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Music - the great equaliser.

Emotions, music, emotional intelligence and us:

Do you wonder what it is about a particular song or piece of music that can have the power to transport you to a time and place. The rhythm, the tone and lyrics have the capacity to ignite long forgotten images in the mind; the party, the kiss, the park, the ex-boyfriend, the place of work or a loved one lost! You know what I am saying, the song that trips you up, makes you smile and cry.

Music can play an excruciating part in your life that haunts you, taunts you and equally lifts and shifts, carries you along the wind. Whether it's Petula Clark and 'Downtown', Ludovico Einaudi’s ‘Igiorni’, or Bocelli and Brightman’s ‘Time to say goodbye’, each song, equally, has the powerful ability to tip your emotions to a place you had not planned. Each note telling a story that recalls a specific time of your life, so memorable and tangibly alive.

Like the body, emotion has a rich, sociological history and ‘health,’ unhelpfully seen to require control and release, to be civilised and well behaved; emotionally healthy. However, emotions are events over time, they are sequences of feelings, thought and behaviour; emotion mixtures. An emotion may serve to protect and defend, or, it can help us communicate, cajole and organise. Emotions are messages to ourselves, a posture, narrow streams and wide ocean floods.

Emotions are not black and white. Our emotions, fraught with feelings, are not unlike the abstract expressionist representations of emotions in the mid 20th Century American paintings; rich, complex, utterly powerful and all sorts of complex colour patterns.

Feeling low can mean that any song, anywhere heard, can evoke strong emotions.

Do you find that sometimes the lyrics just jump out at you, grab you, choke you and the tears start falling and suddenly you’re overwhelmed?

Sometimes, and more often than not, words are unnecessary and many times inadequate to articulate the stirrings within the body; the music is powerful enough.

Some music, like Dire Straits' 'Romeo and Juliet', or John Williams, Schindler's List' Oscar winning score (Itzak Perlmans' violin performance especially poignant), can evoke a whole array of melancholy, warmness, joy and remembrance all in one.

Music is the tug of war rope, which ties and holds us in its yoke.

Emotions are particularly difficult to understand because they are deeply embedded in the moment by moment context in which they occur.

Did you know, many emotions are about desire? The desire to avoid, resist, fuse, distance, control, possess, tender, comfort, care or submit. Your mind has 700 centers and they control everything; emotions are in your head.

Emotions arise when some event is appraised as relevant to an individual concern, and concerns are what give events their emotional meaning. Fear and feelings can be extremely unpleasant, enervating, creeping in slowly and can catch you unaware, often you are depleted, left with a sense of lassitude.

The appraisal process appears complex, where an event is experienced as frightening, disgusting, attractive, beautiful, exciting or cute. For example, angry faces, mutilated bodies, disgusting pictures. Taste and smell directly activate specific rejection wriggles - Music jolts you, triggers you and transports you back in time.

Context is essential in practically all emotion. Emotions are responses to constellations of objects or situation in spatio-temporal context and what elicits emotions involves cognition's (thoughts).The core aspect of feeling is that the individual is engaged in what is going on and is interested in it.

Failure to attend to emotional cues may rob one of important information for judgement, decision and action!

The desirability of being an emotional person depends on what one does with the information provided by emotion; one’s level of emotional intelligence! Emotional intelligence considers the extent to which individuals can recognise, understand, process, manage, monitor and utilise emotional information and there is some evidence to support the belief that the most important factor in success, effectiveness and superior performance for health care professionals is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is typically associated with empathy (getting into the experiences of others, as 'if' you were them) and involves connecting with own experiences and the feelings involved.

The primary goals of therapy are to help clients to determine the meaning and significance of their feelings or the information value. Knowledge about one’s emotions, especially about their source and how to attend to them may be crucial. A critical feature of emotional intelligence is the ability to discriminate when one’s feelings are relevant and how to be sensitive to your emotional signals, from both yourself and others. In turn, tending to your emotionally verdant garden can contribute to making you a better friend, parent, leader or romantic partner.

I reflect on my work in the therapy room, whereby moments of silence work to move and shift a client further towards acknowledging a sense of their feelings and emotions. The silence can teach us a thousand lessons about what is happening right now, in the here and now, and has the power to tip and trip us up into brimming emotions where the unconscious kisses the surface of psychological change. Yet, introducing a client's music into the therapeutic room can manifest an even greater level of exploration which in turn nurtures the clients emotional intelligence; music can bring understanding, patience and the courage to listen to one another.

Music, and the great emotions provoked by its prescence can be a metaphor for life and holds a power to transform.

As the fantastic pianist, conductor and music director of the Berlin State Opera, Daniel Barenboim assures us "music can be a great equaliser - a power beyond mere words".

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