Creative Process and Anxiety 2

This is the second post in a series about how starting to change my relationship to thoughts, emotions and actions in order to overcome daily anxiety is affecting my creative process and relationship to music. I hope these posts will be helpful for both myself and others who are faced with the same challenges. Read the first post here.

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At the onset of therapy, my therapist gave me two tasks for the week. The first was deep relaxation exercises (both passive and active), and the second was to place a picture in my room, so that upon first waking, instead of instantly panicking and ruminating about my life (as is the norm!) I could look at it and enjoy it. I immediately laughed and said “my relationship with art is a little bit more complicated than that”. Her point was that I didn’t need to immediately start stressing out the moment I woke up, and that it was important to give my senses something else to do so I didn’t immediately just start spiralling. Ultimately, I chose to put a birthday card from my friend’s Sarah and Linsey (my longtime musical partner) featuring their new baby Maxime’s footprints. Waking up and looking at this card brought a smile and made me feel good in my body.

This simple action brought into focus an important question about my relationship to music: how often do I relate to it ways that I enjoy? The short answer as I’ve discovered, is not often. In fact, I’m so used to listening and playing music for work or to fulfill a set of rules, that I don’t often notice what I enjoy about it, or notice if I do enjoy it at all.

Around this time, in part due to relaxation and mindfulness exercises, I also started to become aware of a subtle process that was somehow blocking positive sensations, emotions and thoughts in my body. To work with this idea, I started to make an effort to notice things that felt good in my life, as well as their associated thoughts.

So, in the music side of my life I decided to run a little experiment: listen to music and let myself notice and feel any pleasant feelings and/or thoughts that arose. I was lucky enough that my good friend John Jackson had just given me a collection of Bix Beiderbecke’s music for my birthday. I turned Clarinet Marmalade onto repeat, lay down and began listening and noticing. Slowly, I began to notice washes of positive sensation in my body and mind. They came and went and seemed to be connected to the music. I found that I was beginning to enjoy listening on a very visceral level and that this felt good. It was more complex and intense than I can readily explain.

Perhaps it was little ecstatic, and I’m not certain if it’s sustainable, but it certainly was a wonderful experience. The thing I have noted is that different music is evoking different experiences: more or less intensity, joy, sadness, boredom, pleasure etc.., but that all of this seems to bring pleasure and a joy.

This was a new way of relating to music for me and I’m hopeful that it will lead to more meaningful musical experiences. I wonder how this could change my relationship to and understanding of music.

I would appreciate any experiences anyone has to share!

Thanks for reading.