As I was preparing to record my third CD, What Living’s All About, I thought about how, when I was recording my first two, I always got a fever and a sore throat on the day I was to sing the vocal tracks, so that they never sounded quite as good as the way I sound in live performance.
I decided that this time, I would take the opportunity to change that pattern of subconscious self-sabotage. Fortunately, my sister, Jessica Mercure, is a psychotherapist and up on the latest healing techniques. She had used something called EMDR to prepare herself for a much needed, much dreaded surgery, and not only did she go through the surgery without her expected panic, but she healed so quickly that her surgeon was amazed.
EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) moves the attention of the traumatized person from the right to left to right to left sides of the body, seemingly from the sympathetic (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems, so that the mind can rapidly process stressful memories and information that may have been “stuck” or undigested, sometimes for decades. Successfully healing combat veterans and rape survivors of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in only a few sessions (rather than years of talking therapy), EMDR works equally well with less intense problems, including my musical performance issues.
Developed by Francine Shapiro, PhD, a clinical psychologist, EMDR holds up to rigorous double blind testing. No one is exactly sure WHY it works, only that, when it is administered correctly by a therapist trained in the technique, it rocks.
I went to the EMDR International Association website, looked for therapists in my geographical area, and found one that specialized in arts issues, Paulette Rochelle-Levy. I had four appointments with her before recording. The first was “intake,” that is, she asked me questions and gathered information about my life and my issue at hand.
On the second appointment, Paulette helped me find the life moments where my fears around singing were catalyzed, and then, as I pictured them, patted first my right hand, then my left, then my right, and so on. My homework was to write a letter to the 12 year old girl I once was, and tell her what is ahead of her in her life, from the perspective of what I have lived to this date.
On the third appointment, Paulette, instead of doing EMDR, lead me in an exercise that I thought, at first, was sort of silly, but it turned out to be just as profound as the EMDR. She asked me to walk, eyes closed, in her living room and say “I am Alicia’s Higher Self” three times, and then to describe myself.
I said, “I am a vortex of swirling energies: elemental nature energies rising from below, inspirational and angelic energies descending from above, genetic, societal, cultural, familial, and past life energies swirling together from all sides. I am the sum of all of these currents of energy coming together.”
Paulette said, “That’s the answer to the question, ‘Who are YOU to be making a CD of your own music.’”
On the fourth appointment we did more EMDR. Two days later I went into the studio, did not have a sore throat, and sang well.
Was I 100% cured? No. On the day I recorded the vocal for Nature Boy, I had a throat issue again, and, as it was an improvised piece (couldn’t re-record it later) with a legendary player who had made some sacrifices to be at the studio for me that day, I had to just do it anyway. To my delight, improvising that song with John B. Williams and Enzo Tedesco turned out to be a peak experience. I like listening to it, too.
Post EMDR, the studio experience was, for me, on the whole, very much more exciting than it was stressful. Good stuff! And my sister will be taking a professional training in EMDR this fall. Meanwhile, she lent me the EMDR book, and I highly recommend it.