I’ve just changed my streaming service to one that has much higher-quality files and I’m now sitting listening and wondering why this makes the music sound so much better to me. (Bear with me on this one, I do get to the therapy bit in the end)
Some people like better quality for the ‘audio experience’ and while I do get that, what I’m noticing is that it’s the imperfections that I’m loving.
I can hear breaths and the sounds of the musician's hands on guitar strings, rather than just the words and the notes. It sounds more human and that allows me to connect more deeply with the feelings that are being expressed and I love that so much more.
It’s led me to then reflect on what perfection means for us humans.
Is perfection always the 'best' version of something?
Once when I used to play around with music more, I programmed a song into a computer straight from musical notation. I thought it would sound great so I could then add some other sounds but when I played it back it sounded absolutely terrible. Really, really bad. It was robotic and it completely lost all meaning. Even randomly shifting the notes by tiny amounts made it sound so much better. A ‘perfect’ song was actually missing any meaning or emotion.
For music to sound good and for people to be able to connect emotionally to it it needs imperfections and messiness and all those in-the-moment spontaneous changes.
And I think it’s absolutely the same when we connect with each other. What would a perfect person who always said and did exactly the right thing be like? Would we feel that we could connect with them? I don’t think we could. It would be too easy to compare our own imperfections and to feel that we were lacking or to feel that we couldn't be open about our own messiness and imperfections.
I often feel most connected with others when we share our vulnerabilities and imperfections and realise that we’re all quite messy and unpredictable. Sometimes people think that therapists have it all sorted and we’re closer to getting things right than we might have been before training. Nope! What I learned in training, and since, is to be more aware, open and accepting of all my messiness and imperfections and I think that that is a large part of what therapy can offer everyone. It doesn't fix you because you're not broken in the first place.
Therapy doesn’t ‘fix you’ because you’re not broken in the first place.
What it might allow you to do, however, is to open up more to all the human emotions that are already there and allow you to experience them as part of your full emotional life. This is what is sometimes called congruence - feeling an acceptance and awareness of everything that we're feeling.
Feeling better after therapy can be about connecting with those difficult feelings and realising they’re just part of the big picture and that they're okay. As Carolyn Spring writes, quoting her own therapist, in her book 'Unshame':
"The thing about feelings is that they don’t persist. You can spend forever avoiding them. But if you actually face them and feel them, then they change. They move on. Remember: emotions have motion. They never stay the same. They only stay the same, painful and overwhelming, while you’re not feeling them." Carolyn Spring, 'Unshame'.
Just like I can now feel the tug in my chest as I now fully hear Jeff Buckley let out a small sigh before he starts singing 'Hallelujah' and I relish feeling the bitter-sweet emotions in that song, in a therapy session, I can also feel the fullness of my reactions and responses to the things that happen in my life. And experiencing things fully can feel whole and healing.