[FTNB EXCLUSIVE][MOVEMBER][THE DOCTOR IS IN]

The Doctor is In: Kesha (featuring Eagles of Death Metal)—”Let ‘em Talk”

posted by Matthew Conner, M.D., P.L.L.C. November 21, 2018 0 comments
Dr. Matt Conner

Kesha has probably had a worse few years than you. It’s not a competition, but if it wer, her cards to play include a loss in court against her accused rapist, an eating disorder, and a rehab stint. But she came back a healthier artist, dropping the hottest album of 2017. Rainbow is dripping with extremes of up-tempo rock anthems, glitter-snarl attitude, and thoughtful ballads. I didn’t stop dancing or singing along once when her tour hit Raleigh.

But more than great music, her album proves she has learned a lot in her recovery. I could write a post about easily half the tracks on this record. The one I’m picking for Movember, the one I think best applies to us men and is so rarely actually taught to us, is “Let ‘Em Talk.”

That’s right—it’s Boundaries week here on Fighting The Nashville Blues!

Shake that ass
Don’t care if they talk about it
Fuck all that
haters, just forget about them

Kesha, “Let ’em Talk”

“Boundaries” is a word us shrinks use to talk about the essential rules of communicating in relationships. It’s a little tough to define, so I’ll give you some examples instead.

I’ve got a lot of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, opinions, attitudes, etc. Some of them, I can choose. I can, like we covered last week, opt to spend my attention on the past or the present. I can recognize that thinking about old mistakes is more likely to get me in a sad mood compared to thoughts of my present-day options. But I’m not ultimately responsible for my feelings. I can’t help it if I feel sad seeing a picture of a refugee camp, or if you remind me of that jerk in middle school, or if a plate of olives makes my stomach twist up and my nose do that scrunchy reflex thing my mom told me was rude and that I had definitely inherited from her mother-in-law.

What I am responsible for is my actions, including what I say and how I say it. “No thanks” is probably going to be better for my relationship to my host than, “Olives are gross. I won’t eat them, and I think less of you for thinking I would.” Even if that’s true. And it is.

Remember, that same rule applies to every other person in your life. People are responsible for their actions, not their thoughts or feelings. If somebody’s putting you down, it’s absolutely okay to point that out to them. But if they’re generally cool to you, you can stop analyzing why. That’s on their side of the boundary.

Here’s where that gets awesome: As long as they keep their comments civil, their opinions don’t actually mean anything. It’s good to know them. Part of an authentic friendship is a curiosity about a person’s inner world. But if they don’t like how you do something, well, “fuck all that.” You want to tell me I stepped on your foot? Please do, I need that feedback. I’ve affected you. You think I need to take a few lessons and lose ten pounds before I share your dance floor? Thanks for letting me know your thoughts, that’s cool, I’m still dancing until I decide not to. Maybe you won’t like me. A risk I’m willing to take.

Do your thing
don’t care if you make ‘em jealous

Kesha,”Let ’em Talk”

So does that mean we get to say whatever we want? Like, if your hurt feelings aren’t under my control, why should I even think about you? No, and here’s why:

We are all people together. We’re existentially alone, it sucks. We’re all going to die and probably not together; and until that day, we’re just walking each other home, my friends. That shared community, however loose or arbitrary, means we have a responsibility to each other. We have to take ownership of our side of the health of our relationships.

If I said something and it pissed you off, you may be overreacting. I don’t know you. Maybe you take everything too personally. But if I want a relationship with you, I owe it to both of us to ask what happened. “I have no idea if this is because of something I did, but you look/sound angry; and since I haven’t tried to piss you off, I’m confused. If you tell me what’s bugging you, I can explain or apologize for my side of it. If you need time, that’s cool, too, but message received, you’re mad, I get it.”

Because I don’t have a responsibility for you. I’m not in charge of reading your mind or predicting your emotional reflexes. But I have a responsibility to you. I factor in what I know about you when I talk to you, and if I step in something, I apologize or ask about it.

Until then, what do I do when I freak out that you’re judging my dancing or hurt by my speaking up for myself when we tried to pick a movie for our next date? I get to remind myself of the boundaries. The freak out is on my side of the boundary and not controllable. What you think about the situation is on yours and is just as far out of my control. What I say to you or where I put my attention, that’s up to me. So I’m going to talk myself down as many times as I need to. And we’re going to be just fine.

It used to hurt me
Used to bring me down
But do your worst
Cuz nothing’s gonna stop me now

Kesha, “Let ’em Talk”

Special case: People in relationships with people using drugs or alcohol to avoid emotional pain may have an extra-tough time with this “responsibility to versus responsibility for” thing. It can be hard to trust a person to take care of himself when his substance abuse keeps him from really doing that well. So people can end up thinking it’s on them to keep the family going, to keep the neighbors from asking questions, to make sure she doesn’t have a bottle hidden in the bathroom. If this sounds familiar, please check out Al-Anon, a free group that meets all over the world and even on Skype. There’s no better way to learn boundaries.

Let’s all take a lesson from Kesha this Movember. Let’s dance, not like nobody’s watching, but like we don’t have to take responsibility to keep them entertained. Let’s use our boundaries to give ourselves a break for the natural moods we feel and to get closer to the people we love. And let’s let ‘em talk.

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