Reclaiming ourselves is an essential part of recovering from Domestic Abuse, and a central aspect of our lives is music. From our very first days as infants we have lullabies, as we grow we sing Nursery Songs, at school we learn songs from different countries, and later we form a bond with popular music and find our favourite singer or band. Soon, our friends introduce us to new sounds, and our taste in music broadens, and includes artists we link to our romantic relationships – these sounds become bitter-sweet, but we usually include them in our play lists. For those of us who have experienced Domestic Abuse, music can also trigger us into states of fear and distress due the music putting us back into a situation of abuse. One particular artist conjures this up for me, particularly because one song on her album describes a woman being beaten by her partner – hearing this felt like a warning, and rubbing salt in the wound. Music that triggers us is best avoided, but sometimes that’s impossible. In those situations try to leave the music behind by changing your environment – just going outside can help, allow yourself to be with your feelings, know they will pass, and know you have left the abuse behind; you are safe! This is self-care.
Singing and Self-Care
Music has always been part of my life because I come from a family of singers, and a culture of entertainment being provided by the company we were in. There was a lot of chat at family gatherings instead of background music, and we all contributed in entertaining the group. Community gatherings were the same – no microphones and ‘star’ singers; just doing your turn. For me, then, in terms of self-care, singing is a big part of that.
Listening to Music
In daily life, muzak seems to be everywhere, often feeling oppressive; making a conscious decision to listen to a favourite musician, or piece of music is quite different. For me, there is nothing better, at the end of a trying day, than sitting myself down to listen to music. I say sitting, but, in my case, it’s usually lying down! I get my faux fur blanket and lie it on the floor, light some candles and choose the piece of music that most matches my needs – Leonard Cohen, Eric Clapton, Sarah McLachlan. 30 minutes of this and I’m a different person.
Self-care is about resting from the stresses of life, giving our mind, body, emotions, and spirit a chance to recuperate. In our society we are conditioned to have a break when the work is done, or a holiday when our employment gives us one. Moving on from Domestic Abuse is overwhelming and offers no space for having a break, unless we decide to give breaks to ourselves. My next suggestion is an activity, but mindful activity can change our focus and rest our minds, that is why I include here, playing an instrument.
My guitar came with me from home when I went to college, and has traveled with me everywhere I’ve lived since. For most of my marriage it remained in it’s case, but I returned to it when I had my own space to play it – no-one to criticise. I taught myself most of what I know, and don’t claim to be versatile, but love to learn songs I like, and play them for myself and my children. Playing the guitar was part of reclaiming me! For you, it might be the piano, the violin, or the flute.
Music and Dancing
Choosing music to move our bodies to is a great way to change our stuck mood. I love music that makes me want to move my body. Although I would never claim to be a free style dancer, I have been known to wiggle my hips to a jazzy tune, while draining the potatoes over the kitchen sink. So, for your 30 minutes self-care time, try music to dance to.
As I said before, free-flowing dance is something I find challenging. For many of us leaving Domestic Abuse, socialising at dances and discos can be a thing of the very distant past, and the strain of abuse can leave huge amounts of tension in our bodies, making flowing movements very difficult. My salvation came when I discovered Gabrielle Roth’s 5 Rhythms . Her sequence of movement encourages the body to respond to 5 musical rhythms: Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, Stillness. The 5 Rhythms is not a performance, but a way of reconnecting with your body, when you dance alone, and also with others, when you dance in a group. Like Yoga, Chi Gong and meditation, the 5 Rhythms is a practice, and you will find groups you can practice with, but many of us leaving Domestic Abuse do not have the time or financial resources to join groups, and practicing on our own is what we have. For us, here is a 5 Rhythms YouTube link to Gabrielle Roth’s 5 Rhythms music. Listen to it first, and then have a go!
I leave you with a Gabrielle Roth quote, which I keep in mind for times when I feel stuck.
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Sending out peace to you.