February is a month where romantic relationships are celebrated. But what about other relationships in your life? In particular, let’s focus on your relationship with yourself. This is an important relationship that can be easy to overlook. In this post I’m going to look at ways that music can help you to define your relationship with yourself.
To begin, though, you need to get an honest idea of what your relationship with yourself is like. So ask yourself some questions. First, how would you define your relationship with yourself? Be honest. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer. There is only useful information.
With this information, you can make changes in how you define your relationship. These changes can lead to a whole new way of understanding and caring for yourself so that you can be able to understand and care for others in mutually satisfying ways.
The Role Attachment Plays In Your Relationship With Yourself
Once you have a sense of what your relationship with yourself is like in this moment, you may wonder why your relationship with yourself is the way it is. A lot of it comes from the way you were raised and what your early relationships were like. This is because these relationships shape your attachment style. Attachment styles have to do with how you relate to your caregivers and how your caregivers relate to you. 
Attachment Styles Broken Down
While I don’t want to get too deep into attachment theory, you can see why it’s important to have some sort of understanding of it. These are the four main attachment styles. 
When a child has secure attachment to their caregivers, they know that when the caregiver leaves, they will return. The child prefers their caregivers over strangers. People who have a secure attachment style tend to be empathetic and understanding.
As adults, securely attached individuals tend to have trusting and lasting relationships. They are forthcoming with their friends, families, and partners about their feelings. Individuals with secure attachment seek social support and tend to have high self-esteem.
Children who have ambivalent attachment or anxious-ambivalent attachment to their caregivers are suspicious of strangers. They feel distressed when the caregiver goes away but, unlike a child who is securely attached, they don’t feel comforted when the caregiver returns.
Adults who have this type of attachment style have a hard time forming close relationships. They might worry that their partner or friends don’t love them. When a relationship ends, they are incredibly distraught and have difficulty bouncing back.
Children with an avoidant attachment style avoid their caregivers when they return from being gone. They tend to reject attention from their caregivers and don’t seek out or receive comfort.
Adults with an avoidant attachment style have issues with intimacy, as you can imagine. They don’t invest a lot of energy or time in social or romantic relationships. People with an avoidant attachment style don’t know how to share their thoughts and feelings with others.
Children who develop an insecure or disorganized attachment style demonstrate an unclear attachment behavior. They resist and avoid caregivers. This attachment style evolves from inconsistent behavior from caregivers.
Adults with a disorganized or insecure attachment style are often parented by their children, if they have any. They don’t know how to take on a role as a caregiver themselves, because they were never taught how to do so as children.
If you’d like to discover your attachment style, you can take a quiz here at The Attachment Project.
Understanding Your Relationship With Yourself
Much about the way you relate to others has to do with your attachment style. That can include how you relate to yourself. Attachment plays a role in how worthy and cared for you feel. It informs the relationship you have with yourself because if you did not develop a secure attachment, for example, you feeling love and compassion towards yourself likely won’t come naturally.
But your attachment style is capable of changing. One way you can do that is through understanding your relationship with yourself and recognizing yourself as being worthy of love and care.
So what do attachment styles have to do with the relationship you have to yourself? It’s important to look at attachment styles because they truly inform not just how you relate to others, but how you relate to yourself. If you’re insecurely attached to your caregivers, you probably don’t have a secure attachment to yourself. You don’t trust yourself. You also don’t know how to take care of yourself.
Many of Us Are In “Toxic Relationships” With Ourselves
A lot of people have complicated relationships with themselves. If you were to look at how you treat yourself, what would you see? If you had a friend who was in a toxic relationship with another person, you’d probably ask why they were with someone who treats them so badly. Don’t let you be the person who treats you badly. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion.
When you treat yourself poorly, it could be because you have low self-esteem and low self-worth. You may feel unworthy of love and care from others. This is where attachment theory and the relationship you had with your caregivers come in to play. Early childhood relationships affect your sense of self-worth. If you were listened to and made to feel important as a child, your self-worth will be higher than someone who was dismissed and internalized that their feelings didn’t matter.
If your caregivers made you feel that your needs were worthy of being taken care of and addressed, you’ll think that way as you get older. This a demonstration of secure attachment. It informs your relationship with yourself in a very real way.
Redefining Your Relationship With Yourself In Music Therapy
Fortunately, attachment style isn’t a fixed thing. While these early relationships can play a role in how worthy we see ourselves of receiving love and care, we can develop secure attachment as we get older. It’s not too late to define your relationship with yourself in new and healthier ways.
But how you can you change the quality of the relationship you have with yourself?
