Posted by: Marie | November 14, 2012

(748) Allowing vs forcing – Part 2 of 4

Post #748
[Private journal entry written on Wednesday, December 21, 2011 about a conversation between my therapist and me – continued from previous post]


Me: You know . . . I really like this group . . . it is a blend of business and spiritual . . . but it’s not religious . . . just spiritual. For example, they have a tune-in at the start of the meeting and a tune-out at the end of the meeting. It’s kind of like a prayer time, except it’s not “prayer” in the religious sense. It’s simply a moment in time where we sit quietly . . . each person connects with Spirit, and aligns his heart with his mind and body, and opens up energetically to the community.

And, today, when the activity leader was trying to figure out how many minutes we had for each step of the process – he wanted to make sure we got everything done in the time allotted for the activity – he got frustrated, threw up his hands and said, “Well, let’s just trust Spirit to manage the time for us!”

I don’t know of too many business groups in which that would be acceptable verbiage . . . but no one in this group batted an eye . . . it’s par for the course in this group. I like that.

Photo by Martin Chen

And, I like that they are around my age. There is a nice mix of vitality and wisdom in the group.

Edward: I’m glad you have found them!

Me: Me, too!

Edward: I’d like to ask you some questions about the idea of being a free-flowing conductor . . . but, I don’t want to hurry you to finish your thoughts about the group activity and the group itself . . .

Me: Oh, I’m done! We can move on!

Edward: Okay!

Tell me more about being a free-flowing conductor . . . is that imagery something that resonates with you?

Me: It does.

As I’m maturing – intellectually and emotionally – I’m finding that I am moving towards being more relaxed and random in my thinking and doing. I’m letting go of extreme organization and rigidity. I like that creative space . . . I like not imposing insane rules upon myself. I like granting myself permission to color outside the lines in an unpremeditated way.

I especially like creating that same space for my students. I like to give them the space to explore and be playful . . . yeah, that’s it . . . I like being playful with my students. When their creations and random expressions cause us to wrinkle our noses in playful disdain, I encourage them to laugh and to take it as a “lesson learned” on what they don’t like – which then narrows the field of what they might like. It’s all good and valuable and educational . . .

I often tell my students that the worse thing that can happen in the process of creating music is that we discover what we don’t like – what does not work for us. It’s not like I’m teaching them to fly an airplane . . . when learning to fly an airplane, the discovery of a something that “doesn’t work” will cause the airplane to fall out of the sky . . . it could easily be fatal.

But here, in piano lessons, the worse thing that happens upon the discovery of something that “doesn’t work” is that we wrinkle up our noses – or maybe cover our ears. That’s it. Nothing of significance is at risk. We have the freedom to try all kinds of new and wild stuff.

Edward: Are your students able to embrace that freedom? Are they able to be playful with you?

Me: Some, yes. Others, no. There are some kids who come from “strict” families – those kids are so afraid to step into their authentic expression. They are nervous and fearful . . . they are so afraid of doing something “wrong” that they are paralyzed. On the outside, they look like “good” kids . . . but I see them as paralyzed kids.

Those kids spend our time together trying to figure out what I want from them and how to give it to me.

During creative exercises, what I want from them is for them to express their authentic emotions and movements and thoughts and preferences . . . and they don’t know how to do that . . . they get really freaked out when they can’t give me “that” . . . they want to give me what I want . . . what I want is for them to express what they want to express . . . and they don’t have a clue how to get in touch with that. They’ve never been allowed to recognize and honor their own natural creative expression.

When I teach those kids to compose . . . as well as kids who are “rebellious” – who are rebelling because their voices aren’t being heard and honored . . . I encourage them to use the music as their voice . . . I tell them they can voice what is going on inside of themselves. The cool part is that using music in that way is an “allowable” form of expression in the eyes of their parents.

Edward: And how are you affected when you interact with those kids? Does their dilemma affect you?

Me: Of course I’m affected! I can relate closely to their experience . . . I remember well that feeling of being too scared to say what I really wanted to say . . . being too scared to say anything at all . . . or to make a mistake . . .

Edward: How do you make a difference for them?

Me: I do my best to give them that safe creative space . . . I tell them over and over again that they have the freedom to be expressive . . . to make “mistakes” . . . that there really are no mistakes . . . that we can laugh about whatever happens within the process.

Sometimes . . . sometimes these kids who are too scared to even make eye contact . . . sometimes something will suddenly shift and they will giggle. Then, this part of them I’ve never seen before starts to birth itself . . . they relax and connect . . . they start to come to life . . . for just a few minutes . . . just in this small safe space . . .

I like having that experience with them . . .

Edward: What do you think causes them to be so afraid of their own natural expression?

Me: Well, it’s because their parents have imposed very a rigid template upon them . . . their parents have this rigid idea of how their children are supposed to show up in the world – there is no room for authentic expression . . . just like what happened in my childhood.

And, here is what is interesting to me . . . in almost every situation I see, the mom is as repressed and terrified as the kids are . . . it seems it is always the dad who rules with an iron fist.

Edward: (After a thoughtful pause) What would you like to say to those dads?

(Of course, it was obvious to me that Edward was trying to get me to say to those dads what I would like to say to my own dad . . . as usual, the idea of saying anything powerful to my dad, or any dad, was triggering for me. I fought to stay with the exercise anyway.)

Me: I would tell those dads that when they treat their children like that – when they beat their kids into submission – it takes away from their children the ability to express their natural emotions and preferences and creativity.

Edward: And what are the parents missing out on?

Me: What do you mean?

Edward: When the dad doesn’t allow his children to express their authentic selves, the children miss out on showing up in the world in a natural way. What do the parents miss out on when their children don’t show up in a natural way?

Me: They miss knowing whom their children really are – the parents miss out on enjoying the process of getting to know the creative spirit of their own kids . . . the parents miss out on experiencing the joy of witnessing their children bloom into fully expressed humans . . . the fun of the whole process.

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


  1. I know this is beside the point (and offering advice and problem solving too – and it may be in response to a problem you don’t have) but I want to say it anyway.

    One way that can help people loosen up is to get them to ‘do it badly’. Ask the kids to play the piano as badly as possible. It can really help lighten things up.

    • What a great idea, Evan! I hadn’t thought of that before! I love that idea! When preparing for recitals (which are occuring this weekend, which is why I’ve been so slow at responding to comments), I often will say “stop!” to simulate them losing their place in the music, then they practice going back to a particular spot in the music and starting again. That helps them be prepared when the worst happens in a recital (and it often does). They feel better because they don’t feel as much pressure to play perfectly, they know they have a back-up plan and that helps them feel more confident.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: