Tag Archives: thinking

Free From Ego

A recent read (this) led me to contemplate about how much I let my ego get in the way of the things I do .

“Over-investing your ego in your results is unproductive and unnecessary. If you think the failure of your ideas is a personal failure, you’ll take too few risks, risks that could ultimately pay off. But if you can learn to separate yourself from your ideas and your work and see them as something separate from yourself, you’ll feel you truly have the right to be wrong.” – Steve Pavlina

I thought this was really poignant because it very closely describes and articulates why I fear failure so much. Why I even fear responsibility to a certain extent, because with more responsibility it means that there is also a greater chance of… you guessed it, failing.

Recently, as a member of a local professional body, I was tasked to help out with editing of the association’s newsletter. It was a job I thought I’d be well-suited to do. I’m generally organized, communicate well with people through emails, and make sure everyone keeps to their deadlines to make sure the publication makes it out in and on time.

What I did not forsee was… when the time came for final rounds of edits to be made and a few colleagues kindly offered to help me look through the publication one more time, I was aghast to find that… there were MORE things to change. Things I had not noticed were inconsistent, things I had not thought of looking at until they were pointed out to me. The horror. It totally collided with my view of myself as an organised, on-top-of-everything, time-keeping freak.

Then I came across the podcast/article on OLD, and the quote above, in particular, struck a deep chord with me. I had been over-invested in my ego when I accepted the role, that was clear enough to see. And because of that, I linked discrepancies and perceived lapses in the job as personal failures, as personal flaws. When it does not have to be this way. It could be simply a job everyone is tackling together, for the ultimate goal of getting the publication out.

And when I think deeper, I see how much I have learnt from placing myself out there, from accepting that I have missed out these details, and from re-organizing my perspective so that I look out for such things better in future projects. Without being “wrong”, or flawed, I would not have had the valuable learning experience.

And now I have a beautiful, wonderful opportunity to work on something for self-improvement: To do my work wholeheartedly without necessarily seeing them as an all-encompassing part of who I am. The work may fail, we may stumble and trip and fall along the way, but it need not define who we are 🙂 Yay for that.


On a separate note, it’s off to Bali for the mother and me for the next 5 days. Perfect time for rest, reflection and recharge!

Intrinsic Value

Something I started to ponder about recently after several bouts of self-evaluation.

What is my intrinsic value? What is its definition? Is this the fabled, much sought-after “inner beauty”?

Definitely, it has to be something that is not dependent on the external. The world around us may collapse and fall, but our intrinsic value should not change because of that. What then, is my intrinsic value? What am I made off when I take away everything external? My qualifications, my education, my pictures, my writings, my family, friends, address, work experience. What is left? Is there anything left? Is it possible to have an internal world, an intrinsic value, unaffected by what goes on on the outside?


Today is the last day of placement for this sem.
A while ago, E and I sat down for what was to be my second placement/practical evaluation for the year. She asked me how I felt about my placement in this second semester.
“I have learnt a lot” – this was the gist of my verbal reply to her. In more detailed thoughts and words – I have learnt more than I thought would or could. Although I was resistant to change in supervisors at first, the experience has become just another episode in my life to demonstrate that change need not be negative, that there are times I need to embrace it in order to learn and progress.
With E, I got more opportunities to work on vocal and instrumental improvisation, and I was glad to hear her say that she can see my efforts and improvements as well. With the change in placement days, I also got exposed to a wider variety of clients and clinical conditions, like children with Autism, young adults with Tuberous Sclerosis, and intellectually disabled blind and deaf clients. I got more chances to expand my repertoire and playing styles. And through playing the role of co-therapist, I gained more confidence in responding intuitively in therapeutic settings.
After E went through the various assessment components, she asked if I had any other comments or things to add.
“Well… I hope I’ve been of help in the sessions.” (the mammoth in me fearing that I might have been more of a hinderance instead)
“Oh, yes. The co-therapist is basically an extension of the  therapist, and I think you’ve done a good job of reading my cues and facilitating. Like, I don’t need to say much and you know what to do. Put this way: I have difficult clients on this day, and I trust you with them.”
I could die with no regrets, after experiencing the happiness of feeling validated and affirmed in such a positive and encouraging way, in an area which means so much to me.
Am thankful that this term is winding down, that all seems to have gone well, and that I’ll be home for the holidays soon 🙂

The First Meeting

In Creative Music Therapy, the act of the therapist and client initially getting to know each other is known as a Meeting. This Meeting is not about physically saying Hello or HowDoYouDo – more often than not it may not even be verbal – it’s more about coming to a mutual understanding, acceptance and acknowledgment of each other’s presence and abilities. For the therapist, this means getting a sense of the client’s ability to communicate and their dominant emotions. For the client, it may mean feeling validated by how the therapist responds to them, getting used to the setting, feeling safe enough to express freely.

