Posted in Of Psyche

Of Having A Chip On Your Shoulder

Shaun had a potato on his shoulder, a chip wasn't enough.

I got a chip on my shoulder that’s bigger than my feet. – The Beatles, “I’ll Cry Instead”

I envy Lennon’s feet. Rather, something bigger than his, presumably, size 10 feet. My chip can fluctuate, anything from a tiny, invisible speck, to a giant rock, to a mountain competing with K2. It all depends on the shape-shifting thing, and how much the world wants me to have it. I believe the world is really, generally nice. Even the people who end up doing awful, awful things can show signs of humanity, compassion. But, there are some nasty specimens out there. Some who thrive on making you feel small, insignificant, unimportant. They want you to sink under the weight of your K2 so that they can, well, get whatever satisfaction they do get.

But, having that chip, Lennon feet+, rock or mountain, is also a form of protection. It is damaging when you are around nice, nurturing people, but it exists for you to defend yourself around people who don’t want you to be nurtured, to grow. And you wear it all the time, because you don’t know when such people will come into your life. That is why some people have made alienation cool. Artists have made entire careers on the basic feeling of, well, feeling disenfranchised. Lawyers, doctors, scientists, engineers, CEOs, all became what they are and some even decided to give back because someone had made them feel small. They felt ashamed, helpless, vulnerable. And then, they felt angry, determined, and went and did something about it.

This is the dark side of how we survive, how we progress as a species. All because of some invisible chip on our shoulders. It is a sneaky trick of nature and humanity. But, it works. Because, if you didn’t have that, what would you do? How many of us can say we fully live for what we do solely because we love it? That this love was a pleasing, noble, idealistic thing that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy every minute of the day? I wish I could sing “Happy Working Song” like Giselle from Enchanted and do my stuff with the same spirit day after day. But, even that song had a bridge that went:

Oh, how strange a place to be
‘Till Edward comes for me, my heart is sighing
Still, as long as I am here
I guess a new experience could be worth trying
Hey, keep trying

Everyone has it. It is just difficult to accept that someone else has it too. That, no matter how loved, satisfied, brimming with possibility they may be, something always has the power to destroy it all. We’ve always liked seeing this in stories: great, big and awesome heroes making fatal decisions when that chip comes into their purview. That very chip that may have taken them so far, destroys everything they made.

Ultimately, the chip on your shoulder maybe your drive to make something of your time, but loss will be your true lesson. Loss will help you look past big and small, and find love. Even Lennon decided to “cry instead”, despite threatening to break the hearts of girls “all around the world,” because that was the better option. Crying may have brought him clarity. When you are able to look at your life clearly, as if the lenses of your eyes were washed and cleansed to look at the world freshly, you will realise you needed that chip after all, to get to that vision.

How do you deal with the chip on your shoulder?


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

26 thoughts on “Of Having A Chip On Your Shoulder

  1. Interesting thoughts 🙂
    If we rely on other people’s words and actions, we will permanently have chips on our shoulders. It’s a good idea to try not to take them too personally.

    1. It is a good idea, but rather difficult to do, isn’t it? Some people do end up getting motivated, often in the opposite direction, by what someone else has said to them. No one ever said success was easy or pleasant!
      Thank you for reading and following! I hope you come back for more!

  2. I have to really think about this idea, my own chip on the shoulder. I am struck however by that line-“the chip on your shoulder may be your drive to make something of your time, but loss will be your true lesson. Struck in particular because it is the title of a song from the Robert Plant & Alison Krauss album from a few years ago? Do you know that one? I have never really thought about any of these issues but I very much like your point of loss helping you look past big and small. Lot of things to think about in this post

    1. Thank you! And no, I have not. I had no idea they collaborated! Not a huge fan of either, but that does not mean I don’t respect their music, of course. I just don’t know it very well. Just a little Zep, and maybe one or two by Krauss. They surely didn’t influence me here! Good old life is ever the inspiration!

      1. It was one of those head scratching collaborations. Wait, Robert Plant with Alison Krauss, huh?? But it really worked and its a stunning album. T-Bone Burnett produced it, and frankly just about everything he puts his hands on is great. Well chosen songs and they sang great together. Not a huge Zep fan in part because they were the epitome of overplayed classic rock here, and I had my phase with them and grew out of it, and can only just tolerate them now for the most part. Plant’s solo career is actually far more interesting and multi-faceted. Hints of folk and world music sounds. He was probably the first ‘rock’ guy to champion Tinariwen (Touareg group). Alison Krauss I have long admired though I don’t own lots of her music. She has changed somewhat, and I’d love to hear her go back to some straight old bluegrass one of these days, but love her voice. The song I mentioned is great, but it is just her. This song is probably the best collaboration on the album-

      2. By the way, I just wanted to mention how much I enjoy these comments we both make on each others blogs. It usually always comes around to music one way or another, but I just think it is great that we can be half way around the world from one another and be having these conversations!

