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Music and Mental Health – Red Hot Chili Peppers – John Frusciante

There is a level of understanding that comes with an ability to look inwards. Realisations come from the awareness of internal conflict and bringing unconscious thoughts into the conscious, which in turn awakens the mind and changes our perspective on life. John Frusciante is a man who actively explores this understanding. He states that there are some key aspects that maintain a healthy mind-state: meditating, reading, and writing.

I spoke to John about these elements and how the inclusion of music can bring a whole host of benefits to our mental health and well being. I asked John firstly about writing thoughts down:

John Frusciante: ‘It’s been really good for me. I think it’s being able to see the mind from an exterior position. It’s another one of the issues that come up especially with people who have mental imbalances: that you’re trapped in your mind; there’s no escape. It’s like being imprisoned. You’re inside yourself, you’re inside your body, your thoughts are inside your mind- you can’t escape. Your thoughts aren’t just moving along in some kind of cosmic orbit, they’re determined by your surroundings and your conditioning. The realisation of the inability to escape from it, not being able to step out of your mind- the more you think about it, the more overwhelming it can become- especially when you’re not happy with the thoughts that are in your mind, you’re not happy with your surroundings, and you’re not happy with the way people have treated you.

The thought that you can’t escape from within yourself is really terrifying. To be able to examine your thoughts when you write them down is really illuminating because you can read them back to yourself 5 minutes later, and have a completely different reaction to it than you had when you were thinking the thought. It becomes much easier at that moment to look at what you’ve written and say: ‘well that’s true from one angle but I can also see it from this position.’ Your emotions are directly tied to your thoughts and you had no ability to be able separate them. Then you read it a couple of days later and you’re in a different mood, and by looking at it from this exterior position you’re able to mentally put it in it’s place in a clearer way. By the brain taking in those same thoughts but in a completely different emotional context, you’re able to establish some sort of separation between your thoughts and your emotions; which if you don’t ever write anything down and don’t ever look at yourself from the outside, you’re incapable of doing.

I’ve resolved so many issues of my childhood from writing- page after page, when I was all revved up about them. By writing about them and reading them back to myself, somehow in that process I accomplished a lot of the same things that could potentially be accomplished by going to a therapist every week for years. I found it within myself to forgive people that I’d always resented, I’d always felt like a victim because of, and through writing them down I was able to see the balance of it all, and to not blame that person for their own actions but to realise that the way they treat people is the result of the way people treated them. There’s no more point in being resentful of another person for something they’ve done then there is of being resentful of life itself- which to me doesn’t really make any sense. The brain that’s making that statement ‘I resent life itself’ is only here by virtue of that brain, so who’s the ‘I’ talking? The ‘I’ talking is nature itself. If you’re attaching importance to the opinion that life is f****d, you’re automatically giving credence to life because life is the thing that’s talking and saying what you think. Something’s built into our characters, we all think a lot of what we ourselves think! Each person thinks their opinions are very true and valid. It’s a built-in thing of our character. But I think to do that with your thoughts is really important [to write them down]. It’s really bad to get lost inside yourself.’

I spoke to John about being trapped in a distorted headspace with thoughts spinning around…

John Frusciante: ‘It’s a really interesting tendency on the part of people- is that they like being twisted. There’s a part of you that becomes comfortable there and you don’t wanna be released. I get like that when I’m in a bad mood about something and somebody tries to cheer me up, but I don’t want them to cheer me up. It’s like I’m happier being miserable than I am being happy. There are certain situations where somebody who would rather stay in their misery might be superior in their relationship to life than somebody who’s constantly trying to maintain a position of happiness- in that, there could potentially be a kind of emptiness. Sometimes people who go through life sad are some of the deepest people.

I can’t imagine it [writing] not being good for anybody. I used to be superstitious about writing down my thoughts, I only would write down poetry. When I started writing down ordinary thoughts, I couldn’t believe what a difference it made. Sometimes you might write the same thing all the time ‘I’m so sad, I’m so miserable…’ I’ve written those same entries in my notebook so many times- the same exact words. There’s a feeling of getting it out. There are times when just the act of writing it itself ends up bringing you to a new perspective. Sometimes it’s not even reading it back; as you’re writing it the train of thought is different as it’s more moderated. When you’re thinking things, your thoughts have the ability to go at this incredibly fast pace, much faster than we speak or can write, so sometimes the process of writing is also a process of slowing down the thought stream to where you’re thinking at a slower pace. You come to conclusions by thinking slower that you could when you’re thinking faster.’

The next part to come soon…