Sing away the pain

There is a vast variety of coping strategies and relaxation techniques, which are all equally as effective. One such strategy is music therapy.

When we are stressed, we have a build of tension and emotion. Therefore there needs to be a release of this tension, to help cope with the stressor. Music is a great outlet, as singing along with your favourite song, pouring all your emotion into the song and singing at the top of your lungs. By doing this you are reliving your stress, especially when you feel overwhelmed, it’s an effective way to be mindful of yourself. An individual is able to loose themselves in the music and let go for a few moments.

I am a big advocate of music therapy as no matter who you are and what you’re going through, music is often a great distraction and outlet for emotion. Not many think of listening to music as an effective therapy tool, as they can’t make the link between emotion to music. Let’s put it into another perspective for example an individual feels alone, isolated and has no hope that anything good will occur. They may turn to physical self harm, alcohol, drugs or even attempt suicide. Now these are very valid coping mechanisms which people learn and implement. But they are very temporary and the after effect is always negative. However if the person decides to turn on some music and sing and pour the emotion out, there will be little need to reach for the bottle of whisky or packets of pills. As they have released their emotion, they may not have dealt with the situation but the emotion attached has been dealt with.

In life it’s not often the stressor that causes us stress but our perception of it, what it means to us, how it affects us etc. How we perceive something will then drive our emotions towards it. This build up of emotion than causes us to feel stressed, anxious etc. Consequently we than engage in any behaviour to help cope with the emotion. This is key! We forget about dealing with the emotion, how we are feeling, we often don’t have an effective outlet for it. For example deliberately lacerating your forearm will not help relieve the emotion but will help the person have a physical outlet to what they are feeling such as pain. They feel pain but can’t express it, lacerating can help place understanding to the pain they feel. But the critical point is the feeling of pain is not fully dealt with.

Therapy is an effective way of confronting the emotion, understanding our feelings and relieving the emotion attached.

Some may argue they don’t listen to music, which is a fair argument. Music therapy is just one method in hundreds, so if music is not for you maybe drawing or doing art being more expressive, may be more ideal for example.

Music therapy and such therapies are effective and work long term because you are releasing positive endorphins in your brain, you start to think less negatively and you feel you are more able to tackle the problem as you’ve released a lot of the emotion attached to it. This is an important aspect which a lot of people forget or don’t realise, we have a lot of emotional baggage attached to any given situation . If we are able to let go of the emotion; anger, sadness, pain etc we are only left with the problem. Our judgment and decision making is not clouded or blurred by emotion. We are more able to make rational and logical decisions and perceive the situation differently.

Pause. You might be reading this thinking this is wishful thinking and naive to think every situation can be solved so easily. Incorrect. Here I’m not saying every situation can be solved with this method of understanding emotion . Not at all. Here I mean to say, try using music in times of difficulty, try another coping mechanism which you haven’t tried. My message here is to offer another alternative strategy which is very effective. Just try it.

Music encompasses all the emotion we may feel at any given time. Not one song has only emotion attached to it, they vary in emotion throughout; they are mini journeys. This is what makes them effective, as the song successfully aids you through all the emotions and removes any extra feelings. For example when I feel angry I tend to reach for grime or hip hop music, as they reflect my mood more. But I find after a few songs or so, I maybe listen to some RnB and maybe ending up at pop music. By this time I don’t feel angry anymore but more calm and ready to think of a solution to the problem. At this point I’m not acting in anger or rage but a rational place. Yes in most circumstances this approach doesn’t work as we may need the emotion to help drive us to confront the problem.

Individuals with mental health conditions, use music a lot to escape reality, express their current thoughts/ feelings or to deal with their problems. The individual may have issues surrounding controlling or understanding their emotions and feelings. They are unable to identify them and express them to others. This is seen to be very effective in those suffering with depression.

Music is a great way of allowing others an indirect insight into your current mental state without communication. The listener will often understand what your feeling from the song which you play.

Music can also be used to be mindful and bring yourself, back to yourself. It can centre you and reign in your thoughts and feelings, focus them on one aspect, allowing you control again.

So next time you or someone you know is going to something, provide different options for coping and ask them to try methods which they haven’t yet explored. As you never know singing may be the one strategy which works ( they may even have a good voice).

No one understands

This is a phrase which is all too often used. This statement is true and no one truly understands what another person is going through. It’s impossible. But we each have gone through the same or similar experience, this will therefore give us insight the thoughts, feelings and behaviours surroundings it.

