This is officially the fifth and final installment of my series post-TEDx Talk presentation last month, where I had the beautiful opportunity to present for the SECOND time on the TEDx stage in Rockville, Maryland at the Lurn Inc center.
In case you're new to me and who I am: greetings. Clearly you already know my name is Emma G, but I'm a singer/songwriter, author, 2 x TEDx speaker, podcast and TV host, and youth empowerment through singing and songwriting coach... and whilst that may seem a little overwhelming and ridiculous: I promise you - they all blend in to each other.
You see, when I was 5 years old, I decided I wanted to be a pop star, a counsellor, a teacher, a mother and a fashion designer, and I think a large part of that was due to the fact that I just really want to help people. I want to empower people to dig into their inner truth, recognize their power, and understand that - while life can be difficult - there's absolutely a way through.
Music, speaking/coaching, writing and teaching about this is basically why I think I'm here, and why I've survived all of the traumatic events that I have... so that I can continue to try and empower people [you!] to remember the power of their [your!] voice.
And the importance of recognizing, valuing, and simplifying our emotions so that we can navigate the world successfully and positively.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
If you missed my first TEDx Talk: here it is.
If you want to TL;DW: here it is in laments terms:
I was born with a relatively rare neurological condition called hydrocephalus, for which I've had ten brain surgeries
As a result, I was bullied a lot as a kid
I also found it difficult to relate to and connect with others around me
I ALSO suffered some pretty traumatic brain damage before I hit my teen years, which meant I struggled a lot with my memory, and school work
Music helped me to communicate more effectively with my peers and community
Songwriting helped me express my pains, thoughts, and ideas in a way that felt safe *hooray for creativity!*
Writing lyrics, melodies and music together helped to stimulate multiple parts of my brain simultaneously - which led to redeveloping brain growth
And finally: the act of writing my own songs meant that I could finally give myself permission to identify, simplify and overcome my mixed feelings, thoughts, ideas and emotions.
Which, let's be real: we all struggle with - not just kids and teenagers.
But I digress.
As I sat in my car, post-TEDx TWO presentation: I realized that not only has the experience of speaking on such a prestigious stage taught me:
If you're always doing the best you can with what you have, then it's near impossible to have regrets
It's imperative that we lead with authenticity.
You're not going to be everyone's cuppa tea - and that is more than okay
It's necessary that we celebrate our wins - no matter how big or small they are
It's so important that we allow ourselves to sit in, and really feel our feelings... whether they're big wins, small losses, positive thoughts, negative emotions, or what can sometimes feel like an overwhelming ball of muck.
Cos here's the thing about music and songwriting:
Music Helps Us Map Out the Terrain of our Mixed Emotions: and Turn those Struggles into Song.
The first step I generally take with any of my Empowerment through Songwriting clients - whether teen or adult - is to first allow the brain to breathe a little bit. I know that sounds a bit odd, but in 2023 - with the high number of distractions, the overwhelming pile of social media and news that's constantly clawing for our attention, and our seemingly shrinking attention spans: it's important that we give our brains a holiday from time to time.
One of my favorite ways to do this is with an exercise I call: word vomit.
Okay, it's not the sexiest term in the world, [though it makes most teenagers giggle], but it's simply an opportunity for us to
listen to some instrumental music [I prefer a genre called "wholetones" to activate different levels of the brain
and let whatever is bubbling away inside of us come out and on to paper. It may consist of sentences, words, and even nonsense words or phrases
The point is to get whatever is in your head OUT and onto paper.
It's All about Themes, Baby!
Once we've got our word vomit out of heads, and on to paper, two things happen:
We start to notice that all of those overwhelming thoughts and feelings that were floating around in our heads battling it out for a chance to shine on the center stage of our consciousness: suddenly don't feel so urgent or overwhelming. You've noticed each and every one, and let yourself express it [even by simply writing it down]. In other words: you're no longer feeling held hostage by your thoughts and feelings.
We start to notice some key themes that each overwhelming thought can start to fall into. Whether those themes are as broad as "angry with my parents", or "heartbroken", or as specific as "frustrated with a work colleague who isn't pulling their weight" or "fighting back against the sexist interaction I had in the supermarket yesterday".
Either way: one thing is clear - we're starting to regain control when it comes to those thoughts, feelings, and struggles were once overwhelmed by.
Types of Mixed Emotions
Okay, so we've started to identify and simplify some of our mixed emotional states, and recognize that
We're the ones in control of our feelings - not the other way around
What might feel overwhelming might just be the fact that we're juggling with what seems like a million thoughts, but can actually be simplified down into some key themes.
But what if - instead of overwhelming emotions - we are actually experiencing mixed emotions?
Emotions can be classified into primary and complex. There are at least eight primary or basic emotions – interest, joy, distress, anger, fear, anxiety, surprise, and disgust – associated with a single facial expression. Primary emotions are universal and innate. But when it comes to mixed emotions, a person can feel sad and happy at the same time. These feelings tend to be contradictory, and it's really easy for us to get confused with these conflicting feelings... which then manifests and shows up as a different emotion all together. For example: the mixture of joy and acceptance often manifests as the feeling of love. The blending of disgust and anger produces the mixed emotional state of contempt or hatred.
But here's the kicker: when we experience mixed emotions, we don't always take the time to honor or even recognize both sides of the coin. Instead: the strongest emotion usually takes dominance, and affects our behaviors and moods far more than the less dominating emotion.
Which can be dangerous - especially in high-intensity, or triggering environments.
A heartbroken person with conflicting feelings of sadness and anger might lean into the sadness, but chances are: the anger will take precedence, and said person will lash out before even realizing they were feeling sad.
A person who's lost a loved one will likely be contending with conflicting feelings of both sadness and guilt... and depending on which wolf they feed: they'll likely ignore the sadness, and focus more on the guilt aspect.
And this is why Word Vomit is an Essential Part of Songwriting
By allowing ourselves to not only get out of our heads and onto paper all of the things we're feeling, thinking, experiencing, and navigating: we're able to IDENTIFY our emotions [no matter how complex], and shine the light on both the dominating thoughts and feelings, and also the emotions that we're sometimes not even aware exist... which is how we can start to achieve more balance in our lives, but also in our actions and behaviors.
And - with the right support and coaching - we can further expand on each mixed emotion by leaning into those feelings fully, and turning them into a song that actually serves our conflicting feelings.
Turn it into an anthem that honors our emotional complexity, but with a focus on dealing with the negative, turning it into a positive, and creating a song that can influence our current and future emotional state.
I have been doing this work my entire life - taking those negative emotions as a result of my traumas, trying to focus on the positive emotion and silver lining of every situation, and giving myself permission to navigate the overwhelm creatively. I've also been teaching and empowering youth for over half my life - supporting them to lean into their emotions fully and unapologetically, but it's only been in the past five years that I've truly realized that it's music that allows us to really feel our feelings. A well-written song can help us navigate our mixed emotions and reflect on our life lessons. A well written song can help us accept the positive and negative emotions in our lives, and distinguish between the feelings that either empower or disempower us.
But the success and impact of a well-written song significantly increases when that song is written by you.
After all: this is your life, your story, your song and your album... why let it be written and sung by someone else?
If you're interested in how to turn your struggles into song, learn how to lean into your feelings unapologetically, and allow them to lead you towards an empowered and successful future: I'd love to speak with you more about how I can help.
I look forward to speaking with you soon.
~ Emma G