      3. Ha ha, I always feel I’ll make some ignorant comment about the music that is, after all, from your part of the world. But, I am passionate about it, and stubborn enough to defend that passion if need be! I am glad that you find my opinions on the music of your culture valuable.
        I guess my lack of interest in Led Zeppelin is completely related to the biggest chip on my shoulder – my relationship with music. Even being a woman, or an aspiring writer pales in comparison to the countless number of times when people have made me feel small because of my love for music. Obviously, it’s a huge cultural thing in my country, but the snobbery you get from any section of the society (obviously, the musical output and interest here is very diverse) could rival the greatest composers from anywhere else in the world! I’ve long given up trying to please the classical, trained crowd. And then there are the rockists, that can generally be divided into the psychedelic rock + Bob Dylan + The Beatles + prog rock loving group, which also includes Led Zeppelin. And then, there are the metal loving creed, but I guess “loving” is a word that is beneath them. When I found glam rock, I felt I was rescued from being excluded by these factions. Not only did it completely adhere to the aesthetics I aspired after in all art, it was also safely abhorred by all the dominant pop music loving parties. And we all know, having niche tastes is a desirable thing to any music lover!
        There are of course, other western pop music styles that people love here. There are always people who love top 40 stuff.

      4. I totally get your passion and by all means defend it! I get in discussions with pop music people frequently. My basic argument is that it isn’t that I don’t necessarily dislike the latest and greatest thing. it is that I hate the way pop music is promoted. The song may be catchy and I get why it is popular but it is often force fed to us like it is the ONLY thing we should be listening to. That is what I dislike. When it comes to rock, yes we do have classic rock stations that perpetuate the male guitar driven rock music by the same bands, for the same almost 50 years now when you include the Stones, Who and Beatles etc. No new music, nothing from countries other than the U.S., Britain, and Canada essentially. It gets tiresome. Then the metal people as you say, and the folk-rockers (which is the closest to my association I would say, though I like a little from each). Interesting what you say about glam-rock. I never broke it down the way you just did there but I completely see your point.By the way there is nothing I see that is ignorant about what you say about music from here. That it has seeped into much of the world’s consciousness is a great thing. I’m different in that I explore sounds from all over-Africa, India, Cuba, New Guinea, together with country, folk, blues, whatever. It’s all valid to me, which is why when I have those conversations with pop music people I’m shaking my head inside because I know they will never get it. It does as you say, have the effect of making me feel small at times. Yet I still try because I can play them something out of their realm and when they say, ooh, I like that, then I know that it is in them to expand their musical tastes. So in that regard, I feel the connection you and I have made on music is not necessarily agreeing on what we like, which will always be the most personal thing, but rather the connection we make to the music we love. We view it through the same prism in many ways I feel.

      5. I think that is the social side of pop music culture, whereas there is always a personal relationship you have with music, irrespective of what you are surrounded by. I obviously love The Beatles. I love many of the 60s and 70s acts that rockists love, and those are the acts that propagated the white-male-guitar driven conception of rock. But, just because I may actually enjoy that music, doesn’t mean I’ll enjoy having conversations with people who also enjoy it. I love The Ramones, and of course I have a Ramones t-shirt I’ve worn to death. But, some metal “heads” used to tell me Ramones make girlie, cartoonish music (and these men of superior tastes didn’t know what CBGB was). Ironically, Kirk Hammett of Metallica pops up in a Ramones documentary, telling everyone they are most inspired by the Ramones!
        Over time, I’ve just learnt to have a much healthier attitude to what I like. I think getting deep into the punk ethos, especially American CBGB-led punk, helped me change the whole way in which I felt about music. My social relationship right now is zero. I don’t care to converse, or read a critic, if they are obviously going to dismiss my opinions and tastes, while I will express my own opinions and tastes freely. I have absolutely no obligations to please any social group with my musical tastes, but I will not feel ashamed of it either.
        It is just ironic that despite all this hyper-machismo that British and American pop music has come to embody since the late 60s, it is someone like Mick Jagger who will feature on the cover of its history book, say, 200 years from now. Misogynistic some of his music may be, but he clearly isn’t such an easily explained away rock ideal for the ordinary man. What he represents is extremely complex and extremely infectious, which I think is the best possible side to the “prism” we’re looking through.