After weeks of observation, our supervisor (henceforth known as R) dropped a fine bomb on us on the recent Thursday, suggesting that we physically step into the session with M, a sweet 16-year old boy with autism. He doesn’t speak, with the exception of single words, usually popping up at the end of song phrases and sentences. He loves songs that have actions to go along with them, and recently started saying words AND doing the actions at the same time. He is also very routinized, and we were initially worried that the presence of strangers in the room might throw him off. Fortunately, M seemed relatively comfortable, and even shook our hands when told to. Five minutes into the session, R suggests that I start by Meeting M at the piano.

So I sit on the piano bench, hesitant but excited, and wait for M to make the first move. “Just use what he offers you musically and try to respond accordingly”, R tells me. In other words, clinical improvisation. Improvising, but in a clinical context, to Meet M and show him that his sounds are being validated and that he is being accepted as a person. From the observation room, watching R do it, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world. Just respond to what the client offers you. Take what he plays and return it. Call and respond. Basic musical concepts. Right? Except that from the moment my fingers hit the keys, my brain started screaming: “This doesn’t sound right! How do you know if you’re playing correctly?! What’s the correct way to do this?!” The extreme need to know whether I was right or wrong meant that my intellectual brain was working in overdrive, and that, was certainly no way for spontaneous improvisation to take place.

There is a phrase: “Creative Moments” – used to describe that moment when a true and pure connection has been made . When it happens, the therapist knows it, the client knows it (presumably). I felt such a moment for about 3 seconds, when I chose to play sustained, open chords in the base, to support M creating a rhythmically denser melody on the higher register. The intervals of 4th and 5th suggest openness and provides room for expression, inviting the music the develop and grow. We worked this way for the duration of about 5-6 chords, before my intellect kicked in and I thought: “Hey, this may be getting boring for him. What if I try to spice things up by adding some accidentals?” The moment my fingers hit those black keys, I cringed inwardly, for it was then I realised that M was only playing with the white keys, and there had been no need to add any accidentals at all! By trying to “spice things up”, instead of continuing to trust my feelings and obvious observation, I had ruined the Creative Moment for us. I tried to go back to whole-tone chords, but the moment felt lost, and M had proceeded to another mode/musical motive which I then had to catch up with.

That was just one example out of numerous in the session in which my intellect came in and got in the way. R was very encouraging after the session, saying that we did not too badly for the first time, pointing out the fact that clinical improvisation is something that can be learnt, and he would be more than happy to share some tips with us for the future. He just needed to throw us into the deep end for awhile to see how much we could do. And while I’m no olympic swimmer, I’m also happy I didn’t drown, and somehow managed to stay afloat long enough to experience the beauty of the ocean.

As one of our lecturers told us recently, it is possible to have a Meeting extend over a few sessions – she shared how she was still Meeting a client even after 3-4 sessions, and only felt that she had finally Met him in the 4th session, after which more focus could be given to the planned clinical goals. She added that we should not constrict our relationship with clients within sessions (not unlike how a teacher may think of a child’s development in terms of school terms and semesters), something bureaucracy tends to do to us. After all, a person’s development is never compartmentalized.

I’ve been thinking about M and this experience with him over the past few days. I don’t think I’ve ever reflected this deeply as a teacher.

I really want to do this.


Late Night Thoughts


I am lying in bed, contemplating the events of the day. I am hit by a sudden barrage of thoughts that I feel I must note down (hence proving the usefulness of having a blog and tablet by your bed).

I wonder why some people find it so easy to “be themselves” while there are those who struggle with this notion of “self” so much?

Or perhaps this struggle is something innate in all of us – except that some people see less value in such a struggle and decide to come to terms with the way they are, very quickly.

On the other hand, there are those who, in the process of thinking too much, attempt to mould their “self” to suit the needs and circumstances of others and things, leaving them very confused, at the end of the day, as to what kind of “self” they are. They wonder why were they created this way – with an unfortunate knack for thinking too much, pondering of the smallest thing, and worrying over what others might not appear to give a second thought about.

Then they lie in bed, thinking, and get up, to write blog posts like these, in an attempt to validate their “self” through the formalization of their thoughts, before attempting to drift off to sleep again.


No One is Indispensable


Even when we crawl and hide into a hole, the world above us will continue turning.

Even when we run away to another time and place, the people and places we know will still go on.

Even when we think that some things can’t function as well without us, they can.

They actually can.

And most of the time, it is probably our wonderful ego telling us that everything will fall apart if we leave, that everything will go to shambles when we are no longer around.

But once you realise that the earth has been spinning on its axis for the past millions of years, and will continue to do so long after we are gone – You realize that no one is really indispensable after all.