Music and emotion

Music is a shortcut to your emotions. That’s why I feel privileged to work with music and with musicians. You get a smile on your face when you hear a certain rhythm, melody, timbre, text. Three years ago, many people had this experience with the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. Other songs make us sad and we cry. Billboard published in February a list of 50 songs that we can dance to while they make us cry.

Songs can also evoke anger or fear. In every horror film, music is used to scare you. Try it: if you watch a horror film without the sound, it’s not even half as scary! I get angry every time I hear “Killing In The Name” by Rage Against The Machine. This song encourages me to speak out against injustice, like when a president is blaming anti-racist protesters for the killing of an anti-racist protester, hit by a car driven by a neo-Nazi!

Last month I read Michael Sky‘s book “The Power of Emotion: Using Your Emotional Energy to Transform Your Life”. While most of us have learned how to suppress our emotions from very early on, he teaches to open up for all emotions again. According to him, emotions have to move through your body, or else they will unwillingly dominate your behavior. To let your emotions move, you have to relax. Tightened muscles in your bodies help to repress your emotions.

After every chapter he has a different breathing exercise that help you to relax. ‘Connected breathing’ was one of the mantra’s during his life. Here how it works: You breath in deeply, through your nose, and out again through your mouth while whispering ‘f’ or ‘s’. The whispering helps to breath out even more air. For him it’s important to connect breathing in, breathing out and breathing in again, without any break in between.

All breathing exercises are variations on ‘connected breathing’, in combination with meditation. One variation is breathing in, imagine that your lungs get filled with love, and while breathing out, imagine that your heart radiates that love to the rest of the world. Repeat it, while you continue to read. It should help you to actively accept your emotions, to relax from deep inside. That way your emotions can move through your body and will not dominate your thoughts and your behavior. After a while, you get more control over your actions and reactions. You will feel more energetic, because you don’t have to put energy in suppressing your emotions.

Michael Sky doesn’t write about music. But I couldn’t help to make that link. Not only breathing mobilizes your emotions and makes them move, music can have the same effect. When you feel stuck in grief, so much even that you can’t cry, a song can break you up. Suddenly the tears start flowing. After crying for a while you can feel very relieved. Or when feeling down, a song can sheer you up and you smile again. Some years ago, when I didn’t feel well, the song “Shine” by Asward often made me feel better again 🙂

What song is a shortcut to your emotions?


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