Humans tend to be natural curious beings whom seek answers and will assume answers where there is none. This use of assuming is what we do all to often, everyday, to one another. We assume what a person is thinking, doing, saying, believing etc etc. For we tend assume when we don’t understand or have no answer. For example when we see someone running down a road, instantly we think of the scenario of why they are running. But why do we do that? The reason is we need to feel we understand the world around us and once we can do this than we can navigate through life.

But in doing so we never truly understand the world which is actually around us. Our current perception of the world is made up of our assumptions and perceptions of reality. But the reality is not being perceived as reality. In fact we cannot truly say we understand our reality.

So we can use and extend it to, we don’t really understand each other as human beings.

If you suffer from a physical condition or mental health condition, we assume the world doesn’t understand but the person in hospital with a similar diagnosis, understands me well. This is because you are going through the same battles and facing the world in a similar view. This is not 100% correct. Nobody can really understand what another is fully going through or feeling. But a person may be able to relate to your situation or feelings.

Life is a constant game which we all play but no one knows the rules. We make up our own moves, rules and players. So again why do we think we understand each other?

Humanity is a collective race, we have the need to feel part of a whole. Because there are many mysteries we face, and we cannot gain answers for them all. So we assume the individual sitting opposite me in school knows how boring the class is and how no one is listening to the teacher. But in actual fact the student might be activitively listening and enjoying the class. They may be thinking that you are also enjoying the class.

This highlights that everyone perceives the world from different realities at all times. We are continuously creating these false realities, in order to survive in our own reality. In doing so we are not living our true self as we have built our perception from assumptions and false thoughts.

So when an individual is cutting themselves, crying through the pain and feeling alone, they partially are correct. They are independent in their thoughts and ways of coping. But what we also fail to realise is the person who is trying to help them and support the through their tough times, is dependent on them. This means that we can’t assume no one understands. As overtime we have greater insight into others, therefore able to support and guide them. We spend our lives learning so we can understand. In times of distress and low points, we forget our human instinct.

I’m not stating we understand everything about each other, but we are able to be empathetic to someone or relate to some extent.

Let’s take the subjective nature of hearing voices. This is a phenomenon which can’t be proved or disproved. So on that basis the understanding we can have is vicariously through another’s explanation. Speaking from my experience of working in mental health, I can’t say I do understand hearing voices and the effect it has. But through working with individuals with voices and supporting them, I have built up a working knowledge that allows me to have some insight. Also to help implement coping strategies and distraction techniques.

When we begin to support others, we learn things about ourselves. We tend understand our emotions, how we react, our thoughts and our perception. It’s important to have this knowledge and to progress as a person.

The actual notion ‘no one understands’ is a statement said out of anger, fear and resentment. It’s a cry for help and the same time as closing up to the world. We need to support, guide and be patient with one another. This will lead to people understanding another and discovering themselves in the process.

It’s time to resist conformity

Learned behaviour is any action that is undertaken by the individual to gain a desired outcome. For example Pavlov’s Dogs.

Conformity is the action of following unspoken rules or behaviours of any given group. To help answer our curiosity and assumptions. Also to mask our insecurities or lack of knowledge. For example Asch conformity experiment.

It’s very easy to conform to social norms, most times we don’t even realise we are doing it. It’s an innate mechanism in humans which makes us want to be apart of the collective and seek their approval. This can be in the form of agreeing with the majority even when you don’t agree , or crossing the road because a few other people do. When we hear the word conformity we all say ‘ I don’t conform I have my one mind’. So if we saw a large crowd standing still looking up what would your instinct be? To stand with them and look up. This is both curiosity and conformity. People often conform as they are curious why others have and what the outcome will be (social influence).

If everyone jumped of the cliff would you jump too? We’ve all this analogy time and time again. But it hides some truth in human nature. Humans are simple beings with complex mechanisms. This is an oxymoron of our lives. We are bound by social obedience.

An individual with suicidal ideations, maybe more inclined to follow social norms due to lack of control and the need to feel as apart of a group. This can be detrimental to their own mental health. For example if they perceive the majority to be self-harming, the need to be within a collective can cause the individual to also engage in self- harming behaviours. Here they will assume if the others are doing it than it must be right.

