Your Life

Your Life: Making Contact Through Songs, by Chris Redfern

Song list

  1. Your Life
  2. No Man is an Island
  3. In Your Footsteps
  4. The Gift of Therapy
  5. Sometimes I Need to Cry
  6. This Child of Mine
  7. Jane’s Song
  8. That Could Be Me or You
  9. From Me to You

 

My love of music began at primary school playing the recorder and singing in the choir but my interest in lyrics emerged when I was fourteen and learned to play the guitar. I was particularly drawn to folk songs that told stories about life events.

I have written many songs and poems throughout my career as a teacher and psychotherapist. The songs in this album include songs I have written, inspired by some of the clients I have worked with. Some draw on my own life experience as well as my journey through therapy and psychotherapy training, highlighting the importance of a making human contact as part of a healing process.

Starret (2009), the Executive Director of ‘Song Lyricist’, recognises the similarities between song lyrics and poetry. Both require the use of language; engage readers and listeners on an emotional level and both rely on the use of descriptive imagery to express personal experience.

Everybody is drawn to music and I view the lyrics of songs as poetry set to music. We all identify with certain songs because they express something of our life experience. Sometimes the words in songs say what we cannot bring ourselves to say out loud to someone or simply put into words feelings we cannot convey. Inquiring into song lyrics can give insight into human experience and open a door on what is often ‘thought’ about but not openly expressed by clients. But … there is more to the importance of music apart from the lyrics. Rhythm is equally important.

I noticed when I looked back at my life that it was music that soothed me as a child and teenager and continues to soothe me as an Adult. When my mother was not available due to caring for my brother with special needs, it was music that I turned to, although at the time I did not understand why.

During my psychotherapy training I discovered why when we looked at the importance of the connection between mother and child in studying Human Development.

In ‘Beyond Empathy’ by Erskine, Moursund and Trautmann (1999) we are reminded about the importance of rhythm as a background to human activities. A child’s earliest awareness of rhythm is its mother’s heartbeat. In her book ‘Why Love Matters’ (2014) Sue Gerhardt reminds us that when a baby’s heart rate synchronises with the mother’s heart rate, the baby relaxes. The mother’s autonomic nervous system communicates with the baby’s nervous system and soothes it. Have you ever seen dads, grandparents and others trying to soothe a baby and not succeed until ‘Mum’ arrives and instantly the baby is soothed when held in its mother’s arms? The familiar heart- beat of the mother is recognised instantly by the baby who settles quickly.

There was an occasion in therapy when I was extremely upset and my therapist held me in her arms. I heard her heart beating while I was safely held and my distress calmed as my heart- rate slowed down to match her heart beat. In that moment I knew why the rhythm of music had soothed me as a child and continues to at times when I’m upset or feeling below par. The beat of music replicates the heart-beat of a mother.

The rhythm of music helped to regulate my internal systems when no-one was available and I discovered that poetry has a rhythm of its own too.

Samples

Your Life:

More about the Songs on the CD

Your Life

Your Life is a song about the loss of ‘self’ that I wrote for a nine year old boy I worked with who didn’t know how to describe his thoughts and feelings so he withdrew into himself. In their book ‘Beyond Empathy’ Erskine, Moursund and Trautmann (1999) describe how children deny or disavow their feelings and with this defence is a loss of self. The lyrics of the song …’so I keep my thoughts inside, it’s easier that way’ illustrate the way in which many people have learned to put up with the ‘status quo’ and avoid getting their own needs met, coping by keeping their thoughts and feelings to themselves.

Writing and singing this song to the nine year old helped to ‘normalise’ his thoughts and feelings and opened a door – gave him permission to share the way he felt for the first time.

No Man is an Island

Music was my way of making contact with a young man who had experienced agoraphobia for two years. He had taught himself to play the guitar but played with on his own. Understanding what I had discovered about the importance that music plays in soothing and regulating our inner state, I used music in our work initially as a way for him to maintain the regulation he had learned and come to rely on.

I wrote No Man is an Island towards the end of his therapy to reassure him that there are others who also battle with life experiences and experience feeling cut off from the ‘self’ and other people. Music was the backdrop as well as the introduction in this therapy. I noticed that when I wrote this song that I was also in a place in my life where I still kept some of my thoughts and feelings inside, using old defences that had served me well but had also become barriers to intra-psychic and interpersonal contact.

The lyrics in this song show that even in silence there is a form of contact between therapist and client that is recognised, acknowledged and respected. Rhythmic Attunement was essential in finding a rhythm that allowed the integration of thinking and feeling. Utilising music in this therapy saw my client move from a frozen state to a place where he was able to make contact with himself and others.

