I stopped talking when I was six years old

I’ve just revisited the indifferent indie classic Child Psychology by British band Black Box Recorder that has perhaps the only description of ‘selective mutism’ in pop music.

Selective mutism is a curious psychological disorder where children refuse to speak, or refuse to speak in certain situations (like school), despite having no speech problems.

The first verse of ‘Child Psychology’ describes the experience from the child’s perspective:

I stopped talking when I was six years old
I didn’t want anything more to do with the outside world
I was happy being quiet
But of course they wouldn’t leave me alone
My parents tried every trick in the book
From speech therapists to child psychologists
They even tried bribery
I could have anything, as long as I said it out loud

I’ve never been able to find out whether the singer is describing a real experience or it’s just poetic license for the sake of the song.

Rather ironically for a song about selective mutism, the song was banned from radio and MTV because of the chorus which goes “Life is unfair, kill yourself of get over it”.

UPDATE: Thanks to Kate for posting in the comments that the lyrics to “She’s Given Up Talking” by Paul McCartney also describe the condition. If you know of any other songs, do add them in the comments.

 

Link to Child Psychology song on YouTube.
Link to Wikipedia page on selective mutism.

8 Comments

  1. Kate
    Posted November 20, 2010 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure “She’s Given Up Talking” by Paul McCartney describes this condition – it’s on the 2001 album “Driving Rain”.

  2. cavall de quer
    Posted November 20, 2010 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Never mind who’s got it – how can we induce this condition in humans?

  3. Posted November 21, 2010 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    Well,most people don’t consider Gangster rap to be ‘songs’, but there is a line in the song ‘Laughter’ by Wu Tang Clan. The line reference is actually only a partial mention of selective mutism and perhaps the choice is made differntly (psychological condition –that Jung describes well enough more descriptively– vs. cultural entailing). Anyhow the line goes, “We were stimming, you know how it is when you blintz.” The line is pretty intellectual in its urban capacity of culture, I just thought I might mention it although much of the song is not about typical psychological phenomenon so much as sociological perspectives of organizational tenets and the sort of post modern happenstance which tends to make up a lot of mainstream or subcultures of their own variety.

  4. Posted November 21, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Just a little clarification where you mention “where children refuse to speak, or refuse to speak in certain situations”. It is not a refusal to speak. These children are UNABLE to speak due to the tremendous amount of anxiety that overwhelms them when the need to speak arises. Using the word refusal is common, but it is incorrect. I did like your article though.

  5. John Carter
    Posted November 21, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    As a father of a selectively mute child… I can just note it is a very severe disability, especially in social, school and work contexts. Rob is certainly correct. It is not a case of “Refuse”, although they may try give themselves the illusion of control by post-rationalizing it as “I could have, but didn’t want to (((because it was too hard)))”. The hard fact is it is a tremendous and very real barrier to over come. It can be overcome, my son did so once to save his mother when he thought her at risk, but it clearly very very difficult.

  6. Drew Shapter
    Posted November 21, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Would not the whole Tommy Rock Opera by The Who count, as the main character the deaf, dumb and blind kid is bereft of his sense after seeing his presumed dead father return after the war. He is struck by more than just mutism, but still a case worth considering?

  7. Jacques Hughes
    Posted December 1, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Rosalee by Willard Grant Conspiracy


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