Let’s take the simple example of crossing the road because someone else has. Why do we follow that person do we assume they have a clearer vision than you of the road. Or are they taking the chance to get through? I myself have done this, followed others and I have also been the position where people have followed me. Here human beings assume the thoughts and actions of another person. What if the person who crossed out in the road hadn’t looked to see if it were safe? Or if they intend on hurting themselves? We are then in a vulnerable position ourselves because we assumed what their action meant.

In life we constantly assume, look for curiosity and conform to help us navigate through life. But it comes at a consequence. By conforming we are relying on others to for example keep us safe and control our lives. The concern is if we loose control of our lives, how are we meant to live?

An individual with a mental health condition will often feel a sense of no control and will look to others for guidance. This can both be positive and negative. If the look to professional or carers etc for guidance they receive filtered support and advice which lead them on the right path. However if they receive unfiltered guidance such as from others who are in a similar situation, they may be lead down a different negative path. The social influence of others and urge to be obedient can lead to undesired behaviours being learnt.

As you can see we have very simple innate behaviours but very complex mechanisms which drive it. So be confident and step out of line, make your decisions and choices based on you. Don’t look to others for guidance and someone is looking at you to for guidance.

$#!+happens

This is everyone’s favourite quote when they can’t explain or want to justify something. In life we all go through ups and downs, that’s what life is. But when something negative happens, what is our perception, what do we think about it. Everyone has their way of coping with negative issues, some will; cry, get angry, withdraw in themselves, tell everyone (spilling), get up and carry on. For me I get upset, angry then brush myself off and move on.

Identifying your coping mechanisms, thoughts, feelings and behaviours when faced with a challenge or low point in life, can help you in the future. You are more likely to utilise all your tools and strategies that work. Mindfulness is an amazing tool which can help in so many ways. By focusing on your current present state, you are more likely to deal with your emotions/behaviours and gain control of yourself. It’s easy to get lost in our emotions and loose control. But taking the time to recognise it will help ease your stress levels.

Mindfulness can be done independently or with the aid of a secondary person. It helps put things into perspective and allow you take a step back and look at the problem from the outside. Allowing you the chance to realise the impact it has had on you.

Everyone has different coping mechanisms and level of tolerance. A person dealing with the reality they have been raped for example , this can often blur and alter your coping mechanisms. As what you thought would work, hasn’t and then you find yourself spiralling out of control, cognitively spilling and unable to get back control. In many ways you loose yourself in the process. You then reach a point in which you become so numb to how you feel you say “$#!+ happens”. NO. That quote highlights the fact you have given up hope and motivation to cope and get help. You have tried for so long and nothing has worked so you now accept this reality to be your life. NO.

No matter the severity of the negative issue, a person must always find a way to cope or deal with it. One way is to talk to someone, let them into your world and allow them access to your thoughts and feelings. In doing so the other person can understand to some extent the pain your going through. If they are aware they can maybe help and support you, using tools they have used themselves. Humanity is not a lone race but a collective, we feed off each other to survive. So turninlg to a person is going to help you.

World gives you a certain label which you live with for the rest of your life

Be careful of the label which you place on others such as; weird, stupid, odd, crazy, idiot or something more derogatory. These can be detrimental to their mental wellbeing or could reaffirm their own beliefs/fears. People can be very judgmental and place labels on others based on their ignorance, bias and fears. Labelling someone is placing a misconception or unwanted judgment on them without understanding the individual. They then perceive all of society sees them this way and will judge them before even getting to know them. This can lead to to social withdrawal and anxiety.

One main issue is the individual will begin to portray their label and they feel that’s the only way to manoeuvre in society free from further judgment. Causing the individual to feel more weighed down and overwhelmed by the label placed on them.

Many individuals such as those with mental health issues, can feel isolated and ashamed, due to the negative stigma and labels placed on them. Even though we are in the 21st Century, mental health is still a major taboo and is a topic of conversation not openly discussed. This can cause the individual to withdraw with themselves and cope with their pain by themselves.

You can find friends who see through the labels, to support you. We live in a very judgmental world where labelling someone is becoming more prevalent. Let’s make a change and tear down the notion of labelling people to mask our own insecurities and issues.

So we expect them to put a label on us or we label ourselves. This is to defend ourselves from the stigma attached to the label. If we presume this is what they are thinking, we can already begin to face it. For example someone who has a mental health diagnosis will call themselves “crazy”, offering the explanation “ I can say that as I’m crazy and they know I am”. Here the person is putting a label on themselves, as this is where they see themselves viewed in society.

It is hard to conduct in a confident way in a society where everything is stigmatised, judged and ridiculed. Any deviation from the “norm” is deemed “abnormal”. However ask yourself “ what does it mean to be normal?”.

