The sound of Music

yelling marmot

A great warrior once told me that “Pearl Jam” has the depth of emotional range that really hits you”.  Now I am not going to spend the entire post speaking the values and benefits of Pearl Jam (which I believe to be one of the better bands out there) but I am going to talk about music.  And more particularly, the power that music can have for us and over us.

When I use to work in the treatment centre before I became a police officer, you could always tell the tone of the unit by the type of music that was being played by the kids.  Up beat, happy, dance type music and you were walking onto a unit that was good and settled.  Angry gangsta rap, metal, death metal or worse, the slow love ballad and you were guaranteed to be in for a no stop evening of issues and problem.  When you actually sit down and look at it, it wasn’t so much that music set the tone but more aptly told you the tone.  But what if I told you that it wasn’t that the music was telling the tone in so much as the music was expressing the tone of the individual kids for that day.

In the course of my treatment for PTSD, I have personally experienced the power of music in regards to the good and bad it can produce.  Music, regardless of genre, can lift your day, elevate your mood and put you on the right track.  Unfortunately, it can also do the exact opposite and push you further down the rabbit hole.  It tends to be the latter that PTSD tends to drag you towards as it always easier to slip then climb.  The trick is learning what power music has over you and how to try to use it for your personal growth vs destruction.

The challenge then becomes how can we use music to alter our mood and lift us out of the darkness vs keeping us down.  I wish I could give some detailed list of steps to use but it isn’t like that.  There is no trick to it but is very hard to grasp at times because we like to seek out our comfort at times of anxiety, pain and discomfort.  If we are made, we go to the hard-driving tunes to push us along because that is what the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee tells us to listen to.  Once the Committee takes hold and gains that control, you go with the flow and the deeper you go.

But, what would happen if in that moment, you shut down the Committee in your head and do a 180 degree change with the music your are listen to.  Push away from the hard-driving tune and find something upbeat.  And yes, I know shutting down the Committee is fucking hard and sometimes it feels comforting to just ride the wave.  It is known, it is what we perceive at the time as being a comfort to us as we convince ourselves that it is letting the anger and pain out.  Yet, the only thing the hard-driving song is doing is escalating our trip into the darkness.  And please don’t get me wrong, it isn’t necessarily hard-driving tunes that will do this.  It is as individual as PTSD is.  Some people are triggered by slow, descriptive songs about love, lost and pain.

That’s the power of music and PTSD.  It doesn’t care what genre you like, it will find the weakness and run with it.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say polka tunes will set someone off but that’s the point, you don’t know until it happens.  Heck, if I am going to be honest, I might be pushed to anger if I was subjected to polka.  It’s individual and specific to the person listening to the song.

Knowing this power of music, I have made sure that I have a variety of music on my phone which includes Buddhist meditative chanting.  When I notice that I might be slipping because of what I am listening to, I change it up and pick something that I know will have a more positive impact.  For me right now, it is Weezer’s Teal album which is all covers of songs that I use to listen to growing up, including my favourite, Africa.  That’s my go to as I know it will pick me up.  For others, including my Warrior brother, it is Pearl Jam.  But, as I am typing this, i am hearing Weezere’s version of Take On Me by Ahha.  The happy memories are flooding in and it’s hard to keep focus on writing.

That’s the power of music.  It can be a wonderful tool for our growth and benefit and yet if we are not careful, it can be our bane.  And yes, that is a singing beaver picture…….

Wait, I didn’t explain how the power of music pushed me….

Before I shut this on down, I guess I should explain how music helped me in my treatment.  I harboured a lot of anger that related to my involvement with the baby death.  When I say a lot, I mean a lot.  I kept it suppressed and refused to let it go.  It was a comfort in some ways.  I now know that it was actually what was holding me back from moving forward.  Through the use of music, that anger came out and it was cathartic.  Luckily, it happened in a very controlled and safe environment as it was one of the most powerful thing I have ever experienced.  I felt the anger build up inside of me and it ripping out of my body.  All from music.

Shortly after the release of anger, I then experienced the beauty of music and it was the most uplifting thing I have ever felt.  With the anger released, I was open to the experiences around me and I felt true, unconditional love, peace and calm.  Think of a mother’s compassion for a sick child.  Music was that powerful for me.

I know people are thinking that I am off my rocker but I also know that it has and had the same effects on others.  Music is powerful and that power can be harnessed to aid us in our growth instead of exacerbating our pain.

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