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Mental Health Themes in Music: "Machine Learning"

Welcome to the next entry in Mental Health Themes in Music! Today we’ll look at the pop song “Machine Learning” by J. Maya, which was released in 2022 on the album “Poetic License.” Full disclosure, this song was recommended to me by a client, and it serves as a good representation of what masking is like, particularly with neurodivergence. Let’s take a look.


Make social calculations

Know when you're supposed to cry

Fake real communication

Rehearse your scripted lines

Is living a performance?

Depends how it's defined

Forget that all your friends don't have to try


These lines highlight the experience of masking. Masking is best defined as hiding or disguising parts of oneself in order to better fit in with those around you. While most people tend to develop this as a coping strategy at some point in their lives, it can also become harmful, especially when someone is masking more of the time than not. The act of masking can be exhausting at best. Oftentimes, it is soul crushing.


Just memorize the manual

You're hopeless on your own

If you make it look natural

Then nobody will know


I often hear from folks, particularly neurodivergent ones, that they feel like everyone got “the manual” except for them. However, no manual actually exists and everything is, ultimately, a social construct. While social skills are important, we do need to challenge the ones that are harmful.


I know you wanna be yourself

Like everyone else

If you stick with the program

Maybe one day you'll be

More than a machine learning how to please


One of my strongest beliefs is that everyone should have the right to be themselves. I know that’s, unfortunately, not a simple thing to accomplish. However, one question to ask ourselves is how can we change the environment to give everyone more space to be themselves? The first place to start that comes to mind is with our own discomfort of what’s “different” and starting to challenge it.


Ultimately, we owe it to ourselves and loved ones to be more inclusive and accepting. One way to go about this is to educate ourselves and not expect neurodivergent folks to do that work of educating others. I invite you to start with this article on Autism and Camouflaging.







 

Kim Johnson, LMHC, MT-BC, is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) and board certified music therapist (MT-BC) who graduated with her master’s from Lesley University in 2017. She has experience with adults and adolescents in group private practice and community mental health settings. The levels of care she has worked in are outpatient, with both individual and group therapy and in partial hospital programs for mental health and substance use disorders. Additionally, she has had intensive training in dialectical behavioral therapy and cognitive processing therapy for PTSD.



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