Music and Healing
March 19, 2013 by ADRIENNE TRIER-BIENIEK
Filed under Empowerment, Expressive Arts, Expressive Arts Therapies, Featured, Finding Your Voice, Healthy Coping, Media Literacy, Mental Health, Music, Recovery, Self Esteem, Self-Acceptance, Self-Care, Self-Compassion, Treatment
Welcome to my first column for We are the Real Deal! I am very excited to be contributing to the website and to share my appreciation for music and pop culture. To introduce myself, I have PhD in sociology and I study the ways women use music as a means to heal themselves. I like to examine pop culture, especially the ways gender is represented in movies, tv, music, print media etc.
I use music in just about every aspect of my day-to-day life, I suspect a lot of you do too. I have playlists on my IPod that I have set up for various moods, happy, sad, silly etc. I even have one that is labeled “Tough Broads”, which holds all the songs I like to listen to when I am looking for some strength, ranging from Aretha to Ani Difranco to Halestorm to April Smith and the Great Picture Show. Additionally, I have a personal soundtrack I can draw from at the drop of a hat. It is comprised of songs I was listening to for all the important moments of my life. Lyrics come into my head during most of my day, kind of like little mantra’s. For many of you, this is probably also the case.
Using music in just about every part of my life was what inspired the research for my dissertation, and what became my first book Sing Us a Song, Piano Woman: Female Fans and the Music of Tori Amos. I started listening to Tori Amos’ music in high school, after I had ended an unhealthy relationship which lasted way too long. Tori’s music was what became my guide and aided me in recovery. As I grew up and changed, I found myself turning to Tori’s music during many times in my life, the death of people I loved, the ending of friendships, getting married, problems with family or friends, celebrating accomplishments and moving across the country… Twice. This relationship with her music led me think about how other women were using Tori’s music in their lives, and how women were using music as their means of self-care.
What I have learned is that women are looking for their lives and stories to be represented in the music they are listening to because, like me, many of them are using music as a way to express their emotions. We tend to think of women as the “emotional” gender, that they express emotion at the drop of the hat. To an extent this is true, but only with “acceptable” emotions. One only needs to spend a short period of time watching reality TV to realize that women who get angry are labeled a “bitch”, if they cry they are “weak”, which often leaves women with the only choice of putting on a happy front. A result of this is that many women (or people who feel like they are not allowed to express themselves) turn to music as a means to safely express emotions. For example, many of the women I interviewed for my study talked about writing down lyrics as bullet points in their journal, almost like mantra’s, to help them work out what they were feeling.
My hope is that this series of columns can present you with some information about the impact of specific media like music (as well as pop culture in general) in our lives and give you some food for thought about how to use media as a means to care for yourself. Each week I will present to you a song or two which fits with the theme of the post I write. This week the two songs, “Silent all these Years” by Tori Amos and “Brand New Me” by Alicia Keys, are meant to help you begin to reflect on who you are, how you see yourself, and how you think others see you. I will also leave you with questions to ponder, things you can answer in the comments section or for your own personal use. Until next time, I give you one of my favorite quotes from Victor “Les Miserables” Hugo, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
Questions to consider:
- Has music shaped who you are? Tell me about your experiences with music.
- How do you listen to music?
-What music do you turn to when you are feeling something you want to work through?
-What presence does music have in your life?
- What would you like me to address in my posts?
Please feel free to leave answers in the comments.