Many of us self-medicate with music yet if asked we may not be aware that this is what we are doing. It seems we intuitively know we need music and most of us are particular about what, when and how we engage in music experiences. These six points briefly detail why we ‘use’ music, and why it is such a potent medication:
- Music reflects, magnifies and connects with that which is greater than me, the individual. Through music experiences, I can be connected to others, to community, to purpose, to shared values, to the spiritual and the collective unconscious.
- Music reflects, magnifies and connects to that which is within me. Through music experiences, I can witness and experience the complexity of my emotions and psychological states, even my thoughts. I experience myself differently.
- Music is a temporal form. Concrete, uninterrupted time is essentially and vitally linked to experiencing music as an art form. This means that through music experiences, I experience myself in time. This also means that through music experiences, I can experience time differently and experience myself differently in time.
- Linked to the above point, music has an ordering function. This means that through music experiences, I can experience myself as moving in an ordered manner through time, continuously unfolding, organised, with a beginning and an ending.
- Music reflects and magnifies the complexities of life, which may be too subtle and nuanced to notice or make sense of, or too difficult and complex to pay attention to.
- Music adds context and continuity to life. Emotions are magnified when music adds context, allowing me to deepen, release or clarify my response.
Music is powerfully transformative as a healing modality. There is no trite or simple explanation how or why, as both music and the human brain are infinitely complex phenomena. I encourage my clients to pay attention to how they respond to different kinds of music as a way to ignite interest and intuition in this area and I certainly promote self-medication with music!
Melissa Ellse, registered music therapist, completed a Bachelor of Music (University of Cape Town) followed by a Masters in Music Therapy (cum laude, University of Pretoria). She is registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA reg no AT 0001350) as well as the South African Music Therapists Association (SAMTA) and the South African National Association for Arts Therapists (SANATA).
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