THE JOURNAL OF ANALYTICAL PSYCHOLOGY XIIth International Conference: The Varieties of Jungian Clinical Experience: Complex, Identity, Intersubjectivity. May, 2014, Acoustic Resonance at the Dawn of Life

18 – 21 September 2014 State Library of NSW, Macquarie Street, Sydney: Acoustic resonance: Musical and acoustic elements of the therapeutic conversation

Anna sits on the edge of her chair, smiling up at me under a tussle of unruly curls, relating a joyful experience in a sing-song lilting voice. Intuitively I vocalize a series of mmmms matching the acoustic intonation of her narration. If I do not respond immediately with concordant vocalisations indicating I am on her wave-length, she subsides into a flat, dead, monotone, muttering under her breath, ‘What’s the point. No one ever listens. So ‘depressed’. There was no musicality to her speech, it had suddenly become disjointed, unrhythmical, harsh-toned. She had been triggered into a traumatic memory system.

Vocal attunement as well as facial mirroring are vital aspects of the intersubjective encounter between patient and therapist. Through implicit empathic recognition, an attuned therapist will acoustically resonate with the overtone series of the patient’s material: as well as matching the tone, rhythm, melodic contour and timbre of the patient’s narration in vocal responsiveness.

Working with patients such as Anna has led me to a specific discovery: there are acoustic markers which indicate whether a patent is immersed in a state of creative interpersonal relatedness, or triggered into a traumatic memory system. When a patient is immersed in an atmosphere of intersubjective mutuality, the narration features a sing-song, rhythmical and tuneful form of speech. The interactions with the therapist will be improvisatory, playful, the melodic contour that of musical question-answer sequences. When the patient is catapulted into a traumatic memory system, speech becomes monotone and disjointed.

An attuned therapist will respond differently to a patient triggered into traumatic memory: the therapist will not match the traumatic monotone but tend to use more soothing vocalisations. Similarly a therapist will not match the fast tempo of an anxious patient but will speak soothingly with a musical quality usually spanning a falling minor third, falling perfect fifth or octave.

In this paper I will explain the acoustics of the voice. When we attune to each other we literally attune to one another’s overtones. Being in tune acoustically avoids dissonant overtones which are known to create distress: literal disharmony which actually creates disturbances in the sympathetic nervous system.

Embedded in my paper is the research background of others working in this field; including Stern, Trevarthen, Malloch, Beebe, and Meares. All this informs the actuality of the moment- to-moment interactions of patient and therapist. Clinical application will be interspersed with video recordings of a mother-baby interaction featuring primary intersubjectivity and proto- symbolising through vocal attunement.

12.30 – 1.00 pm Metcalf Auditorium

PANEL DISCUSSION: Trevarthen/Meares/Pickering

Sydney Jung Society: Panel Discussion: Sex and Relationships with Brendon Stewart, Judith Pickering and Susan Pollard,  13 March 2015,  7:00pm to 8:30pm,  Mitchell theatre Level 1 Sydney Mechanics’ School
of Arts, 280 Pitt St, Sydney

Art and Psyche, Sicily, September, 2015. Blue Orfeo: The Orphic complex.

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