The Two-Minute Treatment series is for people who are too busy and need help now. As with all treatments, if you need to, please take time to research and evaluate before just jumping in. Otherwise, if you don’t need lots of footnotes and “science,” just go for it.
Is it emotionally intelligent to stuff your emotions? If you’re using music to change your mood you’re missing the point. By the end of this short article, you will understand the actual superpower you’ve missed and how to access it.
In The Mood?
Let’s face it, we all get into moods we don’t like sometimes. And what do we do? We try to change them ASAP. That’s the natural human tendency, right?
There’s a reason we’re in the mood, whatever it is: swing, blues, anxiety pop, poolside, or lounge. Brain science connects us to emotion in powerful ways that have kept us alive for millennia. But in the last few thousand years, we’ve somehow learned to short-circuit the emotions and moods we don’t like. We stuff them.
Fortunately, psychology has come along to help us understand that stuffing big emotions isn’t healthy.
So, let’s ask the question a little differently: is it a natural human tendency to stuff, suppress, or suppress big emotions?
Answering “yes” may be why so many of us are un-doing emotional and psychological damage, and so many others are anger-vomiting as unresolved big emotion begins to leak out in the form of political, economic, racial, gender, and/or environmental issues, or as non-clinical depression, distress, or anxiety (DDA).
We know where “yes” has taken us. What if there was a real “no” option – one that suggests it’s not natural to stuff big emotions?
Un-Stuff Your Emotions
As useful as it is to have a practice that allows big emotions, if that practice can also release the unwanted energy of a lifetime of emotional stuffing, that would be better. Best? A practice that functions in those two ways plus offers more than remediation or intervention, such as a gateway to authentic human connection, or a bridge to spiritual insight. What practices do that?
Lots of practices around big emotions. Which of them allow you to experience a big emotion fully, safely, and with the intentional release of unwanted energy, while retaining the positive energy in that emotion?
Can you think of any popular practices that transform the “negative,” triggered emotional affect while leaving the positive power of the emotion available for you?
Which of the popular big-emotion practices offer a gateway or a bridge from empathy and esteem to higher cognition, engagement with the healing power of aesthetics, self-actualization, or transcendence?
Seriously. Let’s evaluate the answers honestly.
It’s said that yoga prepares the body for meditation. Together, in that sense, yoga and meditation seem very holistic. It’s not clear, however, whether these practices also facilitate authentic, durable, sustainable human connection, but yogis are known for being enlightened human beings and often lead acolytes in humanitarian best practices.
Can you think of other best practices that operate physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, plus offer benefits such as authentic human connection?
That’s a big opportunity. And it’s a tall order. But there’s a built-in superpower you can access, train, and deploy that can and will fill it regularly and reliably. Provided you practice, as my piano teacher liked to say.
Lovin’ the Blues
Before we fill that order, the learning. You will use this information when we deliver the promise: how to unblock your emotional superpower.
If you’ve got #emotionalintelligence already, that’s great. But not necessary. What you’re about to learn is that, when it comes to emotions, your lizard brain – the amygdala – “knows” better than your higher-order brain. Your learning begins by letting the amygdala do what it does best: flood you with emotion.
To do that, put on some headphones and stream some blues. Your favorite. (If you haven’t got a favorite blues track or album, what are you waiting for? Get one now. Start your search with Lizzo.)
As you listen, can you feel the tension between the words and the music? Sometimes the words are one emotion and the music is the opposite, sometimes they’re the same. Either way, the blues has the kind of tension that ebbs and flows, rises up and falls back, then repeats itself until…well, until the emotional energy is spent.
Get that? Until the emotional energy is spent. A good blues song or album is like taking a shower that rinses the unwanted emotional energy away. You can practice that – the blues has been doing it for generations of people who really need that emotional release – and you’ll have access to that special superpower as your listening skills improve.
But how to deploy it for good?
The Two-Minute Treatment – Emotional Release
The promise to you was to have access to a superpower that you may have quite intelligently decided to block. What’s that superpower?
Here it is:
You can, safely and completely, experience any emotion – at whatever power level – and release the unwanted or triggered energy from that emotion while keeping its beneficial energy for your own use.
This means you can be angry – even in a blind rage – and still deploy that energy for good.
It means you can be terrified – immobilized even – and still direct that energy for good.
It means you can be non-clinically depressed, distressed, or anxious (DDA) – and use all of those energies for good.
Psychology agrees that doing this is good practice. Science explains how the holistic modality of music facilitates emotional release. All that remains is for an evidence-based treatment to be invented, patented, licensed, and deployed to therapists, who will take your treasure in exchange for using it on you.
Wrong! Just being facetious to make a point: skillful human beings have used such a modality for thousands of years, and with results that go far beyond remediation or intervention. And you’ve just learned how it works through your own personal experience of the blues.
The modality is music.
Used skillfully, music is a best-practice superpower.
- Identify your emotion
- Use music to support your complete experience of that emotion
That was well under two minutes. Did you notice that Step 2 doesn’t say “Use music to change your mood?” Feel free to choose a new mood any time you want, but know that it’s a best practice to feel emotions fully and safely, and that music is the most powerful tool we have that does that for you.
Yes, you’re able to do that safely because you’re the kind of person who reads articles like this one and figures out that listening to music is very safe, as opposed to listening to music while doing something destructive or acting out on the lyrics in the music.
- You’re the kind of person who can choose to experiment with songs and see how they make you feel, knowing that there’s no built-in requirement to act out on the emotions that come up.
- You’re the kind of person who’s aware of how you feel, how it feels when a mood – a sustained emotion – has ended, and how it feels to choose your next emotion.
- You’re the kind of person who chooses to feel big emotions fully, uncouple them from their negative energy, and release the positive energy they contain for your own use.
And, now that you know your lizard brain takes care of you in a way you may not have fully understood fully, you can relax and know that you’re also the kind of person who’s able to access and use your lizard brain, instead of it leading you around by your nose. That’s your new superpower. And music unlocks it for your use.
Identify the emotion. Use music to support it. Repeat.
What you do with this superpower is up to you. The human race hopes you’ll use it for good.