Home / Posts Tagged "Aaron Rochlen"

And how can music be used to help counselors in training? According to Educational Psychology Professor Aaron Rochlen, more than you might think.

In his Counseling Theories class, Rochlen frequently connects complex psychological theories to media, movie clips, and song lyrics. In a recent visit to his graduate level course, several examples unfolded. He played a clip of LeBron James discussing why people enjoy when he loses as examples of “splitting” and “projection.” A clip from the classic movie Scarface, where Tony Montana tells others why they needed him to see him as the “bad guy” illustrated the concept of projective identification.

In another lesson, Rochlen shared a clip of the new Jim Carrey series Kidding, in which Carrey plays Mr. Pickles, a happy go-lucky TV character whose personality contrasts his depressed, grief-ridden, off-screen character. The scene was used to show the Jungian concepts of persona, shadow, and incongruence.

The class also talked about Tiger Woods, who made a recent comeback after a devastating personal scandal to win his first major tour in five years. Woods’ rise, fall, and return provide a case study for competing archetypes. Specifically, the class discussed the destructive power of what one could argue as Woods’ “hidden shadow,” which competes with his earlier good-guy public persona.

These in-class discussions gave the students the opportunity to apply what they learn about psychological theory and counseling. Says Rochlen, “Popular culture connects to and entertains us. But it’s often much deeper, more personal. In class, I try to make these connections and use these examples to facilitate an understanding of human distress and common life-challenges in a fun way.

It’s within this context that Rochlen introduced lyrics of one of his favorite bands, Dawes. Says Rochlen, “When I first discovered Dawes, I loved the music. After a while, I realized the lyrics offered ideal connections to concepts articulated by Freud, Jung, and existential authors. In class it became clear that my students were learning in different, creative, personal ways, and who doesn’t like jamming out in class?”

Some Dawes examples used for teaching stand out.  He played “Just Beneath the Surface” to illustrate Freud’s concepts of the unconscious, defense mechanisms, and Freudian slips.  He asked students to listen to “Something in Common” while prompting them  to reflect on the concept of “persona” and the unconscious message of dreams.

Professor Aaron Rochlen with the band Dawes

Professor Aaron Rochlen, center, with the band Dawes

After the listen, Rochlen typically asks students to describe what they’ve heard, including their emotional responses, with a particular connection to the lyrics. One student said that the Dawes line “All the best kept secrets are the ones I didn’t know I had” had a connection to the unconscious. Explained Nina Clinton, a student studying counseling education, “Freud saw the unconscious as having all of the deep hidden secrets or true selves hidden away, that in therapy he tried to recover.”

The lines, “The way that she remembers me is not the way I really am. But I’m hoping they’ve got something in common” reminded another student of “working with the shadow.” They explained “the persona and shadow should share some of the same qualities, so that a person does not become too conflicted … which leads to anxiety.” When a person’s outward persona and shadow have nothing in common, there can be hell to pay.

Taylor Goldsmith, lead singer and songwriter for the band, learned that Rochlen was using the band’s lyrics for class.  He said that it was “easily the highest honor of my career as a songwriter. It goes way beyond what dreams a songwriter like me could possibly have for his or her songs. When I met Aaron, he explained to me the ideas he used my songs to help illustrate. I wasn’t familiar with any of the terms or thinkers he was referring to, so that was definitely an added thrill … especially for someone who never got to finish college, which is something I hope I get to go back and do someday.

Says Rochlen, “A songwriter doesn’t need to be aware of the concepts to be impacted by them or communicate them.  It was clear Taylor has done plenty of introspection in his own life.”

Rochlen adds, “That’s part of why using popular culture is so powerful. It shows these concepts are an intrinsic part of the human mind and psyche. Each of us has the capacity to demonstrate the core concepts in our life, in healthy or unhealthy ways. Of course, although Freud, Jung and others wrote about all of this in different times, the prescience of their work remainsjust turn on the radio or television.”

Valentine’s Day is a day for romance—cards and chocolates, flowers and dinner dates. It’s a day to celebrate love and affection.

But are men really that into it? Or are they just going along to keep their partners happy?

Aaron Rochlen researches men and masculinity, with a focus on men’s mental health. He’s a program director and professor in the Department of Educational Psychology in the College of Education. He offers his perspective on how Valentine’s Day is perceived by many men who identify as heterosexual. He also discusses why it may be hard for some men to express their feelings openly.

Is Valentine’s Day an Obligation?

“Speaking in broad generalizations, women in relationships are perceived as embracing the romantic element that Valentine’s Day reinforces,” says Rochlen. “Women may be seeking an emotional connection they don’t always receive, or at least not as much as they’d prefer, from their male partners.”

“My sense is that men have this same emotional capacity, but accessing and expressing emotions may be more difficult to many guys,” says Rochlen.

The pressure to express that emotion may add to a sense of obligation some men feel about making a big deal about Valentine’s Day.

Rochlen says that personally, he’d rather not be on a timeline for expressing closeness and generosity. “When men feel there’s a specific date to express emotions—like Valentine’s Day— hanging over them, it’s tricky. Many guys would rather take out their partners for dinner or be romantic at other points in their relationship, when it comes more naturally or spontaneously, instead of being dictated by a calendar.”

Rochlen says he’s seen that pressure from family, friends, and even significant others can influence a man’s perception of masculinity.

“Men often are reinforced by culture to equate love with sexuality versus relational closeness and affection,” says Rochlen. “Men are socialized in troublesome ways to be sexually dominant and demonstrate power over women.”

There’s Hope

Yet men may feel that they scorned for being too masculine, but ridiculed for not being masculine enough. This Catch-22 can influence how they see Valentine’s Day.

However, Rochlen says he’s noticing a cultural movement that’s redefining masculinity—it’s becoming more acceptable for men to express their vulnerable side, even with each other. “There’s a shift toward men deciding ‘let’s embrace each other—metaphorically and literally.’”

Rochlen’s op-ed in Psychology Today, “A Positive and Refined Masculinity,” takes a look at how physical and emotional contact among men is changing. He references the NFL’s 2018 Super Bowl commercial featuring Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. “It shows us a different message of masculinity — one of playfulness, creativity, closeness with other men.” The NFL wouldn’t have considered airing an ad like this even five years ago.

Photo of Aaron Rochlen

Aaron Rochlen

Rochlen says the NFL may be opening up a new playbook on masculinity that a lot of men could follow.

Are we seeing men’s perceptions of Valentine’s Day changing? Maybe.

As more men begin to think it’s acceptable to express vulnerability and care, maybe their perception of Valentine’s Day will shift too. Says Rochlen, “And that would really be something to celebrate.”