Blues As A Healer

How does music (specifically the blues) help us to heal from trauma? After I started to recover from the symptoms of PTSD I started to do some research on music therapy to figure this out. I wanted an explanation for what happened to me and to see if anyone else has had a similar experience. Turns out that music therapy is a growing practice and many people every year heal from past traumas with the power of music.

In an earlier post I talked about my experience with PTSD and how the blues helped me. (Read it here).

How music (specifically the blues) helped me to heal from PTSD and why it can help you too.

First let’s talk about what that looks like. Healing from trauma can eventually lead to increased feelings of self-worth, feelings of empowerment in your healing journey, finding more control over your emotions and behaviors, and even experience lower physiological symptoms like lower blood pressure and heart rate.

With trauma, it may be hard to put into words what one may be feeling or even what happened. There is not one right way to recover from trauma, and each journey is a unique one. But music therapy may be a unique route on your journey to heal and find yourself again.

Music can elicit memories – positive and challenging. It encourages movement and interactions with our bodies, and is a safe and non-threatening way to release aggression. Music can even evoke powerful emotions that sometimes cannot be explained with the right words. When used correctly and with care, music, rhythm, lyrics, and sound may help someone face and eventually heal from a traumatic experience in their lives.

The blues is particularly interesting in regards to healing. I believe the blues originated as a coping mechanism for the slaves. It gave them hope for a better future. The blues was something to hang on to. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel. After it’s all over you can start to make peace with your demons through the healing power of the blues.

The blues is so emotionally gripping because of the intense emotions that go into it’s creation. That’s what is happening when someone is singing the blues. They are turning their experiences into music and transforming them into something positive rather than negative. It’s hard to imagine how so much suffering could produce something so striking as the blues.

When we listen to music our brain releases dopamine which is a feel good chemical essential for the healthy functioning of the central nervous system; it has effects on emotion, perception and movement.

Music is proven to physiologically affect heart rate, breathing and pulse rate resulting in physical chills of pleasure. In short music lifts mood, reduces anxiety, raises motivation and helps combat insomnia and depression.

In an earlier post I talked about my experience with PTSD and how the blues helped me. (Read it here).

It worked for me better than any drugs they gave to me. Pouring out those negative experiences and transforming them into music took me on a journey of self actualization and transformation.

I want you to have the same experience as myself and many others.

Here’s a few stories some fans have shared with me. These are some amazing stories and I encourage you to read through them.

Well Johnny, my story involves all music, but just lately I have been digging through all blues music and I am finding I relate with so many songs. I am incest survivor, sexual abuse survivor, child and domestic abuse survivor. I carry a lot of baggage, well I did. Music has always taken me away to another world where artists sing about their pain, happiness, loss, etc…and to me they were singing about me. I would spend hours as a child listening to old 45 records and vinyl records.. anything from classical to pop, R&B, rock, rap…it fed my soul. My problem with music that I have found is with each song, there is attached to it a memory/memories.

As a victim of PTSD, if a song triggered a memory I would find myself either grabbing onto that memory for happiness, which caused me to leave reality and live in the past or to bring harm and depression onto myself. It has taken me years of therapy to finally process my feelings and memories so that I can move on and not get stuck in that song cycle whether good or bad…with that said…in came blues music…something that did not have past memories or events tied to them…so much better…so healing for my soul. I was very involved in music through my high school years, I studied vocal jazz, concert choir, advanced voice…and those were the best Years of my life. I had hoped to carry on with my singing, but life happened. I was raised by my mother who had a lesbian partner and I have an older brother…very dysfunctional life so when I was finally on my own, I screwed up…I had no role model to follow..no clue what normal was..I married at 21, was living in my car in Chicago, my husband was murdered the same day his son was born and just tragedy after tragedy…but glory to God, I got back up every time and dusted the dirt from my knees and keep moving…

I raised three boys who have turned out to be awesome young men, one of which is amazingly talented in playing bass and drums…he devours music and makes his own music which I pray one day he will be discovered. He is my oldest, 31 and it was his father that was murdered. I broke many generational curses and the whole time music was there for me. Today I am disabled due to the PTSD, but I have the pleasure of being a bus aide for special needs children…it is the best job in the world! I get to know them and observe them and then I move in to get that rooted connection and it is with the universal language, music. For me, the blues has set me free from the past and is so relatable and when I listen to the blues now, I appreciate my past and all the struggles. The blues has given me hope.

-Marie Bond

The blues held me through a developing illness! We had a local radio show on WQSU , 88.9 FM in PA and played blues!!!!

I had a multitude of back injuries, RA, Phibro my algebra and was going through diagnosis for trade general neurology but it’s extremely painful and had to rule out brain tumor, sinus trimmers and other possibilities. All of this was extremely grilling and pressing. The blues was my only companion and friend that understood what I was dealing with. My husband was also by my side. He also loves the blues. Together we made it through this horrific time in my life.

During that time we made many many friends who were musicians who played the blues, followers who love the blues and many people who are involved in music in general. The blues is not only an expression of feeling but it’s a way of your soul saving itself. It is your soul licking its wounds. It is my go to genre when life is beating me up or just when I want to relax.
I also suffer from PTSD and I can relate to how it makes you feel to listen to some good blues riffs. I also learned during that time. How much rock ‘n’ roll is born from its mother, the blues.

-Terry Baylor

Thanks Johnny Riley. My soul needed this. I just lost a long time life friend of 32 years. She was my Blues buddy. Your music filled an empty spot and eased the grieving. I’ll most definitely be listening to more of your music! Thanks again – Deb

I love to hear stories like this. As you can see the blues is a powerful healer and it has had an impact on many lives. So join us on this journey and become the best version of you possible.

Here’s a free song from my latest album. You can download it for free by clicking the link. Its called Lonely Is The Night.

My latest album, Live @ Bluesberry Cafe is the latest milestone of this journey of healing and self-actualization. I hope that it gives you peace and brings prosperity into your life.

Thanks for reading. Leave a comment below and tell me how the blues, or any genre of music has helped you. I would love to hear from you.

-Johnny

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