Friday, June 17, 2011

Afflictive Emotions

One of the objects of Buddhist mind training is to identify and work to ameliorate afflictive emotions and their effects. For example, anger can be an intoxicant leading you to behavior you'll later regret. 

The first step is to recognize in retrospect that it was the negative emotion which had a hand in creating the behavior. Then in real time you can sort of see it happening but not really be able to immediately alter the behavior. Over time that very recognition reduces the power of the emotion and its effects in that and similar situations. The final stage is realizing in real time you've exchanged the negative emotion with a neutral or positive one, one side effect being you can now clearly see when someone else is falling into the same trap you've worked your way out of.

Music educators work with those for whom music comes easily and have usually passed some sort of audition. Music therapists tend to work with those for whom making music does not come particularly easily, usually due to some non-musical as well as purely musical issues.

Public speaking is a great example of what I'm trying to get at. We can all talk, it's what humans do. But the prospect of speaking in public can bring on such strong afflictive emotions, some people are unable to do so, or do so in ways they never would in a friendly one to one conversation.

There's the specific parallel, in that until the advent of recorded music, being part of music making was a natural human response. Now though, it's thought of more as something only trained people can do. 

There's also the larger and more general parallel of recognizing that helping people learn to make music can be a broader endeavor than simply addressing technique issues, and that this is more apt to be the case in those unable to navigate an entry into the educational system.

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