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Episode 113

If I Could Just ____ My Life Would Be Great!

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Session Notes

Does social media make you feel like crap?  Are you wondering why other artists are getting the press / shows / labels that you're not getting?

Today we dig into some of the more negative feelings that can arise for artists - especially when we compare ourselves to other musicians.

Jealousy / comparison / envy / resentment can feel bad, but it's telling you something!  And, we can listen to those feelings, and actually make them useful.

On today's episode of Music Therapy, Jessica talks with therapist Rachael Jones all about how to listen to those feelings, understand them deeply, and then make an action plan that gets you what you want - in a way that aligns with your personal values.


Rachael Jones is a licensed marriage and family therapist practicing in the Chicagoland area who works with individuals, couples, and families. Rachael’s work often centers on helping clients to deepen their understanding of themselves, their relationships, and their families, identifying what is and isn’t working well for them, and using this new found understanding to create meaningful change.



Jessica Risker: Okay, I'm here with Rachael Jones. Rachael, thank you so much for being here today. I'm curious, what drew you to this topic?

Rachael Jones: I think a couple of pieces.

All the people in my life are in some way very creative, in differing degrees. Some are musicians, my husband's a writer. I have a lot of creative people in my life, and so I think that I'm just kind of fascinated by all of the human stuff that goes on around art, because it's so impactful on people's lives and their personhood.

Jessica Risker: I wanted to ask you further about what you mean by the human stuff that goes into art... What are you referring to?

 Rachael Jones: I think that art sometimes is kind of talked about in this sort of one-dimensional kind of way, like it should just be something that brings things in, it's just joyful, or it's just creative, or it's just a positive thing.

And I think that for a lot of people, there's two sides to that, where there can be so much good stuff that it brings in - but I think you also have to confront a lot of yourself sometimes when you're really, really involved with your art.

I think that there's this kind of bidirectional thing with art and the people who create it. And I think that that's really fascinating.

Jessica Risker: That is fascinating. I wanna hear you talk more about that.

Rachael Jones: For sure. My mom actually told me to make sure I breathe when I was doing the podcast today, 'cause I get really excited.

I think from a personal perspective and from a professional perspective, I've seen art be really healing for people, and I've also seen it be a source of very real frustration and disappointment and difficulty.

And then you have sort of this business piece that comes in with art, if that's something that you're pursuing in a professional context.

That is brutal - that's a brutal kind of force that often impacts people, and so I think this thing that can produce really good feelings, and really a lot of quality of life for people can also bring in these difficult elements.

I think that when we talk about art, we talk about it so kind of one-dimensionally, and a lot of the time that people aren't prepared to deal with those difficult pieces, and it can really tarnish the benefit of art for people and make something that was so joyful for them, way less joyful.

And that sucks because art is super joyful and it's wonderful, and it's one of the best things in the world, and some of these outside pieces can really dampen that for people and it sucks.

Jessica Risker: I really love this, the way that you're talking about this.

I know this feels better for me now, but there were years where, as devoted as I was to making songs and working on music, the inner critic was so loud and painful and would just... It was a slog, and it was just constantly beating myself up, and it's something I've had to work on a lot.

But just this, you're talking about this human element and all the things that creating art can bring out about ourselves is really speaking to me, I'm sure, a lot of people will really connect with that, that idea.

Rachael Jones: I think it's really prevalent. 

My father was a musician his whole life. He was a brilliant guitarist and bass player, he was awesome.

But he had a really difficult relationship with it, because it almost worked out the way he wanted it to and never quite got there.

I watched him wrestle with that. He'd pick up a guitar and he'd be having such a good time, and then you could see that sort of filter in that...

Jessica Risker: "It didn't quite get where he wanted to... " What are you referring to there? If you don't mind sharing?

Rachael Jones: Oh no, absolutely. So he played in the band, he was in the era where his band opened for Styx at one point. And he loved the band, and he was super talented. I can hear him in my head right now playing in our basement when I was a kid.

And they were sort of about to break right after they had opened for Styx and kind of done that whole thing, and this stuff fell apart interpersonally, as it can happen sometimes in any group.

And they were this close to kind of like music was gonna be his whole life and he wouldn't have to kind of do the other things.

And I watched him kind of wrestle with out his whole life. And then I see when I work with clients, this sort of desire to be creative and to really make friends with that part of themselves, but all of these other pieces come in can really get in the way.

And it's hard to watch. For people to have something that feels so good, it becomes so complicated. And nobody talks about what to do with that, they're just like, Oh, I don't know, make money. Okay, sure.

Jessica Risker: That's right. 

Okay, so I had cut you off when you were about to say what drew you to this particular topic. You were saying just this human side of art... Was there anything you wanted to add to that?

Rachael Jones: I also just find jealousy kind of fascinating, in the same way that I find how our society interacts with anxiety really fascinating.

They're both totally normal human emotions. There's nothing inherently unhealthy about jealousy. There's nothing inherently unhealthy about anxiety. But we have this societal notion that those things should be eradicated. Like if you have jealousy, the goal is to stamp it out. And if you're anxious, the goal is to never be anxious again.

And that's impossible, and really unhelpful for people, to have the eradication of those difficult emotions as the goal for health.

