“Music is something to cling to; a lifeline” – Music listening in managing life with chronic pain and anxiety — Marie Strand Skånland

First View – Article (published on 2 November 2020)

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“Music is something to cling to; a lifeline” – Music
listening in managing life with chronic pain and anxiety

Marie Strand Skånland

ABSTRACT

This article presents a single case study that explores the role of music listening in managing life with chronic pain and anxiety. Engagement in music can reduce the subjective experience of pain and can be a valuable tool for self-regulation and emotion management. However, engagement in music and the effects deriving from it are highly individual and multifaceted; therefore, it is difficult to make generalisations about the role of music in physiological and psychological functioning. Instead, the present case constitutes an idiographic research approach, based on an understanding that in-depth, qualitative research on individuals’ personal experiences may be fruitful to broaden our knowledge base. Employing an interpretative phenomenological analysis, this article presents a rich, singular case of a woman suffering from chronic pain related to childhood trauma. An in-depth interview explored the informant’s daily music listening habits and how these related to her experiences of physical and mental pain. The informant listens to music to dull the experience of physical pain, to distract her from psychological distress, to keep her in the here-and-now and to represent her healthy self. This case can add to our understanding of music listening as a holistic life management skill in coping with chronic pain and trauma, and stresses the interrelation between body, emotion and cognition.

KEYWORDS

music listening, chronic pain, migraines, trauma, coping, emotion regulation, identity, life management, single case, phenomenology

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Marie Strand Skånland, PhD, is Head of Research and Associate Professor at Ansgar University College, Norway. Topics of particular interest through her research have been everyday music listening, self-regulation and life quality. Her current post-doc research explores relationships in music therapy in Flexible Assertive Community Treatment [skanland@ansgarskolen.no]