By Margaret Watchorn
Music as a language is a familiar concept – music as a metaphor for the psychotherapeutic process perhaps not so fully explored. The classical forms in music have the setting forth of themes, their development, the recapitulation, resolution and conclusion. In psychotherapy we have exploration of themes, the selection of some or all for, deeper exploration, linking, layering, spiralling, involuting, leading to some form of apotheosis, resolution, transformation. – Both art forms have a dimension of mystery about them. How does psychotherapy work? What are its effects? We know it does work somehow and that this does not radically alter although many differing modes of approach, method, circumstances, and practitioners are in the field. Similarly, we know that music affects us powerfully, but the precise effects on the individual, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, on the brain cells, on the nervous system????
I find the idea of music as a sort of “parallel” endeavour extremely rich and fruitful. For me, to go to a performance of a concert or better still, an opera, is an occasion for an encounter with motifs which are universal in the life process, and with material from deeper and unconscious layers of the psyche. In therapy there is also a period of time during which I have the opportunity to face up to the truth of my past, of my present, my choices, making the unconscious conscious, connecting the manifold themes of my life.
Music because it does not have to use words, relies on emotion, imagery, fantasy and can for listener, player, composer serve to express some of the hidden, contradictory impulses of the psyche – wildness, tenderness, violence, serenity, destructiveness. The movement of emotions can be caught and expressed in non-rational, non-logical ways, which are framed, boundaried by the shape of the composition, and by the playing. Our thinking, feeling, responding to the material presented in therapy, and our mindfulness of boundaries are the frames within which all sorts of meanderings, divinings, clutchings, regressings are made conscious and expressed.
And just as steady, deep attention to the music will reveal its complexity and depth, so our patience, steadfastness and willingness to identify with the themes, the passions, the longings, the hatreds, may assist in a resolution of a type of a musical journey.
Margaret Watchorn is a Group Analytic Psychotherapist