So I think working with jealousy is fascinating, because if we can shift our relationship with it, it's really liberating. I think that work is super cool. So when I saw the music and the jealousy, I was like, Oh, yes, please.

Jessica Risker: Amazing. You just said, if we could find a way to sort of work with it, the jealousy... What does that look like?

Rachael Jones: I think it's different for different people, but the core little nugget piece of working with it and living with it, is being able to tolerate it first.

The first piece is being able to let it sit. Because we can't learn anything about it if we can't sit with it at all. And so the first goal was to tolerate it, to let it be able to hang out with you.

Jessica Risker: Right. Just feel it.

Rachael Jones: Yeah, just let it. Let it be.

And then the second part, is we can start to kinda talk to it and understand it, find out what it is that it wants us to know.

Because I think that that's such a big piece of with the jealousy. It's telling us something, and if we can tolerate it enough to try to figure out what that message is, there might be something really important there.

And that's kind of the way that I try to work with people with jealousy, whether it's individuals and couples and families, and so when I work with jealousy either with individuals or with couples or with siblings, we try to learn what is the jealousy trying to tell you? What aren't you getting that it's trying to get for you by coming forward this way?

Jessica Risker: It's functional; it's trying to signal something.

Rachael Jones: Absolutely. There's a message here that it's trying to give us, and if we can listen, it's probably important.

Jessica Risker: So it's not that you shouldn't be feeling jealous. It's, Hey, that's here. Let's see what this is about.

Rachael Jones: For sure. Which is easier said than done, right? But that's where we want to go as much as we can, when it shows up...

Jessica Risker: So here's some areas that I think people frequently feel jealous as a musician.

1] You might be someone else's performance ability.

2] You might be feeling jealous of someone else's - what you perceive as - raw talent.

3] I've had clients who have an idea that they should be working on music six hours a day... Non-stop. Totally in the state of flow. So feeling like, Are other people doing this? Why am I not able to... This is not being a real musician, or Why can't I work like that?

4] A biggie, and this pops up, people don't use the word jealous, but in this podcast, I've done so many interviews with musicians and just about all of them talk about comparing themselves on social media. So, jealous of the numbers, or the likes, or the play counts, or somebody's showing their videos of their European tour, that kind of stuff, whatever, whatever is popping up on social media.

5] and then the last one that I added here was just kind of: Jealous of somebody's career, how they perceive them to be... Their status, I guess?

Rachael Jones: Absolutely. Like someone who's made it. I love those examples.

The raw talent one really got me, 'cause that wasn't something that I had thought of, but that makes so much sense.

And that feeling like there's a "formula", there's a right way to be a musician, that one really... Those two lit off my little neurons...

Well, I think there's kind of an overarching piece that I work with people with jealousy sometimes that I think would work here, and then we can take it into some specifics. But I think there's a couple of pieces there that what is the jealousy trying to tell us... And that definitely applies to these...

And there's the other part, where the values work that we talked about a little bit, embracing the crappy feelings a little bit.

If I can't get all the way to this thing that I feel like I want or that I should want, how can I use my values to get as close to it as possible in a way that's in alignment with me?

I think those are both really applicable with these pieces. So that feeling like there's a formula, but there's a "right" way to be a musician, there's a "right" way to be like a quality musician or a musician who's really pursuing it in the best way, in the most authentic way.

Regarding the jealousy piece, I think when there's a formula for things, it gives us this really nice black and white thinking: Either I'm doing it, or I'm not doing it right. And that black and white notion of success or rightness or correctness is really attractive.

It's really attractive, especially when you're working in a field like music, where there's really some very nebulous definitions of success and what it means to be successful.

If you ask 40 different people what a good musician is... You're gonna get 40 different answers, right?

So if you use that jealousy to look at why is this attractive? Am I looking for external markers of success, because I've never developed any of my own? Maybe I need to go ahead and develop those internal markers for what success is for me. Is it a particular piece that I wanna be able to play? Is it a length of playing time? Is it I wanna be generating new music? I want to move to being able to play only what I like to play and not have to play gigs where I'm like, oof, I guess...

So it can really tell you they're like, Okay, I don't have any internal markers, and so I'm really striving for these external markers. So I need to go ahead and develop those internal markers so that I get to define success.

Jessica Risker: We're talking about kind of a generalized jealousy: I'm seeing maybe this artist and I have feelings of jealousy. Maybe I see this person on social media and they've got this big show that they played.

And that's stirring up feelings of jealousy for me. And then I think you're saying, How do I turn within and see what... I don't know if you're saying this, but what aspects of that am I reacting to?

Rachael Jones: So what aspect of that am I reacting to, and also specifically with the definition of what it is to be a good musician.

So if you're kind of like... It's sort of like a little like a A to B to C, if you're seeing this person and you think they're successful, and then you wanna take their formula to practice for six hours a day, five days a week, and on Sunday, I practice for 10 hours or whatever. Right, and you're like, Okay, if I do this, then I'll be successful, right?

We're jealous of the routine that we think got them to the success that we like. And we try to do the six hours every day and the 10 hours on Sunday, and our brain is just not having it. We're not doing it. We find we're coming up with excuses and emergencies, whatever.

Jessica Risker: And you're getting down on yourself because you're not doing it...

Rachael Jones: Yeah, and then you get that inner dialogue of like, "Well, this is why I haven't achieved this... My favorite - because I'm not "disciplined" enough.

Discipline... I would like to just scratch that word from the dictionary, that word is... Oof! I think I'm not disciplined enough, and so if I could do this routine, then I can have this picture, right. Of this life that looks really good.

Maybe that routine doesn't apply to you because sixth straight hours in practice is gonna absolutely melt your brain. It would melt my brain, I would be a puddle on the floor of goo that couldn't make a word.

So what we can do with the values piece there? Once we understand why the jealousy is there, right, because we think if we can do this, we can be that. So we're jealous of that routine because we think that's the key to success.

We can do the values piece there of like, Okay, what is it about getting to this success place that I want, what is it about this routine that I really want? Is it that I wanna play for six hours a day and 10 hours a day on Sunday?

Or, am I so attached to this because I think it unlocks this thing that's really important to me? 

And if that's kind of what it is, then we can go and look at making our own routine, because if the best way we practice is two hours in the morning, two hours in the afternoon, two hours in the evening because our brain will melt, great.

That makes me feel like I am improving in a way that feels good. Or maybe there's other pieces that you can add in there, that once we can identify what's gonna make you feel improved, we work towards that, not this abstract thing you should be doing, so that... You get the big tour or whatever it is that we see that we really want.

Jessica Risker: Let's use another example. I think we're talking right now about perceiving someone's productivity.

Rachael Jones: Yes.

Jessica Risker: So maybe they got this great interview and the Chicago Reader... And you think to yourself: Okay, I want that. I wanna be interviewed, I wanna be featured in the Reader.

So how would we apply what you're saying here to that, that would feel like a success to somebody?

Rachael Jones: Yes, so that would be like... The first thing we wanna do is get comfortable with the jealousy, right? Okay, it's there. It makes sense, right? This person had this really cool thing happen, it makes sense that you're looking at that and being like, Yeah, I would like that too.

So we're gonna let that feeling sit, 'cause it's legitimate, it's normal to want that, right? And we're gonna get curious about: What about that the jealousy wants?

Is it: You wanted to talk to someone about their music, who they think is a person who thinks about music in a cool way, who interacts with music in a cool way?

Is it: That person's perspective of music is cool, and so I wanna have a conversation with them?

Is it: If the article gets published in the Chicago Reader, then I'm gonna get a social media bump, and if I get a social media bump, I'm more likely to book this venue?

Is it: One of my friends has expressed a negative opinion about me being a musician as my trade, and so I would really, really like to put this in someone's face?

What is it about this thing that feels really attractive? It's probably multiple things, right?

And so maybe we identify that the thing is that they think the Chicago Reader article is gonna bump their social media presence or their plays. And that's gonna get them in front of someone who can really boost them, it's gonna get them into a venue or in front of someone who is able to do pop up to another level of being in front of people.

So you're really wanting to increase your visibility, that's what we're jealous of...

Okay, so that's the thing that we want. How do we increase our visibility in a way that feels good to us?

That's the values piece. So maybe work-life balance is a value, and so I want to increase it, but I'm only willing to do these couple extra things a week because I don't wanna spend 10 hours on social media stuff.

And so, because I don't have time to put towards that, I'm gonna limit it, but I'm gonna make measurable impact on that every week.

That's a way that we can move that way.

Maybe you've been taking a break from playing for a while, like playing shows, maybe it's: Okay, I need to do what I need to do to get back to where I can be playing shows and feel comfortable with that, right?

Kind of identifying what you can do that actually feels good to you, that will still pursue that goal, so that you're moving in that direction - but you're doing it in a way that aligns with your values and that aligns with the energy you actually have to give, rather than kind of looking at this one thing is the only access point to the thing that you are wanting.

Jessica Risker: I love this conversation because it is, even though we're making up examples, it's so concrete and I like that you are emphasizing: Recognize the feeling.

The feeling is fine. It's telling you something. And get specific about what it's telling you... Very specific!

So yeah, you might say, Yeah, an article in the Reader, of course that's cool. But you're kind of saying, But why... Why is it cool? What does that mean to you? What do you think that did for them, that you would want? Get specific.

Rachael Jones: Yes. Where is the nugget here? Because we can call it a nugget, the tighter we can get that nugget, the more ways we can find to access it, the more actionable ways we can find to access it.

And I tell my clients when we do this work, I'm like, It's gonna be annoying, you're gonna be annoyed with me because I'm gonna keep asking you like, Why... What is it about that thing?

And after the third or fourth time I asked you that question, you're gonna wanna close your computer, and that's fair, but the reason why I'm asking you this so many times because it feels like it's a nugget, but there's 10 more steps usually to get down to the middle of that thing - about why this matters so much to us.

Jessica Risker: Yes. Okay, so seeing if you can go beyond what it appears to be on the surface and kinda look at why, why is a Reader article important to you, what would that give you? What does that mean?

And I can see even doing some journaling or writing might be, for some people might be helpful to sort of make a list, or think that through.

And then again, going back and saying, Okay, I've identified that... Per your example, I feel like it will elevate my presence, in terms of being able to access a bigger venue, or social media presence or something like that.

And so then you're saying, Well, let's not make it about the Reader article, exactly. But let's say, Okay, we've actually arrived at the thing you're wanting, which is more a bigger show, a bigger venue or something.

