BY MITCHELL ROSEN
MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST
Often adolescents will come into my office and when asked to describe their feelings respond, "Do you know that song ...? It tells perfectly how I feel. Could you just listen to the song?" I always will. There is a universal calm that comes over most of us when what we experience is expressed by others.
The greatest artists, poets, songwriters and authors share this gift. They are able to put into their art an emotion that reaches out and leaves us feeling a little more connected. Their words and art are popular not because we are told it is great but because we relate to it.
Teenagers who say the lyrics of a song expresses who they are or what they experience are usually telling us they have felt understood. As a therapist my hope is the child will learn to speak for themselves, but in the short run, feeling understood is one of the great healing experiences of life.
I have favorite artists that are able to put into words emotions that express what I'm going through or have experienced. When others cannot relate to them I feel confused; because it makes so much sense to me what is being said and the way the sentiment is conveyed. I'm sure I frustrate others when I say I don't get Picasso or Kierkegaard but Bob Dylan can put in one sentence the angst of my entire adolescence or Brian Wilson describes the innocence and wonder of those years better than any psychologist.
I am patient when friends come to me and are excited to have me listen to a song or read a book that deeply touched them. When we agree, it's like sharing a wonderful secret, but when I read or listen and nothing happens, sheepishly I'll admit, "Sorry -- doesn't do it for me." I can see how crushed they are and then there becomes a distance neither of us wants. It is very intimate to share an artist or an author and to have them rebuffed? Well, it's hard not to take it personally.
My kids are patient when I listen to the oldies. They probably think it's all right but nothing compared to the musicians they prefer. For me, listening to a song from the time of my first kiss, the first time I drove by myself over Topanga Canyon or stayed up all night with a friend; these songs are the best songs. I know it, I feel it, I'm sure of it. In reality they're not, but to me they will always be reminders. Most of us long for the intensity of our "firsts" and the arts are one way we stay connected. Each generation, each person has their own special artists, so when a teenager tells me I've got to listen to a song, I'll put on the CD.
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