Song: “Bug in My Brain”

“Bug in My Brain”

Behind the Song

This song has three interlocking elements:

  • the frightening realization that one’s thoughts might not be under one’s control
  • the skill of defusion, a key part of Acceptance and Committment Therapy (ACT)
  • the motif of software

Also, I wanted to make a punkish song. On an accoustic guitar. So I searched online for some power chords used in punk songs and built the melody from those.

This song was inspired by my work with ACT. One of the skills you learn in ACT is called “defusion.” It’s a skill that helps you separate yourself from your thoughts.

Let me digress for a few paragraphs and tell you how it works:

Say you have a recurring, unpleasant thought like … “I’m a loser.” Let’s say you don’t actually believe this thought, but you can’t shake it. In ACT-parlance, you are fused with that thought.

The goal of defusion is to separate — to de-fuse — yourself from that thought. ACT has a variety of techniques for this. One simple trick is the “word-repetition” exercise.

Here’s what you do: First, pick a single word which sums up the thought. Let’s pick the word “loser.” Next, repeat the word “loser” over and over again for 30-60 seconds, about once per second.

Go ahead, try it out for yourself right now.

Loser … loser … loser …

How’d that feel? Doesn’t the word loser sound weird to you now? Did you notice the way your lips and tongue felt when you pronounce it? Maybe you have the experience that “loser” is just a bunch of sounds squashed together.

And that’s the point. To separate yourself — your conscious, aware self — from the thoughts that occur to you. Maybe now you’ve pushed a little distance between you and the thought. Maybe, hopefully, you can see that thought for what it is: a stream of sounds, a stream of ideas, that may or may not be true or useful to you.

There are other techniques of defusion. (And numerous books/videos to learn them from. I learned from Steven Hayes’s book A Liberated Mind, which I do recommend.) None of these techniques are meant to make the thought disappear. Instead, they help you develop a new, more productive relationship with your thoughts.

In today’s song, I wanted to explore the realization that comes when you begin to develop a new relationship with your thoughts. And have some fun with it! So I mixed in the metaphor of a computer “bug” and wove that motif throughout. (Including an element of recursion in the chorus. Let me know in the comment section if you spot it. The first successful answer will receive … a shout-out in my next email.)

Plus I liked the punk energy, the craziness, the loudness, the chaos … because recurring thoughts often feel like that. To me, anyway.

NOTE: I’m trying out a new video — a still photo with a little animation. Whaddya think? Do you prefer the videos of me singing directly into the camera?

… and hopefull a bit funny


For many years I wondered
now I think I know
an artificial intelligence
is running the show

It cycles when I slumber
it boots up when I rise
it tells me I'm not worthy
and predicts my demise

I've got a bug in my brain
driving me insane
trying to explain
the bug in my brain

Get it out!

Who planted it I don't know
I'm yanked in circles when I ask
it fills my head with static
as it queues another task

I see all the smiling people
not a worry on their page
but bait them in the darkness
and you'll choke on their rage

I've got a bug in my brain
driving me insane
trying to explain
the bug in my brain

Let it out!

Just because you think a thought, doesn't make it true
Just because it comes from inside, doesn't it mean it's you

I think I broke the off-switch
'cause the voices never stop
But if I sit alone and listen
I hear a rhythm to the thoughts

It's like a Pollock painting
it seems a random joke
but caress its pebbly surface
and you trace a branching oak

I've got a bug in my brain
driving me insane
trying to explain
the bug in my brain

Let it shout!

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