Friday, June 1, 2012

How much are you willing to feel?

Let’s start with a blanket over-generalization: Western approaches to mental health (and medicine in general) often focus on symptom-reduction. Rather than attending to the underlying causes of anxiety (for example), we take medication to simply avoid these feelings. And while I support the use of pharmaceuticals in many cases of mental health, I also see our tendency to go for the band-aid fix first, and many times singularly. A quick glance at the pharmaceutical industry will attest to the popularity of this approach. Pfizer alone made nearly 60 billion dollars in 2010. That’s $60,000,000,000.00! In contrast, traditional Eastern approaches to health and wellness encourage us to lean into our pain and fear, befriending them, feeling their intensity, and eventually transforming them. This is the approach I adopt as a therapist and songwriter. I create music principally because if I didn’t have this outlet of expression, I may spontaneously combust. After spending my days breathing in the struggles of others in my private practice, this is my chance to breathe out. I also suspect that I write songs the way I do because I have a deeper agenda: I want you, the listener, to feel something. I want you to feel those things that you typically spend a good portion of your existence defending against. I want you to lean into your own feelings of pain, struggle, loss, love, and joy because I know a secret: The painful places are where the most valuable gifts are hidden. The more we are willing to feel our pain, the more we are able to experience our joy. Shut one side down, the other side shrinks with it. But as we breathe into the intensity of the pain, we are rewarded equally. How much are you willing to feel?