So what concrete steps can you begin to take to work towards that?

Rachael Jones: Yes, absolutely.

And also really defining what the "bigger venue" means, so we're not only defining the nugget of why it matters, but we're also really tightly defining what the thing is that we're trying to achieve.

Because "bigger venue" is super like... Boy, has that got some fuzzy edges, right,? And you could sort of drive yourself bonkers going towards "bigger venues" when there's very little definition there.

And so, is it more people? Is it they've got better sound equipment, and so my music is gonna sound way better because their sound is just higher quality? Etc.

Jessica Risker: So you're not just saying, pick the venue that you want, but you're saying, Why do you want that venue?

Rachael Jones: Yes, and then I'm gonna ask you 10 more times about this and you're gonna wanna close the computer again.

Jessica Risker: So, to continue with the example, let's say I want Thalia Hall, because if you play Thalia Hall, it means you have hit a certain level in the scene. It's a big venue, it draws a lot of people, more people can come to it than they can come to the Empty Bottle.

So pick it that: Then what would you pick at?

Rachael Jones: Yes, absolutely. Okay, so my first, 'cause the part about you can get more people in the door of the Empty Bottle, that's pretty concrete.

And so my question there would be, Is there a number that we're going for, that we've kind of formed as like, this would be the thing, are we going for a certain number of people, like Why is the more... What we're going for, so I can understand what it is about the more that's attractive?

Because for some people would end up happening is that we get to... Well, this one time in seventh grade, I was reading this magazine and this artist said that if you can play to this many people, you've made it.

And then we can look at that and be like, Okay, is that our value? Or is that theirs? And can we shift there: Is this something that really is meaningful to us, or did someone tell us that this matters?

Okay, so that we look at there in terms of the the name, like the caching that comes with playing at a particular place... I'd wanna understand why that's so important, because obviously we all wanna be successful at the thing that's important to us.

But if we can kind of pull out why we're wanting to do hit these names, is it because that's how I measure my success? 

Is that something that my parents, I can tell them and they'll understand what Thalia Hall is? 

Is that something where the money that I would get from playing edge venues that size would allow me to quit the job that I absolutely flippin hate, and do music full-time?

What's the cachet? What is the cachet getting us, that's really important to us?

Is it full-time music? 

Is it that there's someone that I've been wanting to impress since I was five years old who will finally be impressed with me?

Is it, you know, I just really wanna look cool? Which is a totally valid goal like that? Yes, we would all like to look super cool, right?

And so kind of picking it that so we understand what it is about the cash that's important, because if we can't access Thalia right now, maybe we can access something that bumps our feeling of being a cool kid a little bit in a different way, while we work towards those bigger goals. 

That we still feel like we're accomplishing our goals, even if we can't get to the ultimate piece, we can still get stuff in that feels good to the part of us that wants that thing, so that we keep that fulfillment.

Jessica Risker: Gotcha, and so then you're helping people figure out again, pretty concretely, what might that look like if you're wanting to just feel good... I think it would be funny to talk about What would help someone to feel cooler, but whatever that might be...

Rachael Jones: We all have different definitions of what would make us a cool kid...

Jessica Risker: Yeah, talk about having to define some things, you have to define what cool means to you... 

Okay, so we're really breaking it down, we're really using the feeling and really getting to what's underneath all of this. 

Rachael Jones: I think with things like this, concrete-ness is really important, because if the thing that you're talking about or the thing that you're working with yourself about it, if you're not gonna go see a therapist about this, but you're gonna try to do some internal work and figure it out for yourself, right?

Exploring is beneficial, but there's a point at which understanding doesn't translate to higher satisfaction or fulfillment or a change that feels meaningful. And so when I do this kind of work with people, my goal is to get really concrete stuff, because sometimes we're talking about things that we can't change.

You can't make someone book you at Thalia Hall, right? You can't force the issue, and when I do this work with people, a lot of this is around people's jobs.

Maybe it's not possible for you to make someone book you at Thalia, or maybe you can't quit this job because you need the money that it's bringing in.

So how do we get the most satisfaction out of the place that you're in if we can't immediately shift it? How do we make this place feel more fulfilling? How do we draw the joy out of it? How do we put boundaries in there that are gonna help it feel better? Because if we can't shift it, we want it to feel better.

Jessica Risker: Is there some way we can make an example of what you're talking about there?

Rachael Jones: In terms of music pieces?

Jessica Risker: I think it'd be good to keep it with music.

Rachael Jones: So I'm thinking like someone else's performance ability, that kind of example that you gave... Right.

So there's no way you can snap your fingers and become... Pick your really amazing, incredible gift from the universe, talented musician, right? Yeah, I could play guitar over for the rest of my life, not to be very good, I've tried.

So we have a threshold in some cases, and so if the thing that we really want is to be as good as this person, if we have jealousy there... You can't snap your fingers and become Tom Morello.

And so if you still want to pursue your art - which I think is good for everybody to pursue your art, people do better when they're pursuing their art and their music and their creativity - if we wanna stay pursuing those things and still get fulfillment out of it, so that yes, we're driving towards the goal, but we're still feeling fulfilled and connected with ourselves in the process, then we need to understand how we can still feel like we're achieving on the way to this thing that we may or may not get to.

So we form different goals, we form different measures, we work at driving and understanding why this is important, what does it get you...?

That feels like it would solve everything 'cause that's usually the feeling: If I could just ____, my life would be great. Why? How? Is the question there. How would your life be?

Great, and how can we pull in as many bits and pieces of that as possible - and sometimes they're really tiny bits and pieces - but if we can kind of get a cumulative thing going, it tends to feel much better for people and their pursuit tends to feel much more worthwhile.

Jessica Risker: So let's say they have a full-time job and they wanna get really, really good at a guitar, and they can only devote so much time a day.

I would imagine that there would be a tension there, or, resentment maybe, you know: My day job prevents me from practicing, my family prevents me practicing, just these obligations, capitalism, whatever it is that people are feeling.

How would you help them to resolve that tension, that reality that, well, you do have to go to work and you only have that much time every day. How would you work with them on that?

Rachael Jones: So one of the things that I think would be really important there is: How do we enter that time that you have as fully as possible, so that there is nothing getting into that time that is pulling you out of it? What do we put in place?

So if you have the job, and let's say you've got people obligations, you have people or animals who need you outside of the job, whatever that structure looks like. Right, so maybe instead of when you come home, laptop goes away and the phone goes away, we're not doing those things because this is music time, all of that stuff goes away.

It does not have access to you for the time that you are engaging in this music part. For some people, that is really, really difficult, and so we work on scaling it back slowly...

Jessica Risker: Right, I'm thinking that someone might feel that's not gonna be enough, and already feel discouraged. I can see those feelings coming up.

Rachael Jones: Yes.

And so we do a lot of "it counts" work as well, because I myself am a person who it's 100% or it's nothing - and so I'm very familiar with that feeling, like... "So what if I can go for a ten-minute walk? It doesn't count"...

We do a lot of work around those pieces of, Yes, maybe one 10-minute walk does not feel like it counts, but if in a month you've done a 10-minute walk every day, that's gonna have a cumulative effect.

Is it fixing it? No, but are you gonna have maybe a 5% feeling of living more closely to what you would like to be doing? Yes, and that counts. That counts because we can keep building on that, and we're still closer to where we wanna be.

And we can grieve the fact that we can't get all the way to the thing. That sucks. There's no buts about it. It sucks, but it's worth trying to make incremental progress, just even if it's just to live closer to how you'd like to live. There's worth there, and it almost always builds on itself, right? And so there's definitely pushback when I talk about this with people around work stuff.

Rachael Jones: And so maybe it's: Okay, we're putting the phone away, but if the email goes off, we can check it this week, but next week, we're not going to.

We're gonna back off slowly 'cause the super anxiety-producing for people underboss, so we kinda do that, slowly in increments in blocking it off that way.

If your kids are at home and they understandably want access to you, maybe they go to a friend's house for an hour after school, so that you get to play. Maybe your spouse takes them to the park for an hour, so that you get to play. Maybe you do the horrible thing we're never supposed to do and bribe them a little bit... But you get to play.

Maybe if your dog tends to bug the crap out of you while you're playing, you take them to dog day care for a couple of hours.

Whatever it is, if we can put blocks in so that time is fully that time, that time gets a lot more meaningful, 'cause you're not pulled between six and seven different things, that is more time with your passion uninterrupted.

Jessica Risker: So how do you respond to... I've heard this from clients, and this goes to the values piece, I think, where it's like: I do value spending that hour a day to practice guitar, but then I feel guilty 'cause I'm not spending time with kids.

Or, I just don't have the energy, or I just don't have... Etc.

Essentially what they're saying is: What if there's not enough hours in the day?

Rachael Jones: Yeah. So there's a couple of pieces there.

So if we're talking about guilt, we start talking about where you learned that guilt. Because chances are, you learned it from somewhere, that guilt, a lot of that parent guilt, like If you're not spending 24 hours a day devoted to your child, you're somehow deficient...

So we talk about where that guilt is coming from. If the guilt is, I should be working more hours, because I should be making more money, where did we learn that? Is that something we actually value, or is that something we were told we should value?

Okay, there's a lot of work in why we value this thing... Okay, 'cause as we go through life, even from when we're teeny-tiny, we're told what matters and what doesn't, over and over and over, ad nauseum.

We're told these things so often, and we're told so many of them covertly, that they feel like they're intrinsic values. They feel like they've come from us. A lot of them haven't.

And so there's real value in pulling apart: Is this your value, or were you taught this and do we wanna keep it? A lot of the times it's like, Oh no, I don't wanna keep that thing, I don't think it's serving me, that thing doesn't really resonate with me, so I don't wanna keep that thing. And so we do work there.

Rachael Jones: When we have these blocks, we look at them from like, Why does this feel like a block? Why do you feel like you shouldn't be exchanging this for this? All those pieces, okay?

If it's a question of energy, first what we talk about, where is your energy getting expended? And is there somewhere reasonable that we can cut it to devote it to this?

Right, if you're spending four hours manicuring your lawn every week and then you really don't give a flying flip about your lawn, let's cut that and put that over here where you actually care about it, where it's actually good for you, let your neighbors go kick it. We're gonna just switch this right.

