Music is perhaps the most powerful thing that exists in this world. Music has been around since the beginning of time and is central to our lives and embedded in our culture. Throughout history music has been used to celebrate, heal, grieve, transform, and bring change, movement and joy. Music has the power to touch our hearts and souls deeply and can shift our emotions and state of mind, and it can elevate us to higher states of consciousness. Music can be used to inspire, energize, focus, and creatively express, as well as relax, calm down, and bring about deep meditative states.
We see the hypnotic power of music in our world through its ability to suddenly move us to tears, not knowing whether they are of joy or sadness. Our bodies can also be swept away with strong rhythmic drum and percussion beats that make us move and tap our feet. Music can also en train thousands of people at a rock concert, as one, completely taking them over and transporting them with music.
Music and sound are powerful, and when used with intention they have the power to help people heal and transform their lives on a deep level. Imagine millions of people listening to consciously and lovingly designed music that could help heal and open the hearts of the collective unconscious. When music is created with intention it has the power to allow us to let go of fear, hate, mental blocks, discomfort, and disorders, and bring love, joy, peace, and compassion into our hearts.
Everything in our world is vibration; this is physics. Everything in our environment and bodies is vibrating at a specific frequency. This means your cells, organs, bones, thoughts, emotions, and actions all have certain frequencies or tones at which they naturally vibrate. This also means that each of us is like an instrument that can get out of tune if not properly cared for. Due to the fast-paced and often stressful world we live in, our bodies, minds, and souls get out of sync, stop vibrating, and start causing physical, mental, or emotional problems. This causes stagnancy,and what starts as dis-ease or discomfort in the body, mind, or soul can lead to actual disorders or disease. Since everything is a vibration, you can use specific tones, frequencies, or music to “re tune” or en train a person back into health.
In my work with people in recovery from eating disorders, I use music as a tool to help clients reconnect their minds and bodies and to discover how to feel and express their emotions in a healthy way.For someone struggling with an eating disorder, it is often hard to find the words to express feelings,and the thought of describing this to someone is foreign and challenging. It can be really scary to feel emotions deeply. Music has the ability to bypass the defenses and can be used to help clients understand their habitual thought or behavior patterns, develop self-awareness, and increase self-esteem.
Music helps clients move into their bodies and gives them an outlet for self-expression. Sometimes clients just need to beat the heck out of a drum to really let go of strong emotions like anger, hate, fear, and rage. This creates space for the clients to have more flow in their bodies and minds to clearly express themselves with words.Moving to music, dancing, and doing shaking medicine are also helpful in getting clients to let go of stuck energy, emotions, and tension, and to develop a positive perception of their bodies.
Drumming has been used since the beginning of time to bring people together, and it is also really grounding to play rhythm instruments, all the while reducing stress and anxiety. When people are playing music they can’t be zoned out because they will lose the beat and feel it immediately. Of course when they do lose the beat, all they need to do is take a deep breath, feel the groove, and jump right back in. This analogy is similar to recovery and life. Sometimes we get off track and “lose the beat” or rhythm of our life path, but all it takes to get back on track is taking a deep breath and jumping right back in.And doing all of this without judgment.
Music can also help with calming and taming the mind. We all know that our minds are very powerful and that our thoughts actually affect matter. What we think informs how we feel and then what we do. Since with eating disorders the mind can become a very hostile and self-destructive place, most of the work of recovery involves re framing the mind and developing a positive voice. Recovery is also about developing self-compassion and finding one’s authentic voice. Often times the eating disorder completely takes over, commonly known as “Ed,” and he starts speaking for you, while your authentic voice disappears or gets stuck. Helping clients discover their voices through toning or singing is a good way to start helping them find their authentic voice to express their wants, needs, desires, and passions. The voice is an instrument, and when it has been shut down it needs coaxing to feel safe to be heard and expressed again.
Music therapists can also use popular songs in a technique called lyric analysis to help clients identify and express their emotions. Lyric analysis involves playing and then talking about the lyrics of a chosen song. This allows clients to project how they are feeling onto a song and gives them space to be vulnerable enough to express themselves. It is much easier for them to say, “the person in the song seems really depressed and hopeless” than to admit that they are feeling that way. It is common for clients to identify with words or lyrics that resonate with how they are feeling within. Songwriting in various forms can help clients gain clarity by expressing their ideas, feelings, and goals.
Essentially, I use as many musical and creative expressive tools as possible in my work. I have experienced and know the power of music to help heal and transform on deep levels. Without music my life would be dull and less enjoyable. As a music therapist and sound healer, I have made my life’s work, path, and mission about bringing music to help the world heal. The world really does just need more love and compassion, and music can help make this a reality.
About the author: Anneli is a Music Therapist at Cielo House Moss Beach.