      6. Excellent points. What most fans of any given genre or sub-genre miss is that musicians, like any artist draw influence from lots of sources. It’s how they find their own vision. So you have metal bands that like the Ramones, country bands that like the Beatles, all sorts of combinations.Tim Armstrong from Rancid produced Jimmy Cliff’s last album (bloody fantastic album it was too). Not obvious associations so frankly, who gives a toss what some guy who only listens to metal says, to put it as mildly and family friendly as I can!

        I also love your attitude regarding critics, much as we discussed the other day. Criticism is by its very nature a somewhat hollow excuse in many ways. Constructive criticism can be useful of course, but a critic writing a book, movie or art review often misses the point, and more often than not, they focus on the wrong things. I used to clip out articles and reviews for my favorite bands.I still have a folder of them and glance at them from time to time, with the aid of 10 or 20 years to look back on since they were written. When you view them in that context, it is rare when you find a valid viewpoint contained in it. Especially when what they are writing about has held up over that length of time. If that album from 1996 sounds great today, and is thought of as one of the best things from that era, then that snarky review you wrote is meaningless. Meaningless in 1996, and the same today.
        As to Jagger, I am often struck by the man. He is misogynistic at times, but in moments of sincerity and seriousness he is so much more than that. I find him intriguing.

      7. I have too many opinions on this now, but I better reserve them for a full essay, if you don’t mind! I’ve been meaning to write on this, and a couple of other things on music, but I haven’t had the time. Even today’s essay was written two months ago for my book, but because it worked better with the Lennon lyric, which I can’t afford to get permission for my book, I published it here.

        I have an idea. Why don’t you write a guest post for me on this? Maybe on the nature of pop music criticism, and the relationship it has with listeners or something along those lines. Maybe about the revisionism that can occur, especially because of the internet making everything available. Obviously, from your own point of view. I feel that works better in blogs like this, than to speak generally for the public, as a newspaper or magazine would do. If you are interested, do let me know. And I have a few “rules” for guest posting, if you want to know more. At least think about it!

      8. Totally understand you have too many opinions coupled with the work for the book. I’m also always mindful of time differences between us so I hope having this conversation is not keeping you from sleeping! I will definitely consider that idea, and thank you so much for suggesting it. Quite an honor. I will read your guidelines and think about it over the weekend. Wow! Did not expect you to say that!

      9. What? The rules part? ha ha! It’s not as scary as you think. Just some “protocol” they love to talk about in those spy movies.
        I just have so much to write, you know. Both for work and pleasure. My brain works faster than I can type!

      10. I listened to the Plant/Krauss song. The ending was so Plant. And the “you’re gonna reap just what you sow” part reminded me of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day”.

      11. By the ending do you mean that Zepplin-esque growling? Yes that is so him. Guess he has to work it in somewhere! I forgot to mention that in my original comment that the song that made me think of this is called “Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson” which was just too coincidental with your comment to not acknowledge!

  3. First I’m pissed off. But if I’m lucky, I realize that the problem is a blessing in disguise. If I’m having a problem that means there is something that I can learn. And then I can grow more empowered. We don’t learn from things that are easy.

  4. Great post. I’ve been thinking a lot about the lost art of lamenting. Perhaps there’s a lot to be said for crying…I can imagine it washing away the ‘chip’ and it’s got to look better than a potato on your shoulder!

      1. Oh, that. I’ve written an entire essay on that for my book. I’ve been meaning to write on it in general for a long time, and really failing at it. My basic conclusion is, people are just dreadfully inappropriate at grieving. That is why they’ve made funerals so ritualistic. Not so much to honour the dead, which I think those spiritually minded do better than others in those circumstances, than to escape having to be emotionally authentic. More on this in the book, which I hope you will read when it comes out! Thank you for supporting me and my blog for so long!

      2. Wonderful to hear that you’ve done some writing on that. I have also been asked to write a chapter as part of a book on the Psalms of Lament that is due to be published. So we could have a read of each other’s work 🙂 I’ve enjoyed following your thoughts this past while. Keep up the good work.

      3. Thank you, Shazza! I feel it is the hardest thing to talk about. Personal grief, not the more general sensation of loss. Love is easy, compared to it. Grieving is such an individual, emotional process, that can take so many turns in years gone by, all the time never having the ability to reach whom you grieve. It definitely is a psychological process that should be explored further.

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