Some of the symptoms of depression include low energy, irritability, sadness, physical pain, low self-esteem, self-criticism, hopelessness, crying, and changes in eating and sleeping. The source of these symptoms can be biological, psychological, social or spiritual. One can suffer from low blood sugar or a low level of testosterone. Our beliefs can contribute to symptoms of depression. A bad marriage can lead to these symptoms. We may be in a spiritual crisis, lacking meaning in our life. As we transition from one set of beliefs about reality to another set of beliefs, we often feel loss.
When we experience loss, consciously experiencing and expressing our sadness enables us to integrate the loss. Expressing anger is also a part of the process of grieving loss. When we resist our feelings, we may feel numb. When people experience depression, they often describe their bodies as feeling numb. Often we avoid consciously experiencing our emotions and expressing them, when we fear being overwhelmed by them. When we fear being overwhelmed by emotions, we find ways to block our feelings. Often, these are not conscious choices to not feel.
Most often, we learned early in our lives to control our feelings by developing defenses. We may breathe in a shallow way and tighten our muscles to resist emotions. These defenses to consciously experiencing our sadness or anger can lead to depressive symptoms.
Unfortunately, feeling depressed is pretty awful. Depression is not good for our physical health. We can learn to express our feelings. One way to do this is with another person who is comfortable with emotion and affirms your experience of your emotions. In this way, we have a corrective emotional experience which enables us to learn to consciously experience and express our feelings.
Music is an outstanding way to consciously experience feelings. “When the time comes that you’re ready to begin facing your emotions, music that speaks to your heart can help you begin to release your pain,” writes Maureen Draper.
I can pick music which enables me to cry. The process of crying enables me to move forward with my grief and integrate the reality of my life without my beloved. When I hear a John Denver song, I often think of my dad. We can associate certain songs or musicians with a loved one who has passed on. Maureen writes: “Music that reminds you of a loved one brings to the surface whatever may not have been finished or unsaid between you.”
Art of all kinds, be it paintings, poems, stories, film or music, can evoke emotion. Great art reaches us emotionally, and we vicariously experience something important to us. This is why we can be so drawn to a certain author or musician. The beauty of art can move us in countless ways. We can cry with awe when listen to Adagio with Strings by Barber. We may experience exhilaration or hope when listening to Mozart or the Beatles.
Listening to music can be profoundly comforting. The music from our childhood can bring us feelings of being protected and nurtured by our parents as a child. I can remember the song, “Puff the Magic Dragon” from my childhood. Many songs from this era remind me of the emotions of my childhood.
When we are alone with our grief in the middle of the night, music can help us feel the comfort of being in our mother’s arms as a child. Music from early in a relationship with our husband or wife can bring up the emotions of falling in love, which are very healthy for our bodies.
We can use music to – in a sense – move backward in time to recapture hidden emotions and memories. Some may wish to feel the feeling of safety by imagining being held by the divine during our darkest hour of pain. Music can remind us of this kind of love.
Perhaps, finding the core of who we are is the most powerful dynamic to resolving depressive symptoms. Music is a powerful elixir to find the essence of our self. Please watch this video by pianist and author, Maureen Draper, about music and depression: