August 3, 2022

Tools that deepen your relationship with your own emotions


One of my friends recently picked up the bass, and he asked me to give him a short lesson in songwriting.

My first recommendation was, every musician should keep a running list of songs that make them angry. Not necessarily the punch a hole in the drywall kind of angry that you get from listening to death metal.

More like the, you magnificent bastard driven anger. Raging creative jealously.

Damn it, that should have been my song.

You hear music that’s so good, it sparks innovation regret inside your heart. Each time you hear a particular song, it makes you so mad that you’re not the one who wrote it, you can’t help by march right down into your studio and create another one yourself.

It’s kind of a twisted form of inspiration, but it really works. And it’s funny, the scriptures tell us that jealousy kills the simple. Such deeds of the flesh rot the bones. Jealously is as fierce as the grave, and its flashes are flashes of fire.

And don’t even get the gods started on anger. Giving into this emotion only leads to trouble, holy books say. Anger leads us into sin and those with a heavy temper will make mistakes.

Now, these principles may be true, but here’s something else that’s true.

Jealous and angry people often make beautiful art that inspires millions. And you could be one of those people. It all depends on the relationship with your emotions. How much permission you’re willing to give yourself to feel complicated feelings.

If you’re willing to allow shadowy parts of your being to surface in the service of your creative work, then you might be surprised what kinds of ideas you invent.

Personally, I’ve never been a particularly angry person. Now, part of that is just my native temperament. Rage has never been a valued currency in my emotional economy. It’s simply not how I’m wired.

Interesting thing is, once music entered my life at age twelve, suddenly my anger had a safe container in which to purge. Playing guitar and singing became a healthy ritual for expressing all these complicated and difficult adolescent feelings, without punching any holes in the wall.

Even to this day, there are songs my catalog that I can still play anywhere, anytime, to cathartically metabolize even my darkest sentiments. It’s like having a superpower.

Like my shrink once told me, the purpose of therapy isn’t to feel better, but to get better at feeling.

What’s your version of that? Do you have tools that deepen your relationship with your own emotions?

This is one of the core tenets of my manifesto: All forms of emotional tension are usable.

See, most of us have not been encouraged to deepen our connection with all of our feelings. Especially the difficult ones.

But that’s where innovation lives. If you’re not sure where to start with your latest project, expose yourself to some art that makes you angry and jealous enough to create something yourself.

Where do you need more permission to feel complicated feelings?