In Your Footsteps

When I started to write the lyrics of this song I wrote:

I’ve walked in your footsteps
I’ve seen what you’ve seen

But I quickly changed the words, realising that I can only walk in my own footsteps.

Throughout my training in Psychotherapy there were numerous occasions when I listened to other people’s experiences and recognised the thoughts and feelings that others expressed. Maybe their story or life event was different to mine but the thoughts and feelings they talked about were those I had experienced myself.

The lyrics expressed in this song say exactly what I was thinking – ‘I understand’. Maybe not the same experience but I recognise the feelings I had during difficult times in my life.

Such recognition and shared life experience helps us as therapists to understand the client’s frame of reference and enables client and therapist to make contact. When I wrote these lyrics for a group of teenage girls I worked with I wanted them to hear that I did understand their struggles – existential struggles that human beings experience across the globe.

The Gift of Therapy

The inspiration for this song came after singing at the International Integrative Association for Psychotherapy bi-annual conference at Belton Woods in Grantham. After the long applause and appreciation of three songs I sang, I realised just how far I had travelled through my own therapy and training and how important the therapeutic relationship had been in finding my authentic self.

Only a few days after the conference I wrote ‘The Gift of Therapy’ as a tribute to my therapist and the work we had done together. The lyrics in the song emphasise the healing, relational aspect of the therapeutic relationship.

The ‘frozen door’ refers to the frozen self that was not integrated. When I use the refrain that ‘Contact is the key to unlock the frozen door’ I am referring to all aspects of Contact, using Inquiry, Attunement and Involvement and the Relational Needs that Richard G Erskine draws our attention to in his training and book ‘Beyond Empathy’.

Sometimes I Need to Cry

This song describes times in my life when I experienced depression. Sally Brompton describes depression in her book ‘Shoot the Damn Dog’ and Winston Churchill described depression as ‘the black dog’ and it is indeed a black place to be in!

The title of the song came from a response my therapist gave me when I asked her why I cried so much in therapy when my search to understand was relentless and I had a deep desire to make sense of everything. My therapist simply said that ‘sometimes we just need to cry’.

The lyrics refer to the cut-off place that many people find themselves in when they dissociate and block out what is going on around them in order to exist or survive.
Despite the lyrics expressing a lot of sadness and despair the lines:

‘Love will lead the way, love will win the day, love will always stay and make me smile again’ recognise that love is an important relational need that supports integration. That has been my experience in therapy – love experienced as a feeling of being deeply cared for.

This Child of Mine

I wrote this song for a group of pregnant schoolgirls using my own experience as a mum – hoping to convey to them what a child really needs from its mother to develop emotionally.

When I sang this song at the International Integrative Association for Psychotherapy conference in Belton Woods in Grantham in 2013, it reached people’s hearts and made them cry.

When I played the recording from the conference to my son and told him I had him in mind when I wrote the song, he sobbed because he was so moved.

I was able to write this song because my childhood was devoid of the warm, close contact a child needs for healthy emotional well-being so I instinctively knew what a child needs from its mother to grow into a well-integrated person.

Jane’s Song

Jane’s Song was written for a 15 year old girl who went to prison. The song was written to give her support and some hope for the future.

In the song I portray the ‘false self’ that protects Jane like a suit of armour, where she is tough, scary and indomitable but the hidden true self is vulnerable and alone.

In my work with young people so many of their relational needs are not met and so they turn to drugs, alcohol, sex and crime in the hope of blotting out the pain and disappointment they feel by trying to fill a vast chasm inside themselves.

In searching for a sense of self and unmet needs, they are always left unfulfilled unless they meet someone who can help them to form meaningful relationships and help them to change their life-time scripts.

That Could Be Me or You

At the time I wrote this song I was teaching about Homelessness and there was a view amongst the young people that when people become homeless it was their own fault. This song was written to redress that view and to expand their awareness.

As I walked to do some shopping and left the car park I observed an old lady who looked dishevelled and sat drinking alcohol and the words inside my head flowed.

Even now as I re-read the lyrics I notice how sad and moved I feel because there is still so much deprivation in people’s lives today and not sufficient therapeutic work available that is affordable.

From Me to You

From Me to You was written as a way of reaching my son on the only occasion in 18 years when we had a disagreement and he wouldn’t talk to me. It didn’t matter what I tried I could not make contact with him even though we lived in the same house!

So I wrote this song, set up my amplifier and microphone and sang it in my bedroom while he was across the landing in his! He walked into my room and with tears in our eyes we both apologised to each other and talked things through.

Before I sang at the conference I wondered how I would be able to make contact with people from different countries who would not speak English. After singing I came to realise that music crosses any perceived divide and reaches people’s hearts.