Use Music to Find Solutions to Problems

8.15.19

By Adam Zwig, PhD

Here’s a fun exercise to connect with your process and discover solutions to your problems.

Think of a problem you want to work on. Take a minute and review your experience of it. Then put it aside and do the following:

Step One: Close your eyes and listen for music. What’s the first song that pops into your head? Don’t think about it; just let it present itself. It doesn’t matter if you like it or hate it. Just let it happen. Listen to it in your mind’s ear. You may want to sing a few bars. Feel it, sense it, and describe the state of mind and body it puts you into. Is it fun? Exciting? Peaceful? Melancholy? Sentimental? Sad? Angry? Powerful? Annoying? Feel into it as much as you’re able to, and reflect on it for a minute. Do this before going on to Step Two.

Step Two: Close your eyes again, and listen for a second song that song pops into your mind. Do it like last time—just let it happen. Don’t think about it. And again, listen, feel, sense, and notice your experience of the song. Sing it if you want. Really get into it, and describe the state of mind and body it puts you into.

Step Three: Stay with this second song, and amplify your experience by feeling into it further. Feel it in every part of your body. Embody it throughout your entire being. Make your mind this way too.

Step Four: In your mind make a picture of the feeling. Visualize an image that expresses the same thing as the feeling, not something different. For example, if you feel happy, an image might be a playful, smiling child or a bright sunny day. If you feel melancholy an image might be a lonely road or a cloudy sky. If you feel calm and peaceful and your image is of a bomb exploding you didn’t translate the feeling.

Step Five: Stand up and move your body in a way that expresses the feeling and image. Be the feeling and image; be the song!

Step Six: Describe your experience.

Step Seven: How can you use this state of mind/body to respond to your problem? Identify with it as the solution to what’s bothering you.

Understanding Your Process:

Your experience of the first song reflects a state of mind / way of being you tend to identify with. I call this your First Mind because it’s the primary, most familiar way of being you lean toward; it’s part of your consciousness and identity, and is therefore known to you.

Your experience of the second song is where your growth is. It’s your higher self—the more evolved and aware person you’re in the process of becoming. I call this your Second Mind because it’s further from your consciousness and identity, and therefore comes into your awareness only secondarily. Getting to know this part of yourself will bring you healing and enlightenment. It’s your ticket to personal liberation.

Ask yourself how this Second Mind way of being can help you in life. How would you deal with your problems? How would you relate to people? How would you be in the world?

Great work! You’ve just learned how to connect with your process and discover solutions to problems by letting two songs pop into your head, amplifying your experience of the second song, and contemplating how you can bring this more into your life.

Some Examples:

A thirty-year-old, client, Karen, felt oppressed in her marriage. She had a sweet and gentle personality and didn’t know how to deal with her verbally aggressive husband. The first song she heard was Ed Sheeran’s "Give Me Love," which she experienced as a feeling of longing to be loved. It was clear to her that this was what she was identified with. The second song she heard was Katy Perry’s “Roar." Karen laughed as soon as the song popped into her head because it was obviously a girl-power song about standing up for herself. We amplified her experience of “Roar” as the antidote to her fear of expressing strength in her relationship. Eventually, she was able to express her power, and it actually changed her relationship for the better.

A fifty-eight-year-old client, Pete, was having a mid-life crisis. He’d just lost his job, became depressed, and didn’t know what to do. The first song he heard was Bob Dylan’s "Tangled Up in Blue", which despite being a relationship breakup song, was experienced by Pete as a song about feeling lost. He said he totally identified with this feeling. The second song he heard was a classical song: Stravinsky’s “Firebird." He said this song made him feel nervous. We amplified his nervousness and it unfolded into an experience of energy and a feeling to get to work to find a new job instead of sitting around moping and being depressed. Within a few months he found a new job and his depression lifted.

A twenty-three-year-old client, Jake, had a conflict: People he didn’t particularly like frequently asked him to spend time together, and he’d meet up with them because he loved people in general, and liked going out and having fun. But at some point during the night he’d always think to himself, “Why am I hanging out with this person? I don’t even like him!". The situation stressed him out. The first song that came to him was an ACDC song. He couldn't remember the title but said it rocked his brain. It made him feel totally inside his ecstatic, fun self where he just follows his passion to party and have fun, and doesn’t think about or analyze what he feels toward someone. It was obvious to him that this represented his tendency to hang out with whoever asks him—just go with the flow. 

The second song he heard was “Rap Devil” by Machine Gun Kelly. I asked him how this song made him feel and he said it was a tougher take on things—not just being in his party-time feelings and letting them take him wherever they want, but rather a sense of strength, toughness, firmness. He said it made him feel in charge of his feelings rather than them being in charge of him. I asked him how this he could use this power to solve his dilemma, and he replied that he could use it to be more selective about who he hangs out with. He tried it and discovered he has way more fun when he’s with someone he genuinely likes.

©2019 Dr. Adam Zwig

Dr. Zwig - psychotherapist, singer-songwriter, and author - is an internationally renowned workshop leader and lecturer, has had 9 Top Ten hit singles on the U.S Adult Contemporary charts, and has over 70 million views on YouTube. He has been featured in Billboard, Huffington Post, CNBC, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, Forbes, and Gibson. Dr Zwig has released 7 albums and his songs can regularly be heard on NBC, Fox, and Fuel TV. His forthcoming book, Music in the Mayhem: Tales of Total Transformation from a Rock n Roll Psychotherapist, arrives soon.