Hannah Latham tries music therapy
I was brought up in the ’70s when talking about your feelings was acceptable for the first time and co-counselling was one of the groundbreaking community movements that came with it. This was just what my parents needed to counteract their oppressive childhoods and they threw themselves into it. I was taught to articulate my emotions with great finesse, however a downside to that is that I am very adept at talking around my feelings.
The mugging I experienced three months ago threw me way off balance after a couple of years of what seemed like right-of-passage rush hour (father dying, civil partnership, buying a house, etc). Having always been curious about creative therapies, I thought music therapy might bypass my defenses and break down my post-mugging fears of answering the door to strangers and people walking behind me.
Music therapy is used a lot with people who have suffered trauma or mental health problems. Helen Mason has been a music therapist for 14 years and has mainly worked within the NHS. She’s about to finish a further qualification in Guided Imagery in Music. We decided three sessions would be a good starting point for me.
After giving a brief account of my life and troubles and saying what I wanted to get out of this, I lie on a couch under blankets and close my eyes. Helen talks me into visualising a safe place, then puts on a selection of classical music, which I had to let take me on a journey that I would then describe out loud. I’m apprehensive that nothing will happen. The music starts and I immediately go to a sad, dark, womb-like place where I want to be held, then a void that I have experienced before in meditation. It’s full of potential and strength and I revisit this place throughout these sessions. As the music hits peaks and troughs I go with it; floating down a river… on my father’s allotment… facing my mugger… in a field full of my friends. Some are charged with emotions I didn’t know I had, some with questions, some with nothing. When the music is at its climax my feelings seem too much, but once I voice them I move on. Sometimes I shed tears or laughter.
I often found myself engulfed by a piece of music I knew intimately but had no clue how it went. Apparently this is common because of the relaxed state of mind you are in.
The experience is rich and intense and when the music ends Helen slowly brings me back into the room. We talk through my journeys, which she has scribed. I am blown away. The issues I presented were nothing compared to what was underneath. I came off anti-depressants five months ago after four years and it seems my subconscious is ready to take on what’s surrounding that – I’m ready to feel again. There’s a lot of violence there, which has been polarized by the mugging.
Over the three sessions I explore darkness, which is at times scary, however Helen is both gentle and sensitive, coaxing me on when I seem stuck. It’s a moving and powerful process that bypassed my conscious mind, cutting to the heart of what was really going on and putting me in touch with my own strength. Accepting my own darkness is what I’m working on now and my fears around safety have naturally changed into awareness of my surroundings.
Helen Mason is based in Bristol, contact her on 07759 938803.
Written by Hannah Latham
First published issue 53 - summer 08
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