“It’s Gonna Be [May]” and Mental Health Awareness Month
Summary: In this post I recognize May as Mental Health Awareness Month, and I reflect on how it is important to open your mind to BOTH/AND lines of thinking. I reminisce about my connection to the song, “It’s Gonna Be Me,” and the many memes poking fun at the mispronunciation in the chorus. I connect the joke to how misinterpretation and miscommunication can happen in relationships and how we can resolve it.
The foundation of a joke is connection. The same can be said about healthy relationships. Ensuring that your joke registers requires that your communication is clear to your audience, and that they follow what you are talking about. Deep connection is the foundation of a really great joke: when someone communicates an idea you’ve had, but never thought could be shared with someone else. This is also why we can laugh so much when we are feeling deeply understood and loved.
When I was growing up, my world revolved around N*SYNC’s “No Strings Attached” for several weeks after buying one of the 100s of copies on display at Best Buy. I listened to “It’s Gonna Be Me” and wondered if I was alone in my imagination. While listening to the song, I imagined it was really about someone leaving a troubled relationship for this amazing woman named Mae; “It’s gonna be Mae!” Cue camera shot moving from the indignant face of the scorned previous love to Justin riding off into the sunset with this illustrious Mae.
Fast forward years later to the height of memedom on the last day in April where I roll on the floor laughing when I see a meme with young Justin’s grinning face with the set up “Y’all know what tomorrow is?” So it wasn’t a woman named Mae, but the reference was close enough for me. This is still one of my very favorite memes.
Fast forward more years later where, as a mental health therapist, May means more to me than N*SYNC’s favorite month, May is also Mental Health Awareness Month.
So how are the two connected? Welcome to my mind:
As a relationship therapist my aim is to help heal connection. This requires that the people involved become BOTH good at communicating AND good at listening.
When I’m working with a couple, let’s call them “Justin” and “Britney” they may experience a problem like this: Justin is singing a song referencing himself, and Britney hears it as him referencing another woman. We call this a communication issue. This sounds simple enough to resolve, but when we bring in our histories and anxieties, this issue becomes much more complicated.
A simple resolution to the problem is to combine lines of thinking so that both can take more responsibility to connect. One line of thinking says that it’s Justin’s job to better communicate what word he is actually saying so that Britney’s insecurities are not triggered. Another line of thinking says it’s Britney’s job to listen carefully to Justin and keep her insecurities in check. If both parties can see that BOTH lines of thinking can be true AND both can take responsibility, they can lean into their roles to improve communication. If this can happen, we have a relatively simple resolution.
Humans are complicated, however, so often people come to therapy because expressing and listening is not so simple. Holding a BOTH/AND perspective becomes hard to balance when biased by reactivity from our past and our present anxieties. We get stuck holding on to just one line of thinking, and we are not able to see the other side. We lose our sense of humor and instead of laughing at how a word got misinterpreted we get preoccupied asking, “who is Mae?” over and over. This confusion hurts us both individually and hurts us in relationship.
A trained and caring mental health therapist is going to stay patient and nonjudgmental as you and the other people involved figure out how break down the barriers to clear expressing and listening. They aren’t going to say “what’s wrong with you that you can’t get the joke?” They are going to explore what gets in the way of you saying what you need to say or hearing what you need to hear. They help you clear out the junk in your heart and mind so that you can bring more joy and levity into your life.
Having a balance and clear perspective about yourself and with others is a big journey, so I wish you all the best in May and every month.
So Happy May! And Happy Mental Health Awareness Month!
For more resources, here is the link to the Mental Health America organization that founded Mental Health Awareness Month in 1949: