“When I’m listening to bossa nova, it seems like everything’s right with the world.” I was talking to my therapist of the time about my (then) chronic depression. I hadn’t been seeing him that long and we were still finding out if it was a fit. “That slinky slide,” I said, “that bittersweet quality, that sexy smooth sunlight-on-the-beach thing. You get the feeling that whatever happens with the world, it’ll be okay.” I looked to see if he was tracking. “It’s practically a spiritual thing.”
The therapist was looking at me intently. His hair was graying and mine wasn’t. At least not obviously. “You’ve just named your cure,” he said. “Listen to more bossa nova.”
You’d be amazed to find out how many
of my depressed patients subsist on a diet of Morrissey and The Cure. Or the anxious ones who live on the most aggro Hip Hop and several grande Starbucks a day. A client I once had to intervene on so she wouldn’t kill herself? Her favorite band was the Suicidal Tendencies. (She came back the next week wearing a T-shirt she had made up that said “Choose Life.”) (Not knowing that that usually means something else.)
The other day I caught myself cursing at a #$%& driver on the freeway. When I came to, I noticed I was all adrenal-ized by the The World of Goa Trance I was listening to. Well, no wonder. I switched to Love, Peace, Chant by David Newman. The other drivers on the road sighed a silent “thank you.”
I’m not a trained music therapist, but it seems to me there’s a lot to be said for orchestrating the soundtrack of our lives. It’s sort of an alchemy, yes? A little of this, a little of that, until we get just the right mood.
Sometimes psychotherapy is really helpful. Nothing matches it for getting unstuck, extricating ourselves from ancient patterns we can’t see on our own. Sometimes we really need that other person in our court, someone who has already delved into realms we’re only beginning to explore. Other times what we need is a lifestyle overhaul, like some new music. Bossa Nova may not be your thing, but what if it is and you’ve been missing out all this time? Or it might be African music, which is a dependable mood lifter as well. Choose more of what makes you happy. Really happy, not just addictively high. There’s a big difference, you know.
I didn’t stay with that therapist very long, but from that one simple directive I got more than from others I stayed with for years. You should see my bossa nova collection. Getz/Gilberto, anyone?
© 2014 Catherine Auman This article is an excerpt from Catherine’s book Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth