The Music Aspect: Living With & Healing From Trauma

Today, I am featuring another aspect in the “Living With and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis” series. This aspect is that of music. Music can have several effects. It can make you go from feeling relaxed to nervous, anxious, and scared, and then switch over to anger, frustration, and sadness in a heartbeat.

trauma, music aspect, living with trauma on a daily basis, healing, music, church, loudness, softness, music therapy, PTSD, psychology, mental health, emotional health
Photo by Samantha Hurley

Whether you are suffering with trauma/PTSD or not, listening to music can take you back to twenty years of memories that can feel like it was yesterday. Our emotions get stirred, and if we are not careful, we can start riding the waves. You can start thinking about old relationships and all sorts of things.

When it comes to music and PTSD, it can be both a good and bad thing, depending upon the situation. If the music is loud and harsh, with screaming involved, it can cause you to have the trauma symptoms of irritation, dissociation, and anxiety.

Unfortunately, I have experienced all of these. About five years ago, my son was listening to some metal Christian music. I had to ask him to turn it down, then off. It was just too much. The screaming caused the Fear Aspect of Trauma to settle in. I started to feel unsettled in my spirit, along with feeling agitation and anxiousness.

Whether you are listening to loud or soft music, if you haven’t processed memories that are associated with a particular song, you may not be able to tolerate that song or style of music for a while. You’ll usually know if you can tolerate the song/style because you will be able to listen to it without any problems. If the song is intolerable, you usually end up with bad flashbacks or dissociation.

Just recently, I realized that I am fully able to enjoy gospel music again. Starting in 2013, it became hit or miss. Gospel music is associated with attending a missionary baptist church as a kid, leading the choir with my ex-husband, praise dancing, and my roots in general. In order for me to truly appreciate it again, I had to process the important events that this genre held close to my heart. The events weren’t just from one particular time period. They were spread across years.

Recently, my friend invited me to two gospel concerts she performed in. I felt like I was back in the church that I attended as a kid. I knew that this genre had helped me to place the piece of puzzle of my identity in this area back to where it belonged.

Music from the 70s and 80s is also some of my favorites. When I listen to this music, it causes ambivalence. Why? This time period represents a life of simpler times. I have relatives that were alive then, and no longer alive. Community was food, dancing, talking, and enjoying one another’s company. Sometimes, I find myself dancing and crying at the same time.

The more I listen to it, the better it gets. However, I still have moments of extreme grief from trauma, as well as joy at the same time because these memories will forever be in my heart.

How has the music aspect affected your PTSD? Would love to hear your thoughts!

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