Healing Through Music

Thank you to the Phoenix Spirit for publishing my most recent article below: “Healing Through Music”.

Bob Ross, the infinitely relaxed host of The Joy of Painting famously said, “We don’t make mistakes, we have happy little accidents.”

And I believe Bob.

If you are a musician or performing artist and you live with crushing panic, anxietydepression, and are paralyzed with fear and self-doubt, I hope you believe Bob too.

Although I am not a full-time musician, I recently released a solo EP and am currently writing and rehearsing for a new album with another band that I play in. I understand the grind, the hustle, and the exhaustion of the music business. There seems to be a never-ending cycle of writing, practicing, recording, releasing albums and performing. And if you are a full-time musician, there is touring, media/press obligations, and financial stress.

Being in a band can be unbelievably rewarding and quite exhausting at the same time. As artists, we can often think too much and allow fear and doubt to sneak into our dreams.

I try hard to practice what I preach about taking care of ourselves as musicians. We need to feel refreshed and energized in order to thrive.

Mark Mallman is a musician from Minneapolis whose mother died in 2013. He then wrote an album called “The End is Not the End”with hopes of healing his grief and panic attacks. He also is the author of the soon-to-be-released memoir called The Happiness Playlist: The True Story of Healing My Heart With Feel-Good Music.”

Mallman writes, “Music is my only escape. My heart rate slows a bit. Breathing comes easier. The Happiness Playlist is created.”

Music heals.

Musician Adam Levy (Honeydogs, Sunshine Committee, Bunny Clogs), has been publicly sharing his personal journey of grief and healing. Levy’s son, Daniel, died by suicide in 2013. Levy wrote his album, Naubinway, in honor of Daniel, and as a way to heal through his excruciating pain of loss and confusion.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” Levy writes in the title track, “We’ll bid you adieu if we must. A backwards baptism in Lake Michigan. I cradled my baby on his deathbed. Sleep my beautiful son in the shallows of Naubinway.”

Music heals again.

Last March, I accepted a position to be on the board for Dissonance, a Minnesota non-profit organization that helps musicians, artists and their loved ones to find resources and support for mental health, wellness and substance use. The Minnesota Music Coalition is another local organization, among others, who helps support our music community to help them feel that they are not alone in the struggles and hardships of the creative life.

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with drummer Eric Fawcett (N.E.R.D., Spymob). He wrote an article for Drummer Magazinewhere he said, “the more you get out there, the more you’ll find there’s rarely a challenge you’re not up for. It is when we push ourselves to create outside of our comfort zone that we learn most.”

Pushing ourselves creatively is one of the many pathways to healing. When we try something new and different, such as writing a different style of song, we strengthen our creative muscles. And just like any other muscle in our body, our creative muscles need to workout.

Starting a new music or art project can seem daunting. So when I listen to Composer’s Datebook on Minnesota Public Radio, I always love hearing John Zech’s friendly reminder that “all music was once new.” This statement alone can help liberate us from the fear of criticism and from starting a new project.

Of course, there is a chance for failure or disappointment. And there is also a chance for joy because within those difficult moments of self-doubt lies the magical formula for growth and creating something absolutely unique to you. And that’s part of what art is, isn’t it?

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, wisely states in his book, Creative Quest, that “creative people take in more than the average person — or, rather, they are less able to shut out parts of their environment. In the modern world, that’s an even more intense problem, because so much information, so many signals, flow across our brains.”

I could not agree with him more and know that it is important for Highly Sensitive Persons to be aware of the negative energy we can potentially absorb. Consistent self-care practices and strong, healthy boundaries can help us maintain our energy for creativity.

Speaking of energy, our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt, emphatically exclaimed, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” With technology and social media readily available in our pockets, we habitually destroy our self-worth and drain our creative energy by comparing ourselves to everyone else.

Taking a social media break is one simple antidote to the poison of comparisons.

Musician Maya Elena recently remarked, “I love JOMO (the joy of missing out) because it helps me focus on my music and songwriting. It blocks out negativity and what everyone else is doing.”
In the music world, comparing ourselves to someone else is one of the most harmful and destructive things we can do. It serves no purpose and steers us off course. We need to block out all distractions, especially self-criticism, so we can continue to create music.

If you are a musician or artist, your own self-care must be priority. Self-care is not selfish. Without practice, you will burn out quickly and possibly lose your passion for music.

Even the Federal Aviation Administration recommends you put on your oxygen mask first, before attempting to help anyone else.

I hope you continue to make music or have other creative endeavors and that you thrive, grow, and inspire the next magical generation.

Brian Zirngible is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with a solo private practice in Burnsville. He specializes in helping performing artists, highly sensitive men, couples and older teenage males find hope and passion within themselves and through creativity. Learn more about Brian at www.brianzirngible.com.

Healing Through Music

Loving A Musician: Secrets For Staying Together When You're On The Road

If you or someone you love is a performing artist or musician, the following guest post by Megan Bearce is right up your alley! Megan is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, author and a much sought-after speaker in the Twin Cities. She and I met a few years ago at a Minnesota Association for Marriage & Family Therapy conference and have been connecting and collaborating on how to help support our artistic community. Her book: Super Commuter Couples: Staying Together When Your Job Keeps You Apart, outlines practical and realistic ways for loved ones to connect after periods of time apart.

