This morning I have woken up to the sad news that Tom Petty, music legend, has died. Don’t get me wrong, I know there is a tremendous amount of crap going on in the world right now, and on balance a rock star dying is not the end of the world, but it’s what his death has stirred up for me that is important rather than the death itself, if that makes sense, and that’s what I want to write about.
I had planned to write about yesterday’s therapy session today which, to be fair, wasn’t all that great. It has left me feeling pretty uncontained and wondering whether my therapist and I are on the same page. I’m not sure we were even looking at the same book, yesterday, actually. But instead I think I want to talk about the significance of music, its therapeutic strength, and how I want/need to incorporate it more in my own healing, although no doubt I will find my way back to what happened in the session at some point!
I have always LOVED music. I guess this is largely thanks to my dad who always had something playing in the car: Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, R.E.M, Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles, Pink Floyd, U2, Counting Crows to name but a few. Needless to say, the soundtrack to my childhood was epic! I was spoiled with fantastic music and lyrics from a young age. When I look back over my life there is definitely a soundtrack to accompany it. I have some brilliant clear memories of time spent with my dad and also songs that go with it.
Music is amazing. It functions in so many different ways on so many levels: it can offer escape, or an outlet, or a mirror for all kinds of feelings and emotions. It is magical.
I have always been drawn to great poetry, and lyrics definitely form a huge part this. I’m so music mad that I used to do a whole module on ‘lyrics as poetry’ in school! The kids loved it as much as I did.
When my dad died, the music abruptly stopped. It became too painful to listen to anything we’d shared because just simply hearing a few lines or bars would transport me to a place of absolute grief and loss. The memories of times together would be instantly evoked and then immediately came the crashing realisation that he had gone. It would floor me. With hindsight, it might’ve been a good idea to immerse myself in that a bit more rather than running from the feelings, but in order to function I just couldn’t. I’m not great at expressing emotion!
It’s literally only been in the last year or so, since resuming therapy, that I have really got back into music and have actually also been able to listen to everything I associate with my dad. I think maybe it’s because I am slowly getting in touch with my feelings again. I often cry when I hear a track but there is also now a lovely sense of connection. I guess, it’s a bit like how the smell of his aftershave brings him clearly into my mind. The music makes it feel like we are together somehow, even if it is in the memories of the past.
Music doesn’t just help me connect with my dad. It’s always been something to help me connect with myself. Recently, I have found that songs from long ago pop into my head or even into my dreams. They can tell me a great deal about myself and how I am really feeling, which is partly why I want to try and incorporate this into my therapy if possible.
I’ve said before how hard I find it to settle in sessions or feel grounded and I definitely think that occasionally bringing a track, i.e what is currently invading my head, into session would be a great way of a) relaxing into the space at the beginning and b) potentially opening up a dialogue if I freeze or go blank. It has to be better than battling with visualisations that JUST DO NOT WORK. FFS!
So I guess that, kind of, leads me to yesterday’s session. For some reason that is completely outside my realm of understanding, my therapist started talking about working on a visualisation to try and create some emotional containment. She did ask me how I felt about her suggesting it and if I felt like she was pushing something on me. In the moment I didn’t feel as though I had a strong feeling about working on it because my mind was sort of blank. I don’t know if I just shut down really quickly and didn’t even notice or what. I was very much in my adult yesterday and being ill I just kind of went with the flow.
I ended up creating this space that was very relaxed and serene, only I was looking down on myself in the space. I wasn’t truly part of it. Basically the usual dissociated scenario for me, seeing myself from outside myself. By the end my therapist realised it hadn’t worked. I’m not sure why she thought it would given how clearly I spelled out my inability to do the last one and how terrible I had felt over the summer as a result of not being able to visualise a space with her in it. She had said that that visualisation hadn’t worked because the young ones hadn’t understood it and that it hadn’t reached me where I needed it. Which is why I am staggered that she suggested this again yesterday.
We were a couple of minutes from the end of the session and all of a sudden it hit me. My ‘calm but empty’ feeling was gone. All of a sudden my little ones woke up and were totally distraught. It’s like they’d realised that they’d missed the session, that they weren’t going to be seen or acknowledged by Em, and that they now had to manage a week without her. I felt a wave of nausea and, I guess, grief fill my body. It was too late to say anything about it, but that’s what I’ve been left with. It’s rubbish.
I find it really strange. We had two really revealing sessions prior to last week’s Skype session (i.e I showed her two of my blog posts and talked about them) and it’s almost as though the content has been lost somehow. All the work about knowing we need to encourage the little ones into session, to make them feel safe with her, and to put things in place to help them stay connected in the week between has just disappeared. I feel really confused about it and how we got to where we did yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, I know I am there in that room and should have the strength to stop her in her tracks and redirect a conversation but somehow, sometimes, I just don’t know how to bring it back around to the child parts and their needs when she seems so focused on the adult.
So yeah, I’m feeling quite frustrated today. I don’t even really know what to do with myself. In the big scheme of things, yesterday’s session wasn’t a complete disaster because we both now know for sure that visualisations don’t really work for me. However, as my little ones become more and more active in my system it’s going to be increasingly difficult to convince them that she hasn’t abandoned them and that she does care about and want to see them too. Ugh.
I feel so mental sometimes. My adult part is like ‘seriously, it’s not a big deal, it’s just one of those sessions where it doesn’t work out’ but the little ones just feel completely left, alone, disregarded, uncontained…..you know all that stuff right?!! haha.
So anyway, back to Tom Petty. Learning to Fly is one of the first songs I really remember hearing with my dad. We used to go surfing when I was little and we’d get out the sea, get dry, grab some fish and chips, sit in the car with the doors open overlooking the sea and put on the cassette tape:
Learning To Fly
Well I started out down a dirty road
Started out all alone
And the sun went down as I crossed the hill
And the town lit up, the world got still
I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing
Well the good ol’ days may not return
And the rocks might melt and the sea may burn
Well some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I’ve started out for God knows where
I guess I’ll know when I get there
I’m learning to fly, around the clouds
But what goes up must come down
I have always loved the song, but today I think I can read it as a metaphor for my therapy journey, not just life!:learning to fly and nowhere near my final destination yet!
The great thing about music – it never dies. Thank you Tom Petty for nailing it over and over again!