The question ‘how is sound healing’ could almost get a one-word answer, but I’ll milk a few posts out of the topic. First, we must establish what is ‘healing.’ Coincidentally, my dictionary widget definition is : the process of making or becoming sound or healthy again [coincidence being ‘sound’ referenced in the definition]. In common conversation, ‘healing’ applies to physical, emotional and mental states — repairing a broken bone or heart, or relieving anxiety or depression.
Second, although music and sound are different [all music is sound, but not all sound is music], I’ll include them both under the sound healing umbrella for the purposes of this article. I loosely think of music as ‘gross’[it’s structured, typically works in a more general manner] and will discuss here, while sound is ‘subtle’ [tones, can be very directed] and will discussed later.
When we hear a song or sound, it falls somewhere on the continuum of love and hate : our favorite track vs. nails on a blackboard. Just reading that second part likely made some cringe. The ‘power of the sound’ affected them without even hearing the noise. The simple recreation of the frequency in their head caused a physical reaction. On the other end of the continuum, a favorite song running through our mind can make us smile and nod to the beat. Each of these examples includes a mental action, and physical and emotional reactions.
Bringing these examples into the physical world amplifies the results in most scenarios [note: the topic of mental mantra recitation is beyond the scope of this article]. Nails on a blackboard? Cringe, squeal, plug ears, etc. Favorite song? Sing out loud, groove a bit, and feel a shift in energy level depending on the tempo.
People use music as a sound healing remedy on a daily basis : a certain station in the morning on the way to work, something upbeat for an energy boost, a lullaby to quiet the baby. I’m using it now as I write this. When selecting music [and friends, partners, even places], we typically choose something or someone we ‘vibe’ with [‘vibe’ coming from ‘vibration’ of course] OR — someone/thing’s vibe we like to be around, as it can shift how we feel.
Imagine a person who receives exciting news, is ‘bursting with emotion’ and comes home to an empty house. They may put on an album that matches their excitement until they can share the news, as there is a strange disparity between the quiet house and their emotional state. On the other end, someone grieving — depending on where they’re at in the process, may choose soothing, melancholic music for the same reason as the ecstatic person — release energy, and be surrounded by something that ‘resonates’ with them. They likely will not select the same music as the person who received the exciting news — their situation calls for a different remedy.
Is this healing? Certainly to a degree, keeping in mind that healing is a process. Being attentive to emotions and working with them appropriately instead of stuffing or ignoring them, whether the emotions be manic or grief-based.
Adding structure and awareness to this concept of applying music as a remedy can increase the benefits. A friend was having violent thoughts, depression and strong emotions. His psychologist recommended he make a mix CD where the first few songs reflected how he felt [punk, metal, etc]. The next few songs were to be a bit more toned down, as were the next, until by the end of the CD he was listening to relaxing, calm music. And it worked — by the end of the mix he was in significantly different headspace than when it began. Had the CD started with calm music, he likely would’ve resisted it or tuned it out — but he could associate with the more aggressive music at the beginning. He synced with the rhythms and sounds, and as the tracks gradually became more chill, he did the same. This example leads us into Part 2 : Entrainment.
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