Sunday, September 13, 2009

Battling inertia one session at a time

From the Random House College Dictionary Revised Edition (1984), the definition of "resistance" and "resist":
Resistance: n. 1. the act or power of resisting, opposing, or withstanding. 2. the opposition offered by one thing, force, to another....4. Psychiatry. opposition to an attempt to bring repressed thoughts or feelings into consciousness. 5. (usually cap.) (esp. during World War II) an underground organization working to overthrow the occupying power, usually by acts of sabotage, guerilla warfare, etc.

Resist: v.t. 1. to withstand, strive against, or oppose. 2. to withstand the action or effect of. 3. to refrain or abstain from, esp. with difficulty or reluctance.--v.i. 4. to make a stand or make efforts in opposition; act in opposition; offer resistance. --n. 5. a substance that prevents or inhibits some action, as a coating that inhibits corrosion.

I didn't think D was going to be attending music therapy today. When I arrived in his cottage to pick him up he was sprawled all over his chair napping. But, I'll be darned, he got up and put on the rain poncho with some help from me, and we walked over to the Music Room, even more slowly than usual. He seemed so sluggish it was watching someone moving through a vast and entangling substance.

When I saw him the previous week, he was so exhausted, I'd given up early and walked him back.

After removing his rain gear and handing it to me, he went to lie down on the couch, appearing quite beat.

I asked him what he needed from the music, inviting him to look toward me when one of my suggestions sounded right to him. Did he need the music to express something he was having trouble saying? Did he need music to soothe him? To energize him? He chose "energize him" (looking at me directly rather than looking away as he had done when I offered him the other options).

I played "We Are the Champions" for a couple of reasons: first, it starts out quietly and builds (following the mood-iso principle of matching the person's general state musically and moving the music in the emotional direction one is trying to achieve). Second, the lyrics (to me anyway) offer a powerful commentary about struggling to overcome difficulty and standing firm in one's truth.

The song didn't seem to do much for him (although he seemed to be listening behind his closed eyes).

"D, I'm not sure what to offer you. You're letting me know you're very tired. I don't know whether it's because you don't feel well physically, or if you're feeling downhearted. If you truly don't feel physically well, then please let me know by standing up and going to the door, and we'll go back to the cottage so you can rest. If you're feeling downhearted or depressed, it may help if you take the first step by sitting up."

I played an energetic riff on the guitar, and I improvised a song in which I presented him, again, with this choice: stop for the day or make an effort by sitting up. I pointed out that I can't make him stay awake, and if he wants my help he needs to meet me halfway (by not lying down and at least trying to engage in the session).

To my surprise, he did sit up as I sang, and he remained sitting for the final ten minutes of the session!

I invited D to use the instruments or his voice to give me an idea of what it's like for him to move right now (to go from lying down to sitting up). He chose his preferred instrument, the tube shaker, and picked it up and put it down a number of times. He began to use his voice, and there was a quiet, low, somewhat whimpering quality.

We (okay I) talked about resistance, and I congratulated him for pushing through his inertia to be able to sit up and take a (figurative) step forward.

Yet another way in which my clients amaze and impress me.


Anonymous said...

Roia, I continue to be amazed by your patience . . . and your insights in your work. Nice job!

Roia said...

Thank you, Anonymous! What a kind thing to say! :- ) I appreciate your willingness to read through my (usually lengthy) thought process.