Dissonance is a strange thing. When we experience it within a song it is when two notes directly next to one another are played together. Oftentimes, for new instrumentalists or singers it is also what we experience when we are singing or playing a little off key. When we recognize being off key, we are then able to adjust just a little, in order to be on key. With practice, one learns to adjust quickly to regain the intended note, melody, or harmony.
Growing up as a Christian the concept of evil or the Devil was introduced into my scope of understanding the world. You could say he wreaked havoc on the world and was the creator of dissonance or dis-harmony. I was taught that Satan was a liar and deceiver of truth. While my belief around Satan has shifted away from a specific person/being to more living out of our own decisions, this general description stuck. I remember meditating on the concept of evil as a liar or deceiver of truth particularly in regards to healing.
At the time, my husband served as a Hall Director for a men’s dormitory which required our working and living on campus. Something I observed while living on campus, was that so often students would justify “negative actions” by hanging on to a shred of truth or true/positive intention that had been twisted just enough to wreak havoc in their lives or the lives of others. For example, college age students are such passionate creatures and when they feel very strongly about a cause or issue, they have this ability to focus intently and pull their resources together to accomplish whatever it is they put their hearts/minds to. I am eternally grateful, as I recognize so many significant changes come about in our cultures as a result of this passionate energy. However, this unbridled energy can sometimes lead to negative destruction in the pursuit of peace, positive revolution and change. EX: spray painting “Freedom of Speech, NOW!” on someone else’s property who may have a different point of view. That would be little different from stamping the word “no bullying” on someone’s forehead at a “no bullying” rally. I had witnessed this good intentioned cycle repeat, year after year. The means to an end gets lost sometimes when we continue to allow our actions to be ruled by our emotions.
So I continued this psych experiment on myself and began to study things I was told to “stay away from (because it’s dangerous or sinful) and look for the thread of truth hidden, wrapped up, covered, or concealed in lies and justifications both personal or religious. This proved to be a very fruitful exploration. . . .
I recalled a conversation with a church-member about anger and ,as a 12 year old, I walked away from that conversation believing that to experience and feel anger was sinful and that it could even make me sick. I rejected the emotion, anger, from that day forward to the best of my ability. I simply found other words, adjectives, emotions that never seemed to really express how I felt when truthfully I was angry, pissed off, enraged even and yet, refused to honor those very real emotions for fear of being ungodly. To make matters even AWESOMER (cuz, that is a word folks!) I even packed those emotions in a box, with a red bow of righteous pride and do-goodery (another for real word) ;)on top! Look how good I am, how patient, understanding, and what a good Christian – Meanwhile seething under my skin, ill with discontent, and rarely feeling heard or understood.
I now appreciate anger as a natural emotional response to certain situations but when I harbor anger, I recognize how decisions become clouded in judgement. The thread of truth is that anger could lead me to many negative choices and a life of misery IF I hold onto it. A lie I adopted from that conversation, was that anger in and of itself is evil/bad/sinful. Furthermore, as a way to justify my choices and this long-held belief, I judged others as less spiritual than I for acting out in their anger which was counter to this belief.
If we reflect on this understanding of concealed truth, and apply it to music or tones. Then dissonance could be described as an almost harmony. It is the closest thing to harmonizing, but has some element that has thrown it off course just enough to cause discomfort, an unpleasing sound, or annoyance within us. In the past, I would have said my intuition was telling me to reject this unpleasantness and cast it out as far away from me as possible! Instead, as I began to draw closer and observe the many dissonant experiences in my life, I became quicker at recognizing the subtle truth in a statement or unpleasant situation and practiced releasing the stories I compounded the situation with. We do this a lot!
Example: One evening after the baby sitter arrived, my husband said, “Honey, I don’t think that coat works well with your outfit for dinner out tonight. Why don’t you grab your lighter jacket.” Me:“Oh! What I’m not pretty enough?” -verbalized …“because, I gave birth to YOUR child, am surviving on 6 hrs. of interrupted sleep a night, with no time left to shower?” – un-verbalized
Concerning this very real moment, perhaps with practice, I could have recognized that my husband was only trying to help me look & feel AMAZING on one of our few nights out! The truth? He noticed the back of my coat was bathed in baby spit-up and didn’t want me to start my evening out with the thought of having to get my coat dry-cleaned and add one more To-Do on my list. Instead, I did a prolific job of filling in the blanks with my issues, my hang-ups, my negativity and general exhaustion!
Good thing, my man knew how to get me back on key and in harmony, by just telling me the truth about the spit up, followed by a tender kiss on the lips with a nice pat on the butt right out our back door.
I once believed Spirit was only revealed in moments we “achieved” the right thing. I get now that God hardwired the ability to experience dissonance as a spiritual alarm clock to wake up!