Jessica Risker: Because you're gonna have to make some choices because in the pie chart of the day, there are only so many pieces and you gotta make some choices. So you are kind of figuring out what do you value. Do you value this music time? And why do you value it?

Rachael Jones: Absolutely. And it's like diggin into all those things, because so often, like this really tight fence around us, there's places we can knock part of that down, that are gonna feel better. That it's gonna open up space for stuff that actually matters to us.

And so we do a lot of work in there because you're right, there is a pie chart of the day, and as much as I would love to *boop* an extra four hours on to all of my clients... I haven't figured out how to do that yet. We have to deal with the 24 hours that we do have, and figure out how we pull as much meaning for ourselves out of those 24 hours as we can. So sometimes your lawn looks like shit... Sorry.

Jessica Risker: You go ahead. These are musicians. They don't care, they're like, sailors, these musicians.

Rachael Jones: Wonderful. I have like 10 years as a bartender mouth, so I'm surprised I've gone this long without cursing a blue streak.

So yeah, that's kind of what we work with there. And then sometimes that's when the couples work starts. Let's get some buy-in from your partner on this, and how do we help them understand why this is so important, and that room needs to be made...

Jessica Risker: Yes.

Okay, because this is the number one thing that comes up, and it comes up so often, I'd love to talk a little bit about the feelings that musicians have about social media.

It almost always feels like this necessary evil: I gotta promote my shows. This is how I find out about my friends' shows. I like that part, or just keeping up with people.

But I also see the like counts, I see followers, I see people playing this amazing stage with a full crowd in there, whatever. And so it's this really difficult relationship and the musicians are forever going on and off, and you know, there's a lot to be said about social media.

I guess I'm wondering... It evokes these feelings of comparison and jealousy though, so I guess I'm wondering specifically when it comes to those feelings, how would you begin working with somebody on that kind of comparative messiness that comes up for musicians on social media?

Rachael Jones: 100%. You talk about that from that likes and play count, that is such a concrete thing. That's gonna be so difficult for people to sit with, if it's just this black and white figure sitting in front of your face.

Jessica Risker: There's no clearer comparison than numbers.

Rachael Jones: So brutal! Yeah, I can see why that would be super distressing.

So I think there's a couple of pieces, and this is a shock to nobody, right? All of our relationship with social media is usually not great. 

So then the first thing I do is look at: What is our social media use actually looking like? To get an idea of how much time we're spending.

What the time looks like, what that is, because if it's a part of your business, eradicating it is an unrealistic goal. We can't just pop off of social media and expect people to wander by the venue on the right day. It's like you said, a necessary evil.

So a beginning piece might be, okay, if you're spending X amount of time on social media and you've got an amount of time that's personal social media use and the amount of time that's business social media use... 

Let's see if we can knock it off with the personal, or reduce that for a while, to reduce our overall exposure so that we're not using our tolerance on both these things. Let's use our tolerance on the business part that we cannot eradicate, because we need it to get people to our shows.

So that would be like a little concrete fundamental thing right in the beginning.

From there, I'd wanna know what it is about the social media stuff that's really getting to you. 

Is it the show videos where you can see a full pit? 

Is it the play count on whatever hosting platform you're playing your music on?

What is it that's really hitting for you? 

Because we might have a slightly different meaning or value behind it, depending on what the thing is, right?

Yes, if it's, I see all these people with full shows, and it's a freaking bummer to play shows where I can see seats, or I can see space, and it really highlights to me, this thing that bums me out every time I see that my show... That's one matter, right? Because that's like, Okay, how do we deal with some of that disappointment? How do we deal with those difficult feelings that come with that? How do you reaffirm your worth it when you're in that stage of playing maybe not so full rooms?

If it's the like counts, it's like, Okay, why is the count so important?

Rachael Jones: We might kinda look at a little bit of the math stuff of like: Are we comparing apples to oranges? Or are we comparing apples to skyscrapers?

What I mean is, when you were looking at comparing counts, are you comparing counts with people who are in similar positions with you? 

Or you comparing counts to people who are operating very differently from you and might be at a different stage?

Jessica Risker: I do think that most people would answer they're looking at people they feel are peers.

Rachael Jones: Okay, so if we're looking at people who you feel are peers and we're comparing play counts there, that would kind of be a place that we'd start looking into what goes into those play counts, right?

Maybe someone's mom is like putting their album on Spotify every night on it over and over and over and over. I have friends who had released an album before covid. And every night we would put their album on Spotify over and over.

So there was a whole group of people who are doing this every night, and so maybe there's some of this piece going on, we're kind of trying to poke holes in the... I'm comparing to appear because we don't know exactly how they're getting that count.

Jessica Risker: It reminds me of in elementary school when you would sell the chocolate bars, and some kids' parents would take them to work and they would like sell so many of them, my parents would never do that.  Because they didn't wanna push chocolates on their coworkers.

Rachael Jones: That's exactly what it was. Right, and this kid would walk in with literal thousands of dollars of sales, he'd be like, I got 10 door slammed in my face. 

Okay, it's the same thing, right? Because that is, you might have someone whose parent is doing the equivalent of taking their sign-up sheet to work like... When I was a kid, my dad took his stuff to his office and he would... I'm sure there were some some power dynamics there 'cause he was a sales manager, that was about ethical thing, and if I was a person who was a musician, I bet my dad would be doing the same.

