When reflecting on recurring schemes or patterns in your life, we’d often love to apply a very pragmatic approach: Something doesn’t work. We analyze it. We have an hypothesis. We fix it. Everything’s fine. Bad news is: Experience shows that it’s normally not that easy.
There are things that can be fixed, and other things that will probably follow us through the rest of our lives. There is a saying that even 20 years of psychotherapy won’t change a penguin into a giraffe. Obviously, you can recommend to the penguin that he might feel better leaving the ecosystem of giraffes in order to find something more comfortable for himself. But, nevertheless, both patients and therapists normally agree on a lesson learned by experience: By analyzing your patterns, you do not learn not to fall into the same hole over and over again. Normally, you just learn how to get out of it quicker and how to try to avoid it.
At first sight, this might seem a bit frustrating and disappointing. But actually, it’s not that bad, because in the moment we accept it, we feel the relief of not having to fight for change any more, and the sensation of a burden lifted can be enormous. Therefore, almost every form of therapy concentrates on two aspects: Acceptance and Change. Or, as my father used to tell me: If you can’t root out your neuroses, pour them some water.
To illustrate the point of acceptance, I’d like to quote one of my favourite Pop Singers, Darren Hayes.
In both, his career as the lead singer and songwriter of 90’s pop band Savage Garden and as a solo artist, Hayes used music and his lyrics to express feelings like alienation, solitude, anger, depression and longing. One of the first hits of his former band, To The Moon & Back told the story of an alienated lonely girl escaping herself in Science Fiction fantasies in order to express the wish to run from her bleak and desolate reality (which might even include an allusion to suicide). I have already mentioned Two Beds And A Coffee Machine, a song from Savage Garden’s second album Affirmation that describes a mother escaping from her home after experiencing domestic violence, caught between the responsibility to protect her children and the reality of not being able to provide them on her own. Especially his second solo record The Tension And The Spark dealt with many of these topics in a very blunt way: The lyrics to Unlovable illustrate how a recent rejection experience can reanimate old schemes of self-accusation, anger, aggression, shame, blame and self-hatred (You make me feel like my mother, she abandoned me / You make me feel like the act of love is empty / Am I so unlovable? / Is my heart unbreakable? / Do I remind you of a part of you that you despise?)
During the campaign of his third solo record This Delicate Thing We’ve Made, Darren consciously decided to disclose how his personal background and the way he grew up influenced him and caused a lot of these emotional turbulences:
“My whole career as a big commercial pop artist was fed through self-hatred, basically. It was all about escapism in a fraudulent way. I became a pop star because I knew I had to become something extraordinary to escape”.
If you trace a line through the work of both Savage Garden and Darren Hayes solo, there is a recurring theme of being unloved and unlovable. It is part of what connects him at his most popular to a mass audience. If Darren is a master at articulating the simple sentiment of what it feels like to be rejected, it does not come without its own poignant back-story.
Darren grew up in the working class suburbs of Australia’s Brisbane. In the early 80s, on the run from his Father’s violence and alcoholism he was just 10 when his Mother took him and his siblings to live in a caravan to escape regular scenes of violence. His relationship with his father has been both the making and undoing of Darren Hayes. His father having long since recovered and redeemed himself (sober for 25 years) – the childhood clearly left an indelible mark on Hayes. It was his need to please that propelled him to invent a life as a pop star. The fame came but could not fill an emotional hole.
(from the official promo biography 2007 written by Paul Flynn, source below)
In a blog interview during this promotional campaign, Hayes was asked about whether his view on these topics has changed thorough the years, and he gave some remarkable answers.
Do you feel that your prior concept of being “unloved and unlovable” is still a melancholic reality for you? I think there will always be a part of me that feels hideous. I am very lucky that I am in a really gorgeous relationship – I am loved by someone that just sees me for all my strengths and weaknesses and accepts me whole. I never thought I would find that, I always thought I would end up alone. (…). The fact that I can’t lie about my insecurities is my thing. I’m a bit broken and a bit messed up. Thankfully, I’ve worked out how to put one foot in front of the other one and get through life and smile.
What’s the symbolism behind the paper crane that features on the cover artwork? It seems complicated, but it’s not. It’s an album about relationships and how fragile we all are. The paper crane is a metaphor for being alive. When you unfold it, you can see all of the creases representing the scars and choices that we have made, whether they are good or bad. That’s our life, that’s what makes us who we are. The idea of This Delicate Thing We’ve Made is just my way of saying that everything that happens to us, creates us. Essentially you see a whole life unfold when you unwrap the bird. [Darren then begins to fold a paper crane for me.]