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.


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.