Jessica Risker: So it would be a bad comparison, right, because who knows what's going on behind the scenes? You don't know.

Rachael Jones: Maybe somebody's publicist is boosting their... You don't know what's happening behind the scenes.

Right, and so really what we're trying to do is poke holes in this idea that feels very black and white and shift it into the gray, 'cause especially when we're dealing with difficult feelings like jealousy, we get real black and white real quick 'cause we're uncomfortable in it... We try to push back into the gray as much as possible.

Jessica Risker: That's interesting! Why is that? Why when we have this uncomfortable feeling, we'll go to the black and white?

Rachael Jones: Well, it feels really safe, black and white is absolute, black and white is quantifiable, black and white is if A then B, if I do this and I get this, no if, ands or buts. It's super comforting because you're like... That's what gets that feeling of... Well, if I could just *boop*. Then *boop*, right?

Yeah, that's super black and white, and so when we get scared, we go black and white, it's easier in the block and white.

Jessica Risker: It simplifies.

Rachael Jones: Absolutely, and especially if you're feeling under threat in some way, your brain is not wanting to expend energy in the gray, it's going straight to black and white because there's a threat, and it's like, 

We don't have time, my guy, make decisions. So black and white is really attractive when we're stressed.

Jessica Risker: So would you say to this example, it could be helpful to learn how that person is doing that?

Rachael Jones: Absolutely.

Jessica Risker: A lot of people protect that, they don't tend to talk a lot about what they're doing behind the scenes. So that is a piece, but I think when you do learn, it's almost always like, Oh, their mom. Oh, now I get it.

Rachael Jones: Right, and 10 pieces fall into place. Right. And often after that, this feeling of, why was I so upset? Or like, Oh, that makes so much sense.

Jessica Risker: That makes sense.

Rachael Jones: Yeah, yeah. Their third cousin is this guy... There's usually something there.

And not to get too far into the whole stress response thing, but when we get activated like fight, flight, freeze, fawn... Our brain narrows options. It doesn't want you to see the full field, 'cause it takes too much time to make the decision.

Way back when when that system developed, like the tiger had eaten you by the time you made your decision out of 20 decisions, right. So when we get stressed, our brains are like, Here, you can have two...

We see these two things when we open that back up by being in the grade, that's when we get the... Oh, that makes sense. Because it was in the other 18 things are bricks understanding. There's things going on that you don't know about. There's things going on that you don't know about, and then there's also, I think, particularly in things like music, like creative pursuits, there's this really uncomfortable piece of it that is... There are some parts of this, often many parts of it that are outside of individual control, right?

And so that is a really crappy notion to butt up against, when this thing that you want is this intrinsic part of your soul. If you are a deeply creative person, that is your core, that is your being, right?

And so to bump up against my access to having more of this in my life as outside influence that I can't control, that's a deeply distressing thought. That is core level scary stuff. 

Jessica Risker: Unfair...

Rachael Jones: Yeah, it feels unfair. Bullshit. It sucks, and the lack of control often comes because the control is in the hands of people who don't necessarily give a shit about your art.

And that's triple infuriating, and so sometimes we have to do a lot of work when some of those feelings are around forces that we can't control. We have to do lot of work around how do we gain a little bit of acceptance there? Not acceptance of like, Oh well, but acceptance of: This is a reality, and so I'm still gonna pursue this because this is meaningful to me.

How am I gonna relate to the fact that there is a part of this that is outside of my control? I'm gonna relate to that in a way that feels okay and livable to me, and that's usually values-based...

It's gonna be different for everybody. And this is something that I work with on people who work in large systems like healthcare, education, that kind of stuff. You're a part of a big machine, the machine does not care about your personal stuff.

And so there's a lot of work when I work with people in those professions as well. We don't have control here, and if we're gonna continue to operate in the system. Because just like music, education or health care is often a calling for people, and we're gonna stick in the system because it's what's important to us.

How do we make peace with the fact that there is a line here where influence is likely to end? And that's values-based work for sure, how to live with that in a way that you can have it occupy as little space in your brain as possible.

Jessica Risker: I'm sure this is a very big individualized answer, but how would one do that for play counts? What values would you look at there to reconcile those feelings?

Rachael Jones: We might be looking at with the play counts, if we're acknowledging that there's a piece of this that's outside of her control, exposure or Publicis or Brad's mom, whatever. 

There's a mourning period for that, and this is something that comes in with any kind of values work when I'm working with someone around this. There's a piece that we can't control. We have to honor that pissed off, sad part of us that wants to rail against the thing outside of our control.

It sucks, it shouldn't be there, it's really infuriating, it is saddening and maddening, and so there's mourning that has to be done there if I cannot shift that thing.

Because if we don't acknowledge of the mourning, that railing is never gonna stop, because the mourning is acknowledging that we can't change it. And so if there's this part of us that's always resisting that, It's gonna make living with it really, really difficult.

So the mourning has to happen first, the kind of acceptance and mourning of it after that. Then we start looking at, Okay, if we know that this is out of our control and we still wanna access this thing, we want a higher play count.

So If we look at our own values, maybe this person is deeply opposed to asking people to play their album... Right. Okay, why are we opposed to that... What's going on there? And we shift that.

Can we get okay with asking for help, and contact some people and be like, Hey, my play count goal for this quarter is this... Can you help me out here? 

Maybe it is a way to access that. Maybe we have been afraid to, and I might sort of show my very tiny knowledge of the industry part of music here, but if we... Maybe we don't apply to play at certain venues because we think we're likely to be rejected or we don't audition... That's the word for music, audition. Maybe we don't audition at this venue, because we think we're gonna be rejected and there's no way they ever want us and all of those things, right?

Why? What makes us so certain we can't go audition there? Maybe there's a medium venue between where we play now and where we'd like to play, that we've been avoiding bridging because we're worried about getting rejected. And we can go audition at that medium venue and take a half step there, moving towards this thing.

How do we get pieces of what we're looking for? What parts of us are blocking that? And how do we use our value to unblock this...

Jessica Risker: I've really liked this conversation because of how concrete it is. I'm wondering if there's worksheets? Or if working with a therapist who works with this kind of stuff can help guide somebody such as yourself could be helpful?

Rachael Jones: Absolutely. So there are some ways you can access this, like if you wanna go on Google and try to sort out what's valuable to me, there are definitely worksheets and assessments that you can do.

So you would look up Values Inventory, you would look at Values Assessment.

There's some worksheets on therapeutic websites as well, like therapist a dot com, actually has a couple of values activities, and you don't need to have a paid account to access the non-interactive one that's just a sheet...

Access those things there, and there's tons and tons and tons of assessments. You can also create an assessment for yourself just by starting to ask some questions, right? So if there's something that you're finding particularly distressing or that you'd like to shift, you can start asking yourself: What specifically is it about this thing that bugs me? What part of it is the thing that when that hits me, I'm like, Oh God, no. Right?

Jessica Risker: Yes.

Rachael Jones: What is it about this thing that bugs me, right? What part of me is it offending? Essentially is what we're looking for, right? Because if this thing bugs us and this piece of this thing bugs us, it's because it's offending something about what we believe or who we are or whatever.

And if we do, so I don't have as many play counts as I'd like to have offends me because offends me because I think having a high play count is necessary to move to the next part of my career, or I think my music is worthy of a lot of listens. Absolutely, yes. Okay, this as me, because my music is freaking awesome.

 Asking yourself, Why? Why does this bother me? What is it offending? If we can figure out what it's offending, it's gonna tell our value, right, because if your play count is offending you because your music is amazing, it's offending your self-worth, it's offending your belief that you are worthwhile as a musician.

 That's the value that needs to be worked with, your self-worth is the value that needs to guide how you're moving out of this because it's offending your self-worth.

If your play count is bugging you because you have a band and your buddy's got a band, and your buddy's got a bunch of plays and you don't, and you think your friends are listening their album more than yours... That's offending. 

The part of you that is connected to other people that's offending you in terms of like, I felt these people were close to me, I was counting on them to help with this and they didn't... 

That's offending the part of you that's in relationship with those people, and so that's the part of you that needs to be addressed and how you're moving forward, your value that you are deserving of support.

Jessica Risker: And then you can start working on how to work towards that support or what you can shift to it that... Yeah, this has been great.

Rachael Jones: I've super enjoyed this, it's been so much fun talking about this.

Jessica Risker: Oh man, I have too. I love this. 

I hope and I think that people will find this useful. I think it is so common. 

And I love that even though the feelings can be common, there's a wide assortment of what might be behind them and what is it about for you?

Rachael Jones: Absolutely. It's deeply individualized.

Because these things mean different things to different people, for different reasons, right? It's super, super individualized, and I think the most important part of getting to living in closer alignment with your values is to start questioning: Why? Why is this important? What do I want out of it?

Because once you start asking those questions - we're not taught to ask those questions, we're taught to recognize this is important and pursue it.

We're not taught to question these things, and so we're usually really unfamiliar with why things are important to us, and it's really important to get to know why.

Because then you can get closer to more of the important part, which is huge for quality of life. Huge.

And so I think my biggest piece of this is start questioning why you're attaching to things the way you are? What is it about? Start questioning those things.

'cause very often we're told to abandon our own values about things in favor of what we're supposed to be doing. And that can really start feeling crappy.

So I think just questioning and trying to understand why you value something the way that you do is super, super important, 'cause then you get a choice in that value.

Jessica Risker: You get a choice, and you can create a plan.

Rachael Jones: Yes. Sometimes in therapy, we get stuck in the digging land, and we don't get to the "Here's how this feels better" land.

And it's a really short trip with values work from digging to "Here's how we make it feel better". Which is why I like it so much, and find such value in it because you can really shift people into things that feel better pretty concretely.

Jessica Risker: And I like it because you have less of a sense of just flopping around, like I'm trying to these different things and I don't know why, but I think you feel more intentional about what you're doing and why.

Rachael Jones: 100%. You're not just digging around.

There's a lot of hope in this kind of work, which is another reason that I really like it. Because sometimes life is just really rough and you can't un-rough it. And so if we can pull a little more out of life, that feels good, like... Why not? Why not?

Jessica Risker: Rachel, thank you so so much for your time and your thoughts today.

Rachael Jones: Thank you for having me. I super enjoyed this. Super enjoyed.

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