Being a performer and musician myself, I can personally relate to Megan's book and her research. After playing a show with one of my bands or DJ'ing a wedding, it can be difficult to reintegrate back into "normal life". Why should I have to do dishes, laundry or take the car in for an oil change on 'gig day'? Time for a massive ego-check, Brian! Using mindfulness as a performer can help alleviate some of those negative thoughts that we may have on gig day. It can also help bring us "back to reality" after a performance.

I hope you enjoy the following guest post by Megan Bearce and feel free to reach out to her if you are looking for specialized support!

And being apart ain't easy on this love affair."- “Faithfully”, Journey

Leave it to Journey to express, verse after verse, the difficulties of being a musician in love. Long stretches of time apart from friends and loved ones is the norm for not only U2 and Mumford and Sons, but also for bands trying to make it big. How do artists and their crew maintain healthy relationships when touring and in the studio? I’ll share a few tips for managing life on the road and even more critical, that challenging time when you finally return home.

After my husband began a weekly super commute between Minneapolis and NYC, I was looking for guidance myself. I decided to begin interviewing people for what became my book, Super Commuter Couples: Staying Together When A Job Keeps You Apart. One man described returning home, the re-entry period, as a huge lesson for him.

“When I walk in the door, I am no longer a rock star. When I’m on the road I don’t have to clean up after myself. People take me out to dinner and wine and dine me… At home I’m an average Joe… Sometimes it can take a while to shift back into domestic mode.”  

Echoing these sentiments, Ali Hewson, the wife of Bono, candidly described experiences common for all types of couples living this lifestyle in an interview with More magazine. She revealed the complexity of reuniting after a tour kept them apart for the majority of 18 months.

“It can be really difficult to re-adjust to having someone living back in the house. I can't help thinking, 'What are you doing in my bed?'…or 'Why are you leaving your clothes all over my house?' Bono always says that he feels like a bit of litter around the house, that I just want to tidy him away. It is very hard for him to come back home and say, 'Yeah, I'm normal.' He wants to climb on the table at 11 o'clock every night and try to perform! He's wondering where are the 50,000 people. We sort of laugh at it now."

Several people I interviewed both in and out of the entertainment industry shared similar sentiments and went on to talk about how they make it a point to really BE together when they are reunited. They didn’t take it for granted. If you find you or your spouse are struggling to stay connected or reconnect, the following strategies (with a little prompting from Journey) can help:

Return Ritual

And lovin' a music man
Ain't always what it's supposed to be”

After a therapy session, therapists will often engage in a ritual to ground and refocus, something as simple as washing their hands or a quick walk.  It’s about transition to something new.  When returning home after a month long tour or a late night gig, what could you do?  Some people like a few minutes of quiet, others like a big hug from their loved ones.  Maybe it’s as simple as taking off your shoes and putting on a favorite pair of slippers.  You can encourage your loved ones to pick their own rituals as well.

Whatever you do to signal, “I’m home”, remind yourself that it is a transition for everyone and a few bumps along the way are not unusual. Shifting from late nights and that post performance adrenaline rush to living back at home where your spouse or kids wake up at 7am is not easy on anyone! Some people might feel a let down, wondering, “Where do I fit in?” or “They don’t really need me.” A quick update on what might have changed, bedtimes for example, also help blend the family together again more smoothly.

Empathy

Oh, girl, you stand by me”
Assumptions can get people in trouble, so open dialogue about what life is like for both of you can be instrumental in keeping harmony in the relationship.  The partner at home might assume life is all parties and groupies when their musician partner is away, while the musician misses out on day to day events both big and small, and may be sleeping in dumpy hotels and eating yet another meal of craft service pretzels and Red Bull.  Another easy way to connect?  Ask each other, “How are you doing?”, before you start your conversation.  Early in a relationship you might be able to go on the road together, but if you have children or full-time jobs or aging parents that also need attention, it’s easy to feel alone in the trenches and overwhelmed.  And this goes both ways. Classic rock is filled with songs about the difficulties of touring.  Does your partner know about the hard parts you experience?

Self care

We all need the clowns
To make us smile”

Yes. I know. It’s “shocking” that a therapist would suggest self-care, but it is vital to your health and the health of your relationship. What it might look like is different for each person. Some people love running, others enjoy yoga or biking. It’s more than that though. Diet, hydration, sleep, meditation, self-talk, and the energy of those surrounding you can all influence your well-being. What can you add or change to manage the stress in your life? 

Trust and Independence

“Two strangers learn to fall in love again”
Not everyone can make this type of relationship work. Successful couples reported trust, respect, and communication as their secrets to longevity. You may hear people say your relationship isn’t “real” if you are apart so often. I beg to differ. How do you spend your time together and apart? Do you support each other's goals? What are the expectations each of you have? My interviewees discussed how their attitude about their situation really set the tone for their relationship and many expressed how they enjoy the freedom and independence that time apart allows.

The ambiguity of a life where being physically separated is the norm, a mandate of one's career, isn't always easy, but it is possible to be apart AND be in love! How do you stay connected with loved ones? Feel free to share below or on Twitter with @commutercouples.

Megan Bearce is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who specializes in supporting commuter couples and perfectionists. She is also a speaker and the author of Super Commuter Couples: Staying Together When Your Job Keeps You Apart. In her free time she enjoys dining at the amazing restaurants Minneapolis is home to, traveling, live music, and photography.