Instant pleasure and the hypnotic effects of music
Posted Mar 12 2010 1:02am
Last night, I was listening to music whilst cooking Tom one of his favourite suppers. (For any foodies out there, it involves chestnuts and Savoy cabbage and it is really a lot more delicious than that actually sounds…)
As I blanched, chopped and stir-fried, I stuck my iPod in our speaker-gadget thingie (technical term) and whacked up the volume. It wasn’t long before I was dancing around the kitchen to tunes I hadn’t heard in a very long time: Morcheeba, Moloko, Goldfrapp and one of my all-time favourites, ‘Instant Pleasure,’ by Rufus Wainwright.
I had my music on the shuffle setting and tracks popped up that I hadn’t listened to in a couple of years. It was very interesting to me that, as each song came on, images from the past would pop into my mind.
Some of the songs were powerfully associated for me with the last long hot summer I spent living in London; others revivified for me the experience of driving around in Tom’s car through the Yorkshire countryside in the first months after we met.
It reminded me of just how powerful music is for me in inducing these trance phenomena. To be more specific about it, you might say that music has the ability to trigger a series of age regressions in which I revisit specific scenes and feel in my body some of what I felt back then combined, in a particularly potent way, with my emotions about remembering those scenes from my past.
Fragrances and scents do that for me too: the smell of old books with a certain kind of paper can regress me right back to particular moments from my childhood; the smell of a cocoa butter body lotion I like to use still carries with it a memory of my first holiday in France. I am leaning out of the window of an old house on the coast, looking at the sun making long shadows between the olive trees, stretching my arms above my head.
Of course, I have cultivated that particular association, perhaps deepened it over the years, because I enjoy experiencing it so much. I can still connect with the sense of excitement, of my life opening for me, that I felt as a thirteen-year-old in France and I want to reconnect with that feeling, from time to time.
The iPod-induced trance phenomena I experienced last night was a powerful reminder of the ability of our minds to create these associations. Sometimes it is extremely pleasurable to revivify and reconstruct the happy, life-enhancing memories and experiences that nurture deep parts of our selves.
You know, I think that sometimes, as hypnotherapists, we can easily forget that spontaneous regression as a phenomenon doesn’t have to be difficult or unhelpful. We might spend a lot of time working with people who need help in stopping the unhelpful regression to and endless reconstruction of incidents and events in their past that are troubling them in some way.
And yet there are all kinds of powerful positive memories and associations that we can draw upon as resources to help us to strengthen aspects of our selves.
I don’t think that’s what Rufus Wainwright actually means when he sings about, (ahem!) ‘Instant Pleasure,’ but it works for me.