Kierkegaard and The Blues

My approach is quite existential.  Free choice.  Free to create yourself.  Free to follow your destiny.  I am also a believer in the power of the subconscious mind.  This is a treasure trove for the artist.  This is where all the good stuff happens.  As an artist, your goal is to allow the subconscious to emerge into your work because it contains everything that is real, that is true about you—without the shiny gloss to cover it up.  It’s alive.  It’s mysterious.  It’s dark.  It’s true.  It’s what people are really interested in.  They don’t want pretense.  They want what’s real. 

As a psychologist, I have learned firsthand how people go to great lengths to avoid experiencing their emotions.  They will do anything, it seems, but feel what is inside of them.  People mistakenly believe that what they fear most is outside of themselves, but the opposite is true—they are far more afraid of what is in inside of themselves.  And from themselves, they will not walk, they will run.  They are afraid of their feelings, they are afraid of their thoughts, they are afraid of their desires.  They are afraid of themselves.  

This avoidance causes a multitude of problems, as repressed emotional energy is tightly held inside the body, resulting in various psychiatric and physical symptoms, and a growing sense of self-alienation. This simple fact of emotional avoidance and its consequences, however, is virtually ignored by the zeitgeist of today, where the focus is almost exclusively on cognitions or thoughts.  What is required to truly have your experiences, to truly have your feelings, or to put in another way, to be truly alive, is courage.    

The philosopher Kierkegaard underscored the significance of passion or feeling in the formulation of his philosophy.  While he did not deny the value and significance of rational thought, he emphasized what had been de-emphasized: how passion or feeling had become divorced from philosophy, so that one could not actually live in the philosophical structures one created.  One could, at best, hold them up to view.  Philosophy had become divorced from reality, Kierkegaard lamented, for it conveyed an inhuman sort of knowing.  It could not account for passion or feeling, so it ignored it.  

For Kierkegaard, in order to truly exist, thought and feeling had to be fused.  Passion was “the doorway to existence,” the gateway to reality.  Kierkegaard knew intimately how enormous dread had to be faced in order to live in this authentic manner.  He encouraged individuals to face into this anxiety, for he viewed dread as the ultimate teacher, and the only thing that could not be lied about.  This required great courage.  “The greater the dread, the greater the man,” he wrote.  Few were able to do it.  Most gave up their striving and struggle for an authentic self and joined “the crowd”—“an all-embracing something that is nothing.”  Don’t let this be you!

Un-repressing your feelings or emoting (for example crying or screaming) can improve your ability as an artist/performer.  You sing better when you cry.  You can access the full range of emotions and increase your vocal range by letting your tears flood out.  You can go places emotionally that your audience can’t go.  You can lead them through your voice into deeper wells of experience and greater heights of ecstasy.  Your courage to go further emotionally can help them and help you with your music career.  

Frequently, you may have to get angry first before you cry, because there is a certain layering to the emotions, and the most vulnerable ones, such as sadness, deep emotional pain, and loss—are often well-guarded and sealed underneath layers of less “vulnerable” emotions, such as anger.  You can’t get to one unless you go through the other.  

Don’t think for one minute, though, that emotions are for the weak.  On the contrary, facing and experiencing your emotions directly, especially the more vulnerable ones, takes great courage.  Individuals may own companies, run institutions, and have high places in the world, I have learned, yet be afraid of their own feelings.  What is the payoff in going through the agony of feeling your feelings?  Living in a new world.  Creating better art.    – D.L. Shaw