Polyphony: Emotional Health and the Musician

By Weeks, Doug; Magrath, Jane | American Music Teacher, June-July 2004 | Go to article overview

Polyphony: Emotional Health and the Musician


Weeks, Doug, Magrath, Jane, American Music Teacher


Editor's Note:

A version of this article first appeared in' the Piano Pedagogy Forum, Volume 3, Number 2, and is reprinted with permission of Piano Pedagogy Forum of the University of South Carolina. it can be accessed at www.music.sc.edu/ea/keyboard/ppf.

Jane Magrath: Doug, we are interested in your investigation of emotional health and the student musician. Can you give us some background for this topic?

Doug Weeks: Creativity and emotional health a topic not extensively addressed in the music curriculum and one both sensitive and complex to discuss--is the subject of the pioneering work of Swiss psychotherapist Alice Miller. She has achieved international recognition for her work on the causes and effects of childhood emotional trauma. Her books, especially The Drama of the Gifted Child, have become classics in the literature of graduate education and psychology programs.

In layman's terms, Miller tells us that a child needs to be loved unconditionally--for the unique individual he or she is. If the child at an early and crucial stage does not receive this unconditional love, then there is a likelihood that a narcissistic disorder will result. In other words, a child must develop from infancy a healthy narcissism by seeing an acceptance of his or her own image reflected in the mother's, or primary caretaker's, eyes. If the child sees nothing of him or herself reflected, but sees only what the care giver wants that child to be, for example a reflection of the mother's own narcissistic needs, then the child may not develop an inner sense of self, but rather will do everything possible to please the mother by fulfilling the mother's needs and expectations.

Miller writes about this condition in The Drama of the Gifted Child (originally published as Das Drama des begabten Kindes, 1979):

   "Quite often we are faced here
   with gifted patients who have been
   praised and admired for their talents
   and their achievements....
   According to prevailing, general
   attitudes, these people--the pride
   of their parents--should have had a
   strong and stable sense of self-assurance.
   But exactly the opposite is the
   case. In everything they undertake
   they do well and often excellency;
   they are admired and envied; they
   are successful whenever they care to
   be--but all to no avail. Behind all
   this lurks depression, the feeling of
   emptiness and self-alienation, and a
   sense that their life has no meaning.
   These dark feelings will come to the
   fore as soon as the drug of grandiosity
   fails, as soon as they are not 'on
   top,' not definitely the 'superstar,'
   or whenever they suddenly get the
   feeling they failed to live up to
   some ideal image and measure they
   feel they must adhere to. Then they
   are plagued by anxiety or deep feelings
   of guilt or shame." (1)

The child has learned to equate love and acceptance with fulfilling the parent's expectations of achievement. Often, this means overachieving in life. Obviously, this does not mean all people who have significant professional accomplishment to their credit were children who have been emotionally abused. The difference is that the narcissistically disturbed, like the miser who never has enough money, will never achieve enough. He or she will spend a lifetime chasing a prize that will never be found because it was never there to begin with--the unqualified love of the mother or father for the essential individual child. Miller describes this state as follows:

   The parents have found in their
   child's "false self" the confirmation
   they were looking for, a substitute
   for their own missing structures; the
   child, who has been unable to build
   up his own structures, is first consciously
   and then unconsciously ...
   dependent on his parents. He cannot
   rely on his own emotions, has
   not come to experience them
   through trial and error, has no sense
   of his own real needs, and is alienated
   from himself to the highest
   degree. … 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Polyphony: Emotional Health and the Musician
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.