Music therapy is one way you can begin to develop a more secure attachment to yourself and others. There are a few reasons for this. One is because the therapeutic relationship can parallel the relationship a child has with their caregiver. This is sometimes referred to as the “good enough therapist.” Adding music to the mix can further “amplify” this relationship, so to speak.
This is because music can serve as a way for you to tap into those parts of you that need to feel nurtured and cared for. It can be used as a means for expressing your wants and needs. At the same time music can help you to recognize that you’re worthy of nurture and care. Below is a closer look at why this is so.
Music As Self-Expression
Music therapy provides a container for you to explore your relationship with yourself through creative expression. You can make music within the context of therapy as a way to explore relationships. Your therapist mirrors back what they see. The two of you share musical ideas. Conversations and dialogues can then occur through the music.
In music therapy, we may explore what different attachment styles sound like and how your attachment style shows up in the music. Secure attachment will sound a lot different than disorganized/insecure attachment. We may reflect on how this affects your ability to want to share your music in therapy or with another person. Taking this a step further I might ask you to reflect on how this relates to how you relate to yourself.
Music and Self-Worth
Another way that music can help you define your relationship with yourself is that you can use music as an affirmation of what you’re experiencing in your life. Listening to the lyrics of pre-recorded music can be a direct personal reflection of yourself. The quality of this reflection may of who you are, where you’ve been, and where you want to go.
Besides listening to music, you can make music to connect with your self-worth and your relationship with yourself. Music allows you to connect to deeper feelings. You can physically and tangibly express yourself by making music.
Music can be soothing and nurturing if you need it to be. When you vocalize or play an instrument, you get into a flow that can make you lose awareness of what’s bothering you in that moment. You can connect with your breath and find liberation through the process of making music. This flow state helps you lower your defenses and aids the therapeutic process. It can put you in a mental and emotional space where soothing and nurturing can occur.
Making Music To Access Aspects of Yourself
As a music therapist and counselor, having instruments available to play is part of the draw of therapy. Some people who play instruments before entering into music therapy can immediately pick up an instrument and find a flow state. For others, making music can feel daunting.
And that’s ok. You don’t need to be a musician in order to be able to make music in therapy. There are several instruments I like to use in music therapy sessions that are user-friendly and more accessible:
- The HAPI steel drum
- The Metallophone
- The Reverie Harp
- The electric keyboard (for those who are ready for it)
The first is the HAPI steel drum. HAPI stands for “hand-activated percussion instrument.”  It’s easy to play. You can use your hands or mallets to create melodies and feel the vibrations of the drum. It can be soothing as well as a tool for self-expression.
Another instrument I like to use for increased accessibility is the metallophone. This instrument is comprised of tuned metal bars that you hit with a mallet. Like with the Hapi drum, you can create different melodies. It’s another way to use music as self-expression and explore your relationship with yourself.
I also sometimes use the Reverie Harp. Just like the other two instruments I mentioned, there is no right or wrong way to play this instrument. It’s tuned in such a way that whatever you play will sound good. This makes it possible for you to strum the strings and create whatever melodies and patterns or sounds you like without worrying about whether you’re playing it “right” or not. Another benefit of the Reverie Harp is that you can feel the vibrations through the body of the instrument, which can also feel grounding and soothing.
If you’re someone who’s comfortable playing the keyboard, that’s another option in my music therapy sessions. It doesn’t produce the vibrations the other instruments do, but it does allow you to create melodies and rhythms that help you use music as self-expression. This is another way to explore your relationship with yourself.
One way that this can be done without needing to have prior music theory knowledge, is by choosing to play the white keys or the black keys. Using this as a starting point, different “modes” or musical feeling states can be explored without worrying about needing to stick with a particular key signature. I can play along with you and provide a musical container for you to explore within.
The Role I Play As the Therapist
As for my part in how you use music to express yourself within therapy, my role during these sessions is to be the “good enough therapist.” This refers to Dr. Donald Winnicott’s theory about the “good enough mother.” Winnicott believed that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. The good-enough mother provides what her child needs and adapts as the child grows.  This relates to my job in the sense that I’m here to provide you with what you need in that moment and adapt as your journey unfolds.
In our music therapy sessions together we use music as self-expression to better understand your relationships with yourself. Attachment styles are great for us to explore because your attachment style directly relates to your relationship with yourself.
Are You Ready to Redefine Your Relationship With Yourself?
At SoundWell Music Therapy, I provide a variety of music interventions to help you express your true self. If you’re ready to work on your relationship with yourself while exploring what brought you to this point in your life, be sure to contact me. I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation during which we can talk more about what your needs are. You can schedule here.
References:https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-attachment-theory-2795337 https://www.verywellmind.com/attachment-styles-2795344 https://www.hapidrum.com/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2654842/