The predominant role human conditioning plays in a stressful environment. Perspective, reaction and remedy. How music can help.
Creating music for stress management can be a rather complicated process. Due to the nature of stress, music must promote and sustain a therapeutic ambience and provide a calming influence that opens the door to reflection, corrective action and ultimately, inner peace. Consequently, creative effort in this genre often leads to considerations that have more to do with psychology than music per se.
In its development stages a musical sequence may point to possibilities for music therapy, but to successfully complete the final sequence, one must consider the variables of human nature.
Whether or not these musical possibilities grow into something of benefit depends upon many factors, not the least of which is the creation of sound structures that are compatible with and beneficial to the human organism.
Another extremely important issue that must be considered during the composition process is that all humans are conditioned since birth and there is little that humans experience throughout their lives that is not filtered through previous layers of conditioning.
At first glance, human conditioning may appear to have little if any relationship to stress management, anxiety, burnout - or for that matter, music. But a closer look reveals the connection.
To understand how this connection works, we'll need to dig into some information that may seem a bit 'heavy'. The subject of conditioning is extensive and of necessity, comment here must be confined to only a few of its more prominent twists and turns.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with the statements presented here, the following is the result of years of observation, study and application. Its presentation here is intended to promote a better understanding of how and why we so often react in counter-productive ways when dealing with stressful conditions.
Admittedly, this information is but a small part of a much deeper subject. Nonetheless, it is my sincere hope that what is presented here will provide some insight for those who suffer from the unpleasant, debilitating and unhealthy conditions of stress. That said, please read on and it will become apparent that where human conditioning is concerned, almost everything is related.
When one studies the work of men such as Roger Sperry, Freud, Jung, Wilhem Reich and others, it becomes clear that (1) general reaction to stressful conditions tends to be aberrant and (2) the manner in which humans perceive and react is, for the most part, a learned behavior.
This learned behavior has much to do with how we view ourselves and our place in society. The picture that we present to the outside world is our identity, or image, of who we think we are and that image is the direct result of everything we have been taught and everything that has ever happened to us.
Consequently, each new encounter or situation we experience is filtered through previous conditioning and in this way, previous conditioning becomes the measurement we apply to all future experience. Unfortunately, this measurement is often flawed and when used to evaluate and respond to stressful conditions, tends to produce reaction rather than remedy and this in turn can lead to errors in judgment that may actually make matters worse.
Why don't we recognize these reaction patterns when they occur?
Well, for most of us, the basic underlying causes of conditioned reaction have been lost to conscious memory. Yet, without realizing why, we often continue to react in a sort of robotic way to the emotional stimuli of circumstances that occurred long ago and which contain little if any corrective value for resolving the here-and-now problems of today.
How does this relate to stress management?
The relevance to stress management lies in the fact that conditioning is like a one-way street, paved with beliefs, opinions and prejudgments that often lead us in very subtle ways to the wrong destination. In other words, when belief, opinion and prejudgment are used as a measurement of stressful conditions, the results of that measurement will most likely be erroneous due to a lack of facts.
Stated another way, one might say that in lieu of facts, we are more likely to create and / or contribute to the stressful conditions that we seek to resolve.
Truth or Belief?
Belief, opinion and prejudgment indicate a lack of fact or truth. One reason this lack occurs is because of a widespread assumption that the word 'believe' is synonymous with the word 'truth'. When we say we believe in something or believe something to be true, what we are really saying is that we do not possess all the facts. Conversely, if we possessed all the facts we would no longer believe - we would know.
Thus, the disparity between 'belief' and 'truth' becomes one of the main reasons we react to stress rather than take remedial or constructive action to minimize it. In other words, the tendency is to make judgments ( based on belief or opinion ) before obtaining all the facts in a given situation.
According to statistics, the sources below are most commonly mentioned as a cause of stress:
The boss Not enough sleep Family pressures
The workload Not enough money Societal pressures
Co-workers Not enough time Marital issues
Traffic Health crises Divorce
When stress enters our lives, the tendency is to blame someone or something other than ourselves. In some cases we may be right. But many times stressful conditions are of our own making. One example would be stress created as a result of maxed-out credit cards or a lack of financial discipline.
Another cause might originate with any one of the sources in the list above, but because of our tendency to misunderstand and mishandle these experiences we often proceed to make the problem worse and thereby increase the level of stress. Regardless of the causes, how we deal with these conditions is of paramount importance if we are to resolve them successfully.
Generally speaking, we react emotionally to stress when we have something to defend and when we allow defensive emotion to get out of hand, we're not being rational - we're merely reacting. By reacting we compound the problem because our reaction tends to produce a counter-reaction.
Why a counter-reaction? Well, if the object of our wrath happens to be another person, that person will most likely have something to defend also and our emotional display may therefore be interpreted as a threat. Remember, that other person is conditioned too!
The Sky is Falling!
Conditioned reaction also indicates a fear of something. Eugene Albright, the author of Unichotometrics-A New Way of Life, once said, "There is only one valid fear - a direct threat to survival of the organism. All the others can be traced to false concepts of one sort or another."
