up."  It's a song to inspire people, and women in particular, to hold their heads up, be assertive, even when being doubted or questioned and to persevere.  The organ solo by Rod Argent is amazing.   It may not inspire everyone to move confidently forward, but it did for me. I always thought the song's lyrics were "Hold your head up, whoa" and all along the "whoa" according to Rod Argent is actually "woman."  

Stevie Wonder has written many amazing songs.    From the lighthearted to the serious.    Today the song "Love's in Need of Love Today" is the one that resonated with me.   There is a lot of hate going around, and it's easy to get caught up in it.   And part of what this song is saying is that love needs to be fed and nurtured and encouraged.   Love isn't just a feeling but an action.   It's contradictory to talk about hating or judging in the name of God.   God is about love, and more specifically about love in spite of the imperfections in people.

During my teen years (and beyond) I have loved listening to The Who.    The movie and soundtrack to Quadrophenia is one of my favorites because of  the strong feelings of isolation and alienation described by the songs.  The need and desire to belong and going out of one's head trying to figure out where that was.   The lyrics are cleverly written by Pete Townsend using oxymorons in phrases in the song to describe these competing feelings.  Examples such as "magically bored", "sadly ecstatic", and "gravely outrageous" are but three in the song.

Earlier this week I went to see  Stanley Jordan perform at a local club.   He is one of the most talented people I have ever seen.  He talked about playing Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra in a stone cavern in Hungary that has been made into a music venue.   How amazing and cool is that?   When he played Bartok for us it was great, and I was imagining how it might've sounded in the Hungarian venue where he had just played it several days before.    I enjoy being in "the zone" where the world disappears and you are just living in the moment focused on one thing.   Stanley Jordan is one of those people who can take me to that place.  Are there people or situations that allow you to truly live in the moment? 

If you are old enough you probably remember when the video for Blind Melon's "No Rain" came out.  The lonely sad little bee, watching rain gathering in puddles and reading books.   Not understanding, but experiencing depression.  The turning the point comes when she discovers the new world through the gate which is full of socially awkward bees just like her.  And she can dance and be part of something.   Humans aren't meant to isolate, and we all need to find community with other people.

Probably one of the more ambiguous songs written in the last 40 years is Bohemian Rhapsody.    Freddie Mercury refused to clarify anything about its meaning before dying.   A common interpretation is that it is about his coming out process, while being in a long-term relationship with a woman.   The death in the song is of his straight persona, and the fear of judgment for being gay leads to a lot of turmoil.  This was 1975, and coming out with a religious family would have been difficult.  It's amazing the shift in the culture that has occurred to allow for a much more accepting view of being bisexual or gay.

Joan Osborne is known for her song "One of Us".    However, I am feeling inspired by the song "Spiderweb" though.   Its a song about Ray Charles getting his eyesight back.  He loses his ability to create music and instead he sits in front of the TV and his brain is full of spiderwebs.   What I take from this song is that life is full of trade offs.   He might've been a gifted musician because of or in spite of his blindness.  However, when he gained sight, he lost his gift and was focused on a more passive activity (TV watching).   Sometimes, other people and their lives seem more attractive than our own.  However, there are many unique and positive things that make us who we are.  People will sometimes say they would give up their left (insert a body part here) if they could only look a certain way, or have a specific talent.   I say rejoice in your innate talents, embrace the way you look,  and hold onto your body parts.

I still miss Prince.   There is a lyric from his song "Cause and Effect" that I try to live by.   The part of the song I am talking about is: "If you stamp your passport full of regret, you have nothing to remember and a lot to forget."  I have talked about the idea that I prefer experiences over things, especially when spending my money.  You can't totally ignore the past, and it is foolish if you don't plan for the future, but try and live in the present, and fill your life with experiences that are meaningful to you.   If you do that, when you reflect back on your life, you will have more positive memories and fewer regrets.

One of my favorite Bruce Springsteen lyrics is from the song "Tunnel of Love".    Bruce sings, "Then the lights go out, it's just the three of us.   You , me, and all that stuff we're so  scared of."    When you enter into a relationship it can be intense and hopefully intimate.   When people let down their guard, and allow another person really get to know them and see inside  the ride can get rough.  But love is about taking risks, and having faith, and knowing the joy of connecting with another person.  And...   You will never get that joy without risking your heart.

The end of the another month.   Turning points, anniversaries and other changes (even of a calendar page) sometimes bring out uncomfortable feelings, even if there is a positive aspect to the change that is occurring.  Honor your feelings, but try not to let them rule your day. 

When working with people who have been in the "system" for many years, you can understand why they might be skeptical about whether you will be helpful or not.  To end up in the "system" most people have had one or more negative events occur in their life.   Along the way some professionals  have helped them, and others have appeared to betray their client's trust.   People who have had these life experiences would be fools to blindly trust a new therapist to look out for them and their interests.    As a result, therapy with people in this situation tends to take longer to get started, because there can be a fair amount of testing of whether the helping professional can be trusted.    As a client in this situation, realize that your cautiousness makes sense.  Just understand that therapy may proceed at a slower pace for you because of your previous experiences and your need to be more careful.

As a therapist, I am a fan of working with other people.   In the last 30+ years I have never worked in a solo practice.  While providing therapy isn't a physical job, it can be cognitively and emotionally demanding.  One aspect of providing good care is to have peers to discuss cases with as well as your reactions to them.   If there is an ethical complaint filed against a provider, the PROCESS by which a therapist decided how to intervene  can be as important, if not more so, than  the CONTENT of their decision.    If you are in the market for a therapist, ask them if they are in a group practice, or if they are part of a consultation group.  Even the most well trained therapist can have blind spots or buttons that get pushed.   Having trusted colleagues to discuss cases with is a critical part of remaining helpful to the people.  If a provider is practicing in isolation, I would be cautious about using their services.

When is the last time you set a goal and actually did your best to follow through in doing it?   People who tend to get more of what they want in life have short and long term goals.    You don't have to be perfect, especially in the beginning when you are starting  something new or heading down an unfamiliar path.   But with goals and attempts to attain them, its easier not to get stuck in a rut. 

Set a small short-term goal and attempt to accomplish it.  Maybe it's to make your lunch and bring it to work, rather than to spend money on the spur of the moment buying prepared food.   Perhaps it's to take a ten minute walk during your breaks at work instead of sitting in front of the computer playing games, or texting with friends and family.  Whatever the goal(s) may be, most of us feel better when we set goals for ourselves and attempt to achieve them.

I sat in on the teen group for the first time in awhile.   One of my individual clients was graduating.   I feel hopeful because he has made a remarkable transformation in the time I have known him.   He has always been a good kid.  Now he is a good kid with a little more direction and self-control.

I did some fall cleaning at home this weekend.   I feel so much better that the area where I spend 90% of the time at home is cleaner and better organized.   If I am bored, I get a lot of payoff in cleaning up, even just a little bit.   It's not like a top to bottom thing.  But if one area is improved, it feels good.

Are you feeling a little isolated?   Are you wishing you had a broader circle of friends?   While apps and websites that promote activities may be part of the solution, I would encourage you to consider something first.   Think about what do you like to do.  Engaging in that activity with people who have a similar interest is a great way to make new friends.   Apps and/or websites may facilitate linking up with people with similar interests, but they aren't required.     For example, if you like to hike and camp, join the Mountaineers.   If you are into mushrooms, attend a Puget Sound Mycological Society Meeting.  If you like poetry readings, check out the Seattle Weekly or The Stranger and look for local venues that have poetry readings.   I live by a shop that sells spiritual objects that also offers meditation space for people free of charge.  They have classes on mindfulness as well.  These suggestions (and others like them) can be a low-tech alternative to find activities to do and/or meet new people.

I went to a concert at a local club on Wednesday.   The performer asked that people only take pictures during the first two songs, and requested that people put their phones and cameras away after that and focus on enjoying the show.   A person next to me repeatedly was not respecting the request.    On two occasions the artist stopped the show and stared at the person.   The person had this shocked looked when this occurred the second time, like "are you looking at me?" The person put their phone away and the musician resumed performing.  We live in a society where many people believe that the rules do not apply to them.   I have never seen a performer actually stop and stare, and wait for the person to stop and respect their wishes, but I wholeheartedly approve.

There is a book from about 5-6 years ago called "Thinking, Fast and Slow" which I am reading.   It talks about our brains having this two-part process when we deal with information.  The first part deals with what is familiar and that we tend to handle in an automatic fashion.   The second process deals with situations and information that is less familiar that requires more processing and conscious attention.  The second process uses a lot more energy  - literally.  This tends to be an efficient system of conserving energy.   When you think about learning, it can sometimes feel like hard work.   And in particular if it is something new, this can literally be true.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of putting on a new pair of shoes.  Although they aren't always the most noticeable part of an outfit, they certainly can make a difference.   I had a client bring in his new shoes today to show me.  They weren't even on his feet, which I found rather amusing.  He pulled them out of his backpack to show me.  They were very nice and I could see why he was proud of them.  I hope there is a day sometime soon when he actually lets himself enjoy them on his feet.

One of the more rewarding aspects of my career is training apprentices in the field.   The beginning of the process can be difficult.  But then you see the transformation occurring before your very eyes.  Things that were difficult for the apprentice to catch and address start becoming second nature.  You see their confidence grow,as does their presence in the room with clients.  And then the pride in them and their skills  swells.   

When completing forensic evaluations, sometimes it is really sad because there are many serious concerns that are raised that must be addressed.  Recently one of my reports was eerily on-point to a degree that rarely happens.   I felt prescient in this particular instance.   You can't really pump your fist in the air and say "Nailed it!" in these situations. But it is an odd experience to understand a person to the extent that you know what their next moves will be.

Over the last few days, I have had several opportunities to tell people how much they mean to me.   In return I have been told this back.   There is something very gratifying about these exchanges.   The world can be a dark and dismal place.   Knowing there are people that care about you and that you can show care and concern for in return makes life a little brighter.

As I noted last month, the universe has brought into my life people who are struggling with drug abuse.   Recently I was talking to a young man who was incensed because he perceived that I did not believe he was remaining sober.   This is because I stated that in a month or two he would have clarity about an issue that I felt he didn't currently see in an objective way.   Sometimes people can actually be easier to be around high, and the real work begins once they are sober.   If you have used drugs to manage your thoughts and regulate your feelings, there can be quite a rebound effect coming off of them, whether they are legal or illegal drugs.   When you have avoided for months, or even years, it is really hard when you get clean and you are flooded with thoughts and feelings.    If you are in this situation, please be patient with yourself and those around you.  Remember it will get better with time.  Sometimes people choose mental health therapy or CD treatment to help them get through this, other people have opted for 12 Step programs.  Some do both.   I strongly recommend having a lot of support in place when you embark on starting a life of sobriety.   Stopping your drug or alcohol use may truly be the easiest part of the process.   Living sober from day to day can be much, much harder.

There are people in my life who are very sensitive about having their picture taken.  They don't like it.  And they really don't like it when they're posted on social media sites.   There are a variety of situations in our lives when obtaining consent is required.    The next time you want to take a picture of someone, consider asking for their permission first. You might get a more natural smile when you do.

I was on the local NPR station in Seattle in the wake of the mayor of Seattle resigning.  The topic was about the importance of talking about sexual abuse.  It's an uncomfortable topic.  But sexual abuse thrives in silence and avoidance.  Here is a link to the podcast version if you are interested in hearing it:  https://t.co/yDyHezeqOB