JAVS Summer 2023

My mind’s eye is like an Etch-A-Sketch device, where I can control its knobs to generate imagery in a controlled manner. (Except: my imagery is not little lines, but rather the mere abstract, image-free content of my mind.) With more time and effort, as well as learned skill, I can begin to create complex and vivid thoughts. However, if someone shakes up my Etch-A-Sketch brain, the thoughts are erased. I would equate “trauma” to someone forcibly shaking up my Etch-A-Sketch brain and erasing its content. I recall from infancy, the shrieking screams of my father, and how I was in a state of panic and fear. And as a child, I always lived in fear of being yelled at randomly, having my Etch-A-Sketch unexpectedly shaken up. With the sudden screams, my mind would go immediately blank, and I’d run in a corner and hide like a mouse. Then when the danger passes, it’s quite hard to even move the knobs to put thoughts together again, because I’ve even forgotten how to move the knobs. I also consider the panicked trauma experience to comprise of different elements. There can be repetitive thoughts with a self-defeating tone: “Shut up. Stop playing. You must die.” And then there are also the kinesthetic effects: the fight/flight/freeze response to perceived danger. In the way that a small animal might play dead to avert being eaten by a predator, a person can respond to perceived danger by freezing and withdrawing. 2 Especially with “freeze,” we learn to clamp up, stiffen, stop moving—this is certainly not conducive to music-making. When we perform, we are subject to the random thoughts that come to mind while we are on stage. Sometimes, the mind can wander into scary places, whether it is distressing memories or feelings. This can be a tremendously painful process to navigate, especially if one has a history of trauma and/or abuse. Even without such adversity, musicians are already familiar with the competitiveness and perfectionism that our profession demands. I integrate Buddhist values into my practice as a therapist. One major tenet is that suffering in life is inevitable. Thus, as a therapist, I uphold the idea that mental relief is found when a person learns ways to navigate and move through thoughts of suffering, instead of suppressing and denying their existence. Movement is key. Oftentimes, when a client comes to a session with a difficult feeling

or experience, they are stuck and stagnant in the feeling. I will then ask many questions to hear more about a person’s experience and perceptions, and through the process of conversation, the person gains additional insight into the situation. This creates the possibility of seeing a situation in new ways. In my work as a therapist, I often use metaphoric descriptions to communicate concepts that paint emotional states as dynamic and in movement . It is also specific to the person. For example, one conversation about a person’s anxiety may lead me to compare the person’s experience to a hurricane. However, another person’s anxiety may elicit a comparison to a runaway train. By using metaphors like this, a person can have an abstract and kinesthetic understanding of their mental state. This appears to then lead to a greater ability to conjure positive abstract imagery, to then calm oneself down. I realize now that the ability to conjure helpful mental imagery is a skill that one can develop, with guidance; It is not necessarily innately known. As a person with aphantasia and a history of trauma, I, myself, did not intuitively have this skill. It only emerged as I was attempting to develop an adaptive alternative to face the challenges posed by my blank-minded experience, doing therapeutic work. comprehensive details of my clients’ lives. With telehealth (and Zoom communicating overall), nonverbal body communication is missed. I don’t know how tall or heavy any of my clients are! But as people talk, I type, and this kinesthetic action helps me remember clients’ life details more easily. As a sound-oriented autistic person, I have started to develop an adaptive way of listening; in the way that a dog gathers information about a person based on smell, I challenge myself to refine my hearing to gather information about a person’s emotional state based on their voice. My approach seems to be on the right track. because my clients make growth from week to week. Also, by asking clients questions as they speak, this helps me construct a sort of abstract “kinesthetic virtual reality” for each client I work with, that is retained in my long-term memory. When I first began work as a therapist via telehealth, it was incredibly hard for me to remember the

Journal of the American Viola Society / Vol. 39, Summer 2023 Online Issue


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