In juxtaposition, some individuals will wear their label as a badge of honour and proudly confront society by showing their label to all. Again this is a coping mechanism, which one highlights they have an issue and two where they can hide behind it, almost a mask. For these individuals, the label/ stigma has been dealt with, leaving them scope to better deal with their concern.

If you place emphasis on an issue, everyone will notice. If you don’t place any emphasis, no one will know. This can refer to the label that maybe placed on a person. If you take the label and place a negative connotation on it, it will affect you. However if you embrace the label, then it won’t affect you.

Why did I do this to myself?

This is a question we ask ourselves all to often. This may equate to a decision we have made. In life we make many decisions, some that benefit us and others that may cause us grief or pain. As humans we make decisions almost every moment of our lives, from deciding what to get our bed, what to eat or more major life choices. At times we don’t realise the impact of the decisions, on our behaviour or emotions. We fail to realise is, the decisions we make in the split second may not have any thought behind them and therefore hindsight will serve us well.

When suffering from a mental health condition, every decision can be very difficult and impactful. The decision to wake up and start the day can be the biggest struggle they face. The impulsive nature of some actions such as to self harm or attempt suicide are not necessarily decisions but urges to be fulfilled. However once the urges has been fulfilled the sense of guilt, anger, regret and sadness occurs. Leading to sled harming behaviours which in term creates this endless cyclical affect, which we see in some individuals.

Sometimes we don’t understand why we have done something the 1st time and than a 2nd time it makes no sense at all. Here a person will realise that they may not be in control and giving in to impulsive behaviours to easily. A decision will have to made to manage these urges and gain control on their behaviour and feelings.

Many individuals feel they lose themselves and fear they are trapped in an endless cycle of bad decisions and negativity. However this may be lead by our own anxiety around these choices and emotions.

Dependent on the mental health condition, many individuals find it hard to regulate their emotions, the overwhelming nature of the behaviour which follows. This can cause them to spiral out of control and engage in risky behaviours.

However if support is given and understanding that we all have a decision, no matter how impulsive the behaviour can be. So if someone is struggling than it’s important to remind them of the steps and decisions they have taken that day to reach that point; getting out of bed, eating some food and talking to someone etc. As we forget the small decisions we do and only focus on the bigger decision, this makes us forget the positive nature of every decision.

Talking therapies, mindfulness, CBT or DBT are all effective therapies which can assist in acknowledging the negative thoughts and increased anxiety. Attempting to face the problem and to help cope with your feelings and thoughts.

A person should never feel the choices they make were wrong, should be the opposite, acknowledge the decision and learn from it. Also to use the coping mechanism that aid a them when they feel overwhelmed and see no other solution.

Truth doesn’t matter

We speak the truth and no one wants to listen or believe it. When we lie and cover up our truth we are heard loud and clear. The truth for us may hurt and make us feel uncomfortable, we can’t expect anyone else to understand, so we lie. The human race presumes they can assume what others will think and say. But in reality this may not even be the case. So to protect ourselves, we lie as it’s easier to cope with. However the lie will mean the truth is more painful and harder to cope with.

A lie is our defence mechanism against reality as we can’t face the truth ourselves. We test people with small snippets or hypothetical topics that are linked to our truth. We do this to try and understand the other persons perspective and opinion on it. If we feel their reaction is not what we want it to be, we close up and lie. Also telling the truth can cause a lot of pain and hurt others, indirectly without any intention.

Speaking the truth may not always be the best option. A lie and truth is an infinite circle which keeps revolving with no sign of ever stopping. A lie can easily turn to truth and a truth can be a lie. A person can suppress the truth so much so the lie becomes their reality.

An individual with a mental health condition struggles with this reality more so than the average person. Everyone struggles with the inner battle of truth vs lie. But someone with a mental health condition battles with the need to cry for help and protect themselves. However this can be detrimental to their recovery as the constant lying can lead to the truth not being dealt with. In addition, some may speak the truth but be un heard and people around them whom are un-willingly to listen. For this reason, the individual may start to think the the truth doesn’t matter as the lie is getting attention. We need to stop this cycle and recognise within ourselves that as much as the truth is painful and difficult to face it is necessary to be able to progress and recover.

It’s everyone’s duty to make a person feel safe and comfortable to speak their truth without fear. In doing so people won’t feel the need to lie or use it as a defence mechanism.