A Music Assisted Therapeutic Phenomenon



by Andrew Manson
(Yorba Linda, California, United States)


I'm a Psychology major/Sociology minor at the University of Redlands, California. In order for me to share my experience in a light you can understand, it would be helpful for me to provide some background information.

- I was diagnosed with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder in January, 2005.

- Methods of treatment I've undergone include a prescription of Zoloft; talk-based psychotherapy; EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing); Hypnosis; a self-performed music-assisted cathartic "something" **(this is the central point of my story)**

After describing this self-induced cathartic process to my psychologist a number of times, we've reached a barrier; language. I can't seem to verbalize this process in a way that emanates understanding. Last week's meeting resulted with my psychologist admitting:
"I'm not sure if even I know what's going on when you do this".

For the sake of context, we both have our theories. These range from:

- Regression to a "primal state" (no idea what he meant with this one)

- Desensitization/flooding (similar to releases I've experienced after EMDR and Hypnosis)

- Reprogramming (changes in neural pathways?)

- Reprocessing of traumatic/suppressed memories (activation of both right and left brain hemispheres)

The nature of this self-induced cathartic release has is similarities to other cathartic releases I've experienced in a therapeutic environment (EMDR, flooding, hypnosis, resistance, etc.) Regardless, both I and my psychologist have reached a barrier in our understanding of this self-induced cathartic process. The last piece of advice I was given was to make an attempt to put words to the experience - to create a terminology in order to dissolve the outsider's perspective. This brief summary of my personal experience with this matter is as clearly as I've ever explained this phenomenon.

If you've followed me this far, I will now attempt to explain how I execute this process

The phenomenon involves a number of variables:

- TRANCE MUSIC (i.e. Armin Van Buuren, DJ Tiƫsto, Ferry Corsten, etc.) Certain aspects of Trance Music have proven to be more effective in evoking the cathartic release; however, I've made yet to further investigate the significance of this discovery.

- HEADPHONES; however, I have been able to simulate this process without headphones, simply by focusing my full attention to music memory - meaning, by repeating trance song/part of a trance so in my Mind's Eye. In order for the song to prove an effective part of the process, it must trigger certain thought processes/free association patterns.

- Every time I've executed this phenomenon, I've done so lying down on my back. Due to the intense physiological and psychical response(s) that occur when this experience peaks, I often find myself curling up into fetal position.

I developed this process randomly and almost instantly. I was listening to an episode of Armin Van Buuren's "A State of Trance" radio show. The lyrics of the opening song made reference to a "Sanctuary". As music and lyrics progressed, my own process of free association led me to memories of signing a consent form when I began EMDR sessions back in May of 2005 - more specifically - a visualization technique intended to relieve symptoms of flooding/other effects one experiences when beginning EMDR therapy.

At this point, I felt something inside of me swell- a sort of unknown entity, without name connotation, or origin. Everything that followed this awareness occurred naturally and without conscious insight.

I began to trace events I had experienced around the time of my original chronic PTSD episode. As I came to certain memories of experiences, something happened. My back arced abruptly, tears flowing from my clenched eyelids, sweat brimming from my brow, chest fully expanded - like a sprinter stretching for the tape at the finish line - and all conscious thought instantly left my mind, replaced only with raw, connotationless emotion.

If I were forced to use language to explain this phenomenon, I would make the following hypotheses.

- The Trance Music lowers defense mechanisms to induce an altered state of consciousness

- The Trance Music transcends the language-as-a-barrier issue in the context of psychotherapy. Someone once said "All I know is what I have words for" => where words fail, the Trance Music makes impalpable progress

- Other variables that possibly hold significance are of a more personal nature.

If you're still will me, I'm shocked. This phenomenon has been the most pressing concern in my personal life since I somehow managed to create it. Realizing I still carry remnants of past mentally-afflicting symptoms - and, more importantly, that my healing process is yet to reach its final stages - has inspired me to seek any source or outlet that may possess knowledge that would lend me understand what I'm ACTUALLY experiencing. If someone reading this is interested in hearing more about my experience, or thinks they could offer any kind of legitimate advice/theory as to what takes place when I perform this self-induced music-assisted process - please, I'm more than willing to divulge any and all information that might unravel a new sense of clarity.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.


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