Recently, I have been concerned with my client “Frankie.” Concerned because I haven’t been seeing outward growth behavior demonstrated. “Frankie” is so intensely connected to the music that after sixty minutes, when I put the guitar away, he runs screeching because it is being put down. I see progress, then often no outward demonstrating behaviors, quiet, and stillness- yet intense listening and connectedness. I even warn parents, especially, when I hear pop-out words often – then silence. This happens frequently. A child needs time to process, so we have to wait and see what happens next.
This is the part that makes me question myself often, although it happens with almost all of my clients, yet the lack of evidence of producing growth makes me uncomfortable. I keep falling prey to societal expectations. I forget that some of the most powerful moments in music are preceded or cause by “rest” or silence. Although “Frankie” is intensely connected to the music, showing me this in his swinging, facial expressions, and reflection of the musical mood, I still become uneasy with the stillness. I forget that the spaces where notes are not played are as important as the spaces where they are played. A balance is always needed between activity and rest. Rest adds strength to our body and is needed. In music, the silent “rest” adds strength and stability to continuous rhythm.
Before “Frankie” can demonstrate the “next” step, he needs the chance to absorb what he is gaining. He needs the strength and stability gained from perceiving before moving on. Although “Frankie” appears somewhat still, he is “connected to the now” through the intense listening. Truly, how often of how many of us are connected to what we are doing now? My own kids will gladly attest that I ask them the same question a zillion times. My head is too busy to grasp everything they are saying to me at the moment. My consistent reply to them is, “I’m sorry I didn’t hear you, I was thinking too loudly.”
If I watch “Frankie”, a naturally anxious child, he is free of worry simply listening and feeling the vibrating frequencies. He can hear the guitar, my voice, and his own voice as he gently hums. And why do I miss the humming altogether? Because my head is too busy thinking about how to lead instead of watching him as intensely as he stays connected to the music.
I cannot see what neurological pathways are being ignited, redirected, or growing, but after all these years of falling prey to the same anxiety and then seeing the outcome when it comes, I still fall prey.
“Frankie” is finding his voice at his pace, not mine. I am so busy in my own head that I am missing the subtle signs that the boy is delivering. He is finding his own inner voice and beginning to gain control over his outer one. The pop-out word, as often happens on this developmental pathway, are fewer and farther in between. But pop-out words are just that: unregulated. Soft humming, following intervals, matching pitches is more controlled and regulated. The more it is practiced, the more accurate and frequent and developed it becomes. Typically developing children that are learning to speak don’t produce, produce, produce. It is a gradual relaxed play with sound supported by cause (the sound produced) and effect (the reaction from others).
So who is it at this moment that is the more attentive, more authentic, more directed, more focused? Is it the client or the therapist? Sadly, at this moment, it is not the therapist. She is too busy thinking.
Antoinette Morrison MT-BC
Thank you for this reminder about rest. I resonate with many of your thoughts. There are times when I struggle to find the responses that an outsider might consider effective. Sometimes I have to remind myself of the more subtle responses – that are just as rich – but not always as obvious.
I think this is also true for our clients regardless of age. Time to adjust the shifts that occur during therapeutic processes are often rushed. With adult clients in a grief and loss group who have not made art in years I find the processing time to be much longer, up to a week. A friend of mine, who is a wonderful expressive arts therapist refers to this as entering, exploring and exiting, and notes that phenomena occurs at each stage. He purposely slows down the entire process so we can notice what is happening at each stage. Great article, thank you.