Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Santa Fe: Eminem from Trauma to Recovery

Eminem never claimed to be a role model. His lyrics are intense, angry, and filled with profanity.  His videos are graphically sexual and violent.  Eminem’s music references addiction and crime.  Listen carefully if you can because this is the story of his life experience.  Eminem is a living example of what counselors mean when we describe “kids from hard places.”

At the Creativity and Madness Conference,*Annette Fortino, LMSW, treated us all to an in depth case study of the traumatized child Marshall Bruce Mathers who grew up to be the best-selling artist in the 2000's and named King of Hip Hop by Rolling Stone Magazine.

·         Marshall was born to two musical parents in Missouri in 1972.
·         Father left the family when he was an infant.
·         No relationship with his father while growing up.
·         Mother reportedly addicted to pills and alcohol, physically abusive
·         Multiple moves, from little towns in Missouri to Michigan approximately every 1-2 years.
·         Settled into Detroit during teen years at the time that Detroit was in rapid urban decline, with 23% unemployment and high crime.
·         Half-brother removed from the home when Eminem was 15
·         Dropped out of school at 17

Marshall was lacking in support and mentoring throughout his formative years, and had an ambivalent attachment to his mother.  His Uncle Ronnie (mother’s half-brother) was a few years older than Marshall and they were reportedly very close.  Ronnie gave Marshall a dictionary and introduced him to his first rap song.  The dictionary sparked a fascination with words. His uncle committed suicide as a young teen.

Marshall took his love of words, his natural musicality, and expressed his pain through lyrics.  He became involved in the emerging Hip Hop culture and enrolled in freestyle rap battles.  The stage name Eminem was an evolution of M&M.  Marshall’s persistence, practice, and dedication propelled him to enter contests where he ultimately became discovered by Dr. Dre.

Trauma leaves a neurological mark on a child which remains throughout the life span.  Typical behavioral symptoms include difficulty regulating emotions, aggression, impulse control problems, and negative self-image.  The body remembers.  Eminem is known for his rapid fire, complex rhyming, and lyrics that release the pain.  Recovery from trauma involves making meaning of the experience through empowerment.  Words and music continue to help Marshall save himself. Check out Cleanin Out My Closet.

Fame was not without trauma.  His mother sued him for defamation of character in a 10 million dollar lawsuit.  She was awarded damages of less than two thousand dollars.  Traveling for tours disrupted Eminem’s sleep and he began taking pills to sleep. Alcohol and pain killers followed soon afterward.

Recovery from addiction brought about other changes in Eminem.  He publicly (and privately) forgave his mother in his song Headlights, and he began raising his only daughter.  Eminem has just released a new album and is active in NA and AA in Los Angeles.  He has developed a charity (The Marshall Mathers Foundation) for disadvantaged youth.

Eminem’s recovery from trauma and addiction will be a lifelong intention to live one day at a time. His journey through the pain reminds us that creativity is transformational.  

*If there are any errors in this post please forgive me, they are unintentional and the result of poor note taking on my part and not the dynamic and intensive work of the presenter: Annette Fortino, LMSW,ACSW,CAADC,EMDR certified.  Ms. Fortino traveled from Michigan to Santa Fe with her son Joe, who performed percussion to enhance the presentation of this artist.  They received a standing ovation for this informative and inspirational study.