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I am a total sucker for songs with visceral lyrics; particularly those that appeal to my vocational field of mental health. One of the songs I've been listening to on repeat, is called "You're Somebody Else" by: flora cash. I love the chorus:

Well, you look like yourself

But you're somebody else

Only it ain't on the surface

Well, you talk like yourself

No, I hear someone else though

Now you're making me nervous 

From what I can gather the song is a farewell ode to a close friend and/or lover. It's in the framework of the song that I find so much affinity; it strikes a balance between the ability to hold tensions, and splitting. "What's splitting, Billy? And what do you mean by holding tensions?" Well, I'm so glad you asked!!

If you were to do a quick google search on psychological splitting this is what you'd find: 


"Splitting is a psychological mechanism which

allows the person to tolerate difficult and overwhelming

emotions by seeing someone as either good or bad, idealized or devalued.

This makes it easier to manage the emotions that they are feeling,

which on the surface seem to be contradictory." 

It's a bit of a reductionistic definition, but it does the job I need it to for our purposes. Essentially when a human being finds an object relation (person, idea, event, etc...) cognitively, emotionally, or convictionally  irreconcilable- we have an unfortunate tendency to split (move to definitive extremes) as a "reconciling" coping mechanism. This happens at the cultural level as well as at the personal level. You can see it in many examples; one of the most compelling, being that of politics- i.e. the polarization of viewing a political figure as either, the savior of the nationalistic agenda, or (on the other side) and individual who has a moral decomposition more extreme than that of Adolf Hitler. As a child I experienced a significant amount of splitting that often manifested in abuse. One of example of this (from my childhood) was found in religious extremism- often in these scenarios, when someone makes a mistake, or struggles with brokenness in their lives- they can often be slapped with a big red "A" on their chest for everyone to see, and shamefully acknowledge.

So much relational trauma that I experience as a therapist stems from significant splitting either perpetuated by the individual I'm sitting with, or perpetuated toward them in relationally abusive ways. I grow frustrated by this, especially as it exponentially grows in our society... I love a line from Professor Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter, where he commiserates with Harry that "the time is coming in which we are going to have to decide between doing what is right, and what is easy." While the tendency toward splitting has many possible origins, either as a result of developmental delays, abuse, trauma, modeling etc... It is- as is noted above- often the "easy way out."

See, one of the things I LOVE about this profession, is its bedrock and foundation of recognizing human beings as beautifully complex, and sacred in nature. This implies that every human should be understood as implicitly, inherently, and objectively immune to reductionism/splitting. I think my clients are probably tired of it at this point, but a significant element of my therapeutic philosophy is the concept of learning to hold tensions. As a therapist I appreciate the reality that I might have to do this FOR my clients for a time as they navigate and process their own stories- allowing the unconscious to be conscious; while working through various areas of splitting associated with their story. One of the anticipated/hoped for effects of this is that the client will begin to learn how to hold tensions, which gives way to space for complexity in their lives and relationships. People aren't good, people aren't bad, or merely in-between, they are all of the above punctuated by significant spaces of brokenness and hope; and they fluctuate on this continuum throughout their lives.

As therapists I hope that we operate from a space of holding tensions, and recognize that splitting -in any manifestation- is both marginalizing and destructive. The ability to hold tensions emphasizes the sanctity, beauty, and complexity of the human being; and frees us to be ever curious. 

~Billy Robinson, LPC