In my very first session this morning (assuming I can remember back that far) I found myself working with my client’s resistance. He has been receiving music therapy from me for...gosh...a lot of years now. And while we have a strong relationship he avoids the music-making aspect of things quite a bit.
He has some movement issues (mostly around organizing his body to move in a specific way), and he does not use speech to communicate, but he has a strong voice, he can be remarkably clear in letting me know what he wants, and he’s quite capable of choosing an instrument and making some sort of sound with it. But...he doesn’t.
So I pointed this out to him (because, apparently, being a music therapist means being in a position to point out the obvious) and I invited him to think about it with me: What prevents him from finding his own musical sounds (rather than relying on songs I choose for him)? What if he did play his own music/sounds? What would it sound like? Is there something he’s afraid to hear? Is he afraid his sounds won’t be “good enough”?
As I pondered these things I became aware of the fact that, by not playing his own music, by not choosing his own sounds- his own musical voice, he avoids being heard in this world. Not just by himself but by anyone else. And if he’s not heard, then he has no power.
Powerlessness. Now there’s an issue he and I have addressed in our sessions. And, without diminishing the reality of how hard it is to live in an institution, I asked him whether he thinks he may have been giving everyone else in his life (me, his staff, his family) the responsibility for his life- for expressing his feelings, for organizing and getting his behavior under control, for his happiness...heck, for his very existence.
He made a quick sound to indicate “yes” and I honored the courage it took for him to acknowledge that difficult possibility. It’s not easy for any of us to make that kind of a realization, and his brow became rather furrowed as we continued.
No one wants to hear that we play an important role in our own lives, and we’re not helpless victims. Making everyone else responsible for him makes it easy for my client to be angry with everyone for not meeting his needs, for boring him, for not being there when he wanted them to be, for picking the wrong music, for making incorrect assumptions about what is important to him (the list is endless of course).
What a gift to recognize that we do have a choice, and we are not, in fact, so powerless in our lives.