Following are some techniques explained by Priestley which are commonly used in AMT.
The holding technique allows the individual to have a musical framework to experience the whole range of his or her emotions right through to climax but still contained by the therapist. For instance, when the situation becomes too frenzied, tonal music and common major chords are used to create familiarity and security. In this technique, the therapist should follow the emotional lead of the individual with enough space but yet with impulses given to the individual from time to time to continue playing out the emotions right through to the end. A very close balance needs to be maintained with the aim of bringing the individual all the way to the emotion’s climax for example- aggression. In this way, negative emotions are released without them playing out in the real life of the individual. Critical to this technique is the holding role of the therapist when the emotional releases can be chaotic. In order for the therapist to be centered and anchored, his or her own deep psyche has to be explored thoroughly first so that it will not flow into the cathartic release of the individual and create a situation beyond control.
In the splitting technique, the individual will role play another person and improvise as that person. This helps the individual to separate his or her own emotional projection onto another person and to really feel the emotions of the person as they should be. For example, the individual can role play his or her father and improvise as how the father would. This creates the space for the individual to explore which emotions belong really to the father and which are really his or her own.
Repression and health
“Jung said that every patient has a secret and that until it is told she cannot regain her health”. (Priestley 1994). Repressed material in the unconscious realm may have far reaching effects later in the life. “Repression renders a threatening impulse or idea unconscious”. (Priestley 1994) For instance, past sexual trauma in the childhood may lead to the repression of sexual feelings in later life.
Repression according to Freud is a defence mechanism used by the ego. Ego defences “help to keep at bay some of the overwhelming anxiety that would otherwise be caused by the awareness of certain threatening feelings, thoughts, impulses and memories”. (Priestley 1994) Anxiety can come from stimuli overwhelming the ego or when the ego is alerted of external danger or internal danger from the super-ego or id.
In Freud’s idea of the pysche, the id is the part which is unknown and where the sexual and aggressive instincts reside. Super-ego are the boundaries, rules and norms which are shaped by parents and the cultural context in which the individual is in. Both the id and super-ego are influencing the ego constantly to ensure that primal instincts are kept in check and that the individual is within the acceptable cultural rules and norms. (Priestley 1994)
In addition to repression, there are other ego defences used such as denial which is a disavowal of some aspect of one’s personality. Splitting is where one part of the personality relates to the subject and not the others. In the context of AMT, Priestley indicated that the therapist should choose the instrument for the individual to use instead of letting him or her choose. This is because the individual may likely pick an instrument to avoid tackling the blocked areas in his or her life. Ego defences become the resistance in the subconscious of the individual preventing him or her to face the root causes of pain/ hurt and move on.
“Human beings who habitually use too many or too bizarre ego defences, have very little freely-circulating energy left to spend on the rest of their life-activities”. (Priestley 1994) Strong emotions directed in music and held by the therapist does not threaten the ego. Through musical improvisations, the strong emotions have an outlet for release.
Jung brought the idea of the unconscious 1 step further with positive qualities. “Central to Jungian theory is the concept of the shadow, or personal unconscious, that region of the mind which contains lost memories, impulses, instincts, and ideas which are not acceptable to the ego-consciousness and are therefore repressed. A deeper region containing archaic, archetypal, and instinctive inheritances Jung called the collective unconscious. Its contents are neither repressed nor available to normal consciousness”. (Priestley 1994) This collective unconscious according to Jung can be dragged into consciousness when one works with the shadow. The collective unconscious is described as, “I am utterly one with the world, so much part of it that I forget all too easily who I really am”. (Priestley 1994) When a person projects his/ her shadow, baser instincts, etc are only seen in others. “Action produced by the tension of opposites can signify true progress”. (Priestley 1994) Good qualities are also hidden in the shadow like “realistic insights, creative impulses, etc”. (Priestley 1994) It is in the working of these 2 polarities in tension that Man can develop and progress.