If this statement is true, then another reason we have difficulty dealing with stress has been exposed. Excluding a direct threat to our lives, it suggests that we allow stressful situations to provoke aberrant fears of losing something, exposing something, or fear retribution for having done something. The oddity is our seeming inability to consciously recognize this when it is happening.
Conditioning influences our interpretation of everything we see, hear and project to the outside world and yes, it even influences our choice of music. Generally, we are not aware that we live our lives according to the beliefs, opinions and prejudgments of others, (peer-pressure among teenagers is one example) nor do we realize that by accepting these viewpoints, we are perpetuating them.
Thus we place ourselves in a loop wherein we often repeat the same mistakes over and over.
Now here's the good news: It is possible to break out of the loop when one realizes that (a) over-reaction to stress does not work and (b) there must be a better way - and then takes action by proceeding to summon the courage, stamina and discipline to search out and reveal the truth according to fact. In this way one begins to take responsibility for one's own actions.
Aw, do I have to do that?
Accepting responsibility is the first step we take on the road to a less stressful and more productive existence. By taking control of our lives, we'll sometimes move against the grain of the status quo and because of that, we'll most likely meet a measure of resistance along the way. But if we persist in our quest for fact and truth, our ability to deal constructively with stress will become much easier.
There will be times when we may slip and fall back into the old ways - meaning, when the pressure of stress becomes too much to handle, the general tendency will be to get into someone's face, blow off steam, antagonize imagined enemies, or worse - meekly swallow the problem and risk a bigger stomach ache in the near future.
Sure, that's quite a bumpy, cumbersome and questionable way to move forward and a lot of people bear the scars to prove it. Nonetheless we usually end up learning something from our stressful encounters and when we don't - well, we've fallen back into the loop. If that happens, its not a disaster. It just means we haven't quite gotten a handle on how to respond to stress in a constructive manner.
A friend once commented, "If you don't want to be crucified, don't hang around crosses". That simple logic may also be applied to stressful conditions. For example, we must learn to recognize and walk away from dead-end situations that are beyond our ability to improve. Next, we must fully understand that resolution of stressful conditions does not come about from trying to change others. Instead, we must change ourselves.
We may stumble, bruise egos and make mistakes but however inept our approach, if we persist in our search for the facts or truth in all situations, we'll eventually learn how to live our lives in a more efficient and productive manner.
Help is out there
Fortunately, there are tools and methods that can help lighten the load as we optimize our chances for a less stressful tomorrow.
Among them are inspiring books by authors such as Deepak Chopra, Dr. Wayne Dyer and others that may provide a better understanding of oneself. Employing one of the various methods of meditation may also work. When the need is acute, seeking the guidance of a professional counselor may be an appropriate choice.
Of course, music is one of those tools mentioned above. One of the nice things about music is its synergistic quality - it often works well as an adjunct to other stress management tools or methods. When we introduce music to the conditioning / stress management equation, some interesting and unexpected results may occur.
For example, when listening to properly crafted music, it is sometimes possible to by-pass one's conditioning temporarily. When this happens, the listener may experience strong feelings of freedom, inner peace, and a profound sense of well-being. In other words, the exact opposite of stress.
We're speaking here of major changes in perspective. Consciousness may become altered to the extent that conditioned reaction becomes temporarily suspended. Some may describe their musical experience as 'spiritual'. Others may have meditated on a particular personal problem and see it in such clarity that the necessary corrective action becomes obvious.
At times, people may be moved to tears. Others may find it difficult to put their experience into words. In some cases, the combination of empathy, understanding and emotional release can be life-changing and yes, there will be a few times when a listener may be so rigid and structured as to be unable to get in touch with their own feelings.
Whatever the response, the point to remember is this: It is the energy of music that initially helps to unlock and open the door - that we might enter a place where peaceful reflection will allow us to sort out things and possibly develop a new, more positive and constructive perspective.
You mean, It didn't come from outer space?
To be sure, music possesses many beneficial qualities but we should be mindful not to attach elements to music that it does not possess.
Of itself, music does not 'cure' anything. It does not 'solve' anything. And contrary to the more bizarre claims one may find on the internet, it certainly does not 'originate' from an "unknown composer who resides on a planet in a distant galaxy"... or other similar nonsense! As a point in fact, the composition "GROVE SUITE" ( offered at http://www.channel1records.com ) was pirated some years ago by a metaphysical organization that actually made that claim!
What properly created music DOES do, it does very well. It possesses the ability to put our hearts and minds at ease and in so doing, facilitates entrance to a clearer understanding of ourselves, reality and finally - inner peace. By any measurement, that is remarkable!
That music can be an effective tool for stress management is a given. It has been known for centuries that music can be therapeutic and there are many references in art and literature that attest to its soothing qualities. The therapeutic capabilities of music have been proven many times over and its success as a stress management tool is well documented.
That fact alone proves that music is able to minimize the disturbing and unhealthy effects of stress, anxiety and burnout! Who knows, it may even take the edge off some of that conditioning.
Copyright ? 2003-2005 Channel 1 Records All rights reserved
Bill Reddie is the owner of Channel 1 Records, a company that has been producing music for stress relief and stress management since 1972. Further information regarding the beneficial effects of music and its potential for relieving stress, anxiety and burnout may be found at: http://www.channel1records.com