Mother by John Lennon & Ono w The Plastic Ono Band

This week’s Song of the Week was recommended by MIA Reader Jarrett Rose, PhD. “John Lennon wrote Plastic Ono Band in 1970 after, and as a product of, his experience undergoing “primal therapy,” often referred to as “primal scream therapy.” Then en vogue under the tutelage of psychotherapist Arthur Janov, the goal of the therapeutic method is the eliciting and releasing—sometimes to the point of screaming—of repressed traumatic experiences, particularly those from childhood.

In the song “Mother,” Lennon recounts his early experiences of abandonment by both of his parents—his father who left the family when Lennon was a child, and his mother who refused to live with him:

“Mother, you had me, but I never had you… I wanted you, you didn’t want me; Father, you left me, but I never left you… I needed you, you didn’t need me.”

The end of the song features Lennon’s vocal intensity gradually increasing until the point of screaming, where he repeats the verses:

“Momma don’t go… Daddy come home.”

While the time Lennon spent in Janov’s primal therapy enabled him to re-narrate his autobiography in a more compassionate manner and better understand his possessive and jealous nature around his relationship with Yoko Ono, his loneliness and feelings of attachment remained, possibly, Janov claimed, due to Lennon’s ending the therapy prematurely. In my History of Mental Health course at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, I use this song as an example of the 1960s-70s countercultural ethos of wellbeing, mental health, and self-transformation, and connect it with the principles and aims of psychotherapy as distinct from biological psychiatry and the biomedical model of mental distress.”

-Jarrett Rose, PhD

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.