Korean Psychiatrist Explains The Mental Health Techniques Behind BTS’s Song “Magic Shop”
One of the most poignant lines in BTS’s much-loved “Magic Shop” is, “I won’t say clichéd things like ‘have strength’“. Instead of playing into those clichés, the song’s lyrics focus on real psychological techniques used to help people struggling with their mental health. In a new YouTube video, psychiatrist Dr. Oh Jinseung and the rest of the Doctor Friends trio analyzed “Magic Shop” to uncover its mental health insights—here’s what they found.
As some ARMYs may know, the song “Magic Shop” was originally based on a memoir called Into the Magic Shop by American neurosurgeon James Doty. Since psychiatrist Dr. Oh likes the song, he decided to read the book to give fans the best possible analysis.
Dr. Oh explained that James Doty lived through a difficult family life when he was young, but managed to overcome his struggles with the help of a friend who told him, “Imagine what you truly want and portray a clear picture about it“.
Keep asking yourself what kind of person you want to become, then, you can be such person.
— Dr. Oh Jinseung paraphrasing Into the Magic Shop
In Into the Magic Shop, Doty explains how a woman who ran a magic shop taught him exercises to ease his suffering when he was a young boy. Dr. Oh went on to explain that the book centers on how meditation and mindfulness, which are common topics in psychiatry, can “cure mental wounds“.
This book tells you to sever that cycle and demands you to keep thinking that you’re a really valuable being that deserves love, and that you’re able to be something even greater.
— Dr. Oh Jinseung
According to Dr. Oh, these are the themes reflected in BTS’s “Magic Shop”. But on top of that, the Magic Shop is also part of a commonly used psychotherapeutic technique called psychodrama. Psychodrama involves role playing to help patients overcome their trauma, and one of the warmup exercises is the Magic Shop routine.
During this exercise, psychiatrists like Dr. Oh play the owner of a magic shop where patients can “buy” positive traits by “selling” their fears, worries, and negativities.
Before starting the psychodrama and looking into your inner self or the unconsciousness, this Magic Shop is a warm up step to go into your heart. That’s what I felt when I listened to the song.
— Dr. Oh Jinseung
Referring to one lyric, “Days when you hate that you’re you / Let’s make a door in your heart“, physician Dr. Woo and ENT specialist Dr. Lee agreed that the titular Magic Shop in BTS’s song is a place waiting to comfort you when your self-esteem is low.
But in this space called the Magic Shop, you can drink some tea, have a chat, look up to the sky, relax. You can talk about yourself.
— Dr. Woo Changuk
Dr. Oh also picked up on the meaning behind the line, “I don’t think I wanted to be the best / I wanted to be someone’s comfort“. He said that the main character of the song becomes a successful person not for fame and money, but to touch people’s hearts.
This, according to the psychiatrist, relates to another insight about mental health. Researchers who studied those who suffered at the hands of the pandemic outbreaks found that people who believed in the power of altruism recovered from their trauma faster than others.
Wrapping up, Dr. Oh said he believed BTS may have used something similar to a magic shop technique themselves on the road to success. But instead of wishing for success, they realized what they really wanted was to “comfort their fans and touch their hearts”.
I think the lyricists meant going into yourself through this magic shop and finding out your unconsciousness, and finding about what kind of person you are and what are the things you want.
— Dr. Oh Jinseung
Watch the full video for yourself here:
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