Soothe a savage breast

Musick has Charms to soothe a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
(William Congreve, The Mourning Bride)

I make music because I have to. It's as vital to my well-being as eating or sleeping.

Music is communication, reaching out to other people and to the world at large. I communicate in many different ways, but I always feel that music is the most important way. And communication is not a solitary activity. It depends on others being receptive of the communication. That's why although I greatly enjoy playing music by and for myself (and one must write and practise, after all), I must continue to record and play music in public, for the public, for as long as I am able, and hope that I can find some kind of audience.

Music isn't just an outward activity, however. For me, it is also therapeutic.

I have done my share of cognitive-behavioural therapy. CBT is quite effective for a lot of things, notably dealing with irrational fears (phobias). Because the fears are irrational, learning to think about them differently can defuse their power. There are a lot of problems that are really about how we think about things, and those can be helped by CBT.

But what if the problem is not you? What if feeling bad is actually an appropriate response? What if the world around you really is fucked up? What if you've done the things you should to reach out and form networks and yet you're still lonely and isolated? What if you've done what you can to change yourself and you really can't or shouldn't do any more? What if there are things you can't control and no amount of changing yourself is going to make you feel better?

You don't want the world to crush you. You want to develop at least some amount of toughness. But you don't want to learn to tolerate the intolerable. You don't want to deaden your own soul just so you can avoid being hurt by the outside world.

I'm in favour of psychotherapy of whatever kind works for you, if that's what works for you. It has worked for me before. But I seem now to be at the point where I have to help myself in my own way, because no therapist really gets me. So, music. Okay, sometimes a bit of self-medication as well, sometimes in conjunction with music, but only a reasonable dosage.

Is music just another way of self-medicating? Sometimes I think it functions that way. But I think it's more. I'm not a person who gets angry very often, but I can express anger in songs. I can express all kinds of things in songs that I normally don't express in my life. Is this healthy? I don't know, but so far it seems to have given me a pretty good level of equilibrium. So I think it's a healthy outlet.

Being fucked up will not make you creative, and I think it's possible to be creative without being fucked up. But it does often seem that creative people are at least somewhat fucked up, and certainly if you're fucked up being creative seems to be a good way to handle it. So I will keep making music. It's not free—equipment and studio time cost money—but it usually feels more like money well spent than paying a therapist.

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