Thursday, May 28, 2015

CBT and Song: I'll See You in My Dreams

It is no secret that when a therapist goes to a conference and learns something new, or merely signs up for a continuing education course online and actually applies herself, learns the material before taking the test, she'll probably talk about the new intervention or theory for at least a week or two. All patients are unknowing guinea pigs. Beware.

But sometimes we come upon something on our own, a random strategy that helps us with our depression or anxiety, and having successfully applied it, we know that it works for at least one case study. If it lifts our dopamine or serotonin, changes the way we feel, why wouldn't it help at least a few others?

Not to tell all, but I had a bad day, and I felt really badly, and I couldn't shake it, obsessed about what had happened far too long. This can happen to anyone and probably does, but knowing that time heals (most of the time) didn't help at all. Neither did any of my tried and true CBT interventions.

Talking to FD and my friends, which usually helps SO much, only helped a little. No emotional energy left to write (not wanting to revisit the material, that's for sure), I was frustrated and out of steam. Then, out of nowhere, I remembered something.

Maybe the writers of Blythe Danner's I'll See You in My Dreams remembered it, too.
I'll See You in My Dreams

The movie is all about Ms. Danner, and if you've been missing her, you won't in this film, she is all of it. This is about aging and loss, and that's as far as we'll go with the spoilers, except to say that at some point she is discussing her first career as a singer with the pool guy.

Yes, there's a pool guy, and yes, very handsome (Martin Star).

He asks her, "When did you stop singing?"

She doesn't know.

That's all you'll get about this film for today.

So here's the thing about singing. It does change the way you feel, as does listening, but it is active, not passive,like listening tends to be. It focuses the mind with several senses, not only one, especially if you try to sing well, by ordering the lips to work in a certain way, the chest to breathe deeply, to hold then release the breath, the words, with exactitude.

To say that song is an avenue of expression is redundant, but if it is, why don't we sing more often? We're fearful of being heard, obviously, and being laughed at, as if anyone really cares or would. Like sport, where spectating is the next best thing, we listen to and admire Adelle, Renee, so many others. We sing along and cry, perhaps, transcend our realities, dissociate from what is troubling us. That is what it is, really, when we're engaged like that, dissociating from problems. We all have them, and creating something new, when we do something creative, such as sing or sing along, puts us totally, consciously in charge. Except when we hit a wrong note. But we're not Adelle, not Renee, not even, dare we say it, Barbra. So sure, there will be a wrong note or more.

So there I am, can't remember exactly where, probably in the car where they say most people sing, no, in a parking lot looking for the car, and I'm actively searching for a song to lift me up, and I remember Barbra's Smile, everyone's favorite, and I begin to sing and it lifts my spirits some, but not nearly enough. In fact, the song makes me a little worse, because it is about feeling sad and how smiling makes us feel better (believe it or not this is true). But a person has to really work at smiling when it doesn't feel natural, when the feeling isn't there.

This is a do it thing, however, and if you do force your face into a smile and hold it, this, too, can produce a little change in the brain, enough of one that many depressed people who go to work and have to smile because they won't sell something if they don't, or people will ask too many questions if they don't, will report that their days, while faking it, can feel pretty good.

So smiling is an excellent cognitive behavioral exercise, and Barbra's song is spot-on.

But it's sad!

I switched to happy songs, literally peppy tunes, which helped enormously. Zippity Do Dah and High Hopes--Oops There Goes Another Rubber Tree Plant, and a few slow ones (Where is Love, Oliver) some of my all time favorite songs.

And yes, I have been suggesting to patients that they do this, find happy songs. Although crying feels good, and surely, we can't help it, we have to cry, it is irrepressible; but if it is at all possible, if we can get out of our sadness, pull ourselves out of that dark place, lift our own spirits without waiting for the Lexipro to kick in, then there's no better feeling, no better facial expression, than a smile.

Because at some point, as the queen of Broadway croons, What's the use of crying?


Oh, just a few.



Counsellor Dean Richadson MBACP(Accred) said...

>> And yes, I have been suggesting to patients that they do this,
>> find happy songs.
>> Because, what's the use of crying.

Nice article, Therapy Doc, but I'm wondering if you were being flippant or serious about your last sentence.

From a CBT perspective, you'll understand where I'm coming from that emotions, cognition, somatics and behaviour make up the whole CBT "doughtnut", so to speak. So, there is incredible use in crying, and what I read kinda struck me as an "if you break your left, use the other one" approach to therapy.

So, what was your point about avoiding crying?

Dean Richardson MBACP(Accred)

therapydoc said...

No, I was just singing. Of course I believe in crying and recommend it to everyone especially the stoics out there who have no use for it. Maybe I should rewrite it because you are correct, the lyric gives the wrong message

therapydoc said...

Okay! I changed it. A little.Thanks for that feedback Dean.

Shannon smith said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Thanks for keeping it real! I love hearing about what's really going in you head (not just the sanitized versions) ;-) Had something not quite the same but similar happen this week. It also had to do with music. In my case, I had one of those low grade funks hovering over me like a dark cloud for most of the day...(in spite of all of the tricks I too know to shake it) popped in an old CD by my favorite group U2 and bingo...dark cloud was gone. both the words and the sound washed over me like a fresh breeze. There is definitely something powerful and spiritual in music. DM

therapydoc said...

Thanks Shannon, but I can't link to therapies I haven't more data on.
And DM, if we can't be real in cyberspace, well, you know, what's the point?

Better Things-- Seeing Ghosts