In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to write about a song I like to use in mental health and substance abuse recovery groups, though I think it is pertinent in most peoples’ lives. It’s from the late 90’s, which I know is showing my age! You can read the lyrics here and watch the music video, but be forewarned that she is “naked” in the video.
When I first heard this song as a teen, I didn’t give it much thought, but years later and listening to it as a therapist, I hear it so differently. There are a lot of contradictions in this song, in my opinion. There are also a lot of things Alanis “thanks” in the chorus that we probably wouldn’t typically “thank,” such as “terror,” “frailty,” and “consequence.” Why would someone ever be thankful for any of those things? I think the answer comes with time after one has experienced those things. Isn’t it true that at the moment we experience consequences for our actions (especially negative consequences) it seems as though it is the worst time in our lives, but later, we tend to realize that the consequence had to happen for our own growth? Is it after a brush with terror that we realize what we need to do to keep ourselves safe? And isn’t it so that being in a frail state is what teaches us to be grateful for and to value our own strength? Life is certainly not 100% “good” all the time, but without the “bad,” can there really be any “good?” All the negative things we encounter in our lives seem to help us to change for the better in a lot of situations. If I really think about it, there are a lot of things that have happened in my life that, at the time, seemed terrible, but looking back, there are other more positive experiences that I’ve had because of the negative things.
In between the choruses, Alanis sings about things she is thinking about doing differently, such as “unabashedly bawling my eyes out” and “enjoying the moment for once.” If you look at her list, there is a lot of valuable advice:
- Get off those antibiotics (or any other kind of unnecessary medication, for that matter).
- Stop eating when you’re full.
- Don’t blame someone else for everything.
- Enjoy the moment for once.
- Forgive others.
- Deal with things one at a time.
- Stop hurting and being mean to yourself.
- Remember your divinity.
- Bawl your eyes out every once in awhile.
- It’s not the end of the world if you choose to stop doing something.
What if we chose to do some of the things she suggests? Even just making one or two of these changes could be life-altering, couldn’t it? That being said, none of these are particularly easy and would take some effort, but it really could be worth it in the end.
In a mental health and/or substance abuse recovery setting, we can talk a lot about the experience of being hospitalized during a discussion about this song. This may be one of the worst times in those patients’ lives but once they are further into their recovery, they may one day realize that this hospitalization was maybe one of the best steps they could have taken. Discussion could also include things they need to do to better care for themselves. There are lots of lyric discussion opportunities as well as song transformation options with this song!
What do you think of this